The Month in Reviews: December 2022

First, I will start with some “classics.” I reviewed a classic Ngaio Marsh Alleyn story, a classic of political theory from F.A. Hayek, and the classic manual of inductive Bible study from Robert A. Traina. I enjoyed a book on emerging technologies and a helpful approach (I think) to conversations about the intersection of science and faith. I finally got to the second book in the Poppy Wars trilogy and am impressed that R.F. Kuang can created both an interesting world and intricate plots at such a young age. Then there were some thought provoking books including Peter Singer on effective altruism, Richard Mouw on patriotism and the Christian, a couple of books on flourishing at work, a historical study of Christian parenting in American history, and a very hopeful book about the church. Mark Teasdale made me think about abundance in scripture and life and Samuel Emadi about the significance of Joseph, Jacob’s son in God’s redemptive purposes. Finally, I read several “landmark” books–Willa Cather’s Pulitzer winner, the great new biography of Samuel Adams, and of course, Louise Penny’s latest.

Soonish: Ten Emerging Technologies That’ll Improve and/or Ruin Everything, Kelly and Zach Weinersmith. New York: Penguin Press, 2017. A cartoonist and scientist team up to look at ten emerging technologies and the challenges, both scientific and moral, that are involved in bringing these into existence in the “soonish” future. Review

How to Be a Patriotic ChristianRichard J. Mouw. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2022. Navigating the space between Christian nationalism and national cynicism, explores how Christians might properly love country within their primary allegiance to Christ, focused around civic kinship and responsibility. Review

The Road to Serfdom (Fiftieth Anniversary edition), F. A. Hayek. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995 (originally published in 1944, link is to the 2007 Definitive Edition). An argument that collectivist, planned economies lead to the erosion of individual liberties, the rule of law, and result in the rise of totalitarian governments. Review

Participating in Abundant LifeMark R. Teasdale. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2022. A holistic vision of salvation that includes material standards of living, quality of life, and eternal life under the rubric of abundant life. Review

Swing, Brother, Jones (Inspector Alleyn #15), Ngaio Marsh. New York: Felony & Mayhem Press, 2012 (originally published in 1949). An eccentric British Lord joins a swing band for a number that involves a gun, and the person at whom he shoots is actually killed with an unusual projectile–a knitting needle–right in front of Alleyn! Review

Christian Parenting: Wisdom and Perspectives from American HistoryDavid P. Setran. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2022. A historical study of Christian parenting beliefs in two eras of American history, the Colonial and Victorian periods. Review

A World of CuriositiesLouise Penny. New York: Minotaur Press, 2022. The arrival in Three Pines of a sister and brother involved in a murder case that brought Armand and Jean Guy and the opening of a sealed room and the strange painting found within confront Gamache with two of his greatest fears. Review

Make Work MatterMichaela O’Donnell, PhD. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2021. A book on finding meaningful work, focusing on the adaptive skills and sense of calling one needs, the character one develops, and a four-part entrepreneurial cycle for the journey. Review

The Most Good You Can DoPeter Singer. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2016. Singer’s argument for living a life of effective altruism, using evidence and reason to make the most effective decisions to improve the world. Review

From Prisoner to Prince (New Studies in Biblical Theology), Samuel Emadi. London/Downers Grove: Apollos/IVP Academic, 2022 (Link for From Prisoner to Prince at UK publisher). A study of Joseph as a type of the Messiah, considering the place of Joseph in the Genesis narrative, the theological themes arising from the Joseph narratives and how later OT and NT writers appropriate this material. Review

Road to Flourishing: Eight Keys to Boost Employee Engagement and Well-BeingAl Lopus with Cory Hartman. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2022. Based on the study of hundreds of organizations, identifies eight factors that contribute to healthy organizational cultures and high employee engagement. Review

The Revolutionary: Samuel AdamsStacy Schiff. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2022. A biography of this Boston revolutionary who, working mostly behind the scenes, fanned into flame the colonists decision to seek independence. Review

Methodical Bible StudyRobert A. Traina. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Academic, 2002 (First published in 1952). The foundational text and manual in the inductive Bible study movement. Review

Navigating Faith and ScienceJoseph Vukov. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2022. A framework for understanding the intersection of science and faith. Review

Becoming the ChurchClaude R. Alexander Jr. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2022. Studies of the first six chapters of Acts revealing the purposes, practices, and principles that led to the transformation of a loose group of individuals into the church. Review

One of OursWilla Cather. New York: Vintage Classics, 1991 (Originally published 1922). The story of Claude Wheeler, raised on a Nebraska farm, longs to live his ideals and find his purpose and does so in the First World War. Review

The Dragon Republic (The Poppy Wars #2), R. F. Kuang. New York: Harper Voyager, 2019. Seeking revenge against The Empress of Nikan, Rin joins the effort of the Dragon Lord to create a republic, who seeks to enlist the support of southern warlords and a foreign power, the Hesperians. Review

Best Book of the Month. Stacy Schiff’s The Revolutionary, on Samuel Adams, barely missed out as my best biography of the year. Schiff makes a convincing case that Adams carried the torch that set the colonies afire against the British. He was never successful in his personal affairs but gave a rationale, fostered strategic efforts, and mobilized the resistance that became a revolution. He gets overlooked among Washington, Hamilton, Jefferson, Franklin and even his nephew, John Adams. This book helps redress the balance.

Best Quote of the Month: Richard Mouw tackles a controversial subject in How To Be a Patriotic Christian. I appreciated this proposal of what patriotism informed by Christian values might look like:

“But patriotism is not just about our relationship to specific government policies and practices. It is about belonging to a community of citizens with whom we share our political allegiances–and even more important, our common humanness. Patriotism is in an important sense more about our participation in a nation than it is about loving a state” (p. 14).

What I’m Reading: I have three books awaiting review that I just finished in the last few days. One is Theophany by Vern Poythress, a biblical study of the various instances of God’s appearances and their theological significance. The Intentional Year is a great resource for a new year as we take stock of our lives over the past year and think about developing life-giving rhythms and practices for the new year. Crumpled Paper is written by local (to Central Ohio) author Michael S. Moore, an intriguing story that drew me in as it describes artistic processes and networks in a fun, fictional story. On my currently reading pile at present is Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout which includes an exquisite vignette of Olive’s visits with a former student undergoing cancer treatments. The Most Famous Man in America is a biography of 19th century American preacher Henry Ward Beecher. I’ve loved all of the Oliver Sacks works I’ve read but am just getting around to his most famous, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat. Face to Face With Christ is a study of Christ as our priest and mediator, focusing on the book of Hebrews. Finally, to prepare for an interview with him, I am reading Richard Foster’s Learning Humility. I’ve been deeply influenced by his works on spiritual formation over the forty years since he released Celebration of Discipline. The book describes humility as a vanishing virtue. I would agree.

As you can see, I already have some good books lined up to review in 2023!

The Month in Reviews is my monthly review summary going back to 2014! It’s a great way to browse what I’ve reviewed. The search box on this blog also works well if you are looking for a review of a particular book.

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