The Month in Reviews: January 2023

Believe it or not, we are already a month into the new year. I hope it has been a good month reading-wise for you, toward whatever, if any, reading goals you have this year. I always want to read books by authors from my own state of Ohio. I had the chance to read two, one of which ended up being my book of the month. The other is a massive best seller, The Deluge, that is a thought-provoking (and scary!) glimpse at the future that may be awaiting us in a warming world. As always, there was good theology including one on the appearances of God, another on Christ as our great high priest, a couple books on theology of work and vocation, a book on five views of the New Testament canon, and a study on hardness of heart from a scholar who I knew from back in the Jesus movement days, Charles “Chuck” Puskas. We even grew up on the same side of town. The biography of Henry Ward Beecher was fascinating–the forerunner of all our megachurch preachers in many ways. I read the sequel to Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge (and have just picked up her latest). Of course it wouldn’t be a month without a Ngaio Marsh–there are TWO here! I met two of my Reading Challenge goals in reading a collection of Wendell Berry poetry and the memoir of Paul Kalanithi, a rising medical neurosurgical resident who receives the worst diagnosis anyone can receive. Actually, reading a classic Oliver Sacks book also fulfilled a goal of reading an author I like. All told, it was a great month of reading with nineteen reviews to show for it. Here they are.

TheophanyVern S. Poythress. Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publishing, 2022 (Originally published by Crossway in 2018). A study of the visible appearances of God to his people in scripture, what they reveal about God, and how they anticipate God’s ultimate appearing in the person of his Son, God incarnate. Review

Crumpled Paper: A Novel About Art and TeaMichael S. Moore. Sanford, NC: Word-Brokers, LLC, 2022. The tale of the unfolding of an artistic vision, and a friend who, acting as agent, just wants his artist friend to stay solvent. Review

The Intentional YearHolly Packiam and Glenn Packiam. Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2022. An invitation to stop, assess, and plan around five clusters of practices that enable us to live purposeful lives. Review

Face to Face with God (Essential Studies in Biblical Theology), T. Desmond Alexander. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2022. An exploration of the biblical theme of priesthood and mediation and how Christ fulfills these par excellence. Review

Olive, AgainElizabeth Strout. New York: Random House, 2020. The sequel to Olive Kitteridge, an older Olive on her second marriage after Henry died, the indignities and transitions of aging, coming to terms with relationships with children and others, and the unique ways Olive shows up, helpfully, when you’d least expect it. Review

Learning HumilityRichard J. Foster. Downers Grove: IVP/Formatio, 2022. A journal of a year-long journey of learning humility including notes from readings, reflections, prayers, organized around the Lakota calendar. Review

The Most Famous Man in AmericaDebby Applegate. New York: Three Leaves Press, 2007. The Pulitzer prize-winning biography of the most famous preacher in nineteenth century America, and the scandals around his sexual life. Review

God at Work: Your Christian Vocation in All of LifeGene Edward Veith, Jr. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2002. A theology of vocation, rooted in the thought of Martin Luther, and covering God’s call over all of our lives. Review

Spinsters in Jeopardy (Inspector Alleyn #17), Ngaio Marsh. New York: Felony & Mayhem, 2014 (first published in 1953). Alleyn takes his family along to visit a distant cousin in southern France while collaborating with the French in investigating a drug ring. Review

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a HatOliver Sacks. New York: Touchstone, 2006 (originally published in 1985). Brief case histories of twenty-four patients with unusual neurological conditions. Review

Five Views on the New Testament Canonedited by Stanley E. Porter and Benjamin P. Laird. Contributors: Darian P. Lockett, David Nienhuis, Jason David BeDuhn, Ian Boxall, George L. Parsenios. Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic, 2022. Statements from five different theological perspectives on the history, theology, and hermeneutic related to the formation of the New Testament canon, with responses from each to the others. Review

Necessary ChristianityClaude R. Alexander, Jr. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2022. In a culture of options, focuses on the necessities of the Christian life by looking at the “must” statements in the gospel associated with Jesus. Review

This Day: Collected & New Sabbath Poems 1979-2012Wendell Berry. Berkeley: Counterpoint Press, 2013. A compilation of several volumes of Berry’s sabbath poems. Review

Hardness of Heart in Biblical LiteratureCharles B. Puskas. Eugene, Cascade Books, 2022. A study of the words and texts in which they are used referring to hardness of heart holding in tension both the refusal to heed God and the purpose of God in the hardening of hearts. Review

Garden City: Work, Rest, and the Art of Being HumanJohn Mark Comer. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2015. An argument that our work is an important aspect of what it means for us to be human, setting our work in the context of the arc of God’s work taking humanity from the garden to the new garden city in the new creation. Review

When Breath Becomes AirPaul Kalanithi. New York: Random House, 2016. The memoir of Paul Kalanithi, a neurosurgery resident who becomes a patient when receiving a diagnosis of state IV metastatic lung cancer, the ways he and his wife respond at various stages, the care he receives, and his reflections on his illness and impending death. Review

The DelugeStephen Markley. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2023. A novel imagining the interaction of accelerating impacts of climate change and the unraveling of societies. Review

Cultivating MentorsTodd C. Ream, Jerry Pattengale, and Christopher J. Devers, eds., foreword by Mark R. Schwehn. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2022. A collection of articles on the theological foundations, goals, and practices of mentoring in Christian higher education with a particular focus on generational dynamics. Review

The Nursing Home MurderNgaio Marsh (Roderick Alleyn #3). New York: Felony & Mayhem, 2011 (originally published in 1935). The Home Secretary collapses of acute appendicitis during a speech on a key bill against radicals and is taken to a private hospital of an old doctor friend for emergency surgery, dying under suspicious circumstances soon after the operation.

Best Book of the Month. I’m so glad Michael S. Moore, an Ohio author, reached out to me regarding his book, Crumpled Paper. It’s a delightful tale of drinking tea, enjoying mouthwatering food in quaint cafes, and a community of artists, finely written in plot development, characters and the overall ethos of the book. I commented that this might be my “sleeper” of the year.

Best Quote of the Month: I read This Day: Collected and New Sabbath Poems 1979-2012. I loved this one, 2005, I:

I know that I have life
only insofar as I have love.

I have no love
except it come from Thee.

Help me, please, to carry
this candle against the wind.

I could make this may daily prayer for the rest of my days–just so fitly expressed.

What I’m Reading. Sometimes, reading the Bible in a new translation makes it come alive in special ways. This has been especially true for me as I’ve been reading through the First Nations Version, an Indigenous Peoples translation of the New Testament. I just finished Clarence Jordan’s An Inconvenient Gospel, a collection of shorter writings from this Baptist preacher who started Koinonia Farm and was active in civil rights advocacy as well as translating The Cotton Patch Gospel. I love a good science book and I have been reveling in Siddhartha Mukherjee’s The Song of the Cell. We are “fearfully and wonderfully made” and the cell biology of all living things is truly wondrous as one learns of it. The Back Side of the Cross explores atonement theologies through the eyes of the abused, exploring not only how Christ died for sinners but also the sinned against, who are on “the back side” of the cross. I’ve just begun Pope Benedict XVI’s The Garden of God, a theology of the environment. I’m interested to see how this anticipates Laudato Si. Finally, I’m just getting into a collection of Lenten readings called A Just Passion, from a number of InterVarsity Press authors.

I also recently posted my Winter 2023 Christian Book Preview. There are some great new books out there (and a few that have arrived since!). Needless to say, there is no shortage of good things to read. And if my reviews suggest a few things worth pursuing, then that is a bonus–for you and for me!

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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