The Month in Reviews: March 2023

Twenty books. That’s what you’ll find in this summary. Among the firsts for me were to review poetry of Luci Shaw, which is quite wonderful, and to read the first of Brian Jacques’ Redwall series (thanks for this Carmen Joy Imes!). There is an assortment of fiction from a lesser known Wallace Stegner to several interesting works from indie presses (btw, thanks, Bob Katz for sending me your book!). A history of the Uyghurs helped me to understand the cultural genocide going on among these people within the PRC. A historical fiction account of Iran-Contra raised the chilling reality that the crack cocaine epidemic in our country was used to fund our government’s efforts among the Contras, and that the agents of the cocaine trade enjoyed immunity from arrest while this was occurring. I’m a big fan of libraries and Librarians Tales was a fun read on the real life of librarians. Michael Stewart Robb’s study of the work of Dallas Willard made me want to go back and read some of the works of Willard I haven’t read (and maybe re-read the others). I’d also commend Ruth Haley Barton’s book on sabbath and sabbaticals. From children’s lit to fiction to theology, this was a month of rich fare.

The Old Testament Law for the Life of the ChurchRichard E. Averbeck. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2022. A study of for what God intended the law in its original context, how it was fulfilled in Christ, and its continuing relevance for the church today. Review

The King of Easter (A FatCat Book), Nathasha Kennedy (Art), Todd R. Hains (Text). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2023. The story of Easter, focusing on the risen Jesus who seeks and saves the lost. Review

Following Jesus in a Warming WorldKyle Meyaard-Schaap. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2023. By combining biblical and theological framing with personal narrative, offers hope and practical steps to those daunted by the immensity, and perceived hopelessness, of the realities of climate change. Review

RecapitulationWallace Stegner. New York:Vintage, 2015, originally published in 1979. When former ambassador Bruce Mason returns to Salt Lake City for the funeral of an aunt, long-forgotten memories of his youth come back to challenge how he has remembered this formative part of his life. Review

Lost in ThoughtZena Hitz. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2020. A defense of the love of learning for its own sake, for how it enriches our existence as human beings. Review

Hangdog SoulsMarc Joan. London: Deixis Press, 2022. A fugitive English soldier in southern India makes a Faustian bargain winning endless life at the cost of countless others over three centuries. Review

Enjoying the BibleMatthew Mullins. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2021. Explores how learning to read literature helps us love the Bible rather than just reading it as a divine instruction manual. Review

A Christian Theology of SciencePaul Tyson. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2022. Rather than simply another treatment of the way science and religion ought relate, begins with creedal Christianity, develops a theology of science, and argues that Christians treat theology as their “first truth discourse.” Review

The War on the UyghursSean R. Roberts. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2020. An account of the People’s Republic of China’s suppression of the Uyghur minority within its borders, including its use of the U.S.-initiated Global War on Terror to pursue religious and political persecution, re-education, internment camps, and intermarriage to effect what the author calls “cultural genocide.“ Review

Third and Long, Bob Katz. Minneapolis: Trolley Car Press, 2010. When a drifter, once a Notre Dame football star, shows up in Longview, Ohio, he quickly becomes the town’s hope to save its major factory, lead its football team to victory, and maybe save the town. Review

Home is the RoadDiane Glancy. Minneapolis: Broadleaf Books, 2022. The traveling memoirs of a literature professor listening to the messages the land speaks and what within her answers these messages. Review

Embracing Rhythms of Work and RestRuth Haley Barton, foreword by Ronald Rolheiser. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press/Formatio, 2022. Describes the journey to life-giving sabbath practices as well as planning for and taking sabbaticals. Review

Arm and HammerJonathan K. Wade. Culver City, CA: Gambit Publishing, 2022. A historical fiction account or the Iran-Contra affair telling the story of US NSC and CIA complicity with drug cartels distributing cocaine in US cities to fund the Contra resistance to the Sandinista government of Nicaragua. Review

Angels EverywhereLuci Shaw. Brewster, MA: Paraclete Press/Iron Pen, 2022. A collection of poems written during the first year of the pandemic, aware that even in light glancing through windows, we have intimations of “angels everywhere.” Review

The Kingdom Among UsMichael Stewart Robb. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2022. A formulation of the theology of Dallas Willard, centering around his focus on the gospel of the kingdom, and three stages of understanding Jesus followers go through in their progressive apprehension of the realities of that kingdom. Review

Tell Her StoryNijay K. Gupta, Foreword Beth Allison Barr. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2023. The often overlooked stories of women in the New Testament and how they led, taught, and ministered in the early church. Review

This Isn’t Going to End WellDaniel Wallace. Chapel Hill: Algonquin Books, 2023. The story of William Nealy, as told by his brother-in-law, a cartoonist, guru of adventure sports, and emulated by the author, all the while harboring a secret within that finally killed him. Review

Thoughts on Public PrayerSamuel Miller, foreword by Jonathan L. Master. Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 2022 (originally published in 1849). A classic discussion advocating for extemporaneous public prayer as the practice of the church in the first five centuries of its existence, how this is done badly and well, and how the pastor may pursue excellence in public prayer. Review

Librarian TalesWilliam Ottens. New York: Skyhorse Publishing, 2020. An entertaining account of the life of librarians, the different roles they fill and the usual and unusual problems they face. Review

Redwall (Redwall #1), Brian Jacques. New York: Ace Books, 1998 (originally published in 1986). The first in the Redwall Saga,where Matthias, the adopted mouse, dreams of being a warrior like Martin the Warrior, hero of the Redwall Abbey tapestry, a dream (and prophecy) he has the chance to fulfill when Cluny the rat and his forces attack Redwall Abbey. Review

Best Book of the Month: Once again a tough choice. I have to go with Paul Tyson’s A Christian Theology of Science. Tyson fills what I believe a needed gap in proposing, not a way of thinking about faith and science, but rather looking at a theology of science. He argues that our starting point ought be the creeds and theology as the “first truth discourse,” yet avoids the confrontational posture common to some faith-science books.

Quote of the Month: Zena Hitz book, Lost in Thought is a profound defense of the love of learning for its own sake and the joys of the intellectual life. She writes:

I have argued that intellectual life properly understood cultivates a space of retreat within a human being, a place where real reflection takes place. We step back from concerns of practical benefit, personal or public. We withdraw into small rooms, literal or internal. In the space of retreat we consider fundamental questions: what human happiness consists in, the origins and nature of the universe, whether human beings are part of nature, and whether and how a truly just community is possible. From the space of retreat emerges poetry, mathematics, and distilled wisdom articulated in words or manifested silently in action (p. 185).

What I’m Reading: I have three books awaiting review. Susan Hylen’s Finding Phoebe is a study of primary sources both biblical and contemporary to understand the life of women in the New Testament period, using a discussion approach allowing readers to draw their own conclusions. Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven explores what a world might be like where only one in 250 people survive a pandemic. Don’t read this, like I did, when you are about to get on a plane! Benjamin Gladd’s The Hope of Life After Death contends that we are much more able to draw the implications of the death of Christ than of the resurrection and seeks to fill that gap. Currently, I’m reading Endless Grace, prayers inspired by the Psalms–not paraphrases so much as original prayers on themes of each psalm, incorporating ideas from throughout scripture. I grew up watching “Uncle” Walter Cronkite every night and am enjoying Douglas Brinkley’s Cronkite–I’ve liked everything from this writer! Fresh Scent is another in the series of Ngaio Marsh detective stories. Non-Toxic Masculinity by Zach Wagner explores the impact of purity culture on both men and women and the toxic ideas about what it means to be male that were promoted and what a biblically informed non-toxic masculinity might look like. Finally, reaching way back, I’m reading a translation of Augustine’s On Christian Doctrine, edited by Timothy George. It helps me understand afresh what a formidable thinker Augustine was and why he has had such enduring influence.

Until next month, my reading friends!

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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