The Month in Reviews: April 2023

This month’s reads stretched as far back as Augustine and to a review of a book posted on the date of the book’s publication. I reviewed mysteries by two of the Queens of Crime, a biography of the person once named the “most trusted man in America” and a memoir of stories by one of our most prolific authors. I enjoyed a devotional book of “reflections” on the Psalms, a work by Frederick Buechner on becoming attentive to God in the ordinary, and Os Guinness’s latest, on the signals we encounter in life that point us to “something more.” There are two novels her with pandemics in the backdrop–one imagined and one very real. Along the way were books reconsidering the social status of women, a book re-casting our vision of masculinity post-“Purity culture,” a book on the significance of the resurrection, and an inspiring book on intercessory prayer groups. As always, the link in the title takes you to the publisher’s website and the link marked “Review” takes you to the full review of the book.

Finding PhoebeSusan E. Hylen. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2023. A careful examination of the social status of women in the New Testament world, challenging many of our preconceptions of women in the early church. Review

Station ElevenEmily St. John Mandel. New York: Knopf, 2014. An account of the end of civilization as we know it after a catastrophic pandemic, and how survivors sought to keep beauty and the memory of what was alive as they struggled against destructive forces to rebuild human society. Review

The Hope of Life After Death (Essential Studies in Biblical Theology), M. Jeff Brannon. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2022. A study of the hope for life after death throughout scripture and the significance of the resurrection for the believer. Review

Endless Grace: Prayers Inspired By The PsalmsRyan Whitaker Smith & Dan Wilt. Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2023. Prayers in free verse inspired, psalm by psalm, from Psalm 76 to Psalm 150, responding with ideas from the whole of scripture as well as literature. Review

Non-Toxic MasculinityZachary Wagner. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2023. Focusing on the distortions of male sexuality coming out of the purity culture movement, charts what a healthy male sexuality might look like that is responsible, selfless, and loving. Review

False Scent (Roderick Alleyn #21), Ngaio Marsh. New York: Felony & Mayhem, 2015 (originally published in 1959). The fiftieth birthday celebration of famed stage actress Mary Bellamy is interrupted when she is found dead in her bedroom, poisoned by her own insecticide. Review

The Remarkable OrdinaryFrederick Buechner. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2017. A collection of essays drawn from two lecture series, focusing on our attention to the ordinary around us, and in so doing becoming attentive to our own lives and the working of God in them. Review

Augustine: On Christian Doctrine and Selected Introductory Works (Theological Foundations), Augustine (edited by Timothy George). Nashville: B & H Academic, 2022. Four works on Christian doctrine, written in the context of catechesis, by Augustine. Review

Signals of TranscendenceOs Guinness. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2023. The stories of people who have experienced signs or promptings that there is more to life awakening them to pursue the unseen realities beyond the signal. Review

CronkiteDouglas Brinkley. New York: Harper, 2012. The biography of Walter Cronkite, from his early reporting days, his United Press work during World War 2, and his years at CBS, including his nineteen years on the CBS Evening News, and his “retirement years,” where he came out as a liberal. Review

Epic Science, Ancient FaithD. E. Gunther. Ellensburg, WA: Truth in Creation, 2022. A discussion of essential attitudes in making sense of both God’s Word and God’s world with two case studies and a discussion of how we resolve differences between these two “books” of God. Review

A Caribbean Mystery (Miss Marple #9), Agatha Christie. New York, Morrow, 2022 (originally published in 1964). A Caribbean holiday after an illness is just what the doctor ordered for Miss Marple, who helps solve a string of murders at a resort. Review

The Power of Group PrayerCarolyn Carney. Downers Grove: IVP/Formatio, 2022. A practical guide for intercessory prayer groups, casting vision for how these may transform both the intercessors and their world. Review

Lucy by the SeaElizabeth Strout. New York: Random House, 2022. Lucy Barton goes with her ex-husband William to a house on the coast of Maine during the COVID lockdown of 2020. Review

Humble ConfidenceBenno van den Toren and Kang-San Tan. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2022. A model of dialogical apologetics for a multi-faith world committed to accountable and embodied witness that is culturally sensitive, holistic, and yet centered in Christ. Review

Christianity and Critical Race TheoryRobert Chao Romero and Jeff M. Liou. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2023. A critical and constructive engagement with Critical Race Theory in light of the Christian faith. Review

James Patterson by James PattersonJames Patterson. New York: Little, Brown, and Company. 2022. The life of this storyteller in a series of stories, arranged roughly in chronological order. Review

The Way of PerfectionSt. Teresa of Avila, Foreword by Paula Huston, Translated by Henry L Carrigan, Jr. Brewster, MA: Paraclete Press, 2009. St Theresa’s reflections on growing in love, humility, and the life of prayer. Review

The Art of the CommonplaceWendell Berry, edited and introduced by Norman Wirzba. Berkeley: Counterpoint, 2002. Twenty essays articulating an agrarian vision for society that offers health to land, food, and the wider society. Review

Best Book of the Month: Robert Chao Romero and Jeff Liou have given us what I think is the most balanced discussion I’ve encountered of Critical Race Theory from a Christian perspective in Christianity and Critical Race Theory. Both are evangelicals who are persons of color and their book also offers a perspective of how the increasingly politicized discussion of CRT is perceived among Christians who are people of color. The book actually uses the Reformed rubric of creation, fall, redemption, and consummation in its consideration of Critical Race Theory and helpfully distinguishes at a number of points what CRT is and isn’t.

Quote of the Month: Theresa of Avila offers uncommon wisdom in The Way of Perfection in responding to what we consider unjust criticism:

“No one can ever blame us unjustly, since we are always full of faults, and a just person falls seven times a day. It would be a falsehood to say that we have no sin. Even if we are not guilty of the thing we are accused of, then, we are never entirely without blame in the way that our good Jesus was” (p. 57).

What I’m Reading: I have two books awaiting review that I’ve finished reading. One is Christoph Heilig’s The Apostle and Empire. There is a whole discussion on whether there is a hidden subtext in the Pauline epistles critical of the Roman empire. His proposal, focusing on one passage, is that at least in this instance, it may not be so much hidden as overlooked. The Trinity in the Book of Revelation studies the Trinitarian theology in Revelation, using the lens of the Nicene formulations to look at these texts, which the author argues helps elucidate rather than read into the emerging Trinitarian theology of Revelation. As far as current reads, I’m enjoying David Lamb’s The Emotions of God, which studies seven emotions of God in the Bible and what these mean for our idea of God. I just began Matthew Bates Why the Gospel? He observes that we often begin with forgiveness when he would content that the good news begins with King Jesus. Christopher de Vinck’s Things That Matter Most: Essays on Home, Friendship, and Love is just that and includes a wonderful essay on his friendship with Fred Rogers. I’ve heard good things about Carlos Ruiz Zafon and am immersed in his The Shadow of the Wind in which a young man acquires a book by this title that he falls in love with but in trying to learn the story of its author learns he has one of the last copies, which are being relentlessly pursued and burned by a sinister character. Finally, I continue to work my way somewhat haphazardly through Ngaio Marsh’s mysteries, currently reading a later work, Photo Finish, in which he and Troy once again are caught up in a murder investigation set on a lavish island getaway.

As you can see, my reading is pretty hard to pigeonhole. Hopefully that means that there might be something you can find that you will like in this month’s digest of my reviews. Also, I’m always interested in hearing what others who read books I’ve reviewed think, especially if you read it because of my review. Whether you agree or not, I’d love to hear from you!

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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