Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Milk and Egg Delivery

milk truck

Isaly’s Dairy Truck

I remember when we used to get milk in glass bottles, and when you finished a bottle, you would wash it out and place it in an insulated metal box you kept outside your front door. Usually, about once a week, a milk truck would stop at your home, pick up the empties, and leave whatever your family had ordered. Often you would leave the money for your order in the box (it was a simpler, more honest time before “porch pirates”). When we were home during the summer, mom would always tell us to keep an eye out for the milkman from Dawson’s (not to be confused with Lawson’s, which came later) so we could get the milk in the house before it got warm. I also remember seeing the Isaly trucks, like the one pictured above, in our neighborhood.

Isaly's milk delivery box

Isaly milk delivery box

Various caps were used to seal the milk. I remember the ones that were made of cardboard, usually with a message on top that said something like “wash bottle before returning.” They had a little tab in the middle that you would pull up to open the bottle. I have vivid memories of this.  For a while, Dawson’s had a series that featured each of the fifty states. I believe they gave you a card to use as you collected these. Eventually, I got all fifty. I wish I still had it–it would probably be a collector’s item today.

We also had an egg man, an older local farmer, who delivered our eggs. His name may have been Bill. He delivered eggs in his car as I recall, and when it was in season, we would also buy fresh corn from him. Occasionally we bought brown-shelled eggs which tasted better. You paid him each week at the time of delivery.

Milk has been delivered in the United States since 1785 when farmers started delivering raw milk in Vermont. This continued for many years, often brought in galvanized pails, but there are limits to the distances it can be transported. Eventually milk pasteurization was introduced, mandated in 1910 in New York City. In pasteurization, milk is heated to around the boiling point, which kills much, but not all, of the bacteria (there is also a double pasteurization process that kills more).  Pasteurization extends the shelf life of milk to up to three weeks. The milk we received was both pasteurized and homogenized, the latter being a process by which the fat molecules in milk are broken down, instead of rising to the top as cream.

Many companies, like Isaly’s delivered a number of other dairy products like heavy cream, sour cream, cottage cheese, and buttermilk, and sometimes other grocery items like orange juice and eggs. Part of the attraction, it seems of having these items delivered, was that they were the things you tended to use up most quickly, and it wasn’t always convenient to go to the grocery store just for them.

Two things may have changed this, at least for milk. One was the opening of convenience stores like the Lawson’s just up the street from our house, and the other was the introduction of plastic jugs, which were lighter, less slippery, and easy to carry. I suspect that prices were often better. Yet I remember the fresh taste of the eggs we got from the egg man and the just picked corn. I can’t remember if the milk was better, but I do have to say, I always liked milk as a kid, much less so today, so there might have been something to this.

It is interesting how things have come full circle. I do remember, even into the 1980’s or so, some small grocers in Youngstown delivered, especially to their elderly customers. They are all but gone now and for a while none of the larger chains delivered and people didn’t seem to want that.

Even before the current virus pandemic, that has been changing. Everyone from Amazon and its Whole Foods subsidiary to our local groceries and drug store will deliver. The Community Supported Agriculture movement of local farmers also delivers fresh produce to its subscribers each week. There is even a growing movement in Ohio allowing for raw milk deliveries.

As many of us would say in Youngstown, “everything that goes around comes around.”


Are Bookstores an Essential Business?

books bookshop bookstore business

Photo by Tuur Tisseghem on

The coronavirus has changed the landscape of bookselling. At a time when indie bookstores have been growing in popularity and Barnes & Noble is trying to reinvent itself, bookselling is suddenly in a precarious position. In my state, as many others, we have “stay-at-home” mandates in place that also only allow essential businesses and services to remain open. Grocery and hardware stores, gas stations, repair shops, as well as critical medical facilities, utilities, first responders, and repair services like plumbers continue to work, but must practice infection control and social distancing measures.

From what I can tell, all our bookstores are closed. Some tried to arrange curbside pick up services, but most, other than Barnes and Noble for online orders, have eliminated this. As with other businesses, it has led to the layoff of bookstore personnel, and if this goes very long, could sink many operations.

In some places, bookstores are raising the question of whether they might be considered an essential business. For some bibliophiles, this is a no-brainer. Of course, they would say! Sure, there are some of us who are well prepared to wait this out with high TBR piles and books squirreled away in every room of the house. We may need toilet paper, but not books, and in a pinch…

But seriously, an extended stay at home poses the challenge of how we spend the time. Many have observed the precedent of Boccaccio’s Decameron, in which a group of friends (who can afford it) flee to the country and tell each other stories. I suppose with online tools, we might pass the time similarly. But for many who aren’t into endless video, books may be a critical essential for filling at least some of those hours. With libraries also closed, some readers may run out of books.

From a public health point of view, and in the eyes of many who don’t have the luxury of buying books in any season, this may be the frivolous complaint of the elite, or even a dangerous practice if it results in additional spread of infection. Justifying bookstores would probably support the argument that a variety of other businesses might be justified in staying open.

So, while I don’t think it is essential to keep bookstores open, I think it is essential to keep them alive. They serve as an important “third place” in normal times, they play a critical role in helping authors get the word out about their books, they offer whole families the chance to have books of their own, from children to young adults to moms and dads to grandparents. They are an important lifeline for our publishing industry. And there is a serendipity of browsing the shelves that online shopping can never duplicate. So, what can be done? Here are a few ideas:

  • Many stores still allow you to do phone and/or online orders. Some are waiving shipping. It might be easier to order them online (although Amazon has had to limit its book business for more “essentials”). Figure out the bookstore you love and buy from them. Yet also realize, for many stores, this alone will not be enough.
  • Buy audiobooks from them as well through Libro.Fm. If they are a partner, they can get a cut. At you can find similar options for buying e-books. One caveat is that these won’t work on your Kindle.
  • You can also buy gift cards from the store to use yourself or give away. This gives the store an immediate cash infusion and you a nice gift for friends (and hopefully, new customers for the store).
  • Some stores have turned to online funding tools like GoFundMe to raise needed funds to stay alive. Literati Bookstore, in Ann Arbor, a store which has received national recognition, is faced with the challenge of having enough funds to re-open. They set a goal of raising $100,000 through a GoFundMe campaign, and exceeded it in two days time. Do you love your bookstore? You might consider doing this, or even organizing a campaign for them.

In the U.S., it appears many of us will be receiving checks from Uncle Sam. Some who are unemployed desperately need these funds. But for some of us, this is a bonus. As you think of how you use this, if you are a bibliophile, you might think of how you might help your favorite bookseller. There are a number of critical needs of course, including many who were on the edge even before all this. There are other businesses we want to see survive as well. But as readers, we are the people who care for and know the value of bookstores better than any. This is the time to act, as we are able, on what we know.

Review: From Nature to Experience

From Nature to Experience

From Nature to Experience, Roger Lundin. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2007.

Summary: Using two essays by Emerson, “Nature” and “Experience,” traces the shift in American moral and cultural authority during the last two centuries.

Roger Lundin was an English professor at Wheaton College until his death in 2015. In this work, he left us with a masterful literary and intellectual history of 19th and 20th century America. He structures this treatment around two essays by Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Nature” and “Experience,” tracing the shift in authority from Nature, that is the external world ranging from physical reality to Christian revelation to Experience, the perceptions of the individual know-er.

Lundin traces this intellectual movement through the American pragmatism of Dewey to the post-modernism of Richard Rorty and Stanley Fish. Along the way he engages philosophers like Nietzsche and intellectuals like Henry Adams. He also traces this intellectual shift through the lives of literary figures like Emily Dickinson, of whom he wrote in a separate work, a short story of Stephen Crane, and William Faulkner. And he brings all these in dialogue with Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Karl Barth.

The movement he traces is one from a nature that is enchanted, connected to a transcendent God, to disenchantment, and from a reality and truth rooted outside oneself to subjective glimpses of reality and truth reduced to what works. I’ve probably stated this summary far more polemically, and with less nuance than does Lundin, who shows a deep acquaintance with and respect for the intellectual and artistic power of each of these figures, with whom most of us, including this reviewer have a passing acquaintance. For that reason, his invoking of Christian sources, and the transcendent vision of authority they represent, comes off as careful scholarship and rigorous argument rather than polemics or proselytizing.

What Lundin does instead is model Christian scholarship at its best, of engaging the minds of one’s discipline with a thoughtful Christian mind. He also offers more. In a culture suspicious both of science and anyone else’s claims of truth, and an academy witnessing the self-inflicted eclipse of the humanities, Lundin’s discussion offers hope for the retrieval of the sources of authority lost to academy and society alike. Sadly, this work, still in print, does not enjoy the circulation it deserves. My own search to find the book in our state’s libraries only turned up a single copy. Perhaps calling renewed attention to Lundin’s work may both serve as fitting tribute to his scholarship, and invite a new generation to take up his work.

Review: The Big Fella

the big fella

The Big FellaJane Leavy. New York: HarperCollins, 2018.

Summary: A biography of Babe Ruth, with the narrative of his life connected with a day by day account of a barnstorming tour of the country after his home run record-breaking 1927 season.

He was big in so many ways. He could probably have been a Hall of Fame pitcher. He not only held one season and lifetime home run records for decades, but his day in, day out hitting and slugging percentages and many other statistics place him at the very top of all time hitters. He was physically big, in height and girth, in hands. He not only hit a lot of home runs, but hit with a much heavier bat than most players used, and with a swing studied for its efficiency. He had huge appetites, for food, for women, for clothes, for adulation. He not only negotiated record salaries (and Leavy suggests he could have received more) but earned record amounts on appearances and endorsements.

Leavy tells this whole story from the loveless marriage of his parents that ended in divorce, with George, Jr. at St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys, and later St. James home, where he met Brother Matthias, who was probably the closest thing he really had to a father, and who taught him baseball. It is even thought that Babe modeled his swing on Brother Matthias. Leavy traces his career from the minors, his time in Boston and transformation from a pitcher to a hitter who played every day, his trade to New York.

She shows us a Ruth who tried to have a different life in his first marriage to Helen, yet whose appetites led to carousing and many women, and an increasingly distant relationship with Helen, who spent more and more time hospitalized or as an invalid, while Babe developed an extra-marital relationship with Claire who he married after Helen’s death.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the book was the role Christy Walsh played in making Ruth “big.” Long before agents became commonplace, Walsh worked tirelessly with Ruth to get him to amend his ways enough to stay out of trouble, play the game, endorse products, and make a fortune on post-season appearances. Walsh was the one who understood, in a way Ruth never quite grasped, how much Ruth was worth to the Yankees, and the limited time he had to capitalize on it.

Ruth, having not found love in his family, seems to never have been content with a family. He tried to keep playing when his body no longer could sustain it. Traded by the Yankees back to Boston, he hoped to manage a team, but was never given a chance. He got involved in a movie project that produced an inferior “B” movie. Then the cancer came. Ruth’s last years were hard and the “big fella” was reduced to 150 pounds by his tottering farewell appearance at an Old-Timers game at Yankee Stadium. A few months later, he was dead.

Leavy uses the device of a 21 day barnstorming tour across the country with Lou Gehrig following his 1927 season, the peak of his career. Each chapter covers one day of the tour and advances Leavy’s narrative of his life. The tour captures in miniature the story of his life from the game to the crowds including the kids, the after hours, and the adulation.

This was the one aspect of the book about which I was ambivalent. It captured an aspect of Babe’s life often overlooked in the accounts. But it also seemed distracting and one had to pay attention to when Leavy was writing about the tour, or moving forward the larger narrative of his life. It was an interesting device, but I’m not sure it worked for me.

However, Leavy gives us a portrait of both the power and pathos that were part of the Babe’s story. She helped me realize how extensive his accomplishments were long before today’s technology enhanced game, and how his presence changed the game. Christy Walsh anticipated the role agents would have in looking out for players’ interests, changing a game where the owners held all the power. It also raises the fascinating question of whether any of this would happen without the mentoring of Brother Matthias. One thing was sure. Ruth never forgot. And perhaps neither should we.

Review: Including the Stranger

including the stranger

Including the Stranger (New Studies in Biblical Theology), David G. Firth. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2019.

Summary: A study of the former prophets that makes the case that God was not an exclusivist who hated foreigners, but that God welcomed the stranger who believed and excluded the Israelite who repudiated him.

Many people have the idea that in the Old Testament, God hates foreigners. At worst, some have called him a genocidal monster. David G. Firth argues from the Former Prophets (Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings)  for something far different. He believes that these books reveal a picture of a God who includes the foreigner who believes, works through such people for the benefit of Israel, and that ultimately, the people of God were defined not by ethnicity but by faith.

In Joshua, he contrasts the faith of Rahab the Canaanite prostitute (and ancestor of David and Christ), with Achan, who takes for himself what was to be devoted to destruction, to the destruction of his fellow Israelites and his own family. Firth also points to the inclusion of the Gibeonites and their subsequent role. In Judges, he contrasts Othniel the Kenite (an outsider), the paradigm judge who saves Israel from the invading nations, with the nation itself, divided by tribal rivalries and becoming more like the surrounding nations.

The books of Samuel contrast Israel who wants to be like other nations and Saul, whose kingship is shaped more by his responses to foreign adversaries than obedience to God, with David, the man after God’s heart, who slays Goliath who dares to taunt against Yahweh. Later, we see David the unfaithful adulterer and murderer of the faithful Hittite soldier Uriah. And when David’s actions bring a plague ln Israel, it is Araunah, the Jebusite, whose threshing floor becomes the site of an altar to Yahweh at the point where the plague stops.

In the books of the Kings, once again, it is the vindication of the greatness of Yahweh over the nations that results in the defeat of the Assyrians confronting Hezekiah. Often, as in Judges, the incursions of the nations are a judgment for Israel’s faithlessness. When Yahweh acts, it is that the nations may know him (2 Kings 19:19). Perhaps the height of this expression of concern for the foreigner is in Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the temple:

As for the foreigner who does not belong to your people Israel but has come from a distant land because of your name—for they will hear of your great name and your mighty hand and your outstretched arm—when they come and pray toward this temple, then hear from heaven, your dwelling place. Do whatever the foreigner asks of you, so that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your own people Israel, and may know that this house I have built bears your Name. (I Kings 8:41-43, NIV).

Later, Naaman is a striking example of one who finds healing through faith in Israel’s God. Firth then concludes his treatment by tracing this trajectory of concern for including the stranger into the New Testament, and makes application to the church.

Firth’s point in all this is to show that the people of God may include foreigners, and exclude unfaithful Israelites. Foreigner nations face judgment not because they are foreigners, but when they embrace rivals to the living God and represent a threat to lure Israel into the same. Sometimes, these nations are instruments to draw Israel back to God through invasions.

Firth does a service in calling our attention to the numerous instances of the inclusion of the foreigner in the Former Prophets, and God’s revealed intentions, material overlooked by those who attack these books. In so doing he demonstrates that there is a greater continuity in the two testaments than may be thought. Some may find his inference that the people were destroyed or driven out not because of their ethnicity but because of the rival gods they believed in inadequate to justify this destruction. To fully address this would require a much longer book. What Firth does is show us that the actual case is far more nuanced than is popularly portrayed. While we cannot get away from violence against the nations, there is also an ongoing thread of the inclusion of foreigners from Rahab, to the paradigm judge, Othniel, to Naaman and many others that reveal God’s over-riding concern for his glory among the nations and the inclusion of all who believe into the people of God.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Review: Three Pieces of Glass

Three pieces of glass

Three Pieces of GlassEric O. Jacobsen. Grands Rapids: Brazos Press, 2020.

Summary: Focuses on loneliness and belonging and the influence of cars, television, and smartphones on the experience, and even design of community and the choices we may make to foster belonging.

A recent commercial for a pizza chain reprises a classic TV scene in which a figure of a somewhat heavy set man who walks into an establishment. In the classic version, he is instantly recognized and everyone calls out “Norm.”  In the contemporary version, no one knows his name because he hasn’t created an online profile tracked on his phone. In the old neighborhood bar, “everybody knows your name.” Now belonging is increasingly mediated through a screen.

Eric O. Jacobsen didn’t anticipate the commercial, which underscores the theme of belonging represented by Norm that runs through this book. He contends that three pieces of glass, the windshield of the automobile, the screen of the television, and the screen of our smartphones, tablets, and computers have fundamentally influenced our experience of belonging in society.

Jacobsen begins his discussion by exploring the nature of belonging as having to do with relationship, place and story, and levels of belonging from intimate and personal to social and public and how intimate and personal are not enough. He explores the way in which experiences of social and public, together referred to as civic belonging, offer foretastes of kingdom belonging.

The second part of the book then sketches out the nature of kingdom belonging which he characterizes as unconditional, covenantal, invitational, compassionate, diverse,  transformative, delightful and productive. He contrasts this with worldly belonging and highlights the inclusive (the images of the feast and the table) and the covenantal relationship character of the kingdom.

Part three considers the gospel and belonging and shows how through the gospel, broken relationships are restored and there is healing for the epidemic of loneliness. For people who feel estranged and exiled, there is a promise of homecoming. And for those living in a story of meagre existence, there is a better and grander story.

The fourth part of the books addresses how the “three pieces of glass” have contributed to our crisis of belonging. The automobile has changed how our living spaces have been configured, from the design of our homes, to the walkability of our neighborhoods, and the location of where we shop and work in relation to where we live. Television changes how we view real people versus our “TV friends.” Our smartphones and other devices have led us to substitute virtual for face to face interaction. These have led erosion in the civic realm and an epidemic of “busyness.

The last two parts consider, first, the influence of our choices on our communal life, our public policies, and on our liturgical life and second how we may encourage belonging. The last part reprises ideas elaborated at greater length in Jacobsen’s earlier books, Sidewalks in the Kingdom and The Space Between, both influenced by the new urbanism. He looks at the design of our communities, advocating for walkability, our proximity, which includes a parish vision for the church, the making of meaningful public places, and a local culture reflected in language, shared stories, and events.

Writing this review during the Covid-19 pandemic gives me a different perspective on this book than I might have had during “normal” times. The latter two pieces of glass have taken on critical importance both as sources of information (although we have to watch for media overload), and as the one means of connection, or belonging most of us have when we must practice physical distancing–particularly in connecting with family, friends, our church community, our work colleagues, and even our political leaders. For many of us, we can work from home (and this may not even represent a change for some of us.)

By the same token, people are walking their neighborhoods at safe distances, in some cases meeting neighbors they never knew by name. I know of one neighborhood where a local folk singer set up in his front yard and staged an impromptu singalong. When we can’t go to restaurants, sporting events, and many of the other places our cars take us–we are left with walking and a kind of “neighboring” occurs. By the same token, I wonder if fights would have occurred over essential goods in the neighborhood markets I grew up with that occur in our megastores where people come from miles around and it is rare you meet someone you know. You shopped with people you knew in those neighborhood groceries and, perhaps we would be more considerate of the needs of others and neither hoard nor fight. After all, we lived with those people and we would be publicly shamed if we took more than our fair share!

Jacobsen’s book makes me wonder whether we will be more mindful about this question of belonging, as we realize how dependent we are upon both in our churches, and in the civic sphere. It makes me wonder if we will take a fresh look at our neighborhoods, both what is good about them, as well as what could be better about our places, and how we connect with each other. With internet connected devices, I suspect it is a bit more complicated. It would not surprise me if life becomes more oriented for more people around these devices. We are doing more education through them, more commerce, more business collaboration, and even more religious activity. While we discover that the church is not a building, will we also jettison the physical encounters that are at the heart of Christian community, from the breaking of bread and the cup to all those meals and potlucks that are some of the best part of our lives? Even before this crisis, I was in conversation with those who talked about declines in church attendance, in which someone pointed to their smartphone and said, “that’s because many think they carry church in their pocket.”

Yet Jacobsen reminds us of our epidemic of loneliness. He raises the critical question of whether belonging can be mediated through a smart device, or whether the proximity necessary for social and public belonging can be created in a car culture. We may love our TV friends, but will they love us back? Jacobsen’s book raises a series of inter-related questions for how the church understands its message, how we steward our technology, and how we configure the places where we live. How we answer those might well make the difference between places where nobody or everybody knows our names.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Barney Bean

We would come in before dinner and plop down in front of the TV to catch The Barney Bean Show. If you were a kid during the Sixties, I’m sure you remember Barney Bean and his ventriloquist’s dummy, Sherwood. Barney and Sherwood would come out to talk with the live studio audience of children at the WYTV Channel 33 studio. Barney would wear a brown fringed vest and goofy hat with a big safety pin pinning up the brim. Sherwood was dress in a garish sport jacket, and there was always great repartee between them, with Sherwood often getting the best of Barney. They even combined on a locally produced 45 recording,  “BARNEY BEAN & SHERWOOD – FOR KIDS FOR FUN.”

Barney was David William “Bill” Harris. He was a Mahoning Valley native, born April 10, 1929 in Hubbard. He graduated from Boardman High School and Youngstown College. He was a newscaster but was most well-known as the host of his children’s show. What most people remember was the segment in each show where children could send in to the show to have Barney Bean do a drawing for them on their birthday. With a sketchpad and a magic marker, he started with the child’s initials and would draw a cartoon–different every time! He spoke one time at a youth rally at our church, doing one of his drawings. I think there was a religious focus to his presentation, but all I remember was the drawing!

National celebrity Art Linkletter had a kid’s show around the same time called House Party. He subsequently wrote a book called Kid’s Say the Darndest Things. That proved to be a problem on one of Barney Bean’s live studio shows. He actually had Ronald McDonald on the show. Ronald interviewed the kids in the audience and reputedly asked one of the boys if he had heard any funny jokes. The boy responded with an off-color joke that left Ronald dumbfounded, to which the boy meanly responded, “Eat it, clown.” No chance to edit. That was live TV!

Locally produced children’s shows eventually gave way to national shows like Sesame Street. Bill Harris continued to live in the area working with Gordon Brothers until retiring in 2004. His obituary also indicates that he was part of the Boardman Eagles Club and visited children in the hospital. I wonder if he did drawings for them. I’m also curious whatever happened to Sherwood. Harris lived until June 21, 2008, dying at age 79, leaving behind his wife of 58 years leaving five children, ten grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.

He also left behind a bunch of amazing cartoons and good memories for a generation of Youngstown area children!


Looking for a Long Read?

close up of books on shelf

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on

Some say we may need to be ready to practice “social distancing” for up to three months. All the things outside the home are off the schedule for now. This might be the time for a long read, one of those big fat books you have thought you’d never have the time to read. Maybe you have it already on your TBR pile, but if not, my good friends at Bob on Books on Facebook gave a great list of recommendations from 82 different authors.

  • Hervey Allen, Anthony Adverse
  • Isaac Asimov, The Foundation Trilogy
  • Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale
  • Paul Auster, 4321
  • Robert Bolano, 2666
  • Marion Zimmer Bradley, The Mists of Avalon
  • Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre
  • John Bunyan, Pilgrim’s Progress
  • Robert Burton, Anatomy of Melancholy
  • Ron Chernow, Grant
  • Arthur C. Clarke, Childhood’s End
  • Stephen Clarke, 1000 Years of Annoying the France
  • James Clavell, Sho Gun
  • Thomas B. Costain, The Tontine
  • Mark Z. Danielewski, House of Leaves
  • Daniel DeFoe, Robinson Crusoe
  • Anthony Doerr, All the Light We Cannot See
  • Fyodor Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment, Brothers Karamazov
  • Stephanie Dray, My Dear Hamilton
  • Alexandre Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo
  • Nicholas Evans, The Horse Whisperer
  • Michel Faber, The Crimson Petal and the White
  • James T. Farrell, Studs Lonigan
  • Ken Follett, The Pillars of the Earth
  • Diana Gabaldon, Outlander series.
  • Neil Gaiman, American Gods
  • Benito Pérez Galdós, Los Episodios Nacionales
  • Alex Haley, Roots
  • Pete Hamill, Forever
  • Jan de Hartog, The Peaceable Kingdom
  • Frank Herbert, The Dune Saga
  • Joe Hill, The Fireman
  • L. Ron Hubbard, Battlefield Earth
  • Victor Hugo, Les Miserables
  • Greg Iles, Natchez Burning
  • John Irving, A Prayer for Owen Meany
  • Walter Isaacson, Leonard da Vinci
  • Sue Monk Kidd, The Secret Life of Bees
  • Stephen King, 11-22-63, IT, The Stand, Under The Dome
  • Karleen Koen, Through a Glass Darkly (and subsequent novels)
  • Dean Koontz, Odd Thomas
  • Wally Lamb, I Know This Much is True
  • Erik Larson, The Splendid and the Vile
  • Min Jin Lee, Pachinko
  • Robert Ludlum, Prometheus Deception
  • Norman Mailer, Ancient Evenings, The Executioner’s Song
  • George R. R. Martin, Game of Thrones
  • Greg Matthews, Power in the Blood
  • Anne McCaffrey, Pern series
  • Robert McCammon, Boy’s Life
  • Colleen McCullough, The Thorn Birds
  • Larry McMurtry, Lonesome Dove
  • Herman Melville, Typee
  • James Michener, Hawaii, Texas, The Covenant, The Source
  • Margaret Mitchell, Gone With the Wind
  • Robert Musil, The Man Without Qualities
  • Felix Palma, The Map of Time, The Map of the Sky, The Map of Chaos
  • Christopher Paolini, Eragon
  • Samantha Power, The Education of an Idealist
  • Marcel Proust, In Search Of Lost Time
  • Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow
  • Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged
  • Marcus Rediker, Outlaws of the Atlantic
  • Andrew Roberts, Churchill: Walking With Destiny
  • Nora Roberts, Year One Trilogy
  • Kim Stanley Robinson, The Years of Rice & Salt
  • J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter series.
  • Salman Rushdie, Quichotte
  • Murasaki Shikibu, The Tale of Genji
  • Paullina Simons, The Bronze Horseman
  • Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago
  • John Steinbeck, East of Eden
  • Laurence Sterne, Tristram Shandy
  • Kathryn Stockett, The Help
  • Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin
  • Donna Tartt, The Goldfinch
  • J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, The Unfinished Tales
  • Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina,War and Peace
  • Abraham Verghese, Cutting for Stone
  • David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest
  • Isabel Wilkerson, The Warmth of Other Suns
  • Hanya Yanagihara, A Little Life

This is an uncurated list. I only left out a couple of religious books, The Bible and The Lost Books of the Bible. I can’t guarantee you will like all the books on the list. But there is probably something you will like. But there is probably something here for most tastes. I didn’t specify what “long” means, so the recommendations are of various lengths. Whatever you choose, when you finish, there will be plenty left to read. And one thing you don’t have to worry too much about with this list in this anxious time is what you will read next.

Early Spring 2020 Book Preview

wp-15845727474905349126795391162499.jpgIt’s been a while since my last book preview post, and a number of new books have arrived for review. I don’t know if I’ll be able to settle into a routine during the present crisis, which is uncharted territory. But if I do, I have plenty to read. I thought I would give you a preview because it will take some time to get to them all. The link in the title is to the publisher’s website. Most of the time, you can order the book there, or at your favorite local bookseller, who especially needs your help right now. So, from the top of the pile…

becoming sage

Becoming SageMichelle Van Loon. Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2020. Loon explores how we navigate through mid-life to grow in wisdom and purpose.

myth american dream

The Myth of the American DreamD. L. Mayfield. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2020. Is the American dream compatible with the teaching of Jesus? I’m guessing, no.

good white racist

Good* White RacistKerry Connelly. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2020. If you are white, you don’t want to think of yourself as a racist, yet may be complicit in things that perpetuate racism.

#metoo reckoning

The #MeToo ReckoningRuth Everhart. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2020. Everhart calls attention to the ways the church has participated in the epidemic of abuse and sexual misconduct that the #MeToo movement has exposed.

goshen road

Goshen RoadBonnie Proudfoot. Athens, Ohio: Swallow Press, 2020. A novel centered around a working class family in rural West Virginia. Sounds like a fictional Hillbilly Elegy.

when narcissism

When Narcissism Comes to ChurchChuck DeGroat. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2020. Narcissist pastors and church systems are deadly to a church. The book offers hope for healing for churches and narcissist pastors and leaders alike.

experiencing God

Experiencing GodEberhard Arnold. Walden, NY: Plough Publishing, 2020. What happens when a Christian truly invites God to rule in one’s life?

Approaching the Atonement

Approaching the AtonementOliver D. Crisp. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2020. Is there more to our understanding of the atonement than the cross? And how shall we understand this doctrine?

Paul and the Language of faith

Paul and the Language of Faith, Nijay Gupta. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2020. Paul studies the language of faith in Paul’s writings, proposing an active, rather than passive understanding of faith.

God in Himself

God in HimselfStephen J. Duby. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2019. The author explores how we may know God and can we know God as God is in himself?

a republic in the ranks

A Republic in the Ranks, Zachery A. Fry. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2020. In an army shaped by George McClellan, a Democrat, Fry shows how officers in the Union Army shaped a Republican awakening, leading to Lincoln’s 1864 re-election.

basic bible atlas

The Basic Bible AtlasJohn A. Beck. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2020. An atlas of the lands of the Bible that integrates Israel’s history and geography.

Blood Letters

Blood Letters: The Untold Story of Lin Zhao, A Martyr in Mao’s ChinaLian Xi. New York: Basic Books, 2018. A meticulously researched account of Lin Zhao, a political dissident and Christian who was tortured and died for her faith.

Kent State

Kent State: Four Dead in OhioDerf Blackderf. New York: Abrams Comic Arts, 2020. A graphic non-fiction account of the shootings at Kent State on May 4, 1970, leaving four dead and nine wounded, being released for the 50th anniversary of this event.


Philippians (Kerux Commentaries), Thomas Moore and Timothy D. Sprankle. Grand Rapids, Kregel Ministry, 2019. Part of commentary series co-written by an exegete and a homiletician (one who teaches the art of preaching).


A Worldview Approach to Science and ScriptureCarol Hill. Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic, 2019. The author argues that understanding the worldview of the biblical authors and the modern scientific worldview helps resolve points of apparent conflict between scripture and science.

As you can see, I won’t lack for books if I must shelter in place for a good while. I suspect that will be the case for most readers of this blog. Desiderius Erasmus once said, “When I have a little money, I buy books; and if I have any left, I buy food and clothes.” Hopefully none of you will lack for any of these things. More importantly, my prayer is that you and yours may be spared illness or harm during these months. Remember kindness both to others and to yourself!

Time to Support Your Indie Bookstore

hearts and minds

Hearts and Minds Bookstore, from their Facebook page

In the past week, there have been massive closures–schools, restaurants, libraries, and even bookstores. Even if stores are open, many are not visiting as part of their efforts to physically distance themselves from infection.

Hundreds of indies around the country have closed either voluntarily or by government mandate. During this time, their only source of revenue are online orders (some stores can also offer in-store or even curbside pickups).

As it turns out, the demands on Amazon for essential supplies of medical and household goods have resulted in them deciding not to sell “non-essential” items like books, other than current stock, at least for a time.

Of course, books to a healthy bibliophile are not a “non-essential.” It could even be argued that they are an essential to health when we are basically “sheltering in place.”

This is one of those instances where our need to read and our favorite bookstore’s need for revenue converge. Most provide for online ordering. Many even answer the phone without any phone tree to go through. You can make a human connection amid physical distancing! That in itself is worth any extra cost.

One of my favorite indies is Hearts and Minds Bookstore in Dallastown, Pennsylvania, a small town in east central Pennsylvania. I have never actually been there and it is on my bucket list of places to visit. I read (and review) a good deal of religion and theological books in the Christian tradition, and Hearts and Minds is my “go to” bookseller. The store focuses on thoughtful books (hence their name) that connect Christian faith with every aspect of life, as well as other quality literature. Their selection of books and my interests align really well. They’ve been able to send me anything I ask for, always carefully packaged, arriving in perfect condition. They do a regular review of new books called “BookNotes,” and always offer a 20% discount on any book featured

I mentioned wanting to visit. Right now, I cannot. They have been closed by the state. I want to see them around when this emergency is over. For indie bookstores, this is not a given. Even when they run in the black, it is often by a precariously thin margin. I saw a new work in BookNotes I am interested in. After I finish this post, I’m going to go online and purchase it.

What if everyone did this with their favorite indie in the next week? And when you finish what you’ve purchased, do it again. It might just help them hang on.

But I read e-books or listen to audiobooks, you say. It turns out that that through IndieBound, which connects a community of indie bookstores, you can order e-books and audiobooks through many indie stores, and possibly yours. I realize you also have a selection of these at many libraries who are also only doing digital lending at this time.

As we have means, it makes sense during this time to ask what businesses matter to us that we want to support, including bookstores. Many of us are still adjusting to this state of affairs. Hopefully in the next few months, this thing will end. Will our favorite businesses, including the bookstores who sell what we like to read, still be there when we can get out and about again? It’s really up to us.