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.

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.

The Month in Reviews: February 2023

I’m not sure how to characterize this months collection of books reviewed. There is a new Bible translation and Clarence Jordan, who wrote his own paraphrases of the gospels. You’ll find a Lenten devotional and occasional papers by Pope Benedict on the environment. You can go from the wonders of the cell to John Kennedy’s goal to place a man on the moon by the end of the 1960’s. I reviewed a theology of the atonement for those who have experienced abuse and a discussion of the place of beauty in Christian formation. I read Anne Lamott’s Help Wow Thanks on prayer and then felt like saying “Help Wow Thanks” as I read Kristen Page’s Wonders of Creation. On most months, Bonnie Kristian’s Untrustworthy would have been my Best Book of the Month. Her exploration of our epistemic crisis and thoughtful ideas about developing epistemic virtue seem so crucial when we struggle to know who or what we may trust. Saint Patrick the Forgiver is a wonderful retelling of the story of Saint Patrick for children and adults alike. Granite Kingdom is a work of historical fiction set in Vermont’s granite country in 1910, written by a first time author who researched it while working as a journalist for a small town Vermont newspaper. And, of course, I finished off the month with another Ngaio Marsh!

The Inconvenient Gospel (Plough Spiritual Guides), Clarence Jordan, edited by Frederick L. Downing, Introduction by Starlette Thomas. Walden, NY: Plough Books, 2022. A collection of the talks and writings of Clarence Jordan, rooted in the teaching of Jesus, drawing out the radical implications this has for war, wealth disparity, civil rights, and true community. Review

A Just Passion: A Six Week Lenten JourneyRuth Haley Barton, Sheila Wise Rowe, Tish Harrison Warren, Terry M. Wildman, and others. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2022. A six week Lenten devotional consisting of brief excerpts from works by InterVarsity Press authors, scripture readings, and breath prayers, considering how, in the passion of Christ, we lament the injustices of the world, find healing in the redemptive work of Christ, and enter into Christ’s heart for justice for the oppressed. Review

The Song of the CellSiddhartha Mukherjee. New York: Scribner, 2022. A history of the advances of cell biology including the cutting-edge innovations that allow for the modification or implantation of cells, creating in essence, a new human. Review

The Back Side of the CrossDiane Leclerc and Brent Peterson, foreword by Lynn Bohecker. Eugene: Cascade Books, 2022. A look at the models of the atonement from the back side of the cross, where those abused and abandoned are found, exploring how Jesus died not only for sinners but the sinned against. Review

First Nations Version: An Indigenous Translation of the New TestamentTerry M. Wildman, Consulting editor, First Nations Version Translation Council. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2022. A dynamic equivalent English translation of the New Testament by and for the First Nations people in North America, using the cultural idioms resonating with First Nations people. Review

The Garden of God: Toward a Human EcologyPope Benedict XVI, foreword by Archbishop Jean-Louis Brugues. Washington: Catholic University of America Press, 2014. A collection of Pope Benedict XVI’s statements in homilies, papal greetings, letters, and other written documents, pertaining to a theology of human ecology. Review

Reading the Bible Around the WorldFederico Alfredo Roth, Justin Marc Smith, Kirsten Oh, Alice Yafeh-Deigh, and Kay Higuera Smith. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2022. A globally representative team of authors discuss the diverse social locations of different cultures that shape their reading of scripture, developing the student’s awareness of the importance of context in biblical interpretation. Review

Granite KingdomEric Pope. Montpelier, VT: Rootstock Publishing, 2022. Set in Vermont’s granite country in 1910, narrates a rivalry between two granite companies representing old and new ways, with a young newspaperman with social aspirations caught in between. Review

Dawn: A Complete Account of the Most Important Day in Human History — Nisan 18, AD 30Mark Miller. Good Turn Publishing, 2023. An effort to render a unified account of the trial, death, resurrection and post-resurrection appearances of Jesus up to the ascension, detailing the movements of the disciples and especially the women who visited the grave on Easter morning. Review

Tending the Fire That Burns at the Center of the WorldDavid F. White. Eugene: Wipf & Stock, 2022. An argument for the important role of aesthetics, of beauty, in Christian formation. Review

Help Thanks Wow: The Three Essential PrayersAnne Lamott. New York: Riverhead Books, 2012. The author’s account of what it is for her to pray and three types of prayer that, for her, describe what it means to pray. Review

The Apocalyptic Paul: Retrospect and Prospect (Cascade Library of Pauline Studies), Jamie Davies, Foreword by John Barclay. Eugene: Cascade Books, 2022. A survey of the major contributors to the Apocalyptic Paul movement within Pauline studies, as well as a discussion of some outstanding areas for discussion and proposals of bringing biblical scholars in the Apocalyptic Paul movement, theologians focusing on apocalyptic, and those studying the Jewish apocalyptic tradition into conversation. Review

The Wonders of Creation: Learning Stewardship from Narnia and Middle-Earth (The Hansen Lectureship Series), Kristen Page, with contributions from Christina Bieber Lake, Noah J. Toly, and Emily Hunter McGowin. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2022. Discusses the value of Lewis’s and Tolkien’s fictional landscapes in fostering love and care for the creation of which we are part. Review

AnchorholdKirsten Pinto Gfroerer. Cambridge: The Lutterworth Press, 2022. A two-year correspondence with Julian of Norwich, reflecting upon the Revelations of Divine Love. Review

American MoonshotDouglas Brinkley. New York: Harper, 2020. A history of the American space program centering around John F. Kennedy’s embrace of the space race and goal that an American would walk on the moon by the end of the 1960’s. Review

Saint Patrick the ForgiverRetold and Illustrated by Ned Bustard. Downers Grove: IVP Kids, 2023. A re-telling of the story of Saint Patrick, who returned to the Irish who had enslaved him, having forgiven them and preaching forgiveness through the work of Christ. Review

UntrustworthyBonnie Kristian, Foreword by David French. Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2022. A discussion of the epistemic crisis that has swept our society, riven our politics, and undermined our Christian community, and steps one may take to cultivate epistemic virtue and live discerningly. Review

Vintage Murder (Roderick Alleyn # 5), Ngaio Marsh. New York: Felony & Mayhem Press, 2012 (first published in 1937). Alleyn falls in with a theatre company while in New Zealand and discovers that neither murder nor police work take a vacation. Review

Best Book of the Month. So many good books this month, but the publication of the First Nations Version is such a singular event–a fresh translation speaking in the idioms of First Nations People but also opening the text up in a fresh way to other readers, including this one! I also had the privilege this past month of interviewing the lead translator and loved the story of how this translation came into being. Here’s the video of our interview:

Quote of the Month: Anchorhold is a reflection on the Revelations of Divine Love of Julian of Norwich. One of the most famous involves a vision of a hazelnut. Kirsten Pinto Gfroerer writes:

“In the hazelnut you see three attributes: the first, that God made it, the second that God loves it, the third that God cares for it.Nothing in the hazelnut’s essence reveals these attributes; in fact, it is so small, it is almost nothing. However, it has these attributes of being created, loved, and cared for by the Godhead because the Godhead gives them to us. Because they are gifts there is nothing we can do to lose them” (p. 14).

What I’m Reading. I’m nearly finished reading Richard Averbeck’s The Old Testament Law for the Life of the Church: Reading the Torah in the Light of Christ. It’s a rich study of the significance of all of the Old Testament law, which he believes profitable for the church. Lost in Thought: The Hidden Pleasures of an Intellectual Life by Zena Hitz is a fascinating exploration of thinking just for the sake of thinking. Marc Joan’s Hangdog Souls is a work of magical realism set in South India where an Englishman made a Faustian bargain where he gains his life at the cost of facilitating the deaths of others over several centuries. I’m not a fan of magical realism and I’m still making up my mind about this one. Have you ever gone back to your home town and relived your youth, perhaps forty or fifty years later? That’s what the principal character in Wallace Stegner’s Recapitulation does when an aunt’s death takes him back to Salt Lake City. I’m a Stegner fan and this is one I haven’t read. Finally, I’m reading Kyle Meyaard-Schaap’s Following Jesus in a Warming World. Among other things, he argues that caring for creation is pro-life and pro-evangelism. He joins Katherine Hayhoe as a voice of hope amid the dire predictions and discouraged youth of our climate crisis. I’m interviewing him next month and we’ll have a lot to talk about!

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.

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.

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.

The Month in Reviews: November 2022

This Month in Reviews is a cornucopia filled with good books of various sorts. I began the month with a book on foreknowledge and free will. There were a variety of other religious books on transformation, the Herods, orthodoxy, art and new creation, a commentary on Revelation, a book on why women leave the church, and a biography of theologian John Gerstner. Celeste Ng’s Our Missing Hearts topped my fiction reads–a haunting book I’ll be thinking about for awhile. I also read a classic James Baldwin, and another Alleyn and a Rostnikov mystery–for some reason the older I’ve gotten, the more I enjoy a good mystery. My non-fiction reads included a different take on our climate discussion, a history of the Depression contending that Roosevelt’s actions may have prolonged it, a book on math errors in the real world, and how the algorithms of social media engagement have intensified our social divides. And I read a 75 year history of one of my favorite book publishers, a story that includes a number of friends, past and present.

God in Eternity and TimeRobert E. Picirilli. Nashville: B & H Acacdemic, 2022. A case for libertarian freedom without forgoing belief in the foreknowledge of God, rooted in how God acts and reveals himself in creation. Review

When in Rome (Roderick Alleyn #26), Ngaio Marsh. New York: Felony & Mayhem Press, 2015. Alleyn goes undercover on a Roman holiday tour led by a sketchy tour guide suspected of drug smuggling and other corrupt activities and ends up collaborating in a murder investigation. Review

Heart. Soul. Mind. Strength. Expanded edition. Andrew T. LePeau & Linda Doll, edited by Al Hsu. Foreword by Jeff Crosby and Robert A. Fryling. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2022. A narrative history of this evangelical publishing house, a division of a campus ministry, upon the publishing house’s seventy-fifth anniversary. Review

Humble Pi: When Math Goes Wrong in the Real WorldMatt Parker. New York: Riverhead Books, 2020. An exploration of all the ways we use (and misuse) math in the real world, and the ways our calculations can go badly wrong. Review

The Forgotten Man, Amity Shlaes. New York: MJF Books, 2008. An account of the Depression years, focusing on why the Depression lasted so long, and the impact it had on so many different kinds of “forgotten men” and women. Review

Having the Mind of ChristBen Sternke and Matt Tebbe. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press/Formatio, 2022. Looks at the changed paradigms one must understand to experience deep and lasting change in our lives. Review

The Herods: Murder, Politics, and the Art of SuccessionBruce Chilton. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2021. A history of this dynasty, tracing its rise from Antipater, the rule of Herod the Great, and his descendants who struggled to recover control over the territories he ruled amid Roman power and rising Jewish discontent. Review

Go Tell It on the MountainJames Baldwin. New York: Vintage Books, 2013 (originally published in 1953). An account of John Grimes fourteenth birthday, centering on his brother Roy’s stabbing, his estrangement from his father, and the Saturday night “tarrying service” at a pentecostal church, revelatory of the lives of those around John and his own “salvation.” Review

The Thrill of OrthodoxyTrevin Wax (Foreword by Kevin Vanhoozer). Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2022. Spirited advocacy for orthodox belief as vibrant, broad, crucial in the battle before us, and for the renewal of God’s people. Review

ClimaturityMarc Cortez. Morro Bay, CA: Wise Media Group, 2022. An argument for a more transparent and measured climate discussion, avoiding either scare tactics or denialism. Review

The Chaos MachineMax Fisher. New York: Little, Brown, and Company, 2022. A deep dive into how social media has rewired our minds and fueled social divisions. Review

The Art of New Creation (Studies in Theology and the Arts), Edited by Jeremy Begbie, Daniel Train, and W. David O. Taylor. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2022. Contributions from a variety of artists and theologians from the 2019 DITA10 Conference at Duke Divinity School, focusing on how the theology of the new creation shapes the work of Christian artists in various fields. Review

A Fine Red Rain (Porfiry Rostnikov #4), Stuart M. Kaminsky. New York: Mysterious Press, 2012 (First published in 1987). When two of three high wire artist die, one by suicide, one by “accident,” Rostnikov suspects more, little realizing the reach of the KGB into this case while his friends Sasha deals with black marketers and Karpo pursues a serial murderer of prostitutes. Review

Our Missing HeartsCeleste Ng. New York: Penguin Press, 2022. Bird Gardner and his father spend life trying not to be noticed, even as Bird wonders about his mother, the stories she told, why she left them, and where she has gone in a country that turned against her poetry even as one phrase became a rallying cry for all those separated from their children. Review

Revelation Through Old Testament Eyes (A Background and Application Commentary) Tremper Longman III, series editor Andrew T. LePeau. Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic, 2022. A running commentary of the book of Revelation that focuses on the Old Testament background running through the book, along with material that goes deeper on the Old Testament material relating to different themes and the structure of the book as well as its contemporary application. Review

Reason to ReturnEricka Andersen. Colorado Springs: NavPress. Forthcoming (January 17) 2023. A book directed to believing women who have left the church looking at the reasons why they have left and reasons why they should consider returning, both for what they may gain and what they may give. Review

John Gerstner and the Renewal of Presbyterian and Reformed Evangelicalism in Modern America (Princeton Theological Monograph Series), Jeffrey S. McDonald. Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2017. A biography of church historian, apologist, and theologian John Gerstner exploring his impact on theological education, the Presbyterian denominations of which he was part, and the wider evangelical and Reformed movement. Review

Best Book of the Month: I chose Heart. Soul. Mind. Strength. simply because I’ve personally been deeply impacted by the books published by InterVarsity Press and found the story of the growth of this publisher compelling. And, as I mentioned above, it’s a book that includes a number of friends. This may not have been everyone’s choice, but if you know this publisher and have read books by the likes of John Stott, Francis Schaeffer, J. I. Packer, Susan Stabile, Ruth Haley Barton, Tish Harrison Warren and many others, or have commentaries or reference books from IVP, you will find the stories behind the books of interest.

Best Quote of the Month: Trevin Wax’s The Thrill of Orthodoxy argues that there is great joy to be found in the foundational truths of Christianity. I loved this image of orthodoxy as an ancient castle:

“Orthodoxy is an ancient castle with spacious rooms and vaulted ceilings and mysterious corridors, a vast expanse of practical wisdom handed down from our forefathers and mothers in the faith. Some inhabit the castle but fail to sift through its treasures. Others believe the castle stands in the way of progress and should be torn down. A few believe the castle’s outer shell can remain for aesthetic purposes, so long as the interior is gutted. But in every generation, God raises up those who see the value in the treasure, men and women who maintain a deep and abiding commitment to recognize and accentuate the unique beauty of Christian truth so that future generations can be ushered into its splendor” (p. 9).

I had the privilege of interviewing the author and, if you are interested, you can watch it on YouTube:

What I’m Reading: I’ve just finished reading Soonish, a fun read on ten emerging technologies and the challenges we face bringing them to life. I also finished a thought provoking book by Richard Mouw on How to Be a Patriotic Christian. I’m reading F.A. Hayek’s classic The Road to Serfdom, arguing for the classical idea of liberty, the individual, and the rule of law against state planning, collectivism, and the arbitrary uses of authority that can lead to totalitarian forms of government–fascist or communist. I have another Ngaio Marsh going, Swing, Brother, Swing, a book on the idea of salvation as abundant life in a holistic sense, and the classic work that spawned the inductive Bible study movement, Robert Traina’s Methodical Bible Study. I was a product of this training and came to love the Bible because of it but had never read Traina’s book. Finally, I think Louise Penny’s latest, A World of Curiosities, is supposed to arrive today. I read through her whole series during the pandemic and can’t wait to read her latest!

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.

The Month in Reviews: October 2022

The test of a good children’s story is that the adult who reads will love it as well. I had the fun of reviewing three this month that met this test, including one that was my Book of the Month. The rest was an eclectic mix including a Richard Wright classic of Black literature and a memoir of Oliver Sacks boyhood. I zoomed out to consider Asian American histories and zoomed in on the four generational history of one family. I read an account of the problems with the cost of higher education and how it contributes to our cultural divides. I’ve heard a lot of buzz about Emily St. John Mandel and reviewed her latest. I learned about four Victorian women writers who resisted “the marriage plot” and how important a curious faith can be. Another book awakened me to the plight of Palestinians and the flawed character of Jewish nationalism and Christian support of it. Steven Bryan’s book on cultural identity sets out a biblical alternative to both nationalism centered around cultural identity and a pluralism of warring identities. And Gordon T. Smith gives us a carefully reasoned, wise book on Christian vocation.

Asian American Histories of the United States, Catherine Ceniza Choy. Boston: Beacon Press, 2022. The multiple, interleaved histories of the diverse Asian American peoples who migrated to, built communities in, contributed to, experienced discriminatory acts in the United States. Review

Resisting the Marriage Plot (Studies in Theology and the Arts), Dalene Joy Fisher. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2021. Contrary to prevailing ideas of Christianity being an oppressive force in women’s lives in Victorian literature, looks at four instances in this literature where women resist cultural expectations around marriage due to the liberating and empowering quality of their faith. Review

A Curious FaithLore Ferguson Wilbert (Foreword by Seth Haines). Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2022. A book about the questions God asks, we ask, and those we wish we were asked, all with the message of living the questions and not hastily grasping for answers. Review

Agents of FlourishingAmy L. Sherman. Downers Grove: IVP Praxis, 2022. An outline of how Christians may pursue Christ’s redemptive mission in six areas of cultural life, encompassing the whole of life. Review

Native SonRichard Wright. New York: Harper Perennial, 1989 (first published in 1940). The story of Bigger Thomas, whose unpremeditated murder of Mary Dalton and second murder covering up the first, fires rage and fear in Chicago, and in a strange way gives meaning to a young man who felt himself imprisoned in Chicago’s Black Belt. Review

Dawn: A Proton’s Tale of All That Came to Be (Biologos Books on Science and Christianity), Cees Dekker, Corien Oranje, and Gijsbert Van Den Brink, translated by Harry Cook, afterword by Deborah Haarsma. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2022. An imaginative account of cosmology, evolutionary biology, and the creation-fall-redemption story of Christianity, bringing all these together in one grand narrative, recounted by a proton who witnesses it all. Review

Uncle TungstenOliver Sacks. New York: Vintage Books, 2001. A memoir of Sacks boyhood and his explorations of chemistry encouraged by an uncle who used tungsten to manufacture incandescent bulbs. Review

The Lord’s Prayer: For All God’s Children (A FatCat Book), Art by Natasha Kennedy, Text by Harold L. Senkbeil. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2022. A lavishly illustrated book designed for parents to use with children in teaching them the meaning of the Lord’s prayer and praying together in family worship. Review

The King of Christmas (A FatCat Book), Art by Natasha Kennedy, Text by Todd R. Hains. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2022. The search for the King of Christmas by the Magi, and where the King was found…and where he was not. Review

All Will Be WellLacy Linn Borgo, Illustrated by Rebecca Evans. Downers Grove: IVP Kids, 2022. Julian’s Mima is very sick and Julian is worried, sad, and angry and wondering if God hears or cares. Review

After the Ivory Tower FallsWill Bunch. New York: William Morrow, 2022. How the culture wars, costs, and inaccessibility of college have contributed to our political divides and what may be done. Review

Like Birds in a CageDavid M. Crump (Foreword by Gary M. Burge). Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2022. A book that argues what is wrong with Christian Zionism from a biblical, geo-political, and eyewitness perspective. Review

Your Calling Here and Now, Gordon T. Smith. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2022. Looks at calling in our present moment and place, and how we live into our calling in all the turnings and changes of life. Review

Cultural Identity and the Purposes of GodSteven M. Bryan. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2022. A biblical study of cultural identity: ethnicity, nationality, and race. Review

Morgenthau: Power, Privilege, and the Rise of an American Dynasty, Andrew Meier. New York: Random House, 2022. An account of the 153 year history of four generations of the Morgenthau family and its impact on real estate, politics, diplomacy, and law enforcement. Review

Sea of TranquilityEmily St. John Mandel. New York: Knopf, 2022. Incidents of a strange hiccup in time over several centuries all have elements in common, including the appear of Gaspery-Jacques Roberts in various guises. Review

Book of the Month: All Will Be Well is a sensitively written book about a little girl Julian whose Mima is dying. The story gives expression to all the feelings a child might have in such a situation and draws upon her namesake Julian of Norwich as her Mima seeks to comfort her.

Quote of the Month: Gordon T. Smith’s Your Calling Here and Now observes that the most important question we may ask about vocation is:

“We ask, at this time and at this place, who and what are we called to be and do?”

What I’m Reading: I’ve just finished God in Time, a discussion of foreknowledge and human freedom, arguing that we should understand the ways of God through his acts in space and time. Reading Heart. Soul. Mind. Strength., a history of InterVarsity Press is a joyful reminiscence of the people who built this publishing house. Many, both alive or in glory, are personal friends. I’ve also just picked up a new book on personal transformation, Having the Mind of Christ. The Forgotten Man is a history of the Depression, raising questions about Roosevelt’s economic policies. If you like books on math, Humble Pi is a delightful journey through all the varieties of math mistakes even those who should know better make. And as is the case most months, the icing on the cake is a Ngaio Marsh mystery, When in Rome.

Happy reading my bookish friends!

The Month in Reviews: September 2022

As baseball’s fall classic approaches, my reading in September included essays from Roger Angell bringing back memories of seasons in the early 1970’s and a new biography on the role of faith in Jackie Robinson’s struggle to integrate baseball and in his civil rights activism. I read two more Willa Cather books and marvel at her ability to paint with words. As mid-term elections approach, I read two books on politics, one so important that I selected it as my book of the month. Along with these, I finally got around to reading Richard Weaver’s classic Ideas Have Consequences, about which I had a mixed assessment. Wendell Berry’s The World-Ending Fire, captures the essence of Wendell Berry’s essays, constituting a collection of a number of his best. I also read delightfully informative and well-written books on the history of the Vikings and the making of vaccines. I find myself reading more mysteries of late and reviewed ones by Georges Simenon and Ngaio Marsh (her last, completed just weeks before her death at age 86). Of course there is always the mix of books on theology and the Christian life, ranging from a monograph on Jonathan Edwards, a discussion of four theological views of heaven, how Jesus “fought” peaceably, resisting the powers that be, during Passion Week and what loving one’s neighbor might look like in a metropolitan high-rise.

Five Seasons: A Baseball CompanionRoger Angell. New York: Open Road, 2013 (First published in 1977). Roger Angell essays covering the seasons of 1972 to 1976 that arguably transformed baseball into the sport it is today. Review

Ideas Have ConsequencesRichard M. Weaver. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984 (first published in 1948, link is to expanded 2013 edition). An argument tracing the dissolution of Western society to the abandonment of philosophical realism for nominalism and what may be done to reverse that decline. Review

My Ántonia, Willa Cather (Foreword Kathleen Norris). Boston: Mariner, 1995 (Originally published in 1918, no publisher web link available). Jim Burden’s narrative of his relationship growing up on the prairie with Ántonia Shimerda, one he would live with throughout his life. Review

Maigret’s Pickpocket (Inspector Maigret), Georges Simenon (translated by Siân Reynolds). New York: Penguin, 2019 (originally published 1967). Maigret becomes much more acquainted with a pickpocket than he bargained for when the man contacts him and leads him to his wife’s body, a victim of murder. Review

Four View on Heaven (Counterpoints), John S. Feinberg (Contributor), J. Richard Middleton (Contributor), Michael Allen (Contributor), Peter Kreeft (Contributor), Michael E. Wittmer (General Editor). Grand Rapids: Zondervan Academic, 2022. Representatives of four different views on heaven respond to ten questions and each other’s responses. Review

The Religion of American GreatnessPaul D. Miller (Foreword by David French). Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2022. A conservative’s critique of Christian nationalism, distinguishing it from patriotism, and making a case against it both biblically and as an illiberal theory that is at odds with the American experiment of a constitutional democratic republic. Review

My Vertical NeighborhoodLynda MacGibbon (Foreword by Michael Frost). Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2021. The author’s account of moving from a small eastern Canada town to a Toronto highrise and how strangers became neighbors that she learned to love. Review

Fight Like JesusJason Porterfield (Foreword by Scot McKnight). Harrisonburg, VA: Herald Press, 2022. A study of the accounts of Holy Week through the lens of how Jesus chose peace amid his ultimate confrontation with power. Review

The World-Ending Fire: The Essential Wendell BerryWendell Berry, Selected and with an Introduction by Paul Kingsnorth. Berkeley: Counterpoint Press, 2019. A collection of the essays, mostly focused on local culture, the care of places, and the hubris of technological solutions. Review

Children of Ash and Elm: A History of the VikingsNeil Price. New York: Basic Books, 2020. A history based in archaeological research of the rise of the Vikings, their ways and beliefs, and their development as a trading, raiding, and invading power. Review

The Death of PoliticsPeter Wehner. New York: HarperCollins, 2019. A book that explores the noble calling of politics, the causes of the deep divisions reflected in the 2016 election and the years that followed, and what must be restored if the American experiment is to endure. Review

InalienableEric Costanzo, Daniel Yang, and Matthew Soerens. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2022. The three authors propose that voices from the margins and the kingdom-focused vision of service to the neighbor, even the most needy, may be the voices that bring renewal to the American church. Review

The Federal Theology of Jonathan Edwards (Studies in Historical and Systematic Theology), Gilsun Ryu, Foreword by Douglas A. Sweeney. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Academic, 2021. A study of Jonathan Edwards federal theology, forming the basis of a theology of the history of redemption in three covenants, with a focus on Edward’s exegetical approach to this theology. Review

Death Comes for the ArchbishopWilla Cather. New York: Vintage Classics, 1990 (first published in 1927). The story of two missionary priests from France and their labors over forty years to establish an archdiocese in the American Southwest. Review

Seven Brief Lessons on LanguageJonathan Dunne. Sofia, Bulgaria: Small Stations Press, 2023. Explores the spiritual significance embedded into the letters, sounds, and structure of our language. Review

Light ThickensNgaio Marsh. New York: Felony & Mayhem, 2016 (originally published in 1982). Set once again at the Dolphin theatre as Peregrine Jay stages Macbeth, a play surrounded by superstition, a production plagued by macabre practical jokes, and the real murder of the title character discovered just after the play’s climactic scene, with Alleyn in the front row. Review

Strength for the Fight (Library of Religious Biography), Gary Scott Smith. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2022. A biography on this pioneer Hall of Famer who desegregated Major League Baseball, devoted his post-playing years to civil rights activism, all sustained by his active faith. Review

How To Make A VaccineJohn Rhodes. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2021. A concise handbook discussing the science behind vaccine development, including an explanation of the different types of vaccines, including the various COVID-19 vaccine candidates. Review

Book of the Month. I chose Paul D. Miller’s The Religion of American Greatness because of the singular contribution it makes to the discussion of Christian nationalism. It is written by someone who easily could have been an exponent of Christian nationalism, having worked in the George W. Bush White House, served in Afghanistan, and the CIA. The book is not a progressive screed against the opposition but a scholarly work that seeks to appraise the appeal of Christian nationalism in terms that its partisans would agree with while taking issue with it as both a betrayal of the American experiment and of the kingdom vision of scripture in its reduction of God to a tribal god. I had the privilege of interviewing Paul Miller and hosting a lively online conversation with him recently. You may view it on YouTube.

Quote of the Month. As I mentioned above, I’ve reveled in Willa Cather’s writing. I love this quote from Death Comes for the Archbishop capturing both the beauty of the American Southwest and the missionary passion of the Archbishop:

“The base of the hill before which they stood was already in shadow, subdued to the tone of rich yellow clay, but the top was still melted gold–a colour that throbbed in the last rays of the sun. The Bishop turned away at last with a sigh of deep content. ‘Yes,’ he said slowly, ‘that rock will do very well. And now we must be starting home. Every time I come here, I like this stone better. I could hardly have hoped that God would gratify my personal taste, my vanity, if you will, in this way. I tell you, Blanchet, I would rather have found that hill of yellow rock than have come into a fortune to spend in charity. The Cathedral is near my heart for many reasons. I hope you do not think me very worldly.’ “

What I’m Reading. There are two books I’ve finished, awaiting reviews: Catherine Ceniza Choy’s Asian American Histories of the United States, telling the story of multiple groups of Asian American and pivotal events for those communities through the stories of individuals, and Resisting the Marriage Plot, a study of four characters in Victorian literature who don’t conform to conventional expectations of marriage, and find strength for their choices in their faith. I’m enjoying Oliver Sacks Uncle Tungsten, describing his boyhood fascination with chemistry. Andrew Meier’s Morganthau chronicles four generations of this business dynasty and politically-connected family. After reviewing Reading Black Books, I picked up Richard Wright’s Native Son, which includes his essay on the inspiration for Bigger Thomas. Lore Ferguson Wilkins A Curious Faith is about living the questions God asks of us and we ask of God. Agents of Flourishing builds on Amy Sherman’s Kingdom Calling, getting very practical about how agents of the kingdom pursue flourishing in six areas.

At this time of the year, I delight in watching the squirrels gathering acorns from our oak tree for the winter ahead. I hope this list suggests some books you might squirrel away for the cooler weather and the long winter nights coming soon. Happy 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.

The Month in Reviews: August 2022

Summer’s final full month offered the chance to enjoy books new and old. Among the older books were one on liberal learning in the classic sense, Anne Lamott’s classic on writing, filled with all her wit, a Ngaio Marsh mystery, a great survey of American history between the Civil War and the First World War, John Steinbeck’s delightful Travels with Charley, and what is the definitive work on pioneering mathematician and computer scientist, Alan Turing. Then there were the new books: on jazz and faith, on anxiety, on grief, Zionism, Christian nationalism, the power of our social groupings to shape identity, a new work on Abraham Kuyper’s Stone Lectures, a study on Jonathan Edward’s approach to deification, and a book on how context shapes calling. Another new book you might check out is Vaclav Smil’s How the World Really Works, a very clear eyed view of the environmental and technological challenges our global civilization faces. Here’s the list of my reviews:

A Student’s Guide to Liberal Learning  (ISI Guides to the Major Disciplines), James V. Schall, S.J. Wilmington, DE: Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2019. (Link is to free e-book download from publisher). A pithy little guide on pursuing the liberty that comes in the pursuit of truth and how one might devote oneself to liberal learning. Review

The Anxiety Field GuideJason Cusick. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2022. A practical guide with daily exercises to help face anxieties and reduce feelings of anxiety integrating clinical practices and biblical insights. Review

God Dwells Among Us (Essential Studies in Biblical Theology), G. K. Beale and Mitchell Kim. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2021 (Originally published in 2014). A study of the theme of the temple from God’s garden temple in Eden to the New Jerusalem of Revelation, and the role of the people of God, his living temple, in extending the reach of God’s kingdom. Review

A Short History of Christian Zionism, Donald M. Lewis. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2021. An account of the understanding of the Jewish people’s claim to their ancient homeland throughout history, and particularly since the Reformation, focusing on Great Britain and the United States. Review

A Supreme Love: The Music of Jazz and the Hope of the Gospel, William Edgar. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2022. A study of the roots and contributing streams of jazz music, proposing that the reason jazz moves from miserable lament to inextinguishable joy is the Christian hope found in the gospel. Review

How the World Really WorksVaclav Smil. New York: Viking, 2022. A scientific, data-based assessment of how our advanced technological global civilization has developed, the challenges we face, and what it realistically will take to address these challenges. Review

The Psychology of Christian NationalismPamela Cooper-White. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2022. A discussion of the rise of Christian nationalism in the United States, why people are drawn to it, and how to talk across the divide when one differs from those who embrace some form of Christian nationalism. Review

Bird By Bird, Anne Lamott. New York: Anchor Books, 1994. Anne Lamott’s advice to her writing students, basically, “almost every single thing I know about writing.” Review

Travels with Charley: In Search of AmericaJohn Steinbeck. New York: Penguin Classics, 2012 (originally published in 1962). John Steinbeck’s memoir of his 1960 roadtrip in his truck/camper Rocinante with his French poodle Charley. Review

Calvinism for a Secular AgeJessica R. Joustra and Robert J. Joustra, eds. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2022. A collection of contributions considering Abraham Kuyper’s Stone Lectures of 1898 at Princeton and both their flaws and relevance for our contemporary context. Review

American Heritage History of the Confident YearsFrancis Russell. New York: New Word City, 2016 (originally published in 1969). A survey of American history during the period between the Civil War and World War 1, 1866-1914. Review

Reading Black BooksClaude Atcho. Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2022. Theological reflections on ten key pieces of Black literature. Review

Death at the Bar (Roderick Alleyn #9), Ngaio Marsh. New York: Felony & Mayhem Press, 2013 (first published in 1940). A holiday at a secluded seaside inn, and a challenge at darts ends up in murder from prussic acid (cyanide). Review

The Power of UsJay J. Van Bavel, PhD, and Dominic J. Packer, PhD. New York: Little, Brown Spark, 2021. How the groups of which we are a part help shape our identity, how this can lead to personal change, and understanding both how these identities may divide and unite us. Review

The Qur’an and the ChristianMatthew Aaron Bennett. Grand Rapids, Kregel Academic, 2022. A scholarly discussion of the origins and place of the Qur’an in Islam with the aim of encouraging Christians to read, and understand how to read and discuss the Qur’an with their Muslim neighbors. Review

Jonathan Edwards and Deification (New Explorations in Theology), James R. Salladin. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2022. In response to the growing interest in the idea of theosis or deification in Eastern Orthodoxy, this work examines the idea of “special grace” and participation in divine fullness in the thought of Jonathan Edwards as a Reformed counterpart that preserves the Creator-creature distinction while recognizing the saving relational communion between God and humans. Review

Alan Turing: The EnigmaAndrew Hodges. London: Vintage Books, 1983, 2012 (publisher’s link is for an updated edition by Princeton University Press, 2015). Perhaps the definitive account of the brilliant mathematician, cryptanalyst, and computer scientist, Alan Turing, who was prosecuted for his homosexuality, not long before the end of his life due to cyanide poisoning. Review

Grief: A Philosophical GuideMichael Cholbi. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2022. A philosophical discussion of the nature of grief, why we grieve, and its importance in our lives. Review

Calling in ContextSusan L. Maros. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2022. A work on vocational discernment that recognizes that this process is shaped by our context, our social location. Review

Book of the Month: I don’t usually choose more technical works of theology, but James R. Salladin’s Jonathan Edwards and Deification is a carefully and clearly argued case for Edwards’s unique approach to “deification,” in his language, “divine fullness,” that both emphasizes relational communion while preserving the Creator/creature distinction. Reading this was a wonderful experience of thinking great thoughts about the Triune God.

Quote of the Month: William Edgar’s A Supreme Love is a wonderful exploration of the roots of jazz and how these intertwine with Christian hope. This quote captures the gist of the book:

How could the music that grew out of the realities of the enslavement of Black people, forced migration, rape, husbands and wives being separated, and children being ripped from their families not reflect this suffering and pain? If, as I will argue, jazz is the story of deep misery that leads to inextinguishable joy, then we cannot ignore the sources of sorrow that are found at the root of this music, from spirituals to blues to jazz (Edgar, p. 27).

What I’m Reading. I am reveling in Willa Cather’s luminous My Antonia! There is a description of a Christmas celebration that was wondrous reading. I’ve just finished Roger Angell’s Five Seasons, articles on the baseball seasons of 1972 to 1976, including the singularly memorable World Series of 1975 between the Cincinnati Reds and the Boston Red Sox. I also have just completed Richard Weaver’s classic Ideas Have Consequences on what he sees as a decline in thought and culture in the West and what a return to right reason entails. I’m just getting into Paul D. Miller’s The Religion of American Greatness, one of the new books addressing Christian nationalism. Unlike some other works I’ve seen, Miller’s critique of Christian nationalism is one of a classic conservative in the David French tradition (French wrote the Foreword) who worked in the George W. Bush White House, is a military veteran, intelligence analyst, and Georgetown professor. I’m looking forward to an online interview with him September 15! I’ve just begun a Georges Simenon Maigret, Maigret’s Pickpocket, which has already piqued my attention. I’m also reading Four Views of Heaven, which is just that. I think it is possible to be so earthly minded that we are no heavenly or earthly good. I’m enjoying read four scholars in conversation about what we do and don’t know about these things. Finally, I’m just starting Peter Wehner’s The Death of Politics. I’ve appreciated his thoughtful op-eds in the New York Times as well as an interview I heard with him and look forward to more extended reading of his work.

Already, the sun is setting earlier and in another month, we’ll get the first taste of the cooler weather of autumn. I’ll be trading the ice tea for coffee with pumpkin spice, hot cider, and other warmer drinks. The drinks at my side may change, but the pleasures of a good book do not. Happy reading, friends!

The Month in Reviews: July 2022

Summertime, and the reading is easy. Well, not all of it. I tackled a long compendium of articles from an egalitarian stance on gender roles and a Paul Tillich classic. Other thought-provoking books this month were on the loneliness epidemic, the spirituality in John’s writings, a book that wrestled with how we do Christian history and a book on academic freedom. I actually read two Ngaio Marsh books this month as well as a lesser known (to me) train mystery by Agatha Christie. Then there were a couple books by “proto-Inklings”–a children’s fantasy by George MacDonald and a reflection on the life of St. Francis of Assisi by G.K. Chesterton. I finally pulled Matthew Crawford’s Shop Class as Soulcraft off the TBR–a work that challenges our notions of knowledge work. And I delighted in the full-length biography of Salmon P. Chase, a fellow Ohioan who fought slavery and was an exemplar of public service.

Death in a White Tie (Alleyn #7), Ngaio Marsh. New York: Felony & Mayhem Press, 2012. At a premiere debutante ball, Lord Robert Gospell’s call to Alleyn about a blackmail conspiracy is interrupted. A few hours later, Gospell turns up at Scotland Yard in the back of a taxi–dead! Review

Spirituality According to JohnRodney Reeves. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2022. Through an imaginative study of the gospel, letters, and Revelation of John, considers what it means to abide in Christ, coming to faith, living communally in Christ, and facing the tribulations of the end of the world. Review

A Moveable Feast: The Restored EditionErnest Hemingway. New York: Scribner, 2010 (Original edition published in 1964). Based on the manuscript submitted by Hemingway for publication rather than the posthumously edited version originally published, a memoir of his time in the 1920’s in Paris, his beginnings as a writer, his first marriage, and the circle of writers he worked among, including the previously unpublished “Paris Sketches.“ Review

The Courage to BePaul Tillich. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1952 (Link is to the third edition, published in 2014). A philosophical discussion of being or ontology, the crisis of anxiety, and the nature of the courage to be, the affirmation of our being in the face of nonbeing, accepting our acceptance by the God above God despite our unacceptability. Review

At the Back of the North Wind, George MacDonald. New York: Open Road Media, 2022. Summary: Diamond becomes friend with the North Wind, who takes him on many adventures, even while he is a help to everyone he meets and known for his rhymes. Review

Discovering Biblical Equality: Biblical, Theological, Cultural & Practical Perspectives (Third Edition), Editors: Ronald W. Pierce and Cynthia Long Westfall, Associate editor: Christa L. McKirland. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2021. A compendium of scholarly essays addressing gender differences in marriage and the church supporting an egalitarian perspective. Review

Saint Francis of Assisi (Paraclete Heritage Edition), G. K. Chesterton. Brewster, MA: Paraclete Press, 2013 (Originally published in 1923). Less a biography than a reflection on the meaning of the life of St. Francis. Review

The Mystery of the Blue Train (Hercule Poirot #6), Agatha Christie. New York: William Morrow, 2005 (originally published in 1928). A rich heiress carrying a rare ruby is murdered on the fashionable overnight train to the French Riviera on which retired detective Hercule Poirot happens to be riding. Review

The Shape of Christian HistoryScott W. Sunquist. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2022. An exploration of how Christian history is written and read in an era of “Christianities” proposing three framing concepts that give coherence to the whole arc of Christian history while respecting the diversity of its expressions. Review

The Loneliness EpidemicSusan Mettes (Foreword by David Kinnaman). Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2021. A study of the prevalence of loneliness in America, misconceptions about loneliness, and steps leaders and individuals in the church can take to address loneliness. Review

Versions of Academic FreedomStanley Fish. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014. Summary: An analysis of the idea of academic freedom, identifying five schools of thought, arguing for limiting this to the core professional duties of an academic in one’s institution and disciplinary field. Review

With or Without MeEsther Marie Magnis (Translated by Alta L. Price). Walden, NY: Plough Publishing, 2022. A memoir of losing a father to cancer and the loss of faith that came when earnest, believing prayers went unanswered, and the slow journey back. Review

Now and Not Yet (New Studies in Biblical Theology), Dean R. Ulrich. Downers Grove: IVP Academic/London: Apollos, 2021 (Apollos-UK publisher webpage). Summary: A study of the biblical theology of Ezra-Nehemiah that situates the books within an account of redemptive history, emphasizing both what already had been fulfilled and what yet remained. Review

Shop Class as SoulcraftMatthew B. Crawford. New York: Penguin Books, 2010. A philosopher turned motorcycle mechanic explores the nature of satisfying work and the intellectual dignity of the manual trades. Review

Salmon P. Chase: Lincoln’s Vital RivalWalter Stahr. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2021. A biography tracing the life of this public figure who was a contender along with Lincoln for the presidency and who played a vital role in his cabinet, and then as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Review

Tied Up in Tinsel (Roderick Alleyn #27), Ngaio Marsh. New York: Felony & Mayhem Press, 2015 (Originally published in 1972). Hilary Bill-Talsman is the subject of a Troy portrait and host of a Christmas house party that includes a Druid Pageant, marred when the chief Druid disappears. Alleyn arrives from overseas just in time to solve the mystery. Review

O Pioneers!Willa Cather. New York: Penguin Classics, 1994 (Originally published in 1913). The first of the Great Plains Trilogy, the story of Alexandra Bergson’s love of the Nebraska hills, the costly choices she made, and the ill-fated love of her brother Emil. Review

Indigenous Theology and the Western WorldviewRandy S. Woodley. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2022. A discussion of an indigenous approach to theology that proposes it is closer to both the indigenous traditions and the teaching of Jesus. Review

Book of the Month: It was a toss-up for me between the Chase biography and Esther Marie Magnis’s With or Without Me. I chose the latter because it is a powerful, unvarnished memoir of suffering loss, not only of a loved one, but of one’s faith and her slow journey back as she discovered the inconsistencies and emptiness for her of the alternatives on offer.

Quote of the Month: This month, you get two! I’m just discovering the writing of American plains writer, Willa Cather. I’m not sure how I overlooked her for so long. Here is a passage I really liked from O Pioneers!:

For the first time, perhaps, since that land emerged from the waters of geologic ages, a human face was set toward it with love and yearning. It seemed beautiful to her, rich and strong and glorious. Her eyes drank in the breadth of it, until her tears blinded her. Then the Genius of the Divide, the great, free spirit which breathes across it, must have bent lower than it ever bent to a human will before. The history of every country begins in the heart of a man or a woman (Cather, p. 44).

Rodney Reeves in Spirituality According to John concluded with a question worthy of consideration of a church seemingly infatuated with almost anything but Jesus:

“The Apocalypse is not only a revelation at the end of the world; it is a revelation of the church at the end of the world. God knew that, as we watched the world fall apart around us, we would need to see our place in a crumbling world. When the earth quakes at the weight of glory, when heaven shakes earth to its core, when idols are destroyed and the kingdoms of men fall, when pandemics threaten humanity, when all creation is purified of evil and all that is left is what God has made, where will the church abide?” (p. 257).

What I’m Reading: I’ve finished three books that I’ll be reviewing this week. One is James V. Schall’s A Student’s Guide to Liberal Learning, a delightful little book making the classic argument for a liberal education as well as building one’s own library of significant works, including his own recommendations. Beale and Kim’s God Dwells Among Us is on the theme of the temple, a theme the authors trace through scripture, offering practical application throughout. Jason Cusack’s The Anxiety Field Guide consists of thirty short chapters intended to be practiced over a month, based on Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy and illustrated liberally by Cusack’s personal experiences of anxiety. A Short History of Christian Zionism is a descriptive history rather than a work of advocacy, tracing the development of Christian Zionism both in Great Britain and in the U.S., the key figures, and they way it has adapted to different theological streams. Bird by Bird is Anne Lamott’s classic on writing, full of her earthy wit that makes you laugh even as it encourages the heart of any writer. I’ve come across various recommendations of the work of Vaclav Smil. His latest, How the World Really Works, explores the reality of energy use and how hard it will be to get to a carbon-zero energy economy. This is not a piece of advocacy but rather a realistic look at present day realities and the alternatives open to us. I’m just starting in on The Power of Us, on the role others play in the shaping of identity. The Psychology of Christian Nationalism is also one I’m just starting and focuses on the roots of Christian Nationalism and how we address both our divides as a nation and our pursuit of justice for all.

In our area, it looks like we might have some hot weather coming–a great excuse to find a cool place, a comfortable chair, a cold drink, and a good book. As always, I’d love to hear what you are reading!

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.