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.

The Month in Reviews: June 2022

One of the delights of this month was to read books for children, for younger readers or that could be read together as a family. I was getting ready for a conference trip, and so some lighter and shorter books were a welcome change of pace. But they were no less rich for that. I also finished the last (at present) Gamache book by Louise Penny, whose books were a great diversion through the last years. I also wrote a post with summaries and links to all my reviews. A few other highlights in this long list were Wil Haygood’s Showdown, describing the courageous life of Justice Thurgood Marshall. Roger Angell’s death in May spurred me to read one of his classics, The Summer Game. Bernard Bailyn’s The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution is a classic that is still in print. I think it worth a read, perhaps start it on July 4, to understand the ideas behind our origins.

My Body is Not a Prayer RequestAmy Kenny. Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2022. A description of the physical, emotional, spiritual, and verbal barriers disabled people face generally, and especially in their encounter with churches and what can be done to make them welcoming and inclusive places to the disabled. Review

Dead Water (Roderick Alleyn #23), Ngaio Marsh. New York: Felony & Mayhem Press, 2015 (originally published in 1963). A spring on an island celebrated for its healing powers becomes the site of the murder. Review

Showdown: Thurgood Marshall and the Supreme Court Nomination That Changed AmericaWil Haygood. New York: Vintage Books, 2016. An account of the life of and rise to the Supreme Court of Thurgood Marshall structured around the five days of hearings in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Review

The Glory of God and Paul (New Studies in Biblical Theology #58), Christopher W. Morgan and Robert A. Peterson. Downers Grove and London: IVP Academic and Apollos, 2022. (Link to UK publisher). A study of the theme of the glory of God in scripture, with a particular focus on the writings of Paul. Review

Racing the StormDavid J. Claassen. Middletown, DE: CreateSpace, 2021. The tight community in a trailer park face the oncoming storm of the sale of their park with no place to move their trailers. Review

The Medieval Mind of C. S. LewisJason M. Baxter. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2022. An exploration of the great medieval writers whose works helped shape the mind and the works of C. S. Lewis. Review

Confessions of a French AtheistGuillaume Bignon. Carol Stream: Tyndale Momentum, 2022. The story of a software engineer, volleyball player, and musician who thought he had it all until his encounter with a fashion model who was a Christian. Review

The Ministry of FearGraham Greene. New York: Open Road Media, 2018 (first published in 1943). Just released from a psychiatric hospital for the mercy killing of his wife, Arthur Rowe inadvertently gets caught up in a twisty espionage plot. Review

The Madness of Crowds (Chief Inspector Gamache #17), Louise Penny. New York: Minotaur Books, 2021. A Christmas assignment to provide security for a professor proposing mercy killing leads to a murder investigation in Three Pines. Review

To Open The SkyRobert Silverberg. New York: Open Road Media, 2014 (first published in 1967). Noel Vorst’s new religion sweeps the Earth with its promise of eternal life, but Vorst’s plans extend far beyond Earth or even the near planets to the stars. Review

From Plato to ChristLouis Markos. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2021. A discussion of the most significant ideas of Plato, summarizing his works and the influence Platonic thought has had on Christian theology. Review

Reprobation and God’s SovereigntyPeter Sammons. Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic, 2022. A carefully and biblically argued defense of the doctrine of reprobation, dealing with a number of misunderstandings of this doctrine. Review

Land of WomenMaria Sánchez (Translated by Curtis Bauer). San Antonio: Trinity University Press, 2022. A rural field veterinarian in Spain gives voice to the lives of rural women and the places they inhabit. Review

The Last MapmakerChristina Soontornvat. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press, 2022. Sai, a girl from the Fens, daughter of a conman, manages to find a place with the last mapmaker of Mangkon just as he is enlisted on a voyage of discovery with great possible rewards, risks, and Slakes! Review

Little Prayers for Ordinary Days, Katy Bowser Hutson, Flo Paris Oakes, and Tish Harrison Warren, illustrated by Liita Forsyth. Downers Grove: IVP Kids, 2022. Twenty-eight prayers, with illustrations, written for children covering the events of the day from getting up to going to bed and all the ordinary and not-so-ordinary things that can happen in a day. Review

Josey Johnson’s Hair and the Holy SpiritEsau McCaulley, Illustrated by LaTonya Jackson. Downers Grove: IVP Kids, 2022. Pentecost Sunday means a trip with dad to Monique’s salon to get Josey’s hair braided, a new red dress, and questions about why her hair is so different from other children’s. Review

The Summer GameRoger Angell. New York: Open Road Media, 2013 (originally published in 1972). A collection of Angell’s essays covering the ten seasons of Major League Baseball from 1962 to 1971. Review

The Year of Our Lord 1943Alan Jacobs. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018. Drawing upon the work of five Christian intellectuals who were contemporaries, explores the common case they made for a Christian humanistic influence in education in the post-war world. Review

The Ideological Origins of the American RevolutionBernard Bailyn. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1967 (publisher’s link is to 2017 Fiftieth Anniversary Edition). A study of the ideas conveyed through pamphlets that led to the revolution of the colonies against England. Review

Book of the Month: Once again, I give the nod to a Louise Penny book. This one wasn’t a diversion, exploring an idea mooted during the pandemic, the mercy killing of the elderly. It explores how the right voice can play on the fears and anxieties of our age. Of course it also involves a twisty murder plot and the inner struggles of both Gamache and Beauvoir.

Quote of the Month: This one was striking in summarizing the premise of Little Prayers for Ordinary Days, for the compelling way it conveys a beautiful truth in simple words:

“God always listens. God always loves you.

You can tell God anything.”

What I’m Reading. Seems I’m always reading a Ngaio Marsh mystery. She wrote over 30 of them. This one is Death in a White Tie and is set in the arduous “coming out” seasons in high society of the day. I’ve been working through Discovering Biblical Equality, an extended collection of essay supporting the equality of women in the church, home, and society. Spirituality According to John considers all the books attributed to John, and what it means to abide in Christ. I picked up a free copy of Paul Tillich’s The Courage to Be. The circles I grew up in didn’t think highly of Tillich. In this work, Tillich confronts the “age of anxiety” we are in, our fear of “not being” (death), and how then should we live (“the courage to be”) in light of death. Finally, I’ve just begun Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast, a memoir of his years in Paris in the early 1920’s. It was unfinished at the time he took his life. This edition, edited by a family member, less heavily edited than the edition published shortly after his death. I have a number of books I hope to get to this summer, including my Father’s Day book, Vaclav Smil’s How the World Really Works.

Hope you have some relaxed summer days with a cool drink at hand and a stack of good books at hand!

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: May 2022

Each month, I choose a book of the month. It is often a tough choice, partly because I try to select noteworthy books to review. Here are some of the others that stood out. I would commend anything Marilyn McEntyre writes and her Speaking Peace in a Climate of Conflict is not about making “nice” but rather speaking truthfully with civility, even where we differ sharply with others. Matthew Levering’s The Abuse of Conscience explores the proper place of conscience in moral reasoning. Work Pray Code by Carolyn Chen discerns a growing trend to import religion as well as other communal structures into the work place, at least in Silicon Valley. Wendell Berry’s That Distant Land is a collection of most of his Port William short stories arranged around the chronology of the longer novels. “Fidelity” is quite wonderful. Nothing is Impossible by Ted Osius is a story of restoring trust between the U.S. and Vietnam. He exemplifies what I think is some of the best in diplomacy and the work of an ambassador, of both faithfully and firmly representing one’s own country and entering deeply into the life of his host country. Finally, Unforgettable by Gregory Floyd spoke deeply as the memoir of a man recounting his spiritual journey and how God speaks in our memories. I found myself remembering along with him.

I had an odd experience this month of people arguing with me about several of the books I reviewed. It wasn’t that they took issue with the review, but with the author’s ideas. Sometimes I wonder if they read beyond the book’s title. I found it odd, because as a reviewer I am trying to represent what the author says, not defend it. In one instance, I even suggested taking up questions with the author, an acquaintance, who I knew would be glad to discuss the person’s questions and objections to his ideas. On the other hand, I was pleased when one author wrote and said I’d gotten what she was trying to say. That’s my goal, to summarize accurately, and offer my own brief appraisal without arguing with the author, so that readers can decide whether they want to acquire the book. So here are the books I reviewed this past month. Can you guess which ones people argued about with me?

Speaking Peace in a Climate of ConflictMarilyn McEntyre. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2020. Engaging with the works of contemporary writers, discusses how our care for words that are clear, gracious, and truthful is vital to the pursuit of peace in a contentious world. Review

The Abuse of ConscienceMatthew Levering. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2021. An analysis of the moral theology of twenty-six recent theologians tracing the rise of conscience-centered moral life, considered problematic by the author. Review

Can a Scientist Believe in Miracles? Ian Hutchinson. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press/Veritas Books, 2018. A collection of responses to questions about God and science asked by students at Veritas Forums on university campuses throughout the country. Review

All the Devils Are Here (Chief Inspector Gamache #16), Louise Penny. New York: Minotaur Books, 2020. A family visit of the Gamaches to children in Paris suddenly becomes an investigation into the attempted murder of Stephen Horowitz, Armand’s godfather, and the murder of a close associate, and will put the Gamaches in great peril. Review

Enjoying the Old TestamentEric A. Seibert. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2021. Seibert deals with the confusing, troubling, or uninteresting experience of many, suggesting the value of reading the Old Testament, and reading strategies for engagement with the text bring life and interest to the Old Testament scriptures. Review

Heinrich Heine (Everyman’s Poetry #28), Heinrich Heine (Translated and edited by T. J. Reed and David Cram: London: Everyman/J. M. Dent, 1997. A collection of translated poems of Heinrich Heine. Review

Work Pray CodeCarolyn Chen. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2022. A sociologist studies how Silicon Valley tech firms bring religion into the workplace, replacing traditional religious institutions, blurring the line of work and religion. Review

Playing FavoritesRodger Woodworth. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2021. All of us prefer the company of those like us while the gospel bids us to engage across cultures, with those unlike us, challenging us to stop “playing favorites.” Review

That Distant Land, Wendell Berry. Berkeley: Counterpoint, 2004. A collection of short stories about the Port William membership not part of the longer novels. Review

Beyond Racial DivisionGeorge Yancey. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2022. Proposes as an alternative to colorblind or antiracist approaches, one of collaborative conversation and mutual accountability to overcome racial divisions. Review

What Are Christians For?, Jake Meador. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2022. An argument for a Christian politics that recognizes the goodness of all creation including all peoples, that rejects the manipulation of people and places and our own bodies that disregards their nature. Review

The Rule of LawsFernanda Pirie. New York: Basic Books, 2021. A four thousand-year history of the ways different cultures have ordered their societies through various forms of law. Review

From Judgment to HopeWalter Brueggemann. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2019. A survey study of the prophets centering on the movement in these books from judgment to hope. Review

Nothing is Impossible: America’s Reconciliation with Vietnam, Ted Osius, Foreword John Kerry. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2021. A memoir by former U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam, Ted Osius, describing how a former enemy became one of America’s strongest international partners, and the important role diplomacy played to bring that about. Review

The Space Between UsSusan Wise Anderson. [No publisher information], 2020. An argument for a Christ-rooted civility in our politically and culturally polarized climate. Review

The Vicar of WakefieldOliver Goldsmith. New York: Penguin Classics, 1986 (originally published in 1766). The “memoir” of the vicar, who experiences a series of financial and family disasters, ending up in prison, and how matters resolved themselves. Review

UnforgettableGregory Floyd. Brewster, MA: Paraclete Press, 2022. Through remembering his life of faith, the author remembers the working of God in all of life’s seasons, giving hope for the future. Review

The Everlasting People (Hansen Lectureship Series). Matthew J. Milliner, Contributions by David Iglesias, David Hooker, and Amy Peeler, Foreword by Casey Church. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2021. A series of reflections upon the writings and life of G. K. Chesterton and how they fostered an appreciation of the art and history of the First Nations peoples of the Midwest. Review

Book of the Month. This month I gave the nod to Louise Penny’s All the Devils Are Here. All her novels are exquisite in plotting, characters, and the milieu, including the food they eat! This one had an exceptionally twisty plot and deftly explored the issues of trust, and who one can trust, even between family members and in long-abiding friendships. Personally, if we could nominate a fictional man of the century, I would nominate Armand Gamache.

Quote of the Month. I mentioned Unforgettable above. Floyd’s casting himself into the arms of God reminded me so much of a night on a hillside in West Virginia where I surrendered my life to God:

“…in my senior year of high school, I heard his voice. Not audibly, but an impression on my heart, a word pressed into it: Jump. I woke in the middle of the night to a voice that said: ‘Jump, and trust that I will catch you.’ Somehow, I knew this was God speaking, and I decided to jump. If I was correct, I would find myself in the arms of God” (p. 30).

What I’m Reading. It’s a dangerous thing when friends send you their books but I am thoroughly enjoying David J. Claassen’s Racing the Storm, a fictional account of trailer court residents about to lose their homes when the court owner decides to sell the land. The ensemble of characters is what makes this book–I like them so much I want to see if they manage to keep their homes and stay together.

On a very different note, My Body is Not a Prayer Request, is a hard-hitting account by a disabled Shakespeare scholar of what it is like to be treated as a problem to be fixed instead of accepted for who one is. Amy Kenny writes about the physical and attitudinal barriers that prevent disabled persons from being fully included in the church and in society. I’m doing a live interview with her on Thursday, so message me if the topic is of interest to you.

The Glory of God and Paul is a study of the theme of God’s glory, especially in Paul’s writing. Columbus native Wil Haygood’s book Showdown is on the nomination of Thurgood Marshall, the first Black Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and the contentious hearing process before his final confirmation. It reminds me of the nomination of Ketanji Brown Jackson and makes me wonder how far we’ve come on matters of race. I’ve just finished Ngaio Marsh’s Dead Water concerning a spring with reputed healing powers, at least until its leading promoter is found floating dead in it! This had one of the more exciting endings in Marsh’s stories. And I’m just starting Graham Greene’s The Ministry of Fear. I first encountered Greene in college (The Power and the Glory) and think him one of the under-rated novelists of the 20th century.

Hope I’ve helped you find one or two things for your summer’s reading list! Happy 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.

The Month in Reviews: April 2022

This was a month of several firsts. It was the first time to review 20 books in a month (most were shorter works, around 200 pages). So I won’t talk about all of them in this intro. I read my first book by Margery Allingham, one of the four Queens of Crime (along with Christie, Sayers, and Marsh). I’ve read a number of works of the others, but dipped into Allingham for the first time. What is striking about the “Queens” is how distinctive their styles were from one another. On the suggestion of a colleague, I read Willa Cather’s The Professor’s House, my first Cather. I work on college campuses and so enjoy campus fiction. I loved the quirky, tongue-in-cheek style of Katie Schnack, a first-time author writing in The Gap Decade about the transition to adulthood in one’s twenties. Glad I don’t have to do that over! I also read my first account of the Afghanistan War, appropriately titled The Long War. I have a reviews here of Susan Cain’s latest, a thought-provoking history of how slaves built many of the great public buildings in our nation, a classic on the intellectual life by Jacques Barzun, and a delightful book by Alan Jacobs encouraging us to read for the sheer pleasure of it. Lots of good stuff here for almost any taste.

When We StandTerence Lester (Foreword Father Gregory Boyle). Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2021. Makes a motivational case for mobilizing with other to pursue follow Christ in the pursuit of justice. Review

Jesus’s Final WeekWilliam F. Cook III. Nashville: B & H Academic, 2022. A day-by-day discussion of the events in Jesus’s life from the triumphal entry until the empty tomb, using a “harmony of the gospels” approach. Review

Black Hands, White HouseRenee K. Harrison. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2021. A history of how enslaved peoples played a major role in the building of this country and the need to remember that work in our monuments and by other means. Review

Reformed Public TheologyEdited by Matthew Kaemingk. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2021. A collection of 23 essays by leading Reformed thinkers articulating how Reformed theology bears on various aspects of public life. Review

The Long WarDavid Loyn. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2021. A history of the war in Afghanistan from 9/11 until nearly the end of the U.S. presence in 2021. Review

The Paradox of Sonship (Studies in Christian Doctrine and Scripture), R. B. Jamieson, foreword by Simon J. Gathercole. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2021. A discussion of the use of “Son” in Hebrews proposing that it is a paradox, that Jesus is the divine Son who became the messianic “Son” at the climax of his saving mission. Review

Do Muslims and Christians Worship the Same God?Andy Bannister. London: Inter-Varsity Press (UK), 2021. A comparative study of the worldviews of Christianity and Islam that concludes that the two do not worship the same God. Review

The Way of Perfection (Christian Classics), Teresa of Avila, edited and mildly modernized by Henry L. Carrigan Jr. Brewster, MA: Paraclete Press, 2000 (originally published in 1583). [This edition is out of print. Link is to a newer edition from the same publisher.] Teresa’s instructions to nuns on the spiritual life of prayer and meditations on the Lord’s Prayer as a way to contemplative prayer. Review

The House of the Intellect, Jacques Barzun. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1959. A discussion of the decline of the intellect and its causes. Review

More Work for the UndertakerMargery Allingham. London: Vintage, 2007 (originally published in 1948). When two boarding house residents from the same family die, Albert Campion is persuaded to become a boarder to discover what’s afoot. Review

Transfiguration and TransformationHywel R. Jones. Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 2021. “Transfiguration,” referring to Christ and “transformation,” referring to the believer translate the same Greek word, metamorphosis. This work explores both why the difference and what the connection is. Review

The Professor’s HouseWilla Cather. New York: Vintage Classics, 1990 (originally published in 1925). The move to a new home, academic success and his daughter’s marriages, and a deceased former student and son-in-law, precipitate a crisis for Professor Godfrey St. Peter. Review

A Christian Field Guide to Technology for Engineers and DesignersEthan Brue, Derek C Schuurman, and Steven M. Vanderleest. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2022. Explores in practical terms the intersection of faith and technology in areas of design norms and ethics and how technology might serve the common good. Review

Following the CallEdited by Charles E. Moore. Walden, NY: Plough Publishing House, 2021. A collection of 52 weeks of readings working through the Sermon on the Mount, meant to be discussed and lived out in community. Review

The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of DistractionAlan Jacobs. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011. An argument that we should read what we delight in rather than what others think is “good” for us. Review

The Gap DecadeKatie Schnack. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2021. A first-person account of navigating the decade of one’s twenties, the transition from adolescence to adulthood. Review

Parable of the Talents (Earthseed #2), Octavia E. Butler. New York: Open Road Media, 2012 (first published in 1998). The growth and heartbreaking destruction of Acorn, the Earthseed community founded by Lauren Olamina, and how Earthseed rose from the ashes. Review

Eyes to SeeTim Muehlhoff (Foreword by J. P. Moreland). Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2021. An exploration of how God acts in the ordinary elements of everyday life, the idea of common grace, and how we may be encouraged as we recognize these ways of God at work. Review

BittersweetSusan Cain. New York: Crown, 2022. Describes the state of bittersweetness, where sadness and joy, death and life, failure and growth, longing and love intersect and how this deepens our lives and has the power to draw us together. Review

Enter a Murderer (Roderick Alleyn #2), Ngaio Marsh. New York: Felony & Mayhem, 2012 (originally published in 1935). Invited to see a play with his sidekick Bathgate, Alleyn actually witnesses the murder he will investigate. Review

Book of the Month: I rarely choose edited collections of articles as best books because most are uneven. I thought the collection edited by Matthew Kaemingk, Reformed Public Theology stood out from other collections due to the consistent excellence of articles from a stellar line-up of theologians as well as the nature of the work, articulating how one might think Christianly about one’s work in the public arena.

Quote of the Month: Transfiguration and Transformation is a wonderful, compact discussion of the connection between the transfiguration of Jesus and the transformation of the believer. Both terms share in common the same Greek work, metamorphosis. I loved this succinct and theologically rich summary by Hywel R. Jones:

The transfiguration of Christ shows how the divine can penetrate the human without destroying it. The transformation of the believer shows how the human can become conformed to the divine without its ceasing to be human. This is the ultimate metamorphosis that is compatible with Christian truth” (p. xvi).

What I’m Reading: I’ve just completed Matthew Levering’s The Abuse of Conscience, a survey of important contributors to Catholic moral theology, tracing what he believes is an increasing over-emphasis on conscience in moral theology. I always appreciate Marilyn McEntyre’s thoughtful consideration of the words we use in contemporary discourse, which I’ve found once again in her timely Speaking Peace in a Climate of Conflict. Once again, her consistent emphases on clarity, integrity, and civility shine through. I’m about mid-way through Louise Penny’s All The Devils are Here, #16 in her Gamache series. Only one more to go after this. Set in Paris, she once again explores the theme of trust and the secrets those close to us may carry. I’m always torn between reading as fast as possible and savoring her rich psychological plots. Can A Scientist Believe in Miracles? explores this and many other questions on science and Christian faith. The writer, Ian Hutchinson is a plasma physicist at MIT, no intellectual slouch, who argues that faith and science need not be at war. That Distant Land is a collection of Wendell Berry short stories, all centering around Port William–always a delight. Enjoying the Old Testament by Eric A. Seibert addresses the barriers many have to reading three-quarters of the Bible. I’ve just begun this, but have appreciated the awareness of the author of so many of the issues I’ve encountered with friends as we study the Old Testament.

Well, if you have read this far, thank you! On Thursday, I attended the “Celebration of Life” of a friend who was a bookseller and loved connecting both children and adults with books that would enrich their lives. Her example both inspires and humbles me. I hope these reviews serve something of the same purpose and I hope you will feel free to write if you are looking for a recommendation and I’ll try to do my best.

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.