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: March 2022

It’s always hard to sum up a month’s reading. One thing I noticed was that I didn’t read all new stuff–a philosophy of walking from 2014, a Ngaio Marsh from 1941, Anne Lamott from 2018, Braiding Sweetgrass was from 2013, a story about a famous mathematician who never was from 2006, a Wes Jackson essay collection from 1996, and a Thornton Wilder classic that goes back to 1924. Not everything that interests me was written in the last year or so, just the books publishers and authors want one to review. In addition to my “book of the month,” a few that stood out were Michelle Van Loon’s Translating Our Past on understanding our lives through our family histories, Rob Dixon’s Together in Ministry on how men and women may collaborate well in ministry, and Korie Little Edwards and Michelle Oyakawa’s , Smart Suits, Tattered Boots on the expressions of civil rights leadership among contemporary Black clergy. A particularly appropriate book for our times was Michael Ignatieff’s On Consolation (although I found Anne Lamott’s Almost Everything, which touches on similar themes, more helpful!).

A Philosophy of WalkingFrédéric Gros, translated by John Howe, illustrated by Clifford Harper. Brooklyn: Verso, 2014. An extended reflection on the significance of walking as part of the human condition, consisting of short chapters interspersed with accounts of walking philosophers. Review

Lead Like It Matters to God, Richard Sterns. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2021. In contrast to many leadership books that outline steps to success, describes what it is like to give value-shaped leadership in both for profit and non-profit settings. Review

To Build a Better WorldPhilip Zelikow and Condoleeza Rice. New York: Twelve, 2019. An account of the period from 1988-1992 and the transition of states, economic systems, and military alliances, reflecting an emerging post-cold war world. Review

The Cross-Shaped LiveJeff Kennon. Abilene, TX: Leafwood Publishers, 2021. A practical exploration of what it means to be made in the image of a God who died on the cross, to have the cross shape and form the way we live. Review

Death and the Dancing Footman (Roderick Alleyn #11), Ngaio Marsh. New York: Felony & Mayhem Press, 2012 (originally published in 1941). A staged house-party amid a snowstorm consisting of mutual enemies ends in a death and a suicide that Alleyn must sort out. Review

Translating Your PastMichelle Van Loon. Harrisburg: Herald Press, 2021. A guide to making sense of one’s past and how our family history, traumas in previous generations, our genetic makeup, and for many, how adoption help us understand our lives and place in the world. Review

George MacDonald in the Age of Miracles (The Ken and Jean Hansen Lectureship Series), Timothy Larsen. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2018. Three lectures on the works of George MacDonald with responses that focus on the miraculous in these works, particularly with regard to the incarnation, faith amid doubt, and the re-enchantment of life. Review

The Samaritan Woman’s StoryCaryn A. Reeder. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2022. Challenges the view of the Samaritan woman as a sexual sinner, considering how this has been read in the church, and the realities of the life of women and marriage that points to a very different reading. Review

The Last ProfessionalEd Davis. Tijeras, NM: Artemesia Publishing, 2022. A young man trying to find the tramp who assaulted him as an adolescent catches a freight and meets an old hobo running from a killer and the two form a friendship around the lure of riding the freights. Review

Almost Everything: Notes on HopeAnne Lamott. New York: Riverhead, 2018. A series of “notes” or essays on hope, especially amid disturbing times. Review

Braiding SweetgrassRobin Wall Kimmerer. Minneapolis: Milkweed Editions, 2013. A collection of essays centered around the culture of sweetgrass, combining indigenous wisdom and scientific knowledge. Review

Together in MinistryRob Dixon (Foreword by Ruth Haley Barton). Downers Grove: IVP Academic/Missio Alliance, 2021. A field research-based approach to mixed-gender ministry collaboration identifying ten attributes for healthy partnerships. Review

The Artist and the MathematicianAmir D. Aczel. New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press, 2006. The story of the Bourbaki, named after the greatest mathematician who never existed, who led a revolution in the emergence of the “new math,” introducing a new rigor into the field. Review

The Bridge of San Luis Rey, Thornton Wilder with Foreword by Russell Banks, Afterword by Tappan Wilder. New York: Harper Perennial, 2015 (originally published in 1927). A friar witnesses the collapse of a woven rope bridge with five people falling to their deaths and tries to discern some reason why, in God’s providence, each of them died. Review

Smart Suits, Tattered BootsKorie Little Edwards and Michelle Oyakawa. New York: New York University Press, 2022. A study, using interviews of Black Ohio religious leaders and research studies of mobilization efforts to explore whether Black religious leaders are still able to mobilize civil rights efforts, and if so, how, when, and why they do. Review

On ConsolationMichael Ignatieff. New York: Metropolitan Books, 2021. On how significant figures through the ages have found comfort amid tragedy and hard times, enabling them to press on with hope and equanimity. Review

Five Things Theologians Wish Biblical Scholars KnewHans Boersma (Foreword by Scot McKnight). Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2021. In an effort to foster understanding between the two disciplines, a theologian outlines five areas for biblical scholars to understand about theology as it bears upon the Bible. Review

Becoming Native To This PlaceWes Jackson. New York: Counterpoint Press, 1996. Six essays advocating agricultural practices that reflect close attention to the character of a particular place. Review

A Better Man (Chief Inspector Gamache #15), Louise Penny. New York: Minotaur Books, 2019. Gamache, Beauvoir, and Lacoste are together again, searching for a missing girl amid rising floods and a flood of social media attacks against Gamache and the art of Clara Morrow. Review

Book of the Month. Books really can change and challenge us. Caryn A. Reeder’s The Samaritan Woman’s Story did that for me. I always thought (and taught about) her as a loose woman. Reeder challenged me to find that in the text. And I discovered that I was finding it in my assumptions, leading to self-examination of why that was and did this reflect a narrative about women that comes from somewhere else than the Bible. The book changed a lot more than my view of the Samaritan woman.

Quote of the Month: It seems that everyone finally discovered Braiding Sweetgrass and the wonderful collection of reflections Robin Wall Kimmerer offers bring science and indigenous wisdom together. I was particular taken by her discussion of the Honorable Harvest and her articulation of the principles that reflect indigenous wisdom:

Know the ways of the ones who take care of you, so that you may take care of them.
Introduce yourself. Be accountable as the one who comes asking for life.
Ask permission before taking. Abide by the answer.
Never take the first. Never take the last.
Take only what you need.
Take only that which is given.
Never take more than half. Leave some for others.
Harvest in a way that minimizes harm.
Use it respectfully. Never waste what you have taken.
Share.
Give thanks for what you have been given.
Give a gift, in reciprocity for what you have taken.
Sustain the ones who sustain you and the earth will last forever.
                                        --Kimmerer, p. 183.

What I’m Reading. I just finished Terence Lester’s When We Stand which talks in the most encouraging terms of the multiplication that occurs when we mobilize for some cause with others. I’ve been reading David Loyn’s The Long War, an account of the Afghanistan war, America’s longest war. I’m struck that I really didn’t pay attention, except that we were still in Afghanistan. Loyn explores the reasons, going back to the war’s earliest years why this was such a long war that ended so badly not only for us but for Afghanistan. Reformed Public Theology is a wonderful collection of articles on how Reformed theology helps the writers think through various issues of public concern. The Way of Perfection is Teresa of Avila’s counsel on prayer. William F. Cook III’s Jesus Final Week uses a “harmony of the gospels” approach to look day by day at the week between the Triumphal Entry and the Resurrection. Great reading as I approach that week in the church year. Finally Black Hands, White House is part history, part memorial, and part advocacy for a monument on the Washington Mall that recognizes the slave history that built our capitol city and much of our country. She recounts the skilled work of many enslaved Blacks by name, including the man who played the instrumental role in the Statue of Freedom’s placement atop our capitol building.

Thanks for reading along, and I hope you’ve found something of interest!

The Month in Reviews is my monthly review summary going back to 2014!

The Month in Reviews: February 2022

I count it a privilege to review so many good books. And there were a lot of them this month. I finally discovered Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma and his thoughtful writing about how our food comes to our table. Breaking Ground is a stunning set of essays for anyone thinking about how we come out of the pandemic and deal with the divided state of so many of our nations. Bridget Eileen Rivera’s book, Heavy Burdens, is a must read for anyone who cares about inclusion of LGBTQ persons in the church, no matter your theology. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. offers a wonderful overview in The Black Church of its history and importance in sustaining America’s Black community. I found Samantha Power’s memoir, The Education of an Idealist a riveting and inspiring account of her life so far and, in this Irish immigrant, a reminder of what immigrants have added to American life. If you are tempted to surrender hope that we can do anything meaningful about climate change, Katharine Hayhoe’s Saving Us is a breath of fresh and enlivening air. There’s so much more I can say, but much of it is in the reviews, so I’ll let you get at them!

The Doctrine of ScriptureBrad East (Foreword by Katherine Sonderegger). Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2021. A concise exploration of the doctrine of scripture focusing on the church’s joyful and thankful confession, “this is the word of the Lord.” Review

The Omnivore’s DilemmaMichael Pollen. New York: Penguin, 2007. An examination of the American way of eating, considering our industrial food chain and how it has affected our diet by contrast with organic and hunter-gatherer food chains. Review

Cradling AbundanceMonique Misenga Ngoie Mukuna with Elsie Tshimunyi McKee. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2021. An autobiography of a lay leader in the Democratic Republic of Congo, describing her work with women addressing their education, helping them develop usable skills, and addressing the gender violence and health issues they face. Review

Having and Being HadEula Biss. New York: Riverhead Books, 2021. A collection of essays on the occasion of the author and her husband buying their first house, considering the nature of capitalism, consumption, work, and class. Review

Breaking GroundAnne Snyder and Susannah Black. Walden, NY: Plough Publishing 2021. A collection of essays written through four seasons beginning in the summer of 2020 on what it might take to restore common ground for the common good in a society deeply divided by the pandemic, race, economic, and political divisions. Review

Faithful AntiracismChristina Barland Edmondson and Chad Brennan, foreword by Korie Little Edwards and Michael O. Emerson. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2022. Drawing upon the Race, Religion, and Justice Project, offers biblical and practical recommendations to engage racism personally and with one’s faith community. Review

Welcome, Holy SpiritGordon T. Smith. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2021. Beginning with the metaphors for the Holy Spirit, articulates a theology of the Holy Spirit that spans theological traditions and invites readers to be receptive to a deeper experience of the Spirit’s work. Review

Heavy Burdens: Seven Ways LGBTQ Christians Experience Harm in the ChurchBridget Eileen Rivera. Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2021. Rather than an argument about what the Bible says about LGBTQ persons, a discussion of the ways LGBTQ Christians, regardless of their beliefs, have suffered under heavy, and the author would argue, needless burdens. Review

Ready Player OneErnest Cline. New York: Broadway Press, 2012. A virtual world quest created as the last act of a gaming programmer in which a real prize of $240 billion is at stake pits Wade Watts and a rag tag group of “gunters” against a ruthless corporation. Review

A Grave Mistake (Roderick Alleyn #30), Ngaio Marsh. New York, Felony & Mayhem Press, 2016 (originally published in 1978). A wealthy widow in a small English village dies of an apparent suicide at an exclusive spa, but clues point to murder with a circle of suspects with motives. Review

The Manifold Beauty of Genesis OneGregg Davidson & Kenneth J. Turner. Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic, 2021. A layered approach to the meaning of Genesis 1, focusing on what this reveals about God and God’s intentions for the flourishing of his creation and the human beings created in God’s image. Review

The Black ChurchHenry Louis Gates, Jr. New York: Penguin Press, 2021. A companion to the PBS series on the Black church, surveying the history of the Black church in America focusing on why the church has been central to the life of the Black community. Review

American Diplomacy, Expanded Edition, George Kennan. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984. (Link is to in-print 60th anniversary edition, 2012). A compilation of Kennan’s six Charles R. Walgreen lectures, two articles on US-Soviet relations originally from Foreign Affairs, and two Grinnell lectures. Review

The Journey Toward WholenessSuzanne Stabile. Downers Grove: IVP/Formatio, 2021. Draws on the wisdom of the Enneagram to help focus on our responses to stress, both as they reflect our dominant and repressed centers of intelligence intelligence. Review

Piercing Leviathan (New Studies in Biblical Theology), Eric Ortlund. Downers Grove and London: IVP Academic and Apollos, 2021. (Link for UK publisher). A study of the book of Job that focuses on the second of the Lord’s speeches to Job, focused on describing Behemoth and Leviathan. Review

The Education of an IdealistSamantha Power. New York: Dey Street Books, 2021. A memoir on immigrant-American, war correspondent, human rights activist, and diplomat Samantha Power. Review

Centering PrayerBrian D. Russell. Brewster, MA: Paraclete Press, 2021. An introduction to the practice of centering prayer with practical helps and theological basis, by a practitioner who found the practice transformative. Review

Kingdom of the Blind (Chief Inspector Gamache #14), Louise Penny. New York: Minotaur Books, 2018. Gamache, Myrna, and Benedict, a young building maintenance worker who hopes to be a builder are named as liquidators of the estate of a cleaning woman while Amelia Choquet, caught with drugs, is expelled from the Academy to the streets as a powerful and lethal drug is about to hit. Review

Saving UsKatharine Hayhoe. New York: Atria/One Signal Publishers, 2021. A discussion of both the urgent challenge of climate change, and the difference we can make in both action and conversations. Review

Five Things Biblical Scholars Wish Theologians KnewScot McKnight, Foreword Hans Boersma. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2021. In an effort to foster understanding between the two disciplines, a biblical scholar outlines five areas for theologians to understand about biblical studies. Review

Best Book of the Month: I loved Brad East’s The Doctrine of Scripture. Reading his theology reminded me why I love the Bible, what we mean when we speak of it as “the word of the Lord” in our worship. He speaks of scripture’s source, nature, attributes, ends, interpretation, and authority. I wrote, “This was not a book of same old, same old verities but a thoughtful framing of the doctrine of scripture that avoids the de-supernaturalizing tendencies of modern scholarship and the extremes of bibliolatry while at the same time upholding the wondrous reality of hearing the Word of the Lord together as the people of God.”

Best Quote of the Month: Henry Louis Gates, Jr., I thought, summed up well the meaning of the Black Church in this statement:

“It’s that cultural space in which we can bathe freely in the comfort of our cultural heritage, and where everyone knows their part, and where everyone can judge everyone else’s performance of their part, often out loud with amens, with laughter, with clapping, or with silence. It’s the space that we created to find rest in the gathering storm. It’s the place where we made a way out of no way. It’s the place to which, after a long and wearisome journey, we can return and find rest before we cross the river. It’s the place we call, simply, the Black Church” (p. 219).

What I’m Reading: I’m ready to review Frédéric Gros’ A Philosophy of Walking, a series of reflection on this basic human activity that includes profiles of a number of walking philosophers! I’ve been delighting in Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass and am persuaded that our Native Peoples have more than a few things to teach us about tending the garden and how we may both give to and receive from the other creatures of the earth. To Build a Better World, by Condoleeza Rice and Philip D. Zelikow, looks back to 1989-1990 and the seeming end of Communism and the new order that emerged. I’m curious if it will explain the origins of our current disorders. Lead Like it Matters to God is written by the head of World Vision, the largest Christian aid agency, and explores value driven leadership. I just began reading Jeff Kennon’s The Cross-Shaped Life, one of my Lent books. Drawing on Michael Gorman, he argues for and outlines what a cruciform life looks like, one shaped by Jesus and what he has done. Finally, I’m just starting out another Ngaio Marsh book, Death and the Dancing Footman. Love the title, hope the book is as good! And I hope you find some good books to read in March, whether from this list or not. I’d love to hear about them!

The Month in Reviews is my monthly review summary going back to 2014!

The Month in Reviews: December 2021

It’s been a busy month at Bob on Books! I reviewed 18 books this month from T. S. Eliot to Louise Penny. Reviews ranging from children’s to crime fiction, from devotionals to memoirs, a couple books for Christians in higher ed, Revolutionary war history, evolutionary neurophysiology, natural ecology, and more!

Also, it was the time of the year to pick my Best Books of 2021 as well as the Top Viewed Reviews of 2021 (no overlap, by the way!). It was a great way to look back on my year of reading reviewing, 198 reviews in all! So here are the books I read as 2021 came to a conclusion.

The Idea of a Christian Society, T. S. Eliot. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014 (First published in 1939). Three lectures given in 1939 putting forth Eliot’s ideas for a Christian society in the light of rising pagan, totalitarian governments in the pre-World War 2 world. Review

Beyond the White FenceEdith M. Humphrey. Chesterton, IN: Ancient Faith Publishing, 2021. A group of cousins visiting “Gramgon” and a neighbor boy have a series of adventures in which they meet their patron saints, passing through a portal just beyond the garden gate. Review

From Pentecost to Patmos, Second EditionCraig L. Blomberg and Darlene M. Seal with Alicia S. Dupree. Nashville: B & H Academic, 2021. A New Testament Introduction covering Acts through Revelation, with introductory material and commentary, review questions and bibliography for each book, useful as a textbook or reference. Review

A Great Reckoning (Chief Inspector Gamache #12), Louise Penny. New York: Minotaur Books, 2016. Gamache returns to the Sûreté as Commander of its Academy, and finds himself at the center of a murder investigation of one of its corrupt professors. Review

Struggling with EvangelicalismDan Stringer, Foreword by Richard J. Mouw. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2021. Traces both the author’s personal struggles with evangelicalism and a four step process of healthy struggle involving awareness, appreciation, repentance, and renewal. Review

The Parables: Jesus’s Friendly Subversive SpeechDouglas D. Webster. Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic, 2021. A study of the parables of Jesus, why he used them, how they conveyed his message and what that message was, and what they mean for our preaching. Review

The Haygoods of Columbus: A Family MemoirWil Haygood. New York: Peter Davison Books/Houghton Mifflin, 1997 (The link is to a different, currently in-print edition). A memoir of Haygood’s growing up years in Columbus, his extended family, the glory and decline of Mt. Vernon Avenue, and finding his calling as a writer. Review

Thriving With Stone Age MindsJustin L. Barrett with Pamela Ebstyne King. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2021. An examination of the ways evolutionary psychology and Christian faith intersect in understanding what sets us apart as human beings and how human beings may thrive. Review

With Fresh Eyes, Karen Wingate. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2021. Sixty reflections of a woman born legally blind, who gains significant sight in one eye, seeing not only the world, but also the world’s Creator with new eyes. Review

Abundance: Nature in RecoveryKaren Lloyd. New York: Bloomsbury Wildlife, 2021. A collection of essays describing both the loss of and recovery of abundance in the natural world, where people have caused harm and brought renewal. Review

Absence of MindMarilynne Robinson. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2011. The text of Robinson’s 2010 Dwight Harrington Terry Foundation Lectures on Religion in the Light of Science and Philosophy, challenging “parascientific” explanations reducing the mind to nothing more than the physical brain. Review

A Sacred JourneyPaul Nicholas Wilson. Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2021. A practical description the journey toward faithful Christian presence in secular institutions. Review

The British Are Coming (The Revolution Trilogy [Volume 1]), Rick Atkinson. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2019. A history of the first two years (1775-1777) of the American Revolution, discussing the causes, personalities, and key battles. Review

Finding Your YesChristine E. Wagoner. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2021. An exploration of what it means to listen for God’s invitations and say “yes” to them. Review

Singing in the Shrouds (Roderick Alleyn #20), Ngaio Marsh. New York: Felony & Mayhem Press, 2014 (originally published in 1958). Alleyn joins a ship bound for Cape Town seeking a serial murderer, one of nine passengers. Review

Riding High in April, Jackie Townsend. Phoenix: Sparkpress, 2021. A freelance writer faces some crucial life choices as she joins her software entrepreneur partner of fifteen years in Asia as he tries to launch an innovative open-source platform. Review

Refuge ReimaginedMark R. Glanville and Luke Glanville, Foreword by Matthew Soerens. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2021. A case for welcoming refugees based on the biblical ethic of kinship, and the responsibility of kin to provide a home for those who have none, with applications to the church, the nation, and the international community. Review

The Vocation of the Christian ScholarRichard T. Hughes, Foreword by Samuel L. Hill. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2005. An account of the calling of a Christian scholar, emphasizing drawing deeply on the theology of one’s own and other faith traditions, and living in the paradoxical tension of one’s faith and one’s disciplinary scholarship. Review

Best Book of the Month. I consider Dan Stringer’s book, Struggling with Evangelicalism, an extremely important discussion. So many of those I know who would identify in some way with this religious stream within the American church have wrestled with whether to stay or leave. Dan has as well and shares his process. He distinguishes between “brand” and “space” in a way that is helpful to me. There is so much with the “brand” I cannot embrace, but the core convictions and values have shaped me, and I won’t leave that space, even as I’ve learned to value other streams. This book gave me language for my own struggle.

Best Quote of the Month. Karen Wingate lived most of her life legally blind until eye surgery vastly improved the vision in one eye. I loved how she described in her new book, With Fresh Eyes, the moment she came to grips with the change this would mean for her, which her doctor described as “better than ever”:

“Despite low vision, God had given me all I needed. I could fill pages with stories of how God provided me transportation to travel all over the country even though I don’t drive. A Bible seminary that didn’t have services for disabled students recruited undergrads to read textbooks to me. At every point when work and my poor eyesight collided, computer technology took a leap forward, relieving the strain of seeing. I had an education, a family, a career, and a good ministry. God had answered my childhood prayer to help me live my life despite poor eyesight. I had learned to be content and grateful for the vision I did have.

And now this. Better Than Ever” (pp. 36-37).

She offers sixty reflections on seeing the world better than ever and the spiritual lessons that came with this improved vision.

What I’m Reading. This week I’ll be reviewing Os Guinness’s new The Great Quest (and interviewing him on Wednesday!), as well as a Graham Greene classic Orient Express and an award-winning collection of essays by Eula Biss, Notes From No Man’s Land. Over the holidays, I decided to tackle several longer books that I have long wanted to read: Raymond E. Brown’s magisterial study, The Birth of the Messiah, David Wenham’s Paul: Follower of Jesus or Founder of Christianity, and Louis Menand’s The Free World, a sweeping survey of the intellectual history of the twenty years after the end of World War 2, when I was born and growing up. Finally, I’m taking a dip into a Heinlein novel I never read, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress and just starting a book by a good friend and former colleague, Robbie Castleman, Interpreting the God Breathed Word. It is on how to read and study the Bible–something I always hope to grow in even as I teach others.

Well, there you have it! Maybe these offer some ideas for what you might read in 2022. And if you need more suggestions of reading goals, check out my Bob on Books 2022 Reading Challenge. Happy reading!

The Month in Reviews is my monthly review summary going back to 2014!