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 Faith, Lore 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 Flourishing, Amy 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 Son, Richard 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 Tungsten, Oliver 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 Well, Lacy 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 Falls, Will 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 Cage, David 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
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 Tranquility, Emily 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!