This was a month of several firsts. It was the first time to review 20 books in a month (most were shorter works, around 200 pages). So I won’t talk about all of them in this intro. I read my first book by Margery Allingham, one of the four Queens of Crime (along with Christie, Sayers, and Marsh). I’ve read a number of works of the others, but dipped into Allingham for the first time. What is striking about the “Queens” is how distinctive their styles were from one another. On the suggestion of a colleague, I read Willa Cather’s The Professor’s House, my first Cather. I work on college campuses and so enjoy campus fiction. I loved the quirky, tongue-in-cheek style of Katie Schnack, a first-time author writing in The Gap Decade about the transition to adulthood in one’s twenties. Glad I don’t have to do that over! I also read my first account of the Afghanistan War, appropriately titled The Long War. I have a reviews here of Susan Cain’s latest, a thought-provoking history of how slaves built many of the great public buildings in our nation, a classic on the intellectual life by Jacques Barzun, and a delightful book by Alan Jacobs encouraging us to read for the sheer pleasure of it. Lots of good stuff here for almost any taste.
When We Stand, Terence Lester (Foreword Father Gregory Boyle). Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2021. Makes a motivational case for mobilizing with other to pursue follow Christ in the pursuit of justice. Review
Jesus’s Final Week, William F. Cook III. Nashville: B & H Academic, 2022. A day-by-day discussion of the events in Jesus’s life from the triumphal entry until the empty tomb, using a “harmony of the gospels” approach. Review
Black Hands, White House, Renee K. Harrison. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2021. A history of how enslaved peoples played a major role in the building of this country and the need to remember that work in our monuments and by other means. Review
Reformed Public Theology, Edited by Matthew Kaemingk. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2021. A collection of 23 essays by leading Reformed thinkers articulating how Reformed theology bears on various aspects of public life. Review
The Paradox of Sonship (Studies in Christian Doctrine and Scripture), R. B. Jamieson, foreword by Simon J. Gathercole. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2021. A discussion of the use of “Son” in Hebrews proposing that it is a paradox, that Jesus is the divine Son who became the messianic “Son” at the climax of his saving mission. Review
Do Muslims and Christians Worship the Same God?, Andy Bannister. London: Inter-Varsity Press (UK), 2021. A comparative study of the worldviews of Christianity and Islam that concludes that the two do not worship the same God. Review
The Way of Perfection (Christian Classics), Teresa of Avila, edited and mildly modernized by Henry L. Carrigan Jr. Brewster, MA: Paraclete Press, 2000 (originally published in 1583). [This edition is out of print. Link is to a newer edition from the same publisher.] Teresa’s instructions to nuns on the spiritual life of prayer and meditations on the Lord’s Prayer as a way to contemplative prayer. Review
The House of the Intellect, Jacques Barzun. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1959. A discussion of the decline of the intellect and its causes. Review
More Work for the Undertaker, Margery Allingham. London: Vintage, 2007 (originally published in 1948). When two boarding house residents from the same family die, Albert Campion is persuaded to become a boarder to discover what’s afoot. Review
Transfiguration and Transformation, Hywel R. Jones. Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 2021. “Transfiguration,” referring to Christ and “transformation,” referring to the believer translate the same Greek word, metamorphosis. This work explores both why the difference and what the connection is. Review
The Professor’s House, Willa Cather. New York: Vintage Classics, 1990 (originally published in 1925). The move to a new home, academic success and his daughter’s marriages, and a deceased former student and son-in-law, precipitate a crisis for Professor Godfrey St. Peter. Review
A Christian Field Guide to Technology for Engineers and Designers, Ethan Brue, Derek C Schuurman, and Steven M. Vanderleest. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2022. Explores in practical terms the intersection of faith and technology in areas of design norms and ethics and how technology might serve the common good. Review
Following the Call, Edited by Charles E. Moore. Walden, NY: Plough Publishing House, 2021. A collection of 52 weeks of readings working through the Sermon on the Mount, meant to be discussed and lived out in community. Review
The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction, Alan Jacobs. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011. An argument that we should read what we delight in rather than what others think is “good” for us. Review
Parable of the Talents (Earthseed #2), Octavia E. Butler. New York: Open Road Media, 2012 (first published in 1998). The growth and heartbreaking destruction of Acorn, the Earthseed community founded by Lauren Olamina, and how Earthseed rose from the ashes. Review
Eyes to See, Tim Muehlhoff (Foreword by J. P. Moreland). Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2021. An exploration of how God acts in the ordinary elements of everyday life, the idea of common grace, and how we may be encouraged as we recognize these ways of God at work. Review
Bittersweet, Susan Cain. New York: Crown, 2022. Describes the state of bittersweetness, where sadness and joy, death and life, failure and growth, longing and love intersect and how this deepens our lives and has the power to draw us together. Review
Enter a Murderer (Roderick Alleyn #2), Ngaio Marsh. New York: Felony & Mayhem, 2012 (originally published in 1935). Invited to see a play with his sidekick Bathgate, Alleyn actually witnesses the murder he will investigate. Review
Book of the Month: I rarely choose edited collections of articles as best books because most are uneven. I thought the collection edited by Matthew Kaemingk, Reformed Public Theology stood out from other collections due to the consistent excellence of articles from a stellar line-up of theologians as well as the nature of the work, articulating how one might think Christianly about one’s work in the public arena.
Quote of the Month: Transfiguration and Transformation is a wonderful, compact discussion of the connection between the transfiguration of Jesus and the transformation of the believer. Both terms share in common the same Greek work, metamorphosis. I loved this succinct and theologically rich summary by Hywel R. Jones:
“The transfiguration of Christ shows how the divine can penetrate the human without destroying it. The transformation of the believer shows how the human can become conformed to the divine without its ceasing to be human. This is the ultimate metamorphosis that is compatible with Christian truth” (p. xvi).
What I’m Reading: I’ve just completed Matthew Levering’s The Abuse of Conscience, a survey of important contributors to Catholic moral theology, tracing what he believes is an increasing over-emphasis on conscience in moral theology. I always appreciate Marilyn McEntyre’s thoughtful consideration of the words we use in contemporary discourse, which I’ve found once again in her timely Speaking Peace in a Climate of Conflict. Once again, her consistent emphases on clarity, integrity, and civility shine through. I’m about mid-way through Louise Penny’s All The Devils are Here, #16 in her Gamache series. Only one more to go after this. Set in Paris, she once again explores the theme of trust and the secrets those close to us may carry. I’m always torn between reading as fast as possible and savoring her rich psychological plots. Can A Scientist Believe in Miracles? explores this and many other questions on science and Christian faith. The writer, Ian Hutchinson is a plasma physicist at MIT, no intellectual slouch, who argues that faith and science need not be at war. That Distant Land is a collection of Wendell Berry short stories, all centering around Port William–always a delight. Enjoying the Old Testament by Eric A. Seibert addresses the barriers many have to reading three-quarters of the Bible. I’ve just begun this, but have appreciated the awareness of the author of so many of the issues I’ve encountered with friends as we study the Old Testament.
Well, if you have read this far, thank you! On Thursday, I attended the “Celebration of Life” of a friend who was a bookseller and loved connecting both children and adults with books that would enrich their lives. Her example both inspires and humbles me. I hope these reviews serve something of the same purpose and I hope you will feel free to write if you are looking for a recommendation and I’ll try to do my best.
The Month in Reviews is my monthly review summary going back to 2014! It’s a great way to browse what I’ve reviewed. The search box on this blog also works well if you are looking for a review of a particular book.