Fall Reading 2021

Seeing as A Bookish Charm began as a book review blog, I thought I’d return to my roots and share a bit of what I’ve been reading this season. It’s an eclectic bunch of books, but that’s the way I like it, and I hope you will too!

  1. Eat this Book by Eugene Peterson: This book was recommended by a dear friend and it did not disappoint. Written by the translator of The Message Bible, it delves into reading the Bible in a way that gets into the very fibre of our being, rather than just passing fleetingly through our minds. As the title suggests, our consumption of scripture should nourish our souls, becoming as central as eating. Our reading of scripture, too, should not be limited to scanning a few chapters as part of our daily devotions, but should be consumed with eagerness, hunger, and delight. This was a refreshing book, revitalizing my personal approach to reading the Bible. Further, Peterson’s beautiful example of humble, scholarly, and loving ministry provided encouragement and wisdom as my husband and I move into church leadership.
  2. Day of the Wolf by Coleman Luck: I received a copy of this book when I donated to Julie Roys’ ministry, which seeks to “report the truth and restore the church.” I deeply admire Julie’s work, viewing her as a modern-day prophetess who proclaims truth over the Church for the protection and edification of believers. This book, however, was not as helpful as I anticipated. The general concept—investigating different sorts of spiritual and ministerial abuse—is fascinating and timely. The book itself, however, borders on bitterness and is more anecdotal than well-researched. There are moments of profound insight (for instance, into the culture of Christian worship as often imitating the secular music industry) but, in general, I felt that it would have been a more powerful read had it been more concise and leaned more heavily upon sources than stories.
  3. The Collected Father Brown Mysteries by G.K. Chesterton: Someone once recommended these stories to me, saying in a condescending tone that I might enjoy them as long as I didn’t mind a bit of heresy. I can safely say that I have deeply enjoyed these stories and have not encountered any heresy thus far—only humility and humor. Indeed, I’ve been delighted and inspired by the simple sagacity of this mystery-solving priest, who unearths truth through loving confession more often than legal conviction and restores order through forgiveness more often than force. After all, can you ever go wrong with a hearty dosage of Chesteronian wit and wisdom?
  4. Half Magic by Edward Eager: I believe that there are two types of books worth reading—those that are great books in and of themselves, and those that recommend great books. This delightful children’s tale is the second, full of wonder and wild adventure and well-worth reading or rereading. It is not only a fabulous fantasy on its own, but it builds upon timeless children’s classics. Half Magic is, then, not only worth reading for its own sake, but for the way in which it interacts with and builds upon other excellent books.
  5. Dave at Night by Gail Carson Levine: I picked up a copy of this for a dollar, figuring that I have loved every other book by Levine. I read and reread her fairy stories for years and who can deny the genius of Ella Enchanted? This book, though, is based on the true story of her father. While I appreciate this premise, the writing bears little resemblance to the captivating language of her fairytales and, ultimately, I admit that I abandoned it with only a quarter remaining. I simply did not care, I’m sorry to say.
  6. Love Thy Body by Nancy Pearcey: I’ve been meaning to read this for years, and finally listened to it on Audible during long runs and drives. Pearcey confronts contemporary issues of abortion, gender identity, and transgender theory through a highly-researched yet accessible perspective. She digs deep into biology, philosophy, and theology to offer an insightful and intellectual exposition of biblical personhood and sexuality. Further, she is deeply compassionate and aware of the nuance of such issues without compromising her faith commitment to the sacredness of human personhood.
  7. Theology in the Democracy of the Dead: A Dialogue with the Living Tradition by Matt Jensen: I’ve written a bit about this book already, but want to further recommend it here. I’ve been concerned for years about evangelicals’ lack of connection to Christian history and tradition, and this book may offer part of an antidote. Jensen does a remarkable job summarizing the lives and primary theological interests of influential Church fathers and thinkers, seeking to demonstrate that they remain part of a “living tradition” of Christian theology and practice. It is insightful and, equally as important, it is readable. Often contemporary Christians may be wary of the early theologians because of the difficulty of their language, the distance from us chronologically, and an inexplicable resistance to think any earlier than the Protestant Reformation. Here, however, we have an academic yet accessible synopsis of key theologians and doctrines, making clear that both thinkers and thoughts are relevant today.
  8. Seamless: Understanding the Bible as One Complete Story by Angie Smith: We are using this book in an all-church study right now, which testifies to two things about our church: a humility and a hunger. Seamless is an introductory Bible study geared toward women’s ministry, so the fact that our leadership selected it for the entire congregation shows a deep humility. This book also encapsulates the entirity of scripture, not necessarily in great depth but in great breadth, indicating the dire hunger of Christians in our area for a more comprehensive understanding of the story of scripture. Seamless, then, has been helpful in promoting humility among those who have the blessing of strong biblical backgrounds, as well as fulfilling the hunger of those who desire more understanding. I personally have struggled with what I call the “chuminess” of the author, who inserts her signature brand of cutesy humor even where it is more interruptive than helpful. I would rather be written to with seriousness, and I prefer authors who treat the sacred text with reverence than what can feel like forced relevence. Overall, though, I am seeing the fruit of this study in our congregation and must admit that it has been a good thing, and I look forward to our Wednesday night discussion groups.
  9. Love Kindness by Barry H. Corey: The core theme of this book is that Christians in this age of anger need to cultivate “firm centers and soft edges.” We need to be solid and uncompromising in our key convictions, but gracious and gentle in how we treat others. I am more prone to harsh truth than loving grace, so this is a convicting read and is challenging me to consider how I might better exemplify kindness in my own life and relationships. Whereas I might err on the side of truth, however, I fear that Dr. Corey might err on the side of grace. It is helpful to remember, then, that Dr. Corey is speaking to “his tribe,” that is, to conservative Christians. He is not necessarily seeking to correct the theology and practice of progressives or non-believers but, instead, to soften the hearts of his own people, who may be hardened against a lost and suffering world. When read with this proper context, Love Kindness becomes a helpful and timely book.
  10. Out of the Far Country by Christopher and Angela Yuan: This book feels so amazing that it is difficult to believe it is a true story, and yet, it is built upon scripture, which is the most amazing and miraculous story ever told! I listened to this one on Audible as well, which I highly recommend, as both readers do an excellent job and it helps to stress the differing voices and perspectives of the mother-son author duo. Perhaps the most compelling aspect of this book is that it tells the story of “two prodigals,” showing the grace and growth of both mother and son rather than affirming one at the expense of the other. The rebellious son is chastened, but so is the prideful mother; both are convicted and drawn into a loving relationship with Jesus and then reconciled to each other. This is an essential read for believers as we strive to navigate a confused cultural context, for it reminds us that the best approach is prayer, patience, and a gospel perspective.

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