Winter Book Briefs

Here are the books I finished this winter. I just switched from a seasonal list to a quarterly list, since it is awkward to carry over winter books from 2012 to this list. I am also continuing to read Carson’s commentary on John (enlightenly excellent), The Valley of Vision (robustly encouraging), and The Book of Common Prayer (devotionally fun).

The Book of Sorrows – Walter Wangerin (1985) // Print. The haunting, beautiful, rich sequel to The Book of the Dun Cow. Both are highly recommended for their incredible prose, their profound allusions, and their rewarding reading. A book that demands reflection after each chapter, and has stayed with me long after I finished.

The Death of Ivan Ilyich – Leo Tolstoy (1886) Print. Technically a short story, and a great one. Recounts the realization of the title character that his materialistic, selfish life has been a sham. Powerful and emotional.

The Early Stories, 1953-1975 – John Updike (2004) Print. Updike is a master of English, though his plots and characters are average. Many stories present a quest for truth in spite of the spiritual malaise of the 20th century, especially by exploring the meaningfulness of love, family, and place. His autobiographical Olinger Stories were enjoyable because of the descriptions of Reading, where I’ve worked for three years.

Future Men: Raising Boys to Fight Giants – Doug Wilson (2001) Print. Really well done. Two points especially stood out: that Christian boys should be intentionally raised with an appreciation for the sovereignty of God and an ultimately optimistic worldview. Also, the excellent chapter on dragons was apparently inspired by a friend’s senior thesis. Has anyone read the new 2011 edition?

Given for You: Reclaiming Calvin’s Doctrine of the Lord’s Supper – Keith Mathison (2002) Print. A thorough treatment of the true Calvinistic/Reformed doctrine of the Lord’s Supper, which has fallen into a shallow Zwinglian memorialist view among the Reformed. His discussion of the continuity of Passover was most helpful. Historical and practical, though I would have liked to see more practical issues discussed (e.g. a discussion of bread in the sacrament, not just wine). Unfortunately, it reads more like a seminary paper than a mainstream book.

Heaven Misplaced: Christ’s Kingdom on Earth – Doug Wilson (2008) Print. Presents a wide-angle view of Christ’s continuing reign and the ultimately optimistic, seemingly unbelievable promises and purposes of God. Turns much of the poor prophetic exegesis and obsessive headline-reading that is so pervasive in contemporary Christianity on its head. Concise and provoking, in true Wilson style.

Heaven on Earth – Thomas Brooks (1667) Kindle. A somewhat misleading title, as this is a book on assurance, not eschatology. Pastoral, thorough, and thoughtful if a bit stuffy and repetitive.

Home Coffee Roasting: Romance and Revival – Kenneth Davids (2003) Print. The “bible” on home roasting; a must read for anyone interested in taking up this romantic hobby. In the two months that I’ve been roasting, I’ve consulted it dozens of times.

Singing and Making Music: Issues in Church Music Today – Paul S. Jones (2006) Print. More a collection of topical essays than a book-length treatment of worship. Most were very helpful and carefully written, especially those on the role of instrumental music in worship, the form of musical aesthetics, and the role of musicians. Chapters on picking an organ and mini-biographies on Stravinsky and Brahms seemed oddly out of place, though.

What is the Mission of the Church? Making Sense of Social Justice, Shalom, and the Great Commission – Kevin DeYoung & Greg Gilbert (2011) Audio. Pretty good, though its repetitiveness was only accentuated as an audiobook. Probably wouldn’t convince a staunch missional/emergent/pomo Christian, but helpful in interacting with their main ideas.

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