Here’s a rundown of the 9 books I read in December. This brings my 2022 total to 102 books. Happy reading!
(I must always clarify that I read many books with which I disagree. I learn the most by reading things that do not represent my position.)
Sandinistas: A Moral History by Robert Sierakowski
I ordered this book half way through my November trip to Nicaragua. I wanted to learn more about the political and moral history of this beautiful country filled with beautiful people. This volume is a very readable telling of the liberation movement that brought the Sandinista National Liberation Front to power in Nicaragua in 1979, overthrowing the longest-running dictatorship in Latin America.
The scholarship is evident and the writing style is enjoyable – rare combination.
Discipleship: Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Volume 4
I first read this copy in seminary and I’ve read it a dozen times since. This book is an all-time favorite for me and Bonhoeffer is on my Mt. Rushmore of authors. I’ve grown in substantial ways contemplating the works of his pen.
This book has a popular edition titled “The Cost of Discipleship” published by Touchstone but I much prefer this volume published by Fortress press as the 4th volume in the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works collection. I find the translation to be superior (not that I know German but prefer how the English reads) and it has tremendously helpful textual and contextual annotated footnotes.
Discipleship is mostly a deep study of the Sermon on the Mount plus a lengthy exploration of Matthew 10. It is easily most known for its discussion of cheap grace vs. costly grace.
Bandersnatch: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the Creative Collaboration of the Inklings by Diana Pavlac Glyer
Another reread. There is something about the holidays that drives me to curl up with a favorite.
I’ve said this countless times: I love reading about CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien much more than I enjoy reading their actual work. They were fascinating men and their friendship was even more intriguing than their works of fiction. Lewis and Tolkien, among others, gathered each week to read and discuss each other’s work-in-progress. Known as the Inklings, this creative group produced legendary pieces of theology and fiction.
Diana Pavlac Glyer shows evidence of how Inklings members critiqued and encouraged each other. She poured over letters, diaries, and early drafts to find how the Inklings actually influenced each other. It was a thrill to read early drafts of Tolkien’s work and see hobbit name changes and wordiness reduced at the suggestion of friends. It is not a biography of the Inklings members nor a study of the group. Rather, it is a master class in collaboration.
Counterfeit Kingdom: The Dangers of New Revelation, New Prophets, and New Age Practices in the Church by Holly Pivec and R. Douglas Gievett
An interesting book covering a current, popular teaching. From the book’s promotional material:
The New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) is a popular and fast-growing new movement of Christians who emphasize signs and wonders, and teach that God is giving new revelation through new apostles and prophets. But is this biblical Christianity? In Counterfeit Kingdom, apologists and NAR experts Holly Pivec and Douglas Geivett show how the NAR’s key tenets distort the gospel, twist the Scriptures, are influenced by New Age practices, and lead faithful Christians to shipwreck their faith. They also offer practical suggestions for readers who are already influenced by the NAR, curious about it, or concerned about loved ones who have been swept up in the movement.
Against Liberal Theology: Putting the Brakes on Progressive Christianity by Roger Olson
I had two classes with Dr. Olson during my seminary education. He also served as my “professor of record” during my mentoring semester. I sat under his teaching once again during my doctoral work. I truly love Olson’s writing ministry. I highly recommend The Mosaic of Christian Belief, The Story of Christian Theology, and Arminian Theology.
In Against Liberal Theology, Olson gives a very helpful history of the roots of this theological framework and warns against the direction its headed. It’s even-handed and generous, but Olson pulls no punches in his critique.
Miz Lil and the Chronicles of Grace by Walter Wangerin Jr.
This is the first of three Wangerin volumes I read this month. It almost made my list of 2022 favorites (posting soon).
This memoir leads readers on two parallel journeys: one a series of tales from Wangerin’s youth, the other a chronicle of his awakening to the great grace of God through relationship with his congregation while pastor of an inner city church.
Everlasting Is the Past by Walter Wangerin Jr.
Another Wangerin memoir. I hope to live a life that can support multiple memoirs!
This one takes readers on a journey into the past to experience Wangerin’s loss of faith as a young seminarian, his struggle to find his vocation, and his eventual renewal in the arms of an inner-city church called Grace.
Letters from the Land of Cancer by Walter Wangerin Jr.
Perhaps the title says it all. Wangerin writes, “Shortly after the cancer had been diagnosed I began writing letters to the members of my immediate family, to relatives and to lifelong friends. The following book will consist mostly of those letters. They will invite you into my most intimate dancing with the cancer, even as that partner and I have over the last two years swung each other around the tiled floors of ballrooms and bathrooms. Dizzy still, and day by day, I sat and wrote: This is what I’m feeling right now. This is what I think.…”
Send Out Your Light: The Illuminating Power of Scripture and Song by Sandra McCraken
This is a slow walking memoir on the creative process. McCracken shares encounters and insights from Scripture and reveals how those truths impact her songwriting and make way into her songs. The type of book I devour in a sitting or two.