One enduring blessing of blogs is book recommendations. I appreciate seeing what others do and do not like. This helps me to curate my reading list.
At the end of each month, I try to pick out a few books that I’ve read and recommend. Here are some of the books I enjoyed in April & May.
Why God Makes Sense in a World That Doesn’t: The Beauty of Christian Theism, Gavin Ortlund. In this apologetic work, Gavin Ortlund aims to show that Christianity is not only true but also desirable. An academic book (at least in my opinion), but not inaccessible. The author interacts with contemporary philosophical and scientific works. In the second chapter, Ortlund shows that theism is the most plausible explanation for such complex and meaningful things as math, music, and love. Throughout the book, the author’s charitable and gracious tone underscores the message in his writing. It left me thinking about how the world might view the church if her ambassadors were characterized as burdened, loving, and engaging witnesses.
The Loveliest Place: The Beauty and Glory of the Church, Dustin W. Benge. In this book, the author is aiming to remind and refresh people with the beauty of the church. He shows the Bible’s metaphors for the church and then helps to explain what makes the church so lovely. The book serves as both a reminder and a roadmap for the church. It would help us to revisit the doctrine of the church, which is precious in God’s sight, so it would likewise be precious in ours.
Gospel People: A Call for Evangelical Integrity, Michael Reeves. Some people suggest we move on from the term evangelical. But, Michael Reeves says, “not so fast.” What is an evangelical? Returning to the root of the word, the evangel, then Christians can better understand what type of people we should be. Who then are the people of the gospel? Providing clarity, Reeves anchors the book to three posts, Revelation from the Father, Redemption by the Son, and Regeneration by the Spirit. Instead of abandoning the term, Reeves believes we should recover its essence and live in light of it. As with everything I read from this author, I come away learning not only about the topic at hand but also historical theology and I have my heart stirred along the way.
Living By God’s Promises, Joel R. Beeke. What are God’s promises and how are they useful? This book aims to equip Christians to better deploy God’s promises for their spiritual good and God’s glory. As with many of Beeke’s books, it relies heavily on the writings of puritans (in this book it’s Andrew Gray, Edward Leigh, and William Spurstowe). These writers provide tremendous insights. And the author’s interaction with the writings is illuminating. Although at times, it did seem as though there were an overwhelming number of quotations. I would have appreciated a bit more synthesis and interaction. But this is a minor quibble. The book is a solid resource to help Christians know and deploy God’s promises.
Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoevsky. I’ve had this book on my list for a couple of years and am thankful I picked it up and read it recently. The main character, Raskolnikov, commits a murder in cold blood and then is tormented in his conscience. While the police are investigating and closing in on him, his true tracker is his conscience which never lets up. I couldn’t put the book down. (I actually checked my heart rate on my watch after reading it and noticed it went up considerably.)
Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro. This is a bit shorter and quite an easy read. Reading this felt like a combination of Downton Abbey and P.G. Wodehouse. But, the underlying message of the tragedy of living for the wrong glory and missing great opportunities dominates the book. The main character, Mr. Stevens, is a butler in a famous house in the early 20th Century. He is encouraged by the owner to take some time away and see the country. As he does he reflects upon his life. His recollections become a painful exhortation to not be so busy that you miss the life before you.
The Good Earth, Pearl S. Buck. This book is so painful. Set in the time of transition of China from the old farming culture, it chronicles the life of a young man just before he’s married until his death. His struggles against nature were interesting. But, it was his struggles against his own appetite for more and the laziness that surrounded him that was captivating. The more money Wang Lung got, the more trouble he encountered. It’s equal parts fascinating, painful, and instructive.