One enduring blessing of blogs is the book recommendations. I appreciate seeing what others do and do not like. In addition, it helps me to build my reading list. At the end of each month, I try to pick five books that I’ve read and would like to comment on briefly.
Here are some of the books I enjoyed recently.
The Lincoln Highway, Amor Towels. Last year I read A Gentleman in Moscow and couldn’t put it down. So when I picked up Amor Towels’ latest, I had high hopes. I wasn’t disappointed. The story takes place in the 1950s with a group of friends who met in jail and decided to chase their dreams through a trip across the country. The Lincoln Highway is written on a canvas of adventure with broad strokes of guilt, bondage, liberation, frustration, and hope. Sometimes a good story can be eclipsed by so-so writing. This is not the case here. Towels skillfully pens a gripping tale. If you’re looking for a fiction book to add to your booklist, this may be a strong candidate.
East of Eden, John Steinbeck. Like sand in the eyes when walking through the desert, this book makes you squint and feel the pain in this fallen world. Steinbeck chronicles the brutal heartache of the Trask family through multiple generations. What’s impressive is how he does this against the backdrop of the Cain and Abel story. Cast under the biblical light, the story shows sin’s destructive and deadly pathogens. Reading this, I wanted relief and restoration. But through the extended arms of the characters’ many grasps, I laid hold of nothing but thorns and thistles. A painful but real story, sobering in the right way.
Corporate Worship: How the Church Gathers as God’s People, Matt Merker. So many discussions about worship center upon the style of music played in church. What’s assumed so often is that the church is gathering. Merker aims to help Christians think about what the Bible says about worship and, more specifically, about the church gathering for worship. He helpfully distills complex topics like the regulative principle for worship and helps see how to apply it faithfully and wisely. One reason I like the book is that I agree with its premise. But I also appreciate it because it provides me with a fresh reminder of the importance of what we do when we gather for worship. It’s the type of book to buy a few copies of to have on hand and share with fellow church members and newer Christians.
The Lord’s Supper as a Means of Grace, Richard Barcellos. Baptists often get pegged as those who think about the Lord’s Supper only as a memory. Barcellos makes his case from the Scriptures that this shouldn’t be the case. And he also shows from Baptist history that this was not always the case. In this short but beneficial book, the author shows that God designs means of grace– vehicles for blessing–for the believers. The source of these blessings is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit nourishes and transforms us through the means of grace. So the argument is that the Lord’s Supper is not simply a memory but a means of grace whereby believers are fed and changed. A solid book for your library on the Lord’s Supper.
12 Rules for Life: An Antidote for Chaos, Jordan Peterson. This is the first I’ve read from Peterson. I know he’s wildly popular, but I didn’t know why. This was one of the reasons I picked this book up. The book is a distillation of several articles and lectures he’s done within the helpful framework of Chaos and Order. Peterson button-holes the reader from beginning to end with his characteristic straight talk. It’s part lecture, pep talk, sermon, and scolding. I thought there were a lot of helpful takeaways. I’m sure I’ll continue to look back for reference in the coming years; there’s a bevy of research and practical analysis. I appreciated how often he interacts with the Bible (although with some different foundations and conclusions). In the end, I’m not sure how helpful his wisdom and biblical references are apart from the gospel. He’s very close in many places, but that last inch makes all the difference. After enduring the book to the end, I can only wish that he would’ve written a 13th rule: brevity. The book is a slog that doesn’t need to be that long.
Church Membership & Church Discipline, Jonathan Leeman. In preparation for some talks at our church, I recently reread Leeman’s books on membership and discipline. As I read, I was reminded again how helpful these resources are. The arguments are clear and compelling. And the case studies for discipline are so beneficial. So perhaps it’s time to read or reread these books?