Measurement keeps things real.
Read and Removed 2021
Balmer, Randall. Bad Faith: Race and the Rise of the Religious Right. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2021. [added 10.3.2021]
Bartlett, Bruce. The Truth Matters: A Citizen’s Guide to Separating Facts from Lies and Stopping Fake News in its Tracks. Ten Speed Press, 2017.
Biesenbach, Rob. Unleash the Power of Storytelling: Win Hearts, Change Minds, Get Results. Eastlawn Media, 2018. [added 10.20. Let’s call it “professional development.”]
Brooks, E. Bruce. Jesus and After: The First Eighty Years. (Studies in Early Christianity) Warring States Project, 2018. [added 08.2020 – “Hey, look at this …”]
Bottum, Joseph. An Anxious Age: The Post-Protestant Ethic and Spirit of America. Image (Random House), 2014. [added 02.15.21.]
This interesting and persuasive book argues that the spiritual crisis of our age traces back to the decline of Mainline Protestantism. That on one hand, the ethos of the mainline has come to dwell in a group of people who might be called “the elite” – maybe more by other people than by themselves. Educated, basically liberal, middle to upper-middle class, who are chasing the security of a “salvation” that comes from “feeling like a good person.” “In both the noble range and the insufferable self-righteousness of their moral and spiritual concerns, the members of the social class that defines and sets the agenda for American culture prove identical to their middle-class Mainline Protestant Christian grandparents – just without much of the Christian religion” (14). He calls them “the elect” rather than the elite, and traces them back to Walter Rauschenbusch’s social gospel. They substitute social ethics for religion (250). “The goodness of caring for the poor, for instance, became much less about actually caring for the poor … and much more about feeling that the poor should be cared for. Which, in the event, usually meant that the government, rather than private charity, should undertake the task” (250). With the collapse of Mainline Protestanism’s cultural influence, a substitute language and system was needed, and efforts were made to draft Catholic thought for this purpose (e.g., Richard John Neuhaus’ *First Things*), forging an alliance between evangelicals and John Paul II Catholics. For reasons he discusses, this seems not to have succeeded. These cultural developments leave the public mind and discourse of the US without a widely shared, mainstream, “acceptable religious language” for the public square (252). “American exceptionalism did not create the strange world of American religion. It was instead, the wildness and wackiness of American religion that created the historical oddity of American exceptionalism” (254). Ultimately, he concludes that we are facing a public moment in which “no capaciously religious or philosophical vision of human good can be embodied in our laws without curtailing individual liberty. The nation has lost the collective vocabulary for explaining, in nonsectarian terms, why some restrictions and not others are compatible with a healthy individual liberty. Even educated religious believers seem now to lack the words with which to express a principled defense of American freedom, American religion, and American exceptionalism” (261). His thesis seems to me to explain a number of recent developments in our social and political life. Assuming he is correct, it is not a matter of indifference, there is a lot of work to do to rebuild the broadly shared spiritual and moral vision we have lost, and the resources available for the task are few. That is: we are living in interesting times.
Carson, D.A. Exegetical Fallacies. Second edition. Baker Academic, 1996. [added 10.11.20]
Cheng, Eugenia. The Art of Logic in an Illogical World. Basic Books, 2018. [added 06.19.21]
This was a wonderful book!! One of the best this year. I especially enjoyed her opening paragraph on “feelings,” but actually enjoyed everything about it: learning more logic, learning that mathematics is “really” about logic, more than about numbers and equations, different kinds of logic, limits to logic and why logic needs to be supplemented by emotions and intuitions to yield “real human” intelligence as opposed to robotic intelligence – fascinating, informative, fun to read, delightful.
These prayers for almost entirely ordinary, often-overlooked wonders – like Girl Scouts and their cookies, or cashiers, or soccer practice – made me cry and laugh and appreciate life more and thank God more for all the things in it, and will hopefully keep inspiring me to be even a fraction as observant and grateful as the late Brian Doyle. Although I think he should have liked cats more that he said he did.
Eagleton, Terry. Culture and the Death of God. Yale University Press, 2014. [added 02.27.2021]
Such a hard read. Hard to appreciate his voice at first. Ultimately worth it. Society can’t do without God. Or, maybe, without truth. How would we tell the difference? Includes this: “We think the way we think because of the kind of bodies we have” !!
Feser, Edward. Aquinas: A Beginner’s Guide. Oneworld (ebook), 2009. [added 04.06.2021]
A really helpful book for someone who had never studied Thomas Aquinas [typical Protestant omission], and who has had little classical philosophy of religion, and never saw any point to the proofs of the existence of God up until now. There is more to all that than nothing, and in particular, from the Thomist point of view, people without the appropriate background are prone to summarizing those arguments in inaccurate ways [typical academic recycling of presumed rather than actual knowledge]. This book helps fix that. It’s a little annoying to read, but that seems to come with the dogmatic territory.
Garrett, Duane A. The Problem of the Old Testament: Hermeneutical, Schematic & Theological Approaches. IVP Academic, 2020. [added Christmas 2020]
I have already loaned this book to my favorite person who keeps saying “I’ll be so glad when we get out of the Old Testament,” and will probably loan it to others when that same thing arises. It’s a wonderful treatment: clear, accessible, sensible, not supercessionist, and ultimately helpful. His distinction between the particular literature of Israel and the more univeral wisdom literature is particularly fine. Thanks to the author for writing this book for us.
Garrett, Henry James. This Book Will Make You Kinder. Penguin Books, 2020.
Well, only if you do it. Garrett argues that empathy is the key to promoting kindness. I’m largely convinced, but not completely; he mainly appeals to *ignorance* as the empathy-limiting factor. I don’t think he takes into account, sufficiently, the “familiarity breeds contempt” factor – that the more you know some people, the worse you like them and the less you care about them. Or, cruelty motives. Since cruelty draws its power from the same wells as empathy. Or, just plain not caring, despite having good information. In short, I think he may count a little too much on people being basically good. -bitter laughter-
Gibson, Peter. Philosophy: A Degree in a Book. Arcturus.
Not really true, obviously. But in my persistent quest to learn more about philosophy by reading introductory and easily available books, I added this one. And it did have more contemporary content than some others, different categories, some new info, a nice reading list. But a lot of typos. I usually feel philosophers’ statements about God are basically clueless; this one seemed less out there than most.
Graeber, David. The Utopia of Rules: On Technology, Stupidity, and the Secret Joys of Bureaucracy. Melville House, 2015. [added 02.27.2021]
Now I see bureaucracy everywhere. This is not a good thing. But I’m glad I read the book anyway. It’s just too bad that he seems to be correct about so much.
Guenther, Margaret. The Practice of Prayer. Cowley Publications, 1998 [added ???]
A beautiful book with lots of concrete thoughts, discussion of many forms and situations for prayer, written in a warm, Anglican voice. Inspiring, enjoyable, valuable, and practice-oriented. She has a beautiful definition of spirituality as “the ordering of our loves.” So worth it.
Haig, Matt. How to Stop Time. Penguin, 2017. [added 07.12.2019 Though I should know better than to fall for a novel.]
__________. The Midnight Library. Viking, 2020. [added 05.08.2021 – Happy Birthday!]
Hart, David Bentley. The Doors of the Sea: Where Was God in the Tsunami? Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2005. [added Christmas 2020]
Holmes, Barbara A. Race and the Cosmos. 2nd edition. CAC Publishing, 2020. [added 02.23.2021]
Levine, Amy-Jill and Brettler, Mark Zvi. The Bible With and Without Jesus. HarperCollins (e-book), 2020. [added 05.10.2021 – happy birthday!]
This eye-opening book demonstrates the different ways Jewish and Christian readers of the Bible approach some of the most familiar texts of the Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings, from the “servant songs” of Isaiah to the book of Jonah to Psalm 22. It’s fascinating, and a reminder that scripture doesn’t need to have “one right meaning” to be rich and real. I wish for a lot of people to read this book.
Levitt, Steven D. and Dubner, Stephen J. Freakonomics. Revised and Expanded Edition. William Morrow (HarperCollins), 2020.
Lubeck, Ray. Read the Bible for a Change: Understanding and Responding to God’s Word. Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2005. [added 08.05.2021]
I thought this was interesting and worthwhile, even though I could tell right away I didn’t agree with the author about some really big things. [See, for instance, my thoughts here, and here, which I think he’d be sure to object to.] He has some really helpful advice for reading different types of Biblical literature, and the overall idea that reading the Bible ought to change us, by getting into us, is important and one to keep in mind and do better with. Advice I need to take myself, more.
Maguire, Holly. Book Nerd. Workman Publishing, 2020. [added 05.08.2021 – happy birthday]
Martin, James S.J. Learning to Pray: A Guide for Everyone. HarperCollins, 2021. [added 02.15.2021]
McInerny, D.Q. Being Logical: A Guide to Good Thinking. Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2005.
What an extremely annoying book. I suspect this comes from the author’s emulating Strunk and White, *The Elements of Style,* which is an error all in itself, in my book. The annoyance comes from statements he makes that seem overly certain. Such a contrast with Cheng, which is so wonderful about logic and its limits. Still, some value: that generalizations are a kind of argument, and the idea that logic is about drawing out and making explicit what is already implicit in the premises, and a little bit more on sets and contents, where I still have so much to learn. So, not a complete waste of time.
Miller, Michelle D. Minds Online: Teaching Effectively with Technology. Harvard University Press, 2014. [added 03.08.2021]
Predictably, reading this book made me feel like a lousy, lazy, unmotivated teacher. That is not her problem, of course. Had good ideas and a lot of information about learning, and I did try to incorporate as many of her suggestions for engagement and setting up online instruction for maximum learning as I could in preparation for the online course this summer. Not enough, evidently, or not the right way, judging from actual student engagement and level of interaction. See that initial neurotic comment. Sadly, she does not have suggestions for not experiencing frustration with the LMS, or the students, or wishing I were living in a different reality.
Norris, Emma. Progress Over Perfection, a Guide to Mindful Productivity. Rock Point, 2020.
Barely qualifies as a book. Here’s an idea: instead of buying a book like this, just do your work.
Penguin Books – Great Ideas. How to be a Stoic. Translated by Robert Dobbin, C.D.N. Costa, and Martin Hammond. Penguin Books, 2020. [added 06.19.21]
I love Marcus Aurelius.
Popkin, Richard H. and Stroll, Avrum. Philosophy Made Simple. New York: Three Rivers Press, 1993.
Rah, Soong-Chan. The Next Evangelicalism: Freeing the Church from Western Cultural Captivity. InterVarsity Press, 2009. [added 09.09.2020. Found while buying a book for book group.]
Reeves, Anne R. Where Great Teaching Begins: Planning for Student Thinking and Learning. Alexandria, VA: ASCD, 2011. [added 10.2018]
As usual, reading a book on teaching made me feel like a poor teacher, but worth it for the good advice on thinking about objectives and the “principal in the hall” test for “what did you learn today”. That’s a keeper. And learning how not to confuse “learning activities” with “learning objectives.” One more time through the learning hierarchy. Granted, more oriented towards lower grades, but still helpful.
Reinhartz, Adele. Cast Out of the Covenant: Jews and Anti-Judaism in the Gospel of John. Lexington Books/Fortress Academic/Rowman & Littlefield, 2018. ebook. [added 07.2020 – Happy Belated Birthday bookstore gift cards to me!]
Wonderful book, although deeply thought-provoking – and all the more for those who feel they have to take everything in the Bible, including the awful parts, as having come straight from the mouth of God. She makes a solid case for the anti-Judaism in the gospel of John as being intrinsic and structurally significant for the gospel. Great thoughts on translation, and reading.
Rickman, Phil. The Wine of Angels. Corvus, 1999. [added spring 2021 – “I didn’t like it that much.” “Well, I still want to read it.”]
I enjoyed reading this book, although it was longer than I’d usually allocate to a mystery novel; it was a little slow to get into the mystery, but I enjoyed the development of the characters, liked the situation of the village and the creepy manse and the woman priest in a possibly conservative church environment with a reasonably rebellious teen daughter – why not? Why didn’t the person I took over reading it from like it as much as that? Who knows? There’s no accounting for taste. I got a little tired of the references to Traherne, who seemed to be on everyone’s lips, and when was the last time YOU heard of or mentioned Traherne? Exactly. So, I’d read another by Rickman, sure, if I had that much spare time again.
Rickman, Phil. Midwinter of the Spirit. Corvus, 2011. [added summer 2021 – “Well, here’s the next one.”]
Like I said. And I didn’t even really have that much spare time.
Rohr, Richard. The Universal Christ. Convergent Books, 2021. (2019) [added 03.28.21 – book group]
Someone stop me before I ever buy another book from the Center for Action and Contemplation. I like reading Richard Rohr in single paragraphs, like in those daily emails. When the paragraphs are piled together in book form, however, it’s really hard to take the absence of logic. Call me square, but apparently I think “linear thinking” is another word for thinking. Despite my frequent urge to throw the book against the nearest wall, there were some good lines. Plus, it was good practice for me to try to keep my mouth shut in book group and not be a total pill. Hopefully, I succeeded.
Ryken, Leland. How to Read the Bible as Literature … and get more out of it. Zondervan, 1984.
Sanneh, Lamin. Disciples of All Nations: Pillars of World Christianity. Oxford University Press, 2008. [added 01.17.2019]
Schilbrack, Kevin. Philosophy and the Study of Religions: A Manifesto. New York: Wiley Blackwell, 2014.
This is a marvelous book, thoroughly worthwhile reading, extremely smart, a nice introduction to philosophy of religion, frankly a nicely-organized introduction to central topics in the academic study of religion, works as a solid literature and topic review, and totally elucidates why it’s so maddening to read “philosophy of religion” on the internet. Anti-sclerotic in every way, and if I were going to read exactly one book on this topic, this would be the one. Also, has the good taste to be a friend of Craig Martin, the author of the outstanding and irreplaceable Critical Introduction to the Study of Religion, solidly reinforcing his credentials as someone who cares about doing philosophy of religion in a way that communicates with the academic study of religion more generally. Yay for this book! I hope gazillions of people read it. Or, if not gazillions, then all the people who are actually doing this kind of work. And may stupid arguments on the internet speedily pass away.
Simpson, John. The Word Detective: Searching for the Meaning of It All at the Oxford English Dictionary. Basic Books, 2016. [added 02.14.2021]
Sparks, Kenton L. “Fake News” Theology: How and Why We Use Biblical Authority to Dodge God’s Authority. Cascade Books, 2020. [added Christmas 2020]
Stamper, Kory. Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries. Vintage Books, 2017. [added Christmas 2020]
Super fun!! Wouldn’t it be the most wonderful thing in the world to be a lexicographer? I thought so after I read this enchanting book. But that may have had more to do with Kory Stamper’s writing, so probably what would in fact be the most wonderful thing in the world would to be able to write that way, about anything. But almost as wonderful, albeit shorter-lived, was to be able to read about being a lexicographer, as written about by Kory Stamper.
The RZA. The Tao of Wu. Riverhead Books, 2009. [added 09.2020]
Thévenez, Pierre. What Is Phenomenology? Chicago: Quadrangle Books, 1962.
Finally! This had only been on my reading list and the read-me shelf since graduate school – and now I probably need to return it to its rightful owner. It absolutely made my head ache. BUT it includes a nice explanation of the genesis of phenomenology, and an analysis of what its project is, and that is helpful, especially when thinking about phenomenology of religion. Whether it’s possible, REALLY, to do without metaphysical assumptions – it’s a lot harder than it looked when this whole thing started, isn’t it?
Thurman, Howard. Jesus and the Disinherited. Beacon Press, 1976. (ebook) [Added 07.15.2020]
Trocmé, André. Jesus and the Nonviolent Revolution. [Michael H. Shank and Marlin E. Miller, trans.] Plough Publishing House, 2003 (1973). [added 08.02.2021]
Trocmé is challenging, in particular to consistency in Christian practice. The idea that as Christians we really are called to practice a more thorough ethic of nonviolence is demanding. I think he is trapped a little in an outmoded reading of the Pharisees, which is jarring. That aside, this is especially eye-opening and welcome for his centering of Jesus’s commitment to the Jubilee, as a real program. A really clear way of thinking about Jesus as being about “justice,” what that would have meant then, what that would mean now.
Tye, Karen B. Basics of Christian Education. Chalice Press, 2000.
A great short but dense book that introduces lots of factors to keep in mind when it comes to the educational ministry of a congregation: concept of Christian eucation, purposes, context, participants, content, process & method, assessment & evaluation, hindrances – it’s an invitation to think MUCH more expansively about the nature of education, learning, organizing for that – and all in the context of what we do in the congregation. Or, outside it. Though it means that our Present Word class might be in a rut, of course!
Vines, Matthew. How to Talk About the Bible & LGBTQ Inclusion. The Reformation Project, 2017. [added 05.14.2021 – congregational research]
Read and Removed 2020
Adeney, Miriam. Kingdom Without Borders: The Untold Story of Global Christianity. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2009. [added 01.17.2019]
Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities. Revised edition. London: Verso, 1991. [added 01.25.2020 – for a seminar]
Brown, Daniel. A New Introduction to Islam. Third edition. Oxford: Wiley Blackwell, 2017. [added 06.2019 after taking a class on “Sharia and Islamic Law”]
Burridge, Richard A. Four Gospels, One Jesus? Eerdmans, 1994. [added 10.11.20]
Carretto, Carlo. The God Who Comes. Translated by Mary Rose Hancock. Orbis Books, 1974. [added ??]
Delgado, Richard and Stefancic, Jean. Critical Race Theory: An Introduction. Third edition. New York University Press, 2017. [Added 07.08.2020]
Because “critical race theory” isn’t what most people think it is. And because I think that if people are going to talk about something, they ought to know something about what they’re talking about. Since I have read this book, I am not going to be among those people who say that “critical race theory” is incompatible with Christianity. That might depend on what people think “Christianity” means. See above.
Depka, Eileen. Raising the Rigor: Effective Questioning Strategies and Techniques for the Classroom. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press, 2017. [added 10.2018]
du Mez, Kristin Kobes. Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation. Liveright Publishing Corporation, 2020. (ebook) [Added 07.12.2020]
This is a fascinating, but disturbing, look at the recent history of evangelicalism, from the perspective of gender arrangements, gender ideology and preaching / teaching, and gendered practice. Particularly personal for me because of the way the history du Mez narrates constituted my own upbringing in a home saturated with, yet also resistant to, 1960s evangelical culture. The personal costs of that culture were palpable, even then. The news du Mez brings to the telling of this story is her documentation of the intentional use of gender and gender themes to politicize the religious community; the way the construction of a particular view of and use of gender became part of an articulate political agenda. A tremendously important book.
Fretheim, Terence E. and Froehlich, Karlfried. The Bible as the Word of God in a Postmodern Age. Wipf and Stock Publishers, 1998. [added Christmas 2020]
Gibala, Martin. The One Minute Workout. Avery (Penguin), 2017. [added 11.29.19. Black Friday at the bookstore.]
Johnson, Bryant. The RBG Workout. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017. [added 11.29.19. Black Friday at the bookstore.]
Newhouse, Alana, ed. The 100 Most Jewish Foods (A Highly Debatable List). Artisan, 2019. [added 12.26.19]
Oluo, Ijeoma. So you want to talk about race. Seal Press, 2019. [added 12.26.19]
Ortberg, John. The Life You’ve Always Wanted: Spiritual Disciplines for Ordinary People. Zondervan, 1997. [added 02.17.20]
Owens, Lama Rod. Love and Rage: The Path of Liberation Through Anger. North Atlantic Books, 2020. [added 09.21.20]
Pasachoff, Naomi. Great Jewish Thinkers: Their Lives and Work. Behrman House, 1992. [added 12.25.19]
Pyle, Nathan W. Stranger Planet. Morrow Gift, 2020. [added Christmas 2020]
Rah, Soong-Chan. Prophetic Lament: A Call for Justice in Troubled Times. InverVarsity Press, 2015. [added 09.09.2020. For book group.]
Rooney, Anne. Think like an Economist: Get to grips with money and markets. London: Arcturus Publishing Ltd., 2019. [added 02.06.2020 – when we took books to Half Price Books.]
Rothstein, Dan and Santana, Luz. Make Just One Change: Teach Students to Ask Their Own Questions. Harvard Education Press. 2011. [added 03.23.2019]
Song, Aengus. Flowers from the Garden of Evil: Everyone’s Guide to the Elements of Authoritarian Dogma. White Rose Publishers, 2014. (Kindle ed.) [added 11.09.2019 “Curiosity killed the cat.”]
Tracy, Brian. Eat That Frog! 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time. YellowKite Books (Hachette UK), 2004.
Wilhelm, Anthony. Christ Among Us: A Modern Presentation of the Catholic Faith For Adults. 6th edition. HarperSanFrancisco, 1996. [added 07.02.2019. Working on the fall book order, borrowing from someone else’s syllabus …]
williams, Rev. angel Kyodo; Owens, Lama Rod; Syedullah, Jasmine. Radical Dharma: Talking Race, Love, and Liberation. North Atlantic Books, 2016. [added 09.21.2020]
Read and Removed 2019
Bruyneel, Sally and Padgett, Alan G. Introducing Christianity. Orbis Books, 2003. [added 06.14.2019. I am fed up with “Western Religions” textbooks, and I have got to get the fall book order in …]
Frankiel, Sandra Sizer. Christianity: A Way to Salvation. (Religious Traditions of the World.) Waveland Press, 2011. [added 07.02.2019. I am fed up with “Western Religions” textbooks, and I have got to get the fall book order in …]
Kristian, Bonnie. A Flexible Faith: Rethinking What It Means to Follow Jesus Today. FaithWords, 2018. [added 07.02.2019. Still looking for something for the fall book order …]
Stone, Douglas, Patton, Bruce, and Heen, Sheila. Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most. 10th Anniversary Edition. Penguin, 1999. [added 11.10.2019 – we’re looking into it at church in relation to the Golden Rule 2020 initiative.]
Turton, Stuart. The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle. Sourcebooks Landmark, 2018. [added 09.02.19; because my spouse finished reading it and said “this is such a good book!!” and I said “well, I’d like to read it …”]