Measurement keeps things real.
Read and Removed 2021 (60)
Balmer, Randall. Bad Faith: Race and the Rise of the Religious Right. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2021. [added 10.3.2021] 49
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. 22
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.”] 4
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 …”] 10
Bottum, Joseph. An Anxious Age: The Post-Protestant Ethic and Spirit of America. Image (Random House), 2014. [added 02.15.21.] 18
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] 2
Cheng, Eugenia. The Art of Logic in an Illogical World. Basic Books, 2018. [added 06.19.21] 37
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] 19
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” !!
Eagleton, Terry. Why Marx Was Right. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2011. [added 12.26.2018] 60
This is a lovely book, which reminded me why I loved Marx in college, and generally think of Marx as not nearly as inimical to Christian faith and practice as some people seem to think he is. Not the liberation theologians, obviously. Eagleton identifies ten commonly-adduced arguments for treating Marx like he has nothing of genuine interest to say, and then proceeds to demonstrate, largely effectively in my view, that each of those arguments is flawed. Eagleton still might not convince you “like” Marx, but might convince you to take Marx more seriously as a relevant social theorist.
Feser, Edward. Aquinas: A Beginner’s Guide. Oneworld (ebook), 2009. [added 04.06.2021] 24
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.
Fields, Karen E. and Fields, Barbara J. Racecraft: The Soul of Inequality in American Life. Verso, 2014. [added 11.13.2021] 58
This is an amazing, must-read book. Tough, but worth it. The Fieldses compare the way people think about and act about “race” in the US to “witchcraft” – in the sense of *Witchcraft, Oracles, and Magic Among the Azande,* the rationally irrational, functionally dysfunctional, anti-empirical ideology ethnographized by E. E. Evans-Pritchard in his classic work. “Race” in the US similarly represents the triumph of ideology over experience and “what everybody knows” over evidence; their critique of the use of “race” as a social-scientific categorial variable is especially eye-opening. If you read this book, you will never be able to think about race the same way again. Which is undoubtedly a good thing.
Garrett, Duane A. The Problem of the Old Testament: Hermeneutical, Schematic & Theological Approaches. IVP Academic, 2020. [added Christmas 2020] 15
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. 17
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. 11
Not really true, obviously. But in my ongoing 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] 34
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 ???] 41
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.] 30
__________. The Midnight Library. Viking, 2020. [added 05.08.2021 – Happy Birthday!] 31
Hart, David Bentley. The Doors of the Sea: Where Was God in the Tsunami? Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2005. [added Christmas 2020] 6
Highfield, Ron. Rethinking Church: A Guide for the Perplexed and Disillusioned. Keledei Publications, 2021. [added 10.07.2021 after seeing it on ifaqtheology] 54
A fascinating, clear, thorough, challenging short book on what it means to be the church. Or – not. Which leaves open the question: so, what should we do about this. And, for me: how do make sure we still have an educated pastorate once we really start having these simple churches? Plus, I learned that apostolic succession must be a lot more important to me than I realized. That was a surprise.
Holmes, Barbara A. Race and the Cosmos. 2nd edition. CAC Publishing, 2020. [added 02.23.2021] 23
I was really excited to read this book, so correspondingly sad not to like it very well. Her main point seems to be that our problems with racial injustice require different mental models, that are less hierarchical and dualistic, to resolve; and that we might be able to use metaphors derived from contemporary physics to construct such models. I kept wishing she would develop that argument more logically. Maybe that means more hierarchically and dualistically. In which case, I guess I must think that’s not always such a bad thing.
Jeffries, Stuart. Everything, All the Time, Everywhere: How We Became Postmodern. Verso, 2021. [added 11.13.2021] 59
A really interesting book, and fun to read. Jeffries develops the argument that post-modernism is the cultural counter-part to neo-liberal economic structures and practices; that it imprisons and inures people to their consumerist role in those structures and practices, and works to make effective social-political-economic critique difficult, which is not to say altogether impossible. So it makes you think about what effective critique would look like – probably worthwhile. Each chapter is an extended reflection on three things that happened “at the same time” – that is, juxtaposition of seemingly unrelated elements, so po-mo – and then elucidating their deeper relations or similarities – so, ultimately not as po-mo as that. He cites David Harvey a lot, and despises Thatcher and Reagan. He gives po-mo a different timeline than it had in my mind, roughly 1972-2001, noting the alleged “end of post-modernism” with 9/11. He’s not so sure about that, given our barbarously, seriously, post-truth and permanently surveilled contemporary condition. No solutions, really. But a nice analysis of the problem.
Joslyn-Siemiatkoski, Daniel. The More Torah, The More Life: A Christian Commentary on Mishnah Avot. Christian Commentaries on Non-Christian Sacred Texts. Peeters (Leeuven – Paris – Bristol, CT), 2018. [added 05.14.2021 – Happy Birthday!!] 52
Karris, Mark Gregory. Divine Echoes: Reconciling Prayer with the Uncontrolling Love of God. Quoir (Orange, California), 2018. [added 10.14.2021] 51
This is an extraordinary, valuable, thought-provoking, theology-modifying book. Very clear, compassionate, thoughtful, insightful, helpful. A way to think about petitionary prayer that might make more sense. But … maybe raises more theological questions than it answers, actually.
Levine, Amy-Jill and Brettler, Mark Zvi. The Bible With and Without Jesus. HarperCollins (e-book), 2020. [added 05.10.2021 – happy birthday!] 48
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. 35
Lubeck, Ray. Read the Bible for a Change: Understanding and Responding to God’s Word. Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2005. [added 08.05.2021] 45
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, Colby. UnClobber: Rethinking Our Misuse of the Bible on Homosexuality. Westminster John Knox Press, 2016. [added 10.27.2021 – for book study] 53
Overall a worthwhile book, good (I thought) on the exegesis of Genesis 19, surprising (to me) on Romans 1, the usual on 1 Corinthians 6 and 1 Timothy 1. Less helpful than I had hoped on Leviticus – more or less taking the position that “the rules for ancient Israel aren’t our problem anymore.” The complications raised by Calvin’s third use of the law and by supercessionism neither one seem to have given him a moment’s pause. The personal story that makes up half the book makes me ask myself shocked questions from time to time. Like – seriously, do you really expect me to believe that you thought that if you told your personal story about getting fired from your giant church in Arizona because of your position on homosexuality ON THE INTERNET it would just totally not get noticed by anyone in that giant Arizona church and shared on Facebook and become yet another cause for hand-wringing and having a bad experience with church? Really? I am old and a digital immigrant, and even I know that sounds incredibly naïve. But his “sometimes yes, sometimes no” demonstration for the question “is heterosexuality a sin?” is nicely perceptive and thought-provoking, my favorite part.
Martin, James S.J. Learning to Pray: A Guide for Everyone. HarperCollins, 2021. [added 02.15.2021] 20
McCaulley, Esau. Reading While Black: African American Biblical Interpretation as an Exercise in Hope. IVP Academic, 2020. 57
A useful, informative, inspiring look at how to read the Bible as the Word of God in hostile territory – that is, when people around you are reading it differently, in ways that actively harm you. McCaulley points out that this reading enterprise has a long history, and is intrinsically related to the love of God, the grace of Jesus Christ, and the communion of the Holy Spirit. Wow.
McCutcheon, Russell T. Studying Religion: An Introduction. Second edition. Routledge, 2019. [added 10.14.2021] 55
A really provocative set of questions about some of the key challenges in the academic study of religion: what even is the subject matter, and why do we think there IS a subject matter here, distinct from any other social or cultural subject matter, and assuming there is a subject matter, how do we go about looking at it – while being aware (one hopes) that how we look at it actively shapes it to be a thing we’re looking at. Whew. We all ought to read it, but it’s also a little exhausting, because … thinking is like that.
McInerny, D.Q. Being Logical: A Guide to Good Thinking. Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2005. 42
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, who 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] 36
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. 33
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] 47
I love Marcus Aurelius.
Popkin, Richard H. and Stroll, Avrum. Philosophy Made Simple. New York: Three Rivers Press, 1993. 7
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.] 1
Reeves, Anne R. Where Great Teaching Begins: Planning for Student Thinking and Learning. Alexandria, VA: ASCD, 2011. [added 10.2018] 25
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!] 29
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.”] 39
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.”] 44
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] 40
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. 9
Sanneh, Lamin. Disciples of All Nations: Pillars of World Christianity. Oxford University Press, 2008. [added 01.17.2019] 16
Scazzero, Peter. Emotionally Healthy Discipleship: Moving From Shallow Christianity to Deep Transformation. Zondervan, 2021. [added ?? 2021] 56
I liked this book, but my guess is that there are people who would like it a lot more than I did. People who have not had as much therapy, for instance, for whom his message about how we need to feel our feelings, even the icky negative ones, would sound a lot more like that liberating first blast of the trumpet against the monstrous regiment of denial and repression than like something more commonplace than that. People who do not feel the impulse to roll their eyes whenever he comes out with the “four elements of this” and “five keys to that” etc. etc., or names the bullet points after Bible story characters, or uses words like “lead pastor.” Not to say that any of that is bad or wrong, any more than soy or peanuts are bad or wrong; just, some of us are allergic. The main point, that real discipleship is about living real human life in real relationship with other real human beings, in the direction of becoming more and more like that really truly human Jesus, there is no getting too much of that, surely, however it’s served up.
Schilbrack, Kevin. Philosophy and the Study of Religions: A Manifesto. New York: Wiley Blackwell, 2014. 32
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] 13
Sparks, Kenton L. “Fake News” Theology: How and Why We Use Biblical Authority to Dodge God’s Authority. Cascade Books, 2020. [added Christmas 2020] 12
Stamper, Kory. Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries. Vintage Books, 2017. [added Christmas 2020] 5
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.
Strickler, Yancey. This Could Be Our Future. Penguin Books, 2020. [added 08.09.2021 – wanting to be part of the book study being organized by A Church for Starving Artists, but alas, my schedule ended up conflicting with that.] 50
The RZA. The Tao of Wu. Riverhead Books, 2009. [added 09.2020] 8
Thévenez, Pierre. What Is Phenomenology? Chicago: Quadrangle Books, 1962. 14
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] 21
Trocmé, André. Jesus and the Nonviolent Revolution. [Michael H. Shank and Marlin E. Miller, trans.] Plough Publishing House, 2003 (1973). [added 08.02.2021] 43
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. 3
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 education, 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] 28