Book Reviews

Reading List for August, 2020: Churchill, Crusaders, the Cross, and more…

The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson

One would think that after reading Manchester’s Last Lion series, I would have had enough of Churchill for a while. But can one really have too much Churchill?

The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson focuses the first year Churchill’s wartime government, which covers some of the darkest days of the Battle of Britain. With extensive use of original documents – in particular, many personal diaries – Larson opens a window into the intimate lives of not only Churchill and his family, but those in his immediate orbit, and even people people farther removed (such as Joseph Goebbels). Expertly zooming in and out, and panning back and forth, he manages better than any motion picture I have seen to put the reader in the middle of those dark days.

If you think you’ve read everything there is to read about Churchill, read this.

Mistborn Secret History by Brandon Sanderson

Having finished all the “Mistborn” books published to date (while anxiously awaiting the rest) I figured it was time to get answers to some of the questions that author Brandon Sanderson leaves hanging.

Without giving away too much…in the first book of the series one of the main characters dies. But as the series progresses, one gets the impression that he is not entirely dead.

The “Secret History” confirms this, and lets us know what he’s been up to all this time.
A really good read, motivating me to dive back into the “Cosmere” in the very near future.

The Cross of Christ by John Stott

Several weeks ago my wife asked me if I had ever read “The Cross of Christ” by John Stott. I had to confess that I had not, at which point she strongly recommended that I read it. Add this to the long and constantly lengthening list of good things that have happened as a result following my wife’s counsel.

After only one chapter, I could not believe I had not read it earlier. By the middle of the book I knew it would be right up there with J.I. Packer’s “Knowing God” on my list of books that I return to constantly.

Stott examines the death of Christ from every possible theological angle, and then brings it home to where we live with practical, real-life applications. The exposition of Galatians at the end is by itself worth the price of the book.

If you have not yet read “The Cross of Christ”, do yourself a favor and get a copy as soon as possible. Then prepare yourself for a real spiritual feast.

Understanding Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism by George M. Marsden

Ever since reading Marsden’s biography of Jonathan Edwards, I have appreciated him as a historian. This appreciation only grew with my reading of “Understanding Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism”.

Although I don’t believe he would self-identify as a Fundamentalist per se, I appreciate the honest yet generally sympathetic treatment he gives us in this work.

Two chapters were particularly helpful to me: the first, where he deals with the roots of modern Fundamentalism, going all the way back to pre-Civil War days, and the last, where he gives some insights into the background and motivations of J. Gresham Machen (whose outstanding Greek textbook I am currently using in my personal studies of that language).

This is not to say that is found sandwiched in between these two chapters is not also very good. I highly recommend this book for all observers of the current religious landscape.

Observation: My fellow Fundies might take umbrage with some of his characterizations, but, in the famous words of Scottish poet Robert Burns: “O, wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as others see us!”

Crusaders by Dan Jones

Having read Dan Jones’s book on the Templars, I was looking forward to “Crusaders”. Jones, one of the better writers of popular histories in circulation today, did not disappoint. Not only do I have a much better grasp of the grand, overall ebb and flow of that medieval conflict, I was also enriched by many profiles of the larger-than-life personalities that made that age what it was.

A very good read, highly recommended.

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