Book Reviews

Reading List for June, 2021: A Little Fantasy, A Little Theology, A Little History

Some solid books in this month’s list.

Arcanum Unbounded by Brandon Sanderson

With the completion of “Arcanum Unbounded” I have now read every book in Brandon Sanderson’s “Cosmere” collection. Until he writes another one, that is.

For those making their way through the Cosmere, I would highly recommend leaving this one for last. Not only will this avoid spoilers, but it will also help fill in some of the blanks from previous books.

For example, I had previously read “Mistborn: Secret History”. Now, however, after having read all of the Roshar books AND the “White Sand” graphic novels, Secret History made a LOT more sense.

Some other goodies from this book: Fans of Wax and Wayne will love the “Allomancer Jak and the Pits of Eltania” shorts. The “Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell” is a gripping standalone short story. And the maps at the beginning of the book are very helpful.
So if you have already immersed yourself in the Cosmere, do yourself a favor and read this one. If not, start with the Mistborn series, read “Elantris” and “Warbreaker”, dive into the Roshar books, then come back for this one. You won’t regret it.

The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan

In response to a recent social media plea for book recommendations, a friend suggested Robert Jordan’s “Wheel of Time” series as a good way to get my Fantasy fix while waiting for Brandon Sanderson to finish his next “Cosmere” book.

Having finished “The Eye of the World” – the first book in the series – I must agree. Well-developed characters, intriguing back-story, lots of action – all of these kept me thoroughly entertained as I listened to the Audible version of the book on my journeys from Florida to New York.

If you are into the Fantasy genre, or just want to read a good story, “The Wheel of Time” is a promising start to an extensive series.

Salvation to the Ends of the Earth by Andreas J. Kostenberger

It had been a while since I had read anything in my chosen field (missions), so I decided to wade through Andreas J Kostenberger’s “Salvation to the Ends of the Earth”.

Good decision, as it turns out. Examining the theme of “mission”, first from the Old Testament, then into the New Testament, Kostenberger clearly demonstrates how the spread of the Gospel to the nations has always been part of God’s plan, albeit with different iterations and emphases.

Dispensationalists like me will take issue with a good deal of his eschatology, but the basic principles he lays down still work. I particularly liked his approach to the New Testament, especially where he deals with the writings of Paul in the context of the events of the book of Acts.

Another highlight for me was the appendix, where the author takes on the question as to whether Christian missionary effort can be traced to either second-temple Judaism or pagan proselytism. Spoiler alert: the answer is “no”.

The Early Middle Ages by Phillip Daileader (Great Courses)

The centuries immediately following the fall of the Roman Empire have always held a special appeal to me. Figures like Charlemagne and Alfred the Great, great movements like the Viking invasion and the rise of Islam…these are all fascinating areas of study. I am also intrigued by questions of when and why the Western Roman Empire actually fell, and how for how long it continued to influence the lives of Europeans.

All of these questions and more are examined in this excellent series of lectures published by Great Courses. Professor Phillip Daileader does an outstanding job of examining Rome’s fall – going back to the third century and the changes made by the Emperor Diocletian. One of the best aspects of his treatment, in my opinion, is how he engages the theories of Gibbon and Pirenne and shows them to be quite insufficient (especially Gibbon).

Throughout the course Daileader masterfully paints an overall picture of the epoch, pinpointing the main people and events for more detailed treatment.

The course is accompanied by a downloadable PDF, which is also very good.

Even if you (like me) have read extensively about this period of history, I think you will find this course to be a valuable resource.


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