Book Reviews

Reading List for March, 2021: Some Good History, Philosophy and Theology, Bookended by Brandon Sanderson

Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson

I am in awe of how Brandon Sanderson can be so prolific, and at the same time maintain the quality of storytelling that he does. Each one of the four “Stormlight Archive” books is over a thousand pages long, and yet there was never a single moment where I felt like putting it down. And then there are the Mystborn books, the Mystborn Second Age books, the Elantris and Warbreaker stand-alones, the White Sand graphic novels…not to mention his non-Cosmere books. I am hard pressed to think of any other author who can put together such an impressive corpus of writings without at some point just “phoning it in”.

“Rhythm of War” continues the epic struggle on the planet Roshar, developing our favorite characters, bringing events to their customary cataclysmic head, and then setting things up for the next book in the series. One aspect I personally enjoy is how each successive book opens up more windows into the entire Cosmere arch-narrative, subtly bringing into play people and events from the other series.
I listen to these books while driving, running, working out, and waiting in lines. I would by lying if I said that I didn’t look for extra opportunities to engage in the above activities, just so I could listen more.

Augustus, First Emperor of Rome by Adrian Goldsworthy

Augustus: First Emperor of Rome is a very satisfying dive into the deep end of first century Rome. Adrian Goldsworthy has done a fine job of researching not only the life of the man who was arguably the greatest of Roman leaders, but also the times in which he lived.

The book includes many tidbits that will be helpful to anybody looking for context for New Testament studies. There is even an entire appendix dealing with the apparent discrepancies in the Gospel narratives surrounding Christ’s birth.

This is not a particularly easy read. But for history lovers, it is a gourmet feast.

From Eden to the New Jerusalem by T. Desmond Alexander

If you are looking for a worthwhile introduction into Biblical Theology (as opposed to Systematic Theology), T. Desmond Alexander’s From Eden to the New Jerusalem is a strong candidate. Over the past several years I have found myself “drifting” from a purely systematic approach to a more holistic biblical approach, and Alexander’s work helped me better define the interpretative process.

I especially enjoyed the way the author begins with the image of the New Jerusalem descending from Heaven, and works backward to Eden. His treatment of the “giant cube” helped solidify some of my own thoughts on the subject.
Also, greatly appreciated by me, was how he for the most part sticks with aspects of Biblical Theology that people of all eschatological persuasions can agree on.

The only part of the book I could have really done without was his foray into anti-capitalist rhetoric in the final chapter. There are legitimate concerns to be raised about unbridled capitalism, but Alexander’s arguments on that score sound more like woke slogans, and did not measure up to the quality of the rest of the book.
Don’t let that little quibble stop you from reading this book, however. If you, like me, get a special thrill at discovering how the Bible fits together as a whole, this is a great resource to have in your collection.

Ancient Greece by Thomas R. Martin

I’ve been on an Ancient Greece kick recently, and this was my latest fix. Well-researched, well-written, this book takes us on a journey from the time first known inhabitants of Greece through the Hellenistic period. Though I’ve read much on ancient Greek civilization, I found this book to be very informative.

And I am a little closer to understanding the Peloponnesian War.

To Have or To Be? by Erich Fromm

For a book recommended by one of my more socialist professors, I found myself enjoying Erich Fromm’s “To Have or To Be” much more than I expected.

The main thrust of this book is that Western society is dominated by a mentality of “having”, which is the source of all the evils of the world. What is needed is for mankind to undergo a transformation from a “having” orientation to a “being” orientation.

Yes, Fromm looks at the world from a decidedly leftist point of view. And yes, when he uses Scripture to support his theories his biblical interpretation is simply atrocious. And yes, some of the solutions he comes up with are chillingly Big Brother-ish.

But, for all of this, he lands some solid punches when it comes to critiquing the materialist society we live in. Even his leftism is tempered by honest analysis of the failings of societies that have tried to implement Communism.

And his warnings about the coming evils of “Technological Fascism” – made, as they were, before Facebook, Twitter, and Amazon – are nothing short of prophetic.

All this to say, there are a lot of good quotes, and several thought-provoking insights to be had by reading “To Have or To Be”.

White Sand 3 by Brandon Sanderson

Finally finished up the last of Brandon Sanderson’s “White Sand” graphic novels. This means that I officially have just one more “Cosmere” book to read.

Arcanum Unbounded here we come!


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