Summer books: Briefly noted

In This World of Wonders
Nicholas Wolterstorff
Eerdmans, 334 pages

This memoir is a series of vignettes, stories and remembrances of a life well lived by a beloved teacher, philosopher and advocate for justice.

Holding Faith
Cynthia L. Rigby
Abingdon, 408 pages

The author has an uncanny ability to make theology appealing to a wide range of audiences. This could easily be the go-to introduction to theology that many congregation members, pastors, students and teachers need right now.

The Source of Self-Regard
Toni Morrison
Knopf, 368 pages

A feast of reflections, essays and opinions by one of the finest writers alive. Given the state of world, Morrison’s book comes at an exceedingly important time. She has the calm demeanor necessary to write such brilliant pieces that go straight to what matters most.

One Coin Found
Emmy Kegler
Augsburg Fortress, 200 pages

A courageous and delightful memoir by a pastor who dares to believe in the outrageous love of God that is always seeking to find us — all of us. That includes people who never expect to be found and others would rather they not be found. This is a tale of grace.

Made to Move
Wendy LeBolt
Upper Room, 112 pages

America has never been more unfit than now. Never have there been more morbidly obese people suffering among us. The author is an exercise physiologist and Christian who has credited a six-week guide to help people establish physical and spiritual fitness. Programs like this in communities of faith are urgently needed.

The Second Mountain
David Brooks
Random House, 384 pages

Brooks continues on a path of moral understanding and action that has become deeply personal for him, including a description of divorce and remarriage. He urges a return to a society grounded in commitment to one another and to the nurture of the soul. The reader can decide if the author, who is Jewish, has embraced Christianity.

Between the Swastika and the Sickle
James R. Edwards
Eerdmans, 344 pages

This is like no biography you have ever read. I recall reading Ernst Lohmeyer’s New Testament commentaries in seminary, but never about the circumstances of his death. This new book includes theological reflections on Lohmeyer, as well as his political resistance to repression and the events surrounding his death. A remarkable biography of a remarkable witness who deserves to be remembered.

Prayer: Forty Days of Practice
Justin McRoberts and Scott Erickson
WaterBrook, 128 pages

This is a book of art. It is also an invitation to pray. But it’s not a conventional prayer book. It’s more a practice of contemplation via words and images. There are traditional practices here too: lament and intercession, fasting and meditation, exercise and journaling. Take it with you on a summer retreat, or commit to 40 days of reflection.

The Making of Stanley Hauerwas
David B. Hunsicker
IVP, 262 pages

Hauerwas influenced a whole generation of pastors and teachers with his clarion call for the church to live as a company of resident aliens. He has been an iconoclastic figure. Hunsicker attempts to locate Hauerwas’ theology between Barth and postliberalism and demonstrate why it remains an important resource for pastors and churches in America. Some people use the summer to read books they might not otherwise have time to read. This might be one.

A Christian and a Democrat
John F. Woolverton with James D. Bratt
Eerdmans, 280 pages

Written by a beloved professor of church history and pastor in the Episcopal Church, this religious biography is the story of the Christian formation of the conscience and political practice of Franklin D. Roosevelt. In the current era, it behooves us to read more biographies of those leaders who have gone on before us. James Comey, a Christian active in a Presbyterian church and a student of Woolverton, describes the importance of this book in the foreword.

Holy Envy
Barbara Brown Taylor
HarperOne, 256 pages

Taylor famously left the church after receiving an epiphany while falling in a swimming pool in her priestly attire. Later, she began teaching students in a small college in Georgia. The book is a memoir of what happened in her life when she took seriously the religious traditions she was exploring with her students. It’s filled with observations you would expect from her as well as penetrating questions. Rabbi Abraham Heschel once “asked for wonder.” Taylor, a brilliant writer, poignantly describes what happens when she does the same through the faith of others that is quite different from her own.

Jesus, King of Strangers
Mark W. Hamilton
Eerdmans, 184 pages

Mark Hamilton begins with a clear premise: to hear what Scripture says about immigrants. He then wants to share what he finds as a Christian with others who don’t share his faith. On this ground he discusses the political issues involved with the immigrants among us. It’s an important book.

Reading Romans Backwards
Scot McKnight
Baylor University Press, 236 pages

Here is a novel way of reading Romans: Start with the last chapter! There you will discover the actual issues in the church, which have to do with peace, reconciliation and community with weak and strong members. Grounded in real life, then you move backward working your way through the theological issues all the way to the beginning. Imagine this: a new way to hear Romans!

For the Life of the World
Miroslav Volf and Matthew Croasmun
Brazos, 208 pages

The authors are both affiliated with the Yale Center for Faith and Culture. Volf is a well-regarded theologian and Croasmun is a theologian and pastor. Together they argue that if theology is to have any useful purpose, it must be oriented toward the flourishing of human life in diverse communities. Theology that is insular and speaking only to theologians is failing the world by neglecting its essential task.

Love Thy Neighbor
Ayaz Virji
Convergent, 208 pages

The subtitle of this remarkable book says it all: “a Muslim doctor’s struggle for home in rural America.” It’s the story of what happens when a bright, highly educated doctor moves to a small town in Minnesota in response to the shortage of doctors in rural areas. His resolve to do good was sorely tested in the aftermath of the last election. On the verge of leaving, a church pastor invites him to share the Muslim beliefs and practices that led him to the area. The rest, as they say, is history. In this case, it’s the inspiring history of what loving your neighbor can mean in a country as divided as America.