Culture Care: Reconnecting with Beauty for Our Common Life by Makoto Fujimura

Culture Care: Reconnecting with Beauty for Our Common Life by Makoto FujimuraTakeaway: Culture matters. Culture needs cultivation. Beauty is central to combating utilitarian theology.

Makoto Fujimura is a gift to the church. He is now on my must read list. I do not particularly need to be convinced of the basic argument in Culture Care, culture matters. But the framing of culture in similar terms to environmental care I think makes a lot of sense in helping the reader to understand that culture is neither static nor inherently good or bad.

Culture is cultivated and if we want a culture that reflects truth and beauty need to have Christians that understand truth and beauty creating to influence culture. Fujimura starts with the assumption that Christians should be interacting with culture and creating. He is not particularly interested in creating culture where Christian is used as an adjective (Christian music, Christian movies, etc.).

Bloodchild and other Stories by Octavia Butler

Bloodchild and other Stories by Octavia ButlerSummary: Six short stories and introductions by Octavia Butler.

As regular readers know, I am not a fan of short stories. Most of the time the issue is that I want more from the stories, more characters, more story, more development.

The Bloodchild collection was one of the better short story collections I have read. In large part because each of the stories also included a discussion section by Butler. This gives me part of that more that I am looking for. I could see what prompted the story, or what she was trying to work on to give the short story greater context.

Humble Roots: How Humility Grounds and Nourishes the Soul by Hannah Anderson

Humble Roots- How Humility Grounds and Nourishes the Soul by Hannah AndersonSummary: Humility is the root to spiritual growth.

Humility is a hard topics. It is widely misunderstood. It is easy to have a false view of humility. And how you do accurately write about humility as a particular person? One option is to write an anonymous book about it. But that isn’t really an option now that it has been done.

I have been listening to the Persuasion Podcast with Hannah Anderson and Erin Straza (Christ and Pop Culture podcast network) pretty regularly for about a year or so. One of the reasons that I like it, is that they are unabashedly podcasting as women. They are not limiting themselves to only ‘women’s topics’, although they do talk about things that are more female oriented at times. But listening to Persuasion, as well as Pass the Mic (African American males) and Truth’s Table (African American Females) all allow me to listen into different groups that are not directly speaking to me. They are speaking as themselves and they invite people that are not like them to listen.

Listening to the audiobook of Humble Roots reminded me of the importance of listening to different voices. Hannah Anderson’s take on humility is naturally impacted by being a woman and a mother and a pastor’s wife and all of the other things that are in her background. When I think about humility there are parts of it that are just different from what Hannah Anderson has written about. And that is part of the importance of humility. Humility as a spiritual matter, reminds us that we are created creatures and not ourselves God. We have perspectives that are limited because we as creatures are limited. That doesn’t mean that we can’t understand the larger issues around concepts like humility, but it means that no matter how hard we try, we can never capture the entirety of a concept.

The Summer of the Great-Grandmother by Madeleine L’Engle

The Summer of the Great-Grandmother by Madeleine L'EngleSummary: Thoughts and memories of Madeleine’s early life and family as she deals with her mother’s impending death.

I have been really enjoying reading several of L’Engle’s books as they have been brought back to print. It is even better if you can pick them up cheaply. Today (not sure for how long) The Summer of the Great Grandmother is on sale for $0.99. Also on sale is the fourth in this series, Two Part Invention: The Story of a Marriage and one of her novels, The Other Side of the Sun (a dark southern thriller).

The Summer of the Great-Grandmother is about Madeleine L’Engle’s final summer with her mother. You assume from the beginning that at some point her mother will pass away (and she does.) But that is part of what is important about this book. All people will die at some point. Living in family means both birth and death happen.

The setting of this, like her other Crosswick Journals, is their summer home. It is the home that her children were born in. But now that the family lives in New York City, it is where they spend their summers. This summer, and most summers, there are four generations in the home. But unlike previous summers, Madeleine’s mothers is confused and needing constant care.

This allows for L’Engle to reflect on her early life, the death of her father when she was young, the life of he earlier ancestors and the meaning of life and family. As with the first book in this series, there is lots of wisdom in these pages.

The Sphinx At Dawn: Two Stories by Madeleine L’Engle

The Sphinx At Dawn: Two Stories by Madeleine L'EngleSummary: Two short stories about Jesus as a child in Egypt.

I have been reading Madeline L’Engle’s Crosswick Journals. These are a series of four memoirs that are thematic, but tracing a summer at her rural Connecticut home. She and her husband lived there for seven years early in their marriage before returning back to New York City to live full time (her husband was an actor.)

But during the summers they mostly lived at Crosswick. I am almost finished with the second of them and I have very much enjoyed her wisdom and understanding more about her as a person as she recounts her story and the story of her family.

So I am picking up anything that she has written as it goes on sale. (A digital publisher has picked up digital rights to many of her out of print books and has been releasing them over the past year.) The Sphinx At Dawn was released in February and briefly on sale a couple weeks ago.

Some Sales to Note

Audible is having a 2 books for 1 credit sale for members. I have read about a dozen books on the list. Sale ends on May 22nd.

Christianaudio.com is having a $4.99 saleI picked up three and have finished two so far.

A number of books that Bookwi.se has reviewed are on sale for Kindle. I am linking to the reviews and the reviews have links to the sale Kindle Books.

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell – $1.99 – theologically rich science fiction

Crazy Dangerous by Andrew Klavan – $2.99 – stand alone young adult thriller

The Homelanders by Andrew Klavan – $3.99 – this is a four book youth adult thriller series that is combined into a single volume kindle edition.

The Tudors: A Very Short Introduction by John Guy – $0.99

Back on Murder by J Mark Bertrand – Free – good Christian police procedural

Storm Front by Jim Butcher – $2.99 – the start of the good urban fantasy series Dresden Files

Pines by Blake Crouch – $1.99 – thriller that was made into a TV show.

Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving and Finding the Church by Rachel Held Evans – $1.99 – memoir

Scary Close: Dropping the Act and Finding True Intimacy by Donald Miller – $2.99 – memoir and relationships

Through the Door by Jodi McIsaac – $1.50 – fantasy

And a couple I have not yet read that look interesting

Across that Bridge: Life Lessons and a Vision for Change by John Lewis – $2.99

Thank You for Smoking by Christopher Buckley – $1.99

Reviving Old Scratch: Demons and the Devil for the Doubters and Disenchanted by Richard Beck

Reviving Old Scratch: Demons and the Devil for the Doubters and Disenchanted by Richard BeckSummary: Satan, at least as a concept, it pretty important part of Christianity. Even for those that are resistant to seeing Satan behind every sin or temptation, the theological concept of something greater than simple temptation or individual sin is important.

Richard Beck is a psychologist that writes theology. And honestly, he is one of the best theologians that I have read. He is accessible. Beck is a long time blogger. And much of his books have been heavily worked out on his blog prior to becoming full books. So the chapters tend to be short and focused. There tends to be lots of stories and illustrations. And there tends to be relatively few footnotes.

Beck is on the liberal end of Christianity. He is not overly fond of Penal Substitutionary Atonement theories. (He likes Christus Victor as his primary atonement theory.) But does not reject the basics of Christian orthodox theology. Theology for Beck has to be practical to the people around him. And while Beck is an academic and college professor ( academics and college students are some of the people that the theology has to work for) he is also a prison chaplain and a member at a church that leans Pentecostal and poor.

In many ways Reviving Old Scratch is riffing off of Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age. One of the central images of the book is the Jefferson bible. Jefferson snipped out all of the miracles and difficult passages for Jefferson’s rationalist mindset. But just because you have difficulty with the supernatural does not mean that the supernatural does not exist.

The Thing Itself by Adam Roberts

Summary: There is no way to really describe this book.

I have never heard of Adam Roberts prior to this book. But he has written several books as a sci-fi novelist and he is a professor of 19th century English literature at the University of London.

Both John Wilson and Alan Jacobs spoke very highly of The Thing Itself (John made it his book of the year for 2016), so I added it to my list. Anything that both Alan and John highly recommend I will read.

It is not a traditional scifi book. While it deals with science fiction concepts (time travel, Artificial Intelligence, conspiracy theories, etc.) it also spends a lot of time discussion philosophy, especially Kant. Adam Roberts is an atheist. John Wilson has a quote from Roberts in his piece, “As an atheist writing a novel about why you should believe in God, I have taken more than I can say from the eloquent and persuasive devotional writing of my friends Alan Jacobs and Francis Spufford, Christians both.”

That line was enough to make me pick up the book. But when I read Alan Jacob’s piece again (linked above) after I finished, I am reminded that there is often much more going on in a book than what is immediately obvious to the average reader. I am not a well read Kant scholar. I feel like I need to read a book on Kant and then go back and re-read The Thing Itself again. I understand the basic book, but I do think I missed a lot.

The Ghost Brigades by John Scalzi (Old Man’s War #2)

The Ghost Brigades by John Scalzi (Old Man’s War #2)Takeaway: Super soldiers, bred for combat get frustrated with worthless wars too.

It has been five years since I read the first book in this years, Old Man’s War. I probably should have re-read it before I started this. But I did not and so it took a little while to remember the previous book and all the characters and story line that I was supposed to be remembering.

The first book was about humans from earth that when they were near death, were allowed to leave earth and be given new bodies, in exchange for 10 years of service in the military. It was a riff off of Heinlein’s Starship Troopers. It was bleak and a mostly anti-war, war book.

Ghost Brigades is about the second part of the military. Instead of using the minds of the elderly in new bodies, the special forces units are specifically bred as fighting machines. They are still mostly human. But they have been genetically altered and ‘birthed’ as adults. They are kept away from building many real relationships with normally born humans and tightly bonded with their squads.

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

Norse Mythology by Neil GaimanSummary: Fairly straight retelling of a number of Norse myths.

I am a big Neil Gaiman fan. And I love his voice as a narrator. So it was really inevitable that I would pick up this new book of Norse Mythology.

I had a few hesitations, reviews from people that are seeped in Norse mythology have been fairly mediocre. But this is an introduction to Norse Mythology, not a masters level literature course. So I drug my feet a bit until I had four different online friends finish it and give it decent reviews.

And it was pretty much like I expected. I still am not a fan of most short story collections, even those by Gaiman. Norse Mythology is a collection of short stories, they are all Norse Myths, but they are short stories.

I did enjoy seeing some of the ideas behind different elements of Gaiman’s American Gods book and a few other of his stories. He has known these stories for a long time and they are well into his head. Rick Riordan’s new series, Magnus Chase is also based on Norse myths and several of the stories here are in Magnus Chase.