Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Books read in July 2012

1. Can We Have Our Balls Back, Please?: How the British Invented Sport by Julian Norridge


If you want to know the origins of a given sport, look here. Some, like baseball, will surprise you. Only one big sport, basketball, has no British links. This British history of sport is inextricably intertwines with two things, class and gambling. Perhaps a chapter on the history of bookmaking would have been appropriate.


2. The Tolpuddle Martyrs by Joyce Marlow


In 1834 six Dorset farm workers who had formed a trades union were charged with administering unlawful oaths. The law had been passed to prevent mutinies. It was wrongly used b the local and national establishment to strike a blow against trades unions which were legal but feared. Found guilty, these men of good character, mostly active Methodists were sentenced to the maximum penalty of transportation to Australia for seven years. The horrific, brutal conditions at sea and in the penal colonies are well described. These sentences provoked huge popular and political protests. But it took over two years before pardons were given and the men brought back home. Wives and children had been supported by public giving and such help bought two farms in Essex for most of the families. Later they emigrated to Canada where they lived and died in anonymity. They had been sustained in adversity by strong personal faith. They received no support from either the Methodist nor the Established churches. These men are seen as martyrs for trades unionism. Their leader believed he was as much suffering for his religious dissent.


3. What Is the Mission of the Church by Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert


What is the church meant to be doing, evangelism or social action? The authors clearly show that the Great Commission defines the role of the church. She is there to preach the gospel, making disciples and teaching them. As to a ministry of social justice, one may be surprised that it is only when well into the second chapter on the subject that a definition is attempted. I think the book's methodology and conclusions are biblical and helpful. What surprised me was no reference to any concept of sphere sovereignty whereby Christians may act together in Christ's name but not as church


4. A Boy's Own Dale by Terry Wilson


Like the author, my childhood was fifties Yorkshire. So I could relate to the community and family described here. It is a delightful read from a boy with a lot of initiative.


5. The Radical Disciple by John Stott


This book was the octogenarian Stott finishing his written ministry two years before his death. His writing as ever carries the hallmarks of his ministry, Biblical, clear and profoundly wise. Apart from his seeming wholesale acceptance of man made global warming I have no critical comments, only admiration for the clarity and simplicity of his teaching. Best of all is the chapter on dependency. It is not easy to find good writing on the subject of ageing.


6. Oliver Cromwell: A Pictorial Record by J. Batty


A short biography with many contemporary black and white prints. Definitely by a fan of the great man and only really suitable for like minded readers of which I am one.


7. A Little History of the World by Ernst Gombrich


How one views history depends upon the vantage point. I was taught anglocentric history. Here is history from a Jew in 1935 Vienna. Written for children but suitable for all, the major emphasis is on Europe, a Europe not centred on Britain. It is good, educational writing with some surprises. Jewish and Christian origins are related with no supernatural claims while Mohammed seems to really have conversed with the angel Gabriel. The story ends with the first world war, the final chapter being a personal postscript briefly updating major 20th century events in the lifetime of the author. An index would be helpful.


8. Not Forgotten by Neil Oliver


The government decided that no-one who died in a foreign field during WWI would have their body repatriated. Instead they were commemorated close to where they fell and ay home, after the war, over 36,000 memorials were erected by communities wanting to remember their dead. Neil Oliver tells the stories of some memorials and some of the names. He intersperses this with personal family history having had both grandfathers serving in the conflict. A moving book and fitting tribute to a now past generation.


9. Travel with William Tyndale: England's Greatest Bible Translator (Day One Travel Guides) by Brian H. Edwards


Tyndale did more than anyone to influence our language for his Bible translation was toinfluence all subsequent translations. He suffered exile and death for his faith. Here are detailed his history and faith in the context of the Reformation. As much a history as a travel guide.


10. Travel Through Cambridge: City of Beauty, Reformation and Pioneering Research (Day One Travel Guide by David Berkley


A guide to both buildings and history of the city. Extensive history to show howCambridge was the birthplace of the Reformation and of much modern science too. It would be good to have more details of if and when places are open to the public.


11. Death Destruction and a Packet of Peanuts: A Rollicking Pub Crawl Through Four Years Of The English Civil War by Chris Pascoe


An unusual guide to most of the major sites of the first English civil war, theirmonuments and pubs. One is surprised how little the civil war is remembered and commemorated. Not a single museum found but some pubs with good exhibits. Not finding drunkenness amusing I did not appreciate the supposed humour but the pub crawl is informative if you want to find good beer and civil war commemoration. The description of the battles could be enhanced by simple maps.


12.  Timebomb by Gerald Seymour


I still think Seymour is the best thriller writer, but this is not his best work. It follows his usual style of contemporary subject with disparate initial strands woven together to a climax. I found some of his main characters less than believable. The top MI6 man is ruthless beyond any ethic. The main Russian gangster lives humbly under the thumb of his grandmother whose experiences in Sobibor are horrifically told. I am afraid I thought the end weak and predictable. Not, I think, the usual Seymour standard.


13. BIBLE DELIGHT (Proclamation Trust Media) by CHRISTOPHER ASH


A fine exposition of Ps 119. Our housegroup used it for studies and found itmost stimulating though the commentary was much more helpful than the questions. The author provides his own translation from the Hebrew.


14. Your Case is Hopeless: Bracing Advice from the "Boy's Own Paper" [Hardcover]
Karl Sabbagh 

Collected answers to questions sent in to a Victorian boys magazine. Answers only showing a very different world where we, the British, were confident in our superiority and right to rule. Not for the politically correct today.

15. Human Smoke: The Beginnings of World War II, the End of Civilization by 
Nicholson Baker

It is not until the last page that one is sure of the author's perspective. He thinks the pacifists who opposed America joining WW2 were right. How, on the evidence he cites as to Nazi evil, he can come to this conclusion is beyond me. It has to be in the true sense, a prejudicial view. The perspective of the book is American. There is little about pacifist resistance in the UK. The horrors of the treatment of the Jews are well related as is the resistance of the UK and USA to take in Jewish refugees. Bombing of civilian targets was initiated by the British. The Battle of Britain is ignored. Much id made of the British blockade of Germany. Nothing is said of the U-Boat blockade. The US support for China and provocation of Japan were news to me. War is horrible, but unlike the author, I think sometimes it is a necessary evil.


16. A Little Boy's War  by Roy Bartlett 

The author was nine years old when war was declared. Briefly evacuated to Buckinghamshire he was back home in Ealing before the bombing started. He has written a most evocative account of life in London . He brings the bombing alive as well as the privations of war time life. West London did not suffer the worst of the bombing but there was considerable loss of life in Ealing, especially later on from the V1 flying bombs. If you want to know what it felt like to live through WW2 in London, read this book. 

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