Saturday, September 01, 2018

Books read in September 2018

1. On the Crofter's Trail by Craig David (Author)

I was given this by a friend whose family was cleared from Strath Never. A book to bring tears to your eyes. man's inhumanity to man. The opening chapters I found rather dull and hard going but once we were in Canada the stories came to life. Much of this is criticised by historians as mere oral tradition but that is the way history is transmitted in all cultures and this makes it all the more significant. It shows the way history is remembered. Sometimes it was too painful and suppressed as old soldiers do with their stories. But it is brilliantly and passionately recounted, edited by a man passionate about this terrible tale. It should indeed provoke outrage and thankfulness one lives in better times. Here were people burned out in evictions. Shipped in ships more crowded than slave ships. Some were merely dumped on the inhospitable coast of Canada. I once wondered why Highlanders were so antipathetic to English Conservatives. Here you lean why. It is enough to turn anyone to the SNP! This book is also quite one to whet ones appetite for travel to see the places he describes so well. I have been to many of the Scotland locations but now Canada calls. The stories of the suffering are enough to make one weep but there is one tale that made me laugh out loud - the black pot. I also found it interesting how a persecuted people become persecutors themselves in another land - the crofters in Canada's attitude to the subsequent waves of immigrants and to the indigenous peoples.

2. Voices from the Past: Puritan Devotional Readings by Richard Rushing  (Editor)

Excellent daily devotions for a year and antiquated language has been modernised. When I read the second volume I thought it Puritan blessed thought rather than an exegesis of the texts but now I see the editor chose the texts to fit the daily readings. I note Watson and Baxter are deservedly the main contributors - the most quotable and the most prolific of Puritan authors. But as I said on volume 2, it is a pity dates were not given nor references to actual sources. 

3. 2,000 Years of Christ's Power Vol. 4: The Age of Religious Conflict - Nick Nedham

The best church history book I have read. I learned a lot about Lutheranism,  Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy. But where the book came really alive was England and Scotland. The understanding of the development of Anglicanism, Puritanism is superb. The conflicting currents before, during and after the Civil War are well described. I never realised the endless divisions in Scotland over the covenants. God moves in mysterious ways. As well as the history we are treated to excerpts from primary sources too. as well as lists of important people. My only query is that I have no doubt which side Bunyan would have fought on in the civil war. A no brainer surely? Now to read the former volumes and to await the last in the series.

4. Walk Through History: Discover Victorian London by Christopher Winn  (Author)

It does what it says for as you follow the maps and the clear instructions you learn the history of the London built by the Victorians. It is a convenient size to hold in one hand then pocket it as you take your photographs. But when I follow it I see lots of other newer or older buildings en route and natural curiosity makes me wish I had to hand a guide including those too. But this book does not claim to be a comprehensive guide to all of London's sites. Very educational.

5. In Bitter Chill (DC Childs mystery) by Sarah Ward  (Author)

I read this because the author's name came up when I was researching my family tree. Lo and behold her main character is a genealogist and our family name is there as a character mentioned in the book too. But the family connection has not influenced my review. This is the best crime novel I have read for a long time. Loved the setting. The characters seem well delineated. The plot is complicated but not too much so. It is reasonably easy to follow but a glossary of the characters would have helped. Unlike most modern writers there is no explicit sex.  Sex yes but tastefully discreet.If I want to read more crime apart from the next Grisham, Ward will be my author of choice.

6. Derailing Democracy in Afghanistan: Elections in an Unstable Political Landscape by Noah Coburn  (Author), Anna Larson  (Author)

I have met one of the authors. I visited  Afghanistan in 2006. Well written good scholarship and detailed research, but I wonder about the title. Surely the text shows that democracy as we know it is impossible in this country? For starters, this is not a nation state. It is a clongomeration of waring tribes who only ever come together in order to defeat an invader. They did it twice to Britain and once to the former USSR. What central power has ever had a rule of law over this failed state? It is a mess and will remain a mess. For the West to try and impose democracy - well it seems on the surface to be a good idea but the\narrative here related shows it to be a false hope. 
   I found the anthropology very interesting as democracy smacks here of a cultural imperialism by invading powers masquerading as a good idea because the ruling elite go along with it for their own self interest. I am tempted to say the book tells me we should be out of there and leave the locals to go back to their usual habits of killing one another. Helping Muslim dominated states is a thankless task. Keep clear seems sensible. Does the West have a responsibility to make rules of a democratic game which is really a farce? The authors conclusions concerning the future of democracy in Afghanistan as perceptive. The whole book serves as a primer for outsiders to understand how this country functions. But one is left to question the wisdom of westerners thinking a representative democracy can follow elections taking place. Liberal democracy took a very long time to evolve in the West. can it be expected to quickly appear in this country? Surely that is an unreal expectation.

7. Hausaland, or, Fifteen Hundred Miles through the Central Soudan by Charles Henry Robinson

Published in 1896 this is an account of Nigeria before if became united as a British colony. Whites were in the south for commercial and missionary reasons but the north was a different, largely Islamic world. Read the account of these Englishmen going as pioneers into the north. It is a different world. The problems of travel on foot, of finding and controlling suitable bearers, of payment with salt. Gifts have to be exchanged with the ruling local powers en route to Kano. Cloth is a medium of exchange for the local currency of cowries is not portable. They are in want of a currency and means of transport. Slavery is endemic and it is Muslims enslaving unbelievers, a continuation of the jihad 0f Usmani Dan Fodio at the start of the 19th century. Slaves are used by the rich for currency when travelling. Thus is pre-colonial Africa.  He wants to see Britain take up its responsibility agreed when at the Berlin conference the European powers divided up the continent. He describes Islam here from his missionary perspective. Details of medicine and pilgrimage are given. Fascinating history and anthropology. 

8. “Giants in the Land Pioneers of Reformational Thought" Volume 1 
Guillaume Groen van Prinsterer, Abraham Kuyper, Herman Bavinck
 - Compiler, Chief Translator and Chief Editor:
Dr. Jan H. Boer

This is a ebook available on An introduction to three great
 men from the Dutch reformed churches. Boer is a great enthusiast for
 reformational thought , reformed theology applied to all of life and in
 a way that combines understanding with true spirituality. Here are men
 of true piety who were the antithesis of pietists. The book is a resource
 of links to the writings of these men and those who have written
 concerning them.

9. Causes of the Jihad of Usman Ɗan Fodio: A Historiographical Review
 -John Edward Philips,

I was sent this by the author because of a shared interest in the north
 of Nigeria. The causes of the Jihad of Usman Ɗan Fodio. are 
classified  as religious, ethnic and socio-economic. I think the paper
 lacks a clear delineation of what society was like before the jihad
 and afterwards particularly in religion and in slavery. One wants to
 know more concerning the origins of Islam in the area among 
Hausas and in Borno.

10. Who will send rain? by Pat Appleton

Here are true stories of the African Christians. They happened between
 1900 and 2014. The author says she writes to reach Christians in
various African countries and also to interest and encourage Christians
young and old where ever they live. As I started the book one read of
miraculous answers to prayer, endurance in persecution, providence,
God spreading the gospel. These are all most encouraging stories from
 a variety of missionary authors I was particularly moved reading stories
from Nigeria especially Mama Tabitha who I knew from 1970 at Vom
 Christian Hospital and all Chibok girl martyred at the hands of Boko
 Haram. I found this book so encouraging I want to buy copies to give
 away but so far I have yet to find where it is being sold.

11. Magnificent Obsession: Why Jesus is Great by David Robertson

If I could give more than five stars I would. Simply the best book
 of practical apologetics. He takes on the atheists in a convincing
 way. Not that this will change anyone. Only  the Holy Spirit
 does that work.

12 . Story of Craft Beer by Pete Brown (Author)

All you need to know about beer -brewing, types, countries and
home brewing too. Very informative and educational but made
me thirsty.

13. Practical Praying by Linette Martin

This is an unusual book on prayer. My wife and I read it with great 
enjoyment and profit for morning devotions. It is unusual for the 
author starts from the premise that there is more to prayer than mere
 talking with God. She talks of prayer with smiles and glances, the
 importance of times and places, praying without words.. She had 
been a dancer and emphasises the part the body places with a chapter
 on choreography. It is very practical on special situations, praying
 when it is boring and difficult, praying with others, praying in church.
 Linette goes beyond the evangelical and reformed tradition with her 
views on icons and prayers for the dead but this book is so much a 
practical treatise I still deem it worthy of five stars. I knew the author
 and incidents in her life mentioned I can recall. She writes as a  
Christian mother not as a church professional. A book for the every
 day believer.

14. What does the Bible really say about.? Social Media by David 

An excellent practical introduction for Christians of all ages but 
particularly for an older generation wondering what young people
 are doing. Social media like atomic power or television is as good 
or bad as the uses to which it is put. But it has its dangers warned
 about here especially it taking over one's life and narcissism. I
would like to see more on the blessing of social media as a means
of Christian witness. The final chapter on the local church as
THE real social medium is a timely lesson for all.

15. Dorset from the Air by Jason Hawkes  (Author)

Great photography but lacks an index to the places.

16. The Grace of God and MS - The story of Ann Yates (Life Stories) 
by Les Yates (Author)

This book is in two parts. The first is the biography of the author - how
 he left a dissolute life for Christian faith and met his wife to be, Ann. The
second is an account to the grace of God to them both through years of 
Ann's multiple sclerosis. This terrible incurable degenerative disease
 takes many forms as it progresses. For my own uncle it was progressive
 paralysis and loss eventually of all control of muscle function. As a 
pharmacist I have seen other ways the sufferers; health degenerated over 
years. I have also observed the enduring love of spouses caring as the 
partner is debilitated. This book bears witness to the grace of God 
sustaining enduring love in the most difficult circumstances. It would be
 a good read for anyone about to make marital vows of 'in sickness and in
 health'. Sometimes the clinical details are very intimately described. But 
the author is very honest about his own failings and reliance on God's grace.
 A book about real love.


This was published earlier as The Footsteps of God. I first read it and 
reviewed in 2006. Read again 12 years later.Simply the best book on church
 history I have read if one considers the needs of the ordinary Christian. 
From the early martyrs through to Spurgeon, John Legg writes biographies 
that inform the mind and move the heart. I cannot recommend this book too highly. 
It is full of great quotes from great men and women. Finally the truths 
taught from history are applied to today.

18Duties of Christian Fellowship: A Manual for Church Members (Puritan

 Paperbacks) - John Owen

At last. Easy to read Owen. Originally Eschol: A Cluster of the Grapes of Canaan. 

It is a good manual for church members. Rules for walking in fellowship with your 
pastor and fellow believers. Very practical. I shall be recommending it to our 
house group organiser.

19. Scripture Reading to the End by Bill Newton (Author)

The 1918 diary of an army Scripture Reader who was an old soldier himself. He comforted the wounded in hospital behind the front, ministering the gospel and hope to them. Moving stories of suffering, courage and faith. The horror, suffering and pity of war. It was not sweet and fitting to be dying or wounded for one's country.

20. People in the Bible Caleb: Man of faith who followed God fully by Robert Dale  (Author)

A study of the life of the spy who with Joshua gave a good report of the prospects of Israel entering the promised land. The life story of this man of faith with many lessons drawn and then applied to the Christian today.

21. No Man's Debtor by Michael Toogood (Author)

This book is the missiological opposite of the church growth movement. Instead of looking for promising fertile sol for scattering gospel seed the author went to the most unlikely place n England to plant a church, the sex industry heartland of Soho. I went to West Africa as a missionary. It was an easy transition compared to taking a one's family to a council flat in Soho not fit for anyone. But this pastor persevered starting with cold calling in the neighbourhood. Over two decades a gospel church was planted. This book is proof that prayer and pains for Christ Jesus will be blessed.

22. God with us and for us -papers read at the 2017 Westminster Conference

Six papers. The Holy Spirit and the human heart by Stephen Clark - very informative.  A child of light walking in darkness by Guy Davies. I would like to see this related to spiritual depression. Calvin on worship and preaching by Andrew Young. This seems far away from the stated regulative principle with Calvin's liturgy.   Jacob Arminius by Philip Arthur  is a sympathetic treatment on the biography and history was informative on the theology. Benedict Bird on the Synod of Dort and one was surprised to learn how firm a Calvinist James I was. William Williams Pantycelyn by Mark Thomas enlightens one as to an important Welshman .All in all good papers but a biographical note on each of the speakers would be of benefit

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