Sunday, April 02, 2017

Books read April 2017

1. With Mercy and with Judgement: Strict Baptists and the First World War by Matthew J. Hyde 

First hand accounts, memoirs, diaries, letters and poems from those in the First World War. There are Strict Baptists, in fact the Gospel Standard denomination which is hypercalvinist though it is calvinism not a failure to freely offer the gospel which is to the fore. One couplet is quoted by many of the writers. From a  Ryland's hymn, Not a single shaft can hit, Till the God of love sees fit. Many Scriptures and hymns gave comfort but this couplet stood out. The Strict Baptists were not a denomination recognised by the Crown so they had no chaplains of their own. Men might go the Church of England parade services but often complained of little spiritual nourishment except for the hymns. Another peculiarity was the Strict Baptists refusal to heed the King's call for natonal days of prayer. They regarded that as Caesar stepping into the role of God. They also did not have any formal training for pastoral ministry. First we have memoirs and diaries, some accounts being written much later. The horrors of war are exposed, the seeming randomness of killing - unless you believed in the sovereignty of God. Many men went out to fight with no faith but found it in the war. Many complained of the difficulty of finding other Christians and of the profanity of the soldiers. The letter contain less of the fighting for they were censored and more of the spiritual conflict as. However it is in the letters we fid the most horrific account of four brothers, eldest sons of one family, all killed in one month.  It is a moving book and well illustrated with photographs of the soldiers.

2. The Original Highway Code Edited Rod Green

The first, second and fourth editions of the Highway Code in facsimile original prices, 1d, 1d and 6d.1935 is sparse. 1946 more modern and 1954 though more modern is still not in the motorway era. Good historical insights into the development of road usage.

3. London Street Atlas - Historical Edition (A-Z Street Maps & Atlases) by Geographers A-Z Map Company 

The original, published in 1939, reproduced in facsimile. Good to see one's are and how it has changed.

Great City Maps by DK 

A fascinating selection of city maps from ancient to modern. Some cities have more than one map so you see their development. One also sees the development the art of cartography. Quite a lot of history here too, the most graphic being theOttoman siege of Vienna. 1529.

5. 365 Reasons to be Proud to be British: Magical Moments in Our Great History by: Richard Happer

It does what the title says. Each day of the year an invention or achievement is listed. Some well known, some obscure and as eccentric as our country.

6. Andrew Gillon: A Tale of Scottish Covenanters by John Strathesh

This is a Victorian account of a Scottish father telling his children the history of the covenanters. The first part is an historical novel of a fictitious youth, Andrew Gillon who witnesses the murder of Archbishop Sharp. He becomes a fugitive with many adventures but eventually pays the ultimate price of a cruel martyrdom. The final part of the book is a brief history of the Scottish reformation, struggles under the Stuarts, covenants, killing times and eventual freedom under law in the glorious revolution of 1688.

7. The Timetables of History: A Horizontal Linkage of People and Events by Bernard Grun Eva Simpson 

Whenever I research an historical period, this book is my first port of call. It gives the politics, events, religion, art, literature etc of any given period. As time goes on towards the modern, entries become more detailed. But for putting events in context, this is the best of books.

8. Music to Move the Stars: A Life with Stephen by Jane Hawking 

Jane Hawking gave up any hope of a career for the love of a man she knew to be suffering from an incurable disease. Stephen Hawking is a genius scientist but he is not an attractive man as portrayed here. He is shown to be self-centred and demanding, coming from a family that could be insensitive in the extreme. What sort of a mother in law asks if a child is her son's or someone els's? Jane is a woman who devotes 25 years of marriage to care for her eccentric, demanding husband. For many years he insists only his wife nurse him. When eventually nurses become necessary, one of them manages to seduce him away from his wife, estranging them and breaking up the marriage. Jane had a selfless commitment. She writes well and comes across as a faithful, long suffering patient wife despite the temptation to have a sexual relationship with Jonathan Jones, an extraordinary helper to the family, a man with the full respect and confidence of Stephen Hawking. After the hawking divorce, Stephen marries his nurse, Have her Jonathan. One recurrent theme of the book is the male chauvinist, uncaring Cambridge academic society. Also the lack of NHS care for the disabled and the provision of facilities for them.  Jane draws comfort from Christian faith but it is more centred on help received from Christin friends than a strong orthodox belief. But she stands out against her husband's atheism.The one point where I part company from her is her left wing politics and her criticisms of all things Thatcher. However in her marital love and her love for her children she comes across as a great woman worthy of admiration.

9. Solid Joys and Lasting Treasure: Historical Companion to Many Favourite Hymns by Tyler Whittle 

I am afraid this book shows too much of the prejudices of the author. He dislikes calvinism and Puritans. He puts Unitarians among Christian hymn writers. He has a great liking for the Victorian anglo-catholics. He majors with biographical detain on minot hymn writers who are perhaps remembered for only one hymn. He gives no mention of some well remembered and sung writers, in particular Horatius Bonar, perhaps the greatest of Scottish hymn writers and Ira Sankey, now out of fashion but the most sung writer of his age. This book is informative but unbalanced.

10. Eccentric Preachers by Charles H. Spurgeon 

It takes one to know one. Spurgeon was the Victorian prince of preachers. He could be eccentric too. Stories about of his wit and repartee. He said that those who criticised him for pulpit humour had no idea how mush he suppressed. Here he collects anecdotes of preachers classed as eccentric. One might merely label them as striking in approach and delivery. They all like CHS loved the Lord, preached the gospel and showed love to sinners. The message to the preacher is to be passionate about the gospel and be yourself in communication. 

11. The Jewel In The Crown (The Raj Quartet) by Paul Scott 

I read this with anticipation of a very good book but it did not reach my expectations and so I will not continue onto the other three books in the series. I think it paints a very good picture of India in WW II prior to independence. Nationalist sentiments are rising and the British reaction is severe. How the British view Indians and vice-versa is well portrayed as is the diversity of sentiments among the British. But the racism and segregation is everywhere much to the discomfort of one of the main characters, Hari Kumar, ex English public school so neither fish nor fowl when he has o return penniless to India where he cannot feel at home. One weakness of the book is that we never find out what happens to him in the end. Perhaps he reappears in a subsequent volume. The book does not have a happy ending. Rather like the Raj itself.

12.  Extreme Anglicanism: A Liturgical Guide to the Sporting Year by Catherine Fox 

You do not need to be Anglican to enjoy this book. All you need is a little knowledge of matters Christian and a sense of humour. There are not many really funny Christian books but this is a great one.

13. I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes 

What a debut thriller! It is long but kept me turning the pages. I am not qualified to comment on how true to reality this story might be, how credible, but of the facts I do know, there is only one minor error. There are no Christian missionaries in Afghanistan and expatriate NGO workers have to undertake not to prosiletise Afghans. That is a minor quibble in a great book right up in the Forsyth and Seymour premier league. Strangely this is one of the few books I have read twice and the only one where I have done so inadvertently. My son loaned it to me and I started reading without knowing I had been here before. Then odd sections seemed familiar. But I could not anticipate where the story was going and certainly I had forgotten the climactic ending. I think the story better than my memory.

14. Prison Service in Britain (Images of England) by Beverly Baker Laura Butler 

A pictorial account of the history of prisons for medieval times to the modern. The development from punishment to rehabilitation is chronicled  and present conditions described.This book is a 2006 publication. Revision with up to date statistics would be helpful.

15. Tales of Mulla Nasruddin: For Children of All Ages (New World Literature Series) by P. Raja 

Who said there is no humour in Islam? Nasruddin proves there is wit and humour in the Islamic world.  Various countries claim him as their own. He belongs to the world of short stories with a humorous twist. Some are even laugh out lod ones.

16. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (Dover Thrift Editions) by Frederick Douglass 

This is an horrific account of the early life of a man born in slavery in Maryland. In his twenties he escapes to freedom in the north but to protect others he gives no details of his escape. What is detailed is the monstrous cruelty of the slave owners, their brutality and dehumanising of the slaves who had no rights whatsoever. They could not even give legal testimony as to any offences committed by whites. Worst of all, Douglass reckons the cruelest slavers to be those loudly professing their religion. An eloquent testimony from a self educated man who rose against all the odds. He had been forbidden to learn to read, part of the subjection he suffered. A first rate, first hand account of southern slavery. 

17. Hus the Heretic by Poggius the Papist (Author), Paul Tice (Author)

Little is known today of Jan Hus the Bohemian martyred in 1415. He was rector of the University of Prague and a follower of the doctrines of Wycliffe. Summoned by the Roman Catholic church to a council in Constance, Switzerland he was tried for heresy and burned at the stake despite the emperor having previously given him a safe conduct. Before execution he was incarcerated in terrible conditions for several months. Like Luther, later, he refused to recant unless his views were refuted by scripture. But a majority of the church leaders voted for his death. This book is in two parts. The first is by Fra Poggius who was sent to examine Hus but who became his friend He relates the trip and execution in detail. The second part is by a modern historian who also tells of Jerome, Hus's disciple who was also martyred. A moving book of the price paid for reformation.

18. The Christian and modern business enterprise by B Goudzwaard (Author)

The author was formerly a member of the Dutch parliament and he writes particularly in the context of labour relations in Canada where Christians have found difficulty in having their own trades unions. This book starts with a fine statement how there is no neutrality in life, no common sense shared approach for all. In all of life the Christian seeks a Christian approach not a humanistic one. This is a brief but excellent treatment of how the workers, not only the providers of capita,l should have a part in the running of business enterprises. It is a good example of the application of sphere sovereignty.

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