Monday, April 01, 2019

Books read in April 2019

1. 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos by Jordan B. Peterson  (Author)

Take responsibility is the message of this book. It is one of the best and most stimulating I have read recently. Other reviewers criticise his religious references. They should remove their secularist blinkers. My problem is the opposite. Peterson self identifies as a Christian but I would say he is a liberal one holding to evolutionary theory even in his views on the Bible. Despite his uncritical acceptance of the evolutionary document theory of the Pentateuch he has many good lessons to draw from Scripture as well as his own psychology speciality. But he treats the Bible as a source among sources of ancient wisdom. In the words of Francis Schaeffer, he does not sit in the supernaturalist's chair. The Bible seems to merely be a collection of the religious genius of the Hebrews. But despite this I love the book and want to re-read it now slowly and ponder Peterson's wsdom. He is a very able storyteller but sometimes the theory is hard going. I found his account of his daughter's illness moving to the point of felling uncomfortable. He is a telling critic of the follies of a postmodernist world. He has an antidote to its chaos - take responsibility. Interestingly the topic that brought him to public attention, transgenderism, is not in the index at all.

2.The Crook in the Lot: What to Believe When Our Lot in Life Is Not Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Thomas Boston  (Author)

First published in 1737 five years after the death of the author. The title is incomprehensible as the language is of its time. I found it harder to read than Rutherford's letters though they are a century earlier and are full of Scots words. Never was a book so in need of modernising. This is a great pity because it is a great book. But few will have the patience and perseverance to understand it. Antiquated language is a crook in a modern person's lot.

3. At a Time like This by Simon Manchester

My pastor has used this when asked to take funerals for non-Christians. I may use it too to give to bereaved relatives if I am in future to officiate at a funeral. It seems to answer questions about loss and grief. It seems to present the gospel without being pushy. But the proof of the pudding will be in the eating.

4. John Flavel, Volume 1 by John Flavel  (Author)

A short biography of this Puritan from Dartmouth, then his Fountain of Life, A display of Christ in his Essential and Mediatorial Glory in 42 sermons. Written in 1671 mine is a reprint of an 1820 edition. Christ in his person and work. up to his return.

5.England's Thousand Best Churches by Simon Jenkins  (Author)

Of course this has to be selective and a somewhat subjective choice. What is here is very good with much information historical and architectural but one will be sorry to see few local churches make the cut no matter where you live. But when you venture forth, take it with you and seek the delights of our church heritage.

6. The Oxford Companion to Music (Oxford Reference)by Percy A. Scholes (Author), John Owen Ward (Editor)

Standard go to reference work. Never fails us - ignorant me and music teacher wife. I found the articles of the Puritans and on hymns very good, subjects where I am not so ignorant. I am surprised that Scholes did not reference his own volume on the Puritan subject which is excellent.

7. The Lion in the North by John Prebble  (Author)

Scottish history up to the mid 19th century. Beautiful colour plates. Very well illustrated. It is subtitled "A personal view of Scotland's history' and such it is by an Englishman who does not seem to have much sympathy for the Presbyterianism that so influenced post-reformation Scotland. He haves adverse characters judgements on people like Knox and Cromwell. He omits any real analysis of the root causes of conflicts between Stuart kings and Kirk. There is no mention of Rutherford, Lex Rex or the Westminster Assembly. So this seems good on historical fact, poor on the understanding of religion. After all, Prebble was English.

8. Stories Jesus Told: Favourite Stories from the Bible by Nick Butterworth  (Author), Mick Inkpen (Illustrator)

A delightful book to read to your children. The illustrations are full of humour. It does not exactly stick to the Bible's text for it contextualises but by and large the message is well communicated. Informative fun for young and old.

9. Heretics and Believers: A History of the English Reformation by Peter Marshall  (Author)

The title page says  this is a history of the English Reformation. It is the best I have read on the subject yet it is more.It is a history of Tudor England under its last four monarchs and shows the transformation from a unified sacral society slowly changing into one where there was a diversity of belief and one could be a loyal subject of the monarch yet differ in religion from him or her. 
   It is well written with some original turns of phrase which entertain. One gets a feel for the times, how they changed and how confusing a century it was for ordinary people. One gets a real insight into how England and her establish church started to become the diverse things they are today. It is a magnificent erudite achievement and one might hope the author would go on to do the same for Stuart England as themes started here develop.
   It is detailed but not merely an academic text. Two things would enhance it. First of all a time line to fix events in context and linked chronologicay. More illustrations too please. I think a shorter version would prove popular.

10. 365 Days with D L Moody: Collection of daily writings from D L Moody the Lion of Northfield by Kevin Belmonte (Author)

I have read and reviewed several in the 365 days series. This is not a favourite. It is bitty. A text from the KJV, a blessed thought or two from Moody. Short and not really related to the text some days. Then a further blessed thought from the compiler. We did not persevere to the end in out family devotions.

11. The Glory of Grace: An Introduction to the Puritans in Their Own Words by Lewis Allen (Author)

Puritan in popular usage is not an attractive word. The book shows why the writings of the Puritans should be read. Christians who value the heritage of the Puritans are often put off by the antiquated language, style and length of their writings. This book is the antidote for all of this. It introduces with the essence of what Puritanism stood for in its historical context. Eleven chapters give brief biographies of the authors then brief excerpts from their writings. These are given in modern English - a huge help for 21st century readers . They also serve as appetisers, wetting the appetite to read more.

   So this is a book for ordinary Christians unfamiliar with the Puritans' wealth of practical, pastoral teaching. It will also give some surprises to Christians who have read some Puritan works before. I had read books by ten of the eleven Puritans here but Anne Bradstreet was a total surprise. The only Puritan woman among the men and the only poet and she writes emotive love poems. Not the typical stereotype Puritan at all.

12. The Book of Firsts by Melvin Harris (Author)

Mine is a Past Times Special Edition published in 1994 but has the same cover as the ITN edition. Subtitled, The invention and origin of nearly everything, it concentrates on invented things starting with chapters on steam, road vehicles, aviation, photography, movies, sound broadcasting, TV, sound recording, tools of conflict and then sundry items from the sublime to the ridiculous including the man who made a fortune as a farting entertainer. What is omits is foods except synthetic ones, drink except synthetic,. There is nothing on the origins of tea, coffee, spirits or smoking. But a rag bag of useful and trivial historic information.

13. The Penguin Dictionary of Modern History, 1789-1945 (Reference Books) by Alan Palmer  (Author)

Mine was published in 1964 and reprinted in 1971. Short articles on a wide variety of subjects, Most I sought are there. Very informative.

14.Bigger Book of British Lists by Hunter Davies (Author), George Darby (Author)

Published in 1982 some things have moved on but this gives a snapshot of Britain then from sublime to ridiculous. Informative, quirky and fun

15.C.H. Spurgeon's Autobiography, Compiled from his Diary, Letters, and Records, by His Wife, and His Private Secretary. Vol.I: 1834-1854. Vol.II: 1854-1860. Vol.III: 1856-1873. Vol.IV: 1878-1892. by Susannah.) (Spurgeon Thompson (Author)

My four volume set is 1897 by Passmore and Alabaster publishers. This is the one from which the Manner's two volume set was abridged. Vol I has a fine plate of a very young CHS, probably a teenager. for it covers his first twenty years. Vol II is the next six years so still has a hirsute young man in his twenties. The later volumes have the bearded man we know and love and there are many more photographs. A great set of large volumes.

16. Tyndale's New Testament by D Daniell (Author)

A modern spelling edition of Tyndale's 1534 translation of the New testament. I believe there is only one surviving copy of the first edition. It was a pocket sized book suitable for concealment and smuggling. It cost Tyndale his life. Found with on in England you might be burned at the stake. It is au unsurpassed achievement and has been described as the most influential book ever published in English. God fulfilled Tyndale's prayer. The future monarchs of England except Bloody Mary) had their eyes opened as to the importance of the word of God. The KJV translates plagiarised Tyndale with no acknowledgement. But the man was a dedicated genius who influenced our language more than any other person, Shakespeare not excepted.

17.Insight Guides: England by Insight Guides

Concise volume. After an introduction to English life and history there are 23 chapters on different regions and guides to accommodation and refreshments and activities.

18. British VCs of World War 2: A Study in Heroism by John Laffin (Author)

A book that brought tears to my eyes. An excellent history of the most prized medal in the world then the exploits and photographs of the heroes. When the medal was made from captured Russian guns in the Crimea the intrinsic value of its bronze metal was1p. Last year the Canadian War Museum bought one for $660,000

19. The Message of Amos: The Day of the Lion (The Bible Speaks Today) by Alec Motyer  (Author)

This is a superb book which is more than a commentary.It is not an academic text but one for all Christians. It is exegesis of Amos, the meaning of the text in its ancient context. Then it is exposition of the text, applying it to the situation of the church today so the contemporary Christian is challenged to see how Amos's teaching applies to Christians today, 28 centuries after the prophet spoke in the ancient northern kingdom of Israel - prosperous and successful in the world but denying its true covenant relationship with the one true God of the whole world. Written over fifty years ago it uses the RSV translation but that is no problem. The one thing which would have been made the book more practically helpful would be to have the whole text of Amos printed in the book. One needs to keep a Bible and this book open together.

20.City of London Churches by John Betjeman  (Author)

A guide to the history and churches of the City of London. Before the Great Fire of 1666 the old walled city of London had 97 parish churches. Here you can find which 11 there today survived the fire. Wren rebuilt 51. Today only 22 of those survive. There are 17 others built after Wren. Of the Wren churches, 19 were destroyed before 1939 as were 7 others. Today there are 39 churches in total. The vandals were largely the Victorians and the Luftwaffe. A very good guide to the history of the churches, who changed them and why their number is reduced.

21. Who's Who 1981 

These days you tend to do an internet search to find out about people from all walks of life. Who's Who does not bother with sportspeople of celebrities. This is the establishment, academics, politicians etc. If will give you more detail on them than does Google. Dated but valuable if you want details of someone's career.

22.The Entire Works of John Bunyan. by John Bunyan (Author), Henry Stebbing (Contributor)

Mine is the four volume set published in1866 and leather bound. It has a biography of Bunyan in volume 1, some full page plates, various drawings and a facsimile of his will. This volume has 13 of his works including Grace Abounding.

23. Men Of The Covenant by Alexander Smellie  (Author)

Mine is the limited de luxe edition of 1908, copy 615 of 920 printed and signed by the author. The prologue gives the historical background in pre-Restoration Scotland then moves to the details history under Charles II. We read of the Covenanters stand for the crown rights of the redeemer against a king and parliament believing in divine right and episcopacy. Here is reformed Christianity standing firm for a church to be ruled by presbyters not a king and bishops. The lives and deaths of many courageous martyrs are delineated.  Very moving.

24. Dickie Bird's Britain by Dickie Bird  (Author)

My favourite Yorkshireman tours the country aided by Drabb's fine photographs. Bird is a good a travel and history guide as well as the best known umpire. What I did not know is that he is a keen Christian and true to his native county, a Methodist. I was very impressed by his chapter on Christians in sport. Who else could have a chapter praising Barnsley as a place of note but he is its famous son. 

25. Yorkshire From The Air by Jason Hawkes  (Author)

A different perspective on God's own county and Menwith Hill like you never saw it before - balls have ears! I do not think Hawes and some others classed as villages will be happy. They are towns! The final sporting chapter has too much racing and no cricket. Howzat! But the photos are so good I still give five stars even omitting t'biggest laik.

26. Exploring Britain's Churches and Chapels : Inspirational Journeys of Discovery by Paul Mitchell (Editor), David Dimbleby (Foreword)

Churches and chapels? Almost exclusively Anglican in England and Wales and very little of Non-conformist chapels of Roman Catholic ones. The emphasis is on architecture. You will be disappointed if your interest is in true church history rather than historic buildings. In England church means Church of England here. Nonconformist chapels are of little mention. In Scotland church usually means Presbyterian. It is a beautiful book but its lack of true catholicity is a drawback losing an otherwise five star rating for me.


Gives the history of the Christian faith in England as well as the architectural development of the parish church buildings. But text about the photographs is separate from the images and there seems no themed or geographic arrangement merely photos at random. 

28. John Newton: Amazing Grace (Tales of Truth) by Colin Jones (Author)

A story well told and illustrated for children. But the artist has been less than truthful in his portrayal of slaves. All are decently clothed. Newton's tomb is shown and the words he wrote to be placed on it. But he was not interred at Olney and the inscription is to be found in his London church where he was interred. Then a tube line was tunnelled beneath the church and the Newtons' bodies moved to Olney.

29 Corrie Ten Boom: Heroine of the Holocaust (Tales of Truth)by Anita Kosciecha and Graeme Hewitson

A well illustrated children's book but the artist portrays the heroine as younger than she was at the time. It is a most moving story of heroism, suffering and the grace of forgiveness and should lead children on to The Hiding Place when they are older.

30. Canterbury: A Pictorial History (Pictorial history series) by Ivan Green  (Author)

A good history of the city through the eras of invasions, Roman, Saxon, Danish, Viking, Norman French and the last to damage the city, the Luftwaffe. Black and white drawings and photographs ancient and modern giving a good record but lacking any index. The economic development is also described and the advent f two waves of refugees from the Continent.

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