Archives For *Featured Reviews*


A Book About Us
A Review of

The Ground Beneath Us:
From the Oldest Cities to the Last Wilderness, What Dirt Tells Us About Who We Are
Paul Bogard

Hardcover: Little, Brown, 2017
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Reviewed by Sam Chamelin


Paul Bogard is all of us.

Well, most of us.  Bogard established himself as an important voice for environmental issues in his highly recognized The End of Night.  Bogard’s first book took us on a journey to the stars, or the lack thereof, highlighting the loss of genuine darkness in our LED-saturated culture, and how that shapes us and our environments. Bogard shows himself fluent in a variety of languages – science, technology, anthropology, and even theology.  In The Ground Beneath Us, Bogard continues honing and sharpening his multi-faceted voice, turning his attention to the soil with a similar literary recipe. The Ground Beneath Us is a well-paced, diverse exploration of the various grounds that humans trod, from the paved surfaces of Manhattan to the thawing tundra of Alaska, both in how we have shaped these grounds, and how the ground shapes us.

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In Search of America
A Feature Review of

The Far Away Brothers:
Two Young Migrants and the Making of an American Life
Lauren Markham

Hardcover: Crown, 2017
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Reviewed by Tim Hoiland


In 2013, stories about unaccompanied minors started coming across our airwaves, feeds, and timelines.

These children, we learned, were fleeing Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras in record numbers. They were making the long, arduous trek to El Norte through the vast expanse of Mexico and the borderlands. And they were doing all of this, at great expense and risk of death, unaccompanied by their parents.

The words we kept hearing were “flood” and “surge,” conjuring images of a dark and stormy sea washing over our southern border – perhaps the violent waves of a tsunami crashing ashore.

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Who Are You Talking To, Greg?

A Review of

The Genius of One:
God’s Answer for Our Fractured World
Greg Holder

Paperback: NavPress, 2017

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Reviewed by Fred Redekop

Greg Holder is the pastor of the Crossing, a large multi-site church in St.Louis, Missouri. He was first on the Elder team there and has now been the pastor for 20 years. He preaches in jeans and seems to be a very engaging speaker at the church. The church website says:

Greg challenges us to consider pertinent historical and linguistic details in Scripture, without missing an opportunity to weave in humor and personal stories. He brings ancient truths of Scripture to light in fresh ways, while calling those from an unlikely mix of spiritual backgrounds to love as they have been loved.

Holder has written some children’s Bible story books, a book (along with Chris Seay and Rick McKinley) on bringing simplicity back to Christmas called the Advent Conspiracy, and most recently a book titled The Genius of One: God’s Answer for Our Fractured World, which I had the pleasure of reviewing. Holder’s style is concise and readable. As the title says, the book is about bringing the church together, to work with Christ as a unified body of believers. Holder writes, “Loving those who in these uncertain times, we must — and here’s the point of the book — love one another too”(x).  So, the premise of Holder’s book is quite simple.

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A Modest Proposal
A Feature Review

The Pietist Option:
Hope for the Renewal of Christianity
Christopher Gehrz and
Mark Pattie III

Hardback: IVP Academic, 2017
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Reviewed by David Swanson


Find a brief summary of the Pietist Option here:
What is the Pietist Option?

When, in 1675, Philipp Jakob Spener wrote Pia Desideria (Pious Desires), the German theologian and pastor was responding to the tumultuous circumstances of his age. The Thirty Years’ War was nearly thirty years past, yet the memories of the millions of casualties as well as the war’s religious roots were still fresh and the spiritual questions it raised remained relevant. Lutheran theology had developed intricate doctrines since the Protestant Reformation, less than two hundred years earlier. This scholastic theology relished minute points of nuance and, borrowing the same philosophical tools that Luther had disdained, was built upon elaborate systems of doctrine that were more at home in the universities than the churches. Although Spener’s small book was a reaction to his circumstances, in time it proved to be a signpost toward the future for those searching for a personal, vital faith in the midst of a changing world.

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Concrete and Pragmatic Love
A Review of

The Heart of Torah: Essays on the Weekly Torah Portion
Rabbi Shai Held


Hardback: Jewish Pub. Society, 2017
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Reviewed by Jon M. Sweeney

I remember two decades ago when William Morrow announced they were publishing a book of sermons by the chaplain at Harvard. I knew the chaplain, Peter J. Gomes, had published a New York Times bestseller (The Good Book), but that was no excuse for a book of sermons. “No one reads books of sermons,” I said to friends, in all my wisdom. On top of this, the publisher actually titled the book, Sermons. The book was a hit. I remembered those feelings when I received this 2-volume collection of sermons by Rabbi Shai Held. You wouldn’t think reading these sermon-essays would appeal as much as hearing them might. But they’re insightful and inspiring in printed form. I hope they reach a wide audience of not just Jews. Christians need this, too.

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Peace, Justice, and Restoration
A Review

The Last Christians:
Stories of Persecution, Flight, and Resilience in the Middle East

Andreas Knapp

Paperback: Plough Books, 2017
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Reviewed by Peggy Faw Gish
What has the violence in Iraq and Syria meant for the Christians there? Why have so many fled their countries and are among the over a million refugees who’ve flooded into Europe? As minorities in their societies, these Christians have quietly endured threat and injustice, and some of the oldest Christian cultures are in danger of extinction.

Andreas Knapp’s book, The Last Christians: Stories of Persecution, Flight, and Resilience in the Middle East, translated into English and published in the US in 2917, by Plough Publishing House, alerts us to the struggle and suffering of refugees, Christians, as well as those of other faiths, who have fled violent, chaotic situations and deserve our compassion.  The stories in this book are tragic, but also inspiring, telling about Christians who have given up so much for their faith, remained faithful when facing threat, and have resisted bitterness, hate, or revenge.  Instead they seek the path of forgiveness, loving one’s enemy, and nonviolence.

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Pastoral Care and Politics

A Review of

Care of Souls, Care of Polis:
Toward a Political Pastoral Theology

Ryan Lamothe

Paperback: Cascade Books, 2017
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Reviewed by James Matichuk

*** This review originally appeared on the reviewer’s blog,
      and is reprinted here with permission.  Visit his blog for tons of great reviews!

Pastoral Care is often thought of on a purely micro level—counseling congregants through a crisis, walking alongside families in grief, or shepherding local congregations. Political theology, on the other hand, describes political, economic, social structures and practices, examining the issues at a more macro level. But what if there is a deep link between the political and the personal? What if the best way to care for souls, is to care for the polis—providing a framework for the flourishing of both individual persons and the common good?

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The Power of Beauty
A Feature Review of

Called to Attraction:
An Introduction to the Theology of Beauty
Brendan Thomas Sammon

Paperback: Cascade Books, 2017
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Reviewed by Julie Sumner

It was around noon when I walked out of my house one day in August, as the air cooled and the light took on a silvered quality. I joined my neighbor and her parents to watch the moon eclipse the sun. My husband, who rarely stops for lunch, joined his co-workers, walked out on a sidewalk downtown, and stared upward at the darkening sky. We, and eighty-eight million other Americans, all stopped what we were doing to watch a solar eclipse. We all stopped for the simple reason that the eclipse was beautiful, and because it was beautiful, we wanted all of our friends to see it, too.

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Words That Propel Us Forward

A Review of

Poetry Will Save Your Life: A Memoir
Jill Bialosky

Hardcover: Atria Books, 2017
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Reviewed by Jenn Moland-Kovash

The author of this book has come under fire
on accusations of plagiarism. She has refuted these charges,
and been backed by many of her writer colleagues.
Despite these charges, this book is one that merits our attention.


The first thing you need to know about Poetry Will Save Your Life Buy it in print. Buy the hardcover edition. This is a book you’ll want to hold. Keep the dust jacket on as you read it: the jacket has a fine texture to it, the finest of fine grits of sandpaper. And once you open the cover, you’ll find a marbled green and gold paper lining the front and back. Is it supposed to evoke topography, the ranges of life? Or an art project from youth? Or do the glimmers of gold shimmer with the insights that Jill Bialosky, the author, draws from the lines of poetry tucked inside her memoir?
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God’s Grace and Love
A Review of

The Sacred Enneagram:
Finding Your Unique Path to Spiritual Growth
Christopher Heuertz

Paperback: Zondervan, 2017
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Reviewed by Bailey Shannon
I have been reading Thomas Merton’s New Seeds of Contemplation for almost a year now. Slowly wading through the wisdom of this Trappist monk, it’s as if I’ve learned a new language for understanding familiar truths.  Even though it’s taken me awhile to get only halfway through the book, and even though I am still unsure as to what contemplation actually is, the concepts of the true self, contemplative prayer, and Christian mysticism resonate deeply.
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