Archives For *Featured Reviews*


That Frumious Bandersnatch

A Feature Review of

Bandersnatch: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the Creative Collaboration of the Inklings 
Diana Glyer

Illustrated by James A. Owen
Paperback: Black Squirrel Books, 2016
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Reviewed by Sam Edgin


In the corner of a pub in small town Indiana, I met with dear friends weekly for over a year. Huddled in dusty yellow light beneath a wrinkled photocopy of a painting of a British hunting party, their red jackets faded orange, we fancied ourselves like the Inklings, that company of writers who met – also weekly – in the infamous Rabbit Room in back of the Eagle and Child in Oxford. This comparison was generous – we only talked about books, not wrote them – but little makes a young man feel more infinite than sitting in a pub with friends, laughing loud and arguing louder, empty pints scattered victoriously across the table.

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The Process of Spiritual Awakening
A Feature Review of

Desperately Seeking Spirituality:
A Field Guide to Practice

Meredith Gould

Paperback: Liturgical Press, 2016
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Reviewed by Jeff Nelson

Early in Desperately Seeking Spirituality, Meredith Gould writes, “Annoying reminder: spiritual awakening is a process, not a one-time enlightenment event” (7). There is so much to this quote that captures the book’s essence.

First, “annoying reminder.” You will not find here the typical air of reverence, awe, inspiration, and peace that characterizes most books on prayer and spiritual practice. As Gould notes from time to time and as the title indicates, spirituality is not a simple thing to nurture and pursue and it can and does feature moments of confusion, frustration, and irritation. She is very up front about the difficulty, patience, and trial and error involved in such an endeavor, both empathizing with any stumblings the reader might experience and providing reassurance that both having and naming them is permissible.

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Where (and With Whom) We Stand

A Review of 

How to Survive the Apocalypse: Zombies, Cylons, Faith, and Politics at the End of the World
Robert Joustra and
Alissa Wilkinson

Paperback: Eerdmans, 2016.
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Reviewed by Rob O’Lynn


In many ways, this excellent book can be divided into three components:

1) A philosophical introduction where the umbrella—or arc—themes are funneled down into their base components.  This will be discussed below, however it is important to note here that this is extremely helpful for the reader who is not well versed in cultural theory (especially those of Charles Taylor, upon which most of the discussion is based).  The authors take great care in throughout this book to continually connect Taylor’s theories to the cultural artifacts that they use to illuminate our present social condition.

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A Truly Evangelical Perception of Justice

A Feature Review of

Return to Justice:
Six Movements that Reignited Our Contemporary Evangelical Conscience
Soong-Chan Rah / Gary VanderPol

Paperback: Brazos Press, 2016.
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Reviewed by Kevin Book-Satterlee


Rah and VanderPol’s book is an important brief history of an undercurrent of biblical justice found in American evangelicalism. It is a history of struggle for recognition, and provides key snapshots in an album of this continued Return to Justice. The book is born from the authors’ obvious experience and study, and seeks to reintegrate the bifurcation of evangelism and justice. The authors highlight and esteem known figures and institutions such as John Perkins, World Vision, Sojourners, and Samuel Escobar, among others. These key figures and their stories formed the historical backdrop and narrative for reinvigorating biblical justice as a key tenet of evangelicalism, challenging a dominant American, white male, middle-class status quo that has historically recoiled from social gospel “tendencies” and issues of biblical justice in preference and focus towards an individualistic approach of evangelism-by-proclamation and personalized salvation experience.

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A Cruciform Movement Toward
Compassion, Communion, and Solidarity
A Feature Review of

How Jesus Saves the World from Us:
12 Antidotes to Toxic Christianity

Morgan Guyton

Paperback: WJK Books, 2016
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Reviewed by Stephen Milliken
Morgan Guyton’s How Jesus Saves the World from Us charts a course offering a constructive critique that seeks to diagnose twelve infectious attitudes and detoxify Christianity with a corresponding antidote for each. Reflecting on Paul’s transformation experience as an illustration of Jesus saving the world from our severely misguided attempts at piety and righteousness, Guyton invites the reader into the often ignored practice of self-examination in which he poses the question: “How would Christians live differently if we believed that Jesus needs to save the world from us?”(p. 5). As he does throughout the book, Guyton provocatively takes this a step further, “If Jesus’ cross is the heart of Christianity, then maybe Jesus has never stopped being crucified by his own people, and the ones who really get Jesus are crucified along with him” (2).
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St. Catherine and
the Turmoil of the World

A Review of 

Setting the World on Fire:
The Brief, Astonishing Life of St. Catherine of Siena
Shelley Emling

Hardback: St. Martins, 2016
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Reviewed by Christiana N. Peterson


A few nights ago, before I turned off my lamp to go to sleep, my iPhone screen lit up to the news of another mass killing. In Nice, France, a man used his truck as a weapon to murder over 80 people who were celebrating Bastille Day. The next morning, there was news of a military coup in Turkey.

My heart dropped, my anxiety rose, the tears flowed. I turned to my husband and asked him, “Is this it? Is this the end?”

Many of us who are Christians, even if we aren’t apocalyptic leaning, find ourselves wondering–in the rising grief of the last few months of mass shootings, unarmed black men killed by police, the killing of policemen, and political strife–if the end is nigh. In our terror, we even seem to long for it, calling, “Come, Lord Jesus.”

Lately, when I am torn up with grief, when I wonder when God will make all things new, I have been reaching for the Christian mystics, who have been able to offer me a little humility, solace, and perspective.

Shelley Emling’s book Setting the World on Fire: the Brief, Astonishing Life of St. Catherine of Siena, is a highly readable introduction to the life and times of the saint and mystic, Catherine of Siena, whose Medieval world was as turbulent (if not more than) ours. Emling carefully weaves together a narrative of this complex patron saint of Italy along with details about the political and social contexts that shaped and moved her.

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How Shall We Then Read the Bible?
A Feature Review of 

Saving the Bible from Ourselves:
Learning to Read and Live the Bible Well
Glenn Paauw

Paperback: IVP Books, 2016.
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Reviewed by James Dekker


Saving the Bible from Ourselves is one of those rare books that I wish were longer. A longer book might require delving into issues still more sensitive than Glenn Paauw already takes up. Exploring controversial themes might risk challenging unofficial, but strongly accepted Bible reading practices among Paauw’s intended audience. That is, “how to read” could veer onto significant, but bumpy paths of “how to interpret.”

For example, Saving the Bible’s greatest strength is Paauw’s repeated emphasis that readers must respect and learn to read the Bible’s various literary genres as originally intended. Thus he frequently emphasizes that Bible readers—laypersons, teachers, pastors—read the Bible’s histories, stories, poems, letters, gospels and apocalyptic visions first to understand their messages to original readers.  Only after rigorous analysis and wrestling with the texts’ earlier times and cultures is it fair to discern the meaning and application for today.

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The Whole Cacophony
of Human Experience

A Review of 

Living with a Dead Language:
My Romance with Latin

Ann Patty

Hardback: Viking, 2016.
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Reviewed by Sam Chamelin
It seems unlikely that anyone would pick up a book about learning Latin, unless you have already had the pleasure of diving into this dusty corner of academia.  That’s precisely how I came to this book.  Like Ann Patty, I am a Latinist, and her descriptions of small, dark, and somewhat awkward undergraduate Latin students returned me to my own studies at Ursinus College.  I remember that my professor, John Wickersham, once brought an impression made from a ring of Julius Caesar as a “Show and Tell” piece, and he encouraged us to take a look.  We obliged, and yet somehow failed to match his excitement over the piece.  When we had finished our staid examination of his child-like exuberance, he chastised us with surprising fervor, saying that we hadn’t properly paid respect to our proximity to history.  “You are touching something that touched something that touched Julius Caesar,” he bellowed.  “I want you to touch it, get your fingers into it.  LOOK at it.”  With that, we passed it around again, paying more fervid attention to this historic item to the third degree.

While Ann Patty lacks the characteristic eccentricity of professional Latinists, she seems just as eager as Dr. Wickersham to connect the lives of readers to this far-from-dead language.  In this surprising and engaging memoir, Living with a Dead Language:  My Romance with Latin, Patty leads us to put our minds, our fingers, and indeed even our lives into the study of this language.  In doing so, she introduces us to a world where languages aren’t dead; rather, the continue to be a primary means by which we make sense of the world and our own lives.  Patty is happy to allow her life to serve as a template for this journey.

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When We are Ready to Love
Rather Than to Be Loved

A Feature Review of 

The Course of Love: A Novel
Alain de Botton

Hardback: Simon & Schuster, 2016.
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Reviewed by Alden Bass
This is not Alain de Botton’s first attempt to write a book about love. Twenty years ago he wrote his debut novel Essays in Love, a story about a boy and a girl who meet on a plane and – you guessed it – fall in love. An essay is an attempt, a beginning, and in this more mature reflection on love de Botton determines to see love through to its end. Along the way, he speculates on what precisely is the end of love in a series of philosophical narratorial asides.

Rather unromantically, The Course of Love is a story about marriage. Specifically, two very average Edinburghers named Rabih and Kirsten who date, get engaged, marry, settle down, have kids, have affairs, and go to counseling. Their marriage is the Everymarriage. Which is precisely the kind of story de Botton needs to develop his thesis. (Yes, this is a novel with a thesis.) Namely, love is a sort of existential rootedness, a sense of security and familiarity which grounds one to love and serve others.

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The Unbearable Absoluteness of Loss
A Review of

As Close to Us as Breathing:
A Novel

Elizabeth Poliner

Hardback: Little, Brown & Co., 2016
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Reviewed by Roger Dowdy.
How does a book initially capture your attention? By the cover design, or the jacket synopsis, or the opening few pages, or something known about the author? In the case of Elizabeth Poliner’s novel, As Close to Us as Breathing, for me, it was all about the title and the epigraph, of all things! I am endlessly curious about the epigraphs which authors choose for their writing.

Not too long ago Barnes and Noble Book ‘READS’ posted a piece by Hanna McGrath entitled, “15 Epic Epigraphs.” Here is McGrath’s opening blog statement: “Epigraphs are pretty versatile little literary devices. They can be the uncensored mouthpiece of an author…. they can provide insight into the author’s inspiration. The best ones, though, are powerful on their own.”

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