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The World Come of Age: An Intellectual History of Liberation Theology by Lilian Calles Barger My rating: 3 of 5 stars A very thorough intellectual history that situates the first generation of liberation theologians within their context, demonstrating the various streams of thought that gave rise to this hemisphere-wide movement and how it responded to the immediate concerns facing oppressed peoples. The end of the book evaluates the movement, show how it did not achieve its stated aims of a revolution of the political order, but that it has had broad influence throughout the Americas and far beyond theology. View... Continue reading
In his latest column, conservative George Will commends the "excellent first steps in foreign policy" of the Biden administration. Continue reading
The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk My rating: 5 of 5 stars In one week back in January three different people in three different settings referenced this book. So I decided I needed to read it as part of my Season of Grieving, Healing, and Growth. It did not disappoint. In fact, it exceeded expectations. There is much wisdom and much to learn in the book. Enough that I'll need to use it as a resource to return to. I can see it being helpful both personally... Continue reading
Inland by Téa Obreht My rating: 4 of 5 stars Two narratives of the American west, one a little more traditional though still unique and the other quite original. The more traditional story is of a mother in Arizona enduring a drought and trying to defend and provide for her family and homestead. This narrative occurs over the course of one day, but with many backstories to explain the myriad characters of this small town going through change. There are ghosts, visions, and fears of a wild beast, so this story has its features unique to a Western. The other... Continue reading
Conscious Uncoupling: 5 Steps to Living Happily Even After by Katherine Woodward Thomas My rating: 5 of 5 stars "Life has broken you open and it is violently, mercilessly forcing you to evolve, to develop, and to grow." I saw this book linked in an article last week, ordered it, and then read it in one afternoon and evening. I only wish I'd read it two months ago. When we first decided to divorce I was intent on making it a good and healing process. I felt alone in that idea. It was so refreshing to realize that there is... Continue reading
Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence by Esther Perel My rating: 4 of 5 stars Recommended to me by a friend as I'm continuing my Season of Grieving, Healing, and Growth related to my divorce. I found it really helpful. Just wish maybe we had read and discussed it together a few years ago. View all my reviews Continue reading
Music: A Subversive History by Ted Gioia My rating: 4 of 5 stars A really fun read. Gioia advances a few key theses in this history of music--that music is deeply connected to magic, that music is deeply connected to violence, that musical innovations are created by outsiders and eventually mainstreamed by the power structure. The latter means that he doesn't accept some of the standard histories that claim some prominent political or church leader introduced some innovation and he goes looking for where the ideas really came from. He's got a thesis as to why drums were not prominent... Continue reading
Great Plains Literature by Linda Ray Pratt My rating: 3 of 5 stars A good overview of the major themes and some of the key authors writing about the Great Plains. Particularly liked her discussion of Black Elk Speaks. View all my reviews Continue reading
Rising Strong: How the Ability to Reset Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown My rating: 4 of 5 stars Continuing my Season of Grieving, Healing, and Growth I decided to finally read this book. I had planned to for a long time mostly as an academic exercise in order to understand why it was so popular and what people were finding in it. Now in my own period of relationship breakdown, I read it as part of my grappling with what has happened and what I need to do going forward. In that it... Continue reading
The International LGBT Rights Movement: A History by Laura A. Belmonte My rating: 5 of 5 stars I met Laura Belmonte when we were both LGBT rights activists on the front lines in Oklahoma in the Aughts. She was a professor at Oklahoma State University who helped organize advocacy organizations in Tulsa and statewide, while I was a pastor and activist in Oklahoma City. She's now the Dean of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences at Virginia Tech. This book is the first international history of the LGBT rights movement. And Laura does a marvelous job of covering all the major... Continue reading
Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions by Lysa TerKeurst My rating: 3 of 5 stars Recommended to me a couple of weeks ago when I was in the midst of a depression over my divorce. There are aspect of the book I had to filter. For example, it's written more for a suburban wife audience. And the piety isn't mine. But I found some really helpful discussions in it of expectations and creating a reaction plan for the types of things that normally upset one. View all my reviews Continue reading
Dangerous Religious Ideas: The Deep Roots of Self-Critical Faith in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam by Rachel S. Mikva My rating: 5 of 5 stars My Associate Pastor Katie Miller had Rachel Mikva for a seminary class, which was my connection to finding out about this excellent volume. And excellent it is. Mikva argues that any religious idea can be dangerous. Religious ideas have great power to help and bring meaning, but they can also be used to exploit, divide, and cause violence. And it isn't just the ideas of religious extremists, even the ideas of moderates and liberals. So what... Continue reading
The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie My rating: 2 of 5 stars I started reading Rushdie in my young adulthood in the nineties and have enjoyed many of his novels. He used to be one of the few writers whose new books I would buy in hardback when they were released (in a period where I didn't spend money on books like I do now). But I had never read this notorious novel. Last year I saw a copy in the church book sale and finally picked it up. But I must say it is a disappointment. It's too long.... Continue reading
Seeing God: The Beatific Vision in Christian Tradition by Hans Boersma My rating: 2 of 5 stars "Indeed, whenever and wherever we see truth, goodness, and beauty, it is as though the eschaton comes cascading into our lives and we receive a glimpse of God's beauty in Christ." That's a fine sentence. I can imagine it will appear in a sermon sometime. This book is a thorough (sometimes too thorough I think) review of the theology of the beatific vision, focused on a handful of key figures in Christian history. The most interesting, to me, chapters were on Protestant versions,... Continue reading
100 Poems from the Japanese by Kenneth Rexroth My rating: 4 of 5 stars A beautiful collection of poems. Among my favorites was this one by The Monk Shun-E and translated by Rexroth All during a night Of anxiety I wait. At last the dawn comes Through the cracks of the shutters, Heartless as night. View all my reviews Continue reading
Enquiries Concerning the Human Understanding / Concerning the Principles of Morals by David Hume My rating: 4 of 5 stars It's been 25 years since I last read Hume's Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals. I don't remember being all that engaged or impressed by it before. Nor is my old copy all that marked up. At the time I directed more attention and interest to the first enquiry. But this time reading Hume I found it delightful. It is an enjoyable reading experience. Both enjoyable because engagingly well written and enjoyable intellectually, to reflect on the ideas presented. I... Continue reading
Think of Lampedusa by Josué Guébo My rating: 3 of 5 stars I may have not read this book at the right time; I was often distracted. The poems are intense, with stark visual imagery. But not overly dark and somber. They seemed rich and worthy, but required a focus I didn't possess at the time of reading. View all my reviews Continue reading
Lost Horizon by James Hilton My rating: 3 of 5 stars I remember seeing one of the film versions of this story when I was young. Came across an old hardback copy of the book at the church book sale some time ago and finally picked it up for a quick, enjoyable read. Which it was. An imaginative story, well told and completely engaging. View all my reviews Continue reading
Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism by Anne Case My rating: 2 of 5 stars Case & Deaton were alarmed by numbers related to the opioid epidemic and further researched showed a rise in white middle class mortality in the United States after a century of decline and with no corresponding rise in comparable nations. What to explain this? They conclude a loss of a way-of-life that brought meaning and economic stability. And for them the primary cause is neither globalization or inequality, though those are both part of the narrative, but the American health care system. The... Continue reading
Philippine Myths, Legends, and Folktales by Maximo D Ramos My rating: 3 of 5 stars Humans made from corn meal is the most interesting takeaway from reading this book of mythology and folktales. An enjoyable read full of monsters, handsome princes, beautiful princesses, magical creatures, hidden treasures, and poor people who get lucky or unlucky with their encounters in the forest. View all my reviews Continue reading
Apollo's Arrow: The Profound and Enduring Impact of Coronavirus on the Way We Live by Nicholas A. Christakis My rating: 4 of 5 stars In one volume Christakis helps to make sense of the year we have all just endured, approaching from many angles. Here is a review of the medical science and our quickly developing understanding of the virus. He also presents the history of the outbreak beginning last fall in Wuhan and spreading around the world. He sets this virus within the broader historical setting of other plagues and pandemics. He reviews the various kinds of public health... Continue reading
Begin Again: James Baldwin's America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own by Eddie S. Glaude Jr. My rating: 4 of 5 stars This books is two things at once and does it well, since the one thing is in service of the other. It is a presentation of the thought of James Baldwin in the wake of the Civil Rights Movement. Baldwin's earlier books are his most popular and often read. His later work after the assassinations, the rise of Black Power, and then the conservative backlash has been less examined and has generally been criticized from all sides.... Continue reading
Istanbul: Memories and the City by Orhan Pamuk My rating: 2 of 5 stars I have this sense that Istanbul ought to be the great city of the world, based upon its long history and grand location. Pamuk, the great Turkish novelist and Nobel prize winner, instead writes about the melancholy of the city almost two centuries into its decline from being one of the great cosmopolitan capitals of the world. His tale of the city is highly personal, this book functioning both as a memoir of childhood and adolescence and something of his Ulysses--doing for Istanbul what Joyce's novel... Continue reading
Time of the Magicians: Wittgenstein, Benjamin, Cassirer, Heidegger, and the Decade That Reinvented Philosophy by Wolfram Eilenberger My rating: 4 of 5 stars A look at German philosophy in the decade of the 1920's, focusing on Ludwig Wittgenstein, Walter Benjamin, Ernst Cassirer, and Martin Heidegger. A well told tale. Eilenberger combines story with acute analysis of these complex philosophers and their ideas. These are some of the most easy comprehended introductions to their thought I've encountered. Opening in the aftermath of the First World War with its traumatizing scars upon these thinkers, their families, and cultures, and concluding as the... Continue reading
Averno by Louise Glück My rating: 5 of 5 stars "Time passed, and some of it became this. And some of it simply evaporated; you could see it float above the white trees forming particles of ice." This is now the third book of hers I've read since she won the Nobel. I regret not having read her before, but also feel that arriving at her work precisely now is right. She is an essential voice for expressing the thoughts and feelings of our pandemic moment. The ways in which her poems express beauty deeply acquainted with darkness and suffering... Continue reading