Tomorrow, When the War Began by John Marsden
I somehow missed out on reading this when it first came out, but Luke recommended it to me, and now that the film is about to be released, it seemed like the perfect time to get into it. The storyline is intriguing, and the characters bemuse me.
Unfinished Tales by J. R. R. Tolkien
We watched all three LOTR films a couple of weeks ago, and that inspired me to reread this book. It fills in a number of the little details. For example, Unfinished Tales is the source of our knowledge about the Istari: along with Saruman the White, Gandalf the Grey and Radagast the Brown, there were two other Blue Wizards, making five in all.
Abraham Kuyper: God's Renaissance Man by James McGoldrick
More on Kuyper. The Religion in the Public Square colloquium is only a few weeks away, and I'm busy writing my paper on Kuyper that I'm going to present there.
The Wages of Spin by Carl Trueman
From the first few essays, this isn't quite as good as Minority Report, which I read last year, but it still seems worth reading.
Pajama School by Natalie Wickham
This book is an autobiographical memoir, and I enjoyed reading how the author had been taught and moulded by the Holy Spirit over the years. In this way it reminded me of Lauren Winner's Girl Meets God.
This book is not solely about homeschooling - instead, Natalie has a lot to say about her involvement in various ministries. This includes several chapters devoted to her work with the Adventures in Character program. As its very name implies, this program is about teaching children how God wants them to live - honouring their parents, telling the truth, showing gratefulness.
The problem with this approach is that it is not gospel-centred, gospel-focused and gospel-driven. Children of all ages and all backgrounds need to hear the gospel, again and again and again. After all, the gospel is the "power of God to salvation for everyone who believes" (Romans 1:16). And the gospel is not what God wants us to do, it is about what God has done for us.
There is also no substitute for teaching kids systematically from the Bible. Take, for example, this children's curriculum called Promises. One might expect it to be about keeping promises to others. In fact, it's about the promises that God has made to people. That's what children need to hear. Regardless of whether or not they are from Christian backgrounds, regardless of whether or not they are converted, sound teaching means drawing out from Scripture what God has done for us in Christ.
Sovereign by C. J. Sansom
This is the third book in the Shardlake series - detective novels featuring a hunchback lawyer in the time of Henry VIII. This one is set in 1541, when Henry was married to Catherine Howard. It's not quite as interesting as the first two in the series. The characters spend the book feeling cold and miserable, and so does the reader.
Deep Exegesis by Peter Leithart
I loved this book. It's one of the best books on understanding the Bible that I've read. Leithart goes through different aspects of understanding the biblical text, constantly coming back to John 9 in order to illustrate what he means.
Leithart starts off by arguing that the text of Scripture is important: we ought not view it as a husk to be stripped away and discarded in order to get at the kernel. He then suggests that texts add meaning to what has gone before. So, in John 9:14 we are told that Jesus had healed the blind man on the Sabbath day. This crucial piece of information had been withheld until now, and it colours all that goes before. Meaning emerges as we read through the chapter.
Leithart then proceeds to discuss poetic meanings (like John pausing to tell us what the name of the pool means in 9:7) and intertextual allusions (such as creation out of dust in John 9:6 and Genesis 2:7). He also looks at structure, and notes that the interrogation of the blind man's parents forms the hinge of a chiasm. Leithart concludes by asserting the Christ-centred nature of all sound interpretation.
At times Leithart seems to get bogged down by talking about people like Spinoza and Oedipus, but this is still an excellent book for those who read theology at a first-year seminary level.
Preaching that Speaks to Women by Alice Mathews
I aim to read at least one book on preaching every year, and two things in particular stand out in this one. In the first place, Mathews raises three questions that every preacher should ask: What does the text mean? Is it true? So what? In other words, preaching involves explaining, proving and applying. Secondly, Mathews has some helpful things to say about eschewing power. That is something I really need to remind myself of as a minister. Yet neither of these things have much to do with preaching to women in particular. I finished this book wondering how preaching to women is different to preaching to men. Indeed, the great need in the church today is not that preachers learn how to preach to women, but that they learn how to preach full stop.