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Culture Notable Books

Notable Books

Handout photo

Valerie Elliot Shepard as a child with her mother, Elisabeth Elliot.


Notable Books

Four Christian novels

What if Israel launched a preemptive strike on Iran? Joel Rosenberg, in his eighth novel, approaches that scenario with his mix of fast action and debatable end-times interpretations. Damascus Countdown features The Twelfth Imam, a leader determined to unite Muslim countries into one Caliphate—and after Israel’s attack he still has two nuclear warheads and is bargaining with other countries for more. As the UN Security Council plays with a resolution condemning Israel for unprovoked and unwarranted acts of aggression, it’s the mission of David Shirazi, the CIA’s top man in Iran, to find and disable the warheads, stop the Imam, and save the world from cataclysmic disaster. Naturally, Shirazi also wants to make it home for a date with an old flame.

Harvest of Rubies 

Sarah—cousin of the biblical prophet Nehemiah—is an outsider in Babylon, both to the larger Persian culture and her Jewish family and friends. After her mother dies in Sarah’s childhood, her father withdraws emotionally, leaving Sarah to be raised by an ill-suited aunt. When Sarah teaches herself to read, she earns her father’s respect as well as an opportunity to serve as Senior Scribe in the Babylonian king’s palace. When Sarah’s ingenuity earns her a husband she can’t refuse, the animosity she feels toward him reveals a hunger and emptiness that can only be healed through God’s grace. Author Tessa Afshar’s Iranian roots lend credibility to the setting and cultural context, and the storytelling is adequate.

Though Mountains Fall 

Say “Amish fiction,” and it’s unlikely that Mexican bandits, corrupt federales, devastating hurricanes, or Catholic revolutions come to mind—but in this series finale, the Amish community in Mexico faces all of these and more. Caleb Bender’s son has been killed, bandits are on the way to uproot them, and Miriam, Caleb’s oldest unmarried daughter, is ready to risk being banned from the community in order to marry a local farmhand. One pressure after another forces the Benders to rethink the difference between God’s laws (defined too simplistically as love) and those of their community. The familiar device of moving Amish characters from legalism to love remains intact here, but well-paced action, interesting character development, and a fresh setting bring the story to a mostly satisfying conclusion.

Kai’Ro Returns 

As a minister to urban youth, author Judah Ben knew that a book like The Pilgrim’s Progress is too much of a stretch for urban kids. In this second book in a series, Ben continues his retelling of John Bunyan in simpler language, with former drug-dealer Kai’Ro returning to the City of Doom to spread the gospel: With remnants of sin in his heart, and a local drug-lord out to crush him, Kai’Ro will have to learn to trust his King even under severe persecution. His pregnant girlfriend, Evangeline, fleshes out urban challenges for young females, including the temptation of abortion. With dialect and metaphors lifted from the city streets, Ben—like the Christian rappers who’ve influenced him— illustrates how urban living may be captured for Christ.  


When announced on March 28  its purchase of, the world’s largest web community for book reviews and recommendations, some pundits quickly cried “monopoly.” Some claimed Amazon’s ability to mine data about Goodreads’ 16 million readers would cripple other online booksellers, including Barnes & Noble. Others expressed privacy concerns as well as fears that the site’s neutral space could be undermined by Kindle buttons and pay-for-review schemes. For its part, Goodreads assured its users that “Goodreads will continue to be the wonderful community we all cherish.”  The March 29 issue ofBusinessweek has more information about the sale. 

As publishing principalities duel, some books show how God continues to use His humble—often powerless—servants.  A recent children’s picture book by the daughter of missionaries Jim and Elisabeth Elliot demonstrates that truth, detailing her time among the Auca Indians. Although occasionally overwritten, Pilipinto’s Happiness: The Jungle Childhood of Valerie Elliot (Vision Forum) conveys Elliot’s wonder at God’s creation and her thankfulness for His provision. –E.W.