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Culture Notable Books

Notable Books


Notable Books

Four recent novels

Central to Atkinson’s sprawling novel is Teddy Todd, a British pilot who completed 70 bombing missions over Germany during World War II. That war experience is central—and Atkinson makes it vivid by drawing upon actual pilot accounts. She plays with time and point of view, so the reader sees the same events from differing perspectives. Patient readers willing to tolerate some R-rated language will gain insights into the World War II generation. Christians will pick up on the many scriptural references woven throughout: Atkinson shows the effects of the fall, and loss of faith, on individuals, a country and culture, and mankind as a whole.

Aunt Dimity & The Summer King

I’m a newcomer to Nancy Atherton’s 20-book Aunt Dimity series set in Finch, a tiny British village that has avoided modernization. Fans of Jan Karon’s Mitford series will see similarities: G-rated happenings, small-town setting, and quirky characters. Aunt Dimity is the previous owner of the cottage in which Lori Shepherd lives with her husband and three children. Though dead, Dimity continues to communicate with Lori via elegant handwriting in a blank journal. Aside from that bit of fantasy, the story revolves around church events, village gossip, and family life as Lori untangles the mystery of unsold cottages and a local feud.

Crooked Heart

In this World War II–era novel, Noel lives with his godmother Mattie, an atheist and former suffragette who is sliding into dementia. Under the threat of German bombs, parents evacuate their children to the countryside, but Noel stays in London with Mattie—until she dies. Then he finds himself living with foster mother Vee, who takes in Noel for the money. Evans makes these two emotionally damaged outsiders come alive as they scheme to make ends meet by collecting money for scam charities. Evans depicts with humor (and occasional R-rated language) the deepening friendship that develops between two scrappy survivors.

Jade Dragon Mountain

As exiled librarian Li Du makes his solitary way around China, he ends up near the southwest frontier where his cousin is a magistrate. Unwittingly, Li arrives in Dayan along with throngs of Chinese and some foreigners who have come to celebrate a solar eclipse and a grand visit by the emperor. The murder of a Jesuit astronomer threatens the carefully planned celebration. After first seeking to blame outsiders, the magistrate reluctantly asks Li Du to investigate. Set in 18th-century China, Hart’s traditional murder mystery has imperial court intrigue, science, theology, and foreign meddling served with dollops of Arabian Nights.


John Klaassen’s helpful little book, Engaging with Muslims (Good Book Company, 2015), will help Christians befriend their Muslim neighbors. Klaassen writes from experience gathered during more than two decades in North Africa. He lays out the basics of what Muslims believe, explains cultural distinctives, and offers connection points for sharing the gospel. 

Diagnosed with terminal leukemia in 2010, literary critic Clive James pondered what was worth reading or rereading in the time he had left. In Latest Readings (Yale University Press, 2015) he writes about books that continue to delight him—and some that don’t. James’ elegant sentences express a moral sensibility. He notes how funny he used to find Bill Cosby and then writes, “Today the laughter comes less easily. If he turns out to be guilty, how will we take back our appreciation? Ours is a minor problem, however, when compared with his.” —S.O.