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Culture Books

Speed reading

Handout (Koukl)


Speed reading

Quick looks at 19 books

If you have a skeptical son or daughter graduating from high school and want to offer a new, clear explanation of Christianity written in a warm, C.S. Lewis style, try Gregory Koukl’s The Story of Reality: How the World Began, How It Ends, and Everything Important that Happens in Between (Zondervan, 2017). Also, Christian Focus is publishing a new Christian apologetics book series titled The Big Ten: Critical Questions Answered. William Edgar’s Does Christianity Really Work? and James N. Anderson’s Why Should I Believe Christianity? got the series off to a good start in 2016.

Another book for people who stereotype Christians as conventional thinkers: WORLD correspondent Anthony Bradley’s Something Seems Strange (Wipf & Stock, 2016). Some of his reflections are brilliant, and some seem … strange, but unpredictability is fun in a world often predictable. K.C. Johnson and Stuart Taylor Jr. are also politically incorrect when they argue in The Campus Rape Frenzy (Encounter, 2017) that ideologically skewed campus policies and federal bureaucrats are pushing university officials to presume that accused students are guilty until proven innocent.

When did campus culture change so radically? J. Harvie Wilkinson III’s All Falling Faiths (Encounter, 2017), a memoir focusing on his time at Yale, examines the promise and mostly failure of the 1960s generation that grew up protesting the war in Vietnam, but he still provides notes of hope. That’s very different from Ninety-Nine Stories of God (Tin House, 2016) by Joy Williams, who gains high ratings from the literacracy—see a 2015 profile in The New York Times—as she pushes the insignificance of man and the irrelevance of God.

Christopher Goscha’s Vietnam (Basic, 2016) is a scholarly history of the fought-over land’s past millennium, with particular emphasis on the last two centuries. Concluding chapters show how Communists won the war against the United States but lost the peace economically, as they found out what their Soviet mentors had learned: Communism doesn’t work. Nor does capital punishment, according to Shane Claiborne in Executing Grace (Harper One, 2016).

Earl Blackburn’s 50 World-Changing Events in Christian History (Christian Focus, 2016) is a theologically sound way to learn some history in 1,200-word bursts, but some of the writing is clunky. Albert Raboteau’s American Prophets: Seven Religious Radicals & Their Struggle for Social and Political Justice (Princeton, 2016) provides readable and sympathetic introductions to Abraham Heschel, Thomas Merton, and others who did not follow election returns.

Robert Muir-Wood’s The Cure for Catastrophe (Basic, 2016) makes too much of global warming but offers a useful history of man’s responses to natural disasters.

Fans of C.S. Lewis will value Justin Dyer and Micah Watson’s C.S. Lewis on Politics and the Natural Law (Cambridge University Press, 2016) and K. Alan Snyder’s America Discovers C.S. Lewis (Wipf & Stock, 2016). Marilynne Robinson devotees will enjoy the 17 essays, plus a conversation between Robinson and Barack Obama, that make up The Givenness of Things (Picador, 2016). Political science and philosophy followers of Harry Jaffa or Walter Berns will relish Steven Hayward’s Patriotism Is not Enough (Encounter, 2017).

Neil Sullivan’s The Prometheus Bomb (University of Nebraska, 2016) tells well the story of how the United States created an atomic bomb out of fear that Germany might do it first, and raises good questions about how government officials make huge decisions in the dark. We’re often in the dark about politicians’ worldviews, and Stephen Mansfield argues well that reporters should Ask the Question (Baker, 2016) and demand religious clarity.

Bob Cutillo’s Pursuing Health in an Anxious Age (Crossway, 2016) isn’t a how-to book on how not to exercise more, but it might help some readers to worry less. He offers a parable of a man who ran a marathon, had good results on all medical tests, and said, “‘Tomorrow I will sign up for another marathon, work out three hours a day, and do even better than last year.’ But that night he died.” Bigger barns, better health—it’s all in God’s hands.


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  • JB
    Posted: Sat, 02/11/2017 12:36 am

    I felt a bit of deja vu reading those last two paragraphs... :)

  • Web Editor
    Posted: Sat, 02/11/2017 11:49 am

    We have removed the repeated paragraphs. Thank you for pointing that out.