WORLD’s 2018 Books of the Year
Education A La Carte
Leman brings his clear, commonsense wisdom to the subject of school. He deals straightforwardly with questions of kindergarten readiness, homework organization, and learning styles. Those looking for a philosophy of Christian education won’t find it here. But parents wanting a good overview of the questions they should be asking and the best options for their particular children will find it a helpful resource. He clearly puts parents—not school officials—in the driver’s seat of their own children’s education. His story, and the lessons learned from his own educational failures and successes, shape his understanding.
Come, Let Us Adore Him
Paul David Tripp
In the introduction to this short devotional, Tripp says he decided to write an Advent devotional out of the recognition that familiarity with some things “often does bad stuff to us. … We begin to take them for granted. … We quit noticing them. … We tend not to celebrate them as we once did.” This collection of short meditations on Christ’s advent offers fresh takes on the familiar story. Each day’s offering centers on themes like singing, willingness, and promises. He connects the stories to other portions of Scripture and offers suggestions for ways parents can connect their children to the theme.
The All-or-Nothing Marriage
Psychology professor Eli Finkel approaches marriage as a scientist, largely ignoring religion in his exploration of the institution. Those who believe the Bible best describes what marriage is—and how fallen creatures can succeed at it—won’t find more insight here. But Finkel does show how the broader culture understands marriage and how that understanding has changed over the centuries. As self-actualization has come to be marriage’s highest end, the institution has become both more rewarding and much more fragile. The last section includes “love hacks”—secular reworkings of Biblical wisdom—such as “Be kind one to another.”
Awkward people have problems meeting social expectations. Tashiro draws on his own experience, neuroscience and social science research, and clients from his psychotherapy practice to develop the idea of awkwardness and present strategies for surviving it. The book moves comfortably between anecdote and research (sugar and medicine) to provide helpful insights. Here are a few: Awkward people have a “spotlight” focus. They may cut in line because they didn’t notice the line. They can be blunt, less able to read facial expressions, and obsessive about their areas of interest. Tashiro’s clear writing style and vivid stories make this both entertaining and informative.
Lizzie Collingham’s The Taste of Empire: How Britain’s Quest for Food Shaped the Modern World (Basic Books, 2017) looks at how the British need and desire for certain foods fueled an empire—and how the far-flung empire expanded British appetites. The story (along with recipes) speaks of ingenuity, adaptability, and also exploitation.
Rich Pérez’s Mi Casa Uptown (B&H, 2017) offers a hopeful and wise perspective on gospel work in the city. He structures the book’s chapters around this guiding philosophy: “Plant roots, make homes, build families, love neighbors, trust Jesus, and die well.” He saturates the book with love for his Dominican culture and the Uptown NYC neighborhood in which he grew up and now has a church. He describes beautifully the mixed reality of immigrant children—and shows how Biblical characters like Saul of Tarsus speak to that. —S.O.