Top Dozen Best Books Read in 2019 from Two Reading Aficionados
The following post is from the Book Review Team of Greg Enas and Russ Pulliam, who annually submit a list of brief reviews of each of the top five or six books they read last year. Greg Enas has a Ph.D. in statistics and worked for many years at Eli Lilly in Indianapolis, running the research numbers on new drugs to make sure they worked effectively. He also likes to read books, about 100 a year. Russell Pulliam is an Indianapolis Star columnist who directs the Pulliam Fellowship summer intern program for the Indianapolis Star and the Arizona Republic. Russ serves as a ruling elder in the Second Reformed Presbyterian Church of Indianapolis.
Offering these short reviews of thought-provoking books should not be viewed as an endorsement of the theological perspectives contained within them.
Bonhoeffer’s Black Jesus | Reggie L. Williams
One year in Harlem at age 25 changed the course of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s life. He came into fellowship with the Abyssinian Baptist Church during the Harlem Renaissance. Upon his return to Germany, he struggled to disentangle the “coupling of Christianity with national identity” for the rest of his life, which was ended by the Nazis.
Their Eyes Were Watching God | Zora Neale Hurston
This 1937 story is about Janie, a black woman in the South, married twice without love before marrying Tea Cup, a bigger than life migrant laborer. He gave Janie a vibrant, hitherto unknown, rhythm of life, only to see her husband die at her own hand from that love. Deep insight into Jim Crow culture, love, and marriage from this magnificent author, a Barnard College graduate telling her story through Janie.
There There | by Tommy Orange
Multiple story lines converge, including the author’s own story as a Native American growing up in the hood. Centering on an annual powwow to be held in the Oakland Coliseum, the parallel stories of brokenness, racism, alcoholism and drug use, gang banging and Alcatraz occupation in the 70’s all come together in a compelling manner.
In Defense of Andrew Jackson | Bradley J. Birzer
Jackson preserved the union in midst of rancor and state secession threats. A man who grew into his Presbyterian theology, he was often outside the mainstream with his diligent efforts to uphold human dignity. As President he signed off on a bill that forced Native Americans to move Oklahoma – a tragic move indeed known as the “Trail of Tears” as many died en route.
Same-Sex Partnerships? A Christian Perspective | John Stott
Published in 1998, this book by an Anglican rector deftly handles sexuality and marriage in the Bible, noting that the union of Adam and Eve was also a “reunion”, for Eve was taken out of Adam. God’s design for marriage is not simply physical union but a reunion that bears his image, for “male and female He made them in his image.” Other physical unions attack God at his essence and fly in the face of ultimate reality.
K: A History of Baseball in Ten Pitches | Tyler Kepner
He traces the backstories and fascination with American baseball using the most important pitches in the sport as a template for understanding the game’s evolution and flavor “behind the seams.” The slider, fastball, curveball, knuckleball, splitter, screwball, sinker, changeup, spitball, and cutter are all engaged in this delightful read, based on interviews and oral history.
Jerry McAuley and His Mission | Arthur Bonner
The author has written some of the best books on city rescue missions. He was a news writer in New York as well as reporting from overseas.
Herman Bavinck, Pastor, Churchman, Statesman and Theologian | Ron Gleason
Bavinck, 1854-1921, was a partner to the Dutch prime minister Abraham Kuyper, with Bavinck teaching theology and preparing pastors. Like Kuyper, he also served in the Dutch parliament and wrote newspaper commentary. Try to imagine a Tim Keller or R.C. Sproul or Al Mohler serving in Congress, writing Wall Street Journal columns while they also continue with their regular assignments.
Setting Our Affections Upon Glory, Nine Sermons on the Gospel and the Church | Martyn Lloyd-Jones
Lloyd-Jones gave these sermons in Pensecola on his last visit to America in 1969. His ninth and last chapter reviews the challenge of prayer. Prayer is hard for good reasons.
Fundamentalist U: Keeping the Faith in American Higher Education | Adam Laats
He shows the differences between the fundamentalist Bob Jones University and evangelical Wheaton College. Both schools started out with similar aims and want to avoid the modernistic temptation but have developed different strategies.
Isaac McCoy: American’s Advocate for Indians | Sam Wellman
McCoy is the William Wilberforce for American Indians, though he is not as well known as Wilberforce has been.
Black Christian Republicanism: The Writings of Hilary Teage, Founder of Liberia | Carl Burrowes
The author shows what the founders of Liberia were seeking.