Thursday, May 20

What I'm Reading

The end of the academic year is an incredibly hectic time for me. But I always try to find snatches of time to read. I am gearing up for a more intense time of reading, studying, preaching, and writing this summer.

One of my college students gave me a copy of a wonderful biography of Ted Roosevelt, Jr. He was the amazing son of the famous president. Rising to the rank of Brigadier General, he won every one of the field battle decorations the American military awards—every single one in both world wars! He also served as the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Governor of both Puerto Rico and the Philippines, as well as the first Military Governor of Italy after its liberation from the Fascists. He was the oldest man to participate in the D-Day invasion. Day Before Yesterday (Doubleday) was written in 1959 by his widow. It went through only a single printing before unfairly passing into obscurity. I’d seen copies before—but always in very poor condition or with a very high price tag. I'm thrilled I have it now. In fact, I have consumed most of its nearly 500 pages in just two days. I hope to finish it up today.

Several other students also gave me a beautifully rebound 1828 edition of Samuel Johnson’s indispensable Dictionary of the English Language. I’ve always wanted a copy of this too. It is an extraordinary classic. I have a modern abridged copy, but it is just not the same. Not even close. This is a marvel. I’m having a blast discovering new words, reading examples of usage from early English literature, and stretching my knowledge of etymology and vocabulary. Johnson was a genius and his achievement is beyond comprehension.

I’ve just started Ron Chernow’s massive, bestselling biography Alexander Hamilton (Penguin). Already I am a bit disappointed. The book is certainly literate, well-informed, carefully researched, and graced with full, epic proportions. But I can tell that Chernow is going to give Hamilton’s faith short shrift. Still, I will persevere because I am writing about the Founding Era this summer (my long overdue Forgotten Presidents book). Besides, I am used to that particular flaw--even in the finest books on that pivotal era.

I am three-quarters of the way through Charlie Peacock’s new book, New Way to Be Human (Shaw). It is marvelous. More than that, it is wise, witty, and theologically profound. What a great writer. I was blown away by his literary and hermeneutical take on the Jack and Jill quatrain--among many other things! Here is covenant theology, artful writing, and graceful apologetics all in one fell swoop.

I am also nearly done with Scott Roley’s wonderful testimony of God’s transforming work of grace in his life, his family, his community, and his culture. God’s Neighborhood (IVP) is far more than just a book about racial reconciliation. It is a book about both the comprehensive claims and the substantive power of the Gospel. The foreword by Mike Card is a hoot—I really could see these old coots twenty-five years from now, living out their legacy of shared lives, shared dreams, and shared accomplishments.

I’ve just begun to dip into Norman Cantor’s biography of John of Gaunt, The Last Knight (Free Press). One of the most important figures of Christendom—the protector of Wyclif, the sponsor of Chaucer, and the greatest kingmaker in all of history—I have always been fascinated with Gaunt. Because of my lectures at the upcoming ACCS classical education conference in Atlanta, I felt I really needed to bone up on this man and his place during the twilight of the Medieval Age and the initial stirrings of Modernity.

Oh yes, and just for fun I am reading Robert Benson's The Game (Tarcher). Ostensibly about baseball, it is really about baseball and spirituality and life. I have to read a really good, really literate, really fanatical baseball book every year at this time. This one is perfect. Next up on the fun-front, I think I will read Bobke II (Broadway). It is Bob Roll's over-the-top preparation for July's Tour de Lance. And of course, I've got Vince Flynn's Memorial Day (Atria) set aside for, well, Memorial Day.

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