Best Nonfiction Books of 2015 | Kirkus Reviews

Kirkus’ editors have sifted through all of this year’s books to tell you which rise to the top. Check out the best nonfiction books of 2015.

Source: Best Nonfiction Books of 2015 | Kirkus Reviews

A few of the books deal with the world of writing and books – take special note of these:

THE HOUSE OF TWENTY THOUSAND BOOKS by Sasha Abramsky


“If you finish this brilliantly realized book thinking you need to own more books, you’re to be forgiven. A wonderful celebration of the mind, history, and love.”


Memoir of Jewish intellectual life and universal history alike, told through a houseful of books, their eccentric collectors, and the rooms in which they dwelled.

PALIMPSEST by Matthew Battles


“A fascinating exploration stylishly and gracefully told.”


An illuminating look at the origins and impact of writing.

Top 100 Editors’ Picks: Print Books – Amazon.com

Love ’em or hate ’em, Amazon is the major force to reckon with when it comes to all things bookish – print and digital. Whether you agree with their marketing strategy or despise it, one has to pay attention to Amazon’s picks for best books of 2015.

Below is a link to the “Top 100 Editors’ Picks” for print books for this year. Understand plainly that this is not endorsement of the books chosen. It is rather a broad picture of the culture in which we live and the books that the world about us finds “best”

That is not to say that there are not some worthwhile reads here – there are. Novels are not my preference, but history is. So a book such as The Wright Brothers by noted historian David McCullough is worth looking at and perhaps indulging in.

Here’s a summary of it by one reviewer:

An Amazon Best Book of May 2015: Most people recognize the famous black-and-white photo of the Wright brothers on a winter day in 1903, in a remote spot called Kitty Hawk, when they secured their place in history as the first to fly a motor-powered airplane. That brilliant moment is the cornerstone of the new masterful book by Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David McCullough, who brings his deft touch with language and his eye for humanizing details to the unusually close relationship between a pair of brothers from Dayton, Ohio, who changed aviation history. Bicycle shop owners by day, Wilbur and Orville taught themselves flight theory through correspondence with the Smithsonian and other experts. But the brothers soon realized that theory was no match for practical testing, and they repeatedly risked life and limb in pursuit of their goal—including when Orville fractured a leg and four ribs in a 75-foot plunge to the ground. McCullough’s narration of ventures such as this—their famous first flight at Kitty Hawk; the flight in Le Mans, France that propelled the brothers to international fame; the protracted patent battles back at home; and the early death of elder brother Wilbur—will immerse readers in the lives of the Wright family. Like other great biographies before it, The Wright Brothers tells the story about the individuals behind the great moments in history, while never sacrificing beauty in language and reverence in tone. – Manfred Collado

To view the entire list and to check out the rest of Amazon’s picks in all categories for 2015, visit the link below.

Source: Amazon.com: Top 100 Editors’ Picks: Print Books: Books

The Example of the Early Church On Sexual Matters – Michael Haykin

TT-Nov-2015Yesterday before our worship services I was able to complete my readings in this month’s Tabletalk (see the previous Monday posts this month for more on this issue).

The final article I read was the last one in the magazine – “The Example of the Early Church” by Dr. Michael Haykin. In connection with the theme of this issue (“The Christian Sexual Ethic”), Haykin takes us back in history to a key Christian apologetic work in the early church – The Letter to Diognetus (2nd century).

In this letter of a Christian (unknown) to an unbelieving inquirer (Diognetus) the apologist speaks to the way believers in Christ handle sexual matters in the world of their day, among other things.

The following paragraphs are a quote from this letter and some commentary by Haykin on it. It makes for interesting and instructive reading. So does the rest of Haykin’s article (cf. Ligonier link below), and I am sure, the rest of The Letter to Diognetus (shall we agree to read it together?).

In the World, but Not of the World

The author of the letter notes that, unlike the Jews, Christians are not to be distinguished from their fellow Greeks and Romans by virtue of their geographical locale, distinct language, or various unique customs of dress, food, and other matters of daily life. When it comes to all of these things, they lived like the other citizens of the Roman Empire. Yet, their Christian commitment did draw certain lines of demarcation between themselves and their surrounding culture:

They live in their own native lands, but as sojourners; they share all things as citizens, and endure everything as foreigners…. They marry, like everyone else, have children, but they do not expose their infants. They share a common table, but not the marriage bed. They are in the flesh, but do not live according to the flesh. They spend [their days] on earth, but their citizenship is in heaven. (Letter to Diognetus 5.5–9)

Here the New Testament language of sojourning and heavenly citizenship is pressed into service to affirm the paradox of Christian existence. The Christian life is one that was similar in so many ways to the mores of Greco-Roman society, but in certain key areas—notably with regard to the treatment of children and sexual expression—it bore witness to a completely different ethic.

Source: The Example of the Early Church by Michael Haykin | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org

Ministering to the Abused and the Abusers, and to the Sexually Broken – S.Lucas and R.Butterfield

Source: Ministering to the Abused and the Abusers by Sean Michael Lucas | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org

TT-Nov-2015Two excellent back-to-back articles in this month’s Tabletalk address specific aspects of “The Christian Sexual Ethic” – the one linked above, which addresses the church’s calling to minister both to those who have been sexually abused and to those who do the abusing, and a second by Rosaria C. Butterfield, which addresses ministering to the sexually broken, including those involved in homosexuality – a sin in which she herself was once enslaved before God’s grace broke her chains.

I read both articles yesterday and found them very direct, uncompromising, and yet expressive of God’s love and gospel hope in Christ alone. I give you a portion of both today, encouraging you to read the complete articles at the links provided (see title to Butterfield’s article below).

First, here is part of what Dr.Sean M. Lucas has to say in terms of gospel hope for abused and abuser:

Both the perpetrator and the victim of sin need the same thing: the gospel of Jesus. Those who commit sexual sins—whether sexual immorality, adultery, or even sexual abuse—need to hear the gospel. The entire point of discipline is to confront the sinner with the claims of Christ, to call for repentance, but also to seek new patterns of obedience that can come only as the sinner runs daily to Christ.

Often, those who commit messy and heinous sins believe their sins are too great to forgive. They need to be reminded that “there is no sin so great, that it can bring damnation upon those who truly repent” (Westminster Confession of Faith 15.4). Such genuine repentance is drawn out by the “apprehension of [God’s] mercy in Christ to such as are penitent” (WCF 15.2). How great is God’s mercy in Christ? So great that He sent His one and only Son to die for sinners—and that death is sufficient to cover all our sins, even the most heinous ones.

Victims, too, need the gospel of Jesus: that Jesus is a Savior who does not break the bruised reed or quench the smoldering wick (Matt. 12:20); that He identifies with the hurt and broken and grants liberty to those oppressed by sin (Luke 4:17– 21); and that He likewise asked, “Why?” when the pain and godforsakenness was overwhelming (Matt. 27:46).

But victims of sin also need to know that Jesus does more than identify with us in our hurts—He actually has done something about them. Through His resurrection, He is able to bring new life and new hope in the present as well as the future. There is power to move forward through the pain they know. In addition, the gospel provides us with the basis for forgiveness, knowing that we, too, have committed heinous sins against God (Eph. 4:32).

And this is how Butterfield opens her article on “Ministering to the Sexually Broken”:

Coming to Christ is the ultimate reality check, as it makes us face the fact that our sin is our biggest problem. Every day, a believer must face the reality that original sin distorts us, actual sin distracts us, and indwelling sin manipulates us. This distortion, distraction, and manipulation create a wedge between us and our God. We are in a war, and the sooner we realize it, the better.

Sexual brokenness comes with boatloads of shame, as sexual sin is itself predatory: it hounds us, traps us, and seduces us to do its bidding. Sexual sin won’t rest until it has captured its object. When our conscience condemns us, we sometimes try to fight. But when shame compels isolation, we hide from the very people and resources that we need. We whiteknuckle it until Satan deceptively promises that sweet relief will come only from embracing that lustful glance, clicking that Internet link, or turning off the lights to our bedrooms and hearts and embracing the fellow divine image-bearer that God forbids us to embrace.

We sexually broken sheep will sacrifice faithful marriages, precious children, fruitful ministries, productive labor, and unsullied reputations for immediate, illicit sexual pleasure.

We may pray sincerely for deliverance from a particular sexual sin, only to be duped when its counterfeit seduces us. When we pray for deliverance from sin by the atoning blood of Christ, this means that I know the true nature of sin, not that I no longer feel its draw. If you want to be strong in your own terms, God will not answer you. God wants you to be strong in the risen Christ.

The Gospel Remedy for Homosexuality – J. Freeman

TT-Nov-2015The November issue of Tabletalk (“The Christian Sexual Ethic”) addresses boldly yet compassionately the major sexual issues of our day.  That includes homosexuality, the burning topic of these times.

John Freeman, president of Harvest USA (harvestusa.org), a Reformed ministry aiding individuals affected by sexual sin, has written a fine contribution with his article “The Gospel Remedy for Homosexuality.” Speaking forthrightly about the fact that there can be no true gospel remedy for homosexuality unless it is described and understood to be sin, Freeman makes this plain throughout his article.

The full article may be found at the Ligonier link below; I quote a portion of it here to get you started.

Source: The Gospel Remedy for Homosexuality by John Freeman | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org

On this side of the fall, sex and sexuality are distorted to lesser or greater degrees. However, today there is controversy about homosexuality raging in evangelical circles and, increasingly, in Reformed churches as well. Not only is homosexuality often presented as good but it is also presented as something to be pursued with God’s blessing. It is alarming that the acceptance of homosexual behavior among professing evangelicals is increasing. We hear from some people that the kind of homosexual relationships we see today (loving, monogamous ones) aren’t addressed in Scripture. Although this trend seems likely to continue, these revisionist views must be rejected by followers of Jesus Christ.

God’s Word is firm in its negative view of homosexuality and same-sex sexual desire. The Bible is the infallible standard by which we must view homosexuality and understand the gospel remedy for it. Unfortunately, the reliability of the Bible in this area has been questioned by many today who claim the Christian faith. Christians who view Scripture as authoritative and inspired must not accept this watered-down view of God’s Word. The Bible reveals God’s assessment regarding the problems of the human heart, homosexuality being one of many.

November “Tabletalk”: The Christian Sexual Ethic: Courage and Compassion – Burk Parsons

TT-Nov-2015The November issue of Tabletalk, Ligonier Ministries’ monthly devotional, is now available, and this month’s theme is a significant one – “The Christian Sexual Ethic.” Boldly and plainly the issue addresses homosexuality, marriage, sexual abuse, pornography, and other such sexual matters of contemporary significance.

Editor Burk Parsons speaks to the issue of homosexuality immediately in his introduction, explaining with “courage and compassion” why and how we as Christians must speak boldly and with true love about this issue in our day.

I provide you his opening comments below, encouraging you to find the rest at the link  provided. At the Tabletalk page, you will also find a sampling of the other featured articles on this subject. Looks to be another “must” read for this month.

Source: Courage and Compassion by Burk Parsons | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org

Homosexual sin is a grievous and heinous sin. While it is indeed true that all sexual immorality is sin—adultery, fornication, pornography—homosexual sin is different. It is a more heinous and grievous sin because, as the Word of God makes clear, homosexual sin is contrary to nature (Rom. 1:26). Homosexual sin strikes against God’s created order in every way and mocks God’s design for procreation, thus making homosexuality logically self-defeating. Those who suggest the Bible is not clear about homosexual sin have never read the Bible or have not been given the ears to hear what the Bible plainly teaches.

The Bible is clear, so we must be clear. We cannot and must not waver in the face of seemingly overwhelming opposition. Although the world is changing, the Word of God is not. We must stand our ground on the unchanging Word of God in the midst of an ever-changing culture. For even if the whole world says homosexuality is acceptable, we must stand our ground on the authority of God’s Word and insist that it is in fact unacceptable and unconscionable. We must speak the truth even if it means persecution and imprisonment. We must insist that homosexual sin is wrong, and like all sins, sexual or otherwise, it is deserving of God’s righteous wrath and condemnation.

Bedtime Stories for Young Brains – The New York Times

Bedtime Stories for Young Brains – The New York Times.

Reading 2 children-1And from this story in the New York Times comes more evidence that reading to young children is good for them (post dated Aug.17, 2015). While most of us may yawn at such reports because they state the obvious, in this age of declining reading we ought to be reminded of how important it is to read to our children – and to read in front of them as an example.

So, read on by visiting the link above – and then renew your commitment to read to your children and grandchildren. They – and you – will be better for it.

A little more than a year ago, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a policy statement saying that all pediatric primary care should include literacy promotion, starting at birth.

That means pediatricians taking care of infants and toddlers should routinely be advising parents about how important it is to read to even very young children. The policy statement, which I wrote with Dr. Pamela C. High, included a review of the extensive research on the links between growing up with books and reading aloud, and later language development and school success.

But while we know that reading to a young child is associated with good outcomes, there is only limited understanding of what the mechanism might be. Two new studies examine the unexpectedly complex interactions that happen when you put a small child on your lap and open a picture book.

Persecution: What the Future Holds – Owen Strachan

What the Future Holds by Owen Strachan | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TT-August-2015The fourth featured article in the August issue of Tabletalk on the theme of persecution is written by Dr. Owen Strachan, associate professor of Christian theology and church history at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY and president of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.

Dr. Strachan addresses “What the Future Holds” in his article, and he presents a very realistic picture of what Christians can expect in this country. He lays out four main points, all of which are worth reading and contemplating.

What I really appreciated, however, was the way in which Strachan closed out his thoughts. These words especially, it seems to me, are worth our careful pondering.

There will be no retreat of the church. We will never stop witnessing unto life. We will never cease to minister the gospel. We will not forget the holy Apostles. We remember how they welcomed the jail cell, the Roman prison ship, the hair-raising tribunal. In any and all settings, they preached Christ. They went so far as to believe that God had not only permitted such moments, but had appointed them for His glory (Acts 5:41). They saw suffering with Christ as a privilege, much as this challenges our material sensibilities. We must not forget that if the church is unsettled, it is not by accident. It is by divine design, and it will be used for divine purposes.

While we live, like the priests of old in fallen Jerusalem, we may weep (Ezra 3:11–13). We cannot forget the millions of babies driven into the afterlife at abortion clinics. We cannot erase the suffering felt in fatherless homes and families detonated by selfish sin and bitter divorce. We cannot help but think back to past days, happy days, that celebrated the good of religious people and did not seek their undoing. All these trends speak to fallenness. All of them deserve our tears.

We will weep. But we will also dry our eyes. We will rise to our feet. Whether in a gated community, a busy city, a tense workroom, a chilly playgroup, or a prison cell, we will never cease to speak and to minister the gospel. The gospel was not made for quiet days and easy questions. It was made for the toughest stuff, the worst of times, the hardest of circumstances.

What does the future hold? The future will bring suffering. The days will be evil, as they have been (Eph. 5:16). But the future is bright, because God is real. The church must take heart. We have a living Lord. When history concludes, we will reign with unbroken bodies in a world of love. We will worship the Lamb of God, slain from before the foundation of the earth. There is no life like this life. There is no hope like this hope. There is no God like our God.

How a Five-Letter Word Built a 104-Year-Old Company | At the Smithsonian

How Think Built IBM | At the Smithsonian | Smithsonian.

For our word feature this Wednesday, we post something from the Smithsonian website yesterday (August 3, 2015). And from the heading you will see why this item caught my attention and became the content of our word feature today.

What’s the word? And which is the company? And who came up with the idea? Read on!

Last year, the daughter of an executive at J. Schoeneman Inc., one of the first garment manufacturers to buy an IBM computer, donated a seemingly modest item to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History: a 4.5-by-3-inch paper notepad with the word THINK embossed on its leather cover.

Small enough to fit into the breast pocket of a dress shirt, the notepad, according to Smithsonian curator Peter Liebhold, was a gift to the executive from his IBM salesman. This would have been in the 1960s, Liebhold says, when all IBM employees carried THINK notepads and business cards and worked beneath THINK signs.

The campaign was parodied in MAD Magazine, the subject of New Yorker and Look cartoons, and IBM was “deluged with requests from the public” for THINK paraphernalia, according to company archives. By 1960, IBM was distributing “about 250,000” THINK notepads annually to non-IBMers like the Schoeneman executive. THINK fascinated people because its pervasiveness represented something so new: a consciously created company culture.

Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smithsonian-institution/how-five-letter-word-built-104-year-old-company

IBM-think

In John Roberts’ America, Words Mean Nothing

In John Roberts’ America, Words Mean Nothing.

words-2For our word feature today, we are going to post something that could be taken as rather negative. But truth is truth, and the truth is always positive, also when it exposes the lie in negative terms.

I found this online article by Kim Holmes in the July 5, 2015 “Daily Signal” (Heritage Foundation’s daily commentary) about Supreme Court Justice John Robert’s distorted use of language in the recent Obamacare decision to be quite revealing. And I think my readers will agree. It touches on something vitally important in our postmodern – and, I might add, post-Christian – world.

Can we agree, therefore, to maintain (and practice!) that words must mean what they are intended to convey? There is, after all, objective reality in words too. And we cannot function properly without such objectivity. Just consider the collection of words in the image I chose. Can “Michigan” – to take one example – mean whatever I want it to mean? Can the meaning of that word change from decade to decade? You get the point.

And shall we not then be a people who “speak the truth in love” no matter what the issue is and to whom we are speaking it? Our Lord had something to say to this too when He said in his great sermon, “But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil” (Matt.5:37).

Here’s the beginning of Holmes’ article. Find all of it at the link above.

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s lament last week that “words no longer have meaning” got me to thinking. I don’t claim to know Chief Justice John Roberts’ motivations in deciding in favor of Obamacare, but I do know that his deconstruction of the meaning of language is increasingly commonplace in our culture. Could his willingness to bend the meaning of the word “states” indicate something larger than what’s happening to the law? Could it actually be a sign of a major cultural shift in the country?

Welcome to postmodern America. For decades now, we have been living in a culture where the meaning of words is stretched almost beyond recognition. “Metanarratives” ring truer than actual facts. Self-prescribed identities trump everything, including nature. A white woman can blithely claim she is black, but when challenged, the only thing she can muster in her defense is irritable confusion and a declaration of how she “identifies.” A man announces he’s a woman and is celebrated as a hero.

Chief Justice Roberts may have had legal and political reasons for ignoring the common usage of words, but it is hard to escape the conclusion that, like so many others in our culture, he felt that being a stickler for a word’s actual meaning was just pedantic, a trivial matter when compared to the importance of some larger cause—in his case, delivering what he thought Congress really intended.

And why should we blame him? After all, if the prevailing wisdom says that a person’s gender or race is what he or she says it is, then why fuss over the meaning of the word “states”? Words mean what we say they mean, right?

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