My Own Summer Reading List for 2016

My personal stack of books to read for this summer started growing this Spring, as did my reading of them (one can never start early enough!). After a winter of some heavier reading (those cold, dark nights stimulate the brain better!), I have added a collection of lighter books for my summer reading. But even these are stimulating my mind and soul well!

Here is my list in the order in which I obtained them, but not necessarily in which I am reading them (all are started now!):

Pope-Last-Crusade-EisnerHere is the publisher’s summary:

Drawing on untapped resources, exclusive interviews, and new archival research, The Pope’s Last Crusade by Peter Eisner is a thrilling narrative that sheds new light on Pope Pius XI’s valiant effort to condemn Nazism and the policies of the Third Reich—a crusade that might have changed the course of World War II.

A shocking tale of intrigue and suspense, illustrated with sixteen pages of archival photos, The Pope’s Last Crusade: How an American Jesuit Helped Pope Pius XI’s Campaign to Stop Hitler illuminates this religious leader’s daring yet little-known campaign, a spiritual and political battle that would be derailed by Pius’s XIs death just a few months later. Peter Eisner reveals how Pius XI intended to unequivocally reject Nazism in one of the most unprecedented and progressive pronouncements ever issued by the Vatican, and how a group of conservative churchmen plotted to prevent it.

  • Honor: A History by James Bowman (Encounter Books, 2006; 381 pp.). This is our latest book club selection, and I am just getting started on it. This is not such light reading, but it will be profitable. Here’s the description in this one:

The importance of honor is present in the earliest records of civilization. Today, while it may still be an essential concept in Islamic cultures, in the West, honor has been disparaged and dismissed as obsolete. In this lively and authoritative book, James Bowman traces the curious and fascinating history of this ideal, from the Middle Ages through the Enlightenment and to the killing fields of World War I and the despair of Vietnam. Bowman reminds us that the fate of honor and the fate of morality and even manners are deeply interrelated.

  • Conversations With a Barred Owl by Margaret Clarkson (Zondervan, 1975; 115 pp.). This thrift store find is a fascinating “nature” read – another type of book I like to read in the summertime. If you are familiar with Clarkson’s poetry and inspirational writings, you know that she is a fine Christian writer (Grace Grows Best in Winter).

Barred-Owl-ClarksonAs the title hints, this is a “confession of a new bird watcher,” and fellow bird watcher John R.W. Stott writes a complimentary foreword. Clarkson herself says in her Preface:

All of life is one, springing from the boundless, creative life of God. I venture to say that there is no natural phenomenon from which we may not learn something enriching about ourselves and our God and the Creature-creature relationship we share. Certainly there is much to be learned spiritually from a study of ornithology.

The few chapters I have read on the yellowthroat, vireo, and loon demonstrate the truth of what she says.

Republocrat-Trueman-2010I knew this book was out there, but it took processing Prof.D. Engelsma’s library to put it in my hands and dig into in. An election year and the prospect of reading Trueman on the Christian and politics added this title to my summer reading list. If you want to be challenged and perhaps become a little unnerved, read Trueman. But you will be led to think things through biblically and be a better believer because of it.

  • A False Spring by Pat Jordan ( Dodd, Mead & Co., 1973; 277 pp.). You knew there had to be a baseball book in here, didn’t you?! Well, this is it!

Another older work (like last summer’s) but it comes highly recommended. This is the true story of the author’s short-lived professional baseball career (the first chapter will already break your heart!), such that he went back to university and completed an English degree. After teaching for a few years, he became a free-lance writer, contributing to such magazines as Sports Illustrated. I just received my used in the mail yesterday, but the little I have read shows the writer has honed his skills well.

Here is a little about his story:

In A False Spring, Pat Jordan traces the falling star of his once-promising pitching career, illuminating along the way his equally difficult personal struggles and quest for maturity. When the reader meets Jordan, he is a hard-throwing pitcher with seemingly limitless potential, one of the first “bonus babies” for the Milwaukee Braves organization. Jordan’s sojourn through the lower levels of minor-league ball takes him through the small towns of America: McCook, Waycross, Davenport, Eau Claire, and Palatka. As the promised land of the majors recedes because of his inconsistency and lack of control, the young man who had previously known only glory and success is forced to face himself.

Now, what are YOU reading this summer? Do these lists give you some incentive and ideas? I hope so. Tolle lege!

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Good Books for Warm Days – Dr.Al Mohler’s Summer Reading List for 2016

I nearly forgot to feature Dr. Al Mohler’s annual summer reading list! But then I was looking at my own summer reads and remembered. So today is the day to call attention to Mohler’s varied list of good reads for the sizzling season of summer.

Pick out a good one in your area of interest, grab a deck chair or the hammock,  and read on! There’s lots of summer left. And tomorrow I promise you my own list, so you will have some more ideas.:)

Here is part of Mohler’s introduction to his list:

Different seasons seem to bring different ambitions and opportunities for reading. Summer offers an excuse to read books we set aside in colder months, in hope.

My summer reading stack has multiplied into stacks, but in this list I share ten that I have found particularly interesting, timely, and worth the investment of summer hours. As usual for this annual list, the books are non-fiction and tilted toward history. I read a lot of fiction, but I find novels more difficult to recommend in any concise form. I also admit that my most relaxing reading comes in the form of an historical work that helps make sense of the world.

And here is one that I noted for reading too, since I have read several of this author’s sailing/sea adventure books:

4. Nathaniel Philbrick, Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolution (Viking).

philbrickNathaniel Philbrick is one of the best writers of history in this generation. In Valiant Ambition, Philbrick considers the complex relationship between George Washington and Benedict Arnold. If Washington is the nation’s famed “indispensable man,” Benedict Arnold is America’s icon of villainy — the paradigmatic traitor. Valiant Ambition tells the story of that crucial period in the American Revolution when Washington did not yet have total control of his forces — much less the tides of history. He traces the relationship, deeply personal and often puzzling, between Washington and Arnold, and Philbrick makes clear that the Revolutionary War was anything but an inevitable American victory. This, too, is a story that needed telling, and the legacies of both George Washington and Benedict Arnold are filled with lessons as well as interest.

Source: Good Books for Warm Days – The Summer Reading List for 2016 – AlbertMohler.com

Happy 240th Birthday, America!

As we U.S. citizens celebrate our country’s 240th birthday today, this little historical note on why July 4 became our “Independence Day” from “Today I Found Out” is instructive.

We should never forget the history behind our independence, nor how God has used this liberty to bless and preserve His church and people in this land. And may we as God’s people count it a blessing to belong to this great land, while also remembering that our true liberty is in Christ and His glorious kingdom of grace.

Have a wonderful 4th!

Why the 4th of July was Chosen as Independence Day in the United States

While it is often said that the Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4, 1776, this isn’t actually correct. In fact, nobody signed it on the 4th. This is contradictory to Thomas Jefferson’s, John Adams’, and Benjamin Franklin’s account of events. On top of their accounts, the public congressional record of events back their story. So how do we know it didn’t happen this way?

To begin with, the Secret Journals of Congress that were eventually made public in 1821 paint a different story. They contain an entry stating, on August 2nd: “The declaration of independence being engrossed & compared at the table was signed by the Members.”

Now if this was the only evidence, one might lean towards a typo in the journal and believing the aforementioned three individuals and public congressional record. However, one of the other signers of the declaration, Thomas McKean, denied the July 4th signing date and backed it up by illustrating a glaring flaw in Jefferson’s, Adams’, and Franklin’s argument- namely, that most of the signers were not members of congress on July 4th and thus wouldn’t have been there to sign it. As McKean said in 1796: “No person signed it on that day nor for many days after.”

Further evidence comes from the interesting fact that the parchment version of the Declaration of Independence that is on display and kept in the United States National Archives wasn’t actually written until July 19th; this being a copy of the approved text that was announced to the world on July 4th, with about 150-200 copies being made on paper and distributed on that date (26 of which are still around today, thus pre-dating what is now generally thought of by most as the “original”).

This little tidbit also came from the Secret Journals of Congress which has an entry on July 19th stating: “Resolved that the Declaration passed on the 4th be fairly engrossed on parchment with the title and stile of ‘The unanimous declaration of the thirteen united states of America’ & that the same when engrossed be signed by every member of Congress.”

So, in the end, this signed document probably would have been copied by Timothy Matlack, Jefferson’s clerk, rather than penned by Jefferson himself, and certainly couldn’t have been signed on July 4th.

It’s also interesting to note that John Adams thought that July 2nd, not July 4th, would be celebrated in the future in the United States.  On July 3, 1776, in a letter to his wife, Abigail, Adams noted:

“The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”

So why did he think July 2nd would be Independence Day and how did July 4th end up getting the nod instead?  Because July 2nd is when the Second Continental Congress voted to approved a resolution of independence. Although nobody voted on or signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4th,  that was the date the Declaration was announced to the world, and why it was ultimately chosen as Independence Day.

William Tyndale and His Significance – Dr.S. Lawson

As we prepare to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the great Reformation next year, it is good to recall the variety of men whom God used to restore His Word to the church and the church to His Word. One such man was William Tyndale (c.1494-1536) through whom God gave us the Bible in English.

In this brief video, Dr. Steve Lawson stops to visit Tyndale’s statue in London and points to its significance for Reformation history and for subsequent history.

The Evolution of the Book – Julie Dreyfuss

This is another informative video on the history of book-making, from its earliest days up to the present digital age (a TED-Ed presentation posted June 13, 2016).

On this Friday, it’s a fine way to be reminded of how important the book is and how it has changed over the years.

Here’s the introduction to the YouTube video:

What makes a book a book? Is it just anything that stores and communicates information? Or does it have to do with paper, binding, font, ink, its weight in your hands, the smell of the pages? To answer these questions, Julie Dreyfuss goes back to the start of the book as we know it to show how these elements came together to make something more than the sum of their parts.

 

Published in: on June 24, 2016 at 9:46 AM  Leave a Comment  

X-Rays Reveal “Hidden Library” on the Spines of Early Books | Smithsonian

medieval-spine-hiddenResearchers are uncovering fragments of medieval texts used in early book binding.

This exciting news item appeared on Smithsonian on June 6, 2016 and gives a fascinating look at the early history of book binding and what historians are discovering on the spines.

Below is part of the story; find the rest at the link provided at the end.

When the printing press made its debut in Europe in the 15th century, hand-written manuscripts went the way of eight track tapes and CD players—becoming unfashionable in the face of new technology. So early book binders cut up some of these older texts and used the paper to reinforce the spines and covers of the newfangled printed books.

That practice has put researchers in another type of bind: To get to the valuable fragments built into these early modern books, they have to tear them apart. But according to Dalya Alberge at The Guardian a new technology is giving researchers a peek at the manuscript fragments without damaging the printed books.

Using macro X-ray fluorescence spectrometry (MA-XRF), Dutch researchers are able to scan the bindings to image the manuscripts hiding underneath. Erik Kwakkel, a book historian at Leiden University in the Netherlands tells Alberge that one in five early modern books contain the fragments. “It’s really like a treasure trove,” he tells Alberge. “It’s extremely exciting.”

Source: X-Rays Reveal “Hidden Library” on the Spines of Early Books | Smart News | Smithsonian

The Man Who Changed Reading Forever | Smithsonian

 

AManutius-pic-1If you are not familiar with Aldus Manutius, you are about to become so. If you are interested in the history of book production and printing, read on for the story of this Italian who changed the way we read by changing the way books were printed – from fonts to inexpensive editions.

Below is the beginning of a feature Smithsonian did on him a while back. Read a summary and the opening here, then follow the link below to read the rest. Take the time to read the Wikipedia entry too – worth your time.

The Venetian roots of revolutionary modern book printer Aldus Manutius shaped books as we know them today.

Source: The Man Who Changed Reading Forever | Travel | Smithsonian

The palazzo, now divided into rental apartments and gift shops, is where Aldus forever changed printing more than half a millennium ago. He introduced curved italic type, which replaced the cumbersome square Gothic print used at the time, and helped standardize punctuation, defining the rules of use for the comma and semicolon. He also was the first to print small, secular books that could be carried around for study and pleasure—the precursors to paperbacks and e-readers today. “He was very much like the Steve Jobs of his era,” says Sandro Berra, managing director of the Tipoteca Italiana museum of typography outside of Venice (open to the public Tuesday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.). “He was ahead of his time, risking everything on an untested whim that somehow he knew would work.”

Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/aldus-manutius-printing-typeface-typography-italics-venice-180956855/#DouQctXp4GuFL1tO.99

 

AManutius-MLowryAs a related side item, I might add that the PRC Seminary library has an interesting book on this man and his times in the Letis collection of books. It is The World of Aldus Manutius: Business and Scholarship in Renaissance Venice by Martin Lowry (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1979.

Published in: on June 2, 2016 at 11:35 AM  Leave a Comment  

Special May Visits to the PRC Seminary

During the month of May we have had a couple of special guests at the PRC Seminary – an individual and a group. So, on this Wednesday we feature their time with us.

DStart-coins-1

 

Mr. Start and Prof.R. Cammenga during set up of coin display tables.

The first visitor was Mr. Doug Start, a member of our Georgetown PRC, and otherwise known as the “coin guy” (check out his website or his Facebook page). Doug is a licensed coin collector and seller, and for some time we have wanted him come and show his coins from the biblical and early church history periods. On the last day of classes (May 5) a visit was finally arranged.

DStart-coins-3

 

Mr. Start gives his informative presentation to faculty, students, and wives.

What a fabulous collection Doug showed and what an informative talk he gave us! I can only give you a glimpse, but if schools are looking for an interesting and instructive presentation, contact Mr. Start! You will be impressed!

Part of an amazing collection of coins, oil lamps, etc.

DStart-coins-2

DStart-coins-4

 

DStart-coins-5

Roman coin with image of Janus, the two-faced god that Herman Hoeksema referenced in connection with the common grace controversy.

The second visitor was a group – the church history students of Mr. Dan Van Uffelen and Mr. Scott Van Uffelen from Covenant Christian High School in Walker, who came last Friday, May 20. This is an annual visit these students and teachers make to the Seminary, part of a church history tour guided by Prof. D. Engelsma (with morning visits to Eastern Ave. CRC and then the old First PRC in Grand Rapids).

CCHS-May2016-1

Gathering for devotions prior to pizza lunch together in the back of Seminary.

This too is a visit we look forward to each year, though with the group getting larger each year (near 100 this year!), we seem to be running out of space to put them all!

CCHS-May2016-2

Did someone say pizza?!

CCHS-May2016-5

It wasn’t long and the pizza was gone! That’s part of the transportation committee in the background – Mr. Vern Haveman and Mr. Mike Engelsma

CCHS-May2016-4

Enjoying the beautiful day on the Seminary grounds after lunch

Personally, I enjoy this visit because I get to lead a “sectional” on the PRC archives. Explaining to the students how and why we preserve our part in the history of Christ’s universal church is thrilling to me; and when I get to show them some of the treasures in the archives room, their eyes light up – they actually seem to be interested and excited too! Of course, the two Van Uffelen teachers have already tipped them off and added to the anticipation!:)

CCHS-May2016-3

The Van Uffelen church history teachers with Prof. D. Engelsma

We thank our CCHS church history teachers and students for including us in their annual tour, and pray that their visit to us was inspirational as well as instructive. Don’t forget what was told you about preserving the history! We pray for you all. Do the same for us.

CCHS-May2016-6

Time for departure – thank you for your encouraging visit once again!

Five Things to Know About the Diamond Sutra, the World’s Oldest Dated Printed Book | Smart News | Smithsonian

diamond-sutraThis headline and story appeared on my Smithsonian news email last Wednesday, May 11. It is a fascinating look at what is considered to be the world’s oldest printed book.

The first part of the story may be found below; read more at the link provided at the end.

No one is sure who Wang Jie was or why he had The Diamond Sutra printed. But we do know that on this day in 868 A.D.—or the 13th of the 4th moon of the 9th year of Xiantong in Jie’s time—he commissioned a block printer to create a 17-and-a-half-foot-long scroll of the sacred Buddhist text, including an inscription on the lower right hand side reading, “Reverently made for universal free distribution by Wang Jie on behalf of his two parents.” Today, that scroll is housed at the British Library and is acknowledged as the oldest dated printed book in existence.

Chances are you know a little something about the Gutenberg Bible, the first book made with moveable type, which came along almost 600 years later. Bibliophiles might also have a working knowledge of other famous manuscripts like the Book of Kells, The Domesday Book, and Shakespeare’s First Folio. Well, The Diamond Sutra should be in that pantheon of revered books, as well. Here’s why:

Origins

The text was originally discovered in 1900 by a monk in Dunhuang, China, an old outpost of the Silk Road on the edge of the Gobi Desert. The Diamond Sutra, a Sanskrit text translated into Chinese, was one of 40,000 scrolls and documents hidden in “The Cave of a Thousand Buddhas,” a secret library sealed up around the year 1,000 when the area was threatened by a neighboring kingdom.

Source: Five Things to Know About the Diamond Sutra, the World’s Oldest Dated Printed Book | Smart News | Smithsonian

Published in: on May 19, 2016 at 6:13 AM  Leave a Comment  

Calvin College in 1927 – Students & Professors

Through a Glass Lightly-TimmermanLast year in connection with history and archives features on Thursdays we began quoting from John J. Timmerman’s book Through a Glass Lightly (Eerdmans, 1987), where he describes the early years of education at Calvin College.

We have been drawing especially of late from chapter five, “Golden Branches Among the Shadows,” where Timmerman describes in detail his own experience of life at Calvin as a student. Today we pick up where we left last time, as he gives us a glimpse of the college as a whole.

In 1927 seventeen professors taught 320 students in a college almost wholly supported by the Christian Reformed Church. Tuition was $100 a year for students from Grand Rapids, $75 for those from Paterson [New Jersey], and even less for those from more distant places. There were no scholarships, and student aid came in the form of pay for serving in the kitchen, sweeping floors, and shoveling coal. There were a few names like Yared, Washington, and Uhl, but the student body was overwhelmingly Dutch.

Professors taught fifteen hours a week. There were two professional offices, usually unoccupied, and counseling was nonexistent except when asked for. Professors prepared their studies at home, filled their briefcases with the results, emptied the contents out in class, and hurried back. The only professor’s home I was ever in was President R.B. Kuiper’s. He had a sense of humor; he invited some students who had pilfered applies in the dormitory over on a Sunday evening and gave them apples. Professors were much more distant than they are now, and the only really approachable professors I had were Dr. W.H. Jellema and Prof. H.J. VanAndel. The rest were not unfriendly; they were just aloof. On the whole, they practiced what Prof. Johannes Broene preached when he said, ‘The faculty is the heart of the college.’ It did indeed move the institution, but it did not move about with its students (pp.32-33).

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