Last Kingdom

The Last Kingdom (New York: HarperCollins)

I picked up somewhere that I was supposed to read something by the historical novelist Bernard Cornwell, so I choose this one. I enjoyed it, and it kept my interest all the way through. It was something like reading a well-written encyclopedia article, punctuated with battle scenes. This is a story about the Danish invasion of England, and King Alfred’s defense of it. Great descriptions of the shield wall.

Admin Law

Is Administrative Law Unlawful? (Chicago: University of Chicago, 2014)

This is a magnificent book, simultaneously haunting and bracing. In this book, Philip Hamburger demonstrates, shows, and proves that Americans are currently ruled by a system that the U.S. Constitution was explicitly designed to prevent. Our current system of administrative law “returns to the very power that constitutional law developed in order to defeat, it does more than simply depart from one or two constitutional provisions. It systematically steps outside the Constitution’s structures, thereby creating an entire anti-constitutional regime” (p. 498).

This book is a fifty-gallon-drum-sized stick of dynamite with the fuse already lit. It is required reading for every attorney, every political activist, and every land owner hassled by the EPA because of that duck that lands in your puddles in the spring, thus making your lower acre a wetlands.

Before I finished it, I made this book my book of the month selection a short time ago, and also wrote a bit more about it here.

Authorisms

Authorisms (New York: Bloomsbury, 2014)

All books are full of words, but I really enjoy books that are full of words about words. Paul Dickson has written other books I have enjoyed as well — this one is a review of the different words that different authors coined and managed to get into circulation. I really enjoyed finding out how recent some of them are.

For example, Oliver Wendell Holmes coined the word “unconscious.” Milton coined “the light fantastic” to describe dancing. The first sighting of “T-shirt” is found in F. Scott Fitzgerald. The word “scientist” was coined by the Rev. William Whewell in 1840.

Good stuff.

Experience of God

The Experience of God (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013)

David Bentley Hart is, by my rough estimate, about three times smarter than I am. The difficulty is that he writes as though he is five times smarter, and I find this off-putting.

Seriously, I rate this book at three stars taking an average of extremes. There are stretches where he is dispatching the bombast of the new atheism in a magnificent way, or puncturing the pretensions of the devotees of artificial intelligence, and so five stars it is. There are other stretches where he is bumping along the one-star bottom, and so that to be thrown into the mix.

The chief difficulty is that what Hart describes as classical theism is a mash-up of Sufi mysticism, Muslim philosophy, Hindu wisdom, Platonism, and Gregory of Nyssa. An entire book about experiencing God, by a Christian, and I am not sure that Jesus was even mentioned once. In these sections, he is describing the god who is the mascot of the smart guys club, and not the God who through Christ toppled the wisdom of the world, which, through all its wisdom, did not know God (1 Cor. 1:21).

Further, Hart makes this mistake while patronizingly dismissing people who could never ever belong to the smart guys club, such as advocates of Intelligent Design. So a Trinitarian creationist can get patted on the head and sent off as a worshiper of an idol while Hart smoothly quotes that great sage Rami Dumbunni. In this, the book is simply fatuous.

Broadus

A Treatise on the Preparation and Delivery of Sermons (San Francisco: HarperOne, 1979)

Very fine book. I didn’t read this edition, but rather a very old version published in 1882. I am assuming the one I read was unabridged. A standard work that preachers ought to be familiar with. You need to make adjustments for time and place, but there is a lot of horse sense here.
Preach Imagination

Preaching & Teaching With Imagination (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994)

This was a good book, with a lot of good points, but I would criticize it the way Ambrose Bierce reviewed a book one time, by saying that its covers were too far apart. The book felt padded at times, and had it been leaner I think it would have been far more effective. That said, the content here about learning to cultivate imagination for pulpit ministry is very important. Too many ministers do very careful exegesis during the week in their study, and Sunday morning ascend the pulpit to give the coroner’s report.

Hard Green

Hard Green (New York: Basic Books, 1000)

Peter Huber demonstrates that the green movement is mostly brown. The greatest threat to the environment would be your standard issue environmentalist, what Huber calls soft greens. People who care about the environment, but who want to depend on markets instead of coercion he calls hard greens. This is a great book. There are some evolutionary asides that are a distraction, so ignore those.