Book Review: Jane Austen by Peter Leithart

Jane Austen by Dr. Peter Leithart

‘Janeia’ is sweeping our culture. From true-to-text major motion pictures of her novels, to an overly creative movie about Becoming Jane, to the rewriting of her works in modern genres (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, anybody?), Jane Austen is today what she never wanted to become—famous. So writes author Peter Leithart in this Christian Encounters biography of the novelist.

Buried amidst the flesh-and-blood characters of her writing, we find that Jane Austen was, in fact, the most real character of all. Unlike so many would-be writers of our day, she did not write in search of status or fame; she wrote out of her love for writing and her incredible perceptions not only of the very real characters in her own life, but also of the society and the world around her. Could anyone depict human nature better than Austen?

But let’s not be so haughty. Jane wasn’t. It is true that she was a great thinker, but she was not a stuffy intellectual. She was young and spirited. And perhaps greatest of all, we find that Jane—while holding unswervingly to her Christian faith—was not too self-righteous to laugh at others and (more importantly) herself.

Could there be a better hero for young men and women today?

I highly recommend this Christian Encounters biography of Jane Austen. Dr. Leithart masterfully reveals the quirks, character, and faith of the woman who gave us some of literature’s greatest heroes and villains.

For more information about this book, please visit the Thomas Nelson product page for Jane Austen, by Dr. Peter Leithart.

Disclosure: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program.

Book Review: Saint Patrick

Saint Patrick by Jonathan Rogers

Perhaps no man has had more legend surrounding his life than Saint Patrick. In Jonathan Rogers’ book, Saint Patrick, part of the Christian Encounters series by Thomas Nelson Publishers, we learn the history behind the man. With only two extant writings of Saint Patrick to glean information from, Rogers considers the context of the world and culture in which Saint Patrick lived and helps us to paint an historic picture of Saint Patrick’s life.

Rogers is masterful in his outlining of the truths that birthed the legends, without leading the reader to accept or reject them. He allows for many possibilities regarding the Saint’s life and ministry, leading the reader only to the historical context and the writings of Saint Patrick himself.

There are two things about this biography of Saint Patrick’s life that I really, really love. First, Saint Patrick’s writings are included as appendices to the book , allowing the reader to refer to them as she reads, after she has read the book and has a better idea of what Patrick was writing, or (as in my case) both. But second, and far more important, this biography challenged my assumptions about Saint Patrick and the Early Church. If I had only picked up Patrick’s writings and had not read the history and context that Rogers provides, I would not have understood the importance of the Saint’s words, the challenges he faced, or the authority he had to question in order to be obedient to God’s call on his life.

This is a short read—and a quick one. You can easily finish this in time to honor Saint Patrick on the coming holiday.

For more information about this book, please visit the Thomas Nelson product page for Saint Patrick.

Disclosure: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program.

The Vertical Self

The Vertical Self by Mark Sayers

If you’re looking for a self-help, Dr. Phil approach to finding your untapped potential and personality, this book isn’t it. And truthfully, I can think of no higher praise to offer Mark Sayers.

If you are looking for a Christian perspective not just on western culture, but on the effects of western culture on the Church and on the individual, then you need to add this book to your library and you need to read it with pen, paper and sticky notes close by.  Sayers cuts through all of the pomp and splendor of our concepts of “image” and challenges us to begin the search for our true self, which is often difficult and frustrating.

I’ve read so many books that talk about our desires and why we are the way we are and…et cet. But this is the first book I’ve read that ends with a clear teaching about holiness, peace, sanctification, and becoming our redeemed selves.

For more information about this book, please visit the Thomas Nelson product page for The Vertical Self.

Disclosure: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program.

Facing Your Giants

Facing Your Giants by Max Lucado

Notice the “s”? This isn’t simply another retelling of the David and Goliath story.  Lucado walks us through the story of David’s life, of the numerous giants he faced, of his successes, his failures, and the God who was with him through it all. In classic Lucado voice—gentle and encouraging, we hear the message loud and clear: “Focus on giants—you stumble. Focus on God—your giants tumble.”

Other reviewers have noted how quick a read this book is, but I would encourage you to read it one chapter at a time, thoughtfully working through the study guide at the end. I have read several of Lucado’s books in my twenty-some years, and none have ever resonated so deeply and so consistently within me. Whether you are tending sheep, charging Goliath, fleeing Saul, exhausted at Brook Besor, or plotting Uriah’s death, Lucado reminds us to keep our eyes on God.  Our giants today may not look exactly like David’s did; we face poverty, depression, addictions—but Lucado shows us that our giants are all the same. And more importantly, our God is the same.

I give Lucado five stars on this. With the frustrations and worries facing Americans today (war, finances, addictions, abuse, etc.), this book is an excellent reminder of where our hope lies and who our closest friend is.

For more information about this book, please visit the Thomas Nelson product page for Facing Your Giants.

Disclosure: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program.

Just Another Hymnal

Well, the book sale was wonderful, but mostly a bust. I didn’t find a single book on my list! I did find some goodies, though. And in spite of the fact that I already have several different hymnals, I couldn’t resist the 1941 Lutheran Hymnal in the Music section! She was calling to me, “Sarah! Sarah! Take me home with you!” I’m not embarrassed by my choice. You cannot, as a rule, have too much music.

I was working through the hymnal last night and found several hymns I was unfamiliar with, several that were older than most of the hymns I know. Look at this one:

O gladsome Light, O grace
of God the Father’s face,
the eternal splendor wearing;
celestial, holy, blest,
our Savior Jesus Christ,
joyful in thine appearing.

Now, ere day falleth quite,
we see the evening light,
our wonted hymn outpouring;
Father of might unknown,
thee, his incarnate Son,
and Holy Spirit adoring.

To thee of right belongs
all praise of holy songs,
O Son of God, Life-giver;
thee, therefore, O Most High,
the world doth glorify,
and shall exalt for ever.

This song is from the 3rd century and its author is unknown. It is beautiful. I was astounded that a hymn of the Church could have survived so long. Most of the hymns we sing today are only a few hundred years old–and even those seem ancient to us! But here is a song the Church was singing in the 3rd century, and it blew my mind. Suddenly, I was overwhelmed with the bigness of history and of the Church.

It can be so easy to forget that the Church is more vast than right here and right now; that there really is “a cloud of witnesses.” The notion that somehow we are able to sing the same worship and praise that Christians sang in the 3rd century just overwhelmed me with a sense of both my smallness in the scheme of things and also my being surrounded by so many Believers.

It also made me wonder what songs we would add to our hymnals as history unfolds. There has been this incredible transition in some churches, moving away from “hymns” and preferring something more “modern.” But aren’t most hymns “modern” to their time? So what songs would we add to “O For A Thousand Tongues” and “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” and “Doxology”? What songs of adoration will be remembered from the Church today?

Any thoughts?

Pax Domini.