August Readings

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Someday, I still hope to live for a season on the coast.  I long to walk the shores each morning, hear the sea gulls and the lapping of the waves, and feel the slight taste of salt on my lips.  Someday, I will be posting all sorts of shots of books, sunsets, and surf.  This year, like last year and many previous years, it didn’t happen.

But this is a book blog and not a beach or travel blog.  I could recount my many troubles this past month, headed up by unemployment, but as I said, this is a place where you go to read about what books you could or should be reading.

Here is the lineup and commentary:


Authority, Not Majority: The Life and Times of Freidrich Julius Stahl by Rueben Alvarado

Downfall: The End of the Imperial Japanese Empire by Richard B. Frank

“Nothing to do but Save Souls”: John Wesley’s Charge to His Preachers by Robert E. Coleman

Stalin’s Folly: The Tragic First Ten Days of WWII on the Eastern Front by Constantine Pleshakov

 Jefferson, Madison, and the Making of the Constitution by Jeff Broadwater

Sermons on Titus by John Calvin

Demons by Michael Heiser

Decorations in a Ruined Cemetery by John Gregory Brown

The Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling

Authority, Not Majority: The Life and Times of Friedrich Julius Stahl by Rueben Alvarado is, along with several volumes by Stahl, published by Wordbridge Publishing.

Understand, first of all, that this book is for the political philosophy kindergartener, like me.  I have several books by Friedrich Julius Stahl along with this one, all of which were published and are promoted by author, translator, and publisher Ruben Alvarado.

For decades I moved along happily without ever knowing that Stahl existed.  One of the problems of teaching classes, especially for teaching junior high and high school classes, is that one goes over certain material, what often reduces history to bullet points, without having to explore beyond the boundaries of major outlines and best known people.

Stahl, much like Groen van Prinsterer, was a major political thinker and doer.  He was an active member of the German legislature during the 1800s, prior to the time when German unification was achieved.  He was a Christian, but like Groen, that did not simply mean that he went to church on Sundays or had a personal relationship with Christ.  He was one who labored to think Christianly and apply such thinking to the current of political and social issues of his time.

Mr. Alvarado sent me several of Stahl’s works and the biography some years ago.  It slowly began to dawn on me as I witnessed his name coming up in some discussion groups that I needed to enroll myself into learning about the man.  The biography is sketchy, a bit confusing, and fragmentary.  That is not the fault of the writer.  There is not much in the way of stories and anecdotes about the man himself, and the confusion stems from my own lack of mental chronology and familiarity with people and events in German history.

In other words, this short biography needs to be read twice. And then I can start venturing into Stahl’s works.

Downfall: The End of the Japanese Empire by Richard B. Frank was “assigned reading” from my historian friend Tony Williams.

This past August marked the 75th anniversary of the events including the dropping of two atomic bombs on Japan and Japan’s subsequent surrender.  The debate still rages on whether dropping atomic bomb was necessary to end the war. If you want a quick and easy answer, go elsewhere.  This book is detailed.  This book is packed with laboriously compiled accounts of bombings, military actions, political decisions, diplomacy, and more.  That is commendation, not criticism.  One would not want to have to take a test involving the particular facts and figures cited in this book.

I wondered at the beginning why Frank took so long in laboring over this work, but upon reading it, I see why.  This is not the more enjoyable narrative history found in works by Stephen Ambrose or Rick Atkinson.  You want the facts and options and varying angles of what lead to the defeat of Japan?  Go for this book.

Also, upon reading it, I wondered again how people ever endured World War II.

“Nothing to do but Save Souls”: John Wesley’s Charge to His Preachers by Robert E. Coleman is an enjoyable dose of Methodist Wesleyan theology such as we wish were prevalent among many of our brethren.

I found this book to be a great complement to the book Compel Them to Come In: Calvinism and the Free Offer of the Gospel by Donald Macleod.

While the two books and authors have different approaches and aims, both books reinforced each other in the compelling need for Christians to share, promote, preach, and teach the Gospel to all.  Wesley was a great man of God, and Coleman’s book is a call for all who bear the name of Methodist to take up his commission.

Stalin’s Folly: The Tragic First Ten Days of WWII on the Eastern Front by Constantine Pleshakov is a readable and astounding book.

Never talk about how bad things are in America right now (2020) or how bad our leaders are until you have read accounts of Josef Stalin and the Russo-German War in World War II.

Gripping, astounding stories.  It is amazing that somehow Russia not only survived the attack by Hitler, but mounted the resources to defeat him.  Stalin is one of the most evil, puzzling, bizarre, and manipulative rulers in all of history.

 Jefferson, Madison, and the Making of the Constitution by Jeff Broadwater is published by the University of North Carolina Press.

Of the making of books about the Founding Fathers there is no end.  Quite popular are the ones that compare and contrast those men.  In many cases, they were friends, allies, co-workers, kindred spirits, and at times, enemies.  Jefferson and Madison are two quite amazing men, each considered by himself.  They have their fans and detractors to this day.

The two men were really close friends.  Some of their political thoughts and actions were united, but there are plenty of divergences in their thinking and legacies.  This book traces the many political issues and actions the men undertook both together and separately.

Madison’s role in the Constitutional Convention was the highpoint of his career, while Jefferson was far off in France at the time.  They corresponded, agreed, differed, hammered out issues, etc.  You cannot help but think what they might have done had they had more modern ways of communication.

Wherever you stand regarding these two men, this is a great study.

Sermons on Titus by John Calvin is published by Banner of Truth

A more full review is coming soon.  This collection of sermons is one of the best books I read this year.

Demons by Michael Heiser is published by Lexham Press.

This book is not an easy read.  Heiser is not writing a spooky, for the curious, account of the demonic world.  Expect more Hebrew than you can handle and many detailed refences to Intertestamental Period writings.

This book calls for careful study and slow and repeated reading and consideration.

Two novels read in August

Decorations in a Ruined Cemetery by John Gregory Brown

The Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling

I picked up the Brown book for 50 cents.  It looked new even though it came out in the late 1990s.  The Rowling book is the third in the Harry Potter series which I am still trying to muster the strength to read.

Sorry folks, but I thought Brown’s book was much better than Rowling’s.




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