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Eight new books for beach readers

BOOKS | The Challenger disaster, a thriller set in the Montana mountains, and more

Eight new books for beach readers
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Adam Higginbotham
(Avid Reader Press)

“For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations,” wrote the physicist Richard Feynman. Feynman was one of a 12-member panel tasked with investigating the events of Jan. 28, 1986. On that date, millions of Americans watched their TV sets as the space shuttle Challenger, carrying six astronauts and a high school teacher, exploded and plummeted into the Atlantic Ocean. The book examines the catastrophe, beginning back in the early days of the space race. Only a few years after astronauts made it to the moon, the American public tired of NASA’s exorbitant spending. Then came the invention of the reusable shuttle, which could ferry astronauts to outer space with the ease of a commercial jet. But the idea that might have been NASA’s saving grace irreparably tarnished its reputation. Marred by a bit of foul language and some racy details, Challenger makes for a thoughtful sequel to Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff, even though Higginbotham lacks Wolfe’s laconic style. —Bekah McCallum


Known for Love

Casey B. Hough

In Known for Love, author Casey B. Hough equips Christians to better love friends and family who struggle with LGBTQ issues. Based on questions he encountered as “a parent, a pastor, and a professor,” Hough entreats readers to seek “gospel clarity in response to the challenges we face in society.” He first explores big-picture Biblical concepts like creation and redemption, then applies them to social dilemmas like whether Christians should attend a “gay marriage” ceremony. Hough deals sensitively with hot-button issues, helping readers see how a label like “same-sex attracted” can be problematic. Yet he also seeks to “cultivate a vision of faith in and obedience to God that will serve generations of Christians.” Hough’s writing style can be hard to follow, and some readers may find it difficult to toggle between abstract theology and real-life advice. Still, Hough wisely reminds believers, “rebellion against God is not new. We must remember that first century Christianity thrived in a context where sexual immorality was prevalent.” He sums up our hope: “If God can save you and me, He can save anyone.” —Emily Whitten


All The Glimmering Stars

Mark Sullivan
(Lake Union)

Sullivan’s latest book—like the two blockbusters before it—is billed as a novel. But it’s really narrative non­fiction—the mostly true story of two child soldiers abducted by Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony in the mid-1990s. The harrowing, riveting story moves along at a fast clip. But it lacks the emotional punch Sullivan could have delivered without the constraints of staying true to the characters’ recounted reactions and feelings. Some gut-­wrenching situations elicited wooden responses from the characters, the kind of thing you would expect from people telling a decades-old story (and in one case, through a translator). Even so, this is a powerful account of extreme hardship, overcoming, and ultimately forgiveness. But it’s not for the tenderhearted. The horrors Kony and his lieutenants inflicted on the estimated 37,000 children he conscripted into the Lord’s Resistance Army are difficult to read. The book includes descriptions of war, abuse, and occasional uses of unnecessary profanity. Still, it’s worth reading as a reminder of the evil that continues to wrack the world and the damage one demented, powerful person can do. —Leigh Jones


The Storied Life

Jared C. Wilson

What makes writing good? What makes writing Christian? How do I find my voice? Pastor, professor, and author Jared C. Wilson answers these writerly questions in The Storied Life. His careful, 200-page exhortation urges Christian creatives to pursue their work with humble confidence. In Wilson’s helpful framework, God is the Great Storyteller. Writers tell the stories He designed them for, and He calls them to the work. Wilson offers directions for outlining, proposing, and persevering in the writing of books. He also expands on more abstract and faith-specific vocational questions (for example, How is writing a spiritual act?). Almost all books on writing advise writers to read, read, read and write, write, write—but The Storied Life centers on a God who cares about and even deeply involves Himself in this process. After laying out a path toward worshipful excellence for the aspiring Christian writer, Wilson turns to the subject of platform. Here he gives his most helpful injunction of all: “It is not you who will be the lamp of the new creation, but the Lamb. Do not let the siren song of publication seduce you into spiritual insanity.” —Chelsea Boes


Reaching Your Child’s Heart

Juan & Jeanine Sanchez
(New Growth Press)

The Sanchezes write to parents who are looking for a model for faithful parenting. They identify key habits they believe are essential in the home, including prayer, regular instruction in God’s Word, ongoing gospel-saturated con­versations, and exhortation in Biblical wisdom that teaches obedience while warning against disobedience. Parents looking for a formula might be disappointed to find the authors have not provided a detailed how-to manual. Instead, the Sanchezes offer a broad framework to guide parents in how to disciple their children with eternity in mind. They remind readers that their children don’t need perfect parents, but children do need parents who will point them to a perfect Savior. “Your parenting will neither save your children, nor will it condemn them to hell,” the Sanchezes write. “So remember that we guide, we shepherd, but God saves.” —Kristin Chapman

True crime

The Truth in True Crime

J. Warner Wallace

Wallace is a former cold-case detective whose evidentiary instincts played a role in his midlife conversion to Christianity. In this book, he revisits some of his memorable cases through the lens of a Christian worldview. The book examines how cold-blooded murders result from the root causes of sin and brokenness—something common to every human being. Wallace presents the gospel of Jesus Christ as the ultimate crime-­fighting tool because it can turn hearts to God. Each chapter uses a different crime story to illustrate why the Christian worldview matters in every aspect of life, including marriage, career, and finances. Wallace writes to persuade a secular audience to accept and find hope in the gospel of Jesus Christ. The accessible prose would also speak well to teens or new Christian converts and make good material for a Sunday school class or small group discussion. While Wallace’s true crime tales captivate, his application of them to real life can get long-winded. The book isn’t binge-worthy, but a chapter a day would make a nice companion to a summer prayer and devotion routine. —Lynde Langdon


Out For Blood

Ryan Steck

This novel is the third in a series featuring Matthew Redd, a Marine Raider turned FBI Fly Team member. In Out For Blood (readable as a standalone book, although the entire series is worthwhile), Redd has captured Anton Gage, an environmental terrorist who agrees to spill names of powerful players involved in a global conspiracy. Gage’s plea deal puts a target on Redd’s back. When Redd learns a team of assassins is coming for him, he plots his defense. Equipped with expert knowledge of the Montana terrain, he lures his foes into the rugged mountains amid a raging blizzard. The chase spills into the nearby town where Redd gets impressive backup from his wife and friends. From the get-go, the nail-biting combat—resulting in a high body count—rarely abates. Mitch Rapp fans have another worthy hero to root for in Steck’s Matthew Redd, a man devoted to keeping his family and country safe. —Sandy Barwick


The Unclaimed

Pamela Prickett & Stefan Timmermans

Authors Prickett and Timmermans turned 8 years of research into a powerful story about the rising number of unclaimed dead and what it says about American culture. They focus on Los Angeles, where the government cremates and buries more than 1,500 disregarded bodies each year. Chapters profile four residents, some indigent and some affluent, who end life abandoned. Midge Gonzales is one of them. Although church friends love her out of her homelessness, her ashes still wind up in the city’s mass grave. She joins a thousand others beneath “a stone marker the size of a postcard, engraved with the year 2016.” Stories of bureaucratic bumbling are as troubling as those of family members’ unwillingness to bury their own. The authors aren’t afraid to name family disintegration as the reason Los Angeles, as well as the rest of the country, is bathed in loneliness. They succeed in conveying the inherent dignity of every life, too, but the multitude of named characters can be hard to track. Quoted profanities distract as well. In a gospel-less study of death, the lack of hope is glaring, no matter how compelling the writing. —Kim Henderson


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