Four recent Christian nonfiction books
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Radical. Extreme. Epic. These hot words grace the covers of today’s best-selling books. Michael Horton says too many Christians attempt to live extraordinary lives, but fail and wind up disillusioned. In Ordinary: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World, he points out that today’s Christians are terrified of living ordinary and unremarkable lives even though ordinary lives are exactly what the New Testament prescribes. He’s not talking about apathy or complacency, but about lives committed to God’s beautifully ordinary means of grace dispensed through beautifully ordinary local churches. This book provides a wise and winsome counterbalance to the alternatives.
Hidden in the Gospel
Over the past few years, publishers have put out many new books dealing with the centrality of the gospel to the Christian life. While many of these books have been good and helpful, few have been more practical than William Farley’s Hidden in the Gospel. Drawing on the previous work of writers like Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Jack Miller, and Jerry Bridges, Farley celebrates the gospel and then teaches the reader how to preach the truths of the gospel to himself day by day. The book is eminently practical, wonderfully readable, and full of the deepest riches.
Yankee pitcher Mariano Rivera was a superstar in America’s biggest baseball market and a fixture in the final innings of the most important games. His memoir The Closer tells his baseball story, but also how he was born in abject poverty in Panama and grew up using wadded-up fishing nets for balls and tree branches for bats. It describes how he heard the gospel and became a Christian while in his 20s, how that faith has sustained him, and how the Bible has guided him. It is a powerful combination.
True Woman 101
Popular women’s leaders Nancy Leigh DeMoss and Mary Kassian teamed up to write True Woman 101, an eight-week, eight-part study on biblical womanhood intended to lead women to a deeper understanding of God’s unique design for them. God created distinctions between men and women, and this book explores and celebrates those differences, focusing on the elements of God’s design that are distinctively female. Each week provides five daily individual lessons as well as material intended for group Bible study. It’s an excellent orientation to what the Bible says about biblical femininity—and is especially useful for small groups.
Although I don’t ordinarily read celebrity biographies, I found Cosby: His Life and Times (Simon & Schuster, 2014) by Mark Whitaker to be generally readable (there are some obscenities) and a useful survey of race and popular culture over the past 50 years. It tells the story of the comedian’s early years in Philadelphia: He had a hard-working mother, an alcoholic and largely absent father, and a grandfather he adored. After stints in the Navy and time at Temple University, Bill Cosby did stand-up comedy—something he’s still doing 50 years later. I Spy set the course for much of his future work: Cosby didn’t want to do racial humor, but being black was the experience out of which his characters grew. He opened doors for the next generation of black writers, directors, and actors, and introduced black singers, artists, and musicians to white audiences. —Susan Olasky