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Ask the Editor: End of a chapter


WORLD Radio - Ask the Editor: End of a chapter

A fond farewell to a longtime WORLD book reviewer

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MYRNA BROWN, HOST: Today is Friday, July 5th, 2024. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Myrna Brown.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. Up next: a heartfelt goodbye. In this month’s Ask the Editor, WORLD Radio executive producer Paul Butler says farewell to one of our own.

PAUL BUTLER: Emily Whitten started freelancing with WORLD more than a decade ago. She primarily wrote book and movie reviews for WORLD Magazine before launching her podcast series: The Classic Book of the Month. WORLD radio host Joseph Slife introduced the series on January 2nd, 2017…

JOSEPH SLIFE: Today we begin a new reading series with book reviewer Emily Whitten. Good morning, Emily.

EMILY WHITTEN: Hey, Joseph. Happy New Year!

SLIFE: Happy New Year to you, too. And with the start of a new year, it’s a good time to start new positive habits such as seeking out and reading great, toward that end, tell us about your new series.

WHITTEN: That word “classic” points out that I’ll be focusing on books that have proven their value across the decades and centuries. C. S. Lewis once called older books the “clean sea breeze of the centuries,” and I think he’s right. But more than that, the writer of Hebrews talks about how God’s people who lived before us form a “cloud of witnesses” encouraging us to run with endurance the race set before us. That’s what I hope this series will do--bring us the witness of wise men and women who can teach us to think more clearly, to love God more deeply, and ultimately serve him more fully.

Over the last seven years Emily has done just that. Through careful analysis of more than 80 books, our faith has been strengthened and our love deepened. Here are a few highlights:

WHITTEN: Melville's magnum opus is clearly a classic of American literature. But if like me, you tried to read the book in the past and didn't get very far. You aren't alone. Early reviews of Moby Dick were overwhelmingly negative. Perhaps the worst criticism came from Melville himself who called Moby Dick a wicked book.

WHITTEN: Welcome to the Rexer Family Dinner Table. On March 26th, my husband, two girls and I joined the Rexer family of seven for supper at their home in Nashville and not just any supper but one inspired by our classic book of the month for April: “The Supper of the lamb.” It's a 1969 cookbook by Robert Farrar Capone. In t he book's first three pages, Capone offers an ingredient list for four lamb supper recipes. As an episcopal priest, Capon goes beyond the how of cooking to the why. In a word worship.

WHITTEN: Theologian and pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote “Life Together” in 1938. The Nazis had recently shut down his underground seminary where he lived with 25 students. So he used the time to put some of his reflections in writing.

BONHOEFFER: It is nothing else but our fellowship with Jesus Christ that leads us to the ignominious dying that comes in confession in order that we may in truth share in his cross.

WHITTEN: Our classic book of the month is J Gresham Machin’s 1923 book: “Christianity and Liberalism.” Machin was a professor at Princeton at the time and his calling out of liberalism made plenty of waves. Liberals often see Jesus as an example for faith, not the object of faith. They admit Jesus was a great man, but they might argue his death didn't atone for sin and that trust in him doesn't save.

PETERSON: Instead, the walk to the college had been long, hot, and difficult.

WHITTEN: That's Nancy Peterson's audiobook version of our classic book of the month: “Surprised by Oxford” by Carolyn Weber. You might expect her writing to be erudite, and it is, but she's also down to earth, sharing simple raw insights into her life as a daughter and friend. And that writing style has reader appeal beyond academia. Readers should know that the book represents secular college life in a realistic but non-graphic way. If this book had a movie rating, it might be PG-13 for some of these elements even so this remains one of the wisest books I've ever read.

MOVIE CLIP: ‘Strike three, you’re out!’ ‘Yeah! One more just like that, Davey.’ ‘No batter.’ ‘Easy out, easy out.’

WHITTEN: That’s a clip from the 1981 movie adaptation of Chaim Potok’s novel, The Chosen. The book opens in 1944—the height of World War II. It follows two Jewish American families through the post-war period and the creation of modern Israel. Except for a few instances of bad language including use of God’s name in vain, this is a clean thought provoking story of ideas. Christian readers who look closely here can see shadows of Jesus, the true chosen one.

Before serving with WORLD, Emily Whitten worked with Janie B Cheaney. Together they launched Redeemed Reader—a books resource for families.

JANIE CHEANEY: Emily and I met over books. There is no better way to meet, in my opinion. Have you ever spotted someone reading a book you really loved and you couldn't resist starting a conversation about it? Well, that's not how our friendship happened, but close, she started emailing me about this or that column I'd written and we went from there like me, she's been moved and shaped by great literature, starting with the Bible of course, the book that tells us who we are and what we're meant to be.

But from that point, each of us responds a little differently to this author or that story or those devotional thoughts. We're enriched by friends who enthusiastically ask, have you read this for years? Emily has been making friends over books on this very podcast.

I'll miss her warm Mississippi by way of Tennessee accent. Recommending Lewis or Shafer or other authors I haven't even heard of, but I'll have a reliable list of titles. I'm going to get to. And Emily, thank you for that.

I'm Janie B Cheney.

Emily has been a valued colleague, counselor, and a good friend…like her reviews of Classic Books, she has often spoken lovingly and wisely into our lives as staff and we will miss her at WORLD.

We plan to continue the work Emily started, and Classic Book of the Month will be back after a summer hiatus, but with a different host. In the meantime, we’ll continue to review more recent books as Emily modeled so well.

As we end, Emily has this reflection…

WHITTEN: I just want to say how grateful I am to God for my time at WORLD. I’m grateful I could learn new skills and make new friends I plan to keep forever. And I’m grateful for listeners who were willing to read alongside me for so many years. What an honor! I’m not sure what lies ahead, but (spoiler alert) I do know how this story ends…and I can’t wait to read that final chapter together with all of you who know Him.

And that’s this month’s Ask the Editor, I’m Paul Butler.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.


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