* Number 53 in the 2021 booklist was Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery by Eric Metaxas, It was a very beneficial study (notwithstanding a few annoying quirks of the biographer) and was important enough for us to set up a Vital Signs Ministries' Book Brunch on Saturday morning October 23 at 10 o'clock to discuss it with friends.
* Book number 54 in my 2021 reading was Spirit of Steamboat by Craig Johnson. It was the July selection of our book club. Because I had once read one of Johnson’s Longmire novels which I found dull of plot, coarse of language, and naively irreligious, I didn’t vote for the book when we were making the list. And, sure enough, I didn’t much like this short Christmas-themed novel.
* I had a much better time with the next month’s book club selection, The Eagle’s Claw by Jeff Shaara. Our book club likes Shaara quite a bit. Indeed, we have read every one of his military novels. This one, dealing with the Battle of Midway, was on a par with his others.
* In between the above books, however, were three re-reads of military novels that I recommend even more enthusiastically. They are the acclaimed submarine novels by Edward L. Beach, who combines his experience as a remarkably impressive and admirable navy officer with an artistic handling of plot, character, mood, and description to create three of the most exciting adventures I’ve ever read. Run Silent, Run Deep and Dust on the Sea are set in World War II while Cold Is the Sea takes the same protagonist into the dawn of nuclear submarines. All three are exceptional reads.
* In reading The Faithfulness of God: Volume III, I completed the incredibly detailed biography of missionary LaVern Smith. LaVern’s story takes in his childhood upbringing and education, his courtship and marriage to Marlene, their family and years of missionary service in the Caribbean, and recent ministry. The length of these books made each one a challenge but the exemplary lives and ministries of LaVern and Marlene documented therein made them a profoundly moving read for me.
* Jan Karon’s Come Rain or Shine was a delightful read. And, as her Fr. Tim/Mitford novels always have been for me, they were inspirational and encouraging. However, I must admit that as this is the second to the last in her series and Fr. Tim is moving out of limelight, I didn’t find it quite as endearing as previous novels. But I did like it and found it more than worthwhile. I have just one more to read to complete the series.
* G.K. Chesterton’s The Napoleon of Notting Hill is GKC’s first novel and one I find lively, fun, and provocative. I’ve read it many times and always enjoy it.
* I had read Hitler’s Cross by Erwin Lutzer many years ago. But with the modern Church increasingly being duped by both “the carrot and the stick” of worldly tyranny, I thought it a most relevant time to read it again. It was a sober but very helpful exhortation.
* Calvin’s Miller’s short novel Frost (one of the four of his season-themed novels, the best of which is Snow) was quite good and it’s another I would highly recommend.
* Beth Streeter Aldrich, the Nebraska author who I vastly prefer to Willa Cather, is another author who has become a favorite with our book club. I was absolutely delighted and impressed with A White Bird Flying.
* Command by Anthony Melville-Ross was another WWII novel I discovered as a “free read” on my Kindle. It is, I believe, the first of a series of four novels dealing with the crew of a British submarine fighting in the north Atlantic and the Mediterranean. I liked it a lot and, even though the next ones will cost me a few dollars, I’ll be ordering the others.
By far the most challenging read of these last few months has been the Dorothy
Sayers translations of Dante Alighieri’s The Divine Comedy -- Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso. This was quite a project because I not only read carefully and took notes over the poetry of all three books but also Sayers very learned, very perceptive introductions, notes, and commentaries. Completing this classic trilogy has already been of great spiritual value and I have no doubt that the effects will be ongoing.