100 Word Book Reviews: November 2020

George Hunsinger, Philippians, Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible, Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2020. 232 pages.

A: A solid and pleasant entry into the Brazos series of commentaries. Hunsinger works closely with the grammar of the text of Philippians, while also showing its impact on life and doctrine. In making these theological connections, Hunsinger displays what he terms ‘ecclesial hermeneutics.’ He gives significant weight to the early credal statements of the church and demonstrates how they were sensible and logical outgrowths of what is contained in the text of Philippians. Hunsinger ends the book with  a series of excurses, diving deeper into particular issues without distracting from the flow of the commentary itself. 

R. P. Martin, The Epistle of Paul to the Philippians, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1975. 186 pages.

A-: Reread. This was the first commentary I ever read cover to cover and it holds up well years later. Martin manages to engage the text with both depth and clarity, a combination lacking in many commentaries. In Martin’s hands, Paul’s letter to this beloved church, full of joy in the midst of suffering, is held forth in all its comforting, transformative, and counter-cultural power. The lengthy introduction is valuable for questions of authorship, setting, and dating, but can be skipped. This commentary will be valuable not only for pastors, but for all careful readers of Philippians. 

Robert Jordan, Lord of Chaos, New York: Tor, 1994. 1011 pages.

B-: Reread. This is my least favorite volume in the Wheel of Time, a series I dearly love. The problem is pacing. There are some significant moments in the book, but they are surrounded by page upon page full of introspection that fails to move the plot forward. Perhaps the sluggishness of the book is related to an overall shift in the series. Previously, Jordan would tie up the storyline of Rand, Mat, or Perrin at the end of each book, closing some particular arc. Moving forward, Jordan will begin to leave many storylines unfinished from book to book. 

Robert Jordan, A Crown of Swords, New York: Tor, 1996. 880 pages.

B: Reread. Ideally, this book could have been shortened and combined with the previous volume (Lord of Chaos) and both books would have been improved. The pacing problems of Lord of Chaos are improved, but the book still feels bloated. Having returned from imprisonment, Rand Al’Thor must reassert himself and move forward with his plan to kill the Forsaken Sammael. Mat, Elayne, and Nynaeve still search for the Bowl of the Winds, the only hope of righting the weather. The book gradually picks up pace for the thrilling confrontation upon the steps of Shadar Logoth. 

Gertrude Chandler Warner, Surprise Island (The Boxcar Children #2). Park Ridge, IL: Albert Whitman, 1989. 192 pages.

B-: The story of these cheery, gritty children continues. Now living with their wealthy grandfather, the children are surprised at the end of the school year with a summer spent living on an island. At their grandfather’s insistence, the children live in a barn on the island. They fish, explore, garden, and cook for themselves. Throughout the summer, they grow close to the boat captain’s handyman, Joe, whose past is shrouded in mystery. As these books got me into reading as a child, they are now pulling my children into the world of books. 

Brandon Sanderson, Rhythm of War, New York: Tor, 2020. 1232 pages.

A: This book finally delivered on some promises given all the way back in Words of Radiance. The climactic scenes for Shallan, Adolin, and Kaladin were extremely satisfying as their existential struggles lead toward healing. With Dalinar and the majority of the Radiants on the frontlines fighting the Voidbringers, Urithiru falls to the enemy. Only the recently demoted Kaladin is left able to resist, sneaking through the tower, and foiling the enemy plots along the way. Sounds like the plot of Die Hard? Absolutely. Is it still outstanding? You bet. Sanderson delivers a satisfying and unpredictable addition to the Stormlight Archive. 

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