Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War: This was a fascinating account that uncovered so many stories of bravery and courage from women on both sides of the divide, fighting for what they believed was right. There’s Emma/Frank, who disguised herself as a man to serve with the Union Army, eventually serving as a spy, slipping into confederate lines as a slave, and then later as a woman (yes… a woman, disguised as a man, disguised as a woman). Her follow up memoir sold 175,000 copies. Another story was of Elizabeth, a unionist living in Richmond, who acted the part of a southerner (owning slaves) just enough to give her entry into Confederate society. She secretly taught a slave girl to read and write (a punishable offense), then recommended her to Jeff Davis to hire to clean his offices. The slave girl was known for her near photographic memory, and thus was able to read and remember top secret documents and battle plans minutes after they were complete. Her efforts played a huge role in speeding the northern victory. Too many stories to recount.
And God Came in: An Extraordinary Love Story: A biography of C.S.Lewis’ wife, Joy Davidman. I’ve read a fair amount about Lewis, and about Davidman, but this short book did the best job of painting how extraordinary she was in her own right. Her memory, her charm, her conversational abilities, all are what attracted Lewis’ attention and made even his closest friends take note of her abilities and intellect. If she had lived past her 45 years (died of cancer) we’d likely be talking much more about her. Her recounting of experiencing God for the first time had me in tears. It occurred after her first husband (William Gresham, known for Nightmare Alley: a new film version being released later this year) called to say he was having a nervous breakdown and hung up. She didn’t know where he was or what to do. She was home alone with two small children.
“For the first time my pride was forced to admit that I was not, after all, ‘the master of my fate’ and ‘the captain of my soul.’ All my defences—the walls of arrogance and cocksureness and self-love behind which I had hid from God—went down momentarily and God came in.”
“If is infinite, unique; there are no words, there are no comparisons. Can one scoop up the sea in a teacup? Those who have known God will understand me; the others, I find, can neither listen nor understand. There was a Person with me in that room, directly present to my consciousness—a Person so real that all my precious life was by comparison a mere shadow play. And I myself was more alive than I had ever been; it was like waking from sleep. So intense a life cannot be endured long by flesh and blood; we must ordinarily take our life watered down, diluted as it were, by time and space and matter. My perception of God lasted perhaps half a minute.”
I enjoyed the book so much I ordered three books mentioned in the book for follow up reading: Smoke on The Mountain by Joy, “An Interpretation of the Ten Commandments,” C.S. Lewis: Apostle to the Skeptics by Chad Walsh (who was a friend of Joy’s in the US and her introduction to Lewis), and Light on C.S. Lewis, a collection of essays about Lewis by his closest friends written after his death. I usually have a book by or about Lewis going and relish diving into these in short order.
A Beginner’s Guide to Fast and Pray by Tiffany Montgomery. I’ve not read a book on fasting since reading Bill Bright’s book on the topic late in college. I found this short e-book to be fantastic, and the right balance of biblical insight and personal experience. Definitely worth reading.
Miscellaneous: I found the novel Solo Faces about a mountain climber engaging and inspiring. The audio book version of Bomber Mafia was done more like a podcast with interviews and excerpts from WW2. You can’t go wrong with Gladwell, his books are all fantastic, and this is one of those books that’s better in audio form. I finally finished off The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self by Carl Trueman and believe this is one of the most important books for any Christian to read this year. It traces the chain of thinking that led to where we are as a society, where we’re perfectly fine with someone saying, “I’m a woman trapped in a man’s body,” a statement that would have been utterly incomprehensible to someone just two generations ago. Be forewarned that it is not an easy read. I found the first and last few chapters to move steadily, but the middle chapters can get tedious. But it’s worth it.
FULL DISCLOSURE FOLLOW UP ON PREVIOUSLY MENTIONED BOOKS
I don’t always finish a book the same month it’s started. As I look at my shelf of books-in-progress, there are number of recent mentions that are only half completed. So in the Spirit of full disclosure, I’m listing seven books (there are more) that I’m half-way through, still enjoying, and plan to finish. The first two are targeted to finish in September, then two more next month.
- The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck
- God’s Indwelling Presence by James Hamilton
- Outdated by Jonathan Pokluda
- When Harry Became Sally by Ryan T. Anderson
- The Man with the Golden Typewriter ed. by Fergus Fleming (Ian Fleming’s letters)
- Signs of the Messiah by Andreas Köstenberger
- The Score Takes Care of Itself by Bill Walsh (second time through)