What I've been reading since arriving in Haddonfield!
Author: Rev. Dr. Doug Gerdts
August 25, 2020
Other than the riveting history of the town, This is
Haddonfield, from which I quoted in my first sermon, I’ve read a few other
books which are representative of my interests!
1. The Age of Eisenhower by William Hitchcock
Given that I'm a child of the 1950s, and was named after
President Eisenhower (hint: my middle name starts with a “D”; extra points if
you figure out who my first name is after...), I’ve always had a dual
fascination with American history especially as it relates to the presidency.
Here’s quick review and synopsis:
Drawing on newly declassified documents and thousands of
pages of unpublished material, The Age of Eisenhower tells the story of
a masterful president guiding the nation through the great crises of the 1950s,
from McCarthyism and the Korean War through civil rights turmoil and Cold War
conflicts. This is a portrait of a skilled leader who, despite his conservative
inclinations, found a middle path through the bitter partisanship of his era.
At home, Eisenhower affirmed the central elements of the New Deal, such as
Social Security; fought the demagoguery of Senator Joseph McCarthy; and
advanced the agenda of civil rights for African Americans. Abroad, he ended the
Korean War and avoided a new quagmire in Vietnam. Yet he also charted a
significant expansion of America’s missile technology and deployed a vast array
of covert operations around the world to confront the challenge of communism.
As he left office, he cautioned Americans to remain alert to the dangers of a
powerful military-industrial complex that could threaten their liberties.
Ike frequently ranks 5th among the country's best presidents
— and for good reason. Given the political climate in which we live today,
where compromise is perceived as weak or “flip-flopping,” Eisenhower was a
skilled negotiator and formed political alliances which allowed his
administration to constructively confront domestic and foreign concerns and
threats. Plus — he was a very decent human being!
2. Who Wrote the Bible (1987) and The
Exodus (2017) both by Richard Elliott Friedman
I was given an audio version of The Exodus which I
listened to on my commutes between Wilmington and Haddonfield and often found
myself sitting in my car after arrival just to hear the end of a chapter, what
NPR calls “driveway moments.” Whether or not the exodus from Egypt by the
Hebrews actually took place and in what form has vexed biblical scholars almost
since it happened! Friedman’s research is extraordinary. As one reviewer
proclaimed: Known for his ability to make Bible scholarship accessible to
readers, Friedman proceeds to reveal how much is at stake when we explore the
historicity of the exodus. The
implications, he writes, are monumental. We learn that it became the starting-point of the formation of
monotheism, the defining concept of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Moreover, we learn that it precipitated the
foundational ethic of loving one’s neighbors — including strangers — as
oneself. He concludes, the actual exodus
was the cradle of global values of compassion and equal rights today.
Based upon my attraction to one of his books, I ordered his
most foundational work, Who Wrote the Bible, which is required reading
for any serious student of the Bible. Understanding how four different strands
of thought were woven together to craft The Torah, the first five books of the
Bible, adds dimension and depth of understanding which not only illumines the
Hebrew scriptures but the Christian ones as well.
3. Still Life (2005) by Louise Penny
OK — this book was one of the great treats of my reading
career! I love a good murder mystery and this one is delicious — in no small
part because the characters are usually eating! In summary, Chief Inspector
Armand Gamache of the Surêté du Québec and his team of investigators are called
to the scene of a suspicious death in a rural village south of Montreal. Jane
Neal, a local fixture in the tiny hamlet of Three Pines, just north of the U.S.
border, has been found dead in the woods. The locals are certain it’s a tragic
hunting accident and nothing more, but Gamache smells something foul in these
remote woods, and is soon certain that Jane Neal died at the hands of someone
much more sinister than a careless bowhunter.
This is the first of a long series which often
debut on the NY Times Bestseller List! I’d love to organize a book club
around any of her novels — the quality of her prose and the interweaving of
spirituality is fantastic and the gist of many fruitful conversations!