What I%27ve been reading since arriving in Haddonfield!

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 (2018)
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Drawing on newly declassified documents and thousands of pages of unpublished material, The Age of Eisenhower tells the story of a masterful president guiding the nation through the great crises of the 1950s, from McCarthyism and the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!



First Presbyterian Church

Christ's Joy, Justice, and Compassion in All, Through All, and For All


20 King's Highway East, Haddonfield, NJ 08033
(856) 429-1960