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Topical paradise

2014 Books Issue | The best books on subjects ranging from the Earth’s beginning to internet innovation

Issue: "2014 Books Issue," June 28, 2014

This year we’ve thrown two questions at 13 Christians who are known and knowledgeable in their fields. First: What’s the best overall book you would recommend for a layman who wants to understand your area of expertise? Second, What’s an outstanding book on your subject published within the last few years? Here are their answers.

Mike Adams [higher education]

Those wishing to understand how American universities have lost their way should read William F. Buckley’s God and Man at Yale (1951). The university shift toward secularism began long before political correctness, and Buckley documents that transformation like no one else. Those interested in recent campus cultural wars need to read Unlearning Liberty (2012) by Greg Lukianoff. Although Lukianoff is a liberal and an atheist, he is astounded by the level of hostility toward evangelical Christians on college campuses. More importantly, he explains how campus speech codes and “anti-discrimination” clauses undermine free speech and religious liberty. —Mike Adams, a professor at UNC-Wilmington, writes columns at

Robert F. Davis [music]

I continue to appreciate The Enjoyment of Music (latest edition: 2012), by Forney, Dell’Antonio, and Machlis, especially the “essential listening edition” from Norton. It’s easy to use, with interactive listening features and downloads. Reading it alongside Music Through the Eyes of Faith (1993), by Harold M. Best, will give Christians a solid education in and understanding of music. Although it’s not about music, Paul Tripp’s Dangerous Calling (2012) will help music ministers, directors, and performers to be aware of institutional politics and pitfalls, and his encouragements will help musicians who desire to put their gifts to godly use. —Robert F. Davis is a freelance musician in New York City

Daniel James Devine [digital technology]

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The hair-tousling speed of internet innovation is hard to follow, especially if you didn’t grow up using a smartphone. Born Digital (2008), by John Palfrey and Urs Gasser, explains how social networks, wikis, blogs, online activism, photo tagging, file sharing, etc., have shaped the minds and habits of people born after 1980. The generation-wide analysis of privacy, online identities, cyberbullying, and information overload remains timely. For a Christian look at online movers and shakers, try iGods (2013) by Craig Detweiler. He affectionately traces the short histories of companies like Apple, Google, Amazon, and Facebook, pondering which of our problems they solved, and whether we’ve given them too much reverence in return. —Daniel James Devine writes on science and technology for WORLD

Makoto Fujimura [modern art]

Sister Wendy is a great resource for art in general: See her Story of Painting (1997). For modern art in particular, Daniel Siedell’s God in the Gallery (2008) uses Paul’s encounter with the Athenians on Mars Hill as a springboard for challenging the church to engage with the secular art world—and provide a means of bringing order out of chaos. More recently, Golden Sea is a retrospective of my “Golden Sea” series of paintings that seeks to relate modern art to Christian thought, with essays by noted Christian thinkers. It comes with a documentary that makes contemporary Japanese art accessible to the layman. —Makoto Fujimura is an artist and founder of the Fujimura Institute

David Greusel [architecture]

Eric O. Jacobsen has written two books I would recommend for any Christian who wants to think carefully about the built environment. The first and more accessible is Sidewalks in the Kingdom (2003). This wonderfully written book considers from a Christian and pastoral perspective how we make our cities, and introduces some very orthodox ideas that may startle even longtime believers. The second book, The Space Between (2012), could be seen as a sequel to Sidewalks, although both books stand on their own. It is a deeper and more theological take on the same subject: how we make our cities today and how we could make them better. —David Greusel is founder of Convergence Design, a Kansas City architectural firm

Max McLean [theater]

Being an Actor (1984) immediately engaged me. It’s Simon Callow’s generous account of his early years in the London theater, including technical analysis of roles, plays, and the state of the profession. He writes with eloquence and a genuine love for acting. Theatre, by David Mamet (2011) is a delightful read covering five decades. Mamet writes with great wit and slays several theatrical sacred cows, such as Constantin Stanislavski’s three volumes on acting. Mamet also explains how and why Broadway has deteriorated from producing thoughtful dramas to offering spectacles that cater primarily to tourists. I also recommend it for preachers, to help them understand what it takes to engage an audience. —Max McLean is a professional actor and artistic director at Fellowship for the Performing Arts


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