Kyle Rapinchuk’s Top 5 Books of 2018
My reading tastes in the past decade have focused primarily on theology and fiction. Some of that was due to my degrees (B.A. in English followed by M.Div. and Ph.D. in Biblical Studies), but largely I could say I completed those degrees because those were the subjects I loved to read and about which I loved to learn. The more that I have delved into classical Christian education, however, the more I am excited to learn about a wide variety of disciplines. To that end, I emailed some of my colleagues at College of the Ozarks who taught in various disciplines, and I requested a reading list from them. I haven’t finished even half of their suggestions, but several of the ones I have completed constitute my Top 5 for this year.
- Rethinking School by Susan Wise Bauer
I am now in my seventh year teaching at a classical Christian school, and my views on education have radically changed from when I began. I often find myself thinking about pedagogy, curriculum, and how best to educate my students, my children, and myself. I’m not always sure how to put these thoughts into words, however, nor am I always able to communicate them to others. Then I read Rethinking School. Bauer’s book voices so well many of the things I have been thinking about in so many areas. If you have a gifted or special needs child, this book is a must read. If you are a classical educator, or probably an educator of any kind, you should read this book. If you are a parent with school-age children, then you ought to read this book. It will help raise important questions and provide helpful steps forward for readers of all backgrounds.
- Norms and Nobility by David Hicks
Hicks’ survey of classical education was initially written prior to the modern resurgence of classical Christian education, but its insight into the history and philosophy of classical education remains perhaps the best treatment of the subject. The book is more academic than most treatises on classical education, but that also allows it to be more thorough. I think all classical educators should work their way through this book in a community of other classical educators. They will all be better for the effort.
- Captain Blood by Rafael Sabatini
Captain Blood is a novel that transcends time. Written at the turn of the 20th century with a 17th century setting, this pirate adventure story speaks directly to the heart of the human condition today. Difficult moral issues, notions of honor and integrity, and the human desire (both sinful and noble) for love, greed, position, and more leave the reader constantly wrestling with the good, the true, and the beautiful. Besides its moral lessons and excellent literary style, this novel is simply fun to read.
- Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts by Sam Wineburg & The Landscape of History by John Lewis Gaddis
Recommended by a good friend who teaches history, these two books have shaped my understanding of the importance of and method for studying and teaching history. Each is an excellent analysis of the historical task and its importance. For classical Christian educators, I am convinced we need to have a robust understanding of how to study, learn, and teach history, and these two books are a great start towards such understanding. If the reader is inclined to read only one, I would suggest Gaddis as it gives the best philosophical portrait of the historian’s task. Wineburg’s book deals more in the realm of the historical mind and how to develop it.
- Pictures at a Theological Exhibition by Kevin Vanhoozer
I will likely write a series of posts on this book in the spring, so I’ll keep this review as short as I can. Wow! Vanhoozer has long been one of my favorite authors in theology, and this book raised my opinion of him ten-fold. The book is a collection of essays and sermons, most of which have been published previously, but as a collection Vanhoozer brings them all together into a fantastic exploration of the church’s worship, witness, and wisdom. Perhaps what I love most in this book is that Vanhoozer’s discussion of theology, the church’s mission, and more are presented through the lens of truth, goodness, and beauty. So much of what I have been reading and thinking about theology, the role of the church, and classical Christian education came together in this book with Vanhoozer’s witty and beautiful prose style. He is a joy to read, even when I am realizing that his understanding far outstrips my own—even when I’m confused and humbled by my lack of understanding, I am having fun!
Bonus: In one of the essays in Vanhoozer’s book he mentions On the Reduction of the Arts to Theology by Saint Bonaventure. I purchased the book based on his brief mention and was overjoyed. Bonaventure’s work is phenomenal, and it, too, has shaped a good deal of my understanding of education and its relation to theology. I will be writing a series on Bonaventure’s work in the spring as well, so stay tuned to The Classical Thistle!