Friday, 30 November 2012

Semester Break

The fall semester has come to an end. Today is the last day of regular classes, with final exams next week.

I look forward to having one month off. After having submitted the manuscript of Early Evangelicalism: A Reader, I intend to use the month of December to catch up on my reading. There are several books on my shelves that I have not had the time to read, and so I hope to tackle some of these titles over the next few weeks.

I recently finished Paul Gutjahr's Charles Hodge: Guardian of American Orthodoxy. I don't have time to write a proper review, but can honestly say that it was a joy to read. Gutjahr deserves a round of applause for bringing to life a key religious figure who has been neglected by scholars for decades. I especially appreciated the numerous images and charts that Gutjahr included as well as the contextual information that he provided throughout his narrative.
Hodge lived a long life (1797-1878) and taught several years at Princeton Theological Seminary and so Gutjahr had to do a lot of research on American history, from the establishment of the early republic to beyond the Civil War. The book is not very theologically rich in its delineation of Hodge's thought, but it is an enjoyable read and I would easily recommend it to non-specialists interested in American religious history and especially people who want to learn about the evolution of American Presbyterianism from the end of the eighteenth century to the latter half of the nineteenth century.

The last few days I have returned to Debby Applegate's The Most Famous Man in America: The Biography of Henry Ward Beecher. I had to put it down about halfway through to complete other projects, but now I am determined to finish it. Applegate's book is truly one of the best biographies I have read in a long time. While I love reading a good monograph, Applegate's book could be recommended to family and friends without any caveats. It is funny, interesting, well researched and eloquently written. After each chapter I am continually amazed at her superb writing style. Henry Ward Beecher comes alive in her descriptions of him so that you feel as though you know the man as well as a lifelong friend.

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