I used to have all kinds of books that I reread every year. C.S Forester’s books with Horatio Hornblower, and Forester’s tremendous WWII naval story called the “Good Shepherd” It is a story of a destroyer captain “shepherding” 37 merchant ships through a U-boat infestation over a 24 hour period of absolute and total danger. He uses Biblical imagery and quotes throughout and gives a good, in my mind, explanation of what it means to pray without ceasing. Ray Bradbury’s “Something Wicked This Way Comes” was a Fall never miss. It reminds me of boyhood running and scaring each other as leaves blew and the air held the hint of frost and life was a chase and an adventure. His description of the library where one of the protagonists fathers worked, was exactly like the library I spent hours in after school, before leaving its musty corridors for the chase with my less bookish friends. Patrick Obrien’s Aubrey and Maturin novels were a tour de force offering an education on music, sailing warships, British and French politics, seal life, old time medicine (a scene where Maturin, a doctor operates on himself while the ship is sailing, is stunning), navigation by stars and the sun, and the effects of sailing into the eruption of an undersea volcano were masterful. These books were an education unto themselves. When I discovered him, and got hooked I was anxious to get through all the books. When I did and waited for a new one to be published Obrien died. It was a shame. Losing that kind of erudition and humor and wealth of knowledge was to me, a tragedy. There are a lot more books I could mention but these are highlights.
It is good to read Luther’s commentary of Romans. If you can’t read it all just read and reread often his preface. Martin Brecht has done a marvelous biography on Luther but it has taken a while to get his work translated. I think all the volumes have been translated by James Schaaf.and they are published by Fortress Press in Minneapolis. Brecht can give you a sense of the importance of this preface – here you go –
“Before summarizing the contents of the epistle, Luther, explained the meaning of the key concepts of “law,” “sin,” “grace,” “faith,” “righteousness,” “flesh,” and “spirit.” Presented in this sequence, these explanations provide a brief compendium of Luther’s doctrine of justification at that time. The law cannot be fulfilled apart from faith; instead, it condemns a person. Sin is the fundamental situation of an unbeliever. Here grace is presented as God’s favor, which is accompanied by the gifts of the Spirit. Faith, contrary to the usual interpretation, is not a “human notion and dream, but a divine work in us which changes us and makes us to be born anew of God,” “a living, busy, active, mighty thing,” from which good works proceed, so that one cannot play good works off against faith. Righteousness is identical with this
faith. For Christ’s sake, sin will not be reckoned to the one who believes. At the same time, the law will be fulfilled in the believer and the love of the neighbor will be expressed.” Good stuff. Read and reread, often.