I read a lot! From Batman comics to works of theology, current events to historical reflections. Here is a sampling of what I have read over the last several months.

The Time of Our Lives: Collected Writings (Peggy Noonan, Twelve Books, 2015).

A former speechwriter for President Ronald Regan, Noonan has been a columnist for the Wall Street Journal. Her book pulls many of her pieces together in one collection. A gifted writer, Noonan is able to share critical observations about current realities without being overly political. But don’t let that fool you. She praises Regan as one of the best presidents and is overly critical of the Clinton’s and Obama. That said, it is important to remember that this collection of essays is being read out of context. Weekly columns deal with the present. Perhaps the best part of this book is the introduction. Noonan offers a glimpse into her writing process. For any person whose main form of communication is the written word, Noonan provides a primer in writing.   (3 out of 5 stars.)

We Are Robin Vol. 1: The Vigilante Business (Lee Bermejo, DC Comics, 2016).

This volume collects We Are Robin issues #1-6 and DC Sneak Peek: We Are Robin #1. In a Gotham City that has spiraled into chaos thanks to the Joker, the dynamic duo of Batman and Robin are not enough to keep the peace. A group of teenagers adopt the “R” and become Robins to fight for justice in their city. Duke Thomas, an African-American teenager whose parents are missing, is recruited to join the group. His own grief and sense of injustice become the fuel for as he fights for the rights of others. While hoping to find Duke’s missing parents, the Robins actually discover a conspiracy that threatens to descend Gotham into even further chaos. This is a good read, filled with hope in the next generation. (5 out of 5 stars.)

The Meaning of Michelle: 16 Writers on the Iconic First Lady and How Her Journey Inspires Our Own (Veronica Chambers, St. Martin’s Press, 2017).

The 16 writers, women and men, whose words compose this book, honor the former first lady, Michelle Obama.  The variety of essays and contributors is a plus. It allows for a range of perspectives on Mrs. Obama’s cultural impact. She is “mom-in-chief,” fitness advocate, among many other roles. “The irony is that Michelle Obama makes it look so easy because she is so complicated,” writes Tiffany Dufu. “Simultaneously flawless and imperfect, she brilliantly navigates opposing forces. And in the tension, we can all see ourselves.” The essays have a personal nature to them. If you have seen the video of the little girl looking at the portrait of Michelle Obama online, that gives you an idea of what this collection of essays is like. The shifts in perception are not only in how we see Mrs. Obama, but how we see each other and ourselves. Contributors include: Ava DuVernay, Veronica Chambers, Benilde Little, Damon Young, Alicia Hall Moran and Jason Moran, Brittney Cooper, Ylonda Gault Caviness, Chirlane McCray, Cathi Hanauer, Tiffany Dufu, Tanisha Ford, Marcus Samuelsson, Sarah Lewis, Karen Hill Anton, Rebecca Carroll, Phillipa Soo, and Roxane Gay. (4 out of 5 stars.)

A Bigger Table: Building Messy, Authentic, and  Hopeful Spiritual Community (John Pavlovitz, Westminster John Knox Press, 2017).

John Pavlovitz is a popular blogger who challenges the Christian norm. He refuses to put, or leave, God or the Church in a box.  In A Bigger Table, Pavlovitz encourages church leaders to hold on to the virtues of courage and patience.  And he calls for radical hospitality, total authenticity, true diversity, and an agenda-free community. Pavlovitz shares openly from his own life. He is transparent in his own journey. And he is aware that making the table bigger is “easier said than done.” And he is transparent about his thoughts on the 2016 election. He sees it as part of the growing schism between the left and the right in the United States. And this has implications for the Church. Pavlovitz, like so many other leaders, calls for a Church that looks different from the way we have always done church. Now, more than ever, we need a bigger table where all are welcomed. And this is the vital message of the book. So, let’s start with setting another place at the table.  (4 out of 5 stars.)

Thanks to all the publishers and NetGalley for digital review copies.