Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Four Great Books (Part Two)

Here are the reviews of the remaining two books that I promised you the other day.

3. Creation and the Patriarchal Histories by Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon. Commentaries on Old Testament books written by contemporary Orthodox scholars are very difficult to find. Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon, biblical scholar and pastor of All Saints Antiochian Orthodox Church in Chicago, seems to be on a mission to remedy that problem. (Fr. Reardon is also the author of books on Job and Chronicles; both of these books are on my list of things to read later. He has also written an outstanding commentary on the Psalms and a great book on the lives of the biblical Saints, which I am reading right now).

In Creation and the Patriarchal Histories, Fr. Reardon offers reflections on each chapter in Genesis, as well as some excursi that delve deeper into selected topics and questions raised in the Genesis narrative. In his always engaging and highly readable (even humorous at times) style, Fr. Reardon brings the characters of Genesis alive. He has a special talent for showing how the lives of Adam, Eve, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and others fit into the overall scheme of salvation history. As any good Orthodox writer would, Fr. Reardon clearly connects Old Testament types to their New Testament fulfillments. He masterfully brings out the Christological sense of Genesis, without disregarding the literal and historical sense (as, sadly, the notes on Genesis in the new complete Orthodox Study Bible often do).

Of course, as is true in any book of this type, not all the reflections are of equal quality; some, particularly toward the end, seem to be little more than retellings of the narrative. In reading the last third of the book, one gets the sense that Fr. Reardon may have been hurrying to meet a deadline. Still, this in no way detracts from the greatness of the book. Genesis is one of the books that the Orthodox Church recommends that we read during Lent. Doing so a chapter or two at a time, with Creation and the Patriarchal Histories as a supplemental resource, would be an excellent use of time.

4. Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters, by Dr. Meg Meeker. Yes, once in a while, I do read a book that is not on the Bible or Orthodox theology. In fact, I firmly believe that every married Christian couple should read a book on marriage (from the Christian perspective) at least once a year, and every Christian parent should read a book on Christian parenting at least once every two years. This book is on parenting—particularly on the challenging area of how fathers should raise their daughters.

Having four daughters of my own, one of whom who is nearly eighteen, I consider myself to have a good amount of experience with this subject. I have probably learned enough about being a father to my daughters to write a book of my own on the subject, if I so desired. In fact, I could write a thick book about all the mistakes I’ve made, calling it something like 1001 Things Not To Do in Raising a Daughter! Some of you reading this could do the same. But no matter how much experience one has in being a dad, he must have the wisdom to admit that he always has something to learn. This is why all you dads with daughters should read this book.

Meg Meeker is an M.D. that specializes in pediatrics, as well as a mother of four. The topics that she covers can be derived from the names of the book’s chapters: You Are the Most Important Man in Her Life; She Needs a Hero; You are Her First Love; Teach Her Humility; Protect Her, Defend Her; Be the Man You Want Her to Marry; Teach Her Who God Is; Teach Her To Fight; Keep Her Connected.

Dr. Meeker’s main thesis is that a father must be highly active and involved in his daughter’s life, not allowing the girl’s mother to raise her alone (and certainly not allowing her school, her peers, television, or the movies to do so!). This is not only true in the early period of the daughter’s life, but throughout her life—and particularly through the tempestuous teenage years. Fathers must not be afraid to set limits in their daughters' behavior and activites, even if this results in conflict.

Much of the information that she presents is similar or the same to what you would read in any book on parenting that is written from a traditional Christian perspective (Meeker seems to be an evangelical Protestant, although she nowhere states this in the book). But some of the insights are unique, at least to me. These include the idea that when a girl is a teenager, her father needs to be MORE—not less—involved in her life than when she was little.

Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters is a great resource for men who are serious about being the best father they can to their daughters, helping them to avoid falling into substance abuse, premarital sex, eating disorders, and all the other evils that the world will tempt them with. If you are a Christian father who has a daughter, you must read this book—and the earlier, the better. Mothers, it wouldn’t be a bad idea for you to read it too!

(By the way, Dr. Meeker has recently published a book about raising boys called Boys Should Be Boys. For obvious reasons, reading this book has not been a major priority for me, but I am sure that it must be excellent as well).


Clint said...

I have Robert Wolgemuth's "She Calls Me Daddy." It is a very good book about raising daughters. My in-laws gave it to me when my daughter was born.

Definitely different than raising boys...

Fr. Reardon's books are always excellent.

I will have get these and read them. Thank you for sharing them with us.

Fr. Milovan Katanic said...

One can also subscribe to Fr. Pat's Pastoral Ponderings emails. They're wonderful.

He is a very gifted preacher and teacher!

Fr. Milovan

Fr. James Early said...

That's a good point, Fr. Milovan. Both "Pastoral Ponderings" and "All Saints Homilies" (which features sermons by Fr. Patrick) are very good podcasts. In fact, I just finished listening to his latest sermon. Both can be found at the All Saints webpage (as you pointed out) or on They can also be subscribed to in a variety of ways, including iTunes.