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511nu60ABAL._SS300_The concluding section of Tori Bortman’s The Bicycling Big Book of Cycling for Beginners  makes the claim that ‘teaching, bicycles, and writing are Tori Bortman’s passions’. By the time the reader encounters this line, the truth of it has become clear.

Bortman has provided beginner (and, I would say, that face-saving term ‘advanced beginner’) cyclists with a jargon-free, highly readable companion for the first thousand miles on thin rubber tires.

These pages contain no in-house tech talk meant to bolster anyone’s credentials and squeeze the newbies into their corner. Instead, a gifted teacher who really wants her students to love the sport as much as she does builds our understanding from the ground up, step by step, brick by brick, ride by ride.

I’m finishing my first thousand miles and cannot think of a more amiable companion that The Bicycling Big Book for Beginners and the ambitiously empathetic voice it channels to riders whose gasping lungs and pumping legs are just beginning to know their strength.

51kRhvdn8QL._SS300_Leland Ryken’s Words of Delight: A Literary Introduction to the Bible (2nd edition) has endured a longer wait on my reading list that any other book I can recall. Unexpectedly, the book did not meet my long-pent-up expectations.

When offering an unflattering comment on a work that is clearly an authorial labor of love, I owe an explanation. It will without doubt be highly subjective.

Ryken was writing at a time when approaching the Bible first (not to say primarily) as a literary work was not ‘the done thing’ in evangelical circles, which is the ambience from which Words of Delight emerges. There is a polemical note against ‘biblical scholars’, understandable in its moment, that now makes Ryken’s line of approach seem quaint. He can hardly be faulted for writing in and for his moment, so this is an observation rather than a criticism.

More to the point, Ryken appears to this reader to have substituted one lens for another as he peers at Scripture. The lens he has largely laid aside is the historical-grammatical lens, with its concentration on the smaller matters of language and the sometimes myopic probing for history that might lie behind the biblical text. The lens he has privileged is the literary lens, which begins with the assumption that the Bible represents admirable if not breath-taking literary prowess and finds confirmation of this assumption in the reading of it.

Removed from the fracas, we can appreciate that these function best as complementary routes of access to the text, rather than one-or-the-other alternatives.

More importantly, Ryken appears to employ his chosen lens with a certain woodenness. He has not moved from reading the Bible through a fixed paradigm to reading it on its own terms so much as he has substituted a literary paradigm that gives pride of place to the canons of literary genres as these began to be identified in classical literature and have been utilized to interpret (Ryken prefers ‘to explicate’) literature in the modern period. I come away finding that this biblical passage or another has, in Ryken’s hands, been forced into the literary forms that are the pillars and the beams of this approach.

Still, I recommend the book. How so?

It dawned on me late in the reading of Words of Delight that the book is best received as the lecture notes of a gifted professor of English, which is what I suspect they were before being polished for publication. Could it be that I have been the genre-bungler, rather than the author of this love’s labor.

Perhaps.

Read in this way, the 23 chapters that comprise the work’s four sections (‘Biblical Narrative’, ‘Biblical Poetry’, ‘Other Biblical Literary Forms’, and ‘The New Testament’) offer valuable counsel for approaching a certain biblical genre or text in the manner of a competent ‘reader’s guide’.

When I allowed myself to relax and read Words of Delight on these terms, my expectations adjusted. I came away believing that few readers would not be helped by accessing the chapters of this book in such a task-oriented way. Indeed, Ryken—a much loved emeritus professor at a high-standard Christian college—allows this kind of reader the occasional flash of brilliant insight, without the crankiness to which I found descending when seeking the more thrilling panorama.

519W8+BwhcL._SS300_As one of the evangelical movement’s most interesting and fruitful popularizers, Richard Mouw can almost be imagined rolling out of bed and dashing off an intriguing treatment of Isaiah’s sixtieth chapter, then placing it the next day in his readers’ hands. Such is the effervescent ease of his prose. Yet surely a book like this discloses instead years of reflection about what the Christian gospel has to say about God’s final purpose(s) with his world and how that ought to shape human conduct meanwhile.

As a signal of his (and this world’s) destination, Mouw writes early on that …

Isaiah 60 records a vision of a magnificent city. In it the prophet is speaking to the city, calling attention to various aspects of its appearance. His tone is joyful, his mood excited. This city is not like any other that he has seen among the products of human efforts at urbanization; it is a city built by God. Sometimes Isaiah addresses the city in the present tense; at other points he employs the language of future fulfillment. Though the city has not yet been established, he is certain that it will someday arrive. It is clearly a transformed city. Many of the people and objects from Isaiah’s own day appear within its walls, but they have assumed different roles, they perform new functions.

Transformation of what God has made and what has fallen from its intended purpose is a core feature of Mouw’s vision of history’s destiny. His argument broadens out beyond exposition of one chapter of an Old Testament book’s sixty-six to offer a richly traced counterproposal to skinny Christian views of human fulfillment as ‘dying and going to heaven’.

Mouw wants to know—as apparently did the Isaianic tradition—what will become of all of this, not just of me and of people who believe things like the ones I believe.

The result, in this reader’s assessment, is a stirring vision in which all nations bring their best stuff—their cultural, religious and existential product—to the perfecting of a city that is resplendent in both beauty and justice.

Mouw sees the walled but gates-flung-open city of Isaianic vision as something of a metaphor for this world when it has been duly refined, purged—again, transformed. It stands along more familiar descriptions of the same that travel under the title ‘new heavens and new earth’. The author avoids narrow definitions of ‘how things will be’ that fail to recognize the vivid power of imagistic description. Yet for all this Mouw never distances himself from the vision’s concreteness, whether in its beauty, its justice, its joyfulness, or its inclusion of surprising agents and elements.

This delightfully readable book has retained its value since its genesis in the early 1970s and its revision at the onset of a new century. It deserves strong recommendation still, particularly to potential readers who are interested in Old Testament prophetic vision, biblical theology, missional eschatology, or hope in a context of hopelessness.

51uijBUz+-L._SS300_As this reader approaches the end of six decades and pauses to consider the rescued dogs and cats that have shared his home and made their bed in permanent corners of his and his family’s heart, I wonder if it was because my siblings and I devoured James Herriot’s veterinary tales early in life. (‘James Herriot’ was the pen name of the real Alfred ‘Al’ Wight.)

It wouldn’t surprise. Such was the uncanny ability of Alfred Wight’s eye to capture the immensely rich nuances of man and beast in the Yorkshire hills and dales of the earlier 20th century. Over a re-read that has lasted a year or two, I marvel at the patient and slightly awed love—I think that’s the word—which fuels the gentle, acute conversations that are sprinkled across every page of All Creatures Great and Small, All Things Bright and Beautiful, and All Things Wise and Wonderful.

I’m not sure whether you need to adore animals in order to delight in these books. Perhaps so, but maybe the short chapters work their way into readers’ hearts and turn them into animal lovers. And devoted readers.

I can think of only one tribute to these readable classics that comes even close to giving them their due: I’ll just have to start reading them all over again.

313DbgNoOLL._SS300_Don’t ride without this.

Please, don’t be a hero. Saddle sores are for horses. Buy this, smear it on liberally regardless of your politics.

Then DON’T talk about what you’ve done. Your fellow cyclists already know the dark arts, and they can tell from your face that you’re packin’. That’s quite enough.

41PUV81btPL._SS300_It may help if I clarify that I made a value choice when I ordered these bike shorts. I’m not a competitive biker and was not looking to pay top dollar for a slight performance edge or for the panache of a high-dollar brand.

I got exactly what I expected, and I’m a fan of these shorts after two long rides. The padding is perhaps not as thick as some shorts offer, but this may be what you want. As a bonus added on top of the inherent quality, I actually really like the minimalist style of these shorts.

NOOYME’s fitting guide seems to consider that some of us are ‘larger’ than we think we are. But that’s just a word, and you can trust the guide if you simply follow it for your measurements.

A strong, reliable value choice here.

31XM1pbOBvL._SS300_Well constructed, comfortably fitting, good looking, apparently durable solution for the cyclist’s feet during log rides. Note that they are slightly higher above the ankle than some similar socks.