Century Marks

Century Marks

Best books on the Puritans

  • Perry Miller, The New England Mind: The Seventeenth Century and The New England Mind: From Colony to Province. Miller, an atheist and heavy drinker who is widely regarded as the greatest historian of American Puritanism, admired the Puritans as serious intellectuals who lived out their beliefs.
  • Edmund Morgan, The Puritan Family. Morgan, Miller’s student, gives a sympathetic treatment of the warmth and passion of Puritan family life that belies the stereotype of Puritans as legalistic killjoys.
  • Charles Hambrick-Stowe, The Practice of Piety. Hambrick-Stowe brilliantly explicates the Puritans’ devotional practices and their fervent love of God.
  • Harry Stout, The New England Soul. While Miller emphasized the changing nature of Puritanism in America, Stout finds that Puritan theology, focused on the doctrine of covenant, remained quite stable throughout the colonial era.
  • Jill Lepore, The Name of War. Lepore compellingly recounts the tragic, brutal history of the Puritan war with Native Ameri­cans in the 1670s, which in terms of the percentage of people killed remains one of the deadliest wars in American history (Thomas Kidd, Patheos, July 17).

Bedside manners

When Dr. Jerome Groopman realized there was nothing he could do to treat a patient’s cancer, he went to her hospital room. “Barbara,” he said to her as he grasped her hand, “we’ve been honest with each other every step of the way. I know of no medicines that I can give at this point to help you.” After a long and heavy silence, she said to him, “No, Jerry. You do have something to give. You have the medicine of friendship” (New York Review of Books, September 27).

Work diary

Keeping a daily work diary can help enhance creativity and motivation, according to research done by Harvard Business School professor Teresa Amabile. She recommends spending about ten minutes each day, preferably at a regular time, reflecting and recording challenges, successes and other work-related experiences. Her research was based on the study of thousands of daily diary entries written by more than 200 professionals (theatlantic.com).

Call to prayer

Catholic theologian David Burrell says that an advantage of living in a Muslim country is that the daily calls to prayer remind him of the need for the daily discipline of prayer. An African priest once said to Burrell: “Don’t knock them; they have been getting me up to pray for years!” (Burrell, Questing for Understanding, Cascade).

Teamwork

Someone asked an Amish farmer what community meant to him. He said that whenever he and his son are finished with spring plowing, they let their horses rest at the highest point on their farm, where they can see 13 other teams of horses working the neighboring fields. “I know that if I get sick or debilitated or die, those 13 teams will be at work on my farm” (told by Wendell Berry in Hedgehog Review, Summer).