About November 2005

This page contains all entries posted to Hearts & Minds Books in November 2005. They are listed from oldest to newest.

October 2005 is the previous archive.

December 2005 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

November 2005 Archives

November 2, 2005

blood:water mission and more about YADA

Not to belabor the whole Garber YADA YADA YADA event and the book of his that I have been blogging about, but I hope you took time to click on the link which led to one of Steve's essays. Or have told somebody to read my review of the book back on the website column.

I can't quite give the prize about the Y-words to anybody, though (although cheers to Matt Lyke for giving it an educated guess.) Here is the answer: Garber's research findings, as powerfully described in Fabric of Faithfulness, is that those with robust faith who attempt to live faithfully across their various callings, cares and concerns, who maintain the habits of heart that allow them to live radically in public and private, were those who, while in their young adult years, found themselves committed to three things. These narratives which grace the book--okay, I admit it, I'm one of 'em, for a goofy couple-a-pages--all said, in various ways, the same three things. There were no exceptions in his interviews, and this discovery not only earned him a PhD in education from Pennsylvania Sate University, but has motivated him to explore further how these features can be asserted with people who desire a lasting and transforming faith. He has spent the last years listening and reading, writing and talking...

The three things?

Truth. People don't stake their lives on stuff they don't find to be really, truly, true. Yada, which is the Hebrew word, "to know" implies, among other things, a sense of knowing/doing the truth.

Character, mediated by a mentor. Folks who Steve interviewed who maintained a whole-life kind of discipleship that connected "belief and behavior" each had a story of how they moved from an intellectual commitment to the rather abstract notion of truth to a formation of heart that can only be called character development. And hearts, minds, values and character is more "caught than taught", hence the testimonies of a coach, teacher, campus minister, social activist or older friend who served as a, well, a Yoda. Yep, the old gnarly Yoda-dude is a mentor-type. Yada needs Yoda, a wise guide to show the way in real life.

And, it becomes evident that those that want to live a transforming life out of love for God and hope to serve God in the midst of efforts to bring redemptive care to a hurting world simply cannot sustain counter-cultural, indeed, often counter-intuitive claims and lifestyles without the support of others. There has to be a community of like-minded other folks, affirming and supporting anyone who tries to make a difference. Yes, the Ya Ya Sisterhood gals were pretty broken themselves, and, in my sermon before the YADA conference, that was quite the point: hurting as we may be, messed up as we all are, nonetheless, those wacky members of the sisterhood took their vows of friendship seriously. They hung in there with each other, even interferred--agggghhh--and intervened for the sake of the integrity of each other's lives, over the course of their odd lives. How many of us can say we have that kind of life-long, loyal compadres?

And so, in Garber's elequant words, with a tip of the hat to Hauerwas, those whose young adult faith remained intact and vibrant and socially relevant over the course of their years and into the start of midlife all told stories of conviction, character and community. Or, as I put it, Yada, Yoda & the Ya-Ya Sisterhood.


One way Steve illustrated this was by talking candidly (and humbly, I must add) about his friendship with the guys in the rock band Jars of Clay. More than once Garber has given me their addresses and asked us to ship books to them. As he hung out with them backstage at the Live 8 concert this summer--amidst the glitz of Jay-Z, Beyonce, Arrowsmith, DMB, etc.--the folks at the ONE and DATA booths made it clear that they respect Jars for their seriousness of purpose and commitment in brokering their influence for the sake of the poor in Africa. That they are a Christian band that sings songs that resonate with the popular culture is itself quite a story. That they've become friends with Bono, and that Garber has had them thinking andreading, talking and networking with folks he repsects, and that they do it all for Christ and the sorrowful dying in Africa, well, it speaks volumes of their own journey of conviction, moving towards a transformed character by way of a mentor, and their commitment to forming community and long-term friendships along the way. Yada, Yoda, Ya, ya, ya.

Their timely and insightful ministry for clean blood and clean water in Africa is spectacular and helpful. Their hip website is well worth visiting; their ministry worth supporting. At the YADA conference, Steve showed a video about their blood:water mission--and you could see his influence, it seems to me, as they talked of worldview & character, transforming public policy & maintaining personal involvement, integrating faith & life, art & politics. Although it isn't a book review or directly a Hearts & Minds thing (well, we do carry all their CD's, after all) tonight's post is a tribute not only to Mr. Garber but to Jars of Clay and their fine efforts to respond to what they've come to know. Please visit http://www.bloodwatermission.org/

And, by the way, their latest recording, like their others, is very, very cool. They have found old hymn lyrics (a few of them apparantly never put to music over the centuries) and put them to contemporay, new tunes. Learn about it here at their JofC website. A remarkably rootsy, mellow-alt-rock album called Redemption Songs, it truly deserves a listen! Proceeds from their work goes to their African development work. Order it from us here. *

*Mention that you read about Redemption Songs here and get a $3.00 off discount, making it only $14.98.

Redemption Songs Jars of Clay (Essential Records) $17.98* Blog special-- $3.00 off; only $14.98.

November 6, 2005

Sabbath Reading: new Wendell Berry, Beth Kephart, Joyce Rupp, Jonathan Edwards

I admit to being a bit drained--we've got four very large book displays coming up and are stressed out about the ordering, pulling, packing that needs done amidst an otherwise busy week. Next week is, as they say, crunch time. We appreciate your prayers. May our vans--rented, begged, borrowed and (stolen?) endure their mistreatment as they chug to destinations as far as Dallas (the national Ivy Jungle conference) and as near as York (our local hospital's pastoral care department has a day long gig we are a part of.)

Later in the week, I'll post about the other events coming up and some authors we will be meeting.

Now, though, a couple of quickie mentions that might calm me down. Jewish Sabbath begins in the evening, of course, yet I've not stopped since early this morning. And Christian Sunday mornings are not all that peaceful either, at least in the Borger home, what with the morning schedules, kids, Sunday school deadlines, leadership obligations and the compulsive seeking after Yowza coffee at our convenience store...sigh.

So. Here are some nice titles that have arrived these last days. Maybe tomorrow I will relax a bit with at least a few pages of each.

The Way of Ignorance and Other Essays Wendell Berry (Shoemaker & Hoard) $24.00 Since Steve Garber retold the moving story of Uncle Peach (from Fidelity) last weekend, I've been itching to read more of the Kentucky farmer-poet-Agrarian-curmudgeon-Christian prophet. In this new collection, Berry firmly sounds off in clear and reasonable lines about politics, war, Jesus, land (of course), horse-driven logging (I was surprised how much I enjoyed that piece, the first chapter I read, actually) and the state of the enviroment. One chapter is on "Ownership Without Affection" and another wonders what and whose "freedom" we are considering when we speak of the "free market." I can't wait to read "Local Knowledge in an Age of Information" which I am afraid will be very convicting. Beth still has to remind me the names of some of our neighborhood trees. A new collection of poetry came from Mr. Berry (Given) a few months back, and now this. A good publishing season, for sure.

Ghosts in the Garden: Reflections on Endings, Beginnings, and the Unearthing of Self Beth Kephart (One World Library) $17.00 I admit there is quite a nice genre growing of books that use gardening as a metaphor for spiritual or personal growth. (Oh, how I wish more people would know of Cindy Crosby's wonderful book about praying and planting wheatgrasses in the midwest, By Willoughby Brook: Exploring the Landscape of Prayer put out in a handsome, chunky hardcover by Paraclete Pres.) Here, a fabulous Pennsylvania writer chronicals here time spent, starting the morning of her 41st birthday, in a near-by, world-renowned, public garden, Chanticleer. These kind of books often come to us in lovely prose, and even the blurbs are sweet. One endorsement says, "Lovely, soothing, provocative. Beth Kephart's writing is an inviting garden and a reflection pool in words. Rich soil lies here, seeded with questions of meaning, and greet shoots of tender wisdom."

You may know of our rave reviews of her other books, Slant of Sun: One Child's Courage, Into the Tangle of Friendship, Still Love in Strange Places, Seeing Past Z: Nurturing the Imagination in a Fast-Forward World.

Walk in a Relaxed Manner: Life Lessons From the Camino Joyce Rupp (Orbis) $15.00 We enjoy walking stories, outdoors memoirs and good nature writing. Rupp, though, is mostly known as a creative and progressive Catholic retreat leader who has penned nicely crafted books on spirituality. You may know her Fresh Bread or The Cup of Our Life or May I Have This Dance? or her very helpful Praying Our Goodbyes. Here, she tells of a pilgrimmage hike she took, along with a friend, himself a spiritual writer. Together, they explore their journey along the Camino de Santiago which looks to have been quite an adventure. Joyce Rupp on a hike?! What a treat.

Pursuing Holiness in the Lord Jonathan Edwards (Presbyterian & Reformed) $11.99 This is the third in the slightly abridged works of this great American philospoher, scientist, educator and Puritan preacher that have been commissioned by our friends at the Jonathan Edwards Institute. Rob Norris wrote a helpful forward, and T.M. Moore does an editor's preface. These were three serious sermons preached at Northampton on how God's grace can be embedded into the lives of those who love Him.

Wherever you find yourselve this weekend, may you have a few quiet moments with books such as these. Peace.

November 12, 2005

Steve Turner, David Dark and hitting a bear

Sorry I haven't had time to post anything this week--I feel obligated to keep readers posted on new books or Hearts & Minds adventures. I am taking a spiritual gifts class at my church and while "name-dropping" isn't named in the Pauline lists, I'd like to think of it as one of my gifts. I am only partially tongue in cheek----I know how it annoys and irritates many friends. Still, I don't mean to brag about authors we've met or places we've been (Oh The Places You'll Go says Dr. Seuss) but I like to tell of those people. So it isn't really about me, but about what they have to offer.

To wit: tonightÕs lecture by Steve Turner was brilliant; clear, basic, reasonable and very important as he made the case for people of faith to be well-represented in the popular arts, entertainment, journalism and media. (I hinted in a previous post that this conference was coming up at Messiah College--hat tip to Jeff Rioux for pulling it off.) Turner is a rock critic and has written very reliable biographies of Marvin Gaye, Jack Kerouac, Van Morrison and, most recently, the highly-regarded, very interesting, authorized biography of the late, great Johnny Cash (The Man Called Cash.) He is also a poet and children's author---he spent time out our favorite Swiss study center, L'Abrai, in the early 70's where his vocation of writing and being involved in rock criticism was confirmed and affirmed. Essentially, he lectured around the themes found in Imagine A Vision for Christian in the Arts (InterVarsity Press) which is a delightful, readable and, for some readers not school in faith-based cultural engagement, very innovative work. We highly recommend him. And so enjoyed being with him again...he said nice things about our 10 tables of books; I wished our regular customers and BookNotes readers could have been there. It reminds us why we do what we do and why these kinds of venues and conversations are helpful and urgent.

Also met the altogether charming, funny and younger-than-I-expected David Dark--last month I published an excerpt of his excellent and provocative meditation, The Gospel According to America: A Meditation on a God-blessed, Christ-haunted Idea. His stunningly interesting, insightful and wise Everyday Apocalypse: The Sacred Revealed in Radiohead, The Simpsons and Other Pop Culture Icons (Brazos Press) will be the basis for his contribution tomorrow. His talented and very groovy folksinger wife, Sarah Mason (yes we stock all her excellent CD's) blew us away. What a voice and what a good songwriter! Other songwriters and preforming artists were equally excellent (I was frustrated that I was out selling books and missed most of the concerts, but folks were very glad about it all. Tomorrow night is Jeff Tweedy of Wilco fame.) More on that later, I'm sure.

I'm packing and boxing books (nearly 4:00 Borger time; AD, I keep reminding myself) for the next two big gigs we are heading to right after the pop culture conference. So I'm exhausted and yet...

A van we are borrowing to take our portable bookstore to the next event was being driven across the turnpike by my often-anonymous yet omnipresent good and faithful friend. He hit a bear (or the bear hit him) right on the turnpike, out by Breezewood, and, well, is still shaking. Van ruined, police astounded, driver okay. Those that know him will know that he will buy the tape of Turner's talk. If you hit a bear--heck, if you saw a bear tonight, let me know. I'll buy you a tape of the talk, too.

Otherwise, buy Imagine and Everyday Apocalypse. Support these new friends, join their conversation, and keep your eyes wide open. You will be richly rewarded as you learn how to see what God sees--as Bono puts it in one very tender U2 song-- in ordinary life, contemporary
art and modern expressions of the human drive to tell stories and create beauty.

November 14, 2005

Rest in Peace Dwight Ozard

We just recieved word that Dwight Ozard died; singer-songwriter Nick Giaconia shared the sad word with Dwight's amazing list---social activists, Nashville musicians, writers, his large circle of friends and family. That my last post was about, among other people, author David Dark and singer Sarah Mason--friends of Dwight's--seems poignant to me. Dwight would have loved the vibe at the Messiah pop culture conference and was one of the more astute music critics I knew, always wishing evangelical Christians, especially, were more aware of the ways deeply sustaining music was a gift from God, even if not explicitly religious. . The last time we talked on the phone--a year ago, maybe--we talked nonstop about recording artists we liked, lyrics that sustained us, the hope that some in the CCM world break out of the cliched God-talk and offer truly poetic and authentic songs about life here East of Eden. He bought an album I recommended, but never heard if he liked it.

Dwight was the editor of Prism magazine for a while, and for a long while had a great, great music column there. He nurtured a wholistic social vision among progressive CCM types (think Jars of Clay, say) and befriended astute singer song-writers such as Bill Mallonee, Pierce Pettis and Julie & Buddy Miller and bands like The Choir or the 77's. He worked for Tony Campolo for a while, and did a helpful stint as director of publicity--minister of communication or something--for Habitat for Humanity. The last year or so he was busy loving his family, keeping a remarkable, extraordinary diary of his struggle with cancer, and doing some pretty cool ghost writing. He and I talked more than once about his hopes to finish a book or two. Some of his excellent essays (some of which I use in teaching and talks I do) can be found at his website in his "Lover's Quarrel With the Church" section. His brillant record reviews are in the "Dancing About Architecture" section, here.

I commend to you his last few journal entries in his blog posts. He has a very enthusiastic and kind kudos to caregivers and nurses who took him out before a serious procedure. His earthy appreciation for great food and robust drink and good friends just shouts of his wholesome love for life, his conviction that God shows up amidst these eucharistic moments, and his thoughtfulness as he gives credit to those who help others (in this case, him.) His pray requests nearly always included a reminder to pray for those who had no support network, those sick without friends or pray teams or people bringing meals and sending cards. His passion for the disenfranchised and his Christ-like care for the outcast was real, even in his illness. All the more I feel a need to write this little tribute.

Words fail. I report this with sadness but with the hope of resurrection. We will meet again.
How do people cope with the huge sufferings of our world without deep convictions about the truth of the claims of Christ?

Nick wrote this in his note tonight: our good friend Dwight Ozard is home, and safe in the arms of our Savior. Although we will miss him more than words can express we can all be thankful that his suffering is over and he is truly healed.

Yes. Truly healed.

Please pray for all those who suffer, the sick and the sad, this world, so badly in need of substantial healing. But tonight, pray for his wife Sheri and his beloved and grieving family.

November 18, 2005

brand new N.T. Wright on Paul

How can I rave about a book I've only skimmed? N.T. Wright's brand new Paul: in Fresh Perspective arrived here at the shop by UPS around noon. I read the very moving preface and the last couple of pages this afternoon, studied the footnotes (yeah, I know, I'm weird like that) and reflected on the chapter headings. I've been walking around holding it most of the day and couldn't wait to tell you about its long-awaiting arrival. For anyone serious about contemporary religious publishing, this is a very, very big day.

And, I'm thinking this is really, really just what we need: not a super scholarly 800-page tome like, uh, some of his other hefty uber-books but, rather, a thoughtful, fresh, radical yet firmly rooted study that is not too long and seems to be very acessable, standing--thanks be to God-- in the best of the orthodox tradition. Some conservative theologians have been critical of Wright (he is blasted by both sides, actually, since theological liberals can't abide his convictions about things like the historicity of the resurrection and the truthfulness of the gospel accounts.) I think, frankly, this is a good place to be, neither liberal or conservative. I talked with him about it once and it seemed like he carried that burden with maturity and grace, rather like a challange, not like a painful hardship. He truly is an amazingly calm and gracious man. Still, it must be hard to written off by the right and the left, to be misunderstood and maligned. Hopefully, this book will offer more clarity of his theories and perspectives on Paul.

Wright obviously loves his subject, and has great enthusism for intelligent Biblical study; he is concerned pastorally and as a theologian of the church and of the academic guild. He really believes this stuff can make a difference. As it says on the back cover: "The letters of the Apostle Paul changed the world like no others before or since, and they continue to strike us afresh with their panoramic vision of human history and destiny."

Wright ranks Paul as "one of the most powerful and seminal minds of the first or any century," enlessly engaging and perennially elusive. This new book will help to situate Paul, his relationship to Jesus, his understanding of the mission of Jesus and the nature of the first century church and help us live into the world made new by Christ.

Although N.T. Wright may be the most important Biblical scholar writing today--significant, in my opinion, for his blend of fresh and progressive insight and yet a formidble commitment to the solid tradition of historic theology--and has given us here important and mature insight into Pauline writing, he takes smaller excursions, as well. For instance, he has a bit on how a deeply Christian way of knowing is very different than the cold objectivity of modernist scientism, and yet not quite relativistic subjectivism of postmodernity, either. (One thinks of Steve Garber's reflections at the YADA conference, and his citing of French existentialist become Catholic, Simon Weil, on the human call to learn how to know, or the brillant Nobel Prize philosopher of science, Michael Polanyi who wrote so wisely and deeply about the responsibilities of personal knowledge.) Wright reminds us that for Paul, to know is to love. Shaped by practices that were embedded in a community with that view, the first century apostolic movement changed the Roman Empire. (It is no wonder, by the way, the N.T. was a significant influence on my friends Brian Walsh & Sylvia Keesmaat, whose Colossians Remixed: Subverting the Empire, I've raved about often. Indeed, in one of those pesky footnotes I read today, Wright says that he is indebted to Sylvia, citing her important academic book, Paul and His Story: (Re) Interpreting the Exodus Tradition (published in England by Sheffield Books.) So, given our appreciation for Keesmaat's work, it is nice to see her mentor and colleague citing her!

Wright will have another new book being released from another publisher in a couple of weeks, a book previously released in England on the role and authority of the Scriptures, entitled The Last Word: Beyond the Bible Wars to a New Understanding of the Authority of Scripture. We have seen an advanced copy of the rough manuscript of that (although I gave it away to a friend who is a super Wright fan) and we are very excited to get that one in, too. This new one on Paul, though, is surely one of his most important books in a while, and may be the book of the year.

We commend it to you, inviting your consideration of Wright's brillant contributions to the on-going appropriation of New Testament insight for today.

Thanks for supporting Hearts & Minds, for reading our BookNotes, and for your interest in important books of this kind. We hope it helps deepen your life and widen your vision. As the apostle Paul himself would write, "Grace & Peace to you all."

Paul: In Fresh Perspective N.T. Wright (Fortress) $25.00

November 19, 2005

A great testimony on the impact of N.T. Wright

Yesterday, I posted a brief bit about the brand new N.T. Wright book on Paul, a collection of lectures compiled and expanded into an excellent and accesable new book, Paul: In Fresh Perspective just released by Fortress Press. I suggested it is a very, very good event for anyone seriously intersted in theological books. It will no doubt be considered a "must read."

Today, I learned that one of the guys who got me into blogging---a guy who is in my small handful of friends who has utter loyality to our business and to the ministry of Hearts & Minds and is relentless in bringing folks in, telling them about us, buying books and giving them away---is now back at the keyboard. After a hiatus for a season, the great Derek Melleby, over at Aslan Is On The Move is back. There is no shortage of very good bloggers, of course, and there are some very helpful sites that I consult daily. I feel compelled, though, to refer you to Derek and his story today. He cites my little post from yesterday, true, but the bigger point is how he tells of his desire to live more faithfully--even idealistically--as a Christian in our times. And how a certain number of movements, traditions, writers and authors helped him ask good questions. And, you know, he gets to that point in his narrative when he says, "Enter N.T. Wright." Reading and listening to Wright was a major breakthrough in his journey. It is beautiful to hear how a book we sold and an author we promoted proved to be so fruitful in a guy's life.

Skip over to Aslan Is On The Move and read what he says about N.T. Wright. And then snoop around his other essays and their links to good places. (Including the dramatic stuff about his taking a gang to Thailand to do tsunami relief.) I'm still pretty new at blogging myself, but I am happy to say to Derek, "Welcome back to the blog-o-sphere." Keep writing!

Interestingly enough, another very good friend, fairly new to my church, and new to Christian literature, has been devouring Wright essays in recent months from the link which I cited yesterday. He highlighted to me a few of the thoughtful essays he's picked up on the web...thanks, Dan! As he suggested, I will give you that site again. Read all manner of Wright essays (or download audio lectures) for free, here at www.ntrightpage.com.

Lastly: yet a third friend emailed, wondering sincerely (not at all critically) if I might offer opinion or reviews of books that have been hard on Wright. I am not quite prepared to do that--don't have the time or the smarts, really--but might mention a couple of texts in the future. For now, here is a very scholarly, fair-minded and very critical essay written by a conservative Calvinist theologian. This will make your head spin as the author levels serious accusations against Wright's view of justification. (You might notice that there are several interviews with N.T. on his ntrightpage website and some answers to some of these kinds of concerns. As I noted last night, he has been gracious and mature in responding to these criticisms.) After digging deep into these serious fine points, go back and read Melleby and how Wright's big picture thinking has so inspired him. That sure resonated with me and why I am eager to promote his new book.

And, after that, come on Americans: give this Brit a lift here in the States. Buy the book from Hearts & Minds. Operators are standing by at seven one seven, two four six, three three, three three. All major credit cards accepted. Or fire us an email. I hope you saw the special blog deal mentioned last night...Thanks.

November 22, 2005

get on the Wright train & Smith on Derrida

Yeeeesss! The long, long awaited other new book by N.T. Wright arrived today, a couple of weeks early. Yabadabadooooo. Well, I most certainly know that such a dignified gent, such as prestigious cleric and such a brillant scholar deserves something a tad more auspicious. But it is late and I just have to tell ya: I am so excited about the new The Last Word: Beyond the Bible Wars to a New Understanding of the Authority of Scripture (Harper SanFransico; $19.95.)

(Please, by the way, do not confuse this with the third in the New Kind of Christian triology of novels by Brian McLaren, entitled, The Last Word and the Word After That where his fictional characters study, debate and struggle with the Biblical notion of hell, judgement and the wideness of God's grace. Wright's book has no connection despite the similiar sounding titles.)

Like I suggested in a previous post, N.T. (Tom) gets criticized from both sides of the theological spectrum. And some of the evangelicals who appreciate his learned and erudite defensive of the reliable historicity of the gospels and the physicalityof the resurrection, may not approve of his trajectory towards peacemaking and social justice. And some of the lefty types that would generally like his support of, say, cancelling the third world debt, or doing art shows with prisoners, or raising up a Christian critique of militaristic overtones of Empire, will, still, call him--as Marcus Borg ludicriously did once at a talk in Harrisburg--a "fundamentalist." Ahh, the complexities of contemporary theology.

Still, this might help us through the impasse. As Derek M said in a comment posted at Hearts & Minds BookNotes last night, many who critique Wright haven't read him much. And those that do often grow to appreciate his work. We will see if this effort helps or hurts his standing.

Blurbs in on the back of The Last Word are well known to evangelicals---Puritan scholar and all around decent chap, the pope of reformed evangelicals, J. I. Packer himself, gives a warm and hearty endorsement, and the ever-blurbing, widely-read Brian McLaren does as well. (For those who may not know, these are two very, very different sorts of Christians.) Add an endorsement from the recently very hot Ben Witherington and Christianity Today's senior editor (Timothy George from Beeson at Samford)---and you will understand that this is a book to be taken seriously.

If you read Derek's blog that I linked to yesterday, you will see that McLaren speaks for many (even Hearts & Minds customers) when he says "Wright's Biblical scholarship has had a profound formative influence on many of us. He has helped us to see the Bible in a new way--a narrative way--amd the results have been exhilarating."

Wright is not a postmodernist. But the emerging church folk, many who are up to their tattoed necks in pomo culture and semiotics and narrative this and that, study Wright. This is very interesting to me. And so--for a quick segue-- for anyone interested in the dean of postmodern deconstruction, analyzed appreciatively and fairly, the brand new Jacques Derrida: Live Theory (continuum; $19.95) by edgy young Calvin College philosophy prof, Dr. James Smith, just came in to the shop, too. Jamie has been working on this for a while and we are very, very excited to see it. (It is, not surprisingly, dedicated to James Olthius and John Caputo, postmodern Calvinist and Catholic, respectively, who have mentored him from ICS in Toronto and Villanova in Philly.)

In the intro, Jamie talks about giving a fairly harsh critique of Dr. Derrida [or at least of his notion of hope] at a scholarly event where professor Derrida--nearly a rock star by then-- was in the audience. Good Christian man that he is, Jamie attempted to meet with him, offer a personal gesture of kindness, lessen the awkwardness of the blistering critique. As he tells it, Derrida was gracious and warm, leaving him humbled. Smith hoped that this manuscript could be sent to the Frenchman, as a bit of a tribute to his influence, but--even as it had been wrapped and sent with a card, Derrida suddenly passed away. It isn't every day that a dense philosophy text opens with such a tender and poignant story, a story told with greater care and weight in the real book than my summary, here.

Anyway, it is no accident that in a postmodern world, there is much, much to debate about truth, authority, truth claims and perspectives. And there is a need for humility and conversation. The role and authority of the Bible is contested--endlessly, as Walt Brueggemann would say--and, yet, it is an urgent task for the church of today to reach some new insight about the role and function of the Grand Story and the Book--a Living Word!-- which tells it. Jamie's insight into Derrida is important for some of us, to be sure, and we were eager to announce it. Tom Wright's overview of the debates about the Bible and his provocative new challange to reappropriate the Word anew is, I would suggest, urgent for us all.

The Last Word: Beyond the Bible Wars To A New Understanding of the Authority of Scripture N.T. Wright (Harper SanFransico) $ 19.95

Jacques Derrida: Live Theory James K.A. Smith (continuum) $19.95

November 25, 2005

Radical Gratitude

I admit to sometimes being (how can I say this nicely) unimpressed with the standard call to be thankful at Thanksgiving. Surely displaying gratitude---deep, deep attentiveness to and pleasure in knowing that life is a gift in a good and ordered world that comes from the breath of a benevolent Creator and faithful Sustainer and gracious RedeemerÑis a spiritual discipline to be nurtured. Being immersed in communities of faith that live into that ethos and encourage daily spiritual practices can help develop within us this kind of a thankfulness.

Still, as we whisper (or in some cases shout and publish) our gratitude for homes, families, health, meaningful work, food-- whatever-- these gifts must be named with an awareness that not everyone has such gifts. If we thank God (and as one with a high view of the sovereignty and goodness of God, I surely think it proper) for us getting this stuff, does that mean it is GodÕs fault that others do not? If I attribute to God's special blessing my good fortune then does it not follow that other's bad fortune also comes from the hand of God? And is that not close to attributing evil to God? Such is the quandary we feel if we care at all about the suffering of the world and if we have a fairly developed doctrine of the Fall.

Barbara Brown Taylor, the eloquent and articulate Episcopal priest and renowned preacher/writer writes about this kind of thing powerfully and thoughtfully in her many books; she reminds us to not say too much about what we know for sure about God. In one of her sermons she tells of a church which was nearly hit by a tornado, and they understandably thanked God for His providence when it swirved and missed them. Of course, the next town over was demolished. In light of that suffering, dare they give thanks? What does it mean to Òrejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weepÓ as the apostle instructs? How do we generate gratitude in an age of horrific sorrow and injustice? (Once again I come back to the book I reviewed at the website nearly a year ago, Unspeakable by Os Guinness, surely one of the very best books on the problem of evil; although I cringe through some of it, John Piper is passionate about affirming God's providence in such things and is an interesting counterpoint to Taylor and Guinness.) Authentic thanksgiving surely must be offered, and this day celebrated, if to be done with integrity, robustly and yet chastened by the knowledge of the plight of others.

And yet, we just well up with thanksgiving at times, even without the obligatory calls to do so after the MacysÕs parade. (Was it sociologist Peter Berger who noted that this human tendancy is a "signal of transedence"---something from our shared experience which illustrates that there is something beyond us, Someone to be grateful to!) I am indeed thankful for my dear family, for friends, for specific acts of support here and there (even this week: an extraordinary act of kindness from a teacher amidst a frustrating meeting with intransigent school administrators; Scott and Tim fighting off bears etc to get to and sell our books in Texas at Ivy Jungle), a good day for my often-sick daughter, a 29th wedding anniversary, the beauty of a late fall day, being moved to tears by a David Crowder Band song and an old Indigo Girls song, nice notes from people who read this blog, strangers that order from us. And on and on: food, housing, cars, good relatives, caring friends, fellow bloggers [something IÕve never had reason to be thankful for before] our church, good books, good employees to sell good booksÉ

So, how do we think about this perennial theme? Here is my suggestion. The best book IÕve read on the subject is Radical Gratitude: Discovering Joy Through Everyday Thankfulness by Ellen Vaughn (Zondervan; $19.95.) She is a born storyteller, it seems, has written widely with other authors (including some fairly important evangelical names like Chuck Colson) and we have found her to be an amazing, charming, thoughtful and very well-read writer. We cross paths occasionally at the C.S. Lewis Institute in DC and it is always a happy moment to realize just how thoughtful and vibrant she is. Thankfully, there are some other books of hers in the pipeline---for instance, one on awe, inspired, in part, by her study of quantum physics. How about that?

IÕve been wanting to write about EllenÕs good work and express, well, gratitude, for this helpful and important guidebook. Today seemed like the right time. She does address some of my ÒissuesÓ (one chapter is specifically on grief and another is entitled ÒThe Domain of Drudgery.Ó) It is very nicely written, fun and funny and times, and very moving. I think it could be helpful to many. Coupled with Barbara Brown TaylorÕs brief When God Is Silent (about preaching) or the collection of short sermons, God in Pain, or any number of books on suffering, consolation or grief, I have been deeply and significantly challenged.

I think you would be too. Is it dumb to say that we would be grateful if we had the privilege of actually selling a couple of these? That, too- --the selling of really good booksÑis more rare for us than it could be and is such a gift for which we are notably grateful when it happens. Thanks to all of you who pay attention to these notes. Happy Thanksgiving!

Radical Gratitude: Discovering Joy Through Everyday Thankfulness Ellen Vaughn (Zondervan) $19.99

November 26, 2005

A book I should have promoted at the PA State Pastor's Conference

I love standing up at a conference and highlighting the books of the authors in attendence---yippee for writers and authors, speakers and teachers. I couldn't sell the things if they didn't write 'em. And, I like tweaking the audience just a bit, offering a title they might not be familiar with, or an author that is just a tad subversive to their pre-set agenda. (Ooooh, ask how that got me in trouble once when I highlighted an N.T. Wright book as I introduced Marcus Borg. Some church folk have no sense of irony.)

Still, I find that conferees or retreatants like to be told about books they might find helpful and get a kick out of me embarassing myself as I stumble over words, trying to make half-way appropriate suggestions which will enhance their learning at the gathering and give them something to take home more substantive than souvenirs from the snack bar.

And so, it is of great professional and spiritual concern to me that I do it right. Sometimes it works well, sometimes less so. At the recent PA State Council of Churches Pastor's conference --which was focusing a bit on the emergent conversation--I neglected to shout out a title that, now, I really, really wish I would have. I am embarrassed to say that two of our keynote speakers have chapters in a book and I had not realized it. I feel shabby and want to make it up by publishing it here.

The Relevant Church: A New Vision for Communitites of Faith (Relevantbooks) is a spiffy little collection of some very good pieces documenting experimental new congregations, emerging communities, creative church plants and other stories of leading edge pastors and their concerns and convictions. Relevantbooks is a great, new, small publisher and we stock all their books. They are trying hard--hipster graphics and retro covers and weirdo stories---to met the younger generation and they get a huge, huge A for effort. ( Hey they did Steve Stockman's awesome book on u2, Walk On.) I am sorry that I didn't take this title more seriously. I just sorta forgot about it, actually.

These chapters are all very good, mostly by real pastors doing the real work of forging new practices in the street, as they say; Martin Smith of delirious? says it is a "must-read---a handbook for passionate, godly living." Of course most of the decentralized experimentors themselves probably don't view this as a handbook for anything, but merely the testimony of their shared lives and struggle for faithful forms of being church in a postmodern culture.

Two of the speakers at the State Pastor's Conference have chapters in here, and I apologize to them, and to the gathered gang there at the Radison at Camp Hill, for not pushing it. Holly Rankin-Zaher of ThreeNails in Pittsburgh--an experimental, urban Epsicopal community, and Karen Ward of Church of the Apostles (a bohemian and very emergent Lutheran congregation) in Seattle both have chapters well worth reading. I think the mainline folks at the conference, after enjoying Doug Pagett's fiesty and fun call to be church in new ways, related well to these two women, rooted as they are in their liturgical, mainline denominations. (The fluid and fun discussion board alternativeworship.org is curated by Karen, and is well worth visiting, too, by the way.)

Some of the chapters in The Relevant Church are wild and wooley and would be inspiring for anyone with a missional heart for the current generation of tattooed drop-outs---how 'bout reading the chapter about SKATECHURCH and praying for their brave witness, or learning from Mike Bickle's interesting chapter about The (I kid you not) INTERNATIONAL HOUSE OF PRAYER. (I think they should add "And Pancakes" to their name & logo, but that's just me.) Mark Driscoll explains the early days of Mars Hill here and Dustin Bagby writes about Mosaic Manhattan. Urban-D writes of Fla.vor Alliance Crossover Community in Tampa FL---this is not your typical collection of suburban church plant stories and I think anyone interested in outreach and cultural relevance ought to dip into books and stories like this from time to time.

And, I am happy to report, Holly and Karen's pieces here, are among the best. These are wise women writing in a readable style amidst other bold contributions--from "God Is In The Pub" to "Dreaming Up Outragous Schemes With God" to "The Last of the Hepcat Churches." I want to hold up this book and wave it around and applaud it's verve and energy and heart. And I want to tell you that Holly Rankin Zaher and Karen Ward are two Spirited (and well-read) women, theologians, liturgists and church ladies to watch. You may have met them at the conference. You can read their stories here.

My mea culpa shouldhavepromoteditattheconferenceandwanttomakeitright discount offer: ORDER IT HERE, NOW, AND GET A 20% DISCOUNT AND FREE SHIPPING.

The Relevant Church: A New Vision for Communities of Faith edited by Jennifer Ashely (Relevantbooks) $12.99.

November 1, 2005

Not A Tame Lion: An Untame Listing of the Latest on C. S. Lewis

C. S. Lewis, we find, is an author that is widely known (well, not to one lady we met at a conference this fall who asked if he would be coming to the event) but not as widely studied as we might expect. In the new, informal and very heartfelt biography of Jack (as he liked to be called) Lewis,Jack’s Life, by his stepson Douglas Gresham, Gresham writes, "…if you are someone who reads, then the chances are that you have read something by C. S. Lewis, and if you haven’t, then you have a great feast of reading before you." Very true; very true!

And right now is a great, great time to decide to embark on a Lewis binge---revisiting his work if you haven’t for a while, or dipping into some books about him to get the big picture of his significance, or, if you never have, actually working through a couple of his books. As you most likely know, he has written fiction for adults and children, theological essays, literary criticism, poetry, apologetics, delightful letters, and Biblical studies. It is hard to know where to begin, although most say his most important little classic is Mere Christianity, which in their earliest form were broadcast talks on the BBC. The fictional and creative story of some demons corresponding about their "charge" who they are instructed to keep away from Christian faith is Screwtape Letters and many readers come back to it time and again. I have heard one speaker insist that Experiment in Criticism is one of the most helpful books everyone should read, and many stand on his awesome essay "The Weight of Glory" in the collection of that name. Of course this time of this year, it is nearly essential to read or re-read The Chronicles of Narnia, especially The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. (Read it first, even though it is now numbered # 2 in the series.) With the very, very long-awaited new movie out in December, there has been a renaissance in Lewis-related books, Narnian stuff and a great new set of books that help readers appreciate the stories, and their Christian insights.

It is daunting to describe some of these---others with more credentials than I (like Jerry Root for Christianity Today and Art Lindsley for the newsletter of Washington DC’s C.S. Lewis Institute) have also been writing annotated lists of the best of the new crop of Lewis-related titles. If I had access to these here, I think I’d just tell you, dear H&M readers, to check out their recommendations. I am sure there will be much discussion this winter about the many new LWW studies that abound, and the relative strengths and merits of each. I do know I surely have enjoyed reading through many of them these past weeks and it has gotten our family talking about Digory, the Tree of Protection, Mr. Tumnus, Puddleglum, Rumblebuffin, Tash…and on and on. I don’t have time or space to tell of the new editions with new covers, nifty sticker books, family devotional guides, the very cool tribute CD (yeah, David Crowder Band doing an eerie song called Turkish Delight) or the big one-volume editions, or the kiddie picture books that are out. (Did I mention the forthcoming Narnia toys in Happy Meals? I kid you not.) There really is a great outpouring of good resources and we are thrilled.

So–northward to Narnia, as somebody in The Chronicles might say. Let’s go about it, shall we? I think I will just do this month's column in plain old list fashion and as the professor would put it, if you haven't seen these yet, I hope you do. I suppose they are in no particular order. I sincerely hope that my descriptions help you find just the ones for you.


Jack’s Life: The Life Story of CS Lewis Douglas Gresham (Broadman & Holman) $16.99. I’ve mentioned this above---it is a delightful telling of the man himself, written as if for a young reader, by the beloved stepson himself. Few knew or loved Lewis as Douglas did and his telling of the inside story, here, is sweet and admirable, making it the ideal beginner’s book or great for true devotees. A DVD is included in the back, which features a fascinating interview with the colorful Gresham. A forward by Christopher Mitchel (Director of the prestigious Wade Center at Wheaton) lends an extra bit of gravity to this otherwise slim and chatty book. Very tender and interesting.

The Narnian: The Life and Imagination of C. S. Lewis Alan Jacobs (Harper SanFransico) $25.95. Well, well. If Jack’s Life is an easy-to-read and lovely little essay from Lewis’s most dear relation, and a fine intro, this magisterial tour de force of Lewisiania is perhaps the most important Lewis book written in more than a decade. Granted, it is not exactly a chronological biography (Jack by George Sayers, published now by Crossway, is the best, serious bio and the standard by which any others are measured.) Still, this is, as one reviewer says, " the book on Lewis we've all been waiting for: probing, generous, lyrical, and entertaining." Frederick Buechner says of it, "It is hard to imagine a more insightful and even-handed treatment of the life and work of C. S. Lewis… (Jacobs) reveres him without canonizing him and does rich justice to his complexity as both a human being and a writer." Jacobs is a serious reviewer and significant writer, erudite and dense, and it is fitting that he take up the task of giving us such a rich and detailed study. The pleasant and just a little bit funny dust jacket, too, I must say, helps make it well worth owning.

C. S. Lewis’s Case for Christ: Insights from Reason, Imagination and Faith Art Lindsley (IVP) $14.00. How to explain this rich and thoughtful book in a few sentences? Art is an old H&M friend, former staff specialist in apologetics for Young Life and the CCO and has worked hard on thinking about how best to make a relevant defense of the Christian faith for years; he has earned the right to be heard, and I admire his good efforts to engage in what he described in his previous book, True Truth, as holding to "absolutes without absolutism. " That is, he wants to counter post-modern relativism and hold to objective truth, yet doesnêt want to be strictly dogmatic or wooden, let alone arrogant or rude. In studying Lewis’s own thoughts about coming to faith in Christ, he finds the perfect ally for this project: Lewis used heart & mind, reason & imagination, logic & story. Dr. Lindsley should be applauded for this bold move---to insist that Lewis, known for his impeccable logic and sharp wit and strong mind, is equally helpful in his use of myth, imagination, and intuition.

World-renowned evangelist and apologist Ravi Zacharias asserts that this is a book he heartily recommends because it uses "the spyglass of Lewis" to help us work through obstacles to faith that are common these days. Jerry Root (co-author of The Quotable Lewis) says, "There are few scholars who understand C. S. Lewis’s apologetic work as deeply as Art Lindsley. " As a guide to Lewis, to the wide scope of his thought, or as a guide to strengthening your own faith (or those whom you talk with) this could be a very useful tool.

Another nice feature of this thorough and at times demanding book is the fictional piece---helpfully set off in italics---in each chapter about a
diverse group of folks who gather each week, strong coffee in hand, at a bookstore lounge to engage in a C.S. Lewis reading group. The (fictional?
Or is it Art?) leader of the discussion knows the master’s work, well, and the skeptic, the new ager, the moralist and other characters are challenged to think through their presuppositions and worldview and, finally, their faith, as they engage the Lewis material. A neat little device that keeps the reader intrigued and aware that these issues are the Big Ones. Real questions with real answers. I hope other real-life Lewis study groups break out in bookstores across the land. Or, in the spirit of Lewis, at a spot like The Eagle and the Child.

The Most Reluctant Convert: C. S. Lewis’s Journey To Faith David Downing (IVP) $13.00. Now out in paperback, this interesting volume---entitled after a quip of Lewis’s made about himself--- is doubtlessly the most thorough study of Lewis’s conversion process. If Art Lindsley (see above) plumbs Lewis’s thinking as an apologetic tool and as a way to answer skeptics Dr. Downing writes to just tell the tale. It is a very valuable contribution to serious Lewis scholarship and a fine example of how to do fascinating biography, telling this slice of the story just right, allowing us in on the saga of Lewis’s journey to faith.

Into the Region of Awe: Mysticism in C. S. Lewis David Downing (IVP) $17.00. I have noted this here before, but it is still relatively recent and, frankly, one of the more intriguing Lewis books out in years. No one has taken this side of Lewis as seriously as Downing, and he is clearly the scholar to do so. He maintains, drawn from a close reading and wide study, that Lewis’s romanticism shaped his spirituality, making him more of a mystic than most would imagine. Lewis was clearly not Tom Merton; Downing helps us see, though, that he was closer, perhaps, than we ever knew‟ A must-read.

Seeking the Secret Place: The Spiritual Formation of C. S. Lewis Lyle W. Dorsett (Baker) $12.99. Although Dorsett, long a respected Lewis scholar and the wonderful compiler of good anthologies (The Essential C. S. Lewis and Letters to Children) may not use the language of mysticism as does Downing (above) he surely has helped us understand Lewis’s inner spiritual life as much as anyone. He has done remarkable research, uncovering Lewis's relationship with his spiritual director, and writes, here, of his prayer life, his inner journey, and his interest in classic spiritual disciplines. Absolutely wonderful and very inspiring.. (By the way, we still have in stock Dr. Dorsett’s wonderful A Love Observed, the story of Lewis’s romance with and marriage to Joy Davidman, long out of print, but now reissued by NorthWind.)

From The Library of C. S. Lewis: Selections From Writers Who Influenced His Spiritual Journey compiled by James Stuart Bell (Shaw) $16.99. Although this book is now just one year old, it is so little known that it deserves to be re-introduced. It is, as the subtitle says, excerpts of writers such as G.K. Chesterton, George MacDonald, J.R.R. Tolkein, Dorothy Sayers. From Julian of Norwich through John Bunyan, from George Herbert to Owen Barfield, this is a treasure chest, packaged in a very handsome, chunky hardback. I might wish for some greater annotation, noting what Lewis found of interest in these excerpts, or something more about the authors. But I quibble. This is a great and wonderful collection, guaranteed to help us avoid the "chronological snobbery. " that Lewis so quotably and memorably warned about in "On The Reading of Old Books" found in Walter Hooper’s must-have anthology, God In The Dock. Of course, he warns against reading only books from your own time and the need for an ancient perspective on modern biases. Let those who have ears…


Not A Tame Lion: Unveil Narnia Through the eyes of Lucy, Peter, and other characters created by C. S. Lewis Bruce Edwards (Tyndale) $12.99 I must admit, this surprised me a bit; several superb publishers with a history of doing enduring Lewis work all have new books out and I didn’t expect this little title from a sometimes-less-than-serious publisher to impact me as it did. I shudder to actually choose a favorite of this list, but I think I shall name this as my favorite new book on Narnia. Well written, excellently composed, tons of great quotes, passionate and practical, this is a true winner. That it includes discussion questions is a bonus, making it a great choice for a small group or Sunday school class. Thanks to Edwards for caring this much, writing so movingly, and bringing such great information to the fore in such a compelling book. Hip, hip, hooray. A redeemed serving of Turkish delight–with no fears---for him.

Into The Wardrobe: C. S. Lewis and the Narnia Chronicles David D. Downing (Jossey-Bass) $19.95. I must say that this, too, was a remarkably good read; more detached and semi-scholarly than Edwards' great book noted above, Downing, here, gives us a very stimulating over-view of nearly anything that might be important about Lewis, or in Narnia itself. Not arranged by book but rather by theme "Moral Psychology" or "Classical and Medieval Influences" or "What's In A Narnian Name? " it gives great information, clearly and helpfully. Publisher’s Weekly implies it may be one of the very best of the introductions to Narnia, and Ralph Wood (surely a trustworthy judge) says "Read and rejoice!" Not bad, eh? Good for thoughtful beginners or for true fans.

C. S. Lewis & Narnia for Dummies Richard J. Wagner (Wiley & Sons) $19.99. Some people I know have a visceral dislike of the rude title and ubiquitous bright yellow covers with bold black type of this series. Maybe for a computer book—maybe—but for all these other topics, now, too? Yes! From Asthma to Catholicism, Homeschooling to So Doku, these fun-lovin’ and intelligent guidebooks are jam-packed with good information, presented with wit and accessible expertise. The Narnia one is a wonderfully easy (Jack might think it too easy) way to acquire lots of Lewis info, fun trivia, important, wise, insight and such. The author "gets it"and, I must admit, has been one of the best books of this sort that I’ve read this season. Maybe I’m just a dummy. Maybe you are too? Great! Despite the color of the cover, this book is a gem!

A Reader’s Guide Through the Wardrobe: Exploring C. S. Lewis’ Classic Story Leland Ryken & Marjorie Lamp Mead (IVP) $13.00. Ryken has been one of the deanês of evangelical sophistication on matters of literature and a generation of young lovers of books are in his debt. That he is the Clyde S. Kilby Professor of English at Wheaton makes him uniquely qualified to bring imaginative and well-researched literary critique to his beloved Lion, Witch & the Wardrobe story. David Downing comments on the back, "…approaches (Lewis's) classic story the way Lewis himself read literary texts. It shows readers how to fully engage the narrative as thoughtful adults, while retaining a child’ s sense of wonder and delight." Wonderful sidebars give you fabulous excerpts and great Lewis quotables. The on-going discussion questions are thoughtful and provocative, good for solitary reflection or small groups. Certainly one of the best, smartest books available on LWW.

Aslan’ s Call: Finding Our Way To Narnia Mark Eddy Gibbs (IVP) $10.00. Well; Gibbs wrote a wonderful, readable and thoughtful guide to virtues in Lord of the Rings called Tolkien’s Ordinary Virtues. Had it been gussied up in fancy hardcovers with prestigious-looking blurbs, I think it may have been taken with the seriousness it deserved. This new one, too, may be a sleeper: it is a fine, fine book, interesting, well written, concise, compelling and quite useful. This journey–meeting this lion who is fierce and unpredictable and very large–may be a romp. And it may be an adventure, and it may take courage, but it will shape us. Gibbs is an able, enjoyable, and insightful guide. Very nicely done, with great passion and good heartedness.

The Lion The Witch and the Bible: Good and Evil in the Classic Tales of C. S. Lewis Robert Velarde (NavPress) $12.99. What piqued my interest here is the note that the author co-taught a class with the famous and honorable Vernon Grounds at Denver Seminary, and that that course formed the core of this study. That it focuses on wisdom, virtue, moral choices, and the like was a worry---will it ruin the story?--- but I was taken with the book in just a few pages. Lewis was a practical moralist, always, and he wove dramatic lessons into his work. If contemporary Christian’ s had half the insight offered in this simple book the church---and the world–would be in a considerably better way. Good discussion questions, too.

Walking Through the Wardrobe: A Devotional Quest into the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe Sarah Arthur (thirsty?) $9.99. Sarah A. is a great writer for youth, and she did a fine job bringing Christian themes to teens in Walking With Frodo and Walking With Bilbo and, more recently, Dating Mr. Darcy. (You can imagine.) This is a devotional study and Lewis’s concerns against over-doing the allegorical readings notwithstanding, this is a lovely little book, packaged in a hip style, that would make a great gift to any Narniac teenager.

The Way Into Narnia: A Reader’s Guide Peter J. Schakel (Eerdmans) $14.00. We ordered a big batch of these, knowing Schakel's credentials and stature as a scholar of all things Lewis. Someone in the publishing world noted that this may be the most important new book on Narnia this year. It certainly is useful---and is especially so as a good reminder that the stories are, firstly, sprightly fairy tales, and ought to be enjoyed as such. The table of contents itself reveals much---he has a theme or insight attached to each of the Chronicles. For instance, he will tell us of "Magic and Meaning in Lion‟"and "Believing and Seeing in Prince Caspian" and "Longing and Learning in Voyage" and so forth. Yet, it is a bit denser than some of the other new releases, and the much-anticipated 40-page annotations of obscure terms and historical allusions left me less than thrilled. This may indeed be the most prominent of the new batch of books, and who can resist a chapter like "Place and Personal Identity in A Horse and His Boy" or "Endings and Transcendings in The Last Battle"?

The Keys to The Chronicles: Unlocking the Symbols of C. S. Lewis’s Narnia Marvin Hinten (Broadman & Holman) $9.99. This slim little volume gives a spiritual lesson based on symbols and allusions in each of the volumes. Brief and interesting, it is a delightfully rich study by an author who has written widely on Lewis and is himself, like Jack, a scholar of British Renaissance literature.

A Field Guide to Narnia Colin Duriez (IVP) $13.00. What a lovely collection of random thoughts, helpful essays, quick info and thoughtful ruminations. Here's what it says on the cover: "An Overview of the Life and Work of C. S. Lewis", "A-to-Z Coverage of Narnian Beings, Places, Things and Events" and "An Introduction to Key Spiritual Themes. " A very fine endorsement on the back from Dr. Armand Nicholi (you must know his award-winning The Question of God: C .S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud Debate God, Love, Sex and the Meaning of Life which was made into a PBS documentary this year) gives it additional weight. The lovely forward by Brian Sibley (C. S. Lewis Through the Shadowlands) also makes this a very nice edition---more than a collection of words, maps, creatures. Mr. Duriez is most well known for his great study on the friendship between Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien.

The Soul of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe Gene Veith (Victor) $14.99. This hardback was an enigma to me at first---Veith writes for the conservative World magazine and has written clearly, if with a bit of over-reaction, to postmodernism and other cultural tendencies. Here, he writes not just about Narnia, but about the "fantasy wars" (should Christians read Harry Potter?) and the call for discernment when approaching the genre. I figured that Dr. Vieth is a good Lutheran lit Prof., after all, and an advocate for a uniquely transformational world-and-life view; he has done some books that I truly like. So I entered, perhaps as if going through a suspicious wardrobe, with a bit of trepidation. And I was very quickly hooked. What a fascinating study, laden with good insights, practical advise, helpful reportage, and useful comparisons. I admire his desire to be Christianly faithful, and not falling for a party line (of those who are strictly opposed, say, to Harry Potter’s witchery or those who laugh off such concerns as unimaginative ranting of fundamentalists.)

Veith frames this discussion with good explanations on the nature of stories and ponders the ways in which imagination can enhance one’s life. He not only gives some very interesting reflections on Harry P and his Muggles gang, but has a powerful chapter on the brilliant, if fiercely anti-Christian His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman (also soon to me a major motion picture.) Pullman, it is significant to note, has said, "I hate the Narnia books. I hate them with a deep and bitter passion. " As one writer put it, after Pullman’ s recipients speech for the prestigious Whitbread Prize in England, "He's a fine writer, a fine writer with a cause. His cause, as he himself has made clear, is to destroy Christianity and to liberate the world from any faith in the Christian God. " The first half of Veith’ s book is a good theological introduction of LWW and is fine. The second half is this broader study of magic and fantasy, Christian discernment and the pitfalls of some contemporary approaches to fantasy. A nuanced and helpful study, very readable and wise.

Roar! A Christian Family Guide to the Chronicles of Narnia Heather & David Kopp, illustrations by Martin French (Multnomah) $19.99 I want to award this with some kind of honorable mention for the sheer audacity and creative vision of those who put this treasure chest of a book together. Vivid new illustrations and brightly colored graphics on heavier stock paper, this oversized, paperback handbook to each of the seven stories is interactive, fun, loaded with pure insights and plenty of goofy trivia (and nifty stuff like "You Know You’re a Narniac If You‟" test.) There are indexes of creatures and characters and the obligatory Bible parallels and lessons. And there are some very helpful articles for parents (one has the sense this is designed for homeschoolers or families that want to more deeply enjoy these stories as read-alouds.) One of the articles tackles the important question of violence in the fables and another looks head on at the accusations of racism and sexism. A piece by J.I. Packer is lovely, and a few other contributors offer very useful sidebars. Not a straightaway book, but a companion resource, this guide is a hoot, and, we believe, very good to have.
Check out more at www.roarofnarnia.com and, if impressed, please order through us. We are eager to hear your feedback, too, especially about this lion-sized imaginative guidebook.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe Audio read by Michael York (HarperCollins) $27.50. Of course there are plenty of new editions of the stories themselves–one big volume with all 7 chronicles in one, either with the movie tie-in photo of the White Witch or the adult drawing of the head of Aslan, various-sized and price-range paperbacks, boxed sets and so forth. There are even dumbed down first-reader editions (hmmmm.) There are large sized, full color picture books.

I thought it might be fun not only to remind you of the well-done radio dramas that are available (excellently produced by Focus on the Family, like their Bonhoeffer radio show), but the actual audio version of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. Of course, these stories have been read aloud for decades, and we certainly would not want to dissuade a family from actually doing the reading. But for holiday travels, perhaps, or for a sick child who cannot wait for dad or mom to read, the Michael York renderings, now available on CD, are very, very nice. The enhanced CD includes some interactive bonus material on CD-rom, too. Four hours, unabridged, on four compact discs. What fun!