About December 2010

This page contains all entries posted to Hearts & Minds Books in December 2010. They are listed from oldest to newest.

November 2010 is the previous archive.

January 2011 is the next archive.

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

December 2010 Archives

December 2, 2010

The Faithful: A Novel by Jonathan Weyer

If you follow Hearts & Minds, you know that we enjoy books about popular culture and believe it is important to encourage reading about faithful living in our ordinary, "secular" lives.  We believe that God cares about all of life, including the mediums and art-forms all around us, whether hip-hop fashion, popular music or graphic novels.  Such art can not only enhance our lives (and our awareness of the human condition) but can be seen as windows into the values and life orientation of the artist.  Sometimes, art (from high opera to comic books, serious literary fiction to popular video games) can reveal much about our cultural moment, the zeitgeist.  We are thrilled when people of faith have these sorts of conversations, sometimes even asking foundational questions about what we mean by "culture" or "popular culture" or entertainment and so forth.

And so, we especially love books like William Romanowski's stellar Eyes Wide Open: Finding God in Popular Culture (Brazos Press) which I see as nearly a H&M classic, or the fabulous, wide-ranging, interesting and well-written recent collection The Day Metallica Cameme.png to Church: Searching for the Everywhere God in Everything by John Van Sloten (Square Inch Books) or the very provocative Prophetically Incorrect: A Christian Guide to Media Criticism by Robert Woods and Paul Patton (Brazos.)  Halos and Avatars: Playing Video Games with God edited by Craig Detweiler (Westminister/John  Knox Press) is a rigorous Christian study, not for the casual player, but rewarding for anyone interested in integrating faith and the study of contemporary culture.  You may recall that we gave a lengthy review a few weeks ago to the wonderfully produced Saving Leonardo by Nancy Pearcey (Broadman) which gives a very sophisticated treatment to the ideologies and worldviews of the romantic movement and the subsequent shift in the meaning of modern art. 

There are even a few recent books which bring Christian insight to the vampire phenomenon, most helpfully Touched by a Vampire: The Hidden Message in the Twilight Saga by Beth Felker Jones (Waterbrook; $13.99 ) written by a thoughtful theology professor from Wheaton College.  It does not condemn the books outright, but neither does it merely accept them as an opportunity for fun escape.  (Neither does it "Christianize" the themes, as some might, suggesting that the well-portrayed longing for love in Twlight can be used to discuss with young women about how Christ being a passionate hero.)  Rather, Ms Jones is sharp, thoughtful, and raises important concerns, especially about gender and romance as portrayed in the popular novels and films.  As one who loves book blurbs, it strikes me as a delight to see popular level evangelical YA novelist Melody Carlson endorsing Touched... right next to Duke Divinity School professor and feminist ethicist, Amy Laura Hall.  Right on! 

(It may be self-evident, but you surely can understand what I am getting at by considering the good-but-distorted topic of human sexuality: even erotic literature can have a divine stamp--think of the Song of Songs in the Bible, at least---but it has also so obviously been abused by forces of advertising and pornography. To find a sexually pure story these days is rare, but, in principle, we must not "throw the baby out with the bathwater."  All of life is made good by God and all can be seen in proper, normative ways. To hate the vile porn of the internet isn't to say that the topic of human love or sensuality is itself wrong, or that we ought not use the internet.  Right?  Think, too, of the gross violence of slasher movies or the unacceptable blood-lust portrayed in graphic games and movies these days.  Still, shall we sanitize all war movies or refuse to read accounts of human sinfulness in novels and plays?  I think you get the point, that there are proper and improper, relatively healthy and unhealthy ways for the arts to portray the ugly sides of the human condition. Some religious readers tend to want to avoid any such "realism" while others just suck up whatever the culture has to offer, failing the "transformed mind" command of the down-to-earth, daily spirituality of Romans 12:1-2.)

Thoughtful, intentionally Christian, engaged, critical.  In-but-not-of, as Jesus suggests in John 17. Each of these favorite books (listed above) in their own way invite us to both enjoy, and to be faithful in our consideration of, various forms, genres, and works of popular art and entertainment.  Each presumes something good about God's world that is fun to explore and healthy to appreciate, even as we are aware that every arena is most likely twisted or distorted by ungodly assumptions, views, attitudes or approaches. 

CHRISTIAN HORROR STORIES?

So, then, what might a Christian approach to horror, be?  Of course not all of us appreciate strong thrillers, let alone the creepy stories of ghosts and the paranormal. There are those who have explored this with lucidity and depth, such as Douglas Cowen, in Sacred Terror: Religion and Horror on the Silver Screen (Baylor University Press.) There is something very human, something appropriate, indeed, something theologically sound, about recognizing evil, and attending to the possibilities of the grotesque. Like the aforementioned topics of sex or violence, there is a way to be faithful in our approach to this genre of story.  That is, perhaps there is a Christian viewpoint, a set of appropriate habits of heart and mind, and some learned literary practices, that might allow us to enjoy (within limits) our odd interests in being scared.

My friend Jonathan Weyer has consider this a lot.  As a seriously orthodox theological thinker51cneZ+DN8L.jpg and writer (and ordained EP pastor) he has wondered about, and done workshops on, the reasons humans have this fascination with the eerie; he often suggests as a very helpful book, the classic non-fiction work of literary criticism by Stephen King called Danse Macabre (Pocket Books; $17.00) which was based on a course he taught on the role of the supernatural in literature. It explores in very profound ways this very stuff and has gotten raves from those who have read it.  ("Charming" one reviewer even called it.)  Indeed, the Philadelphia Inquirer called Mr. King's Danse Macabre "one of the best books of popular culture of the late twentieth century" while the Washington Post wrote that it was "a labor of love." 

THE FAITHFUL

Informed by King and others, Rev. Weyer understands how our interest in terror is related to our own experience of (or suppression of) terror.  Out of his intentionally Christian vision, this subterranean worldview informed by his solid Calvinist leanings, Weyer starting working on his own novel.  A horror novel, in fact, about murder, mayhem, and all manner of mischief.  It is about a conservative Presbyterian pastor (more anon) who has to reconsider his own worldview (not to mention his love life) as he experiences hauntings and eventually the demonic.  Yes, the new novel The Faithful (Brio Press; $14.95) is a "dance macabre" as the young protagonist not only is drawn into the investigation of a ritual murder, but comes to meet a cast of characters ugly and wise, sexy and violent, thoughtful and brave.  I don't mean to suggest that Weyer has given us a full parade of the corrupt and virtuous, but there really are an interesting set of folks here.  I enjoyed them, and was struck by some quite a lot.

faithful.jpgI do not read much truly horrific stuff;  perhaps you don't, either.  I am sure there are books that are much more grisly and much more scary.  Some verge into the pornographic, but Weyer's The Faithful does not.  It is upbeat at times, a bit funny, fairly realistic, and a captivating ride into a deepening look into, or an opening up of, what some call "the dark side."  Ghosts, hauntings, occultic connections, exorcism?  From the mild to the horrific, it is here.  What a ride.  What insight into the world as it is, the good, the bad, and the truly ugly.  Library Journal, an important review source, just gave it a coveted "starred review."  Not bad for a first novel!

Here is a brief interview with JW, found at Susan Isaacs hilarious Gray Matter website.  Here is his own website, for more info, there, too.  If you haven't seen it on facebook or twitter, you'll see my goofy video clip, shouting out a bit about the book.  Talk about a horror show!

Interestingly, and importantly, Jonathan is a campus minister with the widely-respected Coalition for Christian Outreach (CCO) (and will be doing a workshop on this stuff at their Jubilee 2011.)  Much of his time is spent in conversation with the large atheist community at Ohio State in his home town of Columbus Ohio.  (Weyer gets the Ohio scenes right in The Faithful, too; he has researched well the geography, culture, and new age/paranormal legends in that region, giving the book an authentic feel.)  Perhaps he will someday write a non-fiction book about his ministry with those firmly outside of the church; he has some great stories about his friendships with these assertive, new atheists whom he has come to know and respect.  Now, though, we can see a bit of his awareness of the new crop of new atheists as the main character in his novel, Adian Schaeffer, an associate pastor of a conservative church, has been reading Dawkins and Dennett.  Adian has come to disbelieve in the supernatural.  As the story begins, he is nearly depressed, deeply conflicted about his relationship to the church, thinking about how to break the news to his very evangelical congregation: a preacher who no longer believes in God?  How can he tell them?  Of course, the fictional Adian realizes that he lacks integrity as he pretends to believe, going through the ministerial motions, and intends to own up and quit his parish job.  But then his fiance breaks up with him, she is murdered, and he becomes a suspect. The young Schaeffer panics as he enters the investigation, experiences an increasingly volatile spiritual battle,  and eventually meets a pastoral leader who is as wise as he is cryptic is discerning the truth of what is really going on.  Whew, what a drama, what a surprise, what a story!

The Faithful, is, then, a great read, a fun, moderately suspenseful, murder mystery.  It ends up being about apologetics and truth, about the gospel and hypocrisy, about the supernatural and the realities of spiritual warfare.  It is a story of a quest, of love lost, and of a redemptive perspective on the realities of evil in our fallen world.  Oh, and did I say?  It is a fun, great, read.  That is, it isn't too didactic and the plot isn't merely a device for spiritual teaching.  Nope, this is the real deal: a horror story, with "sacred terror" and a good bit of enjoyable storyline, well written, lively, entertaining, and provocative.

WANT AN AUTOGRAPHED COPY?

jonathanweyer.jpgWe have Jonathan Weyer doing a presentation at our shop Friday night, December 3rd, at 7:30.  He'll tell us a bit about his views of a sanctified imagination and why it is good for Christians to appreciate the horror genre.  He'll tell us a bit about his own fascination with the paranormal and ghost stories and the like, and perhaps share a bit about how the book came to be written.  (No, it isn't autobiographical.  He's not a closet atheist, although he has read Dawkins and Dennet, and he has not been a suspect for murder.  I don't think he has a dog named Bishop and I don't think he's ever met a disciple of Charles Williams, as does Adian in the book.)

Jonathan will not only speak a bit about his views of a theologically-informed view of the horror genre, but will read from The Faithful.  He'll autograph books, of course, and if this handsome (black and red) paperback might appeal to any friends of yours, just give us a name, and he'll inscribe it.  (You have to let us know by Friday night, of course.)   Or, we can just get the book autographed. Autographed copies make nice gifts, eh?  Maybe this will help you build a bridge of conversation with that person you wanted to chat with about faith, but just didn't know how to bring it up.

PRAY

Please say a prayer for us while your reading this.  Even though it will be a fun evening, and Weyer is a solid, mature, Christian leader, whenever one starts talking about the occult, or imagining scenes of spiritual warfare, it would be naive to think that such talk has no consequences. And we are not unaware that novels about murder or loss of faith can be painful for some.  We ask that God in His mercy, and Christ in His victorious power, and the Holy Spirit in great wisdom, guides us as we explore important themes, good books, fun reading, and, in faithful ways, how to be "in but not of" the worlds of our popular cultures, even in this world of contemporary fiction.  Join us if you're around central PA, and pray for us if you can.  And order a book or two. Thanks.

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December 4, 2010

Besides the Bible: 100 Books (Burnside Writer's Collective + friends)

I can't tell you how many times I've been asked for the "top ten" book list of my personal favorites; oh come on, they implore, bring it on.  Nope.  I just can't do it.  Not long ago I thought I'd work up the courage and stamina to limit myself to a dozen top books, doing a workshop on a list for leaders to read, one book a month.  Couldn't do it.  I ended up suggesting twelve categories, twelve topics or types of books.  And then I added novels. And memoirs. 

Yet, I love books of lists.  I am a sucker for the Rolling Stone stories about the top albums or the top songs, counted down in order. There is something instructive about listening to critics and passionate fans describe the very best in a field.  One of my favorite books of last year, in fact, was 1001 Children's Books You Must Read Before You Grow Up from the acclaimed British 1001 series. It is full color and thick and vivid, edited by a woman who wrote for The Guardian, Julia Eccleshare (Universe Press; $36.95.).  You may know another series, a bit more accessible, published by the art publisher Prestel 50 Paintings You Should Know, 50 Buildings You Should Know, 50 Woman Artists You Should Know and so forth.  Love that stuff.  We stock most of them.

A book about the best books that religious folk should read?  Now that is daunting for a few reasons.  Firstly, any such list usually implies too much; not just that these are great books, but that they will be helpful, insightful in some profound way, appropriate, useful for growing in faith and obedience. To suggest that God may appreciate us reading this book, well, that may be a stretch.  It is, of course, though, what I do almost every day, sometimes with fear and trembling, inviting people to consider the prudence of reading certain books, and to see such an experience as a spiritual discipline.  We think that the books we sell matter!   I know, I know, we could be wrong about some of them.  If communicated in the right spirit, it can even be fun to hear criticisms of this book or that author, or the convictions they offer.  We are eager for conversations about these things because paying attention to books and reading are not only important to us--it's my only serious hobby, really--but our best voices and leaders from the Bible on down through church history have agreed: it is important to use your mind, to think well, to study, to learn.  Books are tools for Christian discipleship, so we care about them.  Mature congregations and vibrant faith communities nurture an ethos of reading.  Serious Christians read, as they can, serious books.

I ruminate on this matter of the joy and usefulness of books, and the complexities of recommending them, in order to announce with great gladness that there is a new resource that will guide you in this journey, that will be valuable and helpful (yes, yes) and interesting and fun (yes, yes, again, yes.)  I couldn't be more thrilled and have been eager to tell you about it.  For anyone who cares about books, or feels that they ought to, or wants to inspire others, this is a wonderful, wonderful resource.

Besides the Bible: 100 Books That Have, Should, or Will Create Christian Culture edited by Dan Gibson, Jordan Green, and John Pattison (Biblica; $14.99.  See our sale price, below.) 
BtB.jpgWith a bunch of guest contributors (including yours truly) these great guys have put together a book lover's feast, a collection of introductory reviews that will make you smile, and smile big.  And maybe scratch your head.  And want to talk to somebody about it all.  If you love books, you will love this book.  If you don't love books, you will find this a helpful guide.

The three authors and a few of their guest contributors are part of the Burnside Writer's Collective, an on-line space for culturally engaged Christian writing, started by Donald Miller.  These guys are themselves very well read, and the forward to Besides the Bible is itself a lovely testimony to a kid growing to become a reader.  My story is not exactly like that---I grew into this book stuff slowly, and later than some---but I so enjoyed their explanation of why they wanted to do a collection like this.  Indeed, this is a lover's gift, a gift by those who love the printed page and a gift to the Christian movement, evangelicals and others who may want some good advice about selecting good reads.  And what fabulous, rich, interesting, solid, helpful, advice it is!

Of course, I don't agree with every review in the book.  And I don't agree with every book choice as "essential."  (As it ends up, neither do they.)  But we stock most of these titles, and certainly agree that they are worth knowing about, even worth reading, and in many cases, worth owning.  Whether you pursue reading some of these suggested titles, and in what order, well, that's a long conversation of another sort.  But, as they point out from the outset, these are books you should know about, that you would be wise to know.  Being aware of significant books, or books that smart folks think are significant, is itself an education and a step towards being a better reader.  (Reading well takes a certain skill of seeing a bigger picture, you know: this author cites that one, who alludes to yet another.  Connecting the dots from a school of thought to a best-seller to a review who hates it, is important as our constellation widens and we "get" the references in books, articles, magazines, films, advertising, and even sermons. Knowing who's who is so helpful.  In short, the more you read, the better reader you become.  With God's help, the more you ponder these things in your heart, the wiser you become.)

So, this new resource will help you walk through some of the top books that have meant a lot to these good folks.  The reviews are short, they are helpful, they are mostly very interesting.  Most are initialed by one of the three primary authors, but then others are offered as guest essays, which are, themselves, a fun bit of discovery.  For instance, in Besides the Bible you can find comedian and actress Susan Isaacs on N.T. Wright's Simply Christian;  Donald Miller on Viktor Frankl;  Peter Rollins on a book by post-modern philosopher John Caputo.  Learn why William Young, the author of The Shack, chose The Little Prince.  Read Phyllis Tickle's wonderful rumination, explaining the importance of The Norton Anthology of Poetry.  Admired writers and thinkers Becky Garrison (her latest is Jesus Died for This?) and David Dark are in here---Dark's beautiful piece on Franny & Zooey is one of the best in the book!  Brooklyn poet and pastor (and singer for The Welcome Wagon) Vito Aiuto explains the richness and warmth of Calvin's famous Institutes of Christian Religion.  Karen Spears Zacharias (I hope you know her Will Jesus Buy Me A Double Wide?) reflects on the Collected Stories of Eudora Welty.  I keep thinking: is all this cool, or what?  Yippeee!

And those are only a few of the guests and a fraction of the diverse books listed and described.  You'll have to buy the thing, of course, to see 'em all, but you will be delighted, I'm sure.  Many of these have been very important books in my own life, and say much about our own history here at Hearts & Minds:books.jpg Thomas Merton, J.I. Packer's Knowing God, John Howard Yoder, Francis Schaeffer, Madeline L'Engle, Richard Foster, Os Guinness.  They happily suggest novels and poetry, polemics and the work of sociologists, history and theology.  A few are memoirs (Traveling Mercies, The Cloister Walk), a few are Biblical studies (yay for Colossians Remixed) and a few are classics about art history, or culture. (The comments about Cultural Amnesia by Clive James were stunning; the review of War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning by Christopher Hedges was very wise indeed.)  A few are of genres that are hard to explain, like the Pulitzer Prize-winning nature reflections so beautifully penned by Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.  Or the amazing graphic novel, Blankets.

 Of course we were thrilled to see Jayber Crow (Berry), The Brothers K (Duncan), Gilead
(Robinson), and a few others of the very best novels of our time that are rife with theological and spiritual insight.  I appreciated the short review of This is Water by the legendary David Foster Wallace.  The fiction suggestions are almost all very important, most of them very solid choices, but a few are curious.

Although it isn't the book's strong suit, there are plenty of titles recommended about the inner spiritual journey.  Who wouldn't benefit from a reminder of the significance of historical classics like Paradise Lost or Pilgrim's Progress; who doesn't need short introductions to some of the important works in spiritual formation (from The Sayings of the Desert Fathers and Mothers to the Rule of Saint Benedict to The Little Flowers of St. Francis to the 20th century classics of A.W. Tozer?)  I know I learned a lot from these passionate reviews, and was reminded of some books I've been wanting to read for some time now.  I think it would help nearly anyone develop a reading plan and remind you of some important authors.  And, I'm sure of it, add a handful of new authors to your "must read" list.   

The explanations as to why people found these books to be so rich and rewarding makes Besides the Bible an especially compelling read, and that much more enjoyable.  (No dry "required reading" list, this.)  When they tell you about a book, it almost always makes sense and feels authentic because these are books that the reviewers believe in.  It's really like good friends telling each other about their recent bookish discoveries---and we get to listen in!  It is passionate, tender at times, sometimes clever, occasionally insistent.  And always helpful, reminding us of the good stuff.  Just for instance, many of us may have heard of Silence by Shusako Endo, or East of Eden by Steinbeck and the chapters on them are good reminders of their meaning and significance.  What fun to have an author explain his love for John Piper.  Or John Irving.  To hear about why A. J. Jacobs' wacky The Year of Living Biblically is so very helpful.  Or, in a moving, brief review, why Velvet Elvis so touched one guest writer. This is great, great, stuff, a real reminder on why these "stories rendered in black and white words" can, as they suggest in their subtitle, renew our culture, change the world.
fictionandpoetry.jpg

Okay.  I've got to say it, but I will be brief.  A few of the choices are dumb.  And I don't like the subtitle of the book.  Occasionally---despite the extraordinary ecumenicity and breadth of their great reading habits--they seem to suppose that the reader is an evangelical, which may often be the case.  A few lines made me shake my head, and there are tons of omissions.  Why not this, I wondered?  You've got to be kidding me, where is her book, or his?  But, of course, this is a part of the fun. The choice to include a few influential, bad books was interesting (so you've got to read the reviews to see what they say; not every one is a rave.) And I wish there was a better index.  Look: I've seen other lists like this that make me wanna holler. Or they are so weighed down by what should be read, the canon, so to speak, that they aren't very much fun to read about. This, however, is the best thing I've seen of this kind, the list closest to one I'd celebrate, the finest collection of reviews I've yet read, all told with verve and personality. Besides the Bible: 100 Books... is, now, one of my favorite books that I want to press into the hands of others.

And kudos for sneaking a couple extra books in giving us even more for our money. (City of Man and Confessions in one review--oh yeah. Three Tim Keller books counting as one---way to go Steve Taylor!   One summary discourse on the three most important "new atheists" makes sense, too.  Even in my review, I named a second book, sneaking that in.  Heee.)  

As Gibson, Green, and Pattison explained their project to others, and wrote down some opening thoughts, they became clear that this isn't necessarily "the best" or a "definitive" list.  It frees them to tell their story, report on what books moved them, what they think is helpful, work they can't help but commend.  In fact, early in the preface they say this:

Let's be clear: This isn't a list of our favorite books or even the first 100 books we would take to a desert island (or whatever wacky list-making premise you prefer.)  Sure, Dan's favorite novel happens to be Michael Chabon's Kavalier & Clay, Jordan re-reads Everything Is Illuminated, and John once read the complete Hardy Boys series, but would we say those books are essential reads for Christians in America (and beyond?)  Not really.
There are a few that I just raised my hands in salute to the editors when I saw them included. (Nikos Kazantzakis! Dorothy Day!  Neil Postman! Jean Vanier!  Martin Luther King! )  These are not the sorts of authors you regularly find in most so-called Christian bookstores.  But it reminds me of why we do what we do, our love for books and promoting Christian growth, the wide berth of reading coupled with a serious desire to honor God, being informed by a Biblical perspective on life and times, and all that great books can offer those of us wanting to find God in our daily lives.  These guides--the folks from the Burnside Writer's Collective---have done us a huge favor in offering these reviews. (Read an interview with them here.  It's a great roundtable discussion on the book and a joy to read.)  They are entries into the worlds of other good guides.  We are grateful for it all, their work, the books they point us to, the beauty and goodness and sorrow and joy that emerges, sometimes slowly, sometimes like a thunderbolt, from the printed page.  We hope you'll order some, pass 'em around, share the love.

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December 9, 2010

New Advent books listed at the November monthly column

I am so happy to offer a good list of some new (and some older) Advent and Christmas resources at the holiday special price of 30% off.  We wanted to post this this review over at the "monthly columns" and November was vacant, so there ya go.  Read today's post over there, in the November "Reviews" column.  See my earnest descriptions, some cool book covers, and few neat links---you've got to click on the video clip with Heinz, author of the richly researched and fabulously insightful Christmas: Festival of the Incarnation.  Never to late to explore (or give books about) this most wondrous time of the year.

There you will find our typical quick link to the Hearts & Minds order form page if you want to place an order for any of these books (and also the spot to ask us questions if you have inquiries about anything at all.)  May this Advent be a time of deepening faith, embracing the hope of the coming restoration, made near in Christ.  To the baby King!

A few more posts will be coming soon as I'm so eager to share tons of great stuff that I have by my too cluttered desk.  Stay tuned.

Here are a few of the book covers of titles which I review and recommend over at the monthly column.


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handel.jpgPlease see the rest of the reviews at the November post of the "monthly columns."  Enjoy!





















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December 11, 2010

C.S. Lewis: educational DVDs, books, devotional, Bible and other recent resources

Lewis,C.S.svg.pngDecember 10th 2010 will mark the opening of the third in the Walden Media, big-Hollywood film versions of the famous and beloved C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.   Oooh, this is going to be a good one, isn't it?  So much to consider, such a tale.  And how many preachers or Christian teachers have used the famous and deeply moving scene of Eustace getting the dragony scales removed (and becoming a boy again!) by the painful kindness of Aslan?  I've heard from reliable sources that this third installment is excellent.

This year has marked also some very important new C.S. Lewis resources, books and audio and--yes--some educational DVDs that are sorely needed, to enhance our appreciation of the great Oxford don.

And appreciate him, we should.  For many conservative evangelicals, Lewis has little cache these days, it seems, and they fret about his being too academic or theologically demanding. And maybe too liberal.  For many liberal mainline folks--including some I talked to about this just recently--they think he is, well, too demanding.  And too conservative.  Some days, you know, I just want to smack my head.  Or, Lord have mercy, somebody else's.

I will be the first to admit that not all of Lewis is perfect for everyone.  In the brand new book of book reviews which I've been talking about this week, Besides the Bible: 100 Books... my friend Susan Isaacs, a smart-as-as-whip Hollywood comedian and funny-as-can-be memoirist (Angry Conversations with God) does the review of N.T. Wright's spectacular Simply Christian, comparing it to a 21st century Mere Christianity; her explanation of why Wright resonates more than Lewis these days rings true.  Although a few other Lewis works are cited in Besides The Bible (A Grief Observed and Lion Witch and the Wardrobe) Mere did not make it.  And I think Susan is exactly right: Mere Christianity is not the easiest book to give to seekers these days, and his lock-step logic isn't as persuasive as it once was.  Where college age students, or Christian college professors, used to wave their Lewis around as a badge of honor---we can be orthodox Christians and seriously intellectual--nowadays it is more likely that they will push the impressionistic Donald Miller or the justice-minded Shane Claiborne.  It is a sign of the times, and perhaps it is not all bad.

Yet, yet, folks really ought to know Lewis, and know him well.  If I were editing the Besides the Bible naming the top 100 books to "create a Christian culture" as the subtitle has it, I'd surely suggest the Weight of Glory.  And the devious joys of Screwtape Letters. (And that lightlyscrewtape.jpg illustrated, wonderful gift edition gives it an extra punch.)  N.T. Wright has said that it was Miracles that allowed him to even imagine the possibilities of the resurrection.  Not a few have told us that Till We Have Faces is one of their all time favorite books.  The essay "On Learning in Wartime" is often cited about the ways in which we should commit to being serious students, even as the horrors of this world rage.  The Abolition of Man is as incisive social criticism (a critic of scientism and bad education) as it was in the 1944.  Letters to Malcolm is a sweet study of prayer---thanks to hip-hop fan Schooley for reminding me of how good it is!  The Four Loves is still so often cited (and the audio CD version is actually his voice, the only Lewis audios that are available for purchase.) His Cambridge University Press book An Experiment in Criticism is a classic in the field about how to read texts.  His many letters are famous.  The wild story about "a bus ride to hell" (The Great Divorce) has tons of provocative insights. And how 'bout that "Space Trilogy?"   And all those pithy lines!  All those quotable paragraphs!  (Even the edgy, missional The Advent Conspiracy book and DVD drawscfCle.jpg on his powerful suggestion that we all ought to truly give away our money until we actually feel it, unable to do some things because we've been too generous.)  Many educated Christians have a favorite passage or two from Lewis.  I think we should read him more, follow those who are writing about him, and know the body of work that has grown up around him.  A great place to start, in fact, is the great paperback by our friend Art Lindsley who wrote the engaging and helpful C.S. Lewis' Case for Christ (IVP; $15.00)  What a fun and interesting story, teaching how Lewis used reason and imagination in his own journey to a "baptized imagination" and eventual faith in Christ.
Art and our friends at the C.S. Lewis Institute have a nice article about Lewis which is a fine introduction, with links to articles about him, here. 

Although it is a matter of some debate among the tribe of serious Lewis fans, most would agree that the very best, most serious, and rewarding biography of Lewis is the much-acclaimed 2008 release, The Narnian written by Alan Jacobs (HarperOne; $14.95.)

Here, then, are a few new resources on Lewis, some quite useful for beginners, others a bit unique for the true fan.  The last year or two has seen remarkable new studies, and we hope you consider them---maybe your church library should have them, or a few key titles could be bought by your fellowship group or even your public library.  There are some very exciting resources here, and two of them--both new DVD studies--- I believe can only be found in a handful of stores nationwide.  You know we have the good stuff---read on, my friends, as we go "higher up and further in."

41yY67ly7TL._SL500_AA300_.jpgThe C.S. Lewis Bible (New Revised Standard)  (HarperOne) $34.99  Okay, might as well start here, the creme de le creme of new Lewisonia product.  Yes, this is a serious study Bible, classy, handsome, useful.  In a lovely small font the front cover says "For Reading, Reflection and Inspiration" which, I hope, is indeed the point.  As we read God's Word---and the NRSV is very good if you don't use it regularly---we must reflect and, hopefully, be inspired to greater clarity and obedience.  Lewis may not be the final interpreter of Scripture, but he's a smart and clear thinker,devout and humble.  These Lewis quotes and essays and sidebars sprinkled throughout are really quite remarkable, and we'd be happy to have folks journey for a year or so through their Bible study with Lewis at their side.  There are over 600 readings, culled from his books, essays, and letters.  The double-column format is readable with a classic design and there are indexes and concordances (for both Biblical text and the Lewis apparatus.)  Rave review endorsements have come from Rowan Williams and Eugene Peterson and Richard Foster and J. I. Packer.  Lewis experts (like Salwa Khoddam of the Inklings Society, have given it a thumbs-up as well.)  I think this is just about the coolest release of the year, and I am sure you know somebody who would love it.  They may not even know they'd love it (which is where you come in, naturally.) Three cheers.  No, wait, when you see the pairing of insight and text, Bible and Lewis, you'll give three more cheers.  Hip, hip, hurray, or whatever those reserved Brits would have said, pubbing at the Eagle and the Child.  This is great!

Inside-Dawn-Treader-Book-Cover1.jpgInside the Voyage of the Dawn Treader: A Guide to Exploring the Journey Beyond Narnia Devin Brown (Baker) $12.99  This is a fine, fine book, and the only one committed to exploring the Dawn Treader book. Yes, this really will help you understand the book, talk about the movie, and learn to "discover the far reaches of Narnia."

Listen to this great bit by Michael Flaherty of Walden Media

If Edmund were to finally receive a belated gift from Father Christmas, he would be lucky if it were a copy of my good friend Devin Brown's book.  Like Lewis, Devin is someone who adores great stories and effortlessly weaves them throughout his book.  As a result, upon finishing Devin's book the reader is hungry not only to read more of Lewis, but to read more great literature.  This book will surely be banned at Experiment House.



Mr. Brown is a Lilly Scholar and a professor of English at Asbury University.  He is the author of the wonderful Inside Narnia and Inside Prince Caspian, which, of course, we also stock.

51VzwBWPrGL._SL500_AA300_.jpgThe Lion, the Mouse and the Dawn Treader: Spiritual Lessons from C.S. Lewis' Narnia  Carl McColman (Paraclete) $14.99  Do you seek the "radiant light of the silver sea"?  Does it even choke you up to ask, to hear the invitation?  This is a brief, but serious exploration of Lewis' story, indeed, but it is more.  The author is a bit of a character, himself, a former new age spiritualist, who discovered the reality of the risen Christ by his study of Celtic spirituality.  Ahh, ahh, what a journey.  And what a fine person to do a book like this, weaving deep truths from ancient writers (he has also edited The Big Book of Christian Mysticism) relating them to the popular Narnia stories.  Popular Jesuit writer James Martin says it is "Playful, provocative and profound."  Pretty good for an Irishman, eh?

The back cover notes that Dawn Treader is built around the Christian journey:

from resisting God's grace to discovering the reality of sin to finding relief in the waters of baptism.  This voyage,for Christians of all ages, if full of adventures, temptation, discomforting silence, dealing with "Dufflepuds" (distractions) and a final terrifying journey to the "Island of Darkness" (the dark night of the soul.)  As the Dawn Treader sails beyond where the stars sing, you will discover a world of wonders characterized by light and clarity, and encounter Aslan---Christ---himself.
I love the quote by Trina Paulus, author of the old classic Hope for the Flowers, who wrote "You can touch the hole journey of the Christian search for God--and likely be spurred toward renewal in your own life---by getting on this Narnian ship."  McColman brings a commonplace, yet mystical tone to this, and while it is playful, he gets at some profound stuff in ways that many Lewis interpreters do not.  Chalk it up to his Celtic insight; he sees Narnia as the "thin place" which it surely is.  Very interesting, accessible, and inviting.

9780061985515.jpgA Year with Aslan: Daily Reflections from the Chronicles of Narnia  (HarperOne) $22.99  What a great, great, idea!  Why haven't we thought of this before??  This is a compact-sized hardback, handsome as can be, with 365 excerpts from various Narnian episodes, all that feature the grace and goodness, fearsomeness and felicity of the great Lion.  What more can we say?  For anyone who has seen the movie just recently, or for anyone who once loved the stories---parents, remember reading these out loud to your youngsters?  We sincerely this would make a great, great gift.  Give this as a gift, keep one on hand, dip in to it as you can.  It will be a keeper, one to use as a reference to look up that ill-remembered line) or as a true devotional, drawing strength as it points you to the Christ.  There are thought-provoking questions to consider each day, as well, giving it even more value.  Very nicely done.


2.jpgDVD The Question of God: Sigmund Freud & C.S. Lewis with Dr. Armand Nicholi  (PBS Home Video; $34.99) and Conversations on the Question of God Study Guide by Bill Smith (C.S. Lewis Institute, Atlanta; $12.00)  We cannot tell you how interesting this whole project is and how thrilled we are that the good folks at the CSLI, Atlanta, invited us to stock this study book they lovingly prepared.  You may know the New York Times best-seller The Question of God: C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud Debate God, Love, Sex, and the Meaning of Life by Harvard Medical School professor Armand M. Nicholi (The Free Press; $15.99.) It so insightfully compared and contrasted the worldviews, assumptions and subsequent views of the meaning of things between these two classic thinkers that PBS made a quirky, creative docudrama based upon it.  (No, Lewis and Freud never really met, but as the Boston Globe review exclaimed, this sure makes you wish they had!)   The book is great, and the DVD fascinating.  It is good for anyone wanting to learn about the "differences differences make" and who wants to examine not only the truth-claims of these representative thinkers but wanting to know how best to defend a Christian perspective in conversation with others.  We've stocked the book and DVD since they came out a few years back.

Enter Bill Smith, founder of On The Way Ministries and Director of the Atlanta C. S. Lewis Institute, who then did a wonderful study guide for the DVD drama, helping us consider how it helps sort through the many issues raised by this remarkable PBS piece.  Dr. Nicholi's
9780743247856.jpg Question of God: Lewis and Freud Harvard class has a waiting list, I'm told, and he only offers it about every three years at Harvard Med.  The book is sheer genius, and the DVD adaptation is truly interesting, so we can now essentially audit this popular Harvard class!  How cool is that?!.  But the study guide---ahh, that's the ticket!   Bill Smith's 9-week resource is  an excellent tool to launch your own study of Christian convictions, and how the Christian vision of Lewis can hold up in contrast to the inherent confusions, foibles, implications, and dangers of the contemporary views.  We stock the regular Question of God book, of course.  We especially recommend the DVD and study guide.  (The carefully designed study guide, again, is for the PBS DVD, not exactly the book itself.)  Watch the DVD, use the thorough and interesting study guide, alone or, better, in a group.  It is ideal for study groups, home Bible studies, adult Sunday school classes, a weekend retreat, even.

Bill Smith is a capable Lewis scholar and a gifted teacher about apologetics in the modern and post-modern world.  His passion to allow Lewis to speak to our generation drew him to the DVD, and his Biblically-sound leadership and teaching skills enabled him to create this first-class, useful study resource.  What a clever and creative way to explore contemporary apologetics.  What an important topic, to see how Christian conviction relates to the ideas of contemporary culture, influenced, as they are, by Freud and company. What a fun way to be reintroduced to the persuasive power of C.S. Lewis, and learn his own ways of expressing Christian truth in ways that are solid and clear.

When ordering, please specify if you want the book, the DVD, or the Bill Smith Conversations on the Question of God Study Guide.   As always, call about quantity discounts for group use.

mere-christianity-featurette-1_0.img_assist_custom.jpgDVD The C.S. Lewis Study Program: Mere Christianity  Dr. Chris Mitchell (C.S Lewis Institute, Washington, DC)  $19.99  I cannot tell you how many times we have been asked here at the shop for a resource to walk readers through the logic and analogies and teachings of Lewis' most influential work,  Mere Christianity.  Here---fife and drum roll, please---at long last, we have not only a good, but a truly exceptional aid.  This is the answer to that 41779_118450480791_7820_n.jpgquestion I wish we've had decades ago.   This new DVD is a great, great release, and we are exuberant to finally be able to make such a resource available.  If you love Lewis, you will know what I mean when I say this is precious, holy,  life-changing material  And if you do not, but wonder what all the fuss is about, this may be the perfect entry.

In this four-part DVD set, Lewis scholar Chris Mitchell, Director of the respected Wade Center at Wheaton College, uses his great knowledge and good communication skills to ably present a stunning set of lectures on Lewis, literally reading through Mere Christianity paragraph by paragraph.  As you may know, Lewis was a master at a building an argument, making a case, and following his logic is itself a tremendous intellectual exercise. (Use this study program just for that, if you want---your brain and our culture will thank you if you learn to think more clearly and care more deeply!)  But learning to think well is only half of the fun: Lewis helps us learn to think after God, to seek truth and follow Christ with proper confidence.  And, again, as you may know, much of Mere Christianity explores the implications of the Christian faith for living the good life, for morals and ethics and meaning.  Knowing what we believe and why we believe it, is essential.  Knowing how to live out our convictions with joy in the real world is equally so.

mitchell.jpgC.S. Lewis is, for a whole variety of reasons, one of the chief thinkers whom God has used to ignite several generations of vital leaders in our lifetime.  Here, you can learn why.  Get a paperback copy of Mere Christianity (being prepared to mark it up) and follow along in this excellent, jam-packed, DVD lectures.  Delightfully, the CSLI, wanting this to be a truly useful tool for individuals or groups, hired an experienced small group discussion guide writer, so there is a handy and valuable discussion booklet in each DVD case as well.  The lessons are about 45 minutes, by the way, so most adult education classes in churches would find this a perfect class elective.

 The C.S. Lewis Study Program: Mere Christianity DVD comes handsomely packaged, in a compact, zippered case, which comes in a handsome slipcase.  It would make a great gift.  The lectures are crisp and illuminating.  The study guide is useful and a real asset.  Of course the real value, though,  is in the truth of Lewis' claims, his call for a mere kind of basic Christianity, the essence of faith in the truth of Jesus Christ.  Do you know this central core of faith? Do you wish you could explain it better to others?  Do you wish you had a little of the famous Lewis logic, wit, and imagination?  Spend a few weeks being stimulated with this one-of-a-kind curriculum.  We think you will be glad you did.  Note that the $19.95 price is an introductory one and may be going up

Restoring Beauty: The Good, The True, and the Beautiful in the Writings of C.S. Lewis Louis Markos (Biblica) $19.99  I suppose this could be a generic title to any good book about Lewis, but, trust me, this is precisely what this book is about and Dr. Markos---he holds the Robert Ray Chair in Humanities at Houston Baptist University---is the perfect scholar to do it.  He is renowned (in a very small circle of appreciative ancient literature geeks) for his breathtakingly good book From Achilles to Christ which explores why Christians should read the ancient Greek classics.)   This is a passionate study of the ways our culture has devalued truth and beauty and while one need not agree with all of his cultural criticism, he brings Lewis' insights into the contemporary debates about good and evil.  Fascinating.

The book concludes with an updating of the letters of Screwtape and what Satan's temptation tactics have been since the 1960s,  There is a detailed bibliographical essay about some of Lewis' books and some of the best books about him.  Very interesting and very helpful.  

By the way, last year, Markos released Lewis Agonistes: How C.S. Lewis Can Train Us to Wrestle with the Modern and Postmodern World (B&H Books; $19.99) which was a superb study of how Lewis might speak to today's intellectual milieu.  I was fond of that little book, without agreeing with it all,  and it is a great resource for those interested in Lewis,  apologetics and developing a Christian sensibility about our complicated times.

C.S. Lewis as Philosopher: Truth, Goodness, and Beauty  edited by David Baggett, Gary Habermas, and Jerry Walls (IVP) $23.00   There are five or six lucid, deep, academic pieces around each of these themes.  Some big names show up---Peter Kreeft, Jean Bethke Elshtain even Antony Flew,  and a few of the papers delivered have Latin in the title.  Just saying.  But this volume really is a very comprehensive survey of many of the big philosophical issues that can be explored in Lewis' light.  From his "argument from reason" to the "problem of hell and enjoyment of good" to matters of theodicy, these authors are doing some very heavy lifting.  Very impressive scholarly collection and a good example of how some philosophers are mining Lewis' work, even today, with new and important insight.

A Sword Between the Sexes: C.S. Lewis and the Gender Debates Mary Stewart Van51esMPiZTBL.jpg  Leeuwen (Brazos) $19.99  We have written a bit about this before, and promoted it anywhere we can. We like this author and we find the topic fascinating and important.  This has been the most discussed volume of recent Lewis studies in years, it seems, and it has been both lauded, appreciated,  and severely criticized.  John Hare of Yale Divinity School says, bluntly, "This book is an eye-opener."  Christine Pohl weighs in, noting that "a keen intellect and a rich academic background are necessary in tackling a substantive study of Lewis and gender, and Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen brings those resources and much more to her work."   Van Leeuwen is a Reformed, evangelical feminist, and a professor in the study of gender, psychology and the social sciences at Eastern University.  As Diane Marshal of the Institute of Family Living puts it, "I highly recommend this book for all Christians--male and female--who desire a richer awareness of our essential unity and communion as persons."  Not a bad idea, eh?   Highly recommended.

Planet Narnia: The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C.S. Lewis  Michael Ward (Oxford University Press) $18.99  Well, if Sword Between the Sexes gently deconstructs both Lewis and the standard assumptions about Lewis, helping us see some truly new aspects of Lewis' life and teaching, the biggest conversation--causing nearly a paradigm shift in Lewis studies---came a few years ago when the British scholar Michael Ward released his very innovative (and to many, very compelling) book of new insight about what the Chronicles of 51mghQKS2BL._SL500_AA300_.jpgNarnia really mean, and what they were based upon.  Planet Narnia, now out in paperback,  explains how Lewis, medieval scholar that he was, drew upon a middle ages view of the essence of each of the seven planets, with each of the Narnian tales related to that planet's meaning.  The author is confident that Lewis crafted his book in even finer detail and complexity than most of us knew.  This takes none of the overtly Christian thinking out of the Chronicles, but it does refract them through this medieval cosmological lens, which, in many ways, makes them even more theologically imaginative and compelling.  If this intrigues you but you don't want to wade through this seminal masterpiece, try the brand new, popular level adaptation, The Narnia Code: C.S. Lewis and the Secret of the Seven Heavens (Tyndale House; $13.99.)  The title makes it sound a bit sensational, but  I, for one, am glad for this thinner version that makes this provocative case for ordinary readers, and helps us see how "the heavens declare" the glory of God.  Love Narnia?  Curious about what Lewis intentionally did or didn't weave into his fables?  You've got to read this!  Here is the publisher's page about it, including a short interview with Ward.  Wow.

C.S. Lewis on the Final Frontier: Science and the Supernatural in the Space Trilogy Sanford Schwartz (Oxford University Press) $27.95  I know it is a bit pricey, but if Alan Jacobs says, as he does, that this is "certainly the best book yet on Lewis' science fiction" then you should know.  And get it.  These 3 novels are not appreciated enough amongst us, and there isn't much written about them, so we are thrilled to commend this excellent book.  It is fairly serious, but the title alone reveals the authors clever use of words and phrases.  Very well done.  For many years, by the way, we  have been fond of the very good Planets in Peril: A Critical Study of C.S. Lewis Ransom Trilogy by central Pennsylvania Lewis scholar, David C. Downing (University of Massachusetts Press; $21.95) and remain glad that it is still available.  Downing has several good books on Lewis and we recommend them all, and stock them routinely.  His lovely hardback book on the mystical spirituality of Lewis called Into the Region of Awe (IVP; $20.00) is superb, and Into the Wardrobe (Jossey Bass; $14.95) his overview of the Narnia stories is solid.  He even has a new novel just out, set in Inklings territory, which I hope to review soon. 

Narnia and the Fields of Arbol: The Environmental Vision of C.S. Lewis Matthew
51IliF7vGfL._SL500_AA300_.jpg Dickerson & David L. O'hara (University Press of Kentucky) $35.00 Academic presses never fail to surprise me, with the oddest thesis being published, weirdo historical arcana explained in 500 plus pages and selling for fifty-five bucks.  And then, a gem pops out, a book that ought to be widely known, easily purchased, often discussed, but it languishes in the back of academic catalogs, hardly known.  We don't know if other Christian bookstores carry this, but we are thrilled to promote it, and hope you tell others about it.  (I commented on it when it first came out, here.)  What a genius study this is, by a fine, respected, pair of solid Christian scholars.  Yes, it may be at first glance a bit of a stretch to think that the old Oxford don would favor green theology or have much to say to the harsh matters of 21st century climate change or species extinctions.  (Well, he opposed animal experimentation, you know!)  Get this book, form a reading club, and learn a lot about Lewis, literature, ecology, and God's good care for the beautiful web of life we are called upon to steward.  I sometimes say Francis Schaeffer's Pollution and the Death of Man may have been the first overtly evangelical environmental writing.  If Dickerson & O'hara are right, Lewis is the man!   Cheerio!

Is Your Lord Large Enough: How C.S. Lewis Expands Our View of God Peter Schakel (IVP) $16.00   Peter Schakel is well respected in Lewis circles, mostly for his reliable and clear-headed Way Into Narnia: A Readers Guide (Eerdmans; $15.00.)  The estimable go-to Lewis guy Walter Hooper says he is "the wisest and humblest of C.S. Lewis commentators."  Schakel is truly a C.S. scholar, but here he desires to help people come to know God better, to worship well, to be nurtured in faith and formation.  Think of that line Aslan says to Lucy in Prince Caspian, "Every year you grow, you will find me bigger."  This book will help that happen.

Conversations with C.S. Lewis: Imaginative Discussions About life, Christianity and God  Robert Verlarde (IVP) $15.00  This is not brand new but is so imaginative itself that I have to list it.  Yep, this is--in the style popularized by Peter Kreeft--a set of playfully construed imaginary conversations.  Wonder what Clive would say today if he were here?   What he might say about very contemporary issues and theological controversies?  Kreeft himself gives a big thumbs up to Verlarde's effort here, and, as Douglas Groothuis puts it, he has "pulled off a rare and wonderful feat."  What a fun and interesting way to learn about Lewis' views, his logic, his heart, and how to think about orthodox Christian living in our modern setting.

9780801071843-l.jpgMere Christians: Inspiring Stories of Encounters with C.S. Lewis  edited by Mary Anne Phemister & Andrew Lazo (Baker) $14.99 

We've been making these book and author suggestions supposing you understand how influential Lewis has been, that you agree his was and is an important voice in contemporary writing, and especially in Christian writing.  You surely know that many think he was one of the more important writers of the 20th century.  Need convincing (or reminding?)  This book is fantastic!   Here are pieces by Anne Rice and Francis Collins, Philip Yancey and Joy Davidman, scholars like David Lyle Jeffrey and pastors like Earl Palmer.  My my, there are good folks here.  A little story: I was in our dungeon-like basement overstock room, putting away boxes of books, late at night and weary.  I had on the CD player a brand new CD, a favorite singer-song-writer, Pierce Pettis.  I started to browse through this new book, Mere Christian, and realized Pierce had a chapter in it.  No sooner did I start reading his moving essay, the song that blasted from the new album was, in fact, about Narnia.  It was surreal, hearing Pettis' song for the first time, while reading about how Lewis made a difference in his journey of faith.  The album, by the way, is called That Kind of Love and the song is "Lion's Eye."  

cslewis.jpgThe Soul of C. S. Lewis: A Meditative Journey through Twenty-Six of His Best-Loved Writings Wayne Martindale, Jerry Root, and Linda Washington (Tyndale) $19.99  This book could sell for twice the price and be a bargain.  Lovingly edited and compiled this really is as the sub-title says, a sweet reflection on all of Lewis' major works. This is at once a "readers guide" and guidebook, but also a thoughtful and at times captivating rumination on the deepest meanings and insights of C. S. L. The reviews are gathered into four major sections, and although they offer the dates and chronology, they are arranged by theme, or tone.  They show the journey of "Pilgrimage", "Temptation and Triumph", "Going Deeper", and, then,  the books that they describe as  "Words of Grace."  Lovers of Lewis will surely be thrilled to see these authors arrange and discuss this body of work.  Those who need a friendly sherpa or two, well, you've found them.  Excellent!

Want just one big book to get into Lewis, a good collection of a handful of his important works?
the-complete-c-s-lewis-signature-classics-rough-cut-edition-14678517.jpegThe Complete C.S. Lewis Signature Classics (HarperOne) $28.99 This just may be the one, since it includes full editions of Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters, The Great Divorce, The Problem of Pain, Miracles, A Grief Observed, and The Abolition of Man.  A great big bargain!

Want one book to just dip in to brief selections across his wider body of work?  There are a few,  (including one that goes a whole year, but is only drawn from the seven signature classics.)  Rather, for a broader selection of short entries, try
The Business of Heaven edited by Walter Hooper (Mariner) $15.00  It a tremendous.  While the readings are very short (which has its drawbacks for a substantive writer like Lewis) there are pieces from his vast output--- literary criticism, his letters, his prayers, and all sorts of good selections, designed a bit to somewhat correspond to the church calender.
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234 East Main Street  Dallastown, PA 17313     717.246.3333





C.S. Lewis books and DVDs: monthly review column describes great new resources

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This year has brought a good number of some very special books about C.S. Lewis.  Whether one is a part of the serious Lewis tribe or not, we all should know more about him.  Just in time for renewed conversations inspired by this week-end's Walden Media release of Voyage of the Dawn Treader, I compiled a large list of the latest and greatest C.S.Lewis resources.  I hope you skip over to the monthly website review column where you can read by bibliographic essay.  We have tons more--nearly everything by him, and all sorts of things about him--so do call if you have special interests.  Just click here.

I am sure you'll find something interesting there, and some very great gift ideas.  We are very excited to announce---daa daaah---twomere-christianity-featurette-1_0.img_assist_custom.jpg new DVD resources that are sold in only a very few retail locations (if any.)  We've been allowed to stock the new DVD teaching by Lewisonia guru extraordinaire, Dr. Chris Mitchell (of the Wade Center), where he walks viewers through Mere Christianity.  Kudos to the C.S. Lewis Institute in Washington DC for producing these DVDs and study guide in a handsome package, keeping the price right, and helping offer new ways to help folks grapple with the big ideas of Lewis' grandest book.  You want to see my description over at the big column.

9780743247856.jpgAnd--perhaps even more interesting--you will find my description of a very expertly crafted study guide for the PBS documentary comparing the worldviews of C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud (based on the remarkable book by popular Harvard Medical School professor, Armand Nicholi, entitled Question of God: C.S. Lewis & Sigmund Freud Debate God, Sex, Love and the Meaning of Life.)

The PBS docudrama based on the book is pretty creative, and allows these two representative thinkers to show the implications of their respective views.  The book is good and the DVD is fun.

The good folks in Atlanta that have a branch of the C.S. Lewis Institute there, have allowed us to stock their study guide for the DVD.  It was very ably written by Bill Smith, the Director of CSLI Atlanta, and we are excited to think of the possibilities of groups watching this PBS documentary and using the guide Bill put together in order to have meaningful, thoughtful conversations about these vital subjects.

 Please read all about these two new DVD pieces that we are so honored to carry. 

And, you'll see more. too.  There is a new, very (very) cool C.S. Lewis Study Bible, a yearly devotional based on Aslan, a few heavy, scholarly works, and a brand new adapted easy-to-read version of the hugely important Oxford University Press book called Planet Narnia, by Michael Ward, which was one of the most significant Narnia studies to come out since the daring tales were told. The new, thinner version is called The Narnia Code and it is truly fascinating and a fine summary of the larger, more academic book.   Hope you like my description and a link to a video by Mr. Ward.  Gotta check that out! 

By the way, until December 31st  we are offering an even better discount here at the blog---25% off---good on any of the items I mentioned in the Lewis-related review.  We do have a discount offer listed over there, but the blog one here is even better, for those of you who regularly pay attention to our work here.

We are grateful for your readership, and hope you find this column interesting. If you know anybody who might like it, why not pass it on, spread the word on facebook on twitter?

For the extra discount, just mention that you read the blog and claim the 25% off.  First, though, see the big Lewis resource list, here.  Then come on back and order!  Cheerio!

Here are just a few covers of some of the books I describe. Sorry the format is a little odd...
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Hearts and Minds  234 East Main Street  Dallastown, PA 17313     717.246.333

December 14, 2010

Hearts & Minds gift giving guide---for moms, dads, sports fans, film buffs and those with interests from science to art

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I know that this time of year some of us really, truly enjoy giving gifts to others.  Of course, many people have more plastic and chrome than they need, and buying somebody new shoes is just a bit tricky.  And socks just don't cut it.

Books are always great gifts.  They are personal, carry a bit of aesthetic character, and say something.  They speak of your own interests and are custom chosen for the recipients interest. They aren't too big, yet aren't insubstantial.  And in this world of electronica, they almost have a nostalgic, antiquarian quality.  They wrap nicely--for those who recycle or wanting to be thrifty, we sometimes use newspaper, with a red ribbon..

Here are some random suggestions for some of the hard-to-buy-for folks on your list.  Feel free to email us with questions if these jog your noggin or inspire your thinking.  There's more where this came from.  We are grateful to be like Santa's elves, helping create the perfect gift for your needs.  We hope it is helpful that we offer a hefty discount (see the bottom of the post, please.)

We gift wrap for free.  And some of the holiday spirit comes along, too.  Merry Christmas.


for those who like memoir

Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way  Shauna Niequist (Zondervan) sale price $12.97  This hip hardback is every bit as good as her fantastic Orange Tangerine her memoiristic reflection on finding God in the ordinary.  Here, as the title suggests, she has hit upon some hard times, tells of her ups and downs, and with moving, honest, witty, and inspiring prose, moves us to see God's faithfulness even in the "bittersweet" moments.  Highly recommended.

A Million Miles in a Thousand Days: What I Learned While Editing My Life Donald Miller (Nelson) $19.99  This was truly one of my favorite books of last year, and we mention it again and again. Miller has to, literally, "get a life" when they start filming a movie version of his best-selling set of rambling reflections, Blue Like Jazz.  If you know anybody wondering what to do next, or is floundering about direction, or wondering what "story" can make sense of their days---especially if they are under 50---this could change their lives.  Funny, stream-of-consciousness style, wise and laden with good insights for the readers new commitments, projects and travels.   His (earlier) third book, by the way, Searching for God Knows What,  was reissued recently with a new cover and some expanded stuff.  That would be a cool gift, too.

10872026-reluctant-pilgrim.jpgReluctant Pilgrim: A Moody Somewhat Self-Indulgent Introvert's Search for Spiritual Community Enuma Okoro (Fresh Air) $17.95  I couldn't put this down, and it has one of the coolest, hip looks of any book this season.  She's honest, real, a bit funny, hurting and on a journey full of a young woman's yearnings for real church.  I'm sure you know some younger guy or gal who'd love this.  You may know her, by the way, as co-author with Shane Claiborne and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove of the much-acclaimed Common Prayer: Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals.  A fresh, new voice.

The Grace of Silence: A Memoir Michele Norris (Pantheon) $24.95  Toni Morrison does not "blurb" many books, but there it is, right on the very classy cover: "An insightful, elegant rendering of how the history of an American family illuminates the history of our country."  Top-shelf endorsements also come from Doris Kearns Goodwin, Henry Louis Gates, Tom Brokaw, and Dave Isay of StoryCorps who calls it "a soaring memoir that pays powerful tribute to the quiet and dignified heroes among us."  She mentions York, Pennsylvania in the preface, inspired as she was by an NPR story she did on a conversation about race held here that yours truly helped set in motion.  It's a glad, small connection to this complex story by a gifted storyteller.

The Match: Complete Strangers, A Miracle Face Transplant, Two Lives Transformed Susan Whitman Helfgot (Simon & Schuster) $26.00  This remarkable moving book has a strange appeal.  It is a medical thriller, a poignant story of organ transplants, and an epic drama of how lives weave together, reminding us of our shared humanity.  See our rave review here.  Meeting Susan was wonderful, and we think you could give this as a gift to some special friend or loved one.

American Requiem: God, My Father, and the War That Came Between Us James Carroll (Mariner) $15.95  This isn't new, but I've been re-reading it lately, and telling folks about its vivid power, literary beauty and riveting psychological narrative.  By the late 1960s, Carroll's beloved father was picking the bombing targets in North Vietnam and he (James) had forsaken his family's desire for him to be a priest and had joined up with the Dorothy Day, Dan Berrigan and the religious, pacifist movement, organizing and protesting the war.  One cannot begin to describe the brilliance of this well-crafted memoir, which won the prestigious American Book Award a few years back.  Father son stuff, to be sure, an so much more...

for an aspiring Christian intellectual    

Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God  John Piper (Crossway) $19.99  A passionate call to think as an act of worship, reflecting on the relationship of reason and affections.  

A Place for Truth: Leading Thinkers Explore Life's Hardest Questions  edited by Dallas Willard (IVP) $20.00  A collection of some of the great speeches done at the famous Veritas Forums, which offers multidisciplinary, intellectually-credible arguments for Christian belief and practice on secular college campuses.  More than traditional apologetics there are papers on science and cultural renewal and social ethics and more.  Excellent.

The Passionate Intellect: Christian Faith and the Discipleship of the Mind  Alister McGrath (IVP) $22.00  McGrath has dual degrees in science and theology and this collection of chapters includes thoughtful, rigorous inspiration; at least a third of the essays attempt to navigate the recent debates about atheism and the sciences.

for a worship leader

Facedown Matt Redman (Regal) $12.99  This small pocket-sized hardback is by one of the most respected contemporary worship leaders and songwriters, reflecting on the times people in the Bible go prostrate before God.  A very thoughtful reminder of God's holiness and awe.  

AL405.jpgIn God's Presence: Encountering, Experiencing, and Embracing the Holy in Worship   N. Graham Standish (Alban Institute) $18.00  Graham is a mainline Presbyterian pastor, a contemplative, and an innovative pioneer of multi-dimensional blended worship stylings.  Insightful and practical.

Worship and the Reality of God: An Evangelical Theology of Real Presence John Jefferson Davis (IVP) $22.00  An academically rich and deeply moving survey of the need for worship renewal that starts with overcoming "habits of mind and heart, conditioned by our surrounding culture, that hinder our faith in the real presence of the transcendent God among his people."   This is a book that reminds us of incomparable Reality.

The Worship Architect: A Blueprint for Designing Culturally Relevant and Biblically Faithful Services Constance M. Cherry (Baker) $22.95  Although those who lead services whose liturgical rituals are rarely altered, most Protestants could find this a God-send.  Don't let the word "blueprint" fool you---these are mature, thoughtful, insightful ideas, gleaned from her work as professor at the Robert Webber Institute for Worship Studies.

for a younger parent

Sacred Parenting: How Raising Children Shapes Our Souls Gary Thomas (Zondervan) $13.99  One of our personal favorites, combining practical wisdom and a mature spirituality, nicely written in short, upbeat chapters. Lovely.

The Faithful Parent: A Biblical Guide to Raising a Family Martha Peace & Stuart Scott (P&R) $14.99  Perhaps the forward by Tedd Tripp hints that this a serious, Biblically-oriented approach that is conservative and helpful.

17 Things My Kids Taught Me About God: Parable of Spiritual Sight J. Mack Stiles (IVP) $8.99  The bright Lego pieces here remind us that we can take great joy in pondering what our kids have to teach us about God.  This isn't shallow cutesy stuff, either.  Inspiring, thoughtful, sound.

In the Midst of Chaos: Caring for Children as Spiritual Practice Bonnie Miller-McLemore (Jossey Bass) $21.95  In the fantastic "Christian practices" series, this is warm, honest, profoundly Christian in an ecumenical tone, wise and interesting.  Not your typical religious self help approach.

for a young mom

Blue Like Play Dough: The Shape of Motherhood in the Grip of God Tricia Goyer (Multnomah) $13.99  If the young mom knows of Donald Miller's famous Blue Like Jazz it is worth it to give this just for the clever allusion in the title.  A creative and good memoir of young motherhood.

Real Moms...Real Jesus: Meet the Friend Who Understands Jill Savage (Moody) $12.99  A small sized paperback with a beautiful pile of laundry on the cover (and I mean that, it's a beautiful cover that speaks well of home life.)  Includes a study guide with solid, Biblical guidance for growing in faith.

Spilt Milk: Devotions for Moms (Zondervan) $12.99  Light-hearted, easy-to-read, yet passionate about the purposes of motherhood.  Give it to somebody who needs to laugh.

God Loves Single Moms: Practical Help for Finding Confidence, Strength, and Hope Teresa Whitehurst (Revell) $12.99  This clear-headed and good book is written by a clinical psychologist who  has worked as a therapist at Harvard Medical School.  Pretty impressive help, yet with a simple message: God is with you!  Would this make a nice token of encouragement for somebody you know?

for a young dad

Rookie Dad: Thoughts on First Time Fatherhood David Jacobsen (Zondervan) $12.99  How cool is this little handsize book with a picture on the cover of a bib that says I heart Daddy??  This young author has a BA in English literature and an MCS in Christianity and the Arts and he has no clue.  No Clue.  Welcome to the club.  You know some young guy who needs this!

Bond of Brothers: Connecting With Other Men Beyond Work, Weather and Sports  Wes Yoder (Zondervan) $16.99  This isn't just about fathering, in fact, it hardly is.  Smart thinking, huh?  A great book, inviting men to be truly known.  Which is gonna help, trust me.

Father & Son: Finding Freedom Walter Wangerin and Matthew Wangerin (Zondervan)Spiritually_hea-330.jpg $19.99 A poignant father-son story by one of the leading religious writers of our time. Their adopted son Matthew shares his voice making this a stunning, honest story.  Maybe not for the brand new dad, and not only for dads...

99 Ways to Raise Spiritually Healthy Children Kathleen Long Bostrom (WJK) $14.95  Although written for anyone most dads will dig this because it is easy (a ton of things to do), colorfully designed (like her 99 Things to Do Between Here and Heaven), and happily low-key.  Bostrom is theologically sound as a mainline denominational writer, but doesn't have high-pressure fears about getting the kid saved through a formulaic conversion.  No, this is long-haul, kind, creative, stuff, helping us all come to deeper faith, day-by-day.  There is a Bible passage for each entry, too.  Nice.

for married lovers

The Christian Lover: The Sweetness of Love and Marriage in the Letters of Believers compiled by Michael Haykin & Victoria Haykin (Reformation Trust) $15.00  What a lovely little hardback, full of letters of devout Christians, writing of their faith and love.  Strong on the Puritans, especially, who were renowned for their firm theology and wedded bliss.

Aflame: Ancient Wisdom on Marriage compiled by Sam & Bethany Torode (Eerdmans) $15.00  this small sturdy hardback is a perfect stocking stuffer or special gift for those who value the best insights of the ages.  Illustrated with pastel shadings and b/w photography, making this nice in every way.

The Mystery of Marriage: Meditations on the Miracle  Mike Mason (Multnomah) $13.99 Still one of the all time great reflections on the meaning and spirituality of marriage.  Powerful, lovely prose, deeply contemplative, mature.  

for those who love the Bible

Larry_Stone,_The_Bible_thumb.JPGThe Story of the Bible: The fascinating history of its writing, translation & effect on civilization
Larry Stone (forward by Ravi Zacharias) $34.99  One of the great coffee table gift books of the year!  This large sized, handsome text includes over 90 illustrations, 23 life sized pull out pages from some of the world's most important Bibles.  The producers of this lavish volume are known for similar productions on the Civil War and the Constitution, with self-contained facsimile artifacts and full-color fold-out pieces and maps.  Really, really informative, and a glorious example of what a book can be.  A very special gift.

The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible Scot McKnight (Zondervan) $14.99  Just out in paperback, this is a fun and honest evangelical account of the foibles of Bible interpretation and how to wisely understand and apply the variety of confusing texts that come to us as God's Word.  Phyllis Tickle writes "This is far and away the best, gentlest, most intelligent argument I have ever rad for the absolute necessity of embracing the Bible as story."

Captive to the Word of God: Engaging the Scriptures for Contemporary Theological Reflection Miroslav Volf (Eerdmans) $18.00  Volf, who teaches at Yale Divinity School,  is increasingly honored as one of the most important theological scholars today.  In this brand new collection, he offers various articles, sermons, papers, and chapters on  exploring the Bible and its role in our life.  Moderate in tone, thoughtful but not arcane, helpfully nuanced, well crafted.  You may know a geek who would be thrilled to own this new book by a master thinker and devout scholar.

The Doctrine of the Word of God  John Frame (P&R) $39.99  Okay, this isn't for everyone.  A massive book, the fourth in the serious "theology of Lordship" that this excellent, conservative, Reformed writer has been giving us these last years.  The previous one about the commandments was excellent.; this one is about God's speech to humans, its power, authority, and presence.  J.I. Packer wrote the forward; Frame is renowned as a clear and passionate teacher at Westminster Seminary.

whythebiblematters.jpgWhy The Bible Matters Michael Erre (Harvest House) $13.99  I said earlier this year that this has become my favorite, fun, and very helpful overview of the whole big grand narrative.  This is all the cool stuff, the historically redemptive vision of the unfolding drama, quoting Tom Wright and Al Wolters and explainging why reading the Bible in this "big picture" missional way can make a difference.  I suspect that it is best for younger adult readers who will dig his informal style and passionate storytelling.

for those who love the printed page

Besides the Bible: 100 Books That Have, Should, or Could Create Christian Culture Dan Gib son, Jordan Green, Pattison (Biblica) $14.99  Hopefully you saw my rave review, or their nice words about our shop, and might be inspired to offer this to somebody you know.  This is a faithful book lovers dream come true!  Come on, I'll even autograph my little chapter if I have to.  This is a great, great gift for anyone who likes to read, or anybody who might need some encouragement to broaden their tastes.

The Mockingbird Parables: Transforming Lives Through the Power of Story
Matt Litton (Tyndale) $14.99  One of our favs of the year, this is just what you think: faith-based reflections on To Kill a Mockingbird.  Litton is a high school English teacher and this fine book deserves to be discussed, searching it's insights about compassion and justice and the how story can shape our lives.  Certainly you know somebody you can gift it to?  Perhaps give 'em a paperback version of the Harper Lee classic.

My Reading Life  Pat Conroy (Doubleday) $25.00  Who knew the famous novelist was also a book collector, a Milton scholar, and a fabulous essayist about the joys of reading.  Wonderful!

The Lost Art of Reading: Why Books Matter in a Distracted Time David Ulin $12.95 I have shared this shirt-pocket sized hardback at a variety of places I've gone this fall and although it is very small, it truly resonates with book lovers.  This is a mature, intellectually robust memoir about the fate of the book, written by the former editor of the L.A. Times Book Review.
 
for one who would appreciate a literary approach to personal growth

Art of Being You: How to Live as God's Masterpiece Bob Kilpatrick & Joel Kilpatrick art-of-being-you.jpg  (Zondervan) $18.99  A father and son team (the father having been involved in the world of Christian rock for decades) use the image of being God's artwork to unpack the "art of living."  A well written, guidebook reflecting on how you are "beautifully drawn, brilliantly scored, poetically rendered."  A nice, compact-sized hardback.

This I Believe: On Love edited by Dan Gediman (Wiley) $19.95  Perhaps you know the NPR show "This I Believe" which often offers up stunningly beautiful manifestos of all sorts of folks.  In this book, you'll discover a diverse and tender collection of essays about love (not all romantic love, by the way.)  You won't agree with them all, you will be blown away by others.  A smallish hardcover, this is a beautiful gift for the right person.  Pair it with Four Loves by C.S. Lewis for a real package.

About You: Fully Human, Fully Alive Dick Staub (Jossey Bass) $22.95  Staub is one of my favorite writers and here he vibrantly calls us to be "fully alive."  He cites an early church father who famously said "The glory of God is man fully alive."  This is about reaching our potential, making a difference, affirming the goodness of life in God's creation, rejecting the damaging "body vs soul" dualism, and, well, enjoying life.  Theology, philosophy, self-help, and motivation for cultural creatives.  Love it!

God and the Art of Happiness Ellen Charry (Eerdmans) $35.00  What a weighty, handsome hardback, written by a significant thinker at Princeton Theological Seminary.  With endorsements from the legal scholar John Witte, the stunning spiritual theologian David F. Ford, and Princeton main-man Dr. Iain Torrance, you know this will make the right kind of person very, very happy.  What a gift she has of forging deep connections between academic theology and daily living.  What an important book to remind us of some very important truths about human existence under the sun.

for those who like the movies

Hollywood Worldviews: Watching Films With Wisdom and Discernment Brian Godawa (IVP) $16.00  A thoroughly updated and expanded version of his earlier edition, this is, clearly, not about stamping out the joy of going to the movies by over-analyzing them or being some kind of begrudging worldview cop.  Yet, he does help us see between the frames and make sure we don't suspend our beliefs or minds as the lights go down.  Very useful.

Of Pilgrims and Fire: When God Shows Up At the Movies Roy Anker (Eerdmans) $17.99  The best collection of seriously Christian film reviews in years.  Illuminating for the insight about particular movies, and an education on how to engage culture Christianly, this is masterful, luminous, provocative, and thrilling.  A must for any film buff.

for those who like rock music

We Get to Carry Each Other: The Gospel According to U2  Greg Garrett (WJK) $16.95  Greg is a great writer, a thoughtful and enjoyable conversation (and listening) partner as we take in the greatest rock band in the world.  Smart, insightful, not preachy, wonderful for Christian fans, and even more-so for those who may not quite understand all the spiritual themes in the lads from Dublin.  By the way, we have a young reader's book, a small, brief, overtly Christian biography of Bono that might be a nice stocking stuffer for a savvy middle schooler.  It's called Breaking Through by Grace: The Bono Story by Kim Washburn (ZonderKidz; $6.99.) 

The Soul of Hip Hop: Rims Timbs and a Cultural Theology Daniel White Hodge ()IV P) $17.00 With artists like Eminem and Kayne continuing to garner huge critical acclaim and even huger sales, this kind of book is bound be be appreciated by a lot a da kidz.  Hodge is an old Tupac fan, too, so he gets the "theology of hip hop."

Stronger: Forty Days of Metal and Spirituality Brian "Head" Welch (HarperOne) $22.95  You may recall the shocking and inspiring memoir Save me From Myself about this heavy tatooed metal legend's legendary conversion.  Head was lead guitarist for Korn.  This is his brand new one, more on the journey as a solo artist.  Want to get a metal head reading?  Reading about faith?  Forget Joel Olsteen, if you get my drift.  This is your ticket.

for sports fans

Game Day for the Glory of God: A Guide for Athletes, Fans, & Wannabes  Stephen1840_large.jpg Altrogee (Crossway) $9.99  I love the sentiment of this little, passionate book---we live for God's glory and that is the basis for joy, and athletic fun.  Forward by C.J. Mahaney.

God and Football: Faith and Fanaticism in the SEC  Chad Gibbs (Zondervan) $12.99  If you know a hardcore college football fanatic, this is a must.  If you want to give a gift to nearly anybody who is even remotely a football fan, this is fun, funny, a bit inspiring, an inspired road trip to the stadiums.

Remember Why You Play: Faith, Football, and a Season to Believe David Thomas (Tyndale) $14.99  In November 2008 a game was played down South that is so inspiring to think about, it gets me choked up just reading the back cover.  The Gainesville State School is a maximum-security correctional facility and at their last game of the season--they had won no games all year---something remarkable happened.  Of course they had no home field, and no fans as these were the worst sort of juvenile offenders.  The Faith Christian Lions, an excellent team already headed for the playoffs, determined to surprise these players by "adopting" them as if they were the "home team." Fans of Faith Christian formed a 40-yard spirit line, and cheerleaders moved to the visitor's side of the stadium where they cheered--by name--for the stunned, usually ignored (or despised) Gainseville players.  Coach Kris Hogan has been interviewed on ESPN, and was an honored guest of the NFL commissioner at last year's Superbowl.  What a story, an example of second chances and Christian goodness, written by a fine sports writer from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

for those interested in the arts

Saving Leonardo: A Call to Resist the Secular Assault on Mind, Morals & Meaning Nancy Pearcey (Broadman) $26.99  You may recall how we reviewed this early in the fall.  It is one of the more important books of the year for us, an insightful and provocative exploration of worldviews, the history of ideas, our intellectual context, and the ways in which the arts carry an ethos and way of thinking that has eroded meaning.  Secularization is a force driving Western culture, and the contemporary arts---with their roots in the romantic reaction to rationalism--must be understood if we are to seek a contemporary renewal.  Full color art, tons of contemporary illustrations, a vivid example of the ways the cultural criticism of Francis Schaffer has left a robust legacy.  A gift that thoughtful artists will relish.

Rouault-Fujimura: Soliloquies Thomas Hibbs (Square Halo Books) $19.99  Last winter, we raved about the extraordinary work of Square Halo Books and their historic release of this comparison and contrast of the work of contemporary Protestant abstract artist Makoto Fujimura and early 20th century French Catholic artist George Rouault.  This handsome collector's edition includes a "refraction" essay by Mr. Fujimura and an extended piece by art critic Hibbs.  This is a truly wonderful little gift; rare, important, inspiring.  Read my original review, here.  Perhaps such a colorful, small book with such contemporary importance isn't for everyone, but you might know someone who would be surprised and touched by allowing them in on this extraordinary project.

for those who are interested in science

Science & Christianity: Four Views  edited by Richard Carlson (IVP) $20.00  Four different scientists, all of deep, evangelical faith, explore what it means to "integrate faith and science" with four very different methods and models.  Each offer a response to the other, too, so this provide an wonderful opportunity to explore ways in which to think about this vital topic.

Science, Creation and the Bible: Reconciling Rival Theories of Origins Richard Carlson and Tremper Longman (IVP) $16.00  This brief book is spectacularly useful, very innovative, and offers "robust respect for science in all its manifestations with a high view of Scripture. (Karl Giberson, author of Saving Darwin and senior fellow of The BioLogos Foundation.)  Carson is a research professor with a PhD in psychics and Longman is one of the most prodigious and respected Old Testament guys around.  None of the multiple creation stories in the the Bible preclude evolutionary science.  Very useful for how to read the Bible, and a good introduction to a vast topic.
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Darwin's Pious Idea: Why the Ultra-Darwinists and Creationists Both Get It Wrong Conor Cunningham (Eerdmans) $34.99  With endorsements from some of the leading intellectuals the world over (Charles Taylor, Slavoj Zizek, John Haught, Louis Dupre) this is a cogent, weighty, massive study.  At well over 500 pages, not for the faint of heart; you're going to need a bigger stocking than hangs by most trees....

for those interested in spirituality

Becoming the Answer to Our Prayers: Prayers for Ordinary Radicals Shane Claiborne & Jonathan Wilson-Hartgtove (IVP) $13.00  This slim book has come to mean a lot to me, and it is highly recommended as a basic study of contemplative prayer--with an emphasis on how that deep inner spirituality shapes us as people in the world.  Gracious, helpful, inspiring.

Invitation to Solitude and Silence: Experiencing God's Transforming Presence Ruth Haley Barton (IVP) $18.00  This has won a number of publishing awards and Ruth gets accolades wherever she speaks; this new, handsome hardcover includes are really useful, interactive study guide.  Who doesn't need a book like this?  Give this to someone you care about this time of year, and they will sigh wistfully. 

Mystically Wired: Exploring New Realms in Prayer Ken Wilson (Nelson) $17.99  One of the great great books of 2010, this uses brain studies and a bit about neurology to show how we are "wired" for prayer.  Very hands-on practical, new insights offered and concrete proposals for how to walk into the realm of meditation and Christian spirituality.  Excellent.
 
for culture makers

Christ Among the Dragons: Finding Our Way Through Our Cultural Challenges  James Emery White (IVP) $17.00  I'd read anything this smart, culturally-savvy, passionate reformer would write.  Here, he illustrates ways to be "in but not of" the culture of our times, reflecting upon some of the unique challenges of our day, and how to most faithfully deal with the "dragons on the edges of the maps" of our perilous times.  Know someone who wants to offer love and grace to a world that is hurting?  Wants to learn to live out faith with integrity and fidelity?  Wants historic, orthodox faith that is  yet timely and relevant?

Building Cultures of Trust Martin Marty (Eerdmans) $22.99  Marty is a widely respected, mainline church history, charming scholar, ecumenical churchman and fabulously interesting mature writer.  Anyone tired of the mistrust--of each other, and of institutions--will take heart with this fine work.

To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, & Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World James Davison Hunter (Oxford University Press) $27.95   One of the great scholarly works of our time, asking how change actually happens, how the so-called Christian right and Christian left have failed, and how best to re-imagine our construal of cultures, how they work, how faithful Christians can meaningful bring insights which will bear fruit in lasting renewal.  Right or wrong, this is a book that serious Christian thinkers might have on their list.

for school teachers

The End of Education: Redefining the Value of School  Neil Postman (Vintage)  $15.00  One of the best cultural critics of our age, the late Neil Postman gives an extended rumination on the "goals" (ends) of education.  Without good ends, what's the point?  Written more than a decade ago, it is still vital, urgent, insightful, raising profound questions about "first things" without seeming overtly religious.

The Craft of Christian Teaching: A Classroom Journey John Van Dyk (Dordt College Press) $15.00  My favorite writer on how to think and teach "Christianly."  This shows how accepting Christ as Lord effects how one does schooling, how one teaches, how one serves his or her students in the classroom.  Although he has in view educators in alternative Christian schools, this is so wise, so vibrant, so well "integrated" that teachers from any setting can surely benefit.  Highly recommended.

Teaching with Fire: Poetry That Sustains the Courage to Teach Sam Intrator, Megan Scribner & Parker Palmer (Jossey Bass) $16.95  I've mentioned this before and it really makes a lovely gift: this is a gathering together of poems that real teachers sent in, indicating that these works help keep them focused, reminds them about why they teach, poems that can inspire educational leadership in nearly any setting.  Very impressive.
 
for an older youth or collegiate

Called to Be Human: Letters to My Children on Living a Christian Life Michael Jinkinsart,book,pages,christmas,cool,craft,creative,family,gifts,love,paper,photography,presents,trendy,vintage-4a75759cad763c264e89e46c71543cb7_m.jpg (Eerdmans) $15.00  These are wise and moving and well written letters by a mainline seminary prof to his teen and college age children.  Not preachy, not particularly evangelistic, but subtle and interesting.  Dare I say it brings to mind Buechner, perhaps?  Very nicely done.

The Outrageous Idea of Academic Faithfulness: A Guide for Students Derek Melleby & Donald Opitz (Brazos) $13.95  I mention this often because there is nothing in print like it, inviting college students to reconsider the reason they are in college, offering a way to "think Christianly" and relate faith and the work of the classroom.  What "story" shapes their interest in college?  Can study be an act of workshop? College-bound seniors need this book, and certainly any college student you care about who doesn't have it yet...

for one who cares for creation

Gardening Eden: How Creation Care Will Change Your Faith, Your Life, and Our World  Michael Abbate (Multnomah) $13.99  Abbate is a recognized expert in green development strategies, and founder of GreenWorks, an award-winning landscape architecture design firm.  Here he gives a delightfully upbeat set of solutions for greener lifestyles, from a happily evangelical perspective.  Forward by Randy Alcorn.  Yay.

The Gospel According to the Earth: Why the Good Book is a Green Book (HarperOne) $22.95  A very handsome hardback sporting a great quote from Eugene Peterson and endorsements on the back from a variety of leaders in the progressively evangelical movement for creation care and environmental stewardship.  A solid, fresh, basic overview.

for church leaders

The Great Emergence: How Christianity Is Changing and Why Phyllis Tickle (Baker) $17.99  Agree or not, dear Phyllis is a fantastic writer, astute and clever and wise and fun.  This is one of the most talked about books in this field in a while.  A fairly positive assessment of the postmodern emergent conversation from a stalwart Episcopalian.

Deep Church: A Third Way Beyond Emerging and Traditional Jim Belcher (IVP) $17.00  Does it impress you that Jim is a friend and customer of H&M, that Rich Mouw wrote the forward, or that Tim Keller graces the cover with an affirming quote?  How many authors get shout outs from Mark Driscoll and Rob Bell?  Love it!  Really, really good.

Whole Church: Leading From Fragmentation to Engagement Mel Lawrenz (Jossey Bass) $24.95   This curious, seasoned and fun pastor followed in leadership the great Stuart Briscoe, and helped continue to shape a thriving, growing congregation. These are his insights, a fresh lot of new ideas, and some inspiring visions for congregational work.  His "four kinds of engagement" are priceless.

for travelers

The Only Road North: 9,000 Miles of Dirt and Dreams Erik Miradnette (Zondervan) $12.99  I tell people about this often---it is a riveting travelogue of a young guy driving around Africa, with moving missionary encounters, tragedy and hope.  Gripping.

Wonderlust: A Spiritual Travelogue for the Adventurous Soul Vicki Kuyper (New Hope) $14.95  From the charming scene of Venice on the cover to the wonderful prose throughout, this is a fine, Christian bit of travel writing.  This gal goes to some of the most exotic places on Earth and draws deep inspiration.  Enjoy!

240_360_Book.176.cover_.jpgSacred Journey Charles Foster (Nelson) $17.99  Surely one of the most interesting books I've read this year, the final volume in the "Ancient Practices Series."  The author is a barrister and scientist and a heckuva writer. Senior editor of the grand series, Phyllis Tickle, says it is the best!  Even if you have no interest in going on a pilgrimage as such, this is a wonderful argument in their actual favor.  As a metaphor, "life's a journey" works, at least, making this a fabulous read, for those who want some dust on the feet of their spiritual journey. Wow.


for one who wants to read about Jesus

The Jesus Manifesto: Restoring the Supremacy and Sovereignty of Jesus Christ Leonard Sweet & Frank Viola (Nelson) $14.99  Depending on who you ask, this was great and helpful, or brilliant and mind-blowing.  Either way, it makes a fine book to share; a great price for a hardback, making it a nice gift.  Two very gifted communicators and innovative thinkers remind us of the basics: Jesus deserves "supremacy in all things"  The gospel is, finally, all about Jesus.  There's something about that Name.  Nice. We stock all of Len's books, by the way, and for those who like clever, provocative, one-idea-after-another-books with tons of fascinating footnotes, he's a good read.  His new one is called Nudge: Awakening Each Other to the God Who Is Already There (Cook; $19.99), which is his heart-pumping, mind-boggling opus on evangelism. And, he's mostly right, which helps!  Yay.

The Gospel According To Jesus: A Faith That Restores All Things Chris Seay (Nelson) $19.99  I keep wanting to explain this to folks, inviting them into the great joy of reading a book about Christ as Kingdom bringer, One who gives us His righteousness, a book that is at once down-home and fascinating, plain-spoken but not simple, excitingly new and yet classic.  Seay has a reputation for being a bit edgy, and there is some custom made contemporary art to go along with text, but this isn't anything odd.  As Mark Batterson writes, it is about "community, generosity, risk-taking, action, selflessness, relationship, brokenness---all of it encompassing good news."  A great book about Jesus and what He came to do.

1onelife.jpgOne.Life  Scot McKnight (Zondervan) $14.99  The edgy-looking hipster dot in the title shouldn't throw you; this is one of the world's leading New Testament scholars, an academic guy who reads and blogs more than any ten scholars, and who is respected in mainline, evangelical and liturgical circles.  Yet, he knows how to bring it to the people, and this is a great example. My pal Gabe Lyons, youthful leader of the "next generation" (as his own brilliant book by that title puts it) wrote the forward.  He notes that here the life of Jesus becomes as "accessible and powerful" as anything he's seen before, as McKnight masterfully weaves together the life of Jesus in all its complex glory.  The phrase that functions as a subtitle?  "He calls. We follow."  Right on.  Give this cool-looking paperback to anybody who hungers for meaning, who wants to learn about daily discipleship that is, in fact, based on the life and teachings of Jesus the Christ.

for one who is serious about lived theology

Letters To a Young Calvinist: An Invitation to the Reformed Tradition James K.A. Smith (Brazos) $14.99  I don't know who you know that might want this in their Christmas stocking and it is admittedly a peculiar title to put on a gift list that is trying to be widely helpful.  Still, this book is just a gem, more than a gem, a treasure of pastoral wisdom and insight.  Written as a set of letters to some of the much-publicized "new Calvinists" who are all up in arms about truly Reformed theology and the debates about predestination and the like.  Smith--himself a Calvinist, and a professor of philosophy at Calvin College--sends these letters hoping to broaden the reading and experiences of these sometimes brusque young leaders.  He invites them, in kind letter after letter, to the riches of the broader Reformed tradition (and even to dip into the waters of true ecumenism.)  If you follow these things, you might know what I mean when I say I call this book "from Piper to Kuyper."  If you don't know those two authors, I bet you know somebody who does.  Anyway, this is sweet disciple-making, pastorally caring theology at its finest. Kudos.

Small Faith: Great God N.T. Wright (IVP) $18.00  Even for those that may not agree with allsmallfaith-199x300.jpg the details of his more academic theology (for some he is too liberal, for others, way too conservative) this brand new hardback is sure to please: it is a reprint of his very first book, originally published in England in 1972.  Here, in these inspiring reflections, you can see many of his current concerns in seed form.  One of the world's premier Bible teachers and a former Anglican bishop, Wright is always a good gift.  Earlier this year he published a major book on character formation that some are itching to get:  After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters (HarperOne; $24.99.)  Wonderful!

Practice Resurrection: A Conversation on Growing Up in Christ Eugene Peterson (Eerdmans) $24.00  This is the fifth and final installment of his now-legendary set of "spiritual theology" books.  From Publishers Weekly reviews to raves by Dallas Willard, Lauren Winner or Peter Marty, these books have been acclaimed and acclaimed and so very appreciated.  You surely know somebody who'd love it.  Your pastor, perhaps?  Anybody who likes slow, rich, good writing.  He or she will thank you.

For the Fame of God's Name: Essays in Honor of John Piper  edited by Sam Storms and Justin Taylor (Crossway) $35.00  This may be the most handsome, traditional looking wonderful book of the season, and few stores even knew about it---it is a collection of pieces offered as a surprise for the passionate Baptist preacher's birthday a few months ago.  As a tribute to one of the defining voices of recent evangelicalism, this is a dynamic and intelligent anthology, and an important collection.  Here you have deep and vital pieces by the likes of D.A. Carson, Sinclair Ferguson, Mark Dever, Wayne Grudem, Stephen Nichols and more.  27 chapters, with eloquent endorsements on the back from David Wells (of Gordon Conwell) and Mark Noll (of Notre Dame.)

for the unusually offbeat

The Great Typo Hunt: Two Friends Changing the World, One Correction at a Time Jeff Deck and Benjamin Herson (Crown) $23.95  Oh, man, this is funny, as they narrate their road trip and bold efforts to correct signs, billboards, coffee shop menus and all manner of mistaken writing.  As Richard Lederer (he of Anguished English fame) says, "Only Deck & Herson could make the complete decline of the English language so entertaining."   Seriously funny, it may be overly-lauded by Harvard's Steven Pinker who writes, "This pair of kooks with their high standards and principled civil disobedience give me hope for humanity."  Well, that's the Ivy League for you, finding hope from corrected spelling.  Still, it is pretty great.

State By State: A Panoramic Portrait of America: 50 Writers on 50 States  Edited by Matt Weiland and Sean Wilsey (Ecco) $16.99  You may know these feisty, young turks, who write for Granta,  The Paris Review and McSeeny's.  When their not fooling around with those upscale literary projects, they do this.  J. Franzen on New York, Dave Eggers on Illinois, Louise Erdrich on North Dakota.  I love the reviewer who predicted "Odds are, you'll fall for every state a little."  Hold on.

0743291476.jpgYear of Living Biblically  A.J. Jacobs (Simon & Schuster) $15.00  Okay, if every single person you know---with a sense of humor or an interest in the Bible--has read this, you don't have to buy any more.  If not, get busy.  It has on the cover "One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible" and you may know it is wonderfully written, crazy funny, and pretty darn moving in some unsuspecting ways. A personal favorite.   If you've given this already, how about his newer one?  We have it in its first-edition hardback, The Guinea Pig Diaries: My Life as an Experiment and, now, just retitled in paperback as My Life as an Experiment: One Man's Humble Quest to Improve Himself by Living as a Woman, Becoming George Washington, Telling No Lies, and Other Radical Tests. ($15.00)  Tell me you don't know somebody odd enough to enjoy this narration of oddball experiments.

If You Can't Lose It, Decorate It: And Other Hip Alternatives to Dealing With Reality Anita Renfroe  (NavPress) $12.99  We've enjoyed Anita's goofy Christian humor for years.  Then she went viral with that spectacular youtube clip of what moms do, sung breathlessly to the tune of The William Tell Overture.  You know you want to give this silly book to some gal who likes her humor inspirational.

The Soul of Spider-Man  Jeff Dunn & Adam Palmer (Regal) $9.99  Yep, you read that right: a Christian devotional with "unexpected spiritual insights found in the legendary super hero series."  It is it pretty cool, with a great, great cover. These are the two who did the Taming A Liger (obviously, for those in the know, a book about Napoleon Dynamite.)  Pretty cool stuff, although not as cool or as deep as the spectacular The Dude Abides by the remarkable Cathleen Falsani (Zondervan; $14.99). Now that is some offbeat stuff.  If you know the phrase or the Coen Brothers movie it refers to, you know you want this book, and who you'd dare give it to. If not, never mind.

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December 17, 2010

Christmas season gift-giving guide: some great books for children

What child's Christmas tree shouldn't have a couple of books underneath?  We understand (believe me) that not everyone is a "reader" but you wouldn't be reading our BookNotes blog if you didn't appreciated books and believe in the power of reading.  We hope you pass a couple0912_books_indo_434162t.jpg of bookish gifts to a couple of the young ones in your life.  Give us a holler if you have questions or ideas---Hearts & Minds ships from Dallastown, Pennsylvania, not the North Pole, so we can get things to most customers pretty quickly.  Ho, ho, ho.


a few Advent and Christmas books

The Nativity illustrated by Julie Vivas (Voyager) $7.00 This large-sized paperback has won more notable children's book awards than many because it is just so darn enticing.  The playful illustrations are both fairly realistic---the dark hair, the very (very) pregnant Mary, the pastel touches of Middle Eastern color.  The old KJV text gives it a classic feel, and then those awesome angles show up wearing Army boots.  The Lord of Hosts, anyone?  This knocks my socks off every year for it's humor, Earthiness, and--perhaps--surreal truthfulness.  

Jotham's Journey, Bartholomew's Passage,
and Tabitha's Travels  Arnold Ytreeide (Kregal) $13.99 each  We love these dramatic stories, three volumes, of three different children around Bethlehem the weeks leading up to what we now call Christmas.  Tabitha is the daughter of a shepherd who is taking his family back to his birthplace, and her father gets taken as a prisoner by the Roman authorities.  Bartholomew's story is also one of adventurous escape when he is freed from slavery, traveling across Israel to be reunited with his family.    Divided into short chapters which can be read day-by-day as the stories move inevitably towards Bethlehem---kids learn about wise men and innkeepers, the culture of first century Palestine, and the social context of the Christmas story.  Ytreeide is a fine storyteller who cares deeply about spiritual growth in families, and has given us these fabulously creative family Advent devotionals.  

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey Susan Wojciechowski  (Candlewick) $15.99  The author did one of her first bookstore presentations here at our shop back when this book first came out; we will never forget her showing these striking, gorgeous, illustrations by one of the world's leading illustrators (P.J. Lynch of Ireland.)  This is a tender story, well told, deeply attuned to goodness and grace, without being an obvious re-telling of the Christmas story.  This smallish edition comes with a CD of the narration by James Earl Jones.  A treasure.

61sEebKgDDL._SL500_AA300_.jpgSaint Francis and the Nativity  Myrna A. Strasser; illustrated by Fausto Bianchi  (Zondervan) $16.99 sale priced at $12.97 The stylized, colorful art at times gives the impression of stained glass, and this playful, warm story tells the legend of how Saint Francis started the first nativity scene. For anyone enthralled with the manger scenes---big or small--this book is a must. The illustrator does his remarkable work from his home in (where else?) Italy!  Very nicely done.

17 Christmases  Dandi Daley Mackall; illustrated by Michele Noiset (Zondervan) $16.99  sale priced at $12.97  Well.  Dandi is a fun children's book writer and here she offers some great rhyming verses that, despite the corny phrases, really do work.  The silly illustrator--whose best work is not shown on the cover, but has to be the scene from, well, maybe Colorado, or the Ohio one, or the dad's face in Philly.  Yep, they travel all over this big bright land and do Christmasy things.  A fun celebration of extended family, lots of traditions, car rides, and loved ones all over the land.  Not quite the Griswalds, this is still a hoot, with a lovely message and a nice reminder of the gospel, too.  Fun to read out loud, if you ham it up a bit.

a few attractive picture books about making a difference

The Boy Who Changed the World  Andy Andrews; illustrated by Philip Hurst (Nelson) $16.99The-Boy-Who-Saved-the-World-Cover.jpgThis was released as part of a campaign promoting a gift book of motivational speaker Andy Andrew's most famous talk, The Butterfly Effect And How Your Life Matters, showing the small ripple effect from little decisions that roll down through time.  This is a children's version of the heart of that talk, the incredible truth that everything you do matters---and they tell the story of Nobel laureate Norman Borlaug to prove it.  He's saved millions of lives as a geneticist, but more to the point, he wouldn't have been able to rise to this accomplishment if it weren't for Vice President Harry Wallace, who was influenced by inventor George Washington Carver, who in turn was rescued from the KKK by farmer Moses Carver.  

This chain of interwoven decisions plays out with the hero making such a huge difference which couldn't have happened without those who came before him.  This is a great example of vocation and vision and passion and purpose.  Fantastic!  I hope you consider this for some child you know!

of-thee-i-sing-barack-obama-226x300.jpgOf Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters  Barack Obama; illustrated by Loren Long (Knopf) $17.99  Can you imagine the vetting to find an illustrator to design the art for a sitting President's kid's book? Regardless of your views of the President, or your opinions of his policies, this is, without a doubt, a fantastic, wonderful, well-done, and altogether visually pleasing book.  In each case, Mr. O says to his daughter "have I told you that you are..." and the word may be "brave" or "kind" or a phrase like "an explorer" or "never give up."  With each, the facing page tells the story of a great American who captured the essence of that word.  From Jackie Robinson to Neil Armstrong, from George Washington to Martin Luther King, from Billy Holiday to Abraham Lincoln, this is a great, patriotic, educational, and fully sweet inspiration.  Highly recommended.  (The illustrator, by the way, lives in Ohio and is well respected in the field.  We are fond of his The Day the Animals Came which is a child's-eye view of the animals coming into a cathedral for a blessing on St. Francis Day.  Nice.)

Sensing Peace  Suzana E. Yoder; illustrated by Rachel Hoffman-Bayles (Herald Press) $13.99  This is a vivid story, with fairly traditional illustrations (well done, bright, realistic) that encourages children to look, listen, taste, touch, smell, and feel shalom.  They experience God's peace and interpersonal caring through ordinary experiences like sharing, laughing, singing.  This teaches peace, with great multi-ethnic global scenes, and shows that even kids can make a difference, by embracing God's presence in all things, learning about the senses and serving others. Poetically written, evocative, but not particularly Christ-focused.

One Hand, Two Hands  Max Lucado; illustrated by Gaby Hansen (Tommy Nelson) $16.99max-lucado-one-hand-two-hands.jpg  The library code on this suggests it is about "social issues" and I suppose that is so.  In fact, Max's newest book (which we raved about when it first came out) is all about making a difference, especially among the global poor. (It is called Outlive Your Life and I reviewed it quite favorably.)  This sweet one uses whimsical words and shows how even the youngest children can serve others.  It explains what fingers and hands can do, playfully listing things, pointing to good stuff, showing how kids---and the pastel animals that join them here-- really can "Wipe tears. Give a gift. Write Grandma a letter. With hands and a hug, we make people feel better."  My, my, what a nice message to give our little ones.  For preschool children.

Christian education for elementary age

51azxrknnxl__sl500_aa300_.jpgThe Church History ABCs: Augustine and twenty-five other heroes of the Faith  Stephen Nichols; illustrated by Ned Bustard (Crossway) $15.99  When we did one of the book launch release parties for this, we announced it, raved at the website, and suggested that there is nothing like it in print!  This is funny and clever, and there is real substance.  From Ignatius (d. 110AD) to Florence Young (d. 1894) this spans most of church history.  A is for Augustine, of course, and Z is for Zwingli.  A happy education fills in the rest, and we hope you realize how very important this is.  Your child is part of the ongoing story as God's redemptive purposes unfold, so help them know their family tree!  Hooray.  It is an alphabet book, of course, but obviously that is a device and the content is for slightly older kids.  See a bit more that I wrote about it here.

Jesus A to Z  Michael O'Neill McGrath (World Library Publications) $16.99  I can't tell you
007199_rdax_152x203.jpg how colorful and interesting this unusual alphabet book is.  Brother McGrath is a renowned illustrator, working within Catholic liturgical circles, doing prayer cards and banners and prayer books.  This is, as one Roman religious educator put it, "brimming over with humor, creativity, and joy.  These playful images will stir the imagination and surely enable children to encounter Jesus in new ways."  Certainly for pre-schoolers, but there is more going on here than meets the eye.  Interesting!   For instance: A is "All the apostles at the Ascension" and for the letter S he writes, "The Shepard seeks straying sheep."   U tells us that "Jesus loves the unclean, unhealthy and unloved."  G shows "Google the Gospels to get Good News Across Generations."  I must admit, a few of the pictures strike me as a tad corny, and there is one inferring Mary is a "Queen" that most Protestants won't quite get.  Still, a fascinating resource.

My Heart--Christ's Home  Robert Boyd Munger with Carolyn Nystrom; illustrated by Kristen Funkhouser (IVP) $12.99  We could almost count on one hand the number of children's books this often academic press has done.  This new edition of a children's version of their gazillion-selling booklet traces a boy named Peter as he spends a week with Jesus.  You may know the little booklet: not only do we invite Jesus into our house, but we must yield each room to him.  And, we get to meet with him, as he waits for us in the ordinariness of our home.  What a vision of redemption, growth, spirituality and wholistic discipleship.  God cares about it all.  Start 'em young with the Big Vision, that's what I say.  This is a winner.  A tool.  Use it well, spread the word.  Very well done.

The Big Red Tractor and the Little Village Francis Chan; illustrated by Matt Daniels (Cook) $12.99  This vintage look is too much; you've got to get this fabulous new book that feels like a classic.  The story is of a tractor that just doesn't work too well.  Farmer Dave discovers a long-lost book in a dusty attic and, well, can it change everything?  BRT is a parable that explains that God has a special purpose for you, but you can only fulfill it through the help of His Spirit.  

Halfway Herbert  Francis Chan; illustrated by Matt Daniels (Cook) $ 12.99  Again, the look is retro and charming.  The story is a bit wacky as the boy realizes he can't keep doing things only half-way.  Oooh, the lesson he learns!  But, please note, this is not moralism.  It isn't about doing things poorly, it, finally, is a call to life for God fully.  Can a child grasp radical discipleship?  You bet.

Pilgrim's Progress.jpgThe Pilgrim's Progress: From This World to That Which Is to Come  John Bunyan /edited by C. J. Lovik; illustrated by Mike Wimmer (Crossway) $24.99 Every family should have at least one edition of this hugely influential classic that has stirred readers to commitment and faith for more than three centuries.  Lovik seems to know his Bunyan, and has captured just the right feel as he modernizes this for newer readers.  The full color illustrations are lavish, in the traditional style (almost reminding me of the famous Wyeth work done for classics like Treasure Island or Robin Hood.)  The feel and tone is classic, the truths as clear as ever.

By the way, for an edition that is even0802850804m.jpg more adapted---so very well, though--and that has breath-taking, artful illustrations (by the always impressive, world-renowned Barry Moser) consider the Eerdmans edition written by the highly esteemed, Newberry Award winner, Gary D. Schmidt of Calvin College. ($16.50 in a smaller hardback size.) The pictures are breathtaking, to say the least, the re-telling a faithful paraphrase, and did I say the pictures are wild?  Wow.




my pick for the picture book of the year

I See the Rhythm of Gospel  Toyomi Igus; paintings by Michele Wood  (ZonderKidz) $16.99  It is hard to explain the energy, the vivid strength of these bright oils that seem very, very modern, and yet very old.  The very mixed metaphor of the title (see the rhythm?) should give you a clue of how cool this is.  (Does the look harken back to slave narratives and primitive rural stylings?  Oh, how it works!  Ms Wood is an artist of the first order!)  This is the story of black gospel music, and it is nothing short of spectacular. It is a sequel to the much-acclaimed I See the Rhythm (which won a number of important awards a few years ago.) A bonus CD is included so readers (young and old) can hear songs described in the book.  You see, gospel music has evolved, and this books tells that story, in rich prose, evocative story and song, and paintings as loud and important as the songs.  
51A3X0ciT1L._SL500_AA300_.jpgThere is a very educational time-line, too, so this is also a course in African American history. One really gets a ton of knowledge about what was going on in black culture.  From Africa, to slavery and freedom, strong woman's voices, choirs and moving into R&B and funk and up to holy hip hop, this book tells it all.   The CD is perfect, with Wade in the Water (as done by the Golden Gate Quartet in 1947), a Mahalia Jackson song (released in 1954), a pretty traditional tune recorded by CeCe Winan, a Sam Cook song as done by the great Fred Hammond, ending with a fairly recent Cross Movement track.  What a great little bonus to this sumptuous book!

Come on people: this is da bomb.  Get this.  Pass it on.  I'm not kidding---this is a true treasure, interesting, informative, inspiring, and truly, truly creatively designed.  Somebody call the Caldecott people, and the Coretta King award team!  Kudos to Zondervan! 

a few children's Bibles

Children of God Storybook Bible Archbishop Desmond Tutu; various illustrators (Zondervan) sale priced $14.97  This is not only one of the more interesting projects of its kind in recent years, it is one of the great bargains of the year.  Every Bible story is illustrated by a different world-class illustrator, so the styles and nationalities and moods are very diverse.  Tutu tells the stories in his charming, visionary way, often highlighting the theme of God's good love in most stories.  There are free audio downloads, too, if you'd like to hear his voice telling these classic Bible portions.  Highly recommended.

Mighty Acts of God: A Family Bible Story Book  Starr Meade; illustrated by Tim O'Connor (Crossway) introductory price, $19.99  This is a fairly standard-size children's Bible, and it presents readers a story of God as revealed in the Scripture.  In 90 well-told stories, the truths of God and God's work in history come through clearly, with a keen sense of the difference this makes in a child's life.  Discussion questions are not dumbed down.  The artwork is fairly traditional, mature cartoons, nothing glitzy or odd. The perspective captures something very important.   

The Bible for Children (Good Books) $23.99  We have said lately that this is our pick for aBible for Children (Good Books).jpg favorite full color, larger type, clearly re-told overview of the great Bible story. It is fairly large and really classy, with a slight modern flair to the art.  See our more detailed description here, but know this is colorful and vivid and graciously told.  Very impressive.

The Jesus Storybook Bible Sally Lloyd-Jones; illustrated by Jago  (Zondervan) $16.95  This is without a doubt our favorite choice--for reasons of content, of perspective, of vocabulary and design--for a first Bible for younger children. Lloyd-Jones is masterful here.  A bitter smaller so a child can easily hold it.  As we have said often, it reminds readers that the whole Bible hands together, and that it all points to the coming of Christ.  I love the subtitle slogan: "every story whispers His name."  Yes.
We describe it in greater detail here.


Action Bible.jpg
The Action Bible: God's Redemptive Story

 Sergio Cariello (Cook) $24.99   Dude.  Yes, you hear me.  You, dude.  If you know a younger fellow--maybe a cool gal, too, for that matter---who reads graphic novels or comic books and rolls his or her eyes at the thought of daily devotions (or maybe reading anything), you have to get this. It could be a life-saver.  This is nothing but cartoons, by a master artist at the top of his craft, a guy who has worked for Marvel and DC Comics.  The original action heroes, found right here.  Almost 750 lush, fully designed pages.  This is epic.  Check it out at TheActionBible.com and come on back and snag one from us. 


 

two Bible books for middle school age

God's Acts in Creation and Gods Acts in Redemption  Starr Meade (Crossway) $10.99  Wanted to list these as they are excellent studies, used by Christian educators and homeschooling families.  Really interesting and rooted well in the truths of the gospel.

two fun devotionals

The One Year Choose Your Own Ending Devotions (Tyndale) $13.99  Yep, this allows the reader to choose an ending.  Each day has a bit of an unfolding story (and each month has a theme, matching the ministry of the Pioneer Clubs mid-week programing.)  There is something to read, to think about, to do, to pray about.  Very thorough, very interesting and quite substantial. (Don't let the fun-looking cover fool you!)  For mid to later elementary students, up through middle school, perhaps.

Sports Trivia Devotional: Inspiration for Kids from Sports and Scripture  Dave Veerman and Dana Niesluchowski (Zonderkidz) $16.99 Brand new, this has fascinating facts and great information about almost every kind of athlete and sport you can imagine (including some odd-ball stuff to keep kids entertained, like a story of a one-legged mountain climber and an elephant polo player.)  Remember those DK non-fiction books, with bright, clean photos?  This looks like that, educational, interesting, clever.  Most importantly, there are principles for living from the Bible. This is the sort of stuff I cut my teeth on (except it wasn't so cool looking.  I'd would have devoured this!) 

A few really great reads

Theodore Boone: The Kid Lawyer  John Grisham (Dutton) $16.99  I'm not going to lie, this is really a cool idea.  Here is what it says on the back, and it's pretty darn amazing.  "A perfect murder.  A faceless witness.  A lone courtroom champion knows the whole truth, but he's only 13 years old.  A high intensity legal drama for a new generation of readers."  One of our very best storytellers, a national treasure, increasingly an advocate for criminal justice, and a Baptist Sunday school teacher.

The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic  Jennifer Trafton (Dial) $16.99  This Nashville-based writer is a friend of a friend, so we immediately wanted to check it out.  And it is rich.  Really good writing.  A fun story, amazing, really. Tons of lessons (about an island that thinks it is "At the Center of Everything" and the young girl who has to dissuade them of this odd idea.)  One of our staff just couldn't put it down...with all the books around here, this is one that we're very excited about. Fantastic illustrations.  Perfect for a family read, to read out loud to elementary kids, certainly for those who are 10-12, or so, or, uh, adults.  Yep.

Trouble  Gary Schmidt (Houghton Mifflin) $8.99  So glad this is now out in paperback.  This is the most recent by the award winning author of personal favorites The Wednesday Wars and Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy.  The character in this one, Henry, runs away to climb a mountain, which brings important lessons.  Gripping.

small books with great lessons

9780736927734.jpgRemy the Rhino Learns Patience  Andy McGuire (Harvest House) $12.99  I usually don't love books that have too heavy a hand when teaching a message or that seem overly moralistic.  Yet, this story about a Rhino that is always mad stole my heart.  The drawings take you to Africa, are just a bit whimsical, but yet really do help teach children about the harmfulness of anger.  This is pure charm.

Whitefoot: A Story from the Center of the World  Wendell Berry; illustrated by Davis TeSelle (Counterpoint) $12.95  Did you know the great Wendell Berry (one of our great essayists and novelists) did a lovely little kids book? Just out, now, in paperback, the soft illustrations show the field mouse "at the center of the world."  This is beyond charming, it is beautiful, soft, good.  They don't make 'em like this much anymore...am I wrong to think of E.B. White or Wind in the Willows?

If America Were a Village: A Book About the People of the United States David Smith; illustrated by Shelagh Armstrong (Kids Can Press) $18.95  You may know this author's other work, the best-seller If the World Was a Village.  This has great statistics and facts about who we are as a people, how many  live here or there, what kinds of work and lives we have.  This compares American numbers to the rest of the world, too, in ways that children can really appreciate.  

A great, great, great stocking stuffer

101125020825.jpgWhat's In the Bible? with Buck Denver Volume 1 In TheMichael.png Beginning  Phil Vischer (Tyndale)  $14.99 
on sale for just $5.00.  VeggieTales creator Phil V. gets his groove back with these utterly zany, fast-paced, hilarious Bible lessons with muppet-like characters, country music, space ships, talking flannel-graphs and the smart, sassy "Sunday School Lady."  The content is solid--seriously, it is--and they intend to cover the whole Bible. Oh yeah, they do! There are five DVDs so far.  Start off with the first, naturally, which we have on sale. (While supplies last.)  Splurge and get 'em all---you won't regret it, until you can't get the songs out of your brain.  Don't blame me.

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December 18, 2010

Academic titles: a gift giving guide for the inquisitive, scholarly, curious, and intellectual

Maybe you are really stumped for a Christmas gift
because the person you have to "buy for"
(as we rather crassly put
Gift_Wrapping_1101.jpg it sometimes) is an academic. An intellectual.  A specialist reader who doesn't fool around with the ordinary stuff.  You need something eccentric and deep, but good.  Good as in well-written and high caliber but also morally good.  Not just any weird brainy stuff will do.

Or maybe you know a seriously intellectual reader, and you'd love to shower this person with some book lovin'.  That is, their love language comes between covers.  You know, we might be able to help.

Here is a list of a bunch of random titles, just odd-ball stuff we have in the shop that I like.  All of these are pretty scholarly, kinda rare, sometimes pretty darn rare.  Why in the busiest shopping week of the year am I not promoting The Christmas Shoes, Joel Olstseen,  or some other sure sales winner?  Don't get me started.  This may prove foolish, but I think somebody out there needs to know that we here at H&M have some pretty unique gift ideas, for the serious book lover and finely tuned scholar on your list.  


crescat scientia vita excolatur.





51WrJDIndgL.jpgHerman Dooyeweerd: Christian Philosopher of State and Civil Society Jonathan Chaplin (University of Notre Dame) $68.00  I will talk about this in my year's end "best books" list, but you should know that for many important writers Dr. Dooyeweerd is more than a Dutch philosopher with a funny-sounding name.  He is one of the most seminal thinkers of the 20th century, who gave academic rigor to a rejection of the objectivity of reason and therefor called for a social philosophy that invited structural pluralism.  What a list we could compile of those who have grappled with his formative and deeply Christian theorizing: Yale philosopher Nicholas Woltersdorff, legal scholar John Witte,  aesthetic thinker Calvin Seerveld, Biblical scholar Craig Bartholomew, popular cultural critic Nancy Pearcey,  musicologist Jeremy Begbie, neo-Calvinist worldview guru Al Wolters, postmodern thinkers Jamie Smith and Brian Walsh, Fuller Seminary President Richard Mouw,  Center for Public Justice Director Gideon Strauss,  human rights worker and Islamic scholar Paul Marshal,  the smart people who edit Comment magazine, educator and  worldview scholar David Naugle, gender studies professor Mary Stewart Van Leuween, and so many more.  This is the best introduction to him yet, with a special eye to his political theory.  For anyone interested in civil society or the deepest ideas that inform most of the idea-leaders I most respect, this would be a serious purchase of an important scholarly work.

Walking in the Way of the Word: The Collected Writings of H. Evan Runner (Reformational Publishing Project) $19.95  Runner was, in many ways, the premier U.S. Dooyeweerdian philosopher and evangelist of the 60s and 70s.   His academic rigor was renown, as was his passion for an "all of life" view of redemption that brooked no accommodation  or syncretism with non-Biblical worldviews.   These lectures, given outside of Toronto in the early 60s, stimulated the founding of the Institute for Christian Studies, and his unrivaled ability to persuade others of the importance of this way of radical academic discipleship is captured in this collection of speeches.  Formerly available as The Bible in Relation to Learning and Biblical Religion and Political Task, this is a rare scholarly resource for those wanting an integrated, hard-headed faithful orientation.  One of my own college mentors, Dr. Peter J. Steen, insisted we read these in the mid-70s.  Not sure I understood them fully, but it set my heart and mind in a direction...

What Is a Person Christian Smith (University of Chicago Press) $40.00  A year or so ago and intellectual I respect was lecturing on how changing fundamental assumptions can change paradigms within entire academic disciplines and how Christian scholars can contribute to the renewal of culture by thinking foundationally about the big stuff in their fields, and earning the right to make serious contributions by doing faithful, steady, long-haul work.  He said that the forthcoming Chris Smith book may be such a work, changing the way many in the social sciences see the human condition.  That book is now out.  The endorsements have been mighty.  What a thrill to have this in our small town bookstore.  Spread the word; you heard about it here.  Destined to be considered a lasting contribution, a pivotal work.

Cultivating the Spirit: How College Can Enhance Student's Inner Lives  Alexander W.cultivatingspirit.jpg Astin, Helen Astin, Jennifer Lindholm (Jossey Bass) $40.00  Those who work in student development or any sort of professional capacity at a college campus may know about this; it has been long-awaited and much anticipated.  Endorsements on the back include rave reviews by Parker Palmer, Ken Wilber, Derek Bok, and Sharon Daloz Parks.  Enough said, eh?  Not necessarily a Christian perspective, but the Astin's legendary role in studying student life position them to offer insight that anyone interested in faith and spirituality must be aware of.  Essential.


cover_small__.jpgNot In My Neighborhood: How Bigotry Shaped a Great American City Antero Pietila (Ivan Dee) $28.95  Everyone knows the story of "white flight" from Northern cities when after WW II souther blacks immigrated northward, and the huge implications for urban life and the rise of suburbs.  Few places did this happen as widely and as meanly as Baltimore, and that, itself, played a pivotal role in our nation's wider, shameful history of racial segregation.  This is serious social science, yet not theoretical; it is oral history, rip-roaring reporting, a blockbuster of a book, as one reviewer put it, "full of memorable characters, dramatic choices, and tragic policy failures."  It is great when a serious, well-researched work is also a page-turner of great import.

Race: A Theological Account J. Kameron Carter (Oxford University Press) $35.00  Called by James Cone "an intellectual tour de force."  He continues, "I have nothing but praise for this work by a young African American scholar who must be reckoned with."  This is sophisticated, weighty (nearly 500 pages) and multidisciplinary, drawing on his able renderings of philosophy, theology, the social sciences, history and more.  He currently is a rising star at Duke Divinity School.  There are many, many great books on racial reconciliation, ethnic diversity, and the history of the civil rights struggles.  I wish more folks would discuss those books in our shop.  Not everyone may need to read this massive volume, but it is remarkable, a major work, an impressive, scholarly re-think of this momentous topic.

516hdu-lAzL._SL500_AA300_.jpgA Cheerful and Comfortable Faith: Anglican Religious Practice in the Elite Households of Eighteenth Century Virginia Lauren Winner (Yale University Press) $45.00  Speaking of rising stars at Duke,  Lauren--uh, that is Dr. Winner in this setting--has been working on this major research for years, and it has finally been published to fine academic acclaim.  You know Winner is a friend of the shop, and that we simply adore her Girls Meets God, Mudhouse Sabbath and Real Sex (not to mention two DVDs of hers we carry.)  Here is what one scholarly reviewer wrote: "Few historical works I have read so fully re-create the sensory world of people in a particular time and place in colonial American history. In this sense this is a wonderfully original work, deeply informed by scholarship but branching far beyond what has gone before."

 Another major writer in the field calls it a "landmark" and says, "How do you capture the nature of Anglican piety in colonial Virginia? Lauren Winner does it by linking household objects to theological and devotional books and religious practice. Her astute analysis takes us to the heart of eighteenth-century Anglican religion--in Virginia''s houses where the needlework, walnut tables, prayer books, and silver bowls she examines once resided. The result is a landmark work in material culture and religious studies scholarship."

If even a few of her many fans commit to wading through her wonderfully written history of colonial Virginia, this obscure academic work could become a best seller!  Three cheers!

The Comfort of Things Daniel Miller (Polity) $19.95  I love well-written ethnographies, and I'm interested in the way we attribute meaning to, or draw meaning from, the material stuff of our lives.  This is "shoe leather fieldwork" at its finest, doing what some now call "micro-ethnography."  One scholarly publisher wrote that "Miller writes better, and with more insight and compassion, than most novelists.  This book will profoundly change the way you look at your friends' and neighbours' homes and possessions, and indeed your own."  This opens up new ways to understand how ordinary people organize their lives, and how they relate to their material things---their house, furniture, animals, music, Christmas decorations, tattoos, scrapbooks, etc.  Fascinating.

41nEZF2vcOL._SL500_AA300_.jpgThe Polkinghorne Reader: Science, Faith and the Search for Meaning John Polkinghorn (edited and compiled by Thomas Jay Oord) (Templeton Press) $19.95  Few have crossed the boundaries and brought together different readerships than the Anglican priest and scientist, John Polkinghorne.  He is both a serious theologian of the sciences and has become a popular author for lay readers.  Here is a long-awaited greatest hits, an anthology that is at once a great introduction and a clearly-organized volume that can help readers come to terms with his particular approach to the integration of faith and science.

Darwin's Pious Idea: Why the Ultra-Darwinists and Creationists Both Get it Wrong  Conor Cunningham (Eerdmans) $34.99  It isn't every day that sociologists like Charles Taylor and rock star philosophers like Slavoj Zizek endorse a Christian author like this, but this seems to be one of the more important books of its kind in years.  Cunningham,  a prominent public intellectual from Nottingham,  makes a serious claim that given the nature of the Christian God, an evolutionary account of life is necessary... Over 500 pages.

Mathematics and Religion: Our Languages of Sign and Symbol Javier Leach (Templeton Press) $19.95  The innovative folks at Templeton are passionate about the interface of faith and science and have this good "Science & Religion" series, including paperbacks on neuroscience, paleontology, technology, and other specific disciplines.  This one, written by a Jesuit mathematician, reflects on important ways in which theological convictions shape how mathematics is construed.  There isn't much mature stuff on this topic---Mathematics in a Postmodern Age edited by Russell Howe (Eerdmans; $35.00) is excellent, but very heady---so this is a gem to know about and pass on.  

51dZQ1zYjEL._SL500_AA300_.jpgThe Paradox of Disability: Responses to Jean Vanier and L'Arche Communities from Theology and the Sciences edited by Hans S. Reinders (Erdmans) $18.00  This is the perfect kind of volume to create important conversations (in this case around the topic of disabilities and handicapping conditions) but it is also the kind of title that that can turn people off.  "Responses"?  "From Theology and the Sciences"?  Here me out:  Jean Vanier is the gentle soul (who is on my list of those I'd read nearly anything he wrote) who had such an impact on the spiritual writer, Henri Nouwen.  L'Arche are those communities with the disabled, and here are papers from a conference where folks pushed back--in appreciation and great care--to challenge or refine Vanier's idealistic vision of building communities with the mentally challenged.  The heart of this book is not just a response to Vanier, but a response to his vital question, the heart of his work: "what have people with disabilities taught me?"  I only know a few of these writers (Stanley Hauerwas, of course, who has experience of this questions) but that doesn't matter.  This is spectacular.  We have a number of books on this topic, and this is great.

The Disenchantment of Secular Discourse Steve Smith (Harvard University Press) $26.95  I loved the description of this in the Harvard University Press catalog, but only learned later that the author is a Christian of solid conviction.  After we stocked it, I saw a discussion of it in The Christian Scholars Review.  I think it is fabulous, and a well argued brief for the proper role of religion in public life.

518+Pgu7bUL._SL500_AA300_.jpgHope in A Scattering Time: A Life of Christopher Lasch Eric Miller (Eerdmans) $32.00  Look, I loved Eat Pray Love, Mary Karr's brilliant Lit and the funny Mennonite in a Little Black Dress as much as the next gal, but this is biography that is truly enduring, social science, history, and truly groundbreaking.  Miller, a history prof at Geneva College here in Pennsylvania, has produced the achievement of a lifetime, a beautifully written history of the life and thinking of this modern American intellect, author of The Culture of Narcissism.  For a young evangelical scholar to bite off such a massive project, and earn accolades from the likes of Robert Coles, Will Campbell, Jean Bethke Elshtain, and Wilfred McClay is remarkable.  Kudos!

Confessing History: Explorations in Christian Faith and The Historian's Vocation  John Fea, Jay Green, and Eric Miller (University of Notre Dame) $35.00  Three young, respected scholars from three mature evangelical colleges, worked to find pieces that explore the theories and approaches to history that comport with a Christian worldview.  Every academic discipline should be so fortunate to have emerging scholars that have stood on the shoulders of older leaders in their field (in this case, like Mark Noll or George Marsden), thought deeply about the most basic matters, and then got busy doing good scholarly work.   A must for historians, and nearly a must for anyone interested in how Christian presuppositions shaped academic work.  Highly recommended.

christmas-presents.jpegThe Anti-Communist Manifestos: Four Books That Shaped the Cold War  John Fleming (Norton) $27.95  The awful fruit of the Cold War has been, among other things, the rise of fundamentalist Islamic terrorism, and the spread of evil nuclear weapons.  We simply must know more about the ideas and practices that shaped those post-WWII worldviews.  This book is a study of four books.  And how they shaped a generation.  If there stakes were not so high and the costs so tragic, I'd say this is just really cool intellectual history.  Read 'em and weep.  A respected historian of the Cold War era says it is "astonishingly humane and deeply moving."  Non-partisan and insightful history.  You know, of course, that one of these is Witness by Whittaker Chambers.  

Consulting the Genius of the Place: An Ecological Approach to a New Agriculture  Wes Jackson (Counterpoint) $26.00  Years ago we discovered Wes Jackson 25 years ago, perhaps through Gene Logsdon or Wendell Berry.  This includes, as you might guess, weighty and vital criticism of industrial agriculture.  But, as Berry reports,  after calling it a "landmark," he notes that it "goes beyond criticism to propose practical remedies..."

The Power of Place: Geography, Destiny, and Globalization's Rough Landscape Harm De Blij (Oxford University Press) $16.95  I love the Bill Moyers' quote: "What Carl Sagan did for cosmology, De Blij is doing for geography."  Pretty darn amazing, readable, fascinating.  He is the author of Why Geography Matters.

The Etiquette of Freedom: Gary Snyder, Jim Harrison, and "The Practice of the Wild."  edited by Paul Ebenkamp (Counterpoint) $28.00  Gary Snyder has been an outlaw beat poet, writer, Buddhist devotee, an activist living wild in the land, standing for ecological principles and writing mystically about them, for a lifetime.  Here he gathers with another well known writer and poet as their conversations were recorded, and turned in to a documentary.  This includes some of the transcripts of those moving discussions, serving as a companion to the film, and includes a DVD of the movie and an extended reading by Snyder.  I wonder if we may be the only Christian bookstore in the world that carries such a thing, but we find it truly inspiring.

Cultivating Soil and Soul: Twentieth-Century Catholic Agrarians Embrace the Liturgical Movement Michael J. Woods (Pueblo) $39.99  I sometimes wonder who will actually buy the books we stock, but this is so amazingly interesting, I sure hope somebody does.  I suppose you've heard of these agrarians, perhaps influenced by the "distributists' like G. K. Chesterton.  How did this "sense of place" effect liturgical reforms?  An important text by a professor of religious studies at Gonzga University, with a particular focus on the relationship of liturgy to daily living, especially around issues of environmental sustainability.  A publication of the National Catholic Rural Life Conference. 

Redeeming Economics: Rediscovering the Missing Element  John Bueller (ISI Books) $27.95  I am not always a fan of the Ethics and Public Policy Center where Bueller directs the "Economics & Ethics" program but they are a thinktank I pay attention to.  I'm not sure a book with endorsements by William Kristol is my cup of tea.  Yet, this is handsome, thick, has a great title, and rave reviews from morally serious writers.  George Weigle says "Mueller is that rarest of thinkers, one who can make the 'dismal science' thoroughly engaging at a very human level."  There is a huge need for the history of economic thought, and this is one important contribution, wide in scope, erudite, given to (as Larry Kudlow says of it) "combing markets and morality to help fix what's broken."  Drawing on Aristotle, Augustine, and Aquinas, it seems to be a very serious work.

51qSrSw3FrL._SL500_AA300_.jpgA Critical Approach to Youth Culture: Its Influence and Implications for Ministry Pamela Erwin (Youth Specialties Academic) 34.99  I loved this because it is a fairly thorough study of and contribution to the debate about what culture even is, and how best to understand it Christianly.  If youth ministry---of any sort of ministry, for that matter---needs to take the culture in which we are embedded seriously, we need these kinds of sustained treatments.  Very important, arranged with enticing care to the important questions,  and pretty fun at that.  Imagine!

Integrating Faith and Psychology: Twelve Psychologists Tell Their Stories  edited by Glendon Moriarity  forward by Gary Collins (IVP Academic) $24.00  I love these kinds of resources that allow various Christian scholars dedicating to relating faith and professional work, Bible and theory, to share the way in which they do this.  Each practitioner tells of their journeys (including the role of mentors), their struggles and doubts,  their methodologies, and their understanding of Christian scholarly integration.  This includes lessons learned and wisdom gained.  What a great encouragement for anyone in this field.

Art in Public: Politics, Economics, and a Democratic Culture  Lambert Zuidervaart
518p4TueoQL._SL500_AA300_.jpg (Cambridge University Press) $28.99  Lambert is one of the leading scholars on the planet, with astute and incisive insights about the Frankfurt school (Adorno, and other neo-Marxist scholars), aesthetic theory, and has written important work a variety of philosophical topics.  He is a leading researcher at the Institute for Christian Studies in Toronto.  Many have been waiting for this serious argument in favor of public funding of the arts which just released.  What a mature study of the interface of aesthetics, philosophy, public justice and a pluralistic vision for the health of the commonwealth. Very important. 

"Right Reason" and the Princeton Mind: An Unorthodox Proposal Paul Kjoss Helseth (P&R) $21.99  Many scholars of American religious history, and anybody that cares about the schisms within Presbyterianism, knows about the debates that raged in the late 1800s and early 1900s, especially those that centered on the conservative theology at Princeton Theology Seminary.  Here's the quickie version: heavy-hitting (and still important) Reformed theologians like Hodge and Warfield (called "Old Princetonians") were dismissed by the broader Christian culture, and leaders of what became the PC(USA) for being too rationalistic. This book deconstructs much of that debate, studies what these giants actually thought about the relationship between "heart and mind" and explores the ever-so-relevant debate, even within evangelicalism, about the role of truth, doctrine, what we can know, and what Orthodoxy means in an age of post-liberalism.  Makes significant claims about the viability of the Old Princeton Calvinists.  

Defending Constantine: The Twilight of An Empire and the Dawn of Christendom Peter Leithart (IVP Academic)  $27.00  Wow.  What can I say?  I read the preface and was hooked.  Really.  This is crazy-making, undoing old adages, pushing some new ideas, and harsh on some scholars I like (like, say John Howard Yoder.)  I love this blurb on the back by the ever provocative Douglas Wilson: "For a generation that thinks is approves of those who challenge the conventional wisdom, it can come as quite a shock when someone actually does it."  He notes that this Leithart's project is done "with Biblical grace, deep wisdom, profound learning, and scholarship that has let the clutch out."  Go figure.  Yoder and Hauerwas fans, look out.  Lefty anti-empire theologian Bill Cavanaugh of DePaul says that Leithart is "an excellent writer with a flair for the dramatic...one of the most incisive thinkers on questions of theology and politics..."  It isn't every day that a guy gets accolades for his effort to "complicate theology."  Cavanaugh continues, "If the Holy Spirit did not simply go on holiday during that period, we must find was to appreciate Christendom.  Any worthwhile political theology today cannot fail to take Leithart's argument seriously."  Know anybody who dares to read such innovative, prudent scholarship?

8346129.jpgThinking in Tongues: Pentecostal Contributions to Christian Philosophy James K.A. Smith (Eerdmans) $19.00  What can I say about this---what a thrilling bit of serious philosophy, drawing on the ways in which Pentecostal experience and practices shape and inform the doing of his work as a neo-Calvinist philosopher.  This is not just an example of a charismatic intellectualism, but truly a distinctively Pentecostal doing of serious philosophy, from epistemology to ontology, etc.  Spectacular, even for those of us who are neither Pentecostals of philosophers.  Highly recommended.  By the way, if you haven't picked up his very important Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation and, what are you waiting for?  One of the most talked about books of last year and a true H&M favorite!

The Logic of the Heart: Augustine, Pascal, and the Rationality of Faith James Peters (Baker Academic) $32.99  You know the line "the heart has its reasons.."  This is an original bit of new philosophizing, studying this thorny matter of the relationship of rational and other ways of knowing. Peter's is a philosophy prof at the University of the South in Sewanee, and is doing remarkable work there.  James K.A. Smith writes that this is the "missing link" in contemporary discussions of epistemology.  It stands to make a significant contribution..."  Hauerwas says of it, "With a clarity seldom achieved, Peters draws on the work of unlikely allies---Hume, Pascal, Augustine---in defense of the rationality of Christian convictions.  It turns out that our faith depends for its reasons on the love of God.  This is an important book that I hope will be widely read."

Drawn to Freedom: Christian Faith Today in Conversation with the Heidelberg51pX3s6ugpL._SL500_AA300_.jpg Catechism Eberhard Busch (Eerdmans) $32.00  Karl Barth oficionados know the name Eberhard Busch (his Great Passion is deservedly considered the best introduction to this giant of 20th century thinkers.)  Most won't know, but we are happy to tell you, that the expert translation from German if this important Busch text was done by a good friend, a central Pennsylvania pastor whose family are huge  H&M supporters.  Bill Rader's name isn't on the book cover, but he studied in Germany, becoming friends with the Barth family, and translated this with care and great passion.  Even in translation (thanks, Bill) this is lyrical and passionate; as Scott Hoezee writes, "Busch has freed the Catechism from its reputation of being outdated and fusty by showing the vibrant relevance of the Reformed tradition's premier confession in answering questions people are still asking."  Maybe it was written in 1563, but Busch's reflection is as relevant as can be.  God is with us.  This is our comfort in life and death.  And, it has vast sociocultural implications, about freedom and justice and God's deliverance of captive's.  Highly recommended.

God and the Global Order: The Power of Religion in American Foreign Policy edited by Jonathan Chaplin with Robert Joustra (Baylor University Press) $42.95  Baylor is one of the most interesting academic houses publishing these days, and their expensive books are often very well worth the investment.  Here, two neo-Calvinist social philosophers---and friends of H&M---bring together extraordinary insight and powerful writers to explore just how religion functions within the turbulent century we find ourselves in.  Authors I respect are here---James Skillen, Paul Marshall, John Bernbaum, Tom Howard, J. Daryl Charles,  Thomas Farr.  Some are diplomats, some scholars, some activists, but all have a scholarly demeanor, offering important essays in what I think is an essential volume in this critical field. Chris Seiple of the Institute for Global Engagement says it will "quickly become a must-read for anyone who takes faith and international affairs seriously."

The Ultimate Harry Potter and Philosophy: Hogwarts for Muggles edited by Gregory Bassham (Wiley) $17.95  We carry a number of the "and philosophy" anthologies, and they really are philosophy, not just general pop culture reflections.  This one covers all seven books in the series and includes a wide variety of topics, themes, and contributors.  The editors for this one are both professors at Kings College in Wilkes-Barre, PA ( a respected Jesuit school.)   Others include one on Alice in Wonderland, Lost, Mad Men, Rock Climbing, Hunting and more.  

bobdylangm.jpgBob Dylan by Greil Marcus: Writings 1968-2010  Greil Marcus (Public Affairs) $29.95  Almost 500 pages of the sensational Greil Marcus may be more than most can take, but there is little doubt that he is one of the most important rock critics of the past 50 years, and certainly the most important--when you can figure out what the heck he's talking about--about Dylan.  Author of a set of standard works, he is the respected and crazed music critic of his generation. As the title suggests, this compiles his Dylan-obsessed oeuvre, which, as always with Marcus, reaches beyond itself to capture the flamboyance of the American popular culture.  Brilliant, mostly.


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December 20, 2010

Five great recent books on business

Thanks for those who have commented upon our last few blog posts.  These big lists--gift-giving suggestions for book-lovers of all sorts--were, as one friend noted, a labor of love.  They are pretty time-consuming to research and write, but fun to do.  There are literally stacks of titles by my desk of books that didn't make it in my listings (not to mention the stacks in the shop.)  If I had more time to write, I'd post even more.  I'm sure if you had more time to read, you'd buy even more.

I didn't list anything for businesspeople on our recent lists.  You most likely know that we have a large section on economics, books on globalization, God's concern for the poor, and righteous ways to think about the sustainability and such.  Serious thinkers about economics would surely find something here.

And, we have many books on a Christian view of work.  There are a lot of great titles on the ministry of laypeople in the work-world, the vocation of working in the marketplace, exploring the notions of callings and careers.  Some are moving and inspiring, others short small group resources.  We love stocking books on human labor and our work lives.

Business is a happy combination of these, bringing together the worlds of economics and work.  Business workers--from financial executives to those of us in sales, to all sorts of corporate jobs--labor in economics and surely need help thinking through the implications of being "salt and light" on the job site.  It isn't easy, as you most likely know; I'm sure it is so in every zone of life and in most careers, but the temptations and struggles of business these days are huge. And the opportunities of faithful service for the common good are also large.

Here are a few newer books on business that we highly recommend.


41BziTPkBML._SL500_AA300_.jpgOur Souls at Work: How Great Leaders Live Their Faith in the Global Marketplace  edited by Mark Russell  (Russell Media) $19.95  This is a vibrant, colorful, book, handsomely designed with some contemporary, graphic pizazz and exciting testimonials and clear-headed insight to match.  One of the best new books in this whole "marketplace ministry" field, it is essentially a gathering of short pieces by a variety of business leaders, arranged by topic.  So you'll hear a handful of businessmen or women talking about balance, or integrity, or leadership, or character.  There is a section on calling, a section on handling money, a section of stories on relationships.  There is one called "pluralism" which is very strong (and still a vexing matter to some, how to respect and honor the diversity of views in the modern workplace.)  There is a section on sharing one's faith, and a section of important lessons about ethics.  The section on giving could inspire young philanthropists and remind us about giving back, as they say.

There are a few business leaders here you may have heard of (David Miller wrote the important Oxford University Press book God at Work and has a good number of pieces and Dennis Bakke is legendary for his Joy at Work book and global success in the energy biz.)  Most contributors, though, are not particularly famous in the religious book world.  This should be seen as an asset, actually, because it shows these are folks who are the real deal, businesspeople who spend their days in the trenches of global capitalism.  It gives it a very urgent, practical, feel, showing that transformed Christian living in the business world is not only interesting, but do-able.  

There are Fortune 500 CEOs and social entrepreneurs here and they share wonderful insights and personal experiences on living faithfully and leading others in the workplace. Russell Media did a great job on Our Souls at Work, and we are happy to promote it.  It isn't on a big-name publishing house so you may not see it at your airport book stall or your mega-church literature ministry.  We have it, though, and are proud to suggest it as one of the best recent books of its kind.  Plus, Our Souls at Work is easy to read and easy on the eyes so busy leaders can cut to the chase with tons of great advice---one of the great new books of its kind. Fantastic!

0802865593.01.LZZZZZZZ.jpgTaking Your Soul to Work: Overcoming the Nine Deadly Sins of the Workplace  R. Paul Stevens & Alvin Ung with a forward by Eugene Peterson (Eerdmans) $14.99  If there was a "lifetime achievement award" in the field of Christian marketplace ministry, daily discipleship for ordinary folks, for "seven days a week faith" (as one of his many books puts it) Paul Stevens would be just such an honoree.  He has given his life to thinking hard and writing well about the interface of faith and the work-world, and, especially, Christians in the business environment.  He is professor emeritus of marketplace theology and spirituality at Regent College in Vancouver, perhaps the finest place to study this topic. (You can see a bit about his books here.)  Anything he writes is commendable, serious, important.  

This is his new one, and his writing partner, Alvin Ung, is himself a breakthrough leader who has lived in the high-  powered business world of Southern Asia (he is a Fellow at Ghazanah Nasional, the national investment agency of Malaysia.)

As  you can see from the sub-title, these conversational chapters---each rounded out with an action plan or case study---explore in simple, but important ways, the ways to avoid the "soul-sapping struggles of the work world.  They look at the "nine deadly sins" of the workplace, the nine-fold fruit of the Spirit that can meet our workplace needs, and nine positive outcomes of integrating spirituality and work.  Friends, this is good news, indeed.  Serious, uplifting, honest, and very, very insightful.  Few books in this field are as deeply spiritual, theologically informed, and yet nicely practical.

Why_Business_cover_000.jpgWhy Business Matters to God (And What Still Needs to Be Fixed)  Jeff Van Duzer (IVP Academic) $20.00 Van Duzer is the dean of the School of Business and Economics and professor of business law and ethics at Seattle Pacific University.  He has practiced law with an emphasis on finance and natural resources.  Endorsements on the back of this important new work include a rave from William Pollard, the outspoken and widely-respected Chairman of ServiceMaster, the aforementioned David Miller, Director of Princeton University's Faith & Work Initiative and Richard Chewing (himself the co-author of the excellent Business Through the Eyes of Faith

This serious book explores the nature and meaning of doing business and find it calls for much more than most think.  It promises to integrate Biblical studies, economics, and business.

This is helpful because (as the previous books presuppose and suggest) being a Christian in business--as it does for any field, really--demands more than personal virtue or good ethics.  There are what might be called philosophical considerations and structural, systemic matters.  This emerged from years of the author's struggles and thoughtfulness, it is a bit provocative (whether one tends to be a bit conservative or liberal--yea!) and very, very helpful.  Highly recommended.

51T85yWhrUL._SL500_AA300_.jpgMinding the Store: Great Writing About Business from Tolstoy to Now edited by Robert Coles & Albert LaFarge (The New Press) $25.95  Okay, this isn't going to be found in just any 'ol bargain bin, and I can assure you, it is a truly extraordinary collection.  We love having some of these sorts of top-shelf texts and trust that some of our customers will consider it as a gift, or as a choice for a workplace study, even.  The always subtle, wise, and serious Robert Coles here gives us the best of what literature can do.  Here you will find some giants of late 20th century fiction such as Raymond Carver, John Cheever, Joseph Heller, John Updike, Walker Percy.  When you think about it, you'd come up with a few of these other authors, too---Arthur Miller, Flannery O'Connor, Studs Terkel, Sinclair Lewis.   There are some delightful pieces (O. Henry, James Agee, Leo Tolstoy) and a true surprise or two. (Can you say Kafka in your corporation?)  This came out of a class Coles taught at Harvard Business School.  Wise, stimulating, enjoyable.  I suppose I don't have to tell our astute readers, but, you know, this isn't particularly Christian and would be a fine way to introduce good conversations in nearly any morally-serious setting.

Sequencing: Deciphering Your Company's DNA  Michael Metzger (Game Changer Books) $17.95  You may know the name Mike Metzger because I've linked to his weekly Clapham Institutes articles, playfully called DoggieHeadTilt, and have on occasion suggested his work on facebook and twitter.  I think, if I may say so, that Mr. Metzger is a genius, and his ability to "think Christianly" without using tons of spiritually-pushy lingo, is unparalleled.  This book is creatively designed with oodles of full-page b/w photos and super-graphics. The chapters are serious, and yet cleverly written, making it a breeze to read.  In many ways Mike helps companies and organizations reconsider their overarching story, their worldview, if you will.  If I dare say it without spilling the beans, he is subtly using the full gospel Biblical narrative (creation, fall, redemption, consummation) to provide a framework or interpretive grid to have deeper conversations about what drives (and what could drive) corporate culture.  By assessing human nature itself, leaders can push creative innovations that are wise and sustainable (and true to the deepest realities of the real world!)

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In some very cool sections, he combines astute historical studies--how does he know all this stuff?--and brings lessons learned into today's context.  And he helps us do under-the-radar theology by re-thinking what we mean when we say things like this ought not to be, or that's just the way it is, or even when we dream of what could be.  Mike is smart, savvy, a born-storyteller, fun, with a remarkable drive to implement new ideas.  He reads veraciously, and seems to always be in conversation with books and ideas and authors (like, say, James Davison Hunter and his influential Oxford book To Change the World or Matthew Crawford, academic-turned-mechanic of Shop Class as Soul Craft, or thinker/consultant George Lakoff, not to mention historical biographies and up-to-the-season sports talk.)  The excellent forward shows the power of his ideas and work; it is written by the CEO of classy gift company, DEMDACO, David Kiersznowski. This is a rare book, a great book, and one we are thrilled to recommend for anybody that wants to help decipher the deepest meaning of their organization's DNA and be an agent of healthy flourishing and redemptive-leaning change.

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December 22, 2010

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas

It is common practice in the world of big awards to announce the "short list" of potential honorees.  Well, my short list isn't so short, and as I'm preparing for our new year's look-back at the best books of 2010, I thought I'd name a short-listed one.  I'm not so sure, yet, which categories I'll have cooked up (you may know my list is sometimes a bit--okay, well, a lot-- quirky, even making up category awards to fit the books I want to applaud.)  I am not sure into which category this book will make its way---maybe more than one.

bonhoeffer_book.jpgBut know this, for now: Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas (Nelson; $29.99) is a winner.  It is one of the most interesting books of recent years, one of the most talked about, and, dare I say, one of the most important.  There is much that needs to be said about this (and I may not be the person to do so, but it has been very widely reviewed, mostly to over-the-top raves.)  Here is the sort of stuff, though, that we hear, here in the shop: one fellow was almost at the 500 page mark and didn't want to proceed.  He said he just didn't want the book to be over, and was disappointed that the tale was almost over.   Yep, that is not uncommon as Metaxas has given us a thrilling telling of a thrilling story. and lots of readers are riveted and delighted.  As with his wonderful Amazing Grace book on Wilberforce, this is an easy to read, hard to put down, vibrant story, told with passion and warmth.  With a few exceptions, reviewers have used tremendously positive descriptors. It is "tantalizing" or "beautiful" or "a masterpiece that reads like a great novel."  The prestigious (and not easy to please) Kirkus review says "Metaxas magnificently captures the life of of theologian and anti-Nazi activist...a definitive Bonhoeffer biography for the 21st century."  They named it as one of their top 25 non-fiction books of the year.  

You most likely know that Bonhoeffer was a Lutheran pastor who stood up to the Nazis in a variety of ways and has been quite the darling of progressive, more liberal Christians for years.  His radical call to discipleship, his wonderful reflections about community in Life Together, and his reflections on the Psalms have been widely appreciated but some of his later theological work has been viewed with some healthy criticism by more evangelical folks.  Metaxas' book intends to re-frame some of this, placing the martyr firmly within historical Christian orthodoxy and telling of his life in ways that sound familiar to evangelicals.  This is, I'd say, a large and daring interpretive move, and one that rings true. 

p_dietrich_bonhoeffer.jpgYou may know---I know that some of our readers know---that there was a blistering critique in The Christian Century.  I posted a comment at their website, in fact, protesting that the important scholar who wrote the review was beyond the pale in ad hominem attacks and whining about Metaxas' conservative theology.  So what---I would say--if the author has appeared on FoxNews?  Readers and friends of Hearts & Minds know we are not fans of Glen Beck, but I was thrilled that Metaxas got on that sordid venue, that Beck did a long piece on the book.  Does this diminish Metaxas's ability to tell the story of the great Bonhoeffer?  Does an alleged misspelling of a German word ruin his academic chops?  Apparently, in The Century reviewer's mind, it does. 

It does seem evident (and the CC review was not the only place to observe this) that there are, indeed, different takes on the complicated views of Rev. B. We have his letters and papers and sermons and like any serious thinker, they do not form a simplistic collage.  Not unlike the remarkable film Bonhoeffer by Martin Doblmeier,  Metaxas makes a lot of hay out of Bonhoeffer's displeasure at the lack of gospel-centered teaching at old Union Seminary, and his subsequent spiritual renewal when he worshiped at Harlem's Abyssinian Baptist church.  It is known that Bonhoeffer disapproved of what his friends at Union were teaching, and he even took recordings of black spirituals with him back to Germany, hoping to recreate some of the passion and joy and deep piety that emerged from the historic black church in those years.

Perhaps it can be said that Mr. Metaxas' tome isn't the best study of Bonhoeffer.  Indeed, it is not a "study" at all, but a biography.  Like any historian's work, the framing and interpretation of the historian comes in to play, and there can be lively debate about whether or not any biographer gets his or her subject fully right.  One would suppose that Metaxas would be happy to engage fair-minded conversation about this.  I am confident, though, that for the big story, told with passion and awareness, and historical insight, that this is the place to begin.  It is not only the best way into the Bonhoeffer story, but it is one heckuva read for anyone that wants a heart-pounding, historical drama.

We are glad that so many are reading the book, that it has gotten such favorably feedback, that it has catapulted into the evangelical world (and beyond) and thereby help create a renewed interest in Bonhoeffer.  Only but the most grumpy leaders of the academic guild who think they are the gatekeepers to all writing about Bonhoeffer would be thrilled to know that the heroic story of this brave and thoughtful leader, is being discovered, explored, talked about.  May lives be changed as readers are drawn to "pick up their cross" and live into the radical, costly, servanthood vision of cruciform discipleship;  may we all grow in greater awareness of the other writings by and about Bonhoeffer and how they may shape us in our own political and ethical faithfulness.

Eric, by the way, was on C-Span the other night, doing a talk on the book, and from the firsteric metaxas.jpg few minutes you can see that he's one funny dude.  To explain how he came to learn about Bonhoeffer--raised in a New York Greek Orthodox family, he hadn't heard of him--he tells a bit about his own spiritual awakening after graduating from Yale.

Here is the great C-Span TV talk.
 
Here is a recent public radio interview he did on their interfaith show.

Here are the important critical editions of Bonhoeffer's works, published by Augsburg-Fortress. Let us know if you want any.

Here is a wonderful, brief essay and review, on Bonhoeffer's popularity and on Eric's book, written in Books & Culture.

Here is a richly thoughtful interview just published (2/23) in Harpers!    

By the way, there is another recent work on Bonhoeffer that we stock that deserves a shout out; it, too, has been considerably acclaimed as a dense and important study, written by a scholar whose father was a Confessing Church leader and familiar with Bonhoeffer and his friend Eberhard Bethge.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer 1906-1945: Martyr, Thinker, Man of Resistance by Ferdinand Schlingensiepen (T & T Clark; $29.95.)


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December 24, 2010

Make Your Own Gift Certificate: Last Minute Gift Idea

Here is a re-run of a post I did last year on the "night before Christmas."  Wait until the "all through the house, not a creature is stirring not even a mouse" and then sneak off and do this thing.  Somebody you love certainly would like their pick of the BookNotes post, or anything else in print.  Here is what I wrote a year ago.   You can skip the download the interview with e part, which perhaps was a bit much.    Let us know what you think.

A Very Last Minute Gift Idea: Make Your Own Hearts & Minds Gift Card

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You are not alone, brothers and sisters, you who are trolling the shops and sighing deeply, with no sugarplums dancing anywhere near your befuddled head. We feel your pain.

And, yes---somebody say Hallelujah!---we've got good news: a great, easy gift idea!  This is it, a great gift idea you can get, right here, right now, at home, easily. It would be good for almost anybody, young or old.  And it is way cool. 

You can make your own Hearts & Minds gift certificate.

All you have to do is give us your credit card info, tell us how much you want to spend, and tell us who it is for.  We'll make a record of it here (and will promptly confirm it with you by sending a number, so they know it isn't you just pretending to give them a gift, what with your crayony scrawl on your kid's construction paper and all.)  (Okay, I take that back: maybe you are a gifted scrap-booker and can make a truly stunning and very textured little thing or an art major and you've already got the vision for some dashing water-color wash, with the dollar amount in pen and ink.  Have at it.) No matter how you make it, we'll send a little number, just to make it official, which you can put on the card real tiny on the back.

Give 'em a gift that they might love.  Or should, at least.  And here is what we'd suggest, to help spread the word about our passionate little business to serve you with (usually) no-nonsense, culturally-relevant, thoughtfully enjoyable, Christian books and music: 

You can even DOWNLOAD this interview with me talking about our bookstore and put it on a disc to listen to, in case they need to know a bit about us.

gift cert.jpgLet your friend or loved one hear how we see our calling to help folks make sense of their lives by doing this bookstore thing, why we promote reading widely, how we are eager to help customers connect the dots of their lives, providing books and music that are sometimes a bit hard to find or off the beaten path.  This fast-paced, hour-long interview was professionally broadcast and recorded on VoiceAmerica talk radio, with me being interviewed by a dear friend, life coach Jory Fischer, for her show "Heart & Soul with Jory Fischer."  Let them listen to the interview and understand our take on the joys of reading and discerning a sense of purpose and calling, and why perhaps Hearts & Minds might be an interesting place from which to order some books.  With the gift card you made yourself. 

Invite them to skip the faceless big box chains, and (as Donald Miller puts it it in the new A Million Miles in a Thousand Years) to "tell a better story." 

You can actually do what he recommends in A Million Miles... in that great story about his lawyer friend Bob Goff, who is described as starting (with his kids) a New Year's Day parade in their neighborhood.  Only thing is, nobody on the street was allowed to watch the parade.  Everybody had to be in it!
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Miller explains that Bob thought that it isn't good enough to tell a better story.  We then should invite people into that story.

We would like to think that you believe that shopping here has been part of a purposeful story you are telling with your life.  Supporting independent businesses, ordering books from somebody you trust, talking about the most important stuff happening within the religious community, learning to make a difference, being comforted and delighted, instructed and challenged, by the authors we suggest or recommend.  Why not invite somebody else into this story?  Yeah, why not bring them into the Hearts & Minds family of friends?

Download the audio interview with me, burn it on a CD, and wrap it up and give it with the gift certificate as a way of explaining why you support Hearts & Minds, how we might serve them, and why your made that scrawlly little (or very lovely, or large, for that matter) home-made gift card.  And why we are crazy enough to honor it.  Or, obviously, skip that part.  The gift card is what counts: a promise of books on their bedside of their own choosing.

Thanks for your support this year, thanks for caring about sharing good books.  Or hand-made gift cards, as the case may be.  Merry Christmas, one and all.

SEND US YOUR CREDIT CARD NUMBER & THE AMOUNT AND NAME OF RECIPIENT. HERE
We'll email you the confirmation number for you to put somewhere on the gift certificate.You do the rest.

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December 27, 2010

Revelation of the Magi: The Lost Tale of the Wise Men's Journey to Bethlehem

I have been wanting to write about this, but thought that sharing it nearer "three kings day" or Epiphany would make more sense.  You know we  believe in following the liturgical customs that keep the Christmastide alive, so writing about a seasonal book after the 25th is not me being "late" with this timely review.  I hope you haven't packed up your creche sets yet!

The wise guys.  Hmmm.  Mentioned only briefly in the gospel of Matthew.  What more can be said?  What sort of historical traditions are there in speaking about their journey to the Christ child?  What did the earliest church say about them?

BC_RevelationMagiCover_rt.jpgA book has just come out that is really, really fascinating, even if it doesn't shed much serious light on the actual Biblical text.  I suspect it is pure legend, but as pure legend goes, it may be important.  The Revelation of the Magi: The Lost Tale of the Wise Men's Journey to Bethlehem, as the cover boldly puts it, is the first English translation of a "forgotten ancient manuscript"   Brent Landau, a specialist in ancient biblical languages and literature, has given us a great gift in unearthing and translating it all, after doing extraordinary literary detective work in the Vatican Library archives--set on his own far journey by a mere mention in an academic journal and obscure footnote or two.

There's no murder or mayhem of The DaVinci Code sort here, but this does have the benefit of being a real manuscript.  It has been unread for literal centuries, never translated into English, but was---as the translator tells us in a thrilling introduction--- cited on several occasions in several places throughout the ancient Near East.  Although it was originally penned in Syriac (one of the reasons it has been ignored, since few Christian scholars who do this kind of research know Syriac---if only it was written in something more commonplace, like Copitc) it must have made its way into a few other cultures in the early centuries as it is cited and named. Landau studiously translated it with the help of J.F. Coakley, Professor of Syriac at Harvard.)  Here is a bit of the geneology:

After the existing manuscript was copied down at the Zuqnin monastery in southeastern Turkey by an anonymous monk at the end of the eighth century, it changed hands at some point and was kept in a monastery in the Egyptian desert. There it stayed until the eighteenth century, when G.S. Assemani, collecting manuscripts on behalf of the Vatican Library, brought it to Rome, where it resides today.
So we know it was copied in the 8th century, in Turkey.  It appears it was cited, by the way, by a monk writing a commentary on Matthew in the fifth century, so it seems to have been written at least that early.  The Syriac custom of referring to the Holy Spirit in feminine grammar was popular in the second through fourth centuries, and Revelation of the Magi does this, so it is almost certain it has an early dating, perhaps as early as the third century.

Could it be the actual narration of one of the historical wise men---all 31 of them?  Fun to consider but, uh, no.  Even the liberal scholars who distrust the historical accuracy of the gospel accounts--Karen L. King and Marvin Meyer and John Dominic Crossan all offer fabulous endorsements on the back cover--would not suggest this is authentic in that sense.   Crossan does say, though, "of the many earliest Christian documents recently discovered inside sealed earthen pots or in forgotten library shelves, Revelation of the Magi is by far the most fascinating."

It is a fantastical tale, about these mystic Magi (a poor translation of the word, we learn) from the far-away land of Shir ("at the shore of the Great Ocean.")  They are claimed to be descendants of Seth, Adam's son--yes, this is one sweeping, grand narrative--and end up back home being baptized by the Apostle Thomas.  They had followed a star, which leads them to a luminous star child. They argue with Mary.  They understand great thing about God's mercy.  Whew.  Take a deep breath, this is epic, nearly Tolkien-esque.  Meyer says it is "theologically sophisticated" while Crossan says it has "radical depth." 

Well, I'm not so sure; no, rather, I am sure: it isn't theologically orthodox, or Biblically-faithful, so it doesn't have the depth of true truth.  We do not recommend extrapolating new doctrinal insight from these sorts of things.  It is apocryphal, to say the least. 

Still, we sure can say that it is a fascinating document, it came from somewhere, and those that wrote it were doing something, saying something about what they wanted said about their interpretation of the Nativity.  Is what they said important?  Is it a window into some sort of window...?

Please, if this sort of thing frightens you, I'd say don't read it, or, better, read it and learn a bit about fictional stories told in the first centuries of Christmas stories.  If Christian origins intrigue you, this might be a fun book to have.  The forward itself is a good reminder of the fact of ancient monks who traded tales and wrote amazing stuff, kept in Egyptian faith communities, or in places like Syria. 

For what it is worth, here is a fascinating review of it by a scholar and reviewer who can do a much better job than I.  I do disagree with his assertion that the forward wasn't helpful: I enjoyed it immensely and learned again, in a few quick pages, how close linguistic readings of rare texts can be understood and how this theological/literary detective work happens.  I do love the way he gets at this---suggesting it can function as Midrash.
magi.jpg                                                                                         Mosic, 6th century, Ravenna, Italy

Here is a free download of the great electric guitar version of We Three Kings by one of the best guitar players in the world, Phil Keaggy.  Enjoy! 

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December 31, 2010

New books arrive even this week...great reads not to be missed.

I don't know why some publishers launch new books a few days before or after the 25th; wouldn't it make more sense to ship 'em earlier, or later?  Yet there are always a few fresh new stacks of brand new titles here at the end of the year and it is sort of exciting amidst all the exhaustion of the bustle and fa-la-la-ing. Some even have 2011 copyright dates.

Here are a few that arrived, in all but one case, just within the last few days.  Don't want them to slip through some time warp here at the end of the year, since they look really good.

HTBP Cover.jpgHow to Be Perfect: One Church's Audacious Experiment in Living the Old Testament book of Leviticus  Daniel Harrell (Faithwords)$19.99  A.J. Jacobs, author of the must-read, wonderfully written and flat-out hilarious The Year of Living Biblically, writes "Thou shalt read this book.  How to Be Perfect is a very interesting examination of commandments both famous and obscure.  I'm honored my project helped inspire it."  Tony Jones says "I think what I like most about (it) is the outrageousness of the idea."  Harrell is an amazing guy who has lectured at mainline and evangelical seminaries and for two decades was the pastor at the historic Park Street Church in Boston.  He's now somewhere off the deep end in Minnesota.  Or maybe not so crazy.  Harrell knows that Leviticus is the deep soil of Jewish Torah and the source of Jesus' "love thy neighbor" stuff.  One can hardly understand Jesus, or much of the Christian faith, without an understanding of Leviticus.  As the President of Biola University puts it on the back cover "I came to grasp my own faith as a child of God on a deeper level...(and it) taught me important lessons about holiness, worship, service, forgiveness, sacrifice, celebration, joy..."  He continues, "all who want a contemporary peek at a sacred text, read it."  I'd say, anybody who wants not just a peek, but a full-on, seriously fun stare into the heart of Christian discipleship will want to read this. 

Two things, at least, make this different than the fabulous A.J. Jacobs book: the experiment it describe wasn't done for a year and it wasn't solo.  Harrell realizes that Torah was given to a community, so he somehow hoodwinked a gang of friends to do this stuff with him.  As a working pastor, he worried his flock wouldn't really sit still--or show up, once word got out--for a sermon series on Leviticus, so he devised this "reality show" storytelling series, sharing lessons learned along the way.  It became a website and blog, facilitating a communal conversation about mildew and kosher foods and holiness and questions of hermeneutics, the relationship of the Older Testament to the Newer, the call to obedience, and, finally, grace, grace, grace.  I started this last night and found myself talking to customers about it this morning.  Highly recommended. 

Image.asp.jpgRight Here Right Now: Everyday Mission for Everyday People  Alan Hirsch & Lance Ford (Baker) $14.99  Unless you've had your head in the sand or never follow religious trends or literature, you've surely heard that the latest churchy buzz word is "missional." Here is a great, short video by Michael Frost on the "organizing principle" of mission that should shape congregations; not as an add-on but a call to a new paradigm.  It is a good definition. Here is a nice 5-minute video by Tim Keller.  Don't miss this evocative photo-story by our missional friend Christine Sine which captures the vision beautifully.)  From church planting evangelicals to cultural-engagement hipsters to mainline denominational execs helping with church redevelopment, everyone is drawing on the deep insights of Lesslie Newbigin and other older missiologists to insist that congregations ought not see themselves as part of the cultural status quo, being about self-preservation, or existing for some purpose other than to be agents of God's reign in the world. God's mission in the world is where it's at.  Churches are to be crucibles for character formation of the sort that equip folks to erect signposts of God's redeeming work in the world, to become Kingdom witnesses that are both culturally relevant and yet counter-cultural, advancing God's movement.  Using time-honored missionary principles, local churches must re-think their relationship to the ethos of the surrounding Western culture (where faith is in decline and the forces of modernity and secularization press upon us) and learn to serve others in Christ-like passion oriented all they do by this overarching Kingdom mission.  Worshiping congregations are to be about God's Kingdom and as communities of the King, they seek to witness meaningfully and serve well.  After the "missional" term was coined by some Princeton guys, and the Gospel in Our Culture Network was formed, a seminal work, The Shaping of Things to Come, was written by Alan Hirsch and Michael Frost.  In more recent years Hirsch has written The Forgotten Ways, and a companion handbook for congregational study, and (with Frost, again) a fabulous book which I heartily recommend called Re:Jesus: A Wild Messiah for a Missional Church. Hirsch has earned the right to be one of those missional leaders whose books we simply must know about.

This brand new release, Right Here, Right Now is remarkable, with "briefing" and "debriefing" sections, a webpage with video clips for each section and an array of culturally savvy ideas for living missionally and some fabulous sidebars and discussion stuff.  Not unlike Len Sweet's fascinating volumes, just the footnotes alone are worth the price. Very much like the powerful book the Aussie Hirsch wrote with his wife Debbie earlier this year, Untamed: Reactivating a Missional Form of Discipleship, this takes the missional church conversation and shifts it to the "right here right now" daily implications for ordinary disciples.  Everyday people, as the subtitle puts it.  As Francis Schaeffer once wrote, there are "no little people."  We're all recruits for the reign of God.  Whether your own congregation is abuzz with the missional paradigm or not, this will help you discern important wants you can life more fully embraced by the missio Dei yourself.  What a way to start the year!

bakker-jay.jpgFall to Grace: A Revolution of God, Self, and Society Jay Bakker (FaithWords) $19.99  I met the previously nerdy son of the discredited tele-evangelists Jim & Tammy Faye Bakker years ago; he already had full sleeves of tattoos and his warehouse Revolution church which provided a safe place for disaffected, underground kids was in full swing.  He was passionate, had a huge heart for the hurting, and was smart, very smart, and just a bit sassy.  His previous book, Son of a Preacher Man, was hard to put down as he told of his family's situation, his journey into radical faith, ministry among the marginalized and his call into this work among a pierced subculture many fear or despise.  This new book continues his journey, with an emphasis on his discovery of the gospel of grace, and how to be gracious, sharing grace with all, especially those who are often unaccepted in typical churches.  And, hey, how many books cite knowingly Martin Luther and South Park, the 700 Club and pro-gay leader Mel White?  Put on your seatbelt; this is going to be a wild ride through a bittersweet fun house, a fall into grace.

The Purpose of Passion: Dante's Epic Vision of Romantic Love  Kurt Bruner & Jim Warepurpose-of-passion-dantes-epic-vision-of-romantic-love.jpg (Saltriver) $12.99  These two guys have written together before, with nicely done evangelical books like Finding God in the Lord of the Rings.  I'm not sure "Finding God in Dante's Hell" is quite what they were going for here, and, of course, this new one is on more than just Inferno and Purgatorio, but explores the all of The Divine Comedy.  With an application for your love life.  (Think of the Maria song from West Side Story: "Beatrice!  I've just met a girl named Beatrice!")

Before you think this is too cheesy, let me assure you it is not.  It isn't an academic study, they translate the Latin for those of us who don't get it, and walk us through some complex poetry in some very understandable and reliable ways.  They pull out some great insights, cite important scholars---Charles Williams, Sheldon Vanauken, and C.S. Lewis on The Discarded Image and The Four Loves, for instance, and Christopher West, the Catholic "theology of the body" scholar--and do a very nice job.  Get it now to be ready for Valentine's Day! 

1onelife.jpgOne.Life: Jesus Calls, We Follow Scot McKnight (Zondervan) $14.99  Scot with one t McKnight is one of the most important popular Christian writers of recent years, relentlessly doing a high-quality blog (Jesus Creed), reporting and reviewing on the best books in Biblical studies and theology, doing exceptional scholarly work on New Testament literature, all the while releasing several popular level books on Jesus, spiritual formation, praying the litany of the hours, fasting, how to understand the Bible (The Blue Parakeet, btw, just came out in paperback.) Here in One.Life McKnight has given us an extraordinary book about "whole life discipleship" and how Jesus' announcement of the advent of the Kingdom of God's influences our understanding of discipleship.  With rave endorsements from Bill Hybels, April Diaz, John Ortberg, and Margaret Feinberg, you can see that One.Life will be an easily read but thoughtful, helpful, practical, and deeply faithful guide to living with abandon in the "one.life" we have to live.  Will yours be a cross.life? How will it effect your church.life?  Your justice.life? Your vocation.life?  I mentioned this a few weeks ago when I was doing that uber-post about all kinds of book recommendations for all kinds of people.  I didn't want it to be missed so announce it again, here; it is very well done, a bit clever, somewhat challenging and very helpful.  McKnight is important and this could be his best yet!

Unshaken: Rising from the Ruins of Haiti's Hotel Montana  Dan Woolley (Zondervan)
512Iiu2OrxL._SL500_AA300_.jpg $22.99  It was nearly surreal getting this in just the other day, in the "hap, hap, happiest time, of the yeeeaaaar."  Woolley is an important Compassion International staffer and was, in fact, in Port-au-Prince the day of the horrible Earthquake a year ago.  He was, in fact, buried under a deep and dark pile of rubble from the six story hotel and amazingly survived after being in what Wess Stafford called his "dark and dusty tomb."  Hundreds of thousands of people did not survive that 7.0 Haitian earthquake so we dare not be glib about God's blessing to Mr. Woolley in his trauma, but this a truly extraordinary and inspiring story.  The author details his three days trapped and describes his survival methods---using an iPhone app to treat his life-threatening injuries, conversations with strangers buried nearby, letters to his family, and the decisions he made that were decisive for his survival.  It is powerful to see his blood-stained diary, prayers and letters to his family, written in the literal and metaphorical darkness of those 65 hours. Unshaken looks really powerful, set, of course, in the context of the poverty and joys of this island country and of the good work of Compassion International.  A portion of all book sales will be given to Compassion's work in Haiti.

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