About February 2013

This page contains all entries posted to Hearts & Minds Books in February 2013. They are listed from oldest to newest.

January 2013 is the previous archive.

March 2013 is the next archive.

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

February 2013 Archives

February 4, 2013


I hope you saw PART ONE of our BEST BOOKS of 2012 Awards.  From truly wonderful,award-winning-austin-texas.png well-written memoirs like The Exact Place, by Margie Haack,  our pick for the book we most happily enjoyed reading (Does This Church Make Me Look Fat? by Rhoda Janzen) to titles that we think are extraordinarily important and helpful, like Tim Keller's recent book on work called Every Good Endeavor, we named a dozen or so best books, in a batch of different categories. Interested in books honorably mentioned in Biblical  studies or the arts, best re-issued titles or spiritual formation? We announced our picks in a bunch of categories.

But, as we said, there are more.  A lot more.  It has been a good year. So, in random order, some of the titles we want to celebrate, honor, award, and laud.  Bring 'em up to the stage, we've got some medals to give out, here in PART TWO of our annual list.  And then, stay tuned, as PART THREE will come soon.

Metaphorically speaking.  We've got no stage, no medals, and, frankly, our huzzah's ain't worth that much in the big world of mega-publishing and viral videos.  But, we want to shout a little, hoping somebody notices.  And buys the books, supporting our work, these authors and publishers.  That is the point of this venture, you know.  Booksellers large or small need good writers, helpful publishers, and tons of readers.  They write 'em, we sell 'em, you read 'em.  When it works, it is great.  Cue: Louise Armstrong singing "What a Wonderful World."  Kudos to those who write, those who publish, those who buy, and all who read.  You are the best.

Tthe-road-trip-that-changed-the-world-the-unlikely-theory-that-will-change-how-you-view-culture-the-church-and-most-importantly-yourself.jpghe Road Trip That Changed the World Mark Sayers (Moody Press) $14.99  Sayers has two other award winning books, and a stunningly hip and very important DVD curriculum, based on his first (The Trouble With Paris, about hyper-modern, consumerism.) The second book, The Vertical Self, was truly excellent, but sadly didn't sell well. We loved that study about our view of ourselves, how our worldview and cultural leanings shape our very sense of self. So he's a good, good author.

This new one is a study of Jack Kerouac's life and ethos found in the classic 1957 beat novel On the Road. He explores why this counter-cultural bohemian vision has captured the imaginations of millions.  With great insight, verve, appreciation, and profundity, he nails the way this vision of life valorizes being an outsider, being "on the road" as symbolic of refusing to buy in to traditional values.  Of course, for Biblical people, there is something to this, this sense of being a pilgrim, being non-conformed, offering prophetic denunciation to the idols of the land.  But it is not fully adequate and has left to much confusion and sorry.  This book is no knee jerk bit of reactionary polemics against beats, hippies or greens.  But it does place the right-brained, left-winged, counter-cultural vibe in a broader post-Enlightenment context.  Why are so many knowingly uncommitted (to much of anything?) Why do we say that the destination doesn't matter, but the journey is all that matters? Why do we romanticize wanderlust? Why don't many young adults seem to want to grow up, let alone settle down?  As Sayers explains, we want to be part of something meaningful, but do not want to be bound by it. He shows (with as much accuracy and enthusiasm as he did in The Trouble with Paris, and Vertical Self, he explores the driving spirit behind the iconic movement.  With the new movie about Saint Jack K now out, by the way, this accessible, interesting, helpful book couldn't be more timely.

Get the long subtitle: "The unlikely theory that will change how you view culture, the church, and most importantly, yourself."  Maybe this tag is a bit much, but what's a conservative Christian publisher to do when it is trying to market an unusual book, trying to get readers to enter a conversation about a broad cultural trend to which they may not relate well?  But this is no cheesy self help book, and I'm not sure it will change the way you view everything, regardless of the claim on the cover.  But it will surely make you more culturally astute, and it just may help you see our era and its zeitgeist in a new way. I think Debra and Alan Hirsch are right when they say "Mark Sayers has pretty much unlocked the cultural code of millions of young adults. His insights into mass culture, the corporate psyche, and spirituality sometimes border on the uncanny." This is certainly deserving of an award. It's one of the year's best.  Thanks to Moody Press for doing this one-of-a-kind kind book, with this kind of an author.

A1 - a grace revealed.gif Grace Revealed: How God Redeems the Story of Your Life  Jerry Sittser (Zondervan) $19.99  I have raved about this elsewhere, noting that in some ways it is a 20-year on follow-up to his riveting book about grief, A Grace Disguised.  Sittser is a beautiful writer, a sensible, mature theologian, and an excellent guide to seeing our lives as unfolding as part of God's own redemptive work in the world.  This is a multifaceted diamond, sparkling with reflections on hope, loss, grace, courage, faith, trust, meaning, joy.  It is honest. It is about being caught up in the goodness of Jesus the Christ.  There are a lot of books like this, but this is exceptional -- partially because of the remarkable story, with the tragic loss of his family as described in that previous book.  No, it is good because it is so wise, so engaging, so nicely written, so helpful to help us all see what is so very true.   

Eeveryday missions.gifveryday Missions: How Ordinary People Can Change the World  Leroy Barber (IVP) $15.00  I love Leroy Barber, author of New Neighbor and vibrant President of Mission Year.  He can write wonderfully, he is a great storyteller, and how he opens up Bible stories is just fabulous.  In this call to whole-life discipleship, Barber explores "Kingdom Imagination" by looking at Moses, "God-Confidence" by telling about David, "Spirit-Led Mentors" are explored by studying Esther and Peter.  These character driven stories lead him to remarkable insights -- including level-headed stuff about "job versus calling" and inspiring stuff about taking risks, dreaming, standing out.  Many will be encouraged by his chapter "The Myth of the Extraordinary" and his ruminations about time and money are very, very helpful.  This book is just jam-packed with good insights, it makes you want to rise to bigger dreams, it deepens faith and motivates us to take good steps towards running with God.  This is what a basic book of Christian living can do.  Three big cheers.

Tgospel after.jpghe Gospel after Christendom: New Voices, New Cultures, New Expressions edited by Ryan Bolger (BakerAcademic) $29.99  A few years ago, Bolger gave us what was at the time, without a doubt, the definitive study of emerging churches (Emerging Churches: Creating Christian Community in Postmodern Cultures.) Here, he revisits this important project, offering a glimpse into other places, other voices. As Michael Frost writes, "Here's proof that the emerging missional conversation is transcending the traditional ecclesial and cultural boundaries that too often limit the church's ability to speak to itself." There are authors here from New Zealand and Latin America, from post-Christian Europe and Asian. This is a very broad survey, and each author is weighing in on topics that are worthy of our consideration.

There are great pieced grouped around four units.  The first part looks at various Peoples, the second, Cultures.  Wow. The third is very useful, exploring several practices, and how our missional identity is shaped.  Part 4 dramatically tells of edgy experiments (from hip hop churches to liturgical communities such as the one led by Nadia Bolz-Weber to the Jesus Dojo, explained by Mark Scandrette. How fascinating to learn of urban micro-Abbeys and Bykirken, a Norwegian city-church.) The fifth part tells of fresh expressions of various traditions, giving this an important connection to on-going denominational traditions.   Sally Morganthaler says that this big book is "a deluge of lived imagination." That it is.  Is this a report from at least a portion of the future of the Church? Absolutely. Bolger is to be commended for this broad anthology (despite a few notably missing conversation partners.) Like it or not, this is essential reading.

Ddisability-and-the-gospel-how-god-uses-our-brokenness-to-display-his-grace.jpgisability and the Gospel  Michael Beates (Crossway) $15.99  I suppose most places don't award the best book about disabilities, but we often do, as it is an important category in our store.  There are many moving books about parenting kids with special needs, about handicapping conditions, stories of those who have overcome painful and serious struggles.  We were tipped off to the importance of this book by the insistent foreword by Jon Eareckson Tada, and if she says something is that good, we listen. Also, when I was skeptical that this would be mostly a Bible study about God's presence during hardships, by a well respected Reformed scholar, I learned that he himself is the father of a very disabled daughter.  So he knows what he is talking about, from the awkward things people say to the exhausting struggle of caring for a very needy child.  Oh my, this guy has seen it all.  As a board member of Joni and Friends, he has a heart for educating and equipping churches to be more inclusive.  And as a thoughtful, conservative evangelical, he has the chops to engage some of the more liberal liberation theologies of disabilities.  Agree or not, it is just wonderful to see somebody engaging the work of more ecumenical, mainline scholars.  We are happy that a book like this exists, glad for its Biblical basis, and very glad for how it brings God's grace to those who are pained by handicaps and disabilities.  This is not the final book on the subject, but, without a doubt, it is the best we've seen in recent years.

MMisreading_Scripture_with_Western_Eyes_Removing_Cultural_Blinders_to_Better_Understand_the_Bible-74635.jpgisreading Scripture with Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Blinders to Better Understand the Bible  E. Randolph Richards & Brandon J. O'Brien (IVP) $16.00  Although this seems on the face of it to be a book we should award as one of the best books of Biblical studies (and it is!) we are awarding this as the best book of the year on intercultural, multi-ethnic concerns.  It is so helpful and clear the way these authors explain how different cultures tend to understand/experience things like time, things like family, or the tensions (is that a Western bias in how I say it?) between individualism and collectivism. Richards has a missionary in cultures that were not Western, and his stories are tremendously interesting, reminding us all of our own blinders and lenses that, like that which is below an iceberg and not seen, really influence us.  There are many of us who study worldviews, realizing that Christian discipleship, to be fully lived and radical, must grapple with below the surface assumptions, mores, attitudes and such, not carrying them unthinkingly into our faith walk.  Alas, our sociological biases from our ethnic cultures must be examined as well.  This book goes a long way in explaining that, and some of it made me giddy with new knowledge, fresh reminders, and great stories of how pretty basic practices -- like how we read the Bible -- can be distorted by assumptions we carry.  I promise you that as you read this book you will learn about the Bible, you will learn more about the people in God's world, and you will surely ponder your own biases and blinders.  Fascinating.  Is giving three cheers multi-culturally enough?   Blue ribbons?  Salute?  I don't know for sure, but here we go, honoring this as a Best Book of 2012.

Tcolor-of-christ-cover.jpghe Color of Christ: The Son of God and the Saga of Race in America  Edward J. Blum & Paul Harvey (University of North Carolina Press)  $32.50  I don't usually award seriously academic books from scholarly presses as it just seems a bit unreal, to expect ordinary readers to tackle over-priced and often arcane and heavy scholarship.  If a book is truly worthy, I usually think, it has to be accessible and not obscure.  Yet, this book is stellar in so many ways, important, illuminating, insightful, and powerful, that is certainly deserves one of our Best Of accolades.  
When someone was well read as Cornel West says it is "masterful" and a "breath of fresh air" and important scholar of race relations in American such as Michael Emerson of Rice say it "will transform what you thought you knew" it certainly deserves attention. In what has been called "sweeping in scope" and "extremely powerful" and "original" and "paradigm changing," Blum & Harvey have done a careful, fascinating study of the very ways Christ has been seen, vis a vie race and ethnicity.  It is both historical and very up to date; it is attentive to cultural and social concerns, and it is quite specifically about race and racism.  Can the very iconography of Christ be a tool of both racial oppression and liberation?  Of course -- we have seen this, and we know it.  But these astute historians have shown us how it works.   I like the back cover blurb by Randall Balmer, who writes, "In The Color of Christ, two of our finest historians track the changing portrayals of Jesus in American life against the vicissitudes of history, especially the troubled waters of race relations. In so doing, they have produced both a splendid book as well as a unique perspective on American religious history. This is not the first study of the images of Christ in American history, but it is indisputably the best."

Ddialogue of love.jpgialogue of Love: Confessions of an Evangelical Catholic Ecumenist  Eduardo J. Echeverria (Wipf & Stock) $31.00
I don't know if there is much of a market for books about ecumenism (not that there even are that many.)  But when a book comes along that is vividly ecumenical, fluent in various sorts of theological traditions, and invites serious, meaty, discourse around what we share in common and what we do not, written with grace and care, well, that is truly notable, and we stock it.  Here, the specific faith conversation is mostly between Dutch neo-Calvinism (Kuyper, Bavinck. Berkouwer, Dooyeweerd, even Francis Schaeffer and the like) and Roman Catholic scholars such as Romano Guardini, John Paul II, Pope Benedict.  It moves from studying Christian unity itself to dissecting each faith communities views of ecclesiology, sacraments, and the relationship of faith and reason, leading to very urgent questions, like how to understand the relationship between nature and grace.  Does anybody out there care?  If you like theology, if you are interested in civil dialogue, if you want to learn about two streams of the river of faith, this conversation is fabulous. Rare, curious, notable.  We surely want to honor it with an award indicating how outstanding it is. Frank Beckwith calls it "an amazing book." J. Daryl Charles says it is offers a "splendidly elucidating argument." Hans Boersma from Regent College raves (saying the author is "the most attractive sort" of ecumenist.   

FChris-Haw-193x300.jpgrom Willow Creek to Sacred Heart: Rekindling my Love for Catholicism Chris Haw (Ave Maria Press) $15.95  I loved this book and could hardly put it down.  It isn't remarkably written or stunningly clever, it is just one heckuva great story, a plain-spoken tale about a kid who ends up doing some unbelievable stuff.  Chris comes into a deeper personal relationship with Christ through seeker-sensitive, thoughtful and upbeat evangelicals during his high school years, causing him to leave behind his nominal Catholic upbringing.  He ends up at Willow, where he meets Shane Claiborne , who was serving in his year there. Alive to evangelical piety, he soon learns a more radical application of evangelical theology, in mission and service and prophetic protest.  He rocks out with Willow Creek contemporary worship, learns about their ministry with the poor and immigrants, and slowly embraces a wholistic faith that leads him to Eastern College (now University.) He meets Campolo, joined the legendary YACHT Club (Youth Against Complacency and Homelessness Today) started by Shane, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, and others, and hangs out with some Catholic Worker types he meets in the streets of Camden.  He learns about environmental theology while studying in Belize (dare I say that they most likely bought their books from us!) where he meets Brian Walsh and Stephen Bouma-Prediger and is introduced to the writing of Wendell Berry. He learns about the vast militarism reigning violence on so many and embraces a Biblical nonviolence -- think Thomas Merton or Saint Francis.  Yes, do think of Francis, wealthy Catholic fellow who grapples with God's grace and makes a huge life change.  Long story short, Haw ends up back in the Roman Catholic communion, and makes here a moving apology for his shift to a politically-aware contemplative lifestyle. He celebrates his return to Roman Catholic faith, lives as a new monastic, serving the poor and engaging the questions burning in his heart and among his friends.  (You may follow some of this as he co-wrote the feisty, colorful Jesus for President with the Shanester.) What a story, what a journey, what a good guy, a guy who continues to study and offer an accessible introduction to much important thinking -- from Rene Girard and James Alison to Gerhard Lohfink, and, interestingly G.K. Chesterton.  Kudos to Ave Maria Press for doing this book, and for Chris for sharing his journey so clearly. I hope Roman Catholic read it and are grateful for how God used evangelical Protestants to teach Chris about gospel grace and Biblical truth.  I hope Protestants read it to realize just how natural it seems for a guy on a journey like this to find a meaningful church home in the tradition of his youth (not to mention the tradition of folks like Dorothy Day and Oscar Romero and, yes, Francis and Clare of Assisi.)  A good read, notable, to be honorably mention as one of the best books of 2012.

SShame_Interrupted.jpghame Interrupted: How God Lifts the Pain of Worthlessness and Rejection Edward Welch (New Growth Press) $17.99  This is a fairly hefty book, seriously Biblical, and I wondered if it can be properly considered  "self help." It is grounded in mature, grace-filled, gospel-centered theology, and is as important for counselors and pastors as it is for ordinary folks who want help with the debilitating impact of shame. I so respect the writings of the always passionate Dan Allender, and he says, here "This is more than an important and redemptive book; it is a labor that could open the field of counseling, soul care, and pastoral work to a vital reformation." So, yes, it is nearly a professional book for caregivers. (And, he draws on remarkable scholarly work which examines shame in the ancient Near East and in the Bible.) But its primary audience is still those who are hurting.  There are many who are living lives that feel crushed by inadequacy, who feel they must hide, who sense themselves to be inferior, worthless, failures. They understand a bit of the gospel, but still have not allowed the power of God's goodness to shave away their feelings of shame.  There is honest hope, and this important resource can help, offering truth and liberty.

AAltared.jpgltared: The True Story of a She, a He, and How They Both Got Too Worked Up about We  Claire & Eli (Waterbrook) $14.99  Beth and I both discovered this about the same time, whipping through it with eagerness (and, for me, great surprise. I won't spoil it, though.) The book is part memoir, part rumination, and although they beg readers not to skip over the didactic parts on love and discipleship, the unfolding he-said, she-said plot-line is what is so wonderful and fresh.  Long story short, these two thoughtful, interesting, evangelical young adults are typical of many that we know and love.  They are good and interesting folks, seeking a meaningful career with caring friends, reading good books, hanging out at coffee shops, listening to cool music.  They wonder about God's call on their lives, they bring their relationships to God and to their friends for consideration and guidance, and they relish good conversations. They get hurt and angry, celebrate first kisses, and wonder about, well, the stuff young couples in love wonder about.

As the title suggests, they think the evangelical sub-culture places too much energy into some of these matters, and over-does the whole focusing on the family thing.  Can one get "too worked up" about a godly relationship? Can such piety actually complicate in unhealthy ways the natural rhythms of courtship, dating, romance?  This is a fun-to-read cautionary tale, almost like a postmodern romance novel, with some very illuminating Biblical reflections thrown in for good measure.  Altared won't eliminate the need for good books about healthy dating, sex, or the single life.  But it is an interesting story, and in some ways deconstructs they books, subverts some of the peculiar religiosity around it all, in a way that will, in the long run, help form better disciples and wiser, more faithful followers of Jesus. Call this an anti-self-help book.

TThe-Meaning-of-Marriage-Keller-Timothy-9780525952473.jpghe Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God Timothy Keller with Kathy Keller (Dutton) $25.95  I am a sucker for even sentimental, simple books about marriage and family.  Who doesn't want to improve their family life, and who can't learn something from these basic, self-help guidebooks? But every once in a rare while, one comes along that is richer than most, thoughtfully engaged in the culture, clear without being dumbed down, and exceptional in every way.  For those who like Keller, he and wife wife have given us a great gift.  I wish a few pages were different; the very best award winning books are not often the ones with which I fully agree. They make us think, they make us ponder, they help us learn, and they motivate us to grow and live differently.  This one does that, and more.  To God be the glory, and may many ordinary folks be assisted in thinking more faithfully about this vital side of life.  By the way, the sermons delivered at Keller's Redeemer Presbyterian upon which this book is based are among the most popular among Keller's largely sophisticated, often unmarried, urbane audience. So even if you are not married, this is worth having.

Wwalk with me.jpgalk with Me: Pilgrim's Progress for Married Couples  Annie Wald (River North) $15.99  The compact paperback, with French flaps on the covers, deckled pages, make it a bit handsome.  That the author worked for Cambridge University Press indicates that she is very, very smart.  That she came up with this brilliant idea -- reworking the classic allegory Pilgrims Progress for couples! -- is sheer genius.  I don't know who buys books like this, but it is, quite simply, the coolest idea we've seen in the family and marriage market in a long, long time.  This is realistic, to be sure, about the struggles of marriage.  It hints at the joys.  It reminds us that two lovers are not only on a journey towards each other, but for something, and some place, beyond themselves. John Ortberg -- himself quite a clever and gifted storyteller -- notes that this creative guide reminds us that a "marriage is more of a story than a to-do list." Yes, a story-shaped marriage book.  Perhaps you can see this coming, but Eugene Peterson has a marvelous, marvelous forward, describing, as he does, how reading novels can help clue us in to the story-shaped nature of reality.  In speaking of how we tend to realize this -- we don't read a recipe for stew and think of it as something else --he notes this: "Sometimes when we are faced with the task of Christian living, and in this case, the task of Christian marriage, we don't do that. We pick out rules or advice or "principles" -- de-story them from the story of God -- then apply what we read apart from the story of God... One of the tasks of this book, quite brilliantly executed, is to keep the story out in front."

Ddrawn in.jpgrawn In: A Creative Process for Artists, Activists, and Jesus Followers (Paraclete) $16.99  In part one of this Best Books list I named my favorite book of the year in the category of the arts. This deserves an award of similar hue, but it isn't precisely about the arts.  It certainly isn't about art history or doing faithful aesthetic theory.  It is about living fully as a follower of Jesus as a cultural creative, as one who can playfully and prayerful summon new nuance and insight for building good stuff.  It is hard to explain, but Bronsink does good Biblical study -- he did his seminary work under the likes of Walter Brueggemann -- reminding us that we are made in the very image of a Creator God, so design and fashion and music and creative cooking and all sorts of making things are in our God-given, God-blessed DNA.  And, God, being God and all, continues to do God's own work, sustaining and redeeming the world Christ rules, so, yes, we join our creative juices with God's dreams of a healed world, and we find joy and meaning.  In a sense we are all artists, even if not called professionally into the world of art, and Bronsink takes this call seriously -- not just as nifty rhetoric for what Doug Pagitt calls nicely in the forward the "Inventive Age", but truly, as a central to the imago dei and our task in these days.  He offers exercises and experiments to enhance our own creative processes and he offers ways to deconstruct the standard ways of thinking about art that leave so many of us out of the picture. It is enjoyable, provocative, and (to use a word that usually makes me cringe) empowering.   It is handsomely designed, and has tremendous footnotes.  Bronsink is himself a musician, a pastor, and a collaborative, urban activist.  Sally Morganthaler says "This is one of the finest books on art, creativity, and the nature of God to date. It is no less than a manifesto; a call to create at the grandest and most humble of scales. To make and remake with passionate and tangible love.  Stunning, from start to finish." And that is why we are offering it an award of merit, honoring it as one of the best books of 2012.  

Pprayers of a young p.jpgrayers of a Young Poet Rainer Maria Rilke (Paraclete) $22.99  I don't know if this is the best poetry of the year.  Perhaps not.  But this is a true publishing event, here in 2012, and I am surprised it hasn't been on the front page of The New York Review of Books and other prestigious journals concerned about literature.  Who doesn't know Letters to a Young Poet?  Rilke is very important in 20th century literature, and to not a few aspiring young wordsmiths, and to find these early poems being translated into English for the first time is momentous. These are extraordinary early-draft forms of some of Rilke's most famous works as well as some that have never been translated.  Poet and translator Jane Hirshfield writes that they "somehow evoke, for me, Leonardo da Vinci's notebooks -- it shows the same mix of surety, roughness, genius, and the sense of precipitous creative speed." Other poets have said this is "a hauntingly beautiful book" and calls the poems "startling."  Are these prayers? Theological meditations? Lines of artful metaphor where "each verbal foray into the divine courts a mystery that can be approached but neither comprehended nor defined"? Yes. And, we say, the winner in the poetry category this year.

Cchasing the divine.jpghasing the Divine in the Holy Land  Ruth Everhart (Eerdmans) $18.00 When my sales rep presented this, I realized it was a book that those behind the scenes at the publishing house esteemed greatly.  He was convinced it was tremendously written, evocative, eloquent, and fun.  He thought it was insightful, offering great journalistic reportage from the field of one of the most contested places on Earth.  And, he noted, it was profoundly spiritual, an elegant testimony of a Presbyterian preacher and her "turning point" of a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.  When several important people whose views I trust advise us of books before they are released, I am quick to pay attention, so I stole away with this the day it came.   And words can hardly express my appreciation. Carol Howard Merritt  says "I cannot imagine a better guide into the Holy Land than Ruth Everhart.  Every page conjures Everhart's fierce intellect and sacred passion. With each step she takes, her engrossing descriptions point us beyond Sunday school sentimentality and challenge us to grapple with the blood and violence that pulse through the dust."  ??It is fabulous when a book I love has garnered rave reviews.  That is, don't take it from me, listen to these eloquent voices, who offer two of the best blurbs I've read on books this year:

Like George Gershwin's American in Paris, Ruth Everhart's memoir of an American Protestant in the Holy Land trips through a whirlwind of sights, sounds, conversations, questions, and revelations. The pace and first-person perspective effectively convey the disorienting (and holy) mess that results from putting our sanitized faith into tangible context -- where dust and dispute, pomegranates and politics, armed soldiers and traveling pilgrims coexist. Everhart lays bare her struggles and assumptions so that we have room to examine our own, and offers us her journey so that we might witness the mobility of Holiness as it contrasts with our desire for a locatable Jesus. Ultimately, Chasing the Divine in the Holy Land teaches us again the value of seeking, losing, and rediscovering the Divine every day.
Can I give an award for best blurb?

And then there is this, from the great novelist Clyde Edgerton, who says,

I can think of only two reasons to buy this book:   1. You are not going to the Holy Land.  2. You are going to the Holy Land.  In these pages Ruth Everhart writes eloquently about her trip into the dust and beauty of Christianity's cradle -- about her wrestling with her beliefs, her faith, and her past. If all pilgrims were as curious, insightful, introspective, firm, and openhearted as Ruth Everhart, our old world would roll more happily and safely through the universe. In her story you'll find bloodshed, humor, and -- most importantly -- love.

Pp by d.jpgroclamation by Design: The Visual Arts in Worship Karmen Krahn & Leslie James (Faith & Life Resources) $32.99  We read a lot of books about worship, both the sort that appeal to free-wheeling, song-based contemporary worship, and those that are more traditionally liturgical.  We carry worship planning resources, lectionary prayer books, etc. etc. We like and recommend many.  Occasionally, though, we discover a book that stands apart, that isn't quite like anything else, and we get very excited to share about it.  This one is like that, and we are so very grateful.  Proclamation by Design is lovely rumination (from the Mennonite faith tradition) about the need for visual arts to be wisely used in worship settings, and it includes very helpful tips and guides for making tableaux, adorn the church with fabric art, paper cuttings, flower arrangements, banners, and other visual enhancements that speak to the gathered community and are alert to the Biblical texts under consideration.  The photographs they show of various designs and displays used in real congregations show how it is done, and the way services can be enhanced by giving attention to the aesthetic dimension of the sacred space.  Many pastors and worship leaders have been wanting a book like this (the stunning Nancy Chinn book, Spaces for Spirit, is one we are routinely asked for, even though it has long been out of print. The only other book like this is Art in Service of the Sacred by Catherine Kapikian which is also sadly out of print.) This is similar to these although a bit more "usable" for ordinary spaces than Chinn's and shows reasonable installations. It truly deserves a colorful award!
Your Minds Mission Greg Jao (IVP) $4.00  Well, well, well.  Okay, our bookstore isyour minds mission.jpg mentioned, I've got a nifty blurb on the back, and our "books by vocation" lists at our website are mentioned (even though it is woefully in need up updating!) But regardless of the appearance of self-interest, I wholeheartedly and with exceeding gladly honor this as what could be one of the most far-reaching, consequential books of the year!  It is easy to read, it is short, it is cheap.  It is designed for students who have a relationship with Christ and want to learn what it means to serve him faithfully in the modern world.  So, where to begin? Greg deftly weaves together themes of discipleship, of the Kingdom of God, of the need for a Christian worldview (drawing on classics like Transforming Vision) and is clear about serving God in one's calling and career.  So, to get to the huge, life-long topic of vocation, he starts with "thinking Christianly."  He shows briefly how to have a redeemed mind, to learn to read well and widely, to integrate faith and thoughtful scholarship, to learn to think about others, to be missional, in our learning.  This is all here in upbeat, motivational language.  

Greg is skilled at Bible study, and mentoring young adults, about helping students see the relationship between the Bible and collegiate learning.  We are thrilled that there is this short book, a fine resource, and believe it would be honored as a "Best of" even if there were other similar books on the market.  That there is nothing like this makes it all the more necessary, all the more worthy of celebration, and -- please, God! -- worthy to be so esteemed among us that we use it often.  Most students, even if they embrace the rhetoric of being a distinctively Christian student (not just a normal student who happens to believe in God) and want to "take every thought captive" for Christ in the classroom, have little idea how to do that.  This book could turn them from being an aspiring Christian student to one on a life-long journey of thinking and acting and living like one.  Truly, this book gets an A+.

philosophy a student's guide.jpgDavid K. Naugle (Crossway) $11.99  I mostly like and greatly appreciate this series of brief "student's guides" called "Reclaiming the Christian Intellectual Tradition." Young scholars should have them, and we should give them out quickly, to follow up the essential books like the aforementioned Your Mind's Mission and, of course, Opitz & Melleby's The Outrageous Idea of Academic Faithfulness, which, as you know, I'd give an award to every year if I could. This short book on philosophy, though, takes the "Reclaiming..." series to the proverbial next level.  It not only offers a helpful overview of the history of philosophy (a helpful tool for any of us) but it insists that we think about just such matters through the lens of a reforming faith.  That is, we don't study faith and philosophy, we don't need a little of Plato alongside a little of Paul,m we don't have to live in two realms of spirituality and scholarship.  No, there is a seamless, integrated, dare I say radical view that helps students "take every thought captive" for Christ.  We start with our foundations upon the living Christ, who comes to us in Word and in the broader community of theological tradition, and, rooted in that, we from there can take in and appreciate, and evaluate and critique all scholarship.  Christian philosophy is a tool to be learned, to help us learn other things, it is a behind-the-scenes discipline (not unlike, but not the same as theology) to equip us to be good and faithful learners.  

Davey Naugle, prof at Dallas Baptist University, is a great teacher, a fun communicator, and a dear man.  His love for God and Scripture and all manner of learning is palpable and he is the perfect author for this necessary little paperback.  Three big cheers for this most basic of books -- foundational, urgent, pleasant, and useful.  When deep thinkers and scholarly publishers talk about the integration of faith and learning -- or if you read that fiery lingo here, even, this is an example of what we mean.  Hooray!

Mmasking and unmasking.jpgasking and Unmasking Ourselves: Interpreting Biblical Texts on Clothing and Identity Dr. Norman Cohen (Jewish Lights Publishing) $24.99 We stock a lot of  Judaic books from JLP and their more interfaith publishing sister, SkyLight Paths.  This one was a sleeper, a surprise, an amazingly interesting bit of rabbinic reflection on, yep, cloths in the Bible.  I read another book on the theology of clothes this year, but this takes the award!  "Clothes assume a primary importance as a vehicle that suggests character, provides insights into a person's identity and even governs it...But the problem is that if Oscar Wilde is correct that 'if you give a man a mask, he will tell you the truth,' then what exactly conveys the truth. Is it the person himself or herself or is it the mask, the clothing that he or she wears, that reveals deeper images of self."  Did you know there are at least 10 Bible stories that involve clothing in an essential way? Blurbs on the back of this ingenious, fun book include endorsements by Rabbi Lawrence Kushner and Phyllis Trible of Union Theological.  Cohen has written other books of psychology, ruminations on the self (and one on family conflict narratives in Genesis and how they can help bringing healing to our own lives.) I'm not sure I agree with his basic psychological orientation.  But I've never read anything like this, have you?  It deserves an honorable mention!

Fflea market jesusl.jpglea Market Jesus  Arthur E. Farnsley (Cascade) $16.00  I trust that Hearts & Minds fans will realize I am not really insulting the clever Mr. Farnsley for his eccentric book on an odd topic.  It is, as they say, what it is.  Book lovers who read widely are always eager for a new thrill and aren't put off by weirdo stuff.  So, trust me on this, this is one helluva book.  The author -- who himself is a distinguished scholar, lay theologian and sociologist -- here takes us on a journey into flea markets and, well, it sort of gets unravelled from there.  It is very well written, although the writing style isn't weird, just quite nice.  He has had his work appear as cover stories of both Christianity Today and Christian Century, so he's no slouch; indeed, he's a fine journalist.  A great storyteller, even.  But this is basically a sociology/ethnography of those who run the stands at flea markets.  That is, he is studying "America's most solitary, and alienated, entrepreneurs."  It is, as he says, "an up-close look at the rugged individualism of those trying hardest to separate themselves from institutions."

Farnsley gets these folks.  He is, himself (besides a Research Professor of Religious Studies at Indiana/Purdue University) a twenty-two-time knife and tomahawk champion of the National Muzzle Loading Rifle Association (that's the NMLRA for those who know these things.) I kid you not.  So when he starts talking about this uniquely American celebration of guns and frontier life -- his research is mostly among white, rural, mid-westerners -- he knows his subjects; they are his friends and fans.  Part ethnography, part autobiography, this quirky book explores alienation, Biblical literalism, libertarianism (can anybody say Tea Party?) and helps us understand some of the anger bubbling below the surface of the culture wars.  

I'm telling you, this is crazy-cool stuff.  A prof from University of Massachusetts at Amherst writes, after the obligatory nod to the oddity of buckskin sideshows at Midwest flea markets, "The result is one of the most personally engaging and intellectually compelling accounts of individualism since Thoreau. Farnsley dips into his own marginality to play interlocutor to the conflicts between anti-individualistic institutionalism and anti-conformist individuality. After being introduced to a beguiling range of his lifelong flea market friends....the book slips up on you like a few cold beers on a hot summer afternoon."  I guess it is fair to say this is somewhat about religion and politics and culture, the sort of study made famous by, say, Bellah in Habits of the Heart.  But it is mostly about the eccentric characters who inhabit this precarious world of indie outdoor selling and their concerns, fears, longings, and beliefs.  You're not going to find this on many best seller lists, but we're happy to award it a Best of medal, right here. Betcha didn't see that coming. 

IIntergenerational-Christian-Formation-Allen-Holly-9780830839810.jpgntergenerational Christian Formation: Bringing the Whole Church Together in Ministry, Community and Worship  Holly Catterton Allen and Christine Lawton Ross (IVP Academic) $22.00  I suppose you know that many evangelically minded churches, those attracting large numbers of families with kids have very segmented programming options -- big church for adults, children's church, even teen church. One large church I know allows twenty something to have not only their own Christian educational classes but their own worship service.  Niche-marketed and age-segregated models have been significantly critiqued, mostly by mainline folks, insisting this is unhealthy and unhelpful.  How can we live into Psalm 145:4 (one generation telling of God's work to the next) if different generations never relate?  I believe this is the most thorough and best book for inter-generational views of ministry yet done, and it is certainly strong within an evangelical context. This book is for pastors and professional church educators or anyone who wants to think deeply about the nature of our churches.  There are great examples of multi-age small groups and intergenerational programs, reminding us that this can be done, and it can be done fruitfully.  If there is "generational narcissism" then this is the anecdote.  

Ddwell.jpgwelling: Helping Kids Find a Place in God's Story  Jessie Schut (Faith Alive) $5.99  From the lovely photo on the cover to the inexpensive price-tag, from the short chapters to the clear prose, this book just cries out to be bought in bulk and shared with everybody and anybody who teaches Sunday school or works with children at your church.  This is CE 101, which oodles of touching chapters covering nearly everything anyone would need to know to be a better church school educator.  From stages of faith development to multiple intelligences, from how to pray with children to the role of creativity and arts, from dealing with unruly kids to helping students learn the Bible, there is just great, solid, helpful, basic, good information.  I do not think I've seen a book like this in a while, and it could serve as a gift to encourage seasoned teachers, as a handbook for ongoing teacher training, or as book to put into the hands of first time volunteers.  It was developed to be used with the Christian Reformed Church's Dwell curriculum but it mentions that only rarely in passing, to it is truly good for any Protestant congregation.  Very nicely done.

Taking Theology to Youth Ministry  Andrew Root (Zondervan) $12.99  This was a hard call as there are so many great resources for youth min work, Bible studies, games books, programming tools, DVDs.  And, of course, there is a plethora of somewhat more academic or foundational books, guides to the big picture.  We stock a lot, and appreciate many.  This one, though, ends up being a favorite, for three big reasons.  It gets a celebrated Best of 2012 award because it is well written, as a bit of a novel. It is fun, and I trust appealing to those who need it most, to see this device of a story.  The book is about the quandary of Nadia, whose in a position at a church with different "factions" of parents who want somewhat different things from the youth program at her church.  (Even her colleagues on staff of the church, the pastor and the associate, seem to have quite different expectations.) What is youth ministry, and what is it for, after all? What's the point?? I think the answer to this million dollar question is too often presumed and not often enough asked directly, and I applaud the fictional Nadia (and her clever, prodigious creator, Andrew Root) for asking the big theological question.
tj 1.jpgtj 2.jpgtj 3.jpg tj 4.jpgHere is a second reason we award this as one of the best books of the year: if you buy this, you will then surely want to find out what happens next, in the sequel, Taking the Cross to Youth Ministry.  Then you'll pick up book three, Unpacking Scripture in Youth Ministry. Unlocking Mission and Eschatology in Youth Ministry is the final book in the series and you won't want to miss it.  All four of these slim hardbacks are themselves noteworthy, and I guess I really want to honor the whole unprecedented set of them.  They are, together, called "The Theological Journey Through Youth Ministry" (and I love the woodcut covers, too!)  Four short novels, interspersed with fine ruminations and helpful guidance, followed by a discussion/study guide. Root has given us a youth ministry crash course, on asking the biggest, most urgent questions.  He is surely right to ask them, and surely right to frame the answers in light of the big themes of God's work in the world, the promise of the gospel, and the telling of that story in the Biblical narrative.  Agree with everything Nadia does or the implications that Root draws from her story, these are books you will want to read and discuss and ponder and discuss some more.  Four big cheers, for all four.  The author, by the way, teaches at Luther Theological Seminary in St. Paul, and last year co-authored with Kenda Creasy Dean the wonderful, wonderful book, The Theological Turn in Youth Ministry. (IVP; $18.00.)  Way to go, Mr. Root. 

Cc our r.jpghrist Our Reconciler: Gospel-Church-World edited by Julia Cameron (IVP) $18.00  I have written about this before, sharing with great energy my appreciation for this grand collection of speeches and studies given at the famous Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization in South Africa a year ago. There are so many great authors here, offering insightful, motivational, and often very profound chapters.  What a great book, compiling pieces by Ruth Padilla DeBorst,  Dewi Hughes, Ajith Fernando, Os Guinness, Tim Keller, Becky Pippert, John Piper, Chris Wright and so many more, from Singapore, South Africa, Egypt, from several African countries.  These chapters cover so much -- studies about our views of truth in a pluralistic world, insight about personal integrity, good calls to global partnerships, insight about discerning faithful priorities, and, of course, this glorious theme about the peace of Christ as we are reconciled to God and become agents of reconciliation.  As I have written often, there is a good movement among the best evangelical missions movements to be involved in justice campaigns, working against slavery, tending to creation care, reaching out to form healing projects against ethnic hatreds.  This book is a good illustration of this, and if you need a quick way to get brought up to speed on the nature of wholistic missions, this one book is a great selection.  It surely deserves our highest honors and we are proud to name it as one of the Best of 2012!

Teconomy-of-desire-christianity-and-capitalism-in-a-postmodern-world.jpghe Economy of Desire: Christianity and Capitalism in a Postmodern World  Daniel M. Bell, Jr. (series editor: James K.A. Smith) (Baker Academic) $19.99  This year I read two different big books about the Wall Street crash of a decade ago and two about the debt crisis.  All were informative, interesting, even for some who who doesn't "do" numbers very well.  Hard economics is not my favorite topic, but in this day and age, we simply must know a bit about how the world works, about globalization, about finances and such.  This book, however, appearing near the end of the year, is extraordinary -- it analysis, as the title alludes, the notion of desire. He argues that every economic theory -- and certainly late modern capitalism -- presupposes a certain philosophy (he calls it a theology) that offers an evaluation of what is most treasured.  What we want. Of course, since this part of the heavy series "The Church and Postmodern Culture) I expected this to be scholarly.  It is rigorous, but also pretty captivating.  It is profound -- asking what we most desire, what we think is the good, what is dignified and just. With endorsements from folks like Graham Ward, D. Stephen Long, Douglas Meeks, Norman Wirzba, you get the picture of the sort of book this is -- a vision for a virtuous capitalism, with our desires disciplined and ordered properly.  As Creston Davis of Rollins College puts it, "The Economy of Desire is the manifesto for restoring dignity in the wake of injustice." All right!

crisis-and-the-kingdom.jpghe Crisis and the Kingdom: Economics, Scripture and the Global Financial Crisis
E.  Philip Davis (Wipf & Stock) $18.00 I am glad to honor this book in part because it is truly superb, but also just because it is so audacious to have a book like this; it is the sort of readable, important, Biblically-literate book we need.  The author is a Baptist pastor in London, and has several advanced degrees in finance and in economics.  He has written a very technical and prestigious scholarly text about markets (published by Oxford, only the most prestigious academic publisher in the world! Take that, you who harbor biases against Baptists!)  If anyone is positioned to help us think faithfully about the global economic crisis, what went wrong with bankers, the financial sector, households and governments, coming to a head in 2007-2008, and what will continue to go wrong without serious reformation, it is this fine gentleman.  He is thoughtful, writes out of first hand experience, and although he's got some prophetic passion, he is (as economist Donald Hay observes) "careful and judicious."  This is, subsequently, a book unlike any other.  We are very, very pleased to announce it as one of the most important books of the year.

Mmaking all things new moore.pngaking All Things New: God's Dream for Global Justice  R. York Moore (IVP) $15.00  I have promoted this book in several venues, written about it in several places. We now want to give it a hearty hooray in a category I just made up.  Is it a Bible commentary? Is it a book about global justice? Is it a book about evangelism?  Is it a book about mission?  Oh yes, and more!  York tells of unspeakable violence, reports about his work against modern day slavery and sexual trafficking, and he offers a beautiful book about goodness and hope.  Oh yes, he does this by way of ruminations on the mysterious hope of the Book of Revelation.  God's dream of the redemptive victory found in the slain Lamb is powerful stuff.  Revelation -- written, as we all know, under the persecution of the Romans and within the struggles of the Jewish and Gentile Christian communities -- the promise of Christ's return gave hope and direction in a time of crisis.  What a energetic, robust, vivid, passionate book about justice, about liberty, about God's promises, and about how to dream God's dream.  One of the best books I've read all year!  And, by the way, not sure why, but I love the cover!

TThis-Ordinary-Adventure-Cover1.jpghis Ordinary Adventure: Settling Down without Settling Christine and Adam Jeske (IVP) $15.00  Likewise is an edgy imprint of IVP and their books are almost all upbeat, contemporary, written by younger folks, missional, often dealing quite honestly with the most burning contemporary issues, like poverty, oppression, and the desires of younger adults to be faithful in fresh and demanding ways.  We love this imprint of books. I can't put it in simple words, but this book moved me deeply, and, in some ways, is quintessential, capturing why Likewise is so very, very important.  First, the book is fun.  Religious publishing doesn't need more boring or cliched authors, trafficking in the same old religiosity.  It speaks not only with a fresh voice, but it is ruminating on stuff that deeply matters to many of us, and certainly to many of the rising generation -- namely, how can we be faithful to God's call to care about our broken world, caring for it in its beauty and pain, without burning out or growing jaded?  There is something vitally urgent about this question -- how can we "settle down without settling."  Can we live a normal life and still be radically faithful? Can we travel on a whim, give away our money, live freely in Christ, without ending up bizarre or marginal?  

Also, this book is written in the popular, entertaining style of memoir -- they tell their story of living a dream, of being passionate, of being, as they put it "amazing" (and doing it pretty much all over the world.)  But, of course, most of us live "in the land of malls and manicured lawns."  We do ordinary stuff, we face "ruts and routines." Can we embrace a full vision of being amazing, without doing expensive, demanding things like traveling across the globe? What we have an ongoing course of studies? Children? Extended family? (Not to mention friends and church?)  Can we life a missional life, even in our hum drum days? Can we get "unstuck from the ordinary" but yet be open to staying put, settling down, caring about our real place?  Or, conversely, can we settle down, but still be willing to make wild faith choices when called upon?  As activist and "global soccer mom" Shayne Moore puts it, this book shows that "a missional life and an ordinary life are not either-or, but rather both/and."  This energetic paradox, of being faithful in ordinary small things and in being bold in extraordinary bigger things, is at the heart of this book, and most of the likewise books that invite incarnational discipleship.  This deserves a down home, ordinary county-fair variety blue ribbon.  Neato.

Ttorn.jpgorn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs-Christians Debate  Justin Lee (Jericho Books) $21.99  I simply couldn't put this book down, and that in itself makes me want to honor it -- it truly was a captivating read!   I think there are several reasons, besides its fine writing and interesting author.  This brave book deserves a larger review, but we want to honor it, and award the author this honorable mention because it is so very well done, interesting, thoughtful, fair, and very honest.  As you may have heard, Torn tells the story of a young evangelical who holds the typical evangelical assumption that homosexual practice is not consistent with Biblical instruction or consistent with God's given intentions for appropriate sexuality.  As a teen, active in a good church, and a fine family, Lee discovers that he is attracted to other guys. He is confused at first, thinking his desires for girls will come.  He dates a bit, forms a very loving relationship with a young lady, but he remains attracted to other males.  He prays and prays about this, and, upon realizing his same-sex attraction isn't apparently going away, he tells his youth worker, his pastor, his parents.  I was moved to tears several times in this part of the book -- it is all so well-told, rather plainly, candid, clear. His coming out is scary, tender and healthy and although he doesn't sensationalize the telling at all, it is very, very moving.  All but the harshest reader will have great sympathy for this dedicated Christian kid who just wants to live for God and be what he believes to be normal.  The plot thickens as he attempts special therapy to heal this disposition, and meets all sorts of characters, some who treat him well, with great care and goodness, and others who do not.  Some readers will be shocked, most will be hurt as we realize the deep pain visited upon folks like Jason.  

One part of this deserves mention, although you should read it for the full story.  Some of the reparative therapists helping gay Christians regained a more typical attraction to those of the opposite sex insist that all same-sex attractions come from bad parenting, from dysfunctional families, or some sort of long-forgotten abuse.  I think, by the way, that some statistics point to this being the case, perhaps often the case. But Justin Lee was resolute in insisting to his therapists that this was not the case with his strong, normal family.  He had a good relationship with both parents, and all the markers of a healthy, religious family were there.  He was bullied to confess certain things, which he did not confess, pressured to recall things that simply had never happened, with his rude counselors insisting things about his father that Lee knew to be unfounded.  This example of a therapist insisting they understand the cause of a problem was stunning, and it happened to him repeatedly.  It was a turning point for him, as he realized that his therapists were wrong, way wrong.  Anyway, it was, again, a moving part of the book, and a powerful chapter of his own story. One would hope that his parents would be proud.)??I was very struck by another part of the story where the young Mr. Lee attempts to build better relationship between the evangelical campus ministry organizations in which he is involved and the GLBTQ community on campus (and the painfulness of that, with most from neither side wanting to give up their stereotypes and hostilities) and his eventual sense of wanting a ministry within these communities.  He naturally studies this topic, trying to clarify his views, listening to various sides; it is to his credit that he was trying to navigate the opposing views, discerning the cheesy from the best scholarship, wanting to be faithful and true and sensible in his journey into being an out, publicly gay Christian.

There are many folks whose books I have read and some whom I have come to know who are involved in various sides of this complex discussion about how the church should or shouldn't approve of same-sex sexual relationships. Two people I respect very much are Andrew Hill (a celibate gay evangelical who wrote a memoir of his own convictions about being out, but not sexually active, Washed and Waiting) and Andrew Marin (a straight evangelical with a large heart for enhancing a civil discourse and ministry among the gay community, whose book about that is called Love Is An Orientation.) They have both written positive endorsements of Torn and we agree with them that this is a must-read for Christian people, regardless of their viewpoint on the ethics of this issue.  Seeing how people are treated, learning how some cope with their inner desires and orientations, and learning how some of the so-called helpful groups actually work is enlightening.  This issue is simply not going to go away, and reading widely about it is important.  Hearing the stories of gay and lesbian brothers and sisters is a first step.  This is best book I've read of this sort, in part because of the earnest and gracious writing and because the author is so clearly rooted in strong evangelical faith. It certainly stands as one of the best books I've read this year.

The Little Bookstore of Big Stone: A Memoir of Friendship, Community, and theLittle bookstore of.jpg Uncommon Pleasure of a Good Book  Wendy Welch (St. Martin's Press) $24.99  Talk about a heart-warming book, a book that will restore your faith in ordinary folks doing good work!  Oh, how Beth and I loved this book, and how we related to it!  It is the very well-told memoir of a middle aged couple -- he a Scottish folk-singer, she an Appalachian storyteller with a degree in cultural anthropology -- who open a used bookstore in an economically-depressed coal town.  Would the locals accept them? Would they form friends among fellow-readers? Would they learn the fine art of retail?  And would they survive the in-house culture of a small, rural town that may not be particularly trusting of outsiders? There is a bit of drama in this memoir of opening a bookstore (and every bit of it rings true!) What a read.

We cannot tell you how much we loved this book, one of the most enjoyable, charming, delightfully pleasant books I've ever read.  Of course, if you aren't a book lover, if you don't haunt indie bookstores, if you don't care about bricks and mortar shops, or if you don't like hearing stories of how this book or that author means so much to this or that person, well, this might not appeal to you that much.  If you care about the finding and treasuring and sharing of books, if you are up for a memoir of a couple forging their marriage along with their customer base, and sharing the perils and glories of taking up a vocation in book-selling, this is sure to please. The numerous lovely quotes all endorsing this big-hearted book will themselves give you great courage in era when so many are talking about the demise of the book. Take up this story of small town life, of the used book world, of faithful and good work in a sweet and funky little bookshop.  You will not forget these folks, and you will be glad.  

By the way, yes, it is true, Beth and I resonated with this because it is, in some ways, nearly our story.  In some important ways, though, it is not -- we don't drink as much and we never had a square dance in the shop!  Ha.  But, since there are no plans for a Dallastown-based H&M memoir, this is as close as it gets.  Enjoy!  Please.  It'll do you good.  And who knows, maybe you'll be inspired to follow your dreams, whatever they are. 

Letters to Heaven: Reaching Beyond the Great Divide (Worthy) $14.99  The paperbackHeaven1.jpg came out in 2012, and I read it this year, so I guess it counts, eh?  I cried in my bedroom, I choked back tears at a pizza joint, I wiped my cheeks at the coffee shop.  Everywhere I took this, I found it so deeply moving, so well written, so kind and thoughtful and solid and touching that I just knew I wanted to mention in the year's wrap up. There are some fascinating (and some weird) books about people who have allegedly gone to heaven or had after life experiences and this is not one of them.  Maybe it is tapping into this cultural zeitgeist or our deep longing to somehow gain great in this age of uncertainty. But it isn't like the popular "I've visited heaven" books, not at all. 

This last book of the late Calvin Miller is a sane and solid book, movingly written, almost like a set of short stories.  You may know from his many other books that Calvin Miller was a gifted writer, a deep thinker, an eloquent preacher, and a bit of a poet. This book is a collection of letters penned to various deceased people who are, we suppose, in heaven, starting with his mother.  Yes, it is touching (but neither is it maudlin or mushy.) The next letter blew me away, as he writes to a man with whom he shared the gospel on his death-bed, to apparently little effect, who, well, may or may not be at the sending address.  Miller tells great stories to the people he is writing to, reminding them (or is he reminding himself?) of things that were important during their time on Earth.  These letters really unfold like little stories, and they are so well done.

Here is what the book is finally all about, I think: heaven is surely a place where God's great love has healed us, making us happy and whole.  That is, it is a place of being done with unfinished business.  Well, in the hands of a novelist and storyteller like Miller, finishing up unfinished business is the stuff of legend, the material for great stories, of great art. Yes?

The thing is, as I've suggested, this moving book is not a collection of fictional short stories.  They are letters to people he mostly knows -- ahh, the letter about finally being in Narnia, written to the Lewis scholar and friend, George Sayer, who Miller met once, is so amazingly rich.  The letter to Madeline L'Engle is mostly about her being reunited with her beloved husband, Hugh (and Miller hoping that he and his wife Barbara will have a special reunion when they meet again after death.) You've got to read the one he wrote to Lewis, citing A Grief Observed.  A few of these letters are about the truths spoken by the dead, and they are written movingly, but not to people he knew, like the Lewis one, obviously.  For instance, he writes to Oscar Wilde and one great one to Johnny Cash that you just have to read.  These are thoughtful, interesting, touching, and a genius device for telling good stories about all kinds of stuff.  Mostly it is about God's overwhelming grace, the promise of restoration, and hope that we all can have as we think about what is happening with those who have gone before.  Or, like in the letter he writes to Paul Brand, the surgeon, how we can keep their work alive on their behalf.  Yes, this is a book about heaven that is magnificent, and a device for writing that I've never encountered before.  For that, we gladly and sincerely celebrate it as one of the best books I've read all year.  We offer our condolences to Barbara and all who mourn the loss of this good, beloved writer, who has surely now found his song, now that he has met The Singer.

Don't forget, there will be more coming soon, as we continue our BEST BOOKS OF 2012 list, soon. Some amazing books, some surprising categories, some well deserving authors.



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February 9, 2013


best-of-2012.jpgcongrats.jpgPART ONE  PART TWO

When I heard that the Grammy Awards show sent out advisories about what to wear on national TV, I chuckled, realizing nobody has to worry about that with the Hearts & Minds annual BEST BOOKS AWARDS.  You can read this third installment, or the honored books themselves, even, in your PJs.  In fact, some of them may have been written by authors in PJs, a fact most likely not mentioned in the Best of the Year lists in The New York Times or Atlantic Monthly.  So, get comfortable, we've got some more honorable mentioning to do.  

Nneighborswisemen-cover.jpegeighbors and Wise Men: Sacred Encounters in a Portland Pub and Other Unexpected Places  Tony Kriz (Nelson) $15.99  I'm sure someone somewhere is complaining that a religious publisher wrote a book about a bar.  Yeah, they call it a pub on the cover, but let me warn you,  it ain't no Eagle and the Child.  Well, the bigger matter is whether religious publishers should publish stories of guys kicked out of missionary organizations for inadequate faith, who happened to find insight from Muslim friends on said mission field, who learns as much from the blue collar bar flies back home where he goes to study than from the seminary classes he's taking in a nicer part of town, and whether this low-key, open-minded, less than confident faith journey is somehow helpful to read about.  It is a risk, I know.  And, we believe, it is exactly the sort of book that is, in fact, helpful. It is real and it is in many ways beautiful. It is  good and truthful.  So we love this book. 

You may know this author from his appearance at Reed College in the best-selling Donald Miller book,  Blue Like Jazz; yes, he is that Tony,  Tony the Beat Poet.  Some of that story, he and Donald being at Reed, is here told from Tony's view.  And what a story he tells, of his own drifting from evangelical over-confidence to a new found solidarity with outsiders, those perhaps hostile to organized religion, those who -- and this is the moral of the story -- have much to teach us, not only about life, but about God and Christian grace.  In this book, non-Christians encouraged the extraordinary Kriz to "fall toward Christ" and we are glad. It is a splendid memoir, enjoyable, at times heartbreaking, and a revealing, even wise story.  If we had real trophies, we'd give him one, for sure. Or at least offer him a beer in congratulations.

Ff and other ft.jpgaith and Other Flat Tires: Searching for God on the Rough Road of Doubt Andrea Palpant Diley (Zondervan) $14.99  Again, this is a memoir, honestly rendered, well-told, full of youthful angst and struggle, sharing a hard journey away from a well-intended, conservative evangelicalism towards a more global vision, engaged, open.  I so, so loved this as it quite wonderfully captured the feelings and faith journey of many young adults I know and admire. Diley was raised in a good Christian home, grew up listening to Christian rock music, safe, healthy, fine.  In college, she realized there was a larger world out there, so to speak, and developed friendship with bohemians, artists, poets, fascinating non-Christian young adults in town.  She grew disenchanted with her traditional church, even the drifting from her Christian college fellowship.  Of course, she's listening to emo rock, insisting she was still a Christian, but increasingly distant from the moral center of her family, church and Christian college.  There is an influential African mission trip that introduces her to profound suffering, nearly pushing her over the edge, feeling such sorrow with our broken world. This is amazing stuff, really, and she is brave to write about it, to own it. It makes for a great read; compelling, even. Throughout there is a wonderful mentor and friend in her life --- a long-time family friend who is also her college professor, the exquisite and mature writer, Gerry Sittser (who wrote his own memoir of tragedy, A Grace Disguised which figures into Diley's story a bit.) Sittser writes a lovely forward to this memoir.  I have written about this unsung book before, suggesting it is very helpful for anyone wanting a glimpse into the window of a maturing young adult, who comes to own her own honest faith, doubts and all, as she struggles with making sense of the world as she comes to understand it.  Wonderful.

Lliving into community.jpgiving Into Community: Cultivating Practices That Sustain Us  Christine D. Pohl (Eerdmans) $20.00  Decades ago when we were starting an intentional house-holding community in Pittsburgh --"living together in a world falling apart" we sometimes said -- we longed for books on what this meant.  We were not a house church, nor a commune, but we wanted a quality of life inspired by the unity and community of the early church, sharing meals and doing life together. As we searched for books to guide us we discovered Community and Growth by Jean Vanier, a true classic, and Life Together by Bonhoeffer, of course, but there wasn't much else.  Other books have come out since (including a truly stellar resource that arrived late this year, Christian Community Handbook by David Jansen, published by Paraclete Press; $19.99) but there still hasn't been, until now, just a really great book on community that isn't about communes. This one is the one we've been waiting for -- dare I say, waiting 35 years for!  It surely deserves an award or two this year!

You most likely know Ms Pohl, who teaches at Asbury Theological Seminary in Kentucky, for her amazingly important, seminal work on hospitality called Making Room (Eerdmans; $20.00.) That one literally put the topic of hospitality on the map in the wider world of religious publishing and congregational practice and remains one of the top few books on having an open heart and open home, creating an inviting, gracious faith community; it is a true must- read!  That she writes now about building practices into our congregations that nurture and sustain authentic, deeper relationships makes sense, and Living Into Community is in many ways a perfect sequel to Making Room. I hope you know that your church needs this book.

There are rave endorsements on the back -- from David Gushee who says it is "a truly beautiful book" and from Marva Dawn who says "every Christian should read this provocative book!"  There are, as she says "interlocking relationships and dangerous deformities of practices that could deepen our communities but often destroy them."  This is a great book to read for anyone who wants more out of church membership, anyone who has a small group that longs to be a bit deeper in being a caring group, and, certainly, anyone who fancies themselves interested in intentional house holds.  I am sure you know, as I do, that most churches and fellowship groups are polite, caring, but tainted with shallowness, even sometimes jealousy, gossip, manipulation, exclusion.  We are not good at making and keeping promises, not good at "speaking the truth in love" and sometimes not good at exhibiting the unity Christ calls us to.  This book is brilliant, detailed, honest, and very, very important.  Surely one of the very best books of the year; one of the very best books in a very long time.  It was, by the way, named the Book of the Year by our friends at The Englewood Review of Books. Congratulations!

Center Church: Doing Balanced Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City Timothy Kellecenter church.jpgr (Zondervan) $29.99 This big, serious book deserves a longer review, but it is surely the best book of its kind that I have ever seen!  Designed to be thoughtful and thorough, but readily useable for church planters in the Redeemer City to City network, this includes not only helpful, good material on the nature of the mission of the church -- well written, vigorous and engaging, but fairly standard stuff -- it also includes extraordinary content about engaging culture, about working as agents of social transformation, about the relationship of common grace and human flourishing within the third places and local institutions where the church is planted. It has a wonderfully gospel-centered foundation, trusting in God's saving grace and providence, but it also has a missional edge, insisting on the full proclamation of God's Kingdom reign.  Agree or not with every detail, this is a spectacular book, handsomely produced, one I wish would be in the hands of every pastor and their supportive leadership boards or councils. It includes good information that would supplement even the best seminary courses and, frankly, offer a solid introduction for those whose seminary neglected to offer this sort of very important teaching about doing ministry. Whether your church is newer or older, whether it is urban or not, this is going to be helpful.  Very highly recommended, very earnestly awarded.

Ddaily feast C.jpgaily Feast: Meditations from Feasting on the Word Year C  edited by Kathleen Long Bostrom & Elizabeth Caldwell (Westminster/John Knox) $25.00  You know how the Academy Awards honor a film that was created based on another medium, a previous book, say? This award is like that -- a true and significant honor, bestowed for a genius idea, really, a devotional based on the popular and previously published best-selling WJK Feasting on the Word preaching commentaries.  You know we carry all four of those big books for each liturgical cycle, and think highly of them.  This faux leather devotional draws some of the most succinct or inspiring paragraphs from the lectionary commentary in Feasting for the passages for any given week, adding in a few things to ponder or write about in a journal, and offering a nicely worded closing prayer.  So, some of this is new, but the main reading is drawn from those bigger, bulkier volumes.  This comes with a lovely ribbon marker, making it a great devotional that allows one's devotional life to be informed by mainline, ecumenical insights about the lectionary texts.  Good for anyone, this is an especially useful tool for pastors who should be marinating themselves in the Word upon which they will be preaching that week. What a great idea!

FFeasting-on-the-Word-Worship-Companion-Long-Kimberly-9780664238056.jpgeasting on the Word: Liturgies for Year C Volume 1 (Advent Through Pentecost) Worship Companion edited by Kimberly Bracken Long (Westminster/John Knox) $35.00  You saw our note above, about the Academy Awards  given to films which draw on a previous medium.  This really is like that, and we honor it as a lectionary-based worship resource based on the previously published preaching commentaries known as Feasting on the Word.  This draws from them and serves as companions to them.  There are Opening Words or Call to Worships, Call to Confessions and Prayers of Confessions and Declarations of Forgiveness. There are prayers of the day, prayers for illumination, prayers of intercessions, etcetera. There is for each Sunday a set of questions to ponder (wisely used by the liturgist before the service, but also would be good for congregational reflection.  There is a morning and evening "household prayer" which can be copied, so that congregants can use them throughout the week.  A good CD ROM comes with the book as well, ideal for copying these prayers into bulletins and such.  Like it's namesake (which was edited by Barbara Brown Taylor) this prayer book is ecumenical in perspective, and uses inclusive language, of course. There will be a second volume for the second half of Year C published later in 2013.

shalom and the c of c.jpgPprop evs.pngrophetic Evangelicals: Envisioning a Just and Peaceableres city.jpg Kingdom edited by Bruce Ellis Benson, Malinda Elizabeth Berry & Peter Goodwin Heltzel (Eerdmans) $25.00

Shalom and the Community of Creation: An Indigenous Vision Randy S. Woodley  (Eerdmans) $25.00

Resurrection City: A Theology of Improvisation Peter Goodwin Heltzel (Eerdmans) $25.00
My, my, these are among the most amazing books I've seen in a while, right up our line, thoughtful, profound, seriously done but often very moving, rich, rewarding, stimulating. These are grounded in the best and deepest strains of evangelicalism and yet are reaching out in ways that illustrate the reforming impulse and social vision of a profoundly Christ-centered care for God's hurting world.  Can the theological resources and spiritual energies of evangelicalism be harnessed towards cultural renewal?  Is there a sense in which that the first things of the gospel are counter-cultural, even prophetic?  These authors say yes, and bring new layers of insight and new language for describing this.  Look, some of us have been saying this sort of thing for years. Some who are not evangelicals have been saying things like this from their own faith traditions and particular sort of pieties.  Everybody should be exceedingly glad when this kind of work is done, and I am fully confident that these books are not only notable and good, but are truly, truly award-winning caliber.

In the first, Prophetic Evangelicals, each of the dozen authors involved offers one word -- truth, justice, shalom and the like -- and offers profound, meaty reflections. Excellent!  A great endorsement by Richard Mouw reminds us of how good this stuff is.

In the second, Shalom and the Community of Creation, Native American theologian and activist Randy Woodley shows how a First Nations view of land and creation enhances our view of the nature of Biblical shalom.  I cannot tell you how important and good and righteous it is -- doubtlessly one of the most important books in the "creation care" conversation in years!  Highly recommended!

The third, new one, Resurrection City, by Peter Goodwin Heltzel, is truly one of the most mind-blowing, amazing books I've read in years.  It draws on Howard Thurman and Martin Luther King and it draws on John Coltrane, doing public theology for shalom as an act of free-form improvisation.  Others have drawn on jazz for similar projects, but nobody has done it this well; not even close. This is brilliant and urgent, learned and cool.  As Cornel West writes, "Peter Heltzel is a jazz-infused theologian par excellence! Don't miss this gem of a book."

Here we show the first five.

How can I describe briefly all six of these?  Well, just know this: each one brings together a scholar and an activist, or, put differently, an academic and a practitioner. They have emerged from the Center for Reconciliation at Duke Divinity School, which is headed by Chris Rice, who wrote the first book in the series with African bishop, Emmanuel Katongole.  Each short book ruminates on how reconciliation works out in a certain side of life, or in a certain locale. They are thoughtful but include great first-hand stories and moving -- sometimes achingly so -- testimonies. They are exactly the sort of books we love, informed and passionate, mature but easily read, good for reading groups or discipleship classes. 

The combo of authors is fantastic!  You can understand then, that, for instance, in Living Gently in a Violent World, the one with Jean Vanier there are stories from his work at L'Arche, with persons with disabilities; in the one on forgiveness CĂ©lestin Musekura speaks about forgiving those who killed his family during the Rwandan genocide -- it is very powerful!   The one called Living Without Enemies is remarkable, telling of a community that organized prayer vigils to combat gang and domestic violence. Friendship at the Margins is the best book we've ever seen about short term mission trips, helping us move away from a "helping" model to experience and enjoy greater mutuality. It is profound, but good to use with groups heading out to serve.

The one that came out in 2012 to complete the set is called Making Peace with the Land: God's Call to Reconcile with Creation andmaking peace with the land.jpg is one of my favorites, reminding us (in a way, coming full circle to where the series began with the superb Reconciling All Things) that God in Christ is busy not just bringing healing to our relationship with God, or even reconciling human relationships, but is bringing restoration to all things, including the very created order.  If we cannot have reconciliation with the land upon which we depend, little else, it seems, will matter for long.  And if we can realize that God is restoring the whole groaning creation, we will certainly be well on our way to all sorts of fruitful other social concerns. Wirzba is an agrarian theologian at Duke, and his co-author is Fred Bahnson an energetic and well known farmer and environmentalist.  It is so, so nicely done, visionary but quite practical, too, even lovely at times, helping us all shift to more gentle, sustainable lifestyles, shifting away from industrial agriculture, practicing the presence of God" and experiencing communion, even as we grow or buy and prepare and eat our daily meals.

I love the handsome covers of this paperback set, appreciate the way each is written, and am so glad for such a thoughtful, varied, but uniform sort of coherent series. We tip our hat with great appreciation for Duke's Center for Reconciliation, to IVP for doing this sort of profound, practical theology, and especially to Wirzba and Bahnson for doing this final, glorious volume. Three cheers, times two, saluting and honoring all six!

550-days-of-hope-daily-inspiration-for-your-journey-through-cancer.jpg0 Days of Hope: Daily Inspiration for your Journey Through Cancer  Lynn Eib (Tyndale) $13.99  From the lovely green faux leather and wrap-around band that invites you to hold this small book closely, to the glowing, crisp writing, to the profoundly comforting messages, this daily devotional meets a need unlike any similar book.  We know Lynn, and we know her story (and her gracious, good ministry, and her great writing skill, seen previously in books like When God and Cancer Meet.) We thought this book was very special, and have appreciated the opportunity to share it.  What makes us really want to honor it, though, as a "Best of 2012" book this year, is that several customers with cancer have used it and assured us it was life-giving, helpful, just right for their great needs.  Nothing assures us like those sorts of testimonials, from people we love and trust.  Thanks, Lynn, for caring, and thanks to the publisher for doing just a classy job on this little, live-saving book.

Sseeking god's face.jpgeeking God's Face: Praying the Bible through the Year [compact edition] edited by Philip Reinders (Faith Alive) $24.99 This is a daily prayer book that draws from the ancient Christian tradition of reading devotionally, praying the hours of the office, using the Bible to speak back to God. (This is a simplified version, designed for once-a-day use.)  This orderly structure allows for a close reading of the text, inviting a rather contemplative tone of prayerful engagement. Further, offering an entire year of prayers, it does seem grounded in the flow of the liturgical calendar. It uses historic creeds and confessions. (The publisher is affiliated with the Christian Reformed Church so some of these are from the Reformed tradition.) There is a nice foreword by Eugene Peterson, and it is made with a lovely imitation leather with some handsome tooling on the soft tan cover. The lovely previous version is larger, and it may be better for some who appreciate the larger font. This compact one was released just this year, so deserves our special mention.

Ddementia.jpgementia: Living in the Memories of God  John Swinton (Eerdmans) $25.00  There may be more practical books, clear guides to doing care-giving sorts of things, but for a rich, detailed, thorough-going effort to ask the biggest questions about a sad reality, this book is extraordinary. It is well written (which is not always the case in heavy books.) It is constructive. It is quite creative, yet solid -- as Stephen Post, who calls it "a breath of fresh air" writes, "Dementia is a brilliant book that stays true to everything meaningful in Christian ethics, theology, and care."  As Stanley Hauerwas writes, "Swinton has clearly become the premier pastoral theologian of our time... Dementia: Living in the Memories of God will become a classic."  Give this serious theologian a blue ribbon to honor his contribution to religious publishing in 2012!

Ss j of.jpghaping the Journey of Emerging Adults: Life Giving Rhythms for Spiritual Transformation Richard Dunn  & Jana Sundene (IVP) $18.00 What pastor -- or parent, youth worker, college employee, or older sibling, for that matter -- doesn't want to really figure out how best to befriend and serve and mentor those young adults that are between adolescence and full adulthood.  This (fairly recent) stage of life, sometimes called "the critical years" (a phrase coined by Sharon Parks), is increasingly complex, and increasingly studied.  If you read You Lost Me by David Kinnaman -- one of the Best Books of last year, now out in DVD! -- you know that many churches are struggling to engage and retain younger adults. This book will take that mission to the next level, helping older generations understand and mentor twenty somethings.  I think that even if you are a twenty something, this book would be helpful, inviting self awareness, self reflection, and, maybe, deepening your own heart to reach out in Christina ministry to your own peers.  As Drew Dyck (Generation Ex Christian) writes, "This book is crammed with wisdom and couldn't have come at a better time. Indispensable reading for anyone who loves the younger generation."  Plus, it is really, really well written, with some sentences nearly sounding as lavish as good poetry.  Know anybody who works on college campuses, who counsels young adults, who works in singles ministry or cares about twenty-somethings? Get them this book! Congrats to Dunn and Sundene for doing such very good work on such a very timely matter.

Cc and c 5 views.jpgounseling and Christianity: Five Approaches edited by Stephen P. Greggo and Timothy A. Sisemore (CAPS and IVP) $22.00  We think these sorts of multi-authored books representing authors of differing views are so helpful, and, to be honest, am not sure why others don't flock to get them -- maybe many people have their minds made up about most things.  Ha, not I! I need these kinds of books!  Here you have five very good arguments for five different models of the relationship of faith and counseling by stellar practitioners. We have previously highly recommended a similar, more theoretic book, Christianity and Psychology: Five Views edited by Eric Johnson and published by IVP ($22.00), which debates the strengths and weaknesses of five models of how to integrate faith and the field of psychology. All five authors in that volume agree that there is a fundamental relationship, but what that looks like how one does the faith/scholarship connection, that is the question. In that book, as with others that are in this format, not only do you get a good chapter presenting one view, but each author offers a response to each other, so you get to read critique and reply. What a learning experience!

Well, this 2012 one builds on that discussion, and gets much more practical, as five schools of thought, all which want to be seen as faithful Christian approaches, debate what authentic Christian counseling actually looks like in practice.  This is a fabulous opportunity to step back and reconsider (or consider, perhaps, for the first time) just how faith, spirituality, the role of the Bible and the like all inform what counselors do behind closed doors.  If you are a counselor, interested in serious care-giving, know any psychologists or mental-health workers, or have ever been in therapy, this really is a one-of-a-kind resource, excellently compiled, with the divergent views civilly argued.  Discerning what is most faithful is so very important.  Some views are, naturally, better than others.  You can decide which are the more wise, and which are less appropriate. There is no other book like this, about counseling practices, and we want to shout about it from the rooftops!  Join us in celebrating this book, and the conversation it will deepen and illuminate. 

Aaweekincorinth.jpg Week in the Life of Corinth  Ben Witherington III (IVP) $16.00  I suppose it is an occupational hazard, but sometimes I intend to skim a book, check it out, get its gist, and move on.  Late, late that night, I end up bleary eyed, unable to stop reading -- it is the sign of a good book, of course.  This is so very interesting, doing a fictional bit where a story unfolds in first century Corinth. No, it is  not too graphic.  Yes, the protagonist gets  out alive.  And, no, this does not substitute for careful exegetical work, the kind of detailed commentary that Witherington is most known for.  But if it is true that the New Testament epistles are part of a larger narrative, letters addressing certain topics to particular churches in specific places, then entering that narrative (even as a creative device) can only enhance our imagining the context and meaning and implications of the epistles.  Wow, what a story this is, what a fun way to learn the storied background of this troubled church in this crazy city.  If you care at all about Paul's mission, if you want to read the New Testament on its own terms, this short  novella could unlock so, so much. Craig Keener says "this book provides a uniquely enjoyable way to learn about ancient culture and Paul's mission in Corinth my immersion."  Of course there is careful research behind it; the details are well chosen and the background impeccably rendered. But it is a good story,entertaining and informative. This has only been tried a few times before, none to such great success.  Give this guy a Greco-Roman trophy!


bad r.jpg

Christianity After Religion: The End of the Church and the Birth of a New Spiritual Awakening
  Diana Butler Bass (HarperOne) $25.99

Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics Ross Douthart (Free Press) $26.00
I don't watch WWF, but we've all heard of these raging clowns, fighting to the finish, in some flamboyant smack-down.  Well, this certainly isn't like that, as both authors are very good thinkers, very sharp leaders, and make very good arguments for their respective views in their prestigious books, each published by important houses.  That both authors released their books to big and loud attention this spring, with not a little snark from both in interviews and tons of social media, well, it just seemed like a bit of a cat fight was brewing by early last summer.  But we are awarding these books together, not for the sideshow --- that is just me being goofy with my dumb award show schtick -- but for the substantive and important sociological and theological work being done by these two important observers of American religion. It really is true that I value both books. A lot. I want to honor them both. 

FDiana-Butler-Bass_Carole-Ricketts.jpgull disclosure: I religiously tend towards the conservative theology of Douthart, who insists that much of the travail of our contemporary churches is, in fact, from bad theology, from the embracing of heresies of various sorts.  Further, I am friends with Diana Butler Bass, who I find engaging, interesting, provocative, and often really, really right about a lot. She travels a lot in mainline churches and is tireless in working for church renewal, busy in the trenches, so to speak.  Douthart is a conservative Catholic, Diana is a liberal Episcopalian.  He blames her ilk for the demise of religion in our time; she is sure that his call to retrenchment is just the thing that we do not need, certainly not now in these changing postmodern times.

What I really would like to do is moderate some kind of forum with these two authors -- or, lessross d.jpg dramatic, but maybe not likely, at least offer some kind of award for anybody who has read 'em both and found each to be often quite right!  Is anybody out there as appreciative of both as I am? As confused as I am?  In naming these two together, we affirm that they need to be read together, each in dialogue with the other.  Honorable and sane, yes?

Diana, as you should know, spent about a decade studying ordinary neighborhood churches, doing rigorous research, celebrating those that have good habits of doing good work --- spiritual formation, hospitality, creative worship, social action -- and reported back in a string of books (most notably Church for the Rest of Us) explaining that, regardless of what the media says, conservative evangelicalism and mega-church wowza aren't the only signs of religious life alive in the land.  Quiet, ordinary places are doing well, less interested in dogma and more in practices, thank you very much.

Alas, she has come to believe that isn't quite so any more.  From glitzy mega-churches to the most intentionally progressive practicing congregations, nobody is doing very well. No denomination is growing. The stats are in; people are increasingly disinterested in church.  Yet, she notes, there is a very strong interest in spirituality outside of the conventional congregations.  The next great awakening is happening, like it or not, and the church may or may not have much to do with it. Her provocative book proposes that we meet people "where they are" (as we say) and create a contextualized theology and ministry that makes sense to those within our post-Christian culture. With her suburban mom look, often sporting a lovely string of pearls, Diana doesn't seem like the poster child for the tattooed emergent church, but there you have it.  As the back cover puts it, this fresh movement of spiritual seeking is "remaking the faith." Yup. 

Phyllis Tickle calls the book a "blockbuster" and Rob Bell says it is "spot on prophetic."

For Mr. Douthat, whose grim book is considered by smart evangelicals, at least, a must-read, slam-dunk expose of what is wrong in the land of confused doctrine and mushy faith, this sort of talk in Christianity After Religion is, in many ways, just a rehash of classic liberalism, which ruined mainline churches in the middle to last half of the 20th century.  He's not having any of it.  In what I think are helpful and often astute ways -- not unlike Diana Butler Bass, but with different theological loyalties -- Douthat looks at how sociological factors (such as the rise of an elevated view of the self, driven by soft psychology and hard consumerism, not to mention the infamous and vastly significant sexual revolutions) have bested historic, orthodox convictions about the nature of things.  Long standing assumptions about the right ordering of life, supposedly derived from historic theology and Biblical truths, have been eroded by modernity, and all sorts of religious groups in America -- Catholic, mainline, and evangelical -- are awash in all manner of confusing reconfigurations about beliefs and behaviors. Our confusions about our heresies are at the heart of our problems; we must turn back, he says, before it is too late.

It would be silly to suggest, by the way, that Douthart just doesn't want anything to change, that he is a fuddy-duddy traditionalist, or that, as one reviewer shrieked, he thinks the availability of The Pill in the '60s is what ruined everything.  But it would also be ill-informed not to more faithfully understand what changes in the culture contributed in dubious ways to how we now approach theology and how we do church. It should be asked if some of these new ways have not served us well.  What does it mean to be "in the world but not of it" and to be steadfast in our deepest convictions?  Are our progressive tendencies really the answer to a post-religious faith, or have they been hurtful? Do heresies liberate us, or do they damage us?

Bad Religion is a very important book evaluating very important matters and, as such, is one of the more important books of the year.

I greatly appreciated both books, although both have some pages that made me scratch my head.  Both books are confident, strongly written, sometimes blunt in their denunciations and often quite passionate in their proposals. (Truth be told, Diana's is, while building on significant research and data, more engaging, includes more interesting stories, is written more graciously, and seems a bit more open-ended about what we might do next while Mr. Douthat, New York Times essayist and pundit that he is, is more directly polemical. I think, content aside, the different styles may tend to be more appreciated by different sorts of readers.)
In awarding a "Best of 2012" shout-out to both books simultaneously, I am suggesting we should dare to think that both books have great merit, that both are to be taken seriously, and that in the mix of good conversation and holy discernment and even hard-headed debate about and between them, we can gain greater appreciation of what faithfulness looks like in our increasingly interesting times. icon-of-the-holy-church-by-matthew-garret.jpg

Does it need to be a smack-down, a loud show, with only one winner, bloodying the other?wwf.jpg  No, no, it does not!  Again, no, it must not!  I know that it is unlikely, even for our open-minded, H&M fans, to fully embrace both books. Fans of each have badmouthed the other.  For now, it looks like that is our impasse, most people only considering one of the two views. This speaks volumes into the nature of our times, I suppose, and I realize we are swimming upstream on this one.  Awarding them both?  Inviting the fight??

My tongue in cheek WWF smackdown bit might remind us to keep the dialogue going, to keep at this, together, remembering our most basic commitment to Christian unity.  I am glad for both of these stimulating books, books I commend and are happy to honor in our own little way here.  We invite you and your reading groups to consider each, comparing and contrasting them, the arguments they make, the concerns they take up, the assumptions they hold.  Let's not avoid, but  embrace and maybe even enjoy the debate, learning to grapple with this stuff with grace and civility.  After all, those wild WWF guys and gals really do seem to being have fun.    

Hhealing the g.pngealing the Gospel: A Radical Vision for Grace, Justice, and the Cross Derek Flood (Cascade) $17.00  I am confident that no one of us can ever plumb the depths of the meaning of the cross.  And I am confident that those who insist on one reading, one emphasis, are simply not being Biblical, which, itself, offers a variety of metaphors, images, and ways of talking about God's redemptive work, seen in Christ's death and resurrection.  There have been many books insisting on a traditional model, and there have been many books insisting we reject that model.  I think they are very valuable to read, an area of study that is important, and conversation that is robust and often insightful.  I have written elsewhere about books that grapple with this matter in moderate, multi-faceted ways.  This book calls for a new approach, and in many ways is quintessential in this nonviolent approach.  Jesus did not die to appease a wrathful God's demand for punishment, and Jesus doesn't save us from that kind of a God.  His "good news" is of a more radical sort -- and Flood insists that the Biblical writers themselves, including the Apostle Paul, were grounded in a deep "restorative justice" mindset, that assumes love of enemies, not retribution.  Drawing even on the provocative French philosopher Rene Girard, many are working on this angle these days.  This is the best I've seen in this movement.

Michael Gorman writes "In this readable and balanced book, Flood gently -- yet firmly and provocatively -- challenges and enriches your understanding of the cross....such amazing love beckons us to follow in the way of Jesus and justice. It is a book to read, mark, and inwardly digest."  Phyllis Tickle says it "brilliantly takes on the the story of the Christian doctrine of atonement, turns that story on its end, and then lays out before us a beauty almost beyond theology."  Michael Hardin, who is one of the genius writers in this whole "nonviolent atonement" project, says that none of the recent spate of books "treat the salvific healing of Jesus' death better than this one."  This is quite a strong endorsement, and I knew this book must be listed as noteworthy.??Many conventional readers will find this project concerning.  But aren't there questions you have about this, don't some Bible verses seem odd, aren't there some ways of talking about the cross that end up being inconsistent with what we know of God's goodness? Are you afraid to revisit old truths, holding them up for Biblical scrutiny?  Agree or not, this is as thoughtful book, offering a creative and concise approach, to what for some of us is the very heart of the gospel. It would do you good to explore this topic, and this is the perfect entry-level study to do so.  This book insists that Christ's gospel exposes violence, it does not support it, and we must learn to do our theology in ways that are consistent with this Christlikeness.  A book that helps us explore with deep attention the wondrous cross, surely is worth considering.  We are happy to say it is one of the books of the year.

Bbody & soul .jpgody&Soul: Reclaiming the Heidelberg Catechism M. Craig Barnes (Faith Alive) $14.99  I know it is a long shot to get many ordinary church members (of any denomination or style) to study theology.  (And, I know it is also a stretch, sometimes, to get academics to read devotional books, that they might think have little to offer them.) This easy to read book is remarkable for any number of reasons, but it surely can be used by common folks, and will also stimulate the heart and mind of deeper thinkers.  Barnes has been a good author over the years, a pastor of a good Presbyterian church in Pittsburgh, and is now the newly installed President of Princeton Theological Seminary.  This marvelous 450-year old confession has been fruitfully used (mostly in Reformed Churches) and is so very rich, reminding us of our serious guilt, God's good grace, and of our respondent gratitude. Barnes is a thoughtful guy, but still a preacher and pastor, so he brings the marvelous truths of Heidelberg into common language.  Thank goodness for Faith Alive, who also published a companion six-session DVD which we gladly stock.  This is something for which some of us have been waiting for years !  

Eugene Peterson notes of it, "The work of pastors and the work of theologians have been 'put asunder' by far too many in the American church, impoverishing both vocations. Craig Barnes uses the Heidelberg Catechism as a loom to skillfully weave them into a seamless garment. This is a rare work of beauty and blessing."  Body&Soul is tremendous, and we are thrilled to award it a Best Book of 2012 award, hoping its "beauty and blessing" reach many for years to come.

Ggod is love bray.jpgod Is Love: A Biblical and Systematic Theology Gerald Bray (Crossway) $40.00  How dumb of me is it to celebrate a title I admit to have not read?  Well, it's my job to size up books, and this is one I've skimmed, studied the footnotes, pondered the outline and flow, and taken in sample pages.  One doesn't have to have complete a thorough study to know this is is nearly in a class by itself.  For starters, it has an eye to both systematic and Biblical theology.  Secondly, it draws on both classic, orthodox views and engages some newer, contemporary voices.  It is conservative, certainly, but seems to offer a fresh angle of vision -- arranging doctrine and the ruminations around the theme of God's great love.  How fascinating!  I do not know if I agree with everything here and I am sure there are things I would have wanted said that Bray does not broach.  But just listen to these blurbs. This is a book I wish I had time to read, and as I survey our three part lists of great  books this year of our Lord 2012, this really should be included.
Gerald Bray is one of our leading evangelical scholars and teachers and he has given us here a magisterial overview of Christian belief and doctrine. A great example of theology in the service of the church.
--Timothy George, Founding Dean, Beeson Divinity School

Soaked in the depth and breadth of the Christian tradition, Gerald Bray brings a rich wisdom to his exceedingly accessible systematic theology. Freshly organizing his approach around love, Bray does not fall into cheap sentimentality, but instead carefully teases out the drama and story of divine love and how it should inform our understanding of countless areas of theology and life. Students and laity in particular will find this volume immensely helpful, and I heartily recommend it to all!
--Kelly M. Kapic, Professor of Theological Studies, Covenant College

Intimidated by theology books? This is the book for you. Here you'll find a firm place to stand to take in the full panorama of Christian belief--centered around the wonderful and worship-inspiring truth of the love of God, and firmly anchored in the sure and certain word of God. If you've read Lewis's Mere Christianity or Stott's Basic Christianity and you long to know more, then you're ready to move on to Gerald Bray's God Is Love.
--Stephen Nichols, Research Professor of Christianity & Culture, Lancaster Bible College

Wwhatca.jpghatcha Gonna Do With That Duck? And Other Provocations 2006 - 2012 Seth Godin (Portfolio/Penguin) $32.00  Someday I might right a longer column on Seth Godin and he is an important, provocative, insightful, and in some ways irritating public intellectual and he deserves our attention.  For now I can say this: I read his daily blogs every day, and almost always appreciate them.  Sometimes they are sheer brilliance; occasionally I find myself disinterested, occasionally I think he is wrong. Mostly, though, he is a genius, and he is known for being a marketer who helps us, in this postmodern, electronic world, to get our messages out -- our art created! -- to just the right folks.  Nobody needs to duplicate the mass marketed generic stuff of Wal Mart, but most people have some great gift, a passion and contribution, that somebody, somewhere will appreciate. Doing great work, shipping good stuff, connecting and wowing with a tribe that cares, this is what Godin reminds us of, over and over and over. Some days he is studying shifts in engineering and information science, other days he is motivating us to care deeply about the details of our craft, other days he is poking fun at boring, nondescript goods and services. Sometimes he holds up other entrepreneurs and non-profiteers, and other times he does passionate book reviews. 

Want to stand out, share your vision, find your followers, do good work in the world, learn how to make a difference? His blog can help, his many books can help, his very presence in the marketplace has already helped.  He is one of the top people of this sort in the world, arguably the most followed blogger and the most important marketer of our times.  This fat book is a culling of his daily blogs from the 2006 on.  It is a greatest hits of his short pieces.  Even his other books aren't that big, but these are read-in-one-quick-sitting meditations. One or two of these pieces might give you new ideas and keep you going. One or two will make you laugh and one or two might piss you off.  One or two might change your life. This book, fun and fat as it is, should be on your desk.  Do it.

Aa sense of d.jpg Sense of Direction: Pilgrimage for The Restless and The Hopeful  Gideon Lewis-Kraus (Riverhead) $26.95  I am bringing this guy up on the stage not to embarrass him, but to compliment a writer who can do such a great job in the important last three-quarters after I had almost given up in the first.  I was ready to slam the book shut, and he reeled me back in, and that is fairly rare.  Life is too short to waste time with books that do not grab me, and I was underwhelmed, and at times pretty irritated, by the long, winding sentences and heavy descriptions of the ever-so-precious underground art world scene in Berlin in which the author lived, with a batch of pretentious performance artists, PR people, and those who are willing to have inconsequential days. Who has the time and money to hang out doing mostly nothing, with a little philosophizing, drinking and dance and sex on the side, in Berlin for a year?  Rich artboys, I guess.  I was annoyed, but kept reading, thinking his complex prose would capture me on another day.  About 45 long pages in, after the third read of a couple of these make-it-or-break-it sections, I got it. I saw why Dave Eggers wrote that it is a "very smart, very moving book about being young and rootless and even wayward. With great compassion and zeal he gets at the question: Why search the world to solve the riddle of your own heart?"

And then, the second two-thirds kicked in as they are off to walk the El Camino Trail, not as Catholic pilgrims, or even spiritually earnest seekers. What a story, so well told, with great attention to the author's interior life, such as it is, in these times, on that journey.  As another reviewer noted, "This is a brilliant meditation on what the spiritual and fraternal and paternal and communal might mean to a person right now."  This is a very well-written, seriously-crafted memoir of a secularized, hip young adult, trying to find order in his days, hour by hour, walking onward with so many others on this famed trail.

I've read other book on the Santiago pilgrimage -- there are a number that we have -- written by people of faith, but I wondered what a irreligious guy who writes for Harpers, Bookforum, and McSweeney's would get out of it.  It seemed intriguing, and it surely was.  Check out this winning blurb:  "If David Foster Wallace had written Eat, Pray, Love, it might have come close to approximating the adventure of Gideon Lewis-Kraus.  A Sense of Direction is the digressively brilliant and seriously hilarious account of a fellow neurotic's wanderings, and his hard-won lessons in happiness, forgiveness, and International pilgrim fashion."  Oh yeah, this  isn't for everybody.  It does deserve a more than three-quarters honor.  One of the best, finally.

Thin Blue Smoke Doug Worgul (Burnside Books) $14.99  I did not read as many novels thithing blue.jpgs year as I sometimes do (although I read several truly memorable memoirs, that feel almost like fiction.)  This was, without a doubt, the fiction which captivated me the most, that I couldn't put down, that I wanted to talk about.  It is fairly long, with a lot of characters, and it comes together beautifully in the end -- I was wiping away tears and wishing it wasn't over.  Maybe they'll make a movie of this large, good story. Kudos to Burnside books and our indie pals at Samzidat for releasing such a good story on a shoestring.  Let's get the word out on this!

It is overtly Christian, I guess, some of it set in church circles, but unlike much "Christian fiction" it has characters who cuss and fight, exploring some harsh terrains of real-world stuff. The author skillfully develops a very solid appreciation for its characters, rooted in the urban south. Although it is not an African American story, exactly, much of it is set within African American culture, which he gets really right, I think.  The smoke of the title refers, at least, to the smokey business of the barbeque restaurant that the main characters operate, and I have to admit I've never read a book that includes so much talk about food, about meat preparations, (and about how different cities in the south have different schools of thought about barbeque, a matter about which the author is a known expert!)  One of the main characters in this Kansas City story is a former baseball player, so there is a bit of that in there, too. Another is a hard-drinking, seriously doubting Episcopal priest and seminary professor who wrote one really great book, years ago. living on the fame of that, now in recovery, grieving a deceased father, possibly in love after a disastrous marriage to a blue blood model, eventually learning a sort of grace that seems to channel Frederick Buechner.  Some of the story (which is not told chronologically) unfolds around the time of Martin Luther King in Memphis, although it is not primarily a civil rights saga.  It is a great, captivating story and it really is about a small business, about food, about community and grace.  The author has written two other notable books, interestingly, about barbeque. But he obviously knows people and the struggle to believe -- the relationships are the soul of this great, smokey story.  

Tsense of an ending.jpghe Sense of an Ending Julian Barnes (Vintage) $14.95  From the first few pages, I was struck by the intellectual depth of this engaging story, about the nature of memory. This is a short, but serious British novel that won the prestigious Man Booker Prize when it was out in hardcover a year ago.  The Los Angles Times called it "a jewel of conciseness and precision" and it was,one of the best books of the year on a dozen famous lists. The New York Times Book Review linked the style to Evelyn Waugh and even Ishiguro's The Remains of the Day, calling Barnes a "subtly assertive practitioner of this quiet art."

The story revolves around a long lost love affair, memory of that, and how it is recalled (redacted? corrected?) when there is reason to revisit the protagonists' college years. Old friends show up with a vengeance, and there is powerful suspense, emotional depth in the telling, making this a page turner that left me pondering for weeks.  I pressed it upon my wife, insisting she read it so we could compare notes.  It was one of her favorites, as well. He's already won the Booker, but we want to add our little gesture, here! 

Incleary.JPG the Absence of God  Richard Cleary (Xulon) $24.99  We were delighted to have Dick read of this in our store, and lead a discussion about this fun books serious themes, and it was a truly memorable evening. Many have found this book to be a real page turner, with suspense, mayhem, drama, romance, college football -- what a story!  But, at the heart of this big novel are the intimate conversations between friends, college faculty and students alike, who are trying to figure out the vast, real-world implications of the theories they are teaching or leading. If one does not believe in God, is it at all plausible to insist that there is right and wrong? Without some transcendent, revealed standard of truth, can there be truth? This isn't Dostoevsky, exactly, but it raises similar questions.  That Cleary is a college philosophy prof suggests he knows what it is like being swept into personal drama with colleagues, the conversations that go on in faculty lounges, what it is like going out for coffee or beer after a lecture, sitting in stadium bleachers on a bright Autumn day, wondering about office politics and academic freedom, and how students lives are (or are not) flourishing under the university's tutelage.  This is a good story with an interesting plot, but it earns an award for the provocative, important metaphysical question its characters are asking.  It is, doubtlessly, one of the most important philosophical questions one can ask.

Il1.jpgluminations: A Novel of Hildegard von Bingen Mary Sharratt (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) $25.00  Much of the historical fiction that is popular in our shop involves evangelical women, orphans or lost loves, set among wagon trains, or maybe Victorian homes. The covers of so many look just the same. They are inspiring, entertaining, but often not the best literature.  This book is a different sort of faith-based historical fiction, though; it is impeccably drawn, vibrantly written, fascinating and quite serious. One reviewer has called it "radiantly beautiful."  It is, as Margaret Frazer of the Dame Frevisse medieval mysteries puts it, "a thrilling adventure of the heart and mind, the richly told story of a woman fully of her time and yet courageous beyond the bound her time expected of her." I assume you know a bit about the progressive, scientific, mystic and poet of the 12th century, although after this, you will know more about the Middle Ages, and more about women saints, and more about the religious life of women than you imagined. With recent interest in monastic spirituality, von Bingen is important, and this novel about this remarkable, controversial woman should be exceedingly popular.  Maybe our blue ribbon celebrations will help -- it deserves to be read!

Wwonder.jpgonder R.J. Palacio (Knopf) $15.99  I wrote about this before, and we want to honor this author and this book that starts off "I won't describe what I look like. Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse." Entertainment Weekly says it is "a crackling page-turner filled with characters you can't help but root for."  This truly is one memorable  book, and most reviews have insisted that August Pullman is one character that readers will remember forever, and whose story is going to be legendary within the world of young adult fiction.  The boy's face is severely mal-formed, with one eye in the center of his face.  How will he fare when he finally gets to go to public school? He is brave. Some of his classmates are brave. The story is stunning, funny at times, heartbreaking, poignant, clever.  Palacio's  first-person writing is fabulously great (this is her first book) and the message is so very, very wonderful.  Three really big, glad cheers!

thoughts to .jpgThoughts to Make Your Heart Sing  Sally Lloyd-Jones, illustrated by Jago (ZonderKidz) $16.99  This handy-sized hardback is in many ways a companion devotional to herthoughts-to-make-your-heart-sing.jpg extraordinary, amazingly good children's Bible, The Jesus Storybook Bible (ZonderKidz; $16.99 in hardback, $27.99 in a deluxe tan leather edition.)  Jago's clever artwork is more mature, here, very creative and striking -- perhaps less playful, giving these wonderful meditations a bit more weight.  These are substantive devotionals, still for elementary children, and we could hardly find a better young child's collection of short pieces that this.  As Sally plainly says in the first line of her brief note to young readers, "These thoughts are to remind you of things that are true."  Tim Keller's foreword assures us that these one or two page devotions are "saturated with an understanding of the gospel."  What fun!  What solid insight!  What great art!  One of the best books of its kind we've ever seen!  Maybe you should get it for adults you know, too. I makes our hearts sing to offer a Hearts & Minds Best of the Year award to Sally Lloyd-Jones and this fabulous, visually-attractive, interesting book.

Tffb of .jpghe Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore William Joyce (Atheneum) $17.99  I hope you know the stunning 2011 Short Film Academy Award winner of this name.  This is the book that was drawn from that, and it is visually amazing, a great, great story, and a book-lover's delight.  This should have gotten more attention --  we should have given it more attention.  I think it is one of the great  books of the year, one of the great children's book in ages. We hope it not only brings much joy to young readers, but reminds us all of the importance of books.  Three big cheers!

Mme, momma.jpge and Momma and Big John  Mara Rockliff, illustrated by William Low (Candlewick Press) $16.99  Here is what I wrote earlier in the year about this beautiful, beautiful book. We talk a lot here at BookNotes about the theological notion of calling, that we are all invited by God to step into a holy vocation, where our deepest gifts and passions and guided into work that matters.  This is a tremendously useful book that is stunningly beautiful to gently raise conversations about work with young children.  As a young child the author herself watched stone cutters working in the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine -- the "Big John" of the story -- so this tale of a craftsperson working to build the New York cathedral is spot on.  Momma comes home from work tired and sore, explaining to her son that she works on just one stone.  As it says on the flyleaf, "This touching story, inspired by one of the first women in the United States to learn the traditional craft of stonecutting, lovingly shows how having pride in one's work, and ones momma, comes with great grace and dignity... As Momma tells John, 'Building a cathedral isn't just a job, it's an art.'" William Low is an award-winning illustrator and painter himself.  It is so nice to see the warmth of the cathedral, and the details of the interesting tools. This should be on everybody's Best of the Year lists!

S11 seed by seed.jpgeed by Seed: The Legend and Legacy of John "Appleseed" Chapman  Esme Raji Codell, illustrated by Lynne Rae Perkins (Greenwillow) $16.99  I knew from the moment I saw this that this would be one of our favorite picture books of the year!  We adore this book.  It has brightly colorful artwork, done in fairly traditional oil paintings, except a few pages that seem embroidered on cloth and one that looks like a map.  It is creative, but not wild or zany.  Also wonderful about this is how it teaches the five principles left by Mr. Chapman (born in 1774 in Massachusetts.) It explains "Use what you have," "Share what you have," "Respect nature," "Try to make peace where there is war," and "You can reach your destination by taking small steps."  It is very interesting and helpful to contrast the fast-paced and noisy world of today with Chapman's desire for simplicity, a more sustainable relationship with creation, and his own slower pace of life.   The artwork is nice, the sentiments good.  I don't care for the last line, which you may want to talk about with your child (but what else are good books for, after all?) It reads "His sweet spirit lives on in the apples we eat and in the seeds we plant to make our country and our world a better place."   I'm not sure what it means to say his spirit lives on in the apples -- poetically, this may be so.  Taken literally, it verges on pantheism.  So, as always, be prepared for curious questions and good conversations.   And don't be surprised if you child wants to plant some seeds or grows up to be a peacemaker.  We can hope!  One of the year's best!



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February 24, 2013


If you follow our BookNotes blog, are members of the facebook group, follow us on twitter  -- or, you are reading along because you are a true blue friend who comes in to the Dallastown shop - you know we've been obsessed the last few weeks getting ready for the big book-selling gig we do at Jubilee, the college student conference which was held lastj2013.jpg weekend in Pittsburgh. 

This annual CCO conference is the highlight of our year (sorry, all you others who have graciously hosted us at your events but, well, it's hard to top Jubilee.) Beth and I have been selling books there for decades, and I helped run the thing years ago. I have written at length about its significance here, here, or here. If you are unfamiliar with our partnership with the CCO, or wonder what makes us tick, do read those reports.
a bradley + books.jpgIn his Friday evening presentation Dr. Anthony Bradley reminds students that their studies are part of God's good creation, and should be approached as holy vocations.

If you promise to come back and read my book notes, check out more Jubilee pictures from this year. The ones with me photo-shopped onto pictures of, say, the Brady Bunch or with Steven Spielberg or with Martin Luther King, well, let's just say that was some serious tomfoolery done by the guys in the tuxes.

This year's gathering was spectacular.  From the fun and unexpected video message sent to Jubilee from "Kid President" to the Les Mis production (in honor of the very first book we sold at our grand opening 30 years ago - thanks, guys!) to the truly amazing, sizzling worship band, people loved it. Of course, there were stellar speakers and workshop leaders, and we were all reminded again of the grand adventure of living into the promises of God to restore the good but oh-so-broken creation which Christ came to redeem.  

We are busy at the event. I also had the opportunity to speak at Jubilee Professional, the pre-conference for adults organized by Serving Leaders, engaging in stimulating and mature conversations about about faith and work, reforming social initiatives and faithful cultural engagement. (Get it on your calendar now for next year, I'd say!)  After nights of little sleep, days of packing, and two long days setting up, I'm a bit punch-drunk by the time it all starts, but it is great that the Jubilee planners allowbyron - eat with joy .jpg me to do big book announcements, not only highlighting certain books, but giving students a glimpse into our passion for being life-long learners, using books as tools for Christian growth and deepening discipleship.  (See the large PowerPoint slides that appear when I'm talking about a book up front; in this case a new must-read, truly wonderful Eat With Joy: Redeeming God's Gift of Food by Rachael Marie Stone; IVP; $15.00.) 

That I got to do a workshop this year was really nice, too - preaching up a storm about the need for an intentionally Scripture-shaped social imagination that demands "the renewed Christian mind" and the outrageous project of relating faith and learning, discerning vocation and call, and entering into the hurt and hope of God's world. Reading excerpts of Margie Haack's memoir The Exact Place (Kalos Press; $16.95) and other pieces about the glory of good writing, it was fabulous to share our love of books and our admiration for writers, insisting that reading is truly important for the advancement of Christ's healing work in the world.  And, yes, I offered a quickie admonition about supporting indie stores, avoiding amazon, and working harder at learning to read widely by have a good bookseller in one's life.  I know it sounds self promoting, but I really believe this "read for the Kingdom" stuff, and make no apologies about suggesting that reading the sorts of books that we recommend is important.  I didn't promote BookNotes and now wish I would have.  We need more readers who care about good books!

So, thanks to those who prayed for us (my voice did hold out) and those who showed up to volunteer. Andre & Margaret lugged more heavy boxes than we did, while Beth worked her magic in the truck bed. Debi, Jenny and Jason are so reliable each year.  Kudos to the set up and tear-down gang, some of whom I don't even know.  By late, late Monday night we were taking the rental truck back, and now we have 150+ boxes stacked everywhere and a mountain of mysterious paperwork.  Sorry if we're lagging a little this week...

Jubilee2011_382-300x200.jpgHere is a list of some of the books that sold well at Jubilee 2013.  Tomorrow, I'll reveal some that didn't, but should have.  If the pace were slower, we'd have had lovely conversations with gentle readers, kindly telling them the benefits of some of these titles.  As it was, the gonzo speed of the jam-packed shopping times and the many conversations around specific topics with customers - from first year students who are just investigating the gospel for the first time to prestigious authors or radical missionaries working on their next book - didn't allow us to hand-sell some of the good stuff we took. 

First, some of the hot sellers, in no particular order, offered now at the BookNotes 20% discount.

Tomorrow, I'll reveal some of the shoulda-been big sellers that fell through the cracks.  Just for fun we will offer for a few days, those that I list in that post, at 30% off, while supplies last, and for one week only. (Offer expires March 1 2013.)  After 3-1-13 the dealio on those will be the same as the others --  20% off.


Mmore or less.jpgore or Less: Choosing a Lifestyle of Excessive Generosity Jeff Shinabarger (Cook) $17.99  Jeff hadn't even seen the book yet when we got it the day before the conference, and he proceeded to steal the show, with a very powerful, short, main-stage presentation about his friendship with a homeless guy, and his suggested that we will always want more if we are not content. "You will never have enough," he explained, "if you think you are not enough."  He showed this stunningly good video, and the book sold out within minutes.

Everyday Missions: How Ordinary People Can Change the World  Leroy Barber (IVP) $15.00 I had said a few weeks back that this was one of our favorite books of the year - great, creative Bible study, inviting everyone to make a difference in their own place and calling. Although we've featured it here before, we wanted to let you know that Leroy was at Jubilee again this year. He is a gem of a guy, a powerful, propheticl leader, and this challenging call to invest ourselves in things that matter, resonates.  

LLove_Does_240_360_Book.625.cover_-196x300.jpgove Does: Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World Bob Goff (Nelson) $15.99 Goff, who first appeared to many of us in Donald Miller's tremendous Million Miles in a Thousand Days.  He's been to Jubilee several years in a row, always a hit for his amazing stories, his crazy humor, his joyful commitment to capers both fun and sometimes life-changing.  His work in Uganda fighting child kidnapping, starting schools, and helping their own judiciary learn to prosecute bad guys is some of the most moving stuff I have heard in my life.  This was the first year students at Jubilee actually had a chance to buy a major book by Bob.  We sold out by the very end Sunday morning, when he gave a "you are awesome, Jesus is real, get out there and do it, touching people, for real" departing message. The mash-up healing/crowd surfing thing didn't hurt either.

Ppermission to speak.jpgermission to Speak Freely: Essays and Art on Fear, Confession and Grace  Anne Jackson (Nelson) $16.99  This is a very cool book, with reproductions of original art, creative writing pieces, and heartbreaking letters people sent to her during her project of wondering what secrets people have that they cannot share in church.  Ohmygosh, this is moving, painful, yet oddly hopeful.  Somewhat inspired by the Post Secrets phenomenon, Anne has helped us all loosen up, trust, and create safe spaces where holy stuff can happen.  She gave a spiel for Compassion International, too, and (God bless them Jubilee kids) every child packet was taken, hundreds of third world kids now being feed, educated and protected from traffickers.  Glad this book sold - we love it, but we weren't sure if it would resonate.  Wow, did it ever.

Wwork matters smaller.gifork Matters: Connecting Sunday Worship to Monday Work  Tom Nelson (Crossway) $15.99  I'm not going to lie: we didn't know if this would fly.  We sold this well last year at Jubilee (it had just come out then and was exclaimed that it certainly was one of the most germane books for this whole "Jubilee vision" thing) and rock star Rev. Tim Keller's new book on the same topic, Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work To God's Work (Dutton; $26.95) is now out and had some real appeal.  So we wondered.  We hoped that having Tom there as a speaker would help get his book the attention it deserves. He spoke at Jubilee Pro and did a few workshops at Jubilee proper and he was so good, such a delight.  We almost want to cry, knowing that folks are getting such solid, winsome, Biblically-solid and relevant content from such a gracious, wise pastor.  Tom is a gem, his has been church renewed by this "vocation is central to the mission deo" teaching.  Once folks heard his story and caught a glimpse of his vision, Work Matters really sold!  Tim Keller's similiar book sold, too (and I am helping discuss it on line at The High Calling blog this week, the third of a three part series.) But it was sweet to be with Tom and wonderful to promote this great paperback.

JJesus+Nothing.pngesus + Nothing = Everything  Tullian Tchividjian (Crossway) $18.99  Okay, I botched his last name right up front - it rhymes with religion, or the band Joy Division, so isn't hard--but it didn't matter.  Most students didn't care, either, that he is Billy Graham's grandson, or the hip recent pastor of the historic Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church. Don't know if they dug his Florida tan (he surfs) or his cool jacket.  But this I know: they heard the core gospel message of grace with exceptional clarity and God was pleased to use his message to touch many lives for eternity.  He didn't unpack the way the blood of Christ was shed for all creation (like it says in Colossians 1 or Romans 8 or even John 3:16)  or say much about how God's saving grace leads to an "all of life redeemed" worldview.  That would haveunfasionable paperb.jpg to wait til Sunday morning's powerful talks. But he shared the basics really well, and his books took off. This handsome book with the vital title captures Tullian's passionate message about clinging only to Christ. I also promoted his excellent Unfashionable: Making a Difference in the World by Being Different (Multnomah; $14.99) which, with its Romans 12:1-2 vibe, seemed quite germane and important for this new generation of relevant culture-makers. Glad we sold a bunch of that.   His new one, an honest look at suffering called Glorious Ruin: How Suffering Sets You Free (Cook; $17.99) sold pretty nicely, too. I look forward to reading it myself. It was a privilege, we felt, getting to sell his work.

The Call: Finding and Fulfilling Your Life's Deepest Purpose Os Guinness (Nelson) $17.99  Year by year I repeat that this is a must-read for students, eloquent, informed, beautiful in many ways, but also clarifying and challenging.  We are called to Christ, to follow, of course. And to bloom where we are planting, pursuing our own callings and careers.  Much of the good insight from CCO as illustrated in the vocational emphasis of some of Jubilee, comes from this book. Very generative; a classic, I'd say.  May it help those who bought it!

Yyour minds mission.jpgour Mind's Mission  Greg Jao (IVP) $4.00  Brief, cheap, it mentions Hearts & Minds website, and makes a concise case for why "thinking Christianly" about all of life is so important.  I wish I could tell you simply how very much I value this brief booklet. We dare not be passive in our intellectual growth, taking in whatever comes our way, from professors or media or pundits.  Missional Christian need missional minds!  Reading, learning, growing --from God's transforming perspective -- is essential.  I was perhaps a little silly in announcing it,  bragging that I endorsed this on the back, which I did, and maybe didn't speak with adequate gravitas to share how badly we want to sell this.  This little book is essential reading for everyone in high school or college, anyone who reads or thinks or learns about anything. Come on, people, buy this for the students in your life! Get your mind on a mission!

of games and god.jpgf Games and God: A Christian Exploration of Video Games  Kevin Schut (Baker) $16.99  I announced that this new book is a one of a kind, top-notch, must-have for any geeks or gamers. I know of one light-weight rather cheesy book on this topic, and one brilliant, super-scholarly one called Halos and Avatars: Playing Video Games with God edited by Craig Detweiler (Westminster/John Knox; $20.00.) There is a serious chapter or two in Brent Laytham's remarkable new iPod, Youtube, Wii Play: Theological Engagements with Entertainment (Cascade; $24.00) and we sold a few of that, gladly.  But Kevin Schut's Of God and Games is simply the best.  Sold out of it the first night. Wooot.

Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation

Imagining thimagining the kingdom cover.jpge Kingdom: How Worship Worksdesiring-the-kingdom.jpg 
James K.A. Smith (BakerAcademic) $21.99 and $22.95, respectively.  Naturally, these were noticed.  Jamie spoke last year, after all, I had done an early review here that especially adults and CCO staff saw, and I mentioned them both from up front as a serious but important, well worth the diligence it will require to work through them. Some who had gathered that I wasn't just making this up, that they really are important and being widely discussed, picked up the first (Desiring...) and promised to get Imagining from us later. Good desires, good habits.

Bbreaking old rhythms.jpgreaking Old Rhythms: Answering the Call of a Creative God Amena Brown (IVP/Crescendo) $15.00  Not only had hip-hop poetry slam artist Amena Brown wowed 'em at Jubilee a few years ago, I celebrated from the main stage this new release, from the new women-written Crescendo line of books. Said it is great for anybody whose faith was in a rut, needed some new zest.  It uses dance rhythms as a metaphor, but it isn't for dancers or just for women.  Nice blurbs on the back from Michael Gungor, Margaret Feinberg, Jo Saxton, good writers whose fine books we also stocked. This is a great new book, long-awaited by many of her fans. We were happy to launch it at Jubilee!

RRefuse to Do Nothing.jpgefuse to Do Nothing: Finding Your Power to Abolish Modern-Day Slavery   Shayne Moore & Kimberly McOwen Yim (IVP Crescendo) $15.00  With a few anti-trafficking organizations represented at Jubilee, a workshop by a staff member from IJM, and several activist type leaders there, there was an eagerness to learn, and engage, to make commitments to be involved.  This guide to fighting slavery in your town, written by (relatively) ordinary soccer moms, was a winner. It is deeply moving and really hopeful, since it invites to take steps, bit by bit, that we can do.  By the way, I reviewed this briefly at the Center for Public Justice's (CPJ) Capitol Commentary column last week.  One guy bought it at Jubilee because he saw my review there.  Right on.

Ggalatians for you.jpgalatians for You  Timothy Keller (Good Books) $22.99  Yep, this just in. Literally, just in from England where this was published in a handsome thinline hardback.  As I've mentioned, Keller has (rightfully, in our view) quite a following, and when folks saw a book of his they hadn't heard of yet, well, it bought us some street cred, thank you very much.  We sold a the stack we took, and now have more here at the shop.  How 'bout that?

christian teachers in public schools.gifhristian Teachers in Public Schools - 13 Essentials for the Classroom Dalene Vickery Parker (Beacon Hill) $12.99 Inexpensive, not to heady, practical - this inspiring guide to being a faithful Christian in the classroom is a fine example of how to begin to "think Christianly" about the vocation of teaching.  There are others, deeper, more profound, but this was the one that caught student's attention.  We sold a bunch!  When, in a few years, these quality teachers-to-be represent Christ in winsome, healthy ways in the classrooms of your kids or grandkids, you can thank us for selling them this book. Don't forget.

Business for the Common Good: A Christian Vision for the Marketplace  Kenman Lbusiness-for-the-common-good-a-christian-vision-_publication.jpg. Wong and Scott B. Rae  (IVP) $24.00 I found myself saying with great confidence that this is the best, serious book on this topic.  It covers much, is profoundly theological, but also offers hands-on, well thought-out advice about business details --  from management to marketing, the role of profit and finances in the globalized economy, to how to be more stewardly and green in the workplace (and so much more.)  As you know, we have a lot of these sorts of books, and we sold others, too. Why Business Matters to God --And What Still Needs To Be Fixed by Jeff Van Duzer (IVP; $20.00) is a very foundational one which I showed several business majors. Work As Worship edited by Mark Russell (Russell Media; $14.99), which includes nice excerpts and interviews by a variety of successful corporate leaders sold, as well. Call us if you want more.

Llanguage of faith and science.jpganguage of Science and Faith: Straight Answers to Genuine Questions Karl Giberson & Francis  Collins (IVP) $20.00  The day after Jubilee, we were loading out, and a conference had already set up for high school STEM teachers (that's science, technology, engineering, and math.) Chatting with one experienced pubic school teacher who was there to explore the latest plans and curriculum for teaching these arenas, I shared with him the nature of the books we were lugging about.  No, I insisted to him, the Christian religion isn't just a private, inner matter, and dare not be sequestered out of public life.  And yes, faith has large implications for thinking about and perceiving each of these topics.  

We had quite a number of good books on faith-based perspectives for uniquely understanding science, technology, engineering and math and it is always a delight to see sciency majors realize there are Christian books for them and their areas of study and service.  We sold a few of Mathematics Through the Eyes of Faith by Russell Howell and James Bradley (HarperOne; $19.95), a couple of Responsible Technology: A Christian Perspective edited by Stephen Monsma et al (Eerdmans; $27.00) and a few on information science, such as Information Technology and Cyberspace: Extra-connected Living? by David Pullinger (Pilgrim Press; $14.95.)  We always have good conversations with students studying to enter STEM related careers and this accessible Giberson/Collins is the book that sold the most in the science arena.

Ddisability-and-the-gospel-how-god-uses-our-brokenness-to-display-his-grace.jpgisability and the Gospel: How God Uses Our Brokenness to Display His Grace  Michael Beates (Crossway) $15.99 I suppose there are other more practical books about religious perspectives on special education, and some that are quite useful to help congregations be more inclusive of those with special needs. And there are remarkable, scholarly ones, too. But for a basic Biblical overview of how to start think about disabilities, handicapping conditions, diseases and pain, this gospel-centered teaching really makes for a very solid foundational book.  Joni Eareckson Tada's moving forward helped assure students that it was important.

caring_for_words.jpgCaring for Words in a Culture of Lies  Marilyn Chandler McEntyre (Eerdmans) $18.00 I mentioned how much I loved this in my Jubilee Pro talk - about the power of stewarding words. That these were first given at Princeton at the Stone Lectures (made famous by Jubilee icon Abraham Kuyper didn't hurt any, either.) Thanks to those who trusted me and picked it up pronto. So glad.

Wwalking on water L'engle.jpgalking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art Madeline L'Engle (North Point Press) $15.00  We had a ton of books on the arts, and happily sold some of our favorites, such as It Was Good: Making Art to the Glory of God edited by Ned Bustard (Square Halo Books; $24.99), Rainbows for the Fallen World and Bearing Fresh Olive Leaves, both by Calvin Seerveld (Toronto Tuppence Press; $30.00 and $35.00, respectively) and, of course, the one by the brilliant Jubilee 2013 speaker, Daniel Siedell, God in the Gallery: A Christian Embrace of Modern Art (BakerAcademic; $25.00.)  We sold a few of the quite lovely, brief, and inexpensive Art for God's Sake by Phil Ryken (P&R; $6.99.) But this luscious volume by dear Madeline is a classic, and always appeals.  We were glad to see students interested in it.

Ggame-day-for-glory-god-guide-athletes-stephen-altrogge-paperback-cover-art.jpgame Day for the Glory of God: A Guide for Athletes, Fans, and Wannabes Stephen Altrogge (Crossway) $10.99 There are a few more substantial studies of athletics that we featured, such as Good Game: Christianity and the Culture of Sports by Shirl Hoffman (Baylor University Press; $29.99), Kneeling in the End Zone: Spiritual Lessons from the World of Sports by Josh Tinley (Pilgrim Press; $15.00) and InsideOut Coaching: How Sports Can Transform Lives by Joe Ehrmann (Simon & Schuster; $24.00) that we prayed that serious athletes, coaches and those mentoring young sports stars would grapple with. And, of course, we have little devotionals by and for jocks. But this short books gets to the heart of the matter and it is brief and inspiring.


Thspace between jacobsen.jpge Space Between: Christian Engagement with the Built Environment  Eric O. Jacobsen (BakerAcademic) $22.99  We had books on urban planning,  good ones on architecture, design studies, and such, but this was the one we pushed on anybody browsing anywhere near that section. It is much better and more extensive than his important freshman book, Sidewalks of the Kingdom, and offers profound theological insight, a very, very good take on the basics of this field, and a beautiful call for people of faith to think Christianly about - indeed to "see" Christianly -- the very places we inhabit.  One of the best "Jubilee" books that flesh out a Christian perspective in a growing field.  Glad we promoted it, glad people bought it, and glad for growing interest in this sort of thing. Kudos all around. 



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February 26, 2013

POST-JUBILEE 30% OFF SALE: What didn't sell so well, but should have. (Extra discount expires 3-3-13.)

I hope you saw the BookNotes post from a few days ago - we celebrated the CCO and their Jubilee 2013 conference with my excited ruminations and an on-going sale on the best-selling titles we had there.  If you care about what some of the smartest young adults we know are reading, what sort of things resonate with them, what kinds of topics capture their hearts, it would be time well spent, I think, to check it out.

And, if you want a short vimeo video with a few students sharing their enthusiasm, visit this. (Be sure to let it load a bit; you know vimeo.) 
You may recall that in David Kinnaman's important study of de-churched young adults, You Lost Me (Baker; $17.99) he reported that his research showed that many young adults drift from faith because their church seemed disconnected to the world as they know it, especially the world of professions, the arts, science, work, career, calling.  And also because many churches seem to be too politically conservative, perceived as more interested in a particular cultural regime rather than standing for the justice and mercy that Jesus proclaimed.
Well, Jubilee gets much of that right. 

We promote books there that are consistent with their vision -- books about art and film, onBB at Jubilee.jpg science and engineering, explorations of media culture and creation care, and so much more. We promoted stuff on social justice, showing off books about fighting poverty, racism, the disregard of the unborn, books with peacemaking themes, and, of course we had age-appropriate books about sexuality and dating and marriage. We displayed books to reinforce the Jubilee vision that their speakers proclaimed - God in Christ is redeeming all aspects of the fallen creation and we get to play a part in the epic rescue project! They helped students imagine their college lives not as a passport to privilege but as skills and insight for the service of the common good and intregal Christian witness.
If you don't have many twenty-somethings at your church (ahem, you know who you are: most of us) you should study that list.  Order some of those books.  Get them into the hands of the young adults you know.  I hate to sound like a finger-shaking "told-you-so" grump, but there are some of our readers who don't read these books, don't start book clubs of this sort with twenty-somethings, don't talk about faith and work, don't facilitate conversations about the Christianity and the arts and digital culture, and they still complain to me that they don't have the "you lost me" demographic.  You don't have to come to Pittsburgh for Jubilee (although you could drag a few young adults there next year, or help fund your collegiates with a scholarship) but to fail to pay attention to those themes that make that event so fruitful is just short-sighted.

Ho, ho, you may be thinking: Byron is on his high-horse (again) telling us to solve the malaise of our youth programs and (mostly non-existent) college age ministry, by just reading BookNotes and getting a couple of cool books.

I know it isn't that easy.  But cut me a break: I'm not making this stuff up.  We've been involved in young adult church work, on and off, for nearly 40 years. We've seen kids come alive when given the chance to engage these kinds of authors, reading books of serious faith and contemporary relevance.

And, I also know it doesn't always work. 

Even at Jubilee, we still misjudge what will sell, what works, what we are able to promote inamazon swansea 2.jpg the hectic, too-short weekend. We get stuck at the end of with a lot of unsold inventory, good, good stuff, that we just didn't sell.

So, here ya go.  As promised, here's a list of titles that didn't sell so well, books we ordered in in greater quantities, and that we now need to unload. Bookselling is a roll of the dice, really, and we too often get stuck with stuff.  You now benefit with deeper than usual discounts.

                                                               Okay, so we don't have this much overstock, but you get the picture.
This week only, until end of day March 3, 2013, you can have anything on this list at 30% off. While supplies last. (Afterwards, these titles remain at our usual BookNotes 20% discount.)
As always, we show the regular retail price, and will deduct the discount for you. Just click on the order tab below and tell us what you want.

Wwisdom & wonder_front.jpgisdom and Wonder Common Grace in Science and Art  Abraham Kuyper (Christian's Library Press) $14.00  Here is why this was a bust: we promoted the daylights out of it last year (it was brand new then) telling students that this remarkable former Prime Minister of Holland from 100 years ago had given deep, serious, foundational insight about common grace for the common good, and that there is a pretty direct line between the revival in the Netherlands under Kuyper, the worldviewish reformational tradition sometimes now called neo-Calvinism, and the heritage of the Jubilee conference in Pittsburgh.  So, yeah, we pushed it before.  Also, Stephen Grabill, who helped edit the thing, was going to be a speaker at the pre-conference for adults, Jubilee Pro, and around for the week-end, but he got sick and couldn't attend.  Okay, maybe that blew it. Rats.  Anyway, now's the time to grab it, hearing directly from the man who coined the phrase about Christ redeeming "every square inch." As James K.A. Smith says of it, "it is just what we need!"

Aabraham-kuyper-short-personal-introduction-richard-j-mouw-paperback-cover-art.jpgbraham Kuyper: A Short and Personal Introduction RIchard J. Mouw (Eerdmans) $  Well, this is the best book that explains the significance of Kuyper, his views of reforming society (not conservatism, but not revolution, either.) Rich Mouw is a very thoughtful and justice-seeking, ecumenically-aware evangelical -- my kind of guy! -- who has, like his old friend Nicholas Woltersdorf, say, been deeply influenced by Kuyper's legacy, his writing, and the on-going conversations about him and is the perfect guy to guide us into why he matters at this junction in history. (Mouw spoke at Jubilee last year, and some students have heard of Kuyper but this historic shot on the cover doesn't help any, if you get my drift.)  This is without a doubt the best little introduction. There will be a major, historic release of a new biography by James Bratt, soon, so read this now and whet your appetite. Please, please, buy these now at this good Dutch discount.

Ccreation regained.gifreation Regained: The Biblical Basis for a Reformational Worldview  Albert Wolters (Eerdmans) $15.00 Again, this is, quite simply, one of the most enduring books sold at Jubilee, a constant influence of CCO staff and their distinctive work.  The structure and flow of the conference - talks on the goodness of creation, the brokenness of the fall, the grace of Christ's redemption, and the full-orbed, this-world restoration of God's coming Kingdom - is described here with as much Biblical clarity as in any book we know.  The slightly philosophical chapter called "structure and direction" is a must to master.  I was going to describe it up front and, uh, forgot. Yikes.  We have quite a stack, here, on sale, now.  It's 30% off, while this batch lasts.

pursuing justice.jpgursuing Justice: The Call to Live and Die for Bigger Things  Ken Wytsma (Nelson) $19.99 This came a few days before we left for Jubilee and, since Wystma is the guy who had founded the popular Justice Conference, I figured we'd be applauded for having it, hot off the press.  There is a lot of talk about this topic at Jubilee, and this important, balanced, thorough resource has blurbs and endorsements by oodles of great folks from across the theological spectrum.  (Nicholas Wolterstorff, John Perkins, Bethany Hoang, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, Eugene Cho, Walter Brueggemann, Jeremy Courtney, Stephan Bauman, just to name a few.) Yet - maybe it is because it is a hardback (what were they thinking there at the publishing house?) - I don't think we sold a single one.  Yes, there are cheaper, similar resources readily available. I've started to skim this, study the footnotes, and it is, indeed, very, very good.  But, this is nearly historic, less because of the study itself (which, again, looks fantastic) but because of what it represents, this progressive, justice-seeking, evangelical movement.  This is a very important book, and this movement is growing.  This may be a bell-weather book, and I think for you to have it would be wise.

Tthe world is not ours.jpghe World Is Not Ours To Save: Finding the Freedom to Do Good  Tyler Wigg-Stevenson (IVP) $16.00  Huge kudos to IVP, their "likewise" imprint, and the collaboration here with Q Ideas. Tyler has been deeply involved in helping warn international leaders about the dangers of nuclear weapons and if anybody could get depressed, it is he.  Alas, this good blessing of a book is perhaps his most lasting gift - how to work for social change out of hope, not despair, how to do good out of response to the mercies and promises of God, not out of our own frenzied desire to make a difference.  I wish I had this book 35 years ago.  I pushed it at Jubilee, and sold a few to the seasoned activists there, but, to be honest, it could be that the audience was a bit too young - still idealistic, taking on their dizzying array of causes and cares with great energy. If you fear you are growing cynical or jaded, if you feel like you have the weight of the world's sorrows on your shoulders, this is a must-read for you.
Mmud and masterpiece.jpgud and the Masterpiece: Seeing Yourself and Others Through the Eyes of Jesus  John Burke (Baker) $19.99  I can't believe I didn't have the opportunity to really explain this, and think it didn't sell because the title just isn't that clear. Or because it is a hardback (sometimes publishers just mystify me.)  Still, this book is worth every penny. It uses a neat metaphor, and once you get it, it is very cool - it talks about art restoration and how they have to carefully remove the mud from historic paintings; that is, as we scrap off the encrusted dirt, we can see the beauty underneath. As it says on the back, "Every person you see - including the one you see in the mirror - is a Masterpiece." This author (who wrote a useful book about missional hospitality, No Perfect People Allowed) has a heart to work through the junk in other's lives.  Would that we all could see that there are (as Lewis put it) "no ordinary people." This uses this art restoration shtick coupled with an engaging study of Jesus' encounters with imperfect people. Let's not be like the Pharisees, but learn to see with Christ's eyes, revealing the Masterpiece in others.  I wish I could have explained this very creative, very interesting work.  It is a message we all need to hear, and it could give a real concrete way to think about our love for others, especially those who are most hurting and needy.  And, as one reviewer noted, Mud and the Masterpiece "drips with hope."

Gogod freedom & human d.jpgd, Freedom & Human Dignity: Embracing a God-Centered Identity in a Me-Centered Culture Ron Highfield (IVP Academic) $22.00  I am so, so pleased with the academic line of IVP and carry nearly everything they do (even though we are not, technically, an scholarly store.) This new release is one of those foundational books that, as far as I can tell, would be incredibly useful for anyone studying in the social sciences, for anyone exploring the nature of the person, or the philosophical questions about dignity and worth.  Does God's all-encompassing will restrict our freedom? Does God's ownership and master over us diminish our dignity? This Promethean quest  has long been a major theme in Western thought and Highfield traces out the development of  this in Western thought from Plato, Augustine, and Descarte, through Locke, Kant, Hegel, Nietzche, and others.  Okay, you can see why your typical student didn't grab it.  And you can see why it is nonetheless very important - offering a discerning overview of the genealogy of an idea that is so very central to a life well lived and to healthy human flourishing.  Rave, rave reviews on the back from Scot McKnight, Richard Mouw, and Chap Clark, who says "we've needed a book like this for a long, long time, but it's been worth the wait."  You aren't going to find it any cheaper than this deal, now.

Ttruth speaks to power Brueggy.pngruth Speaks to Power: The Countercultural Nature of Scripture  Walter Brueggemann (Westminster/John Knox) $17.00  There is a lot of talk at Jubilee about a Biblically-informed perspective on life and times, and Brueggemann's Prophetic Imagination is sometimes cited.  Most younger students aren't quite ready for this subtle, mature, nuanced, powerful author, but I should have sold a few more of these. It is brand new. It is his (controversial, to some) view of how the Bible works, the subversion of established institutions of power, that a close reading of Biblical texts can yield. There is a thick complexity of this sort of textual reading, but he insists that we can move beyond an innocent reading, and hear what might really have been going on in these beloved Bible stories. He looks carefully and provocatively at Moses, Solomon, Elisha, Josiah, and offers a final chapter "Power and Truth Among Us." Wow.
Mmore than equals.jpgore Than Equals: Racial Healing for the Sake of the Gospel  Spencer Perkins & Chris Rice (IVP) $17.95  Every year, we feature a lot of books about multi-ethnic ministry, racial reconciliation and the like.  There are a lot of folks interested in this - thanks be to God! - and we sometimes overdo how many books we bring. Plus, there was another conference a few days before Jubilee on racial diversity in higher education, and we had featured this there.  Anyway, it is a true classic, one of the best books on faith-based conversations around racism and reconciliation, especially between blacks and whites.  We always carry this, but this week, we'd love to sell a few extra ones at this deeper discount. If you haven't read this yet, I guarantee you it will move you, you will learn something, and you will care more deeply about this Biblical mandate.  Highly recommended.

heroic conserv.jpgeroic Conservatism: Why Republicans Need to Embrace America's Ideals (And Why They Deserve To Fail if They Don't)  Michael Gerson (HarperOne) $15.00  The always eloquent Mike Gerson was set to speak at Jubilee Professional and, alas, had to  fill in on a day's notice for a national PBS gig, subbing for David Brooks.  Can't blame him;  Mr. Leher's Newshour gets an audience of millions.  Anyway, we were stuck with extras of this fascinating book that we have often mentioned here before.  Here, Gerson writes, movingly, of leaving the employ of the White House, and why the Republican Party ought to attend to the just cause of supporting the poor and oppressed. You may know of his passion for Africa and the historic anti-AIDS funding from the Bush years.  No matter what side of the isle you're on, if any, you should read this thoughtful book.

inked.jpgnked: Choosing God's Mark to Transform Your Life  Kim Goad & Janet Bostwick Kusiak (Abingdon) $15.99  How cool is this? Really.  It just seemed to get lost in the plethora of good titles displayed in our "basic Christian growth" section.  Yes, it is about tattoos, offering glimpses of insight by those who wear tats, and offering a spirituality for them. It offers some neat insight from the world of tattoos but moves to how we are "inked" by our own life experiences.  The authors are therapists, inviting us to attend to, (as Susan Isaacs writes on the back) " the marks of sin and pain in our lives, and to choose God's mark over the scars life has left on us. After all, God himself wears a tattoo with our name on it. 'See, I have written you on the palm of my hands.'"  I wish I could have shown this to some of our friends there, but just didn't have the opportunity.  Is there somebody you could get it for, who could use this message of affirmation, grace, and transformation?

Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work To God's Work Timothy Keller & Katherineevery good e.jpg Leary Alsdorf (Dutton) $26.95  This is a no brainer -- a book you really have to have, perhaps one of the few defining books in the field, clarifying some of the best and most urgent sorts of ministry going down today -- at 30% off.  And, it is also a no brainer why it didn't sell as well at Jubby as it might have: we were pushing Tom Nelson's Work Matters book, who was there. And we were happily selling his equally great book in paperback. You know I love both books, but it was obvious that we had to feature (and were glad to feature) Tom's. (Did you see our review yesterday?) So now we have this Keller tour de force, in a large stack, and want to move 'em pronto.  Buy some now, while this batch lasts. After this sale, the price will return to our BookNotes 20%.

Gods At War: Defeating the Idols that Battle Your Heart

Kyle Idleman (Zondervan) $14.9Gods-at-War-Idleman-Kyle-9780310318842.jpg9 His cool introduction to discipleship called Not a Fan has been huge in recent years, and we enjoyed it a lot, recommended it often, and found it easy to explain (Jesus doesn't want us to "like" him like a fan, but to follow him, like a disciple!) Here, Idleman goes a bit deeper with a graceful, if a bit raw, bit of healing surgery - how can we explore the battlefield of the heart that prevents us from fully trusting and obeying God? Idolatry isn't just an issue, Idelman says, it is "the" issue. This is solid, helpful, sound, upbeat, good - Ann Voskamp says "Only pick up this book if you are tired of losing your battles."  Or, as Lee Strobel says, "Don't just read this book - read it now! In these pages, liberation awaits."  I am not sure why it didn't sell well at Jubilee.  We had it right next to the popular Not a Fan and we had it with other books on idolatry. Maybe it seemed too harsh. My hunch is the title wasn't clear enough. The scruffy cover is edgy, but maybe not inviting enough.  I don't know, but I think I agree with Stroble - some of you need this book now. We're glad to offer it at this 30% off sale, this week only.

HHeartoftheMatter.jpgeart of the Matter: Daily Reflections for Changing Hearts and Lives CCEF (New Growth Press) $19.99  If only the affiliated Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation authors from whose work this compilation of 366 readings is showcases were on the cover, astute readers would have realized how useful this is. No-nonsense Bible-based authors who excel at applying Biblical truths to daily life are here, folks like Ted and Paul Tripp, Timothy Lane,  Edward Welch, David Powlinson, and Michael Emlet. Edited by Nancy Wilson, this brings short readings about temptation, resentment, fear, depression, anxiety, trust, relationships, and other sorts of real-life, personal matters.  We sell a lot of daily devotionals at Jubilee, and wish we'd have been able to hand sell this - it is brand new, and very, very useful.  Maybe you know somebody who needs this solid, gospel-centered wisdom about personal health and hope.
Cconcise theology.jpgoncise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs  J.I. Packer (Tyndale) $14.99  We often try to promote some really accessible, basic book on theological truths, something straight forward, clear, standard-fare stuff.  I know, I know, some folks want edgy, odd stuff, heading off on rabbit trails and interesting side trips.  But, as they say in art school, before you break the rules, you first have to know 'em. So, yeah, we lament the theological ignorance out there, in our churches and in our para-church fellowships and worry that some emerging creatives are all eager to explore the perplexing edges, without ever having be taught the core basics.  This is a fabulous way to get up to speed, a clear and helpful summary of orthodox Christian doctrine, a few pages on each study, exploring what Packer calls "permanent essentials."  I guess I don't have to tell you it didn't sell. We had a big stack, just to capture attention of those browsing.  It didn't work.  The extra discount, now, is yours.

Tfabric of f.jpghe Fabric of Faithfulness: Weaving Together Belief and Behavior Steven Garber (IVP) $16.00  I can hardly name a book that means as much to me, and whose author is as loyal to and influential in the Jubilee/Jubilee Pro conference circles.  Steve directed the conference, in fact, in the 80s, and his profound research into what makes long-lasting, whole-life discipleship is evocative and important. Convictions, character, community?  And more. This is a rich, thoughtful, eloquent, and in many ways challenging work, to be read slowly and carefully, for those who want to enter an enduring conversation about faith, meaning, and the coming reign of God. Steve, of course, offered a workshop at Jubilee and we want to promote his book here, at this extra discount. I know you've heard us describe it before.  It seems to fit here, as a post-Jubilee special.




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