About October 2015

This page contains all entries posted to Hearts & Minds Books in October 2015. They are listed from oldest to newest.

September 2015 is the previous archive.

November 2015 is the next archive.

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

October 2015 Archives

October 8, 2015

Books sold at the national CLS gathering -- and short reviews of two wonderful books by Rod Dreher (The Little Way of Ruthie Leming and How Dante Can Save Your Life.) ON SALE

If you have seen our recent facebook updates or twitter posts you may know that we had a friend drive a large rented van to New Orleans (we flew down and back) in order to set up a large book display for our friends at the Christian Legal Society national conference. This diverse gathering serves ordinary lawyers, judges, law professors and law students helping them think faithfully about their callings in the field of law. 

redeeming law.jpgA big seller there is Michael Schutt's excellent, thoughtful Redeeming Law: Christian Calling and the Legal Profession (IVP; $25.00.) Mike helps emcee the event each year, and he is a dear friend.  It's a must-have book for anyone interested in this field written by a fine and energetic leader who has really thought deeply about his own vocational stewardship. I once joked that it was malpractice for a Christian who is in law-related fields not to own this book, but, you know, I really wasn't joking. 

Others in the core library for lawyers who follow Christ that are maybe a bit more basic, but still  excellent include The Lawyer's Calling: Christian lawyers calling.jpgFaith and Legal Practice by Joseph G. Alligretti (Paulist Press; $12.95) and Can a Good Lawyer Be a Good Christian.jpgCan a Good Lawyer Be a Good Christian: Homilies, Witnesses & Reflections edited by Thomas Baker & Timothy Floyd (University of Notre Dame Press; $25.00.)  I wish other fields -- public school teachers, engineers, doctors, for instance -- had such thoughtful Christian resources that are interesting, helpful and faithful.


We sell all sorts of books on legal theory -- we had almost a hundred, I'd bet, but should at least note these significant ones:

God's Joust, God's Justice: Law and Religion in the Western Tradition by John Witte, Jr. (Eerdmans) $36.00

Law and the Bible: Justice, Mercy and Legal Institutions edited by Robert Cochran & David VanDrunen (IVP Academic) $24.00

Christian Perspectives on Legal Thought by Michael McConnell, Robert Cochran and Angela Carmella (Yale University Press) $50.00. 

Justice: Rights and Wrongs Nicholas Wolterstorff (Princeton University Press) $32.95


Christianity and Human Rights edited by John Witte & Frank Alexander (Cambridge University Press)  $34.99

peacemaker sande.jpgMost CLS participants aren't law school profs or academics, though, and most are just doing ordinary work, day by day, being salt and light in their field. A number of the attorneys that show up are actually involved in encouraging litigants to settle out of court, and be at least somewhat reconciled. We featured the remarkably practical and very useful book The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict by Ken Sande (Baker; $16.99) which we highly recommend.  CLS even had a special training on this model of conflict resolution, although the book itself is good for anyone, anywhere. I hope somebody in your church has a copy around!

Others do work with immigration law, for instance, and some are fighting sexual trafficking.  A few prosecute bad guys stateside and there are Locust Effect- Why the End of Poverty Requires the End of Violence.jpgusually a few international folks around, too, some who may work for groups like IJM or Not for Sale.  Of course we had a good handful of these sorts of books, and are happy that we sold a few of the must-read Locust Effect: Why the End of Poverty Requires the End of Violence  by Gary Haugen and Victor Boutros (Oxford University Press; $18.95.)

Still other CLS members work, often in a pro bono capacity, doing legal aid for the underserved and poor.  The stories of how Christian Legal Aid clinics are popping up around the country is very, very inspiring.  For anyone who has read important books like Robert Lupton's Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help, and How to Reverse It or his brand new Charity Detox: What Charity Would Look Like If We Cared About Results or the popular Helping Without Hurting series by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert (or heck, Ronald Sider's still relevant and nearly unrivaled  Just Generosity: A New Vision for proverbs31-verse.jpgOvercoming Poverty in America) you know that addressing root causes and reforming structural matters are often more effective and just then mere hand-outs and soup kitchens. Hearing about lawyers serving the legal needs of the poor is a great example of the kinds of social support and development that can truly make a lasting difference.  Three big cheers for CLS for this being a part of their Godly agenda of setting up free or reduced cost legal aid clinics in places of need. Here is a brief video of a rather ordinary lawyer talking how she gives a few hours a month to a local Christian Legal Aid Clinic.

just mercy_bryan.jpgAnd while most ordinary lawyers don't do this kind of work up close, there was a keen interested in Bryan Stevenson's Just Mercy: A Story of Justice & Redemption (Spiegel & Grau; $16.00.) Of course.  (I hope you know we've promoted this from it's first day, and have been glad to see it becoming well known. Truly one of the best books of the year!)

good of p .jpgBooks more generally about public theology and civic life are important to this crowd. I pushed the great little book by Vince Bacote, The Political Disciple: A Theology of Public Life (Zondervan; $11.99), Miroslav Volf's passionate A Public Faith: How Followers of Christ Should Serve the Common Good (Brazos Press; $18.99) and made a plea from up front for folks to work through James Skillen's major work, The Good of Politics: A Biblical, Historical, and Contemporary Introduction (Baker; $24.00.) We sold books on worldview and work, leadership and leisure, culture and the renewal of society, the Christian mind and a bit of philosophy. (Okay, not much philosophy.) Two of last year's CLS keynote speakers have new books out, so we plugged those and they were a natural fit for this gathering: Russell Moore's Onward: Engaging the Culture without Losing the Gospel (BH; $24.99) and John Stonestreet's Restoring All Things: God's Audacious Plan to Change the World Through Everyday People (Baker; $16.99.) They were perfect sorts of books for many in this crowd.

Renaissance -  Os Guinness.jpgRenaissance: The Power of the Gospel However Dark the Times by Os Guinness (IVP; $16.00) was also one we prominently display; we continue to think this is a helpful antidote to culture wars and social division and religious frustration, and a reminder to trust God and put first things first. I do hope you'd consider reading it and sharing it. It's a book that should be well known among us.

Many lawyers are drawn to apologetics. Last year one of our biggest sellers at their conference in Boston, in fact, was by a prominent lawyer and highly regarded U of Penn Law School professor, John Skeel, whose True Paradox: How Christianity Makes Sense of Our Complex World (IVP; $16.00.) had just come out.

fools talk.jpgThis year in NOLA we sold a bunch of Os Guinness's very thoughtful, recently released book on Christian persuasion Fools Talk: Recovering the Art of Christian Persuasion (IVP; $22.00.) I trust you saw our BookNotes review describing it and it's value when it came out.

I promoted it passionately during a book announcement, and invited these thoughtful leaders to purchase it and read it carefully -- in many ways, it is the life work of Guinness, offering insights he learned from his own main intellectual influences (C.S. Lewis, Francis Schaeffer and Peter Berger.)

Of course, many of the CLS tribe know Guinness and his books good on civil society such as A Free People's Suicide: Sustainable Freedom and the American Future and The Global Public Square: Religious Freedom and the Making of a World Safe for Diversity (both IVP; $16.00 each.)

I hope you know them.

global public square os 10 - 8.jpgfree peoples suicide os 10-8.jpg

And, naturally, we always tell thoughtful readers about Steve Garber's Visions of Vocation: Common Grace for the Common Good (IVP; $16.00) which I continue to say is one of my all time favorite books.  How to keep on loving God's world even while we know "how the sausage is made" is an important matter for visions of vocation.jpgall of us, and certainly for those working in law, since I suppose they quite often have to deal with set-backs, compromises, and great, great human brokenness. If you haven't picked this up yet, don't hesitate.  It is beautifully done, exceptionally thoughtful, and very, very wise.  It is not a simple or quick read, but one to savor and ponder.

Despite the emphasis on social renewal and religious liberties and the like, we also featured rows and rows of books on faith formation, spiritual disciplines, missional discipleship, and practical stuff such as resources on work/life balance and family life (not to mention a few great kids books!)

Free to Serve- Protecting the Religious Freedom of Faith-Based Organizations .jpgOne of the books that we were especially honored to feature was Free to Serve: Protecting the Religious Freedom of Faith-Based Organizations co-authored with former Congressman and legal scholar Stephen V. Monsma by our friend Stanley Carlson-Thies (Brazos Press; $16.99.) We were the first place in the country to have it, launching it there, as it were, as Stanley was there doing workshops and panels on religious freedom and principled pluralism.  Not to show off too much, but here are some of Stanley's impressive credentials:

He has a PhD from University of Toronto (and had studied at the Institute for Christian Studies) and is now director of the Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance, in partnership with the Center for Public Justice (CPJ), in Washington, DC. He is a senior fellow at CPJ and at the Canadian think tank Cardus. He convenes the Coalition to Preserve Religious Freedom, a multi-faith alliance that advocates for the religious freedom of faith-based organizations to Congress and the federal government. Carlson-Thies served with George W. Bush's White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives and served on a task force of President Obama's Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. He has appeared on NPR and in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and Christianity Today.

Free to Serve focuses on the debates about whether and what kind of religious freedoms should be legally honored -- think of the lawsuits about Hobby Lobby, the Little Sisters of the Poor, the right of campus ministry organizations like InterVarsity Christian Fellowship to have their leaders sign a statement of faith and still be a valid campus organization, or whether churches, synagogues or mosques can rent public school space in the same way other organizations can, the legal questions about whether Muslim men can grow short beards while in prison or whether Native people's can religiously use Peyote (CLS says yes, by the way!)

Anyway, we are grateful for the work of the Religious Freedom Alliance and glad for Carlson-Thies justice-for-all, bipartisan vision.  We now have this excellent new resource which makes practical the questions about what it means to live justly in a pluralistic society.  Not everyone agrees with this approach but I think it really is a great book to explore these questions, with lots of stories and case studies and lots to consider.  If anyone can advocate for religious freedom without seeming belligerent or unreasonable, who truly stands for liberty and justice for all, it is these two soft-spoken and very smart authors, Monsma & Carlson-Thies. Why not order it today and learn about their proposals for helping to solve this complicated matter in our contentious social fabric.

decline of african american theology.jpgThabiti Anyabwile.jpgOf course we sold books by the main keynote speakers there at CLS New Orleans. Our favorite new friend is Thabiti M. Anyabwile, author of many, many books which we stock -- on topics as diverse as the revitalization of the historic black church to the little hardback What Is a Healthy Church Member (Crossway; $12.99) to the communal nature of spiritual formation in The Life of God in the Soul of the Church (Christian Focus; $14.99) to a lovely small book called The Gospel for Muslims (Moody Press; The Life of God in the Soul of the Church.jpg$12.99.) He was a fantastic presenter, a great gospel preacher who walked the gathering through the Good Samaritan passage with fresh power and insight,  and then even allowed us to recommend books to him, which he will devour, I'm sure.

gifted hands.jpgIt was fun watching the buzz about the arrival of pediatric neurosurgeon turned Presidential candidate Ben Carson (he had been booked to speak long before histhink big.jpg announcement about his candidacy.) We had just gotten his brand spanking new one on the constitution, A More Perfect Union: What We the People Can Do to Reclaim Our Constitutional Liberties (Sentinel; $26.95) although Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story -- his own story -- is still his most inspiring volume and Think Big: Unleashing Your Potential for Excellence is one we often recommend (especially for that chapter on reading!)

possible.jpgStephan Bauman.jpgSpeaking of plenary speakers it was really great to be with our friend Stephan Bauman, energetic visionary and CEO of World Relief -- you just have to read his Possible: A Blueprint for Changing How We Change the World (Multnomah $22.99.)  We've mentioned it before, here, and still think it is a very, very moving book -- great for anyone wanting to make a difference, to relate spirituality and efforts for justice, and for those that want an experienced guide into working for God's Kingdom by serving the common good.

What a blast we had, serving this fabulous, diverse gathering. What interesting books we get to transport to events, what a joy to curate and display a pop-up bookstore for those who want to be life-long learners, eager to relate faith to every aspect of their lives, including their work and careers.

Of course, we have all of these here at the shop, so do send us an order if you need any of these kinds of resources.


The Little Way of Ruthie Leming: A Southern Girl, a Small Town, and the Secret of a Good Life Rod Dreher (Grand Central/Hachette) $16.00

How Dante Can Save Your Life: The Life-Changing Wisdom of History's Greatest Poem  Rod Dreher (Regan Arts) $29.95

The Little Way of Ruthie Leming- A Southern Girl, a Small Town, and the Secret of a Good Life.jpgDante Dreher.jpgTwo books I most want to tell you about, though, are from yet another speaker at CLS,  Rod Dreher, who we were very eager to met. To hang out a bit with him and his hilarious wife Julie (who we feel we know from the The Little Way of Ruthie Leming memoir) was a highlight of the trip.

We promoted Dreyer's The Little Way of Ruthie Leming: A Southern Girl, a Small Town, and the Secret of a Good Life when it came out in hardback a year or so ago, and awarded it one of the best books of the year in our BookNotes end of the year awards. Beth had adored it and voted it onto the Best of 2014 list and although I was quite taken with the premise, just never found time to read it straight through.

But once I started it in earnest, recently, I just couldn't put it down, racing through it, only to stop to wipe away tears or to ponder the deeper questions it was raising about my own life, family, and vocation and sense of place here in central Pennsylvania.  I can honestly say it is one of the best books I've read in years!

The plot line of the book is simple: Rod Dreher (who you may know as a witty and thoughtful conservative pundit and Orthodox Christian thinker) found out that his sister, Ruthie Leming, was dying of cancer, and although he and his wife were fast-tracking around the worlds of serious think-tank journalism in the yuppie Eastern seaboard, they were oddly drawn to the colorful cast of down-home country characters in his old hometown in southern Louisiana. They would fly down to visit with Ruthie and so admired her, her husband (a fire-fighter) and her good friends.

I've never watched the TV show Swamp People and am only mildly amused by the antics of Duck Dynasty and am not even sure why I bring them up (since Dreher does not, although he does tell about people with nicknames like Big Show and Boo the pharmacist and towns with names like New Roads.) In mentioning a drive in joint kids would visit in his youth that got a "bug zapper the size of a mop bucket" being a big deal, he noted, "It was that kind of town.") You can imagine the culture shock when Dreher and his wife and kids determine to move back to the Saint Francisville parish and the tiny town of Starhill and reconcile with extended family there.

This was a major move for them, but warranted. As it says on the back cover, "Dreher began to wonder whether the commonplace life Ruthie led was in fact a path to a hidden grandeur, even spiritual greatness."

The Little Way of Ruthie... is a rumination on place and small town life, on the ways local folk help one another, about real family values -- values and folkways that maybe look different when embodied in Starhill then abstractly politicized by the spokespersons of the religious right. It tells a moving tale, artfully hinting at what Elizabeth Gilbert describes in her blurb as "love, surrender, sacrifice, and family."  

rod and ruthie.jpgI was struck by a few things in reading The Little Way of Ruthie Leming. First, just how enjoyable a read this was, as good as any great memoir or novel. The subtitle, after all, features a Southern girl and a small town, not to mention "the Secret of a Good Life." (Okay, it isn't Sweet Home Alabama with Reese Witherspoon, but the movie rights have been optioned!)  We happily commended it often when it first came out, but now I really know how good it is and want to redouble our efforts to spread the word.  It isn't ponderous or difficult, even though there are huge cultural and spiritual questions floating around and behind the narrative. I've gone so far as to say that if you've enjoyed Wendell Berry's novels (such as Jayber Crow or Hannah Coulter) you'll like this.

dreher-family_wide-705c77696db62252a7900a77c72f76bdd3aca9fa.jpgWhile Little Way of... is no tell-all, sappy soap opera, Dreher's own foibles (and there are foibles) are admitted and his own spiritual longings are part of the story. His being drawn by beauty to deeper Christian faith, his love of Paris and fine food, and older, historic cultures, are moving parts of the story. His yearnings are palpable and inspiring. It isn't a major topic of the narrative, but he and his wife become Roman Catholic, and then Orthodox. They seem like the ideal urbane sophisticates and heading back to a town with less than 1,700 folks and not much to do (as we say) was surprising and fascinating; his framing this in light of not only his desire for a more sane and healthy life but as part of his own spiritual formation and faith development is instructive.

The Little Way of Ruthie Leming- A Southern Girl, a Small Town, and the Secret of a Good Life.jpgAnn Voskamp says "This book will make you feel hunger pangs for what you didn't know you even missed. And then it will feed you, line upon line, like soul bread." Indeed, it comes to us as a low-key, even sentimental story, but there is rich theological truth here.

Here is another thing I liked: it is not published by a religious publishing house. Many evangelical publishers would blanch at the talk about drinking wine and margaritas and skinny dipping and ghosts and sex and Catholic shrines and bayou river parties and barefoot pall bearers. The writing is frank (although never gratuitous) about all manner of Southern things. It is a profoundly religious book, even though it isn't pitched as a religious testimony.

Of course, when one leaves such a close knit family, and returns amidst tragedy and grief, thinks are not rosy; how could they be?  Much of The Little Way... is a tribute to the remarkably joyful Ruthie and her friends and co-workers at her school who rallied with and for her in her final year but much is also about the subtle pains and dysfunctions of this larger-than-life southern family.  Can you go home again?  That is the question.

In one scene many of us could imagine, he bumps into an old girlfriend where there was some old tensions and hurts. 

This is what it means to move home," her writes. "Communitarian romanticism is fine, but what do you do when the past isn't even past, but is in fact jogging down your street, and stepping onto your front porch to say hello?"

We loved Mrs. Ruthie Leming and her daughters and we loved Rod and Julie Dreher and the extended family we got to know through reading this fine book, including Mam and Paw. It did not end with completely resolved happiness, which is as it should be, I suppose. You will close the book glad for having met these folks, feeling perhaps bittersweet about the whole situation, and most likely wishing for more.

And -- who knew? -- you will get more.  A lot more.

Dante Dreher.jpgMr. Dreher's recent book How Dante Can Save Your Life: The Life-Changing Wisdom of History's Greatest Poem is not just a thoughtful contemporary Christian telling us about Dante's 700-year old Commedia, it's a memoir.  In fact, he says in the preface that if you want an intellectual survey of this seminal work in the Western canon, you should look elsewhere.

Dreher quickly says, How Dante Can Save Your Life "is not a literary analysis, it is a person view. It's a self help book for people who may not read self-help books, but who are curious and delight in journeys of self-discovery along roads not often taken. Nothing would make me happier than for you to finish this book and take up the Commedia -- but it's not strictly necessary."

You see, Dreher himself (as we know from The Little Way of Ruthie Leming) is a seeker and he has burned some bridges and found himself in his own dark wood.  He starts off this book noting that he had grown anxious and stressed, even being afflicted with a related autoimmune disorder from his depression.  

"This is a book about exile" he tells us. "What does it mean to know you can never go home? This was Dante's dilemma -- and in a different sense, it is mine."

Rod encourages us all, whatever perplexities we may face, whatever you may face: "Dante showed me the way through. He can do the same for you."

Though the Commedia was written by a faithful Catholic, its message is universal. You don't have to be a Catholic, or any sort of believer, to love it and to be changed by it. And though mine is a book that's ultimately about learning to live with God, it is not a book of religious apologetics; it is a book about finding our own true path. Like the Commedia it celebrates, this book is for believers who struggle to hold on to their faith when religious institutions have lost credibility. It's a book for people who have lost faith in love, in other people, in the family, in politics, in their careers, and in the possibility of worldly success. Dante has been there too.  He gets it.

I am not a purist about what I read, and How Dante Can Save Your Life: The Life-Changing Wisdom of History's Greatest Poem is, in a way, a perfect book for me. (Again, one does not have to read Dante first.) Maybe it will be useful and fun and inspiring for you, too. It is not a scholarly treatise, but, as a memoir of Dreher's own inner struggles, we learn a lot about the three volumes of The Divine Comedy. Isn't that cool in many ways -- you don't have to read the imposing epic poem first.  It's a great doorway into classic literature, accessible, moving, relevant, but not dry or abstract.dante-header.jpg

Again, in the introduction, Dreher reminds us

For the poem to work its magic on the reader, it has to be taken up into the moral imagination in a personal way. You have to engage in dialogue with our Florentine guide along the pilgrim path. When I gave myself over to him, I found that Dante is not a remote figure from an alien world but a warm companion with whom I had far more in common than I could have imagined. He is simply a fellow wayfarer who has seen great things, both terrifying and glorious, along life's way, and wants to tell you all about it.

Dreher, too, has some some terrifying and glorious things.  I mean that.  And he, too, wants to tell you about them.  He knows, as he puts it, that "there is no easy way out." 

Virgil said to the pilgrim Dante, "Let us go. The long road urges us."  What a great way to start this literary memoir of self discovering and spiritual salvation.

I will just say this much more.  You don't have to read The Little Way of Ruthie Leming  to appreciate this story of Dreher's Louisiana encounter with Dante. But it might help.  And, if you have read Ruthie Leming  but thought that Dreher's Dante book is not for you, think again. In some ways it really is a sequel to Ruthie Leming.

How Dante Can Save Your Life starts, in fact with this good line:  "Florence has the Arno; Starhill has the Mississippi." 

Oh yeah, I thought, this is going to be good.

He continues,

Aside from that, the fields and orchards of the rural Louisiana settlement where my family has lived for five generations is about as far from the Tuscan capital as any place in the Western world.

This is the story of that place, and of two men who grew up there and whose lives have been defined by its traditions: my father and me.

So, yes, Rod's daddy, Ray (also known as Paw in Ruthie Leming) is a key character along with Rod and his family in How Dante Can Save Your Life. Bet you didn't see that coming?

I sure didn't. I thought Dreher was back to his classical punditry, his conservative Catholic cultural studies, and giving us a (snooty?) guide to serious Western lit that we all should know.  Nope.  This really is another memoir, the ongoing family saga, the struggles he and Julie and his kids had once they moved back to Starhill.

There is heavy pain here, a few miracles, some church history (St. Francis of Assisi died just forty years before Dante, and surely influenced him), serious reflections upon ugly church scandals and personal struggles faced and chronicled. One chapter wonders what sons do and do not owe their father figures. There is some fine advise about finding a mentor. There's a sidebar box called "How To Live with Mystery and Grace" and a chapter about "ties that bind beyond the grave." (How could he not reflect on the nature of Purgatory?)  

How Dante Can Save Your Life: The Life-changing Wisdom... explains that "When Beatrice died, Dante lost her iconic image and became  enthralled by false ones." Yep, there's a chapter on lust, thoughtfully frame as disordered loves, and then some brief guidance on "how to gentle your heart."

You see, this really is a self-help book for those who aren't attracted to such books.

And, it is a literature guide for those who aren't attracted to such books or who don't study older classics.

And is it truly is a colorful memoir you are sure to enjoy, even if you tend not to read creative nonfiction.

Dante_3D_CoverAndCase_HiRes_RGB-554x424.jpgAnd, for what it is worth, it is expertly designed, beautifully done, from the handsome, 3/4 sized dust jacket to the full color frontispieces. It's truly a great book.

Here is what Eric Metaxas writes of it:

Sometimes a book comes along that you want to press into the hands of everyone you know. A brilliant, searingly honest account of one man's path to real healing, and an invitation to the rest of us to join him.

Order either of these mentioned above from us today at our BookNotes discounted prices -- we think you will be glad have them, maybe even discuss them with a book club or small group. It was a joy for us to meet these many authors, and hope you are glad supporting our efforts offering good books to enhance our lives, our culture, our world. 

Our website order form below is secure, or, as we say, we can just send you a bill to pay later.  



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October 17, 2015

3 fantastic new books -- 20% OFF: Unleashing Opportunity, Garden City, and 75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know

When Girls Became Lions.jpgArt of Memoir.jpgSo many great books have been released in the last week or so, and I'm sad I can't tell you about them all.  Recently we've been eager to read the eagerly awaited Mary Karr's Art of Memoir, delighted to get When Girls Became Lions, a lovely new sports novel by Valerie Gin & Jo Kadlecek about the impact of Title IX and women's friendships, glad to have the important new study of the history of contemporary evangelicalism in America, Awakening the Evangelical Mind- An Intellectual History.jpgAwakening the Evangelical Mind: An Intellectual History of the Neo-Evangelical Movement by Owen Strachan.  In between thinking of how I want to review all of these, I've dipped in to the new collection of love poems by Mary Oliver, Felicity.

We get a lot of books in that are really good, even if not useful for everyone; we are proud to announce the significant new Mark Noll volume on Oxford From Nature to Creation- A Christian Vision for Understanding and Loving Our World.jpgUniversity Press, In the Beginning Was the Word: The Bible in American Public Life 1492 - 1783And, the latest in the "Church and Postmodern Culture" series edited by James K.A. Smith, From Nature to Creation: A Christian Vision for Understanding and Loving Our World by Norman Wirzba, which is extraordinary. I've been pondering the latest work by Eastern University philosophy professor, R.J. Snell, whose rare volume is called Acedia and Its Discontents: Metaphysical Boredom in an Empire of Desire.

These all are on a growing short list for my consideration of the best books of 2015, so I've got some serious reading to do in the weeks ahead. You too?  I know you're eager to read and learn more but have time for only the most important and/or lovely and good.  I wouldn't mention these if I didn't think you'd want to consider them, even without further ado.

There are three, though, that are brand, brand new, three that I have deep affinity for and even some connection to, that I must describe for you.

Knowing what I do about many of our readers and customers, I suspect you will appreciate them greatly, and may want to get them right away.  I will try not to go on and on analyzing them in detail, but will try my best to assure you that you will be glad to know about these books.  Maybe you'll want to order them from us at our discounted prices for BookNotes friends, maybe to read with others, or to give to someone who just has to have this kind of energetic resource.  Read on, please!

Unleashing Opportunity- Why Escaping Poverty Requires.jpgUnleashing Opportunity: Why Escaping Poverty Requires A Shared Vision of Justice Michael Gerson, Stephanie Summers & Katie Thompson (Falls City Press) $11.99 I mentioned this in passing a bit ago, before it came out, knowing it was going to be released soon by our good friends at Falls City.  A day or so ago the Center for Public Justice announced the launch of this book that they co-published and nicely told their members that we had it. We're glad for those that rushed orders to us!  In just under 125 pages these three authors have created a book unlike any I've read  -- and I've read a lot in the sociology of poverty, the need for social justice, a Christian response, and ways to be involved in alleviating poverty. It really is an exceptional little contribution, and therefore quite important. 

It might be said that the book has one overarching theme or subtext: to overcome the injustices of income inequalities and opportunity disadvantages - that is, poverty - the government cannot be expected to do everything, since politics cannot solve every human problem, but it can be expected to do some things. Unleashing Opportunity invites us to "a shared vision of justice" by exploring how private sector volunteerism, compassionate assistance, and faith based ministry (and all of civil society and its mediating institutions) can be enhanced by good government and, conversely, how thoughtful, moderate, pro-active, just government can enhance the on-the-ground realities that families, neighborhoods, schools, businesses and courts need to be sure that justice is done and that they can flourish as mediating agencies, serving locally and effectively.  

cpj logo.pngThis really is the wheelhouse of CPJ; neither religious right nor secular left, they believe the Bible teaches a high regard for good government, but their vision also insists that most of life's problems cannot be fully solved by government alone. In this book they flesh out with very concrete studies how poverty can be pushed back and opportunities enhanced by a wise and well-ordered partnership between government and private sector institutions.  It is nonpartisan and powerfully clear, reminding us of the need for a thicker more detailed account of social institutions, including the state, and refreshing ways to consider how individuals, families, and churches can play a part in overcoming poverty in our communities.

The three experienced authors explore how this works out in five key areas that must be enhanced if the growing opportunity gap is to be decreased and all children are given a fair shake: it looks at early childhood services, foster care, juvenile justice, the graduation gap, and the exotic, but breathtaking problem of predatory lending. 

Unleashing Opportunities is arranged in a thoughtful and helpful way. Their analysis in each of the five chapters includes discovering a bit about the magnitude of the particular problem being explored, framing the issues with enduring principles and theological insight, and engaging the issues with concrete facts, case studies, and real-life stories, some of them quite dramatic and full of inspiring hope.

The combo of discover, frame, and engage - data, theology, and stories - makes this really, really useful.

katie thompson.jpggerson.jpgSummers-headshot.jpgIn each section, they directly ask how notions of being made in God's image, the idea that God's world includes structures and systems, and questions of how to live wisely, might influence our engagement with this arena of concern. With this lovely, accessible bit of theological reflection -- image, structures, wisdom -- they make the compelling case that government must play a vital role and that we as citizens simply must affirm strong, involved government (as the Bible teaches, regarding the task of the state - see Psalm 72, just for instance!)

But these writers equally make the case that the kind of government involvement needed is not some big-time, welfare state solution of passing out checks to the poor, merely offering more and more entitlements to consumers of government services.  Rather, they explore how wise, detailed legislation and regulations, tax credits, institutional partnerships and discreet funding of specific projects can shore up the best civil society stuff happening in towns and schools and churches and agencies. (It is no surprise that CPJ released, on the same day as the launch of Unleashing Opportunity about overcoming poverty a book co-authored by their associate Stanley Carlson-Thies, along with Stephen Monsma, called Free To Serve on protecting the religious liberty of faith-based social service organizations using their model of structural pluralism. I commented on it in our last BookNotes blog.)

This is a very particular sort of approach of addressing domestic poverty, neither liberal nor conservative, really, an approach which breaks with the dead-end radical individualism of the right and the socialism of the left.  I sometimes call CPJ a "third way" beyond the left and right, and trust that this helps illustrate not only the bridge-building, refreshing characteristics of the innovations found in this little book, but also its exceptional significance. 

Listen to what Katelyn Beaty, the editor of Christianity Today, says, which clarifies some of the background agenda of this little volume:

In a time when our political system seems ill-equipped to address perpetual injustice, this book recaptures a Christian case for politics. Whether or not you hold political office, you are a political person, and God intends for you to pursue justice in all spheres of life. This book will provide you with a clear, compassionate, and hopeful vision for doing so.

Without attempting to sound breathy or exceedingly passionate about social justice, it quietly and reasonably reminds us of our calling to be good stewards of the privileges of citizenship that we have, and ways we can affirm wise civic initiatives for the common good.

I appreciate what Art Simon, the legendary Lutheran pastor who founded Bread for the World (the Christian citizen's advocacy group that organizes anti-hunger advocacy), says about Unleashing Opportunity:

It's a gem. With uncommon wisdom, Unleashing Opportunity pinpoints five aspects of inequality that cry out for a compassionate response. It shows how personal involvement can change lives and promote public justice - a compelling invitation for believers to help narrow our truly alarming and dehumanizing opportunity gap.

Unleashing Opportunity- Why Escaping Poverty Requires.jpgKudos to these fine authors for offering us nearly a handbook of good citizenship and involvement, at least in the area of fighting poverty and providing lasting and sustainable solutions to the sadness and struggles that so many of our neighbors face in these hard times. 

Perhaps in reading it you will be motivated to learn more about how better foster care regulations might help restrain sexual trafficking; you might be motivated to volunteer by becoming a youth advocate in the juvenile justice system to assure that some kids don't get lost in the harshness of the system; perhaps you will be inspired to get your church involved in after-school programming like the Pittsburgh one Presbyterian pastor Dave Carver helps lead and about which Katie Thompson tells us. Perhaps you will be moved to think about these things when you talk about the poor. Maybe some of this will even inspire you to get involved in your local school board, or the foster care agencies, or to even consider how to be involved in helping those stuck in incredible debt from scandalous lending schemes.

Importantly, it will help you be informed about some of these things when you consider the policy proposals of the various candidates for public office.  And who doesn't need some wise guidance from trustworthy authorities with experience in compassionate service? 

None of the proposals for escaping poverty and shoring up our fractured social/civic architecture are too complicated, but they are not simplistic, either. None are that sexy or dramatic; they are down to earth and need to be lived out locally. This book is an invitation to move from rhetoric to responsible action, a guide to how our struggling mediating structures and civil institutions need support, from ordinary folks, local leaders, church groups, and, yes, from government. It invites you to embrace and share and advocate for this winsome, workable, balanced vision of public justice and care for our needy neighbors.

I love that this book itself is framed by an exceptionally clear and moving foreword by Richard Mouw, himself a respected political theorist, and a strong, evangelical voice in public theology. His lovely overview of God's desire for human flourishing in a well-ordered society and creative culture, and how politics figures into this redemptive view of God's work in the world, is inspiring and a beautiful addition to the meat and potatoes of this useful book. "Politics," he writes, "as we are reminded in these pages, is not everything." But, he continues, "God created us as social beings with a mandate to serve the common good through many different kind of services and vocations.... We need - we desperately need! - the kind of wisdom that is made available to us in these pages."


Kudos to Mike Gerson, Steph Summers and Katie Thompson for their collaboration in bringing us this wisdom for being a good neighbor, a good citizen, a faithful Christian. 

Gerson is a nationally syndicated columnist, author, and former staff member of the White House. Summers is CEO of the Center for Public Justice (and former staff member of the CCO, the campus ministry organization we so love where we grew to respect her immensely. Katie Thompson holds a dual degree from Gordon College in political science and creative writing and is perfectly suited for her work as editor of SharedJustice.org, an online publication for twenty-and-thirty somethings published by CPJ. 

Garden City- Work, Rest, and the Art of Being Human.jpgGarden City: Work, Rest, and the Art of Being Human John Mark Comer (Zondervan) $19.99  I am still pondering this fun and upbeat book, wondering how to explain my joy in discovering it. I nearly want to shout about it from the rooftops!  It just may be, for a variety of reasons, the new go-to starter book when wanting to read about (well, as the subtitle puts it) work, rest, and the art of being human. Comer is chatty and funny and a little bit sarcastic and full of clever stories and analogies, making this a perfect read for younger folks who don't want to wade through dense religious lingo, with small type and big words. It is inviting and interesting and vivid and amazingly right on.

I am not saying Comer has "dumbed down" the whole-life vision of "creation regained" and "all of life redeemed" that we so often write about here. This new book is smart - really smart. It is just that he writes in a style that seems a bit influenced by any number of cool young communicators who use a hip and colloquial style. He seems in a bit in style somewhat like Rob Bell - even the two color graphics on some pages, the broad white spaces, the super-sized font on a few pages with reverse color printing, the minimalist cover sans dust jacket - just like early editions of Velvet Elvis, etc.  Before realizing how very good the content is, this book is just looks pretty freaking cool.

And, the content is really great.

Or, as he might say,





You. Get. The. Picture.

The page numbers have 0 in front of them. Whatever; it's cool.

Really, this well informed book is seriously researched and draws deeply on other vital writers such as Dallas Willard, N.T. Wright, Richard Middleton, Tim Keller, Walter Brueggemann, Abraham Joshua Heschel -- all of whom he thanks in the fun acknowledgement pages. Comer writes, "I doubt I ever had an original thought. My goal is just to spread your work as wide as I can. Hopefully, I make you proud."

john-mark-comer.jpgWell, we need good popularizers of Al Wolters and Andy Crouch and Ben Witherington and Chris Wright and Miroslov Volf. And John Mark Comer captures them well, offering his take of Richard Middleton on the imago dei or summarizing Tim Keller on work or Preston Sprenkle on Biblical nonviolence or Parker Palmer on calling. The important trade journal Publishers Weekly wrote of his writing style in his previous book (Loveology), "his writing is informal and infectious, growing on the reader as the topics get more intimate." But his energetic, cleverly conversational writing is informed by the best stuff being written these days and he is passionate about educating others, helping us really get the implications - the book feels light and fun yet somehow urgent. 

In the footnotes, even, Comer is playful and explanatory, sometimes exclaiming - with double exclamation points!! - that you really have to read this or that book or article. He reveals in one note that Willard's The Divine Conspiracy is "one of my top three favorite books of all time" and of Tom Wright's Surprised by Hope he says "This is hands down the best book on eschatology I've ever read. In fact, one of the best books on anything I've ever read. Go read it!!"  He also has a footnote (following a very famous movie line) noting "That was my mandatory Princess Bride" quote."  Ha.

This fabulous, fun book does offer the overview of the Bible that starts in a garden and ends in a city, so the title is evocative and apropos. This broad overview of the unfolding drama of a coherent Biblical story is so, so important, so this is good.

But more, Garden City by John Mark Comer explores the meaning of our human lives on the way to that renewed Earth. Our work matters, he insists. And so does our rest, our play, our eating and sleeping. Our ordinary life can have great meaning because there is no dualism between the so-called sacred and secular (I love those pages where he says we must "go to war with sacred/secular ideology  -- because it essentially compartmentalizes God.") Man, this is the stuff I preach about often, and when I do, the response is often very interesting - people love hearing that their mundane lives matters to God.  Serious Christian folks sometimes feel guilty over some disconnect between faith and work, or faith and leisure, and we still sometimes wonder if God cares about the ordinary stuff of daily life. This is one of the best surveys of a whole-life spirituality I've seen, and I am so, so glad for it. You will be too!  It is liberating and compelling and very, very helpful.  And righteous.  Dude, it really is!!


Listen to this very important observation by visionary Skye Jethani (author of Futureville) and what he writes of Comer's Garden City:

There is an awakening happening in the Western church. We are rediscovering that God's mission includes all of creation, not just church work, and he intends for us to be flourishing people, not just religious disciples. John Mark Comer's book continues this awakening with accessible insight into forgotten biblical truths about the importance of our identity as women and men created in God's image, the value of our vocations in the world, and a ravishing vision of the beautiful future we are building with God today. Everyone who reads this book will see themselves, their work, and their world with new eyes.

And here is Scott McKnight, offering an excellent recommendation:

In Garden City John Mark Comer takes the reader on a journey--- from creation to the final heavenly city. But the journey is designed to let each of us see where we are to find ourselves in God's good plan to partner with us in the redemption of all creation. Smack-dab in the middle of this set of ideas is Comer's excellent sketch of work, a sketch I find both pastorally mature and an exhortation to each of us to know that all we do has value before God. There is in Garden City an intoxication with the Bible's biggest and life-changing ideas.

Yes, yes, yes - "an intoxication with the Bible's biggest and most life-changing ideas" indeed. I hope you consider ordering it from us right away.

75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know- The Fascinating Stories Behind Great Works of Art.jpg75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know: The Fascinating Stories Behind Great Works of Art, Literature, Music and Film Terry Glaspey (Baker Books) $29.99 What a great, lovely, interesting, and inspiring book this is. We are thrilled to tell you about it.

If you have any curiosity at all about art, literature, film, or music and the true stories behind the great masterpieces of the world, this informative and beautiful book will provide hours and hours of wonderful reading. It is going to be a fabulous gift for gift-giving this holiday season, but you should buy it now so you can read it before gifting it this December. I'm not exaggerating - it is a marvelous idea, and wonderfully written. It is not tedious or overly complex, but it offers enough serious background and interpretation of the art and the artist to appeal to a very wide variety of reader. Hooray!

Some of the greatest artists of all time have taken their inspiration from their Christian faith and exploring how so many great masterworks emerged from artists of deep faith and Christian conviction is the starting point for these delightfully informative explorations.

terry glaspey.jpgMr. Glaspey has written several books on faith formation, reading the Bible, a short biography of C.S. Lewis (Not at Tame Lion) and a book on reading great classics, and he works in the publishing industry. In our own work we have crossed paths a time or two, and I've read his other books; I respect him a lot as I say in my own blurb that appears in the book:

Terry Glaspey seems to know a bit about everything and a lot about the things that matter most. I would read anything he wrote, but this unique volume surpassed my great expectations. If you enjoy pondering the connections between faith, art, culture, and daily discipleship, you will adore this. 75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know is itself a masterpiece. Who else can tell you about a painting by Caravaggio, a novel by Jane Austen, and live album by Johnny Cash all in the same book? Thanks be to God for Glaspey's clear faith, informed knowledge, and winsome writing that can help us glean spiritual insight in cultural projects from Dante to Dylan, from Rembrandt to the Tree of Life.

I was hooked on this idea from the minute I heard of it, knowing it was a great idea, and that Glaspey could pull it off.  But I was really hooked when I realized he was including contemporary rock albums such as a trilogy by Larry Norman, Bruce Cockburn's Dancing in the Dragon Jaws, and The Joshua Tree by U2. And - yay! -- contemporary novels such as Frederick Buechner's Godric and the short stories of Flannery O'Connor. The most recent pieces described are from 2011. I hope you know the painter and the filmmaker described in those final pages!

 75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know starts with early Christian art in the Roman catacombs and then tells us of the amazing story of The Book of Kells and moves on through the Middle Ages (including some stunning cathedrals that are beautifully described) and the obvious selections of that productive era as it lead towards the Renaissance (The Divine Comedy, Rublev's Holy Trinity icon, van Eyck, Durer, Bosch, Michelangelo's famous work on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and so many more.)  Interestingly, he includes a little song from the early 1500's "A Mighty Fortress Is our God."

Several of these are pieces I didn't know at all, or well, and a few are not my favorites. (He gives some advice about this in a good introduction, by the way, and invites us to work a bit at this since the artists themselves, of course, worked very hard. His good guidance and curation are helpful for those of us not well schooled in art history.) Even if you don't know them well, these pictures and descriptions are mostly all very moving and, of course, are truly important works. Rembrandt - Return of Prodigal Son.jpgGlaspey's descriptions are very, very helpful and you will be glad to be inspired by it all.

The listing is arranged chronologically, so one gets to read about Donne, Herbert, the famous St Teresa in Ecstasy sculpture by Bernini next to Rembrandt's famous Return of the Prodigal Son. Or, much later, a review of Death Comes for the Archbishop (Willa Cather), a 1928 film about Joan of Arc by Theodore Dreyer, and Head of Christ by George Rouault in order. Fascinating.

Dancing-In-The-Dr-298268.jpgThere is found here exquisite but teacherly descriptions of stained glass, classical music, poetry, a few plays, films and jazz albums. To read 70's-era pieces such as a European symphony Henryk Gorecki, a folkie album by Canadian Bruce Cockburn, a novel by U.S. Southerner Walker Percy next to a Japanese painting of The Last Supper by Sadao Watanabe (1981) was remarkably moving for me.  75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know really is a very great book.

Here is what Jeff Crosby - an astute music lover and great book man himself -- says of it:

New York Times columnist David Brooks has written that when "you experience great art, you widen your repertoire of emotions." If Brooks is right (and I believe he is) then Terry Glaspey has given us a profound resource for expanding our repertoire through the works he introduces and reflects on wisely, deeply, and artfully in this book. Feast on the sights, sounds, and words covered here as Glaspey does what few could with such elegance: dwell on centuries of art, architecture, poetry, books, music, and film created to the glory of God and in doing so, open a well of appreciation - and emotion - in the hearts and minds of his readers.

Popular women's author and Proverbs 31 Ministries President Lysa TerKeurst says what many of us will want to say:

What a treasure to see how God has used the talents of his people to express their faith and his glory through music, literature, architecture, and more. I loved seeing threads of God's goodness woven throughout each unique story. Thank you, Terry, for your passion to bring these masterpieces to our attention and into our hearts.

I hope you are as thrilled as we are to be able to offer such a handsomely produced, spiritually-enriching, educational book that is a joy to own at such a reasonable price. It's a treasure, to be sure, and Lysa TerKeurst is right: we should thank Terry Glaspey and Baker Books for doing such a fine project for us to enjoy.

See and enjoy an array of other hearty and artfully written endorsements, here. And then -- please --  come back and order it from us, at our BookNotes discount.

Unleashing Opportunity- Why Escaping Poverty Requires.jpg

Garden City- Work, Rest, and the Art of Being Human.jpg

75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know- The Fascinating Stories Behind Great Works of Art.jpg



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October 26, 2015

40 books (or so) displayed at CCO staff seminar: some of our favorites! ALL ON SALE

I had to leave the room - standing in the back of the space where CCO campus ministry staff was worshipping together, I felt tears well up.  Granted the band was very cool, the acoustic guitars and mandolin doing first an old hymn and then a slow, groovy version of "Did You Feel the Mountains Tremble?" with the soulful backup singing by two dear friends creating a reverent and passionate experience of singing before God. But it wasn't just the tone and artful excellence of the song-leading the touched me so; it was how CCO cross cultural director Michael Chen (an accomplished acoustic guitar player and cellist) read Colossians 1: 15 - 19 while the groove continued.

colossians_1_16.pngBeing reminded of this first century worship song - Colossians 1 most likely was used liturgically in the early church - about Christ's Lordship over all of life is always moving for me.  "In Him all things hold together." Christ is to have "first place in everything." He is "redeeming all things." Indeed, the charter for our bookstore work - encouraging the spiritual discipline of reading widely to learn about all things, to deepen curiosity and wonderment, to develop a sense of what is to be done in so many     spheres of life and culture - comes from this very passage.  Just a few days before I was re-reading parts of one of my favorite books - Colossians Remixed: Subverting the Empire by Brian Walsh & Sylvia Keesmaat (IVP) again pondering the meaning and implications of this passage so many of us so value.  I hope you know that book; it will rock your world, I guarantee it.

Hearing Michael read the Colossians passage so well, with the guitar overlay, was just so simple and good and moving. (Oh if only the Bible was read well in our Sunday liturgies and mid-week songfests.)  But that wasn't what caused me to become undone.  As the band continued their riffs, six or seven CCO staff quietly made their way to the front and prayed beautifully for various careers areas and academic disciplines found at the universities where they minister.  They prayed for business majors and those working in the marketplace, they prayed for sport and athletics, for those in trade schools and in blue-collar occupations, and for those preparing for careers in the arts and other creative endeavors; they prayed for scientists and students working in labs, math, engineering and they prayed for those in medicine and health care professions.  In each field, prayers were offered thanking God for the goodness of the gifts in those areas and then laments were voiced about how broken and dysfunctional some aspects of those fields are. And we beseeched God for students to become salt and light in these disciplines, deepening their sense of vocation and prophetic imagination, knowing that God would use them to bringing God's own renewal and health to our world.  

Who prays for workers, career by career?

Who prays for college students to do their studies in a manner that is consistent with a Christian worldview? How does our worship form/train us to think about these things, learning to long for the Kingdom coming, in every square inch of God's good but fallen world? Do we see redemption as a restoration of creation - all careers and callings, every zone and sphere of society renewed to its rightful praise of God - and even if we do, do we sing hymns and pray prayers that are consistent with this big hope about the broad scope of redemption?  Does our worship help us live into the reality that "the Earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof?" Do we pray as if we believe Colossians 1?

So I cried out of sheer joy; if you have walked with God for very long I am sure you have "had a moment" in the Spirit and know what I'm talking about.

Also, I was so deeply appreciative of my friends in the CCO for offering this kind of vision of the wide scope of redemption and the Biblical basis of relevant cultural engagement, and their fun and feisty work with college students. (The Pittsburgh Jubilee conference each February is one of the ways the help students deepen this vision.)

And I was very aware that this kind of liturgical moment is all too rare.

Why have I sat through literally thousands and thousands of worship services and only heard such prayers on the rarest of occasions?

In the moments following this opening worship time I made some book announcements and then did some one-on-one hand-selling of relevant titles for these good folks in their on-campus friendship-building, evangelistic outreach, disciple-making, and spiritual formation.  We had thousands of titles there, but I thought I'd just name a bunch of books that I featured, talked about, showed off or tried to sell at that CCO staff training gig. Of course I'm only mentioning a few that we presented, set up (and lugged home unsold.) But these, at least, were discussed, for sure.

For BookNotes readers, we will offer them at an extra discount, too - 20% off that are mentioned.  We list the regular retail price, but will gladly deduct the discount when you order from us.  Enjoy.

Rhythms of Grace- How the Church's Worship Tells the Story of the Gospel.jpgRhythms of Grace: How the Church's Worship Tells the Story of the Gospel Mike Cosper (Crossway) $15.99  I shared this right away with CCO folks after our moving worship moments and those vocationally-oriented prayers.  Actually, I've been telling folks about this a lot lately, as it not only reminds us of the importance of worship and what congregational worship is all about, but it explores how the narrative of the Biblical story should inform our worship, and how gospel-centered worship recounts the truest truths, week by week. A great little book.

Shaping the Journey of Emerging Adults- Life-Giving Rhythms.jpgShaping the Journey of Emerging Adults: Life-Giving Rhythms for Spiritual Transformation Richard Dunn & Jana Sundene (IVP) $18.00 At the Wee Kirk small church conference at which we worked a week before the CCO seminar (which we told you about in a recent post) we were delighted to hear this book recommended to local church folk who want to understand young adult ministry. Naturally folks know the analysis offering in the very popular You Lost Me: Why Young Adults Are Leaving the Faith... and Rethinking Faith by our friend David Kinnaman (available in book and/or DVD curriculum.) But this one is really rich, beautifully written, about how to do work with this particular population.  I take Shaping the Journey of Emerging Adults to CCO always, as it is one of a handful of must-reads in this field. CCO staff also often get Spiritual Formation in Emerging Adulthood: A Practical Theology for College and Young Adult Ministry by David Setran & Chris Kiesling (Baker Academic; $24.99) which is also a major contribution to young adult ministry.

Emerging Adulthood .jpgCalvin Shorts: Emerging Adulthood and Faith Jonathan P. Hill (Calvin College Press) $6.99  Okay, besides the fact that the cover sports a little drawing of John Calvin wearing shorts and Birkenstocks, this new series of small, provocative, and well-researched monographs is excellent. This offers a careful summary and re-assessment of the latest research on the faith development of young adults, and offering critique to some of the popular writers lamenting how young adults are drifting away from church and conventional Christian faith.  This is a very important little document, and anyone interested in the topic should have it. (A heads up: it thinks that some of our popular authors in this developing field get the data wrong.)

By the way, the second in the "Calvin Shorts" series is entitled The Church and Religious Persecution by Kevin den R. Dulk and Robert Joustra. (We should all read something on this urgent topic, and this small book is serious-minded and up to date.) A third in the "Calvin Shorts" will be released soon, a short book entitled Christians and Cultural Difference by David I. Smith and Pennylyn Dykstra-Pruim.  David Smith is a H&M friend, and has spoken at Jubilee and helped edited one volume on imaginative and spiritually rich approaches to classroom teaching with James K.A. Smith (yes, a volume by Smith and Smith, but no relation.)

David has written serious works such as The Gift of the Stranger (which is about a faith-based perspective on foreign language learning and teaching) and Learning from the Stranger: Christian Faith and Cultural Diversity, both published by Eerdmans.  We are glad for good scholars who are able to do these kinds of smaller monographs, and glad they are called "Calvin Shorts." 

King of the Campus Stephen Lutz.jpgKing of the Campus Stephen Lutz (House Studio) $14.99  This book by Steve Lutz is one any student interested in growing in her or his faith could start with, a book full of good Christian thinking about all of life, basic discipleship, church involvement, how to be involved in campus activities with a missional mindset, discernment tools for thinking about calling and vocation, and more. I have a blurb on the back saying how good it is, and I stand by that: no other book for college students covers so much good stuff, including good citations from Melleby and Opitz. Steve works for a church with a rich campus ministry in State College, (yes home of the blue and white Nittany Lions.) You should give this book to somebody you know who is off at college.

learning for the love of god.jpgYour Mind's Mission.jpgOf course we sell a bunch of books that are about higher education, about campus ministry, books like the lovely little Make College Count (by Derek Melleby) and the essential Learning for the Love of God: A Guide for Students (by Derek Melleby and Don Optiz) and other books on developing the Christian mind. (I never tire promoting The Missional Mind by Greg Jao, which, I am proud to holler, mentions Hearts & Minds.) These are staples in any college ministry event, and we are proud to promote them.

midnight jesus.jpgMidnight Jesus: Where Struggle, Faith and Grace Collide Jamie Blaine (Thomas Nelson) $15.99  I love sharing memoirs with groups - almost anywhere we go to sell books we note that reading memoirs is not only fun, but a good way to understand others, to realize how people narrate their lives and how we, too, can make sense of things by telling the story of our days.  Anyway, one I featured this time is spectacularly well written, vibrant and wild and fascinating and moving. This author is a late night counselor, has served to help those on the fringes of culture, the hurting, their weird, the broken, and he tells their stories with dignity and grace.  It is one of those books about which you can energetically shout "You will laugh. You will cry." And you will never forget it.

I jokingly said to somebody that Jamie Blaine makes Gen X hip storyteller Donald Miller of Blue Like Jazz look like Barry Manilow.  Here is what it says on the back cover:

Midnight Jesus shares fascinating, bizarre, and sometimes humorous true-life stories of everyday people looking for hope in their darkest hours.  Poignant and unpretentious, Jamie paints beauty where at times it seems none exists--from skating rinks and bars, late-night highways and lonely apartments, broken churches and rundown trailer parks, jail cells, bridge rails, ERs, psych wards, and that place over the levee where God laughs and walks through the cool dark night.

The rave endorsements are from everyone from August Burroughs (Running With Scissors) to River Jordan (Praying for Strangers) and a whole host of others, including a number of rock and rollers and alt journalists. are amazingly strong.  One book review says he writes like "a born again Nick Hornby or Chuck Klosterman" while another said he is "somewhere between Bukowski and Billy Graham" which I suspect has never been said about any other writer, ever.  From off-center rockers to folks seriously plagued by mental illness to those who are just seething and crazed or down and out, Jamie Blaine --  "the late night psychiatric crisis guy" --  tells their story, and brings grace and goodness into the mix.  I ran out of time in my book announcement, but if I could have, I'd have read some of this right out loud, and you'd know I'm not kidding about this one. Whew.

A Praying Life- Connecting with God in a Distracting World Paul Miller .jpgA Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World Paul Miller (NavPress) $14.99  We love having a book that routinely sells, and that we always hear great comments about. People walk by our book display and, noting A Praying Life say "Oh, that is one of the best books I've ever read," or "my friend told me I had to read that" or "Our church studied that one and it was fantastic."  This book has a remarkable buzz, and it is well deserved. One of the best books on prayer I've ever read. By the way, check out his one on Jesus called Love Walked Among Us, too. Or a newer one on the Biblical book of Ruth called A Loving Life -- In a World of Broken Relationships. Thanks to NavPress for doing this great title!

beautiful d.jpgA Beautiful Disaster: Finding Hope in the Midst of Brokenness Marlena Graves(Brazos) $15.99  I have promoted this fabulous book among CCO staff before, and it is ideal for those who want to investigate the life-giving ways of classic spiritual disciplines, written with a bit of candid memoir (the author is a good storyteller, who shares about growing up rural and poor with an evolving childhood faith) and how coming to know and experience God's presence in the wilderness of her painful life gave her courage to keep on and thrive.  This well written book (with a great foreword by John Ortberg & Laura Ortberg Turner) includes lovely, insightful Bible study, a good narrative structure, and helpful teaching about spiritual formation. It's a good read, and a great resource.  The title alone is worth pondering, eh?

Miracles- What They Are, Why They Happen.jpgMiracles: What They Are, Why They Happen, and How They Can Change Your Life Eric Metaxas (Dutton) $16.00  I raved about this (as did many whose writings we respect) when it first came out in hardback, and those who have read it have used superlatives in trying to express the grandness of this report. As always, Mr. Metaxas brings a brainy but winsome style to his well-crafted prose; the important   Kirkus Reviews said it was "erudite and intimate." Miracles is truly fascinating, including excellent storytelling, wise rumination, honest evaluation, deep mystery, and a sense of wonder about the way God seems to work in the world. Excellent for anyone, but really good for those who are skeptical of the notion of the supernatural or whose progressive faith doesn't want to seem anti-intellectual or overly charismatic.  This is a great book, now in paperback.

For what it is worth, we also sold, there, a couple other Metaxas titles such as Bonhoeffer (of course), Seven Men (now in paperback - I think the guy who bought it was going to try to read it with a frat brother) and Seven Women, as well as an older one called Everything You Always Wanted to Ask About God (But Were Afraid to Ask.)  We routinely show off his great compilation of "Socrates in the City" lectures called Life, God, and Other Small Topics. I tell some browsers just to read the introduction, which will make them laugh, and the table of contents, which shows the stellar cast of folks involved. Makes a great gift for a faculty member, too, or any brainy type who enjoys good anthologies of thoughtful talks.

The One- Experience Jesus Carlos Darby.jpgThe One: Experience Jesus Carlos Darby, Judah Smith, and others (Thomas Nelson) $14.99 This is one I held up and tried to promote, although one actually has to hold it and study it a bit to really appreciate it. This is designed for a visual generation, a slightly over-sized paperback - almost like a very thick magazine - with moody and cool photographs illustrating the stories told about people finding new life in Jesus. It walks through stages of faith, I suppose, and each testimony is enhanced with these excellent, beautiful, striking photography pieces. The pictures shown are not real shots of the writers, actually, and if there is any fault in this creative project it is that the models in the pictures are a bit tooo hip. But for the audience (artful and design-savvy young adults, the instagram generation) it really works.  It would be a good book to share with somebody who doesn't read conventional religious texts and who you'd like to invite into an live encounter with Jesus.

Gospel-Centered Life Participants Guide and Leader's Guide.jpgGospel-Centered Life Participants Guide and Leader's Guide (New Growth Press) $11.99 and $14.99 We always have a big stack of these for CCO staff, many of whom buy a bundle each season to use with small groups on campus or at church. These are serious, intense, grace-based reminders of Christ's finished work, how the atonement transforms us, and how the gospel is such very good news for sinners like us. It helps small groups really grapple with the transforming "inside out" impact of the core truths of the gospel -- God's holiness, our need for rescue, the sufficiency of the cross, free grace, true liberation for idols and fears. The sequel, Gospel Centered Community is popular, too.

It's Not What You Think- Why Christianity Is About So Much More .jpgIt's Not What You Think: Why Christianity Is About So Much More Than Going to Heaven  Jefferson Bethke (Thomas Nelson) $17.99 I wonder if you know the video that went viral a few years ago Jesus > Religion by Jefferson Bethke. The book that followed that, with the same title, is really good (better then I surmised it would be) and young adults all over know it.  If something is going to be so popular, I'm glad it is rich and thoughtful and solid. This brand new one was one of the best sellers at this two day CCO gathering, and we're glad for the buzz on it. 

Bavinck on the Christian Life- Following Jesus in Faithful Service John Bolt.jpgBavinck on the Christian Life: Following Jesus in Faithful Service John Bolt (Crossway) $19.99  We displayed faced out this whole set of books, the "Theologians on the Christian Life" series, all of which are said to be very, very good. The Bonhoeffer one by Steve Nichols is just spectacular, I think, exceptionally useful, and illustrates nicely what is so good about this whole series - taking the life and central teachings of these historic church leaders/theologians and showing how they can Theologians on Christ Life set.pngenhance our own spiritual lives today.

I figured since some of the CCO's influence includes the Dutch Kuyperian neo-Calvinist worldview tradition, they'd snap up this new one about Kuyper's esteemed colleague from the late 1800s. Let's just say I still have some of these left, so maybe some of our mail order customers might want to order them.  It really is great, a book many of us have been wishing for, relating Bavinck's life and work to today. See the whole set described here.

when the kings mouw.jpgWhen the Kings Come Marching In: Isaiah and the New Jerusalem Richard Mouw (Eerdmans) $15.00  I take this most places we go, whenever appropriate, as it is a splendid little study on how the read the Bible well, using as a case study the way in which an eschatological passage in Isaiah can be understood by a careful reading of Revelation 21 and 22.  Does God really intend to redeem all of life and culture? Does ordinary stuff matter -sports, music, justice, family?  How can we live into this vision of God bringing redemption and hope to the whole groaning creation?  A great little book, jam packed with implications for daily life, by an author we so respect and appreciate!

New Heavens New Earth Wright.jpgNew Heaven New Earth N.T. Wright (Grove) $10.99 Speaking of great little books about the restoration of creation, the full picture of Biblical hope, the promise of redemption defined as a (re)new (ed) earth, this booklet is imported from England, and we think it is a great tool to enhance Bible knowledge and Christian living. There is nothing in print like it that is simple and clear and inexpensive.  I pressed it upon the CCO folks who know that most undergrads aren't going to wade through J. Richard Middleton's New Heaven and New Earth or Tom Wright's Surprised by Hope. You should order a bundle from us. Although you should consider that Middleton book if you haven't yet gotten it.

subversive 2nd.jpgSubversive Christianity: Imaging God in a Dangerous Time 2nd edition Brian Walsh (Wipf & Stock) $15.00  I mentioned Walsh's Colossians Remixed above in my intro, but at CCO I also showed off this recently reprinted small collection of powerful talks given by Brian in the years after his groundbreaking, now classic Transforming Vision (co-written with Richard Middleton.) Transforming Vision was a seminal and generative book within CCO decades ago, and we still commend it, wishing more people could get caught up in its social analysis and expose of dualism and idolatry within our deformed society. I'm glad for Subversive, though, and it is a poignant, thought-producing little collection, with Biblical exposition and cultural criticism and poetic preaching. One of the challenging chapters in Subversive Christianity was first delivered at a old CCO Jubilee conference and is still as timely as ever. A good endorsing foreword by N.T. Wright, too.  Woot.

The Story of Everything- How You, Your Pets, and the Swiss Alps Fit into God's Plan for the World Jared.jpgThe Story of Everything: How You, Your Pets, and the Swiss Alps Fit into God's Plan for the World Jared C. Wilson (Crossway) $15.99  When the writers for the Gospel Coalition and Crossway books -- known for conventional Calvinism and a lot of theology books -- get this vision of a broad, big, winsome picture of all of life redeemed, it is time to notice, and rejoice.  I like Justin Holcomb's note on the back: "If you need to hear some incredible news, read this book. It will change you."  CCO's big Jubilee conference has as it's theme this year "transforming everything."  This is why.  God is telling this big story of creation being rescued and  how everything matters.  Are you listening?  Nice!

Garden City- Work, Rest, and the Art of Being Human.jpgGarden City: Work, Rest, and the Art of Being Human John Mark Comer (Zondervan) $20.99 I raved about this cool-looking, very easy to read hardback last week, and did so again with our friends at the CCO event. It is perfect for today's young Christians, those eager to relate faith and life, but who don't have the vocabulary or theology or Biblical knowledge to see how being fully human, caring about work, culture, is explained in the Scriptures, and therefore can't get a good handle on the claim that all of life is spiritual, let alone how it really plays out.  As I've mentioned this new book is hip and fun and even a bit funny and solid and good, refreshing and exciting. Maybe it should be considered the best introduction -- that younger readers will actually gladly read and finish -- about vocation, calling, work, rest, and God's big Kingdom.  He knows well the academic literature (J. Richard Middleton or N.T. Wright, just for instance.) Garden City is fantastic.  Spread the word!

Broken- Restoring Trust Between the Sacred and the Secular.jpgBroken: Restoring Trust Between the Sacred and the Secular  Greg Fromholz (Abingdon) $16.99  I was glad to announce this when it first came out and thought CCO folks would appreciate it now.  It is creatively written, reflective and energetic, eager to help followers of Jesus get how to more wisely navigate the culture in which we live, thinking faithfully about why God cares about it all, and how to be appreciative of God's work in the world, even the worlds of culture, film, art, social institutions and media.  We've created this ungodly disconnect, and this shows us how to reconnect faith and practice in the real world. CCO folks get this already, but are always looking for fresh ways to explain our vision, and get others enthused about an all-of-life redeemed sort of vision.  Plus, anything with a vivid endorsement from Gabe Lyon's is sure to catch their attention.  I think it should be widely known, and you just might enjoy it a lot.

every good endeavor.jpgEvery Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God's Work Tim Keller & Katherine Leary Alsdorf (Dutton) $16.00  I've already noted how CCO is unique among campus ministries in part because of their passion for whole life-discipleship that includes helping collegiate think about faith and vocation, Christian perspectives in the classroom, and learning to desire practices that help us relate faith and work, careers and callings. We always take to CCO staff training events a large batch of different books on calling and vocation, and then a bunch on work and labor, hoping these campus workers will have this stuff so much in their bones that it will spill over into the lives of the students with whom they are in contact.

Their annual Jubilee conference does this so well, but they know that for students to benefit most from that big Pittsburgh gathering, they need some prep work. Even a small booklet what is vocation good one.jpglike What Is Vocation?  Steve Nichols (P&R; $4.99) can be life-changing: everything matters to God, including our sense of calling to a career or occupation. I am always glad to hold up Os Guinness' The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life which is still one of my all-time most-recommended books ever. And there's Parker Palmer's beautiful Let Your Life Speak, Robert Benson's The Echo Within and a splendid, brand new guide to help students think about what they want to do someday called Your Your Vocational Credo by Deborah Koehn Loyd .jpgVocational Credo by Deborah Koehn Loyd which is a bit more practical and upbeat then the serious, wonderful, wise Courage and Calling: Embracing Your God Given Potential by Gordon Smith. To frame all of this well I always like to recommend A Journey Worth Taking: Finding Your Purpose in This World by Charles Drew.  Excellent writing, wise, good, thoughtful.

And for those mature in this, wanting an enduring book to live with perhaps for a long time, the exceptional Visions of Vocation: Common Grace for the Common Good. After showing a big stack at CCO I did an announcement about it, inviting the activists at the criminal justice reform conference exploring mass incarceration about it. Garber gets around, and I am committed to helping his book get where he sometimes doesn't. I know you know how much I value it.

The Keller book is one of the very best on work itself, but we have others. For instance, How Then Should We Work? Rediscovering the Biblical Doctrine of How Should We Then Work Whelchel.jpgWork by Hugh Whelchel is great and clear -- no-nonsense, very concise, quotes Kuyper, and offers a fabulous, Biblical foundation. Finding Livelihood by the exquisite writer Nancy Nordenson (published by the always interesting Kalos Press) -- as I've said in a long BookNotes rumination, here, is reflective and beautifully penned, full of mystery and wonder and pain and power. We had maybe a dozen or so others -- Kingdom Calling: Vocational Stewardship for the Common Good by Amy Sherman, Work Matters by Tom Nelson, Work: A Kingdom Perspective on Labor by Ben Witherington and a number of Paul Stevens -- at the CCO. We appreciate their effort to make disciples who will think about these things and hope our BookNotes readers will continue to let folks know about our large selection in this faith/work area. For more, see this list, here.

The World Beyond Your Head- On Becoming an Individual in an Age of Distraction.jpgThe World Beyond Your Head: On Becoming an Individual in an Age of Distraction Matthew Crawford (Random House) $26.00  Speaking of books we sold about work: some in the CCO circles were significantly influenced by hearing Jamie Smith two summers ago, and his Desiring the Kingdom and Imagining the Kingdom remain very important books for our conversations about the nature of effective ministry and how to relate worship, spiritual formation, and all-of-life redeemed work in the world.  Interestingly, some of the staff that work at vocational and trade schools were talking about how this recent book by Matthew Crawford is consistent with Smith's own views, and how his first book - Shop Class as Soul Craft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work is so very important for our thinking about not only work, but learning, discipleship, habit-formation, character and more. Both books are meaty, provocative, wise, and important. We have reviewed them both. I hope you know them.

Serious Dreams cover.jpgSerious Dreams: Bold Ideas for the Rest of Your Life  edited by Byron Borger (Square Halo Books) $12.99  Okay, I didn't really announce this to CCO since they know all about it (it is dedicated to them, after all.) But this collection of graduation speeches by serious Christian leaders who have given such attention to this integration of faith and vocation, thinking faithfully about discipleship and culture, work and the common good, well, it is good for CCO staff to share with their students, even though it was designed as a gift for young adults transitioning out of school.  Could it also be good for you, or somebody you know, reflecting together with some of our best thinkers about the impact you can make on the world around you?  Sorry to promote my own little book, but the authors are fantastic and their sermons are so good; even the packaging and page design and discussion questions have gotten some nice comments. Read chapters by Richard Mouw, Nicholas Wolterstorff, Amy Sherman, Claudia Beversluis, Steve Garber, John Perkins, me, and an epilogue by CCO staffer Erica Young Reitz. You can read more about it here.

good of p .jpgThe Good of Politics: A Biblical, Historical and Contemporary Introduction James W. Skillen (Baker Academic) $24.00  Just like any pastor or spiritual director, we who are leaders, and CCO campus ministers, naturally, will be asked in the coming months about our views of the political campaigns, and what we think about regarding our citizenship, the elections, and who to vote for. Getting a solid, historically-informed, Biblically-shaped view of the task of the state and the role of government is essential.  I have written about this before (here is one of my most-circulated columns from a few years back) and have commended Jim's important volume often. In our CCO circles, this book (he is an old friend of the organization, having done staff training in the past, and has spoken at Jubilee) should be considered a must-read.  I reviewed it at length here, explaining why Jim Skillen's work is valuable for us today. 

Unleashing Opportunity- Why Escaping Poverty Requires.jpgUnleashing Possibility: Why Escaping Poverty Requires a Shared Vision of Justice Michael Gerson, Stephanie Summers, Katie Thompson (Falls City Press) $11.99 What a joy to promote this up front at the CCO staff training time -- Steph Summers, now CEO of the Center for Public Justice, worked for CCO for 12 years, and remains loved and very highly respected by all who know her. The publisher -- Falls City Press -- is founded by a former CCO staffer, too, Keith Martel, who works now in higher education as a professor, while his wife, Kristie, continues to be associated with CCO. (She is the interim director of multi-ethnic ministry at Geneva College, by the way.) So, this book - which I reviewed last week (which you can read HERE) with so many CCO connections, is a delight. I'm really a fan of this little volume, and want to again remind you of its usefulness.

I like how slim and concise it is, and how it brings together a bit of urgent data about poverty, great framing and re-framing the topic in light of Biblical themes and theological insights, and lots of great stories of creative service, faith-based ministries doing social advocacy, and inspiring ministries with the poor.  Not only is this a great guide to next steps of social outreach and service, but it offers a very helpful way to think about how serious problems like poverty can be partially solved by both energetic volunteerism  and specific, if limited, involvement by the government.  That is, it draws on the best instincts and strategies of both Republicans and Democrats, and shows how to really solve pressing problems. It studies early childhood intervention, foster care issues, juvenile justice, the graduation gap and....  See also Keith Martel's own co-authored book (with Brian Jensen) entitled Storied Leadership which was the first book to roll out of Falls City Press. Yes!!

possible.jpgPossible: A Blueprint on How We Think About Changing the World Steven Bauman (Waterbrook) $22.00  We took this very inspiring book to New Orleans to the Christian Legal Society conference a few weeks ago since Steven was speaking there and we wanted others there to appreciate his good writing. We took it to the Wee Kirk conference, thinking that small church leaders needed this kind of winsome oomph and big hope. We took it just the other day to the conference on mass incarceration, and it was one of the first books we sold there in that gathering about fighting racism, advocating for restorative justice, ending the injustice of solitary confinement and other prison reforms. Bauman is the CEO of World Relief and has lived in Africa, so he knows something about how change happens, and the wholistic call of Christ into the world of hurt and need.  A very inspiring book.  CCO friends, you should know this guy!  And so should everybody else.  

Between the World and Me Ta-Nehisi Coates .jpgBetween the World and Me Ta-Nehisi Coates (Spiegel & Grau) $24.00  CCO has a long-standing commitment to be engaged in conversations about racial justice and to not only be a more multi-racial organization, but to be used by God to reach the diversity of students we find on most college campuses.  We bring dozens of books on this topic to their events including evangelical standards -- More Than Equals (Spencer Perkins/Chris Rice), Many Colors (Soong-Chan Rah), Living in Color (Randy Woodley), The Heart of Racial Justice (Brenda Salter-McNeil), Welcoming Justice (John Perkins/Charles Marsh), Divided by Faith (Michael O. Emerson/Christian Smith) and so many more.  We were very glad that we sold a few of the new Rescuing the Gospel from the Cowboys: A Native American Expression of the Jesus Way, a serious work by the late Richard Twiss, who spoke at CCO's Jubilee years ago!  (Kudos to IVP for releasing this final work by Richard after his death; IVP has long been the leader of multi-ethnic books within evangelical publishing, and this one is exceptional.)

This recent book by Ta-Nehisi Coates  -- a moving memoir designed as a letter to his son, by turns tender and polemical -- has been a much discussed New York Times best seller this year, and anyone involved in the hard work about race simply must know it. (Coates earlier book, The Beautiful Struggle -- a coming-of-age memoir set in Baltimore with his brilliant but broken Viet Nam vet father who hung with the Black Panthers -- got much acclaim and is by my own bedside now.) We lugged a bunch of Between the World and Me first to the CCO event, and then, of course, to the mass incarceration/prison reform conference, too. 

In case you are unaware of how respected this book is, and why you should know of it, consider the level of urgency and beauty in these rave endorsements:

"Powerful and passionate . . . profoundly moving . . . a searing meditation on what it means to be black in America today."--Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

"Brilliant . . . [Ta-Nehisi Coates] is firing on all cylinders, and it is something to behold: a mature writer entirely consumed by a momentous subject and working at the extreme of his considerable powers at the very moment national events most conform to his vision."--The Washington Post

"I've been wondering who might fill the intellectual void that plagued me after James Baldwin died. Clearly it is Ta-Nehisi Coates. The language of Between the World and Me, like Coates's journey, is visceral, eloquent, and beautifully redemptive. And its examination of the hazards and hopes of black male life is as profound as it is revelatory. This is required reading."--Toni Morrison

"Ta-Nehisi Coates is the James Baldwin of our era, and this is his cri de coeur. A brilliant thinker at the top of his powers, he has distilled four hundred years of history and his own anguish and wisdom into a prayer for his beloved son and an invocation to the conscience of his country. Between the World and Me is an instant classic and a gift to us all."--Isabel Wilkerson, author of The Warmth of Other Suns


"I know that this book is addressed to the author's son, and by obvious analogy to all boys and young men of color as they pass, inexorably, into harm's way. I hope that I will be forgiven, then, for feeling that Ta-Nehisi Coates was speaking to me, too, one father to another, teaching me that real courage is the courage to be vulnerable, to admit having fallen short of the mark, to stay open-hearted and curious in the face of hate and lies, to remain skeptical when there is so much comfort in easy belief, to acknowledge the limits of our power to protect our children from harm and, hardest of all, to see how the burden of our need to protect becomes a burden on them, one that we must, sooner or later, have the wisdom and the awful courage to surrender."--Michael Chabon

"A work of rare beauty and revelatory honesty . . . Between the World and Me is a love letter written in a moral emergency, one that Coates exposes with the precision of an autopsy and the force of an exorcism. . . . Coates is frequently lauded as one of America's most important writers on the subject of race today, but this in fact undersells him: Coates is one of America's most important writers on the subject of America today. . . . [He's] a polymath whose breadth of knowledge on matters ranging from literature to pop culture to French philosophy to the Civil War bleeds through every page of his book, distilled into profound moments of discovery, immensely erudite but never showy."--Slate

"Immense, multifaceted . . . This is a poet's book, revealing the sensibility of a writer to whom words--exact words--matter. . . . As a meditation on race in America, haunted by the bodies of black men, women, and children, Coates's compelling, indeed stunning, work is rare in its power to make you want to slow down and read every word. This is a book that will be hailed as a classic of our time."--Publishers Weekly (starred review)

just mercy.jpgJust Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption Bryan Stevenson (Spiegel & Grau)$16.00  Now that this is out in paperback, even more folks are buying it! Although CCO had hosted Bryan at their Jubilee conference years ago, and we sold a number to them a half a year ago when it came out in hardcover, we are glad it is now a nice sized paperback with an affordable price. I hope you know it and own it.

I had displayed Bryan's Just Mercy next to some other books that are particularly passionate about institutional racism and structural adjustments needed as we moved towards what King called "the beloved community."  For instance, if you are serious about this stuff, you should know The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander, The Cross and the Lynching Tree by James Cone, Dear White Christians by Jennifer Harvey and Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God by Baltimore pastor and Black Lives Matter activist, Kelly Brown Douglas. I like that CCO insists on historic orthodox faith and a lively evangelical vision based on standard Biblical teaching, but also commends reading widely, with discernment, in community, wanting to engage the most important work available in this field. We take a variety of books to these CCO gatherings, and we appreciate any groups that are willing to struggle with stuff outside of their own comfort zone.  Kudos.

Allure of Gentleness- Defending the Gospel in the Manner of Jesus.jpgThe Allure of Gentleness: Defending the Gospel in the Manner of Jesus Dallas Willard (HarperOne) $26.99 Thoughtful evangelicals as well as many mainline Protestants are increasingly aware of the profound work of the late Dr. Willard.  This is thoughtful, lively, and very, very good, as all of his books truly are. Few can bring such deep commitments to spiritual transformation and such intellectual dexterity and write books so helpful to so many. We showed all of his books there, as well as books by his friends John Ortberg, Richard Foster, Eugene Peterson, Ruth Haley Barton and the like, but think this new one if very special, especially for those doing any kind of evangelism or outreach work as does the CCO.

fools talk.jpgFools Talk: Recovering the Art of Christian Persuasion Os Guinness (IVP) $22.00 I suppose you can imagine that this would sell well in CCO circles, with their deeper emphasis on worldview formation and their work within very diverse and pluralistic campus cultures.  Most twenty-somethings thought are not fully aware of the legacy for which Guinness is known, even though we displayed maybe six of his different books, and this kind of heady book is actually a hard-sell among those new to this kind of mature exploration. I really, really recommend it to anyone interested in evangelism, apologetics, or political action, especially those wishing for a more civil public square. If you care about personal respect or public discourse, start with Richard Mouw's lovely little Uncommon Decency: Christian Civility in an Uncivil World and then move to this remarkable, serious volume.  One of the CCO "areas" is going to read it together as a staff.  Hooray!

rainbows for fallen world.jpgRainbows for the Fallen World Calvin Seerveld (Toronto Tuppence Press) $30.00  It isn't every group that has a pair of young adults reading out loud one of the more challenging chapters of this book on aesthetics over lunch.  And it isn't every group where offering his devotionals - the serious set of Bible-based sermons in Take Hold of God and Pull and the powerful short ruminations on art pieces in On Being Human Imaging God in the Modern World--is appreciated. (Thanks to the CCO guy who waved On Being Human around in front of my face to assure me he was buying one! You made my day!)  Rainbows for a Fallen World is a true personal favorite by an extraordinary scholar and powerful, passionate writer. 

Bigger on the Inside- Doctor Who.jpgBigger on the Inside: Christianity and Doctor Who edited by Ned Bustard & Greg Thornbury (Square Halo Books) $17.99  Well, why not? There are geeky sci-fi fans everywhere, but these smart essays are exceptionally well suited to feisty young adults, those who like the famous show, or just those who want to see solid theological reflections growing out of an iconic piece of popular culture. CCO's own Ivan Strong Moore has a blurb on the inside of this great paperback.  One person said she wished I had a "My Other Vehicle is a Tardus" bumper sticker.  So, yeah, there's that.

By the way, we had most of the core titles of the Square Halo Books backlist, too, per usual: It Was Good: Making Art to the Glory of God, It Was Good: Making Music to the Glory of God, Objects of Grace, C.S. Lewis and the Arts, Intruding Upon the Timeless, Rouault-Fujimura Soliloquies, etcetera. So good!

Spiritual Friendship- Finding Love in the Church as a Celibate Gay Christian.jpgSpiritual Friendship: Finding Love in the Church as a Celibate Gay Christian Wesley Hill (Brazos) $14.99  Some in CCO circles know Hill as he has occasionally spoken to campus fellowship groups out near and around Pittsburgh, and many have read his important and beautiful little book Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality.  I took all three of his books to the CCO staff gig, as I always do. (His other one is on Paul and the Trinity, and we sold one of those, too!) I hope you read my lengthy review of Spiritual Friendship at BookNotes a while back as it is truly moving book, insisting that a Christian view of things must include a deeper awareness of and commitment to the art of friendship.  This is more important than any other book I can imagine on the topic, including (dare I say it?) The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis.  It is vital for all of us, but certainly urgent for young adults who are still forging their life-long friends.  Thanks, Wes, for this generous and profound study.

generous spaciousness.jpgGenerous Spaciousness: Responding to Gay Christians in the Church Wendy VanderWal-Gritter (Brazos) $16.99 I have reviewed this big book elsewhere, and in the serious desire to help organizations develop a mature theology of dialogue and respectful discussion on this (and other) topics, I bring this along, careful to encourage people to consider it carefully, inviting, as it does, gracious, open-minded discourse around how best to pastorally discuss our differences about sexual ethics. VanderWal-Gritter used to work for the now-defunct Exodus.  Their founder, by the way, just released his own biography, including some never-before-told aspects of his life and ministry called My Exodus: From Fear to Grace; and it looks very moving (it includes a few chapters by his wife) but I have not yet read any of it. 

soul of shame.jpgThe Soul of Shame: Retelling the Stories We Believe About Ourselves Curt Thompson, MD (IVP) $22.00  You may recall that I wrote a lengthy rave review of this when it came out this summer. Curt has spoken at the CCO's Jubilee conference and a few staff recalled that this was in the works and we're eager to pick it up. It was great to show it off at their staff training - we find that it is selling nicely wherever we go, and its invitation to think about all of this is resonating widely. (Perhaps it is offering more deeply Biblical insights into some of the same concerned given lively voice by Brene Brown in her popular books such as Daring Greatly and Rising Strong. Thompson's Soul of Shame is doubtlessly one of the important books of the year, very, very helpful. We also displayed and sold out of his previous book, The Anatomy of a Soul: Surprising Connections Between Neuroscience and Spiritual Practices That Can Transform Your Life and Relationships. We've got 'em here, now!

the ology A-zon.jpgThe Ology: Ancient Truths, Ever New Marty Machowski / illustrated by Andy McGuire (New Growth Press) $29.99  We usually take a few children's illustrated books to the CCO, since many of their staff have young children, and we were eager to show of this brand new release. This is a really hefty volume, over-sized and full color on glossy paper and a ribbon marker, and it, too, was popular among CCO staff.  The art here is soft (perhaps designed with chalk or wooden pencils) and yet still very, very creatively crafted -- a few of the pictures are breathtaking in their loveliness, and a few are properly bizarre and striking. I do not know of any more comprehensive book about Christian truths for children, nor one with such a grace-based, gospel-centered faith perspective.  Wow, this is going to be used for years to come, I am sure, and was delighted to unveil it at the CCO staff seminar.  I thought you'd like to know of it, too. 


The Biggest Story- How the Snake Crusher Brings Us Back to the Garden.jpgThe Biggest Story: How the Snake Crusher Brings Us Back to the Garden Kevin DeYoung (Crossway) $17.99  Wow, this colorful, artful, creatively-produced children's book was the talk of the event.  The almost eccentric combo of retro design and upbeat, new art styles, and the great, enticing re-telling of the whole Bible story -- think of the Sally Lloyd-Jones must-have The Jesus Storybook Bible on steroids, visually high-energy and more wordy -- makes this a stunning kid's Bible storybook Bible unlike any you've ever seen.  It is sometime eloquent and sometimes very colloquial, making it majestic at moments and then very down to Earth. 

That some classic theologians have suggested that the whole Bible is a footnote to God's promise in Genesis three to crush the head of evil becomes evident here, and the "back to the garden"/Paradise Regained trajectory is beautiful to see made explicit in a children's Bible. 

CCO staff (many who have young children) have been biggest story page spread.jpgbig fans of The Jesus Storybook Bible and the equally fabulous Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing as well as other children's resources that bring to the fore the covenantal reading of a Christ-centered vision of creation-regained sort of faith. That this was our biggest seller this past week is pretty cool.  We wanted to be sure you knew our enthusiasm for it, and that you, too, could order it from us at the BookNotes 20% off. biggest story another page spread.jpg



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                                      Hearts & Minds 234 East Main Street  Dallastown, PA  17313     717-246-333