About May 2016

This page contains all entries posted to Hearts & Minds Books in May 2016. They are listed from oldest to newest.

April 2016 is the previous archive.

June 2016 is the next archive.

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

May 2016 Archives

May 7, 2016

SPRING CLEANING SALE: LOTS OF GREAT BOOKS AT 30% OFF -- three days only.

Every now and then we do a string of back to back off-site events,  book selling events that make our proverbial heads spin, as we serve very different sorts of folks within the wider church. Before I list the books at our Spring Cleaning 30% off sale, allow me to tell you about some books we sold the last week or so, hither and yon... thanks to those who hosted and helped us.

sticky learning Inglis.jpgTwo weeks ago we were with pastor and educator Holly Inglis who lectured delightfully about brain science and developing thoughtful strategies for more effective education and nurture and worship to professional church educators in the PCUSA; we have her book on sale, below.

And then we hosted three events here at the shop on the spirituality of reading for college students, offering ideas about why books matter for Christian discipleship, especially as they think about their own majors, callings, vocations and future jobs.

We then zoomed to Northern Virginia to a wonderfully vibrant, evangelical mega-church whose large, classy conference called Blue which this year focused on interfaith dialogue, racial justice, the global refugee crisis, civility in public life, all framed by a big vision of missional ministry that equips the congregants to serve God in all areas of life, work, and culture.

And the last few days we've been at one of our favorite annual events, a low-key, small gathering of UCC clergy who serve mostly smaller, old and quintessentially mainline denominational congregations.  Some of these are a bit formal -- old German Reformed folks in the Mercersburg tradition, say, using hymnals from the mid-20th century, or parishes partnered with Lutherans - and some are wildly progressive, at least in the manner that aging liberal 64272370005069745375Pic.jpgconfessing jesus christ.jpgProtestant denominations are, sans tattoos and emergent vibes. Their main speaker was the articulate and pleasant President of Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, David Lose, whose  little book Preaching at the Crossroads: How the World--And Our Preaching--Is Changing (Fortress; $19.00) sold okay.  His Eerdmans release, Confessing Jesus Christ: Preaching in a Postmodern World ($29.00) is a bit daunting but is important; I wish it would have sold better. Order it on sale now, if you want.

I joked in one of the workshops I did that, mentioning the back-achingly hard work of loading and lugging heavy book boxes here and there to these different groups that  we'd never be allowed to bring the books we take to that event to this one, but that isn't really true.  The evangelicals were buying The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michele Alexander (New Press; $19.95) and Jim Wallis's America's Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America (Brazos; $21.99) (although not a one  of The Vulnerable Pastor- How Human Limitations Empower Our Ministry Many Smith.jpgWallis sold to the Presbyterians or the UCC) while the UCC leaders picked up The Vulnerable Pastor: How Human Limitations Empower Our Ministry by my friend Mandy Smith (IVP; $16.00.) Her writing is tender and honest and brilliant and, for these folks working in a culturally conservative region of the country, a bit of a stretch) and, say, resources such as the wonderfully orthodox Worship Sourcebook (with CDRom) created with nuance and care by the good people at the Calvin Institute on Christian Worship, edited by Emily Brink (Baker Books; $44.99.) 


when god was a little girl.jpgPerhaps I will tell you more about other children's books we offered in other BookNotes review, but two that people liked were fun to sell;  we sold well a lovely, creative and colorful children's book telling of a conversation between a father and daughter called When God Was a Little Girl by David Weiss, illustrated by Joan Hernandez Lindeman (ACTA; $19.95) and the must-have, wonderful resource called The Day God Made the Make a Stand- When Life Gives You Lemons, Change the World! .jpgChurch by Rebekah McLeod with wonderful illustrations by Stephanie Haig the-day-when-god-made-church-a-child-s-book-about-pentecost-3.jpg(Paraclete Press; $15.99.) It is one of the only books for children on Pentecost.

We even sold some of the great picture book about a little girl that started a nonprofit (Make a Stand) to fight slavery called Make a Stand: When Life Gives You Lemons, Change the World! by Vivienne Harr (Chocolate Sauce Press; $18.99) which is a personal fav.

Many took my recommendations of You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit by Jamie Smith (Brazos; $19.99) and Strong and Weak: Embracing a Life of Love, Risk and True Flourishing by Andy Crouch (IVP; $20.00) - my two favorite books of the year, by far - although I wanted to sell more than we did. Seriously. 

Life's Too Short to Pretend You're Not Religious  .jpgAnd I pushed David Dark's Life's Too Short To Pretend You're Not Religious (IVP; $20.00) to anyone who seemed up for it, poetic and allusive as it is in its own charmingly literate and bohemian way. I mentioned that David has a section on the late Daniel Berrigan and was met by blank stares by too many who should know the famous priest, poet, peacemaker.  So it goes.

Whenever I could I told folks about Slow Church: Cultivating Community in the Patient Way of Jesus by C. Christopher Smith and John Pattison (IVP; $17.00) and the new Slow Church Study Guide that was just released to make it even more usable in small groups or classes or book clubs.  (Just $8.00 -- on sale, too; see below.) I am convinced this is a must-read, and I'm glad to once again promote it as I can.

becoming wise krista tippett.jpgAnd, naturally, we promoted spiritual formation stuff, prayer books, devotionals, and books about daily discipleship. Many places where we go we sell memoirs, and in one book announcement I took some sly pleasure in describing the exquisite, gentle, articulate collection of stories of intellectually sophisticated spiritual seekers collected by Krista Tippett  who weaves wondrous interviews with her own story in her new hardback Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living (Penguin Press; $28.00) which truly is a must for those who follow listen to her on her NPR show "On Meaning" right next to the hilarious, plain-spoken memoir of Southern Pentecostal-ish seeker, Jamie Blaine, a blue-collar pin-ball playing, roller-rink DJ and crisis Midnight Jesus- The Late Night Psychiatric Crisis Guy Jamie Blaine .jpgintervention counselor, called Midnight Jesus: Where Struggle, Faith, and Grace Collide (Thomas Nelson; $15.99.) I doubt that any of Blaine's mostly rural, poor, troubled folks listen to NPR, so it has a very different, shall we say, tone, and his search and story of social service among the crazed and addicted is a lot more edgy and fun that most.  Both books, different as they are, are great reads and both sold well.

We never can really predict what people are going to buy at these pop up bookstores of ours. We take days to curate them, pulling and boxing and then often 10 hours setting 'em up, and, hopeful as we may be about this or that title that we think will be well received , there are those titles that are ignored. We are sometimes not rewarded with brisk sales and we get stuck with too many of some great, great books.

Here are some of them. These are all worthy titles, but we are overstocked.

And so, our three day Spring Cleaning Sale.

30% off red_blue.jpgAll of these are on sale until the end of Tuesday, May  10th for 30% off (or sometimes better) while supplies last.

This is as good as it gets, folks, and we would be pleased to send some of these out at unusually deep discounts to you, rather than pay shipping to return them to the publishers. Help us make some space in our dining room that is already cluttered with boxes and paperwork. Check these out and send us an order right away.

I trust you now that you can easily use the order tab below which will take you to our certified secure order form page.  Or, give us a call if you'd rather.  We're at your service.


Sticky Learning- How Neuroscience Supports .jpgSticky Learning: How Neuroscience Supports Teaching That's Remembered Holly Inglis, with contributions by Rodger Nishioka and Kathy Dawson (Fortress) $24.00  A fairly scholarly, truly fascinating, very helpful study of neuroscience as it can inform our work in congregational life. We had a blast being with her at Eastern APCE but attendance was low and we have a handful of extras. SALE PRICE $16.80




failure of nerve.jpgA Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix Edwin H. Friedman  (Seabury)  $28.00  Ed Friedman was a famous Jewish pastoral counselor, a grand thinker about family systems as it relates to congregational life.  (The excellent books by Peter Stienke that so many use are informed a bit by Friedman. Do let us know if you don't know those.) This a classic work released after Friedman's death on being a non-anxious presence, a leader of care and insight. SALE PRICE $19.60




Slow Church Study Guide.jpgSlow Church Study Guide  Chris Smith (IVP) $8.00  We have sold a good number of this book that I mentioned above and that I really, really like. I'd love to get this study guide out there to encourage people to read or re-read it, enjoying and pondering it anew, thinking about how to process its lovely , if counter-cultural practices, adapting and adopting it in your own setting. SALE PRICE $5.50




imagining the kingdom cover.jpgImagining the Kingdom: How Worship Works (Cultural Liturgies Volume 2)  James K.A. Smith (Baker Academic) $22.99  I've made a big deal about You Are What You Love which is a lighter-weight introduction to and working out the implications of the two previous scholarly books by Smith, Desiring the Kingdom and Imagining the Kingdom.  If you liked the middle portion of YAWYL about worship, you should drill down a bit deeper and work with this remarkable study of the phenomenology of worship.  Pastors, preachers, worship leaders need this book. Get it at this great price, while you can. SALE PRICE $16.00


Envy- Exposing a Secret Sin.jpgEnvy: Exposing a Secret Sin Mary Louise Bringle (Westminster/John Knox Press) $17.00  Wow, this is an amazing little book, very thoughtful, witty, well written, provocative, important, even. Any PCUSA Presbyterians out there may know that Mel, as she's called, helped with the great new Glory to God hymnal. She is a lively professor of religion, philosophy and the humanities at Brevard College in Brevard NC.  I like what John Buchanan (former editor of The Christian Century) says of this: "It is not easy to produce a work of scholarly social commentary that is also a page-turner..." Don't miss this one. SALE PRICE $11.90


A Little Handbook for Preachers- Ten Practical Ways.jpgA Little Handbook for Preachers: Ten Practical Ways to a Better Sermon By Sunday Mary Hulst (IVP) $16.00  Pastor Mary as she is called at Calvin College where she is the campus chaplain, is a great preacher and pastor and leader. We have admired and enjoyed her good sermons and many that we respect - students, alumni, faculty and staff there in Grand Rapids - esteem her immensely and appreciate her powerful sermons.  I know I'm a little odd, but enjoy reading books about homiletics, and as a non-clergy person who happens to do some public speaking, an occasional sermon, and a regular adult class on Sunday morning, I think, I've benefited from diving into this genre of books. This one is introductory, yes, but fascinating and a great read. I commend it to anyone learning to preach, anyone who needs a refresher course, and, frankly, for anyone who listens to sermons with any regularity. It's a fine book.  We will, of course, keep it on hand, but would love to promote it here as it is new and needs to be known. SALE PRICE $11.20

revealed.jpgRevealed: A Storybook Bible for Grownups Ned Bustard (Square Halo Books) $36.99  Check out my previous BookNotes review of this "picture Bible storybook for adults" created with provocative black and white art and thoughtful artistic ruminations on the unfolding drama of the Bible. Yes, it focuses on some violent texts, and a few of a sexual nature, but mostly it is just a great way into pondering  anew some key stories of the Bible, maybe even doing Visio Divina.  SALE PRICE $25.00



Mercy & Melons- Praying the Alphabet.jpgMercy & Melons: Praying the Alphabet Lisa Nichols Hickman (Abingdon) $15.99  I love this very handsome book of 26 meditations, literally from A to Z.  What is cool and enlightening about this is the way the author reflects on two seemingly contrasting things with each entry - something supposedly secular and something seemingly sacred, so to speak - and  26 Ways to Pray the Alphabet- Daily Spiritual Practices to Help you Ask, Begin, Center, and Do.jpginvites us into seeing the presence of God interwoven in each of these (contrasting?) words.  You may want to also pick up the small workbooky resource to use with Mercy & Melons called 26 Ways to Pray the Alphabet: Daily Spiritual Practices to Help you Ask, Begin, Center, and Do (Abingdon $9.99.)  This little guide can be used by individuals or groups.  Nice.

SALE PRICES  BOOK, $11.00; GUIDE, $6.99

Jesus_for_President.jpgJesus for President: Politics for Ordinary Radicals Shane Claiborne & Chris Haw (Zondervan) $16.99  This is a passionately written book, with full-color, crazy-wild artwork and graphics on every page, inviting us to think Biblically about the revolutionary nature of Christ's community, what Phil Berrigan called the "kin-dom" of God.  Black evangelical Tony Evans reminded us once that when Jesus returns he won't be riding an elephant or a donkey.  I have written about how important it is to develop a Biblical framework for thinking about politics (here) and about why we need to consider the breadth of various theological positions and postures on questions of church and state (here.)  I think James Skillen's serious book The Good of Politics is a must-read about a positive Biblical view of the state (see my review, here.) Having said all that good, balanced, reforming stuff, I also think that Shane's and Chris's feisty lament about politics as usual and their call to take Jesus seriously is a very, very valuable voice and this book is well worth reading. It is a captivating book and a great bargain. I recommend it and at this price, it's great.  SALE PRICE  $11.50

The Irresistible Revolution- Living as an Ordinary Radical .jpgThe Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical (updated & revised) Shane Claiborne (Zondervan) $16.99  I loved this book when it came out and promoted it, despite a few small misgivings -- surely we aren't all called to this spartan and prophetic life, are we? But I loved it, and many younger folks resonated as it introduced new generations to a sort of faith lived out by Mother Theresa and Phil Berrigan and Saint Francis and Martin Luther King, Jr and John Perkins and others. This new edition is considerably updated and unlike many books that are only mildly "revised" this really does offer a lot of new content. And what is cool -- leave it to Shane and his peeps to think of this -- the new stuff is printed in a slightly darker brown ink, so you can see his additions and new portions. This is well worth reading, even if it isn't fully your cup of herb tea.  We're tickled to have a bunch and are willing to sell 'em cheap. SALE PRICE $11.50

 Executing Grace- How the Death Penalty Killed Jesus and Why It's Killing Us .jpgBy the way, we are taking PRE-ORDERS for his forthcoming book Executing Grace: How the Death Penalty Killed Jesus and Why It's Killing Us (HarperOne; $17.99) Due in early June 2016. Pre-order now and get better than 30% off.  SALE PRICE $12.50


America's Original Sin.jpgAmerica's Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America Jim Wallis (Baker) $21.99  Do I really have to remind you that this is a very, very important book?  Agree or not with all Jim has said and done over the last 40 some years of working with Sojourners, there is no doubt that he has earned the right to speak into this complicated matter of race, white privilege, civil rights, justice and reconciliation. I am sad we haven't sold more of this, so we want to offer you this great discount. It would make a good book club book. SALE PRICE $15.00


Reconciling All Things- A Christian Vision for Justice, Peace and Healing.gifReconciling All Things: A Christian Vision for Justice, Peace and Healing Emmanuel Katongole & Chris Rice (IVP) $16.00  I tell people about this often, the first in the series on various aspects of reconciliation put out by the Duke Center on Reconciliation.  I love this book, about how we should understand and join God's redemptive work in the world, though Christ, the great reconciler. What does it mean that Ephesians 1:10 says God is "summing up" all things in Christ?  What does it mean that Colossians 1 insists that Christ is "reconciling all things" to Himself? What does it look like to take up the mandate given in 2 Corinthians of "the ministry of reconciliation"?  This book is an important, lively little volume that will expand your vision, inflame your heart, and lead you to better ways to live out your faith. Highly recommended. SALE PRICE $11.20

Delivered from the Elements of the World.jpgDelivered from the Elements of the World: Atonement, Justification, Mission Peter Leithart (IVP Academic) $30.00  This is a major new work by a very significant  and hard-to-peg theological voice. (Jamie Smith called it "a monumental achievement.")  We will be with Leithart at the Mercersburg Society conference in Lancaster this summer (June 6-8, 2016) and if you going you may want to read this first. It will be a tad daunting for some -- uh, make that most  -- of us, but at this discounted price, it's a good one to pick up.  Listen to these endorsements, that I shared before when we announced this previously at BookNotes:  

"Peter Leithart is one of our best and most creative theologians. In this wide-ranging book Leithart shows that doctrine is not some abstract entity disconnected from contemporary life but is in fact deeply relevant and pregnant with social and political insights. Leithart is biblically, theologically and culturally literate a rare combination and thus able to produce the sort of work we so badly need today. Attending to the doctrines of the atonement and justification, he writes in the best tradition of apologetics, namely that of creative, orthodox, contextual theology." Craig Bartholomew, professor of philosophy and religion and theology, Redeemer University College


"Among contemporary theologians, only Leithart has the biblical erudition, theological breadth and rhetorical power necessary for writing a book like this one. His Christian creativity and love for Jesus Christ jump off the page. As an account of atonement, this book is also an account of the entirety of Christian reality, and indeed of the reality of Israel as well, in light of pagan and secular cultures and in light of the church's own failures to live what Christ has given. At its heart is an urgent call for all Christians, living in the Spirit, to share the Eucharist together against every fleshly barrier and Spirit-less form of exclusion. Leithart's dazzling biblical and ecumenical manifesto merits the closest attention and engagement." Matthew Levering, Perry Family Foundation Professor of Theology, Mundelein Seminary


"When you read Peter Leithart, you suddenly realize how timid most Christian theologians are, tepidly offering us a few 'insights' to edify our comfort with the status quo. Leithart is like a lightning strike from a more ancient, more courageous Christian past, his flaming pen fueled by biblical acuity and scholarly rigor. In this book, he does it again here is the City of God written afresh for our age, asking a question you didn't know to ask but now can't avoid: Why is the cross the center of human history? Couldn't God have found another way? Leithart's answer this book is a monumental achievement." James K. A. Smith, professor of philosophy, Calvin College, editor, Comment magazine

SALE PRICE $21.00 

How to Preach and Teach the Old Testament for All Its Worth.jpgHow to Preach and Teach the Old Testament for All Its Worth Christopher J.H. Wright (Zondervan) $18.99  The "for all its worth" series has been a standard seller for us in evangelical circles and we still think How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth by Fee and Stewart, is one of the very best introductions to how to read the Bible well that we know.  Chris Wright is a brilliant and clear and progressive evangelical who gets how the Older Testament is part of a broader big story of God's covenant with the creation and has done both scholarly and thoughtful, popular-level stuff on reading the Old Testament well, especially learning to wisely apply its principles of social ethics and public justice and its communal, missional vision.  This one is brand new, looks great, and I wanted to move a few of these out right away.  SALE PRICE $13.30

Night Driving- A Story of Faith in the Dark .jpgNight Driving: A Story of Faith in the Dark Addie Zierman (Convergent Books) $14.99 I wrote a little about this the week it released in a BookNotes column not long ago naming a handful of books that capture the searching, seeking, passionate desire for authentic faith among younger post-fundamentalist young adults. Addie is a heck of a great writer, and her road trip memoir telling about her own journey to recover faith in the midst of doubt -- the title is so good, isn't it? -- is provocative and thoughtful and fun.  What a read!  You should get this now and savor it this summer. SALE PRICE $10.49


soul of shame.jpgSoul of Shame: Retelling the Stories We Believe About Ourselves Curt Thompson, MD (IVP) $22.00  We named this as one of the Best Books of 2015 and it has been one of our best sellers this year; we take it almost every where we go and have wonderful conversations about it. We're sitting on a big box, though - I double ordered them inadvertently, I think - so wanna blow some out at this cheap price.  Remarkable Biblical insight by a working psychiatrist who is particularly knowledgeably about neuroscience and a good friend of Hearts & Minds --- you should know this book!  I hope you read my long review last year, which is still archived at the H&M website.  SALE PRICE $15.40


overplayed.jpgOverplayed: A Parents Guide to Sanity in the World of Youth Sports David King & Margot Starbuck (Herald Press) $15.99  At almost any church gathering we attend, there is this subtext, this elephant in the room, of how busy everyone is and how commitments to the local congregation are less then they might be, and certainly less then they used to be. There are many reasons for this, of course, but parents involvement in youth activities -- and supremely, youth sports -- is a major factor in dis-ease and frustration among church leaders.  How has this happened? Why is is seemingly so out of control?  And is it healthy, not only for the broader social fabric and the work of the church, but for kids themselves? Is sports even fun any more? Can parents possibly enhance the life of play and joy of their athletic kids without overdoing it?  The very title of this book, Overplayed, like the writing itself, is spot on.  David King is Director of Athletics of Eastern Mennonite University and has thought and taught about this for years; he had coached at the elementary, middle, and high school levels, too, so this isn't an anti-sports screed.  Ms. Margot Starbuck, I hope you know, is a great, energetic, and witty writer and a theologian and author herself (even as she is a mom of three kids.) Together, they have gifted us with a book unmatched and exceptionally important. My fear is that some church leaders, and many parents, are simply afraid to tackle this huge issue. Can you help us spread the word about it? This great book invites us to make youth sports about the kids; as one reviewer put it, "Every page of this book screams common sense." On this topic, in these days, though, that's challenging and almost prophetic. I do hope Overplayed: A Parents Guide... gets picked up and read, discussed and applied. It will be good for our kids,  good for our families, and good for our culture. Yeah!  SALE PRICE $11.20

Sabbath As Resistance- Saying No to the Culture of Now.jpgSabbath As Resistance: Saying No to the Culture of Now  Walter Brueggemann (Westminster/John Knox Press) $14.00 You know that we love Walt's profound, eloquent, sometimes dense and sometimes provocative Bible preaching based on his literary and political readings of mostly Hebrew texts. He's at his best in deconstructing the idols of the age and showing how a Bible-based prophetic imagination is created among those gathered around these ancient texts, giving them fresh energy for counter-cultural witness. Sabbath practices seen as a witness against and alternative to the (Pharaoh-like) consumerist ideology has been a stock theme for Brueggemann for decades and this brilliant little book is his clearest, most helpful explication of this stuff.  Read it at your own risk.  SALE PRICE $9.80

How-Jesus-Saves-the-World-from-Us.jpgHow Jesus Saves the World From Us Morgan Guyton (Westminster/John Knox Press) $16.00  I thought this edgy call to reject toxic faith and narrow dogma and to embrace a grace-filled, Christ-centered freedom from stupid forms of religion would really resonate with many; did you see my announcement of it, here?  Maybe it is for those once wounded by hard-edged, fundamentalist faiths, or those who want to be challenged to think differently about how faith can be embodied in our postmodern age, or especially for those who want to reach out to the "nones" and the de-churched,  but at any rate, we've got a bunch, and think is could be a lot of fun to read together. Guyton makes the case (drawing particularly from Jesus's own conflicts with the religious authorities of his own day) that what many Christians need saved from is the toxic understanding of salvation we've received through bad theology. Whew! A good one to generate healthy discussion in your next small group or adult forum.

Listen to this nice endorsement from Brian Zahnd, author of A Farewell to Mars:

Morgan Guyton is helping heal a Christianity that has become infected with the pathogens of American culture. As Morgan prescribes antidotes for a toxic Christianity, he does so with keen insight and crisp writing. More importantly, Morgan does all of this with the grace and humility of one who genuinely loves the church and longs for her well-being. I am grateful for Morgan Guyton's important and timely voice.  

SALE PRICE $ 11.20

how not to be secular.jpgHow (Not) to Be Secular: Reading Charles Taylor James K.A. Smith (Eerdmans) $16.00  I sure hope you recall my major review of this when it first came out two years ago (still archived at our website, here.) We even hosted Jamie lecturing about this, in fact, at our annual Pittsburgh Summer Lecture a few years back.  Tim Keller has a great chapter on this in his useful little book Preaching and I agree with him that anyone who wants to deeply understand the culture in which we live here in late modernity and communicate well within it should grapple with what Smith teaches us about the insights of Charles Taylor. Taylor is way to hard for most of us, and Smith's book is still demanding, but well worth the work. Glad we can offer a few at this deep discount.  SALE PRICE $11.20

new heavens and new earth.jpgNew Heavens and New Earth: Reclaiming Biblical Eschatology J. Richard Middleton (Baker Academic) $26.99  Again, this is a book I lug everywhere we go, and we are happy see a few stalwart souls who care about the Bible's teaching about God's restoration of all things, and how being "surprised by hope" really matters that they are willing to tackle this tome.  I was proud of the long review I did back at BookNotes in late 2014, and am glad to tell you about it again. This is the most important Biblical study on this topic I have ever read and commend it to you.  It's a big book so this is a great bargain.               SALE PRICE $18.89



Consider Your Calling- Six Questions for Discerning Your Vocation.jpgConsider Your Calling: Six Questions for Discerning Your Vocation Gordon T. Smith (IVP) $16.00 Gordon Smith is a remarkable person, a gentle soul, a serious scholar, and a writer who has written exceptional books on spiritual formation.  Maybe a bit deeper then Gary Thomas and maybe a bit more lively than Dallas Willard, he is a CM&A pastor with great fluency in the Catholic mystics and ancient contemplatives. He's a bit like Foster, although maybe a tad more overtly Protestant.  Anyway, he wrote a serious, good book called Courage and Calling which helped readers think about vocation and discernment, inviting us to contemplative practices in order to think about what our true callings are.  This is more of that kind of thing, short, sweet, practical, wise. I say it is "no-nonsense" in that he doesn't strive to be chatty or witty and doesn't win us over with passionate stories of world-changing. Reading Consider Your Calling is like having a good conversation with a prayerful, wise and calm elder.  SALE PRICE $11.20

Your Vocational Credo- Practical Steps to Discover Your Unique Purpose.jpgYour Vocational Credo: Practical Steps to Discover Your Unique Purpose Deborah Koehn Loyd  (IVP) $16.00 So: this is so interesting to me, that IVP - still the publisher I respect as much as any - has given us two books in the same season about the same thing, discerning vocation. This lively one is different than the Consider Your Calling by Gordon Smith (see above) because (a) it is longer, (b) it is more fun to read as it is clever and witty and full of stories, and (c) it offers a bit more detailed suggestions for self-reflection and assessments of one's own credo and one's own dreams.  If Smith is calm and clear with six contemplative practices to guide one's discernment, this is an energetic ride with tons of cool and inspiring ideas. SALE PRICE $11.20

Justice Calling Where Passion Meets P.jpgThe Justice Calling: Where Passion Meets Perseverance Bethany Hoang and Kristen Deede Johnson (Baker) $19.99  I have said that this may be the best book I've read in a long time on the topic of justice in the Bible and what it means to develop the habits of heart to be patient and persistent and spiritually mature enough to stand up and be involved in working for the repair of the world in God's own way.   Very, very highly recommended.  If you think you've read enough on this, I implore you - read just one more, this one!  If you haven't tackled this topic yet by doing a good study, there are easier and simpler ones, but The Justice Calling is surely one of the few that will be enduring, and a must for your library. SALE PRICE $13.99

The Dusty Ones- Why Wandering Deepens Your Faith.jpgThe Dusty Ones: Why Wandering Deepens Your Faith A.J. Swoboda (Baker) $15.99  I have pushed this everywhere I go and have noticed that many are deeply touched by considering it - standing around a book table at a conference is the perfect venue to hear people's reactions to titles and subtitles, as I quip about this and listen to that or maybe read a short excerpt of on or another. Despite the fascinating, nonetheless, this hasn't sold as well for us as I had expected. (Is the the cover, maybe?) It is one of those books that, oddly, people are may be afraid of.  I trust BookNotes readers are not afraid of asking questions, of honoring our fears and doubts and anxieties, and wouldn't mind exploring these themes.  Maybe you say my rave review of The Dusty Ones back in the early days of Lent. You know how that famous line from the poem goes: there is an end to our exploring. So we embrace wandering.  Or is it wondering?  Do you wonder as you wander? I love this book, I love this author, and we are pleased to offer it here at a great, extra discount.  Check it out! SALE PRICE $11.00

Renaissance -  Os Guinness.jpgRenaissance: The Power of the Gospel Not Matter How Dark the Times Os Guinness (IVP) $16.00  I wish my friends in mainline denominational churches knew Guinness's impressive body of work, and I wish all sorts of congregational leaders and Christian folk took up this very impressive book. Agree or not, it is simply a must-read!  There has been much made in recent years -- thanks be to God! -- of the church's renewed commitment to society, both to fight for social justice and human rights and to more generally be a formative influence in the social ethos of the culture. From edgy evangelicals to thoughtful liberals, from First Things to Sojourners to The Behemoth, everybody wants to think about faith and society, and many disagree about methods and postures for living for the life of the world. The 2010 Oxford University Press book by James Davison Hunter, To Change the World, caused much conversation and in some ways, this is Guinness' contribution to this conversation, as urgent now as ever. He is sober at times, eager to see Christ honored as Lord by God's people, and knows well that we must work this out within our secularizing, pluralistic society.  Complex and hard as things are, Os is upbeat because he believes that God is God and impossible people.jpgthat renewal is always a possibility. Do you need to think a bit more carefully about cultural engagement, and what hope looks like? Do you want a very thoughtful, learned, but heartfelt call to refuse the easier way of cynicism or culture war anger? Do you want a spiritually warm and intellectually solid basis for trusting God even as we work?  Very, very highly recommended.  SALE PRICE $11.20

By the way, Dr. Guinness has a new one coming this summer called Impossible People: Christian Courage and the Soul of Civilization (IVP; $20.00) which you could pre-order now and get the 30% off if you do so before the end of the day May 10th. I will be making much of it, I'm sure, once it comes out.  

Gracism- The Art of Inclusion.jpgGracism: The Art of Inclusion David A. Anderson (IVP) $16.00 We have more books on racial reconciliation and multi-ethnic ministry probably than we will ever sell but someday in the distant future when somebody looks over our huge inventory of these books, they'll know this was a principle passion of ours. I think this is a wonderful book, clever, honest, balanced, fair-minded, and a useful guide to these heavy conversations, conversations that are needed, and the need for which is not going to go away. The author is a black pastor of a racially diverse church, Biblical, refreshing in candor and hope. Replace racism with gracism - get it?  Very nicely done. On extra sale now, for this limited time offer. Please? SALE PRICE $11.00

Sacred Sense- Discovering the Wonder of God's Word and World.jpgSacred Sense: Discovering the Wonder of God's Word and World William P. Brown (Eerdmans) $22.00 Brown is arguably one of the wider churches best Bible guys, and his speciality is wisdom literature. In this, he is offering a rambling handful of various sorts of essays, wonderful stuff to dip into and to savor. It is, as Ellen Davis of Duke Divinity School says, "eye-opening and occasionally jaw-dropping." Steven Bouma-Prediger of Hope College says it is "serious and funny, full of deep insights written in sparkling prose... a timely exploration of wonder in the Bible and in the world."  Even the nature writer and environmental activist Terry Tempest Williams chimes in, saying "Bill Brown is my kind of theologian -- smart, provocative, surprising; a visionary with both soul and wit. He reminds me of the power of story as he translate sacred texts into a collective prayer for our future."  SALE PRICE $15.40

The Big Story- How the Bible Makes Sense Out of Life Justin Buzzard.jpgThe Big Story: How the Bible Makes Sense Out of Life Justin Buzzard (Moody Collective) $13.99 Buzzard is a young pastor in a new church in the Silicon Valley, and has written before. (He helped with the excellent Why Cities Matter, published by Crossway.) I have highlighted this great book from time to time -- I even recommended it from the main stage at Jubilee last year in front of 3000 college students, which might show how seriously I believe in this book.  Could you explain the story of your life to a stranger? Do you have a sense of what story shapes you and your unfolding life? What about the Bible -- might it provide the contours of a storyline, a plot that gives meaning to daily living? Biblical Christianity, Buzzard says, offers "a story that's big enough to make sense of both the beauty and the brokenness in our lives and in our world." This is at once a lively, relevant overview of the Bible, and, in a way, an invitation to the forward movement that comes when one embraces Christian faith. A great gift for a young adult, especially, I think.  There's a nice blurb on the back by Sally Lloyd-Jones. On sale now, while supplies last. SALE PRICE $9.79


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May 12, 2016

16 BOOK IDEAS FOR LIFE-CHANGING HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATION GIFTS

ALL BOOKS MENTIONED - 20% OFF.

USE OUR SECURE ORDER FORM AT THE LINK SHOWN BELOW.

grad images.jpgWe are sometimes a little perplexed about what to suggest when folks in the shop ask us for graduation gifts for high school kids, especially if they are buying on behalf of their church.  I have to admit that sometimes, over the years, we've seen some desperate folks needing to get a certain number of items, all the same, at a cheapo price.  They really didn't care what it was, they just needed to get the darn thing taken care of. I could have sold left-handed, bright red Saint Patrick's Day beer steins if they had the word "graduate" on 'em and were under $1.99.

Picture of Wauconda High School grads from The Daily Herald.                  

graduation 2016.jpgOf course, most shoppers looking for gifts are a bit more intentional, seeking a good, if not wonderful, gift to honor and commemorate this huge time of transition.  But it's still weird - why do knick-knack companies promote tie tacks, knowing high school kids rarely wear ties?  Car keys are a great gift for a 16-year old (speaking of life transitions the church should bless) but what does it say to a college student heading off to campus, usually without a car? And I don't know about little inspirational plaques.  We have our share of cute gift books with collections of happy thoughts that have 2016 in bold fonts on the front, but: really? 

I know it isn't easy to find the right thing. Believe me, I get it.

We think this is a time to double down, as they say, and make clear not only that the church cares, but that there is life-changing content to be shared. That the church stands for something and expects something, also from its young members.

It may be the last clear occasion to give everybody a book.  Why not make it a good one?

laughing_woman_book.jpgYou follow BookNotes, maybe subscribing so you get it in your inbox. We assume you are a reader, and know how a well-placed book in the right hands at the right time can change a life. Why not enter this conversation in your own church, or just think of a young adult you care about and order a book or two.  We can even gift wrap and send it on your behalf.  Just tell us if you want us to write a little note to include.

The picture of the young woman reading is from ParentMap.


(And, of course, he says parenthetically, if you need a book for college graduates, we have just the one-of-a-kind fabulous gift book about transitioning out of higher education and taking up vocations int he world. See my Serious Dreams: Bold Ideas for the Rest of Your LifeOn sale, here.)

I know this can get pricey, but good books for a bunch of people but since many churches only have a handful of high school grads, why not hand select one for each honoree? We're here to help you; as the home improvement store ads say: "You've got this!"  Maybe they won't read it (I know, I know) but maybe they will. And if you tell us what they are like, maybe we can help find something chosen just for them.  Let's not sell our youth short, and let's use the occasion to invite them to a serious, thoughtful, lasting faith.  

There are cool books and nice devotionals for high school youth, but this is in some ways a transition to adult faith. They aren't going to be in the high school youth group, now, so a good gift for grads doesn't have to be from the "youth" section.  Any number of inspiring adult books will do (especially since so many are written these days with clever wit and a chatty tone, offering youthful passion and presented with slight graphic design touches that are appealing to younger readers. Many 18 - 20 year olds, we find, love books like Not a Fan by Kyle Idelman or Crazy Love by Francis Chan or It's Not What You Think by Jefferson Bethke or Don't Waste Your Life by John Piper or books by Lauren Winner or Donald Miller. Some college kids are eager to read Mere Christianity for the first time, since they undoubtedly have heard how important it is.)

Well, here are some quick ideas for high school graduation gift giving. Don't worry if it doesn't have "Happy Graduation" emblazoned on a garish faux leather cover. They don't' care.

 All of these are being offered at a 20% discount. Happy (wonderful) gift giving.

Make-College-Count-Hardcover-218x300.jpgMake College Count: A Faithful Guide to Life + Learning Derek Melleby (Baker Books) $12.99  I have raved about this before, written long reviews, and have said that there is - I am sure of it - nothing in print that is like it.  It is short, handsome, interesting, clever.  It mentions Hearts & Minds (come on, that's a selling point among friends, no?) It is a great choice for students heading off to college. Youth ministry guru Chap Clark writes,

For years I have been looking for the right book to give to Christian high school grads: readable, honest, grade-focused, Christ-centered, and practical. Finally, I've found just the ticket - Make College Count is that book.

Or, listen to Steve Garber:

Make College Count is just right! What Derek Melleby has done is find a way to come alongside someone on the way to college and offer guidance about things that matter most.

I realize that this isn't appropriate to give to youth that are not on their way to college or some trade school.  But if you know that a young person is heading towards further education this book will wisely set them up to ask basic questions about who they will be, what they will be about, with whom they will form community, how they will discern what God is doing in their life and what God is calling them to vocationally.   This isn't a dour warning or a bunch of sappy inspiration bromides.  This is wise and profound and interesting and important.

learning for the love of god.jpgLearning for the Love of God: A Student Guide to Academic Faithfulness Donald Opitz and Derek Melleby (Brazos Press) $14.99 If you are confident your young person knows God well and is mature enough to have thought through the foundational questions Melleby invites them to think about, this one would be the next best book.  In Make College Count, Melleby  offers guidance on questions such as why am I going to college? What do I want my life to be an influence? What do I really believe?  Learning for the Love of God, though, fun as it is, goes deeper. It is, without a doubt, the most important book a young college student will read in the next few years.  I have written at great length about why a winsome call to "academic faithfulness" and connecting faith and scholarship - that is, serving God in the classroom by how one studies and the perspectives one adopts in one's course work . This lovely version of what some consider an "outrageous" idea - namely, God cares about our studies and future careers - will make the difference between a student that invites God into all areas of his or her life and one that does not.  I can't tell you how important I think this is, and it would make a great gift to a college student who likes to think and be challenged and hear stories of other students who started learning for the love of God.  Optiz, by the way, is ordained in the PCUSA and is the Director of the chapel at Messiah College, so knows student life well.  Melleby directs OneLife, an intensive one year "gap year" program for those transitioning out of high school.

All the Places To Go .jpgAll the Places To Go How Will You Know? John Ortberg (Tyndale) $15.99  I recommend unreservedly all of Ortberg's many books.  He is a lively communicator, a good thinker, and a funny guy. He preaches at a large church and is a great storyteller.  Maybe you know his powerful book about Jesus called Who Is This Man? or his two wonderful paperback books on spirituality The Life You Always Wanted and God Is Closer Than You Think and the more recent handsome hardback called Soul Keeping. We recommend each of them, truly we do.  He has one called Know Doubt and another called Love Beyond Reason. There is a great one on self-reflection and personal assessment called The Me I Want to Be that would make an apropos gift.  A lot of people like his If You Want To Walk On Water You've Got to Get Out of the Boat.  The one about community is called Everybody's Normal and there is one about things that really count (not materialism and worldly success) called When the Game is Over It All Goes Back in the Box.

Anyway, as you might guess,  All the Places to Go How Will You Know? is about figuring out one's life goals, how to pursue the adventure of following God, and how to discern God's will  "God has placed before you an open door" it says on the front. "What will you do?" Great for anyone in transition, and it is adequately whimsical and full of enough gripping stories to appeal to younger adults who aren't keen readers.  

Every Little Thing- Making a World of DIfference Right Where You Are.jpgEvery Little Things: Making a World of Difference Right Where You Are Deidra Riggs (Baker) $13.99  I so enjoyed this lovely and well written book by a thoughtful writer; Jennie Allen is right when she says "Deidra tenderly but swiftly leads people to Jesus and to a better understanding of themselves." Does God use ordinary people like us -- like the youth leaving your church, like the soon-to-be young adults you love -- to make a difference? Does "everything thing" really matter?  I suppose this is written more for women...  Nicely done.






what is vocation good one.jpgWhat Is Vocation? Stephen J. Nichols (P&R) $4.99  I suspect you might need something inexpensive, short and sweet, but solid and truly helpful.  This handsome booklet is worth much more than this low price and it is our conviction that this too often neglected Christian doctrine is a foundational truth for anyone entering the work-world, a season of discernment about one's future, and certainly for anyone heading on to college and future professions.  I love this short book (it is only about 30 pages) about the goodness of work and how to nurture a sense of calling into one's vocation.   How many little books quote Martin Luther, Os Guinness, the movie Mr. Mom,  Wendell Berry, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, John Calvin and, yes, that famous line of Michael Douglas from Wall Street? A gem.



Every Waking Hour- An Introduction to Work and Vocation for Christians .jpgEvery Waking Hour: An Introduction to Work and Vocation for Christians Benjamin Quinn & Walter Strickland (Lexham Press) $12.95  We have dozens of books on a Christian view of work, and there are any number of favorites that we commend. But for a high school student heading out into the work-world, I would guess a major treatise isn't the kind of gift that feels right.  This one is just about perfect: it is thoughtful and sober, but brief. It is a compact sized, hardback without a dust jacket, making it feel rather youthful and cool.  This offers solid Christian cultural analysis, Biblical insight about our calling to work, and ideas about what it looks like to be faithful in the ways we work. Nicely done.  By the way, maybe you recall us promoting Lexham's  matching Every Square Inch: An Introduction to Cultural Engagement for Christians Look soon for Every Good Thing: An Introduction to the Material World and the Common Good for Christians by David W. Jones. And handsome little trilogy.

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 think this has been our biggest selling book within what might be considered the young adult market.  We sold a bunch at Jubilee last February and para-church campus ministry groups like CCO and IVCF love it. Comer is witty and fun, upbeat and energetic, and without sounding heady or arcane, invites us into a Christian worldview that is based on the dignity of being human, the call to work, the goodness of cultural engagement, and the reminder to rest. Work, sabbath, meaning, life as we enter God's story. What a book, good for anyone, but cool looking and quite attractive to young adults.




be you. do good..jpgBe You Do Good: Having the Guts to Pursue What Makes You Come Alive Jonathan David Golden  (Baker Books) $14.99  This book is great for young adults that are trying to figure out who they are and what they want to be about. It offers a great story - the idealistic, up-hill, deeply moving tale of the guys who founded Land of A Thousand Hills ethical coffee company.  What a read!  What is so good about this inspiring narrative is not only how they succeeded against great odds, and models how to move forward doing good stuff, but it is rooted in a healthy Christian view of determining the will of God, listening to one's passions and seeking out the ways of God's Kingdom.  This is energetic and exciting but in the telling one comes away with much wisdom and vision. For one's own life. Cool.



Callings- The Purpose and Passion of Work - A StoryCorps Book.jpgCallings: The Purpose and Passion of Work - A StoryCorps Book  Dave Isay (Penguin Books) $26.00 I'll admit, I'm not sure this is ideal for most young people, but it is a remarkable collection of testimonials, stories of those who have thought about and are able to articulate something about the purpose and passion of work. You may know some of the other great StoryCorp projects, oral history collections that are sweet and sad and thoughtful and amazing. Oh, how ordinary folks are not so ordinary after all when they are invited to reflect on the deeper meaning of their daily lives. In this new one, Callings, the stories are arranged by theme.  The chapter headings are "Dreamers"  "Generations" "Healers" "Philosophers" and "Groundbreakers."  The jobs described include everything from astronomers to chefs, building contractors to preachers, farmers to actors.  There is a first responder and a nurse, a dentist and am ink removal specialist.  How the people came to these callings is half the fun (especially, I thought, the ones who are doing what they were mentored into by their parents in the unit called "Generations.")

room to grow.jpgRoom to Grow: Meditations on Trying to Live as a Christian Martin Copenhaver (Eerdmans) $15.00  We have many customers who (perhaps because they serve more mainline denominational churches) are wary of any sort of evangelical lingo and don't want to promote books on publishing houses that seem to aligned with conservative and non-denominational movements.  Perhaps such readers will know Martin Copenhaver, president of Andover Newton Theological School and a United Church of Christ minister.  I like Copenhaver for his being such a down-to-Earth thinker with a pastoral heart. (In fact, Walt Brueggemann, in a glowing foreword, notes that Martin "has put his bucket down in the local congregation."  This handsome paperback offers about 25 short reflections, not quite sermons, not quite essays, about what it means to grow into our Christian faith. Endorsements on the back come from Thomas Long (as respected and eloquent preacher and writer and scholar from Candler School of Theology) and the somewhat edgy, colorful Debbie Blue.  There is much wisdom in the lovely little collection and it would make a fine gift.

love does.jpgLove Does: Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World Bob Goff (Thomas Nelson ) $16.99  If you have been paying attention for even a little bit, you will know that many of us view Bob as a hero of sorts - fun, funny (or, better-- crazy, hilarious) and a real "doer" of the faith. His story is one of whimsy and adventure as he invites readers to follow him, literally, all over the world. The section where he takes Donald Miller to Africa to help plant trees at the orphanage he started is worth the price of the book.  Although, one could say that about any number of chapters - his stunt taking over the room of a young couple on their honeymoon, his days and days and days of pestering a dean of a law school to let him enroll, his taking his kids on a world tour to eat ice cream with heads of state - all are truly memorable.  My, my, what a wild ride, what a fun set of adventures, what a way to get readers on board daring to share the love of God with everyone, any way they can.  Love does Goff reminds us. And what a blast it is reading about the way he does it. This book has sold millions and it is perfect to get kids hooked on this idea of enjoying Christian books.  And may just inspire them to be secretly incredible, too. A winner!

Surprise the World- The Five Habits of Highly Missional People.jpgSurprise the World! The Five Habits of Highly Missional People Michael Frost (NavPress) $4.99 What a great price for this pocket-sized paperback that will help young followers of Christ live out the Kingdom in all they do, becoming more intentional about sharing faith and grace in surprisingly simple ways. Frost is a high-powered and very thoughtful Aussie cultural genius, a maverick who wrote seminal books on the missional church, Kingdom discipleship, and the intersection of faith and ordinary life.  Here, young readers will learn to bless others, see God in shared meals, listen well for guidance, stay close to Christ as we learn from Him as our leader and live into the great truth that we are sent by God -- wherever life takes us.  What a great little gift this would be. At our 20% off it's just $3.99.


following jesus n.jpgFollowing Jesus: Biblical Reflections on Discipleship N.T. Wright (Eerdmans) $14.00 This is a wonderful little book! What a blessing to listen in to Tom Wright talk about the Kingdom of God and the nature of Jesus -- fully God, fully human, the one who died and rose -- as he is described or understood in several key passages in the New Testament.  We who follow Jesus can deepen our discipleship by dipping in to these messages from Hebrews, Colossians, Matthew, John, Mark, Revelation (and that is just part one.) Part two invites us to ponder six key New Testament themes that help us in our living faith. One reviewer called it "a beautiful meditative work."





unashamed lecrae.jpgUnashamed Lecrae (B+H Books) $24.99  If you are involved with youth in your church then you probably don't have to be told who Lecrae is; the Atlanta-based Grammy award winning hip-hop artist is hugely popular, exceptionally thoughtful, and this book has been greatly anticipated with notable excitement.  It's neat to see a book with endorsements from such diverse observers -- from Nancy Pearcey and Metaxas to Josh DuBois of the Obama White House, from Andy Crouch and Gabe Lyons to urban Philly pastor Eric Mason. This is pretty cool, offering (among other things) a reminder that "if you live for people's acceptance, you'll die from their rejection." There has to be a better way.





Good Faith- Being a Christian When Society Thinks You're Irrelevant and Extreme.jpgGood Faith: Being a Christian When Society Thinks You're Irrelevant and Extreme Gabe Lyons & David Kinnaman (Baker Books) $19.99 I have promoted this recent book before, but want to quickly suggest it as a special leave-taking gift for serious young followers of Christ who are heading out to new vistas and new places. As presented here in very readable ways, research and social scientific data suggests that many, many people in American culture believes that religious faith is, essential, extreme, and, perhaps dangerous.  It isn't Lyons or Kinnaman's goal to closely evaluate the research, but suffice it to know that they make a case that to be a person of even moderate religious convictions these days will take some extra effort and intentionality to navigate the misunderstandings and sometimes even hostility they will surely face.  I doubt I have to convince you that students going off to college will meet more people then ever that do not share their values, let alone their faith, and that there will be some hostility and condescension, even from trusted professors, if it is known that they are devout.  Good Faith does not overstate this, it isn't alarmist; it not a "downer" sort of book. It is honest and even optimistic about how to live out real faith - by doing good deeds for the common good, for instance and forming honest, caring relationships with a diverse community. It shows how we can bear witness to God's grace by living a healthy, attractive, good faith in the face of the negative assumptions our 21st century fellow citizens may hold.  Sadly, some Christians are extremists and some hold to a head-in-the-sand faith that is irrelevant.  But for most, our faith is neither extremist nor irrelevant. This book can help, with its wise principles and its tons of charming and inspiring stories.  

quiet moments (Tom Wright).jpgQuiet Moments  N.T. Wright (Kregel) $9.99  We get this from an outfit who imports it from the UK  - a very handsome gift book, a smallish hardback with full color photographs and Wright's moody, reflective prayer/poems.  These eloquent words were previously published decades ago in four very small paperbacks, and are here combined in one lovely gift edition.  I am not sure if young men who don't know the significant of this world-renowned Bible scholar will love this - it has a certain "Hallmark" look, and will appeal to those who are attracted to this kind of sentimental style.  It is good stuff, though: Tom Wright the praying poet. Yep.


It's not too late.jpgIt's Not Too Late: The Essential Part You Play in Shaping Your Teens Faith Dan Dupee (Baker Books) $15.99  Okay, this isn't a joke, and it may be one of the most important books on the list.  This obviously isn't for the departing young adult, the guy or girl who is transitioning out of high school and moving on to new things.  Nope, this is for mom and dad, for the parents of the young adult.  I raved about this in an earlier BookNotes review, noting that there is no other book so good for parents of older teens, especially those going away to work or college. Dan Dupee is a friend, former director of the CCO, so he knows this season of life well -- he loves college students and is attentive to the ways families pass on faith to the next generation. Your older children still need you, parents, and you can still play an formative role in their lives. It's not too late, friends. Get a bunch of this, form a group, get reading and take courage.


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May 16, 2016

PRE-ORDER "The Very Good Gospel" (Lisa Sharon Harper) and "Executing Grace" (Shane Claiborne) 25% OFF for limited time

I have read both of these forthcoming books in advanced review copies, and am grateful to the publishers for allowing us this privilege.  More, I am grateful to authors like my friends Lisa Sharon Harper and Shane Claiborne who are writing about heavy, complicated issues with great grace, utilizing the Biblically mandated method of speaking  truth in love; indeed, hard truth with much love. Both of these soon to be released books are hard-hitting and informative even as they are captivating and deeply moving. Most of all, we here at the bookstore are grateful to God that there are such good titles coming out these days, and that there seems to be a renewed interest in reading important books, talking about big ideas, learning and growing in ways that enable us to more faithfully embody the ways of Christ's Kingdom.

And so, we are particularly eager to promote these now, to give you a chance to PRE-ORDER them at an EXTRA DISCOUNT - early birds get the extra deal which won't last long - and to think now about the possibility of using them in classes or book clubs or study groups this summer or fall.  Both authors will be out and about in big ways speaking about their new releases so you may hear more about them.  (Lisa is one of the keynote speakers at the famous national gathering called The Justice Conference. Wow!)

We are proud to announce that Lisa Sharon Harper, in fact, will be the speaker for the Fifth Annual Hearts & Minds Pittsburgh Summer Lecture on Tuesday, July 26th (at Robert Morris University) so you should know we are excited to get her work more widely known.  More on that, later.

Beth and I feel  warmly connected to both of these authors and both of these books, and hope many Hearts & Minds fans will give them a try.  I will write more about both later -- they are both so full of righteous zeal and jaw-dropping stories and good Scripture and provocative cultural analysis that they deserve longer reviews to facilitate your careful attention and discerning conversations.  But, really, you should pre-order them now and we will get 'em out to you at the extra sale prices before their release day of June 7th.  You can pre-pay using our secure order form page (see the link below) or we can just send along an invoice so you can pay later, as we say at the order form page.  Just click below and tell us how you want us to serve you.

The Very Good Gospel.jpgThe Very Good Gospel: How Everything Wrong Can Be Made Right Lisa Sharon Harper (Waterbrook) $19.99  PRE-ORDER PRICE = $14.99

We were thrilled to invite Lisa to be our lecturer for our annual Pittsburgh Summer Lecture even before I read her book; we respect and trust her as an evangelical Christian leader, as a spokesperson for faith-based social justice activism, and as a writer and student of the Bible. We've worked with Sharon before (most notably, she did one of the powerful main stage presentations at the CCO's Jubilee conference a few years ago, where students  loved her!)  We've reviewed at BookNotes each of the books she has co-authored in the past, and we are now delighted that Lisa has her own solo release coming soon.  And what a book it is!

Those of us who are increasingly using the language of the Biblical story -- with chapters or "acts" of the unfolding drama described as creation-fall-redemption-restoration -- find that subsequent use of phrases like God's reign or gospel or grace or hope are given texture and shape and content by placing them within this historical-redemptive Biblical context.  That is, the realities and implications of salvation and the scope and nature of the impact of the Kingdom of God is seen not merely as personal forgiveness assuring us of eternal life but down-to-earth redemption that concretely touches every area of life, starting now.  Christ as resurrected and ascended Lord claims "every square inch" of the good but now distorted creation the old Dutch Statesman Abraham Kuyper once preached, and this wholistic vision of the good but fallen creation being restored to (new) creation reality is generating tons of fresh expression of faith these days, lots of missional energy for relevant outreach, and churches that are teaching this sort of Biblical theology are discovering new ways to connect Sunday and Monday, worship and work, piety and politics.  This worldview-ish vision has long been on our lips here and has been the story that has animated our own work here at the bookstore. If God is restoring all of life, bringing true hope to a broken world, then everything matters.  We stock books on art and work and science and business and education and film and farming and sex and politics and engineering and history all because it all matters to God as God is redeeming all of life.  That is the flow of the Biblical story from a garden to a city, and churches of all sorts or increasingly framing their theological vision and mission in light of these categories.

lisa sharon harper speaking smiling.jpgWell, Lisa Sharon Harper has drunk deeply from this big picture of the Bible, what Newbigin called "the true story of the whole world."

She is convinced that the key  - or at least one key, one good way to tell this story - is how God's good shalom was seen in the beginning, in the creation pronounced very good.  Ms Harper is fabulous doing good Bible study on the notion of shalom and how it is a blessed way into understanding God's gifts and intents in the beginning.  She is informed by the best recent scholarship, but is lively and inspiring in her Bible teaching.  She is very helpful in explaining the Genesis 3 story and how many sorts of alienation set in as God's shalom was broken ("vandalized" is how Cornelius Plantinga put it in his splendid Not the Way It's Supposed to Be.) But her major point is that the story does not stop there, nor is it redirected to a heavenly realm. In Christ's Kingdom, the gift of shalom is restored.  This is very, very good news, the curse reversed and shalom restored. 

Of course, part of the shalom and blessedness of the good creation in the Genesis narratives include the essential stuff about humans (men and women together) being created in the very image of God.  As dignified image bearers of the Creator, humans are given the earthy tasks of what some call the cultural mandate, the high calling to work, under the rubric of developing the creation. Thank goodness for Harper's good description of Hebrew words reminding us of the positive implications of the mandate to "take dominion" over creation as stewards, words that have been woefully misunderstood.  Her Biblical study has catapulted her into deep interest in ecology and this part of the book alone is worth knowing well, offering Scriptural foundation for creation care and wise stewardship.

Well, you can see where this is going, I hope. If multi-faceted, blessed shalom was God's plan for women and men working in God's unfolding creation, then the answer to sin's consequences, the wreckage (as Harper powerfully calls it) of broken shalom is - get this - reconciliation. In Christ, the planet is being healed and reconciled, and those who are touched by God's mercy and made new in Christ are now ambassadors of this creation-wide reconciliation project.  Lisa's Bible study and teaching on these themes throughout Scripture is solid and helpful. Walter Brueggemann, who wrote a fabulous foreword honoring her work, calls The Very Good Gospel "a bracing, generative exposition of the elemental narrative of gospel faith..."    Who doesn't need a little bracing exposition of gospel faith these days, eh?

I will describe this in greater detail later, but allow me a quick summary and an important observation.

The summary is this: this book explores not only the big picture of a very good gospel - very good because it is God's gracious good news that is better than many might imagine that includes all of creation and all of life  - but moves towards a pretty radical application of reconciliation theology to various areas of society.  How do we live out a vision of creation regained, shalom restored, reconciling that which is alienated or broken or painfully distorted?  Lisa Sharon Harper has good chapters in The Very Good Gospel that we so need, allowing the Biblical trajectory of Christ-centered reconciliation to guide us to peacemaking and justice-doing in several spheres of life.  Specifically, she explores what reconciliation looks like as we are restored in proper relationship to God, to self, between genders, with creation, within broken families, among races, and even between nations.  What does it mean to bear witness to God's own peace in each side of life? How do we begin to repair what is torn?  She is really good in these chapters, offering both robust and theologically informed proposals but always with a tone of evangelical hope and practical application.  This is not an arcane or complicated tome, it is an accessible handbook for living as new creations in almost every side of life. I suppose you can see why we are so enthused and commend it so confidently.

An observation?  The book - as you can see from the last paragraph - does not fall into a tendency of overstating the public and political at the expense of exploring more personal matters. Sharon tells some very, very tender stories about her own hurt and shame, how guilt and grace show up in one's own heart, in wounded emotions, hurt families, broken friendships. Tears may flow as you grapple with how God's Spirit can bring healing to some painful places in your own soul.  Her vision of shalom with God is earnest and evangelical, even as she knows that if we are going to be peacemakers and activists in the world, we have to first know God deeply and be healed by a personal encounter with Jesus. Such an encounter may be for you as it was for her, not only offering forgiveness, but eventually a transforming realization of how you are wanted and beloved.

How beautiful to have an author rebuke the evangelical church for stupid sexism and hurtful complicity in racial injustice and apathy about climate change and other such issues- even as she writes about healing prayer, offering wise spiritual insights applied to personal conversion and sanctification and telling intimate stories of her own journey of faith and trust in God.  She is a black woman with a strong evangelical background so this should not come as a surprise. I trust it will convince many to know she is a trusted voice, an ally to those of us who long for a Biblically-based, radical witness for the things of Christ.  

On the back cover The Very Good Gospel is described as offering "wholeness for a fragmented world and peace for a hurting soul."   This is very good news, indeed, and we hope you order the book from us and spread the word.

Executing Grace.jpgExecuting Grace: How the Death Penalty Killed Jesus and Why It's Killing Us Shane Claiborne (HarperOne) $17.99 PRE-ORDER PRICE = $13.50

I suppose I don't have to tell you much about this, and I can offer more details later.  A few things that might invite you to realize now how important this is, though, might be useful.  We really, really, hope this book is noticed by our friends and customers and that you send us orders for it soon.

Shane is a feisty, funny, kind, and hopeful speaker -- I love listening to his stories and watching him in action -- and his upbeat writing captures much of this humble tone.  I say humble as he is self-deprecating and honest about how he has come to his own positions of Biblical nonviolence and solidarity with the poor after years as a pretty right-wing, "my country right or wrong" cheerleader for God and guts and guns. Who knew that some time with Tony Campolo and Mother Teresa would lead a self-described red-neck Tennessee fundamentalist to a lifestyle akin to Saint Francis or the late Daniel Berrigan? How he and his conservative evangelical pals discovered A.J. Muste and Dorothy Day and Oscar Romero is a story told elsewhere, and I'm glad his first book, Irresistible Revolution, is out in a new edition, expanded and updated.  Most of us are not called to this downwardly mobile journey to live with the outcasts and the urban poor, but his faith journey is instructive and inspiring for even the most middle class among us.

And so it isn't surprising to know that in this age of mass incarceration and gun violence - and Shane knows a lot about this, living as he does in one of the most violent parts of a very violent and racially charged city - that his systemic work for social change would lead him to care about shane  5-16.jpgprisoners, about restorative justice, and, eventually, to confront the inequalities and injustices of what is called capitol punishment.  I have chatted recently with Shane about his learning curve as he researched this book, and how painful it has been in recent years as he has gotten to know crime victims, prisoners, people on death row, prison workers, lawyers, police, and political activists on both sides of the issue. He has talked to lots and lots of people, read extensively, listened to a variety of viewpoints. It has been an intense season of study and learning and we should respect the work he's put into this.

Not a few well informed reviewers have even suggested this could be the best book yet done by a person of faith on this topic. 

After meeting even a few prisoners on death row and reading even a few sermons from the early church about this, it isn't hard to come to a position of great concern about state executions. (Even some stalwart conservatives like Chuck Colson came to oppose the death penalty, in practice, at least, if not in principle, as they realized the incongruities and errors in the criminal justice system.) 

Add to this theological research and his first hand encounters with extreme injustice - re-read Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson if you need reminded - some honest conversations with the families of those victimized by violent crime and their own ambivalence about the vengeance of the criminal justice system, and it becomes clear - really, really clear - that Shane's position in this book is persuasive and sensible and just.  

Do you know the statistics on how many people on death row are being exonerated as innocent? How many have been killed by judicial error?  Do you know how many of those who have maintained their innocence seem to have had racially charged trials, found guilty under suspect circumstances rife with racism?  My, my, if Job or other just judges of the Hebrew Scriptures were around today they would rent their garments in loud protest.  One can quibble about interpretations of the data in Michele Alexander's The New Jim Crow, say, but the overall indictment of the brokenness of this racially-unjust system is hardly beyond doubt. To insist that the government take a life in this setting is palpably askew.

Do you know the statistics of how many loved ones of the victims of violent crime find the death penalty unhelpful, perhaps even repulsive?  The way crime victims and the families of the murdered are treated by the state's prosecution is one of the new revelations I learned in Executing Grace and is yet another outrageous aspect of this whole sordid business of governmental executions.  Shane tells the stories here of victims who were pressured by the state (sometimes violently so) to cooperate with death sentences; these sad stories offer little hope and no final closure to the tragedies and injustices that befell them. It most likely isn't the story you've heard, and it may be counterintuitive, but Executing Grace documents it well: many, if not most, of the victims of violent crime oppose the death penalty.  Although it is longer story then I can tell quickly here, it becomes clear that only forgiveness and mercy can bring any real measure of healing, for victims and offenders alike.  That Shane is at heart an evangelical and an evangelist is clear in this - although the book is essentially a call to work to abolish the death penalty, his heart is about restoration and healing and hope and reconciliation and grace, indeed, the truth of the very good gospel itself.  No one is beyond redemption and no situation is so ruined as to be immune to the graces of gospel-based reconciliation. In this sense, this book about a complex issues is inspiring and wonderful, offering light in the darkest of places.

And so, this moving, moving book is a handbook for activists (yes) but it is also an invitation to look at situations and people from which most of us turn away, in the light of Scripture and Christian tradition.  As Shane "weaves together a tapestry of reflections from scripture and church history as well as testimonies from victims, prisoners, and modern day executioners" he reminds us of God's grace and our call to be citizens who care about the common good, about justice in the courts and mercy in the streets.  His stories make this lively and urgent and his tone, while passionate, is never strident. As always, Claiborne is inviting us to care, to understand, to pray and perhaps to re-consider.  And, yes, to broaden our agenda of causes and concerns to include this project to abolish the death penalty, to get involved, to act.

Shane says, interestingly, "this book chose me."

I suspect you, too, might feel that way; you may not want to chose this book.  Many of us are mildly aware but not particularly vocal about justice for the accused and mercy for the criminal. We have not been beacons of true hope for the victims or advocates of lasting transformation not only of the prisons and the courts but of the streets.  Yet, those who have gone before us have been abolitionists and reformers and caregivers.  People today are involved in remarkably inspiring ways.  Beth and I have met some of these folks, and we are so very grateful that Shane and his Simple Way community are taking up the cause.  And we are glad for this book, Executing Grace that might inform and inspire many to join the conversation.  

There's a train a-comin, the old gospel song goes.  This book might help us get on board, sooner rather than later.   Order it today.

FOR A LIMITED TIME YOU CAN PRE-ORDER THESE at 25% OFF THE REGULAR RETAIL PRICE.


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May 19, 2016

A DOZEN GREAT NEW BOOKS -- some will take your breath away. ON SALE

Okay, friends, here's a great list of new books we've got on our shelves here in Dallastown. I could say more about each, and maybe will about some of them, later, but for now, we thought you'd love to know about them. We've got them marked down a bit so would appreciate it if you sent us an order (or told others about how they can get such good and interesting stuff from our little indie family biz here in this corner of the internet.) 


So, hey, why not turn off the tube or stop binge watching old TV shows a bit and give yourself some extra reading time this month? Buy a couple of books -- it's truly a good investment and time very well spent.  But you know that. So let's go.


The Marvelous Pigness of Pigs- Respecting and Caring for all God's Creation.jpgThe Marvelous Pigness of Pigs: Respecting and Caring for all God's Creation Joel Salatin (FaithWords) $25.00  Salatin runs his all natural family farm in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley and is an outspoken Christian who became known in Michael Pollen's book and documentary The Omnivore's Dilemma. His family has been at this a long time (his grandfather was a charter subscriber to Rodale magazine, and his parents were talking about the dangers of chemicals at the time Rachel Carson's Silent Spring took off.)  We loved Salatin's last book exposing the weird wrongness of our corporate food system and agribusiness practices -- Folks, This Ain't Normal (and we stock his others, such as Everything I Want to Do Is Illegal.) Here, he expressing a compelling Christian case for holy stewardship and how that effects the ways in which we think about (and participate in systems of) agriculture, food production, and eating. He is known for warmth and humor, and although he offers serious critique of the way we grow, market, and consume food in our land, this book is a great read.  I love the title -- it sounds like a line I once heard from Richard Mouw -- which gets at the way God made stuff, and how to honor and be in sync with creational intentions and beauty. Yes, in Salatin's eyes, pigness is marvelous. So is healthy eating. This looks like a great new book, and we can't wait to talk more about it.


Martin Luther and the Called Life.jpgMartin Luther and the Called Life Mark D. Tranvik (Fortress Press) $24.00 I hope you know that one of the great dynamics of the Protestant reformation that was unleashed by Martin Luther's remarkable role in those remarkably generative decades of the 1500 was a discovering of the Biblical teaching about vocation, calling and work as it applied not just to religious orders, monks, nuns, and parish priests, but to "butcher, bakers, and candlestick makers." Yes, all people were called by God to offices, to positions of service for the common good. As more and more (especially younger Calvinists folks, it seems) are using this language and working on projects about work, many of us have been wishing for a better historical study of Luther's own teaching on this that so revolutionized Protestant (and eventually, Roman Catholic) thought. Not everyone knows how extraordinary this teaching of the role of the so-called laity to work as unto God was and how it unleashed what was later called "the Protestant work ethic" and, perhaps, early modern versions of capitalism. At the very least, it started the conversation about how to serve God in our work-lives and what it means to see ourselves as called to vocations.  This "rediscovering of Luther's thought on vocation for life today" is going to be very useful for leaders and others who teach on this topic. 


Listen to Mark Schwehn of Valparaiso University, who himself has thought and written about this for many years:


This book is a catechism on Christian vocation, using Luther's life as an example, and Luther's theology as a foundation. All Christian who want to live faithfully and gracefully, wherever they find themselves placed in the world, should read Martin Luther and the Called Life for both guidance and inspiration.


Tranvik is a professor at Augsburg College in Minneapolis, where he has directed the college's Lily Endowment grant on vocation, so he has helped many -- including many young adults -- in the process of discerning their gifts and discovering their careers within the context of this robust thinking about vocation.


Live Like You Give a Damn! Join the Changemaking Celebration.jpgLive Like You Give a Damn! Join the Changemaking Celebration Tom Sine (Cascade Books) $24.00 Older readers will remember Tom Sine and his huge best-selling book of the 1970s, The Mustard Seed Conspiracy. It was forward looking for its day, delightfully documenting stories of those committed to peace and justice and living with purpose, even in careers and callings. It taught us how even little acts can sow seeds of wild hope, and how many churches and mission groups and campus ministry organizations were doing good, good work. Tom has spent the rest of his adult live documenting these projects, cheer-leading for responsible Christian innovation, for discerning trends, moving out in faith in good work, and wholistic mission. He was missional before the term was coined and he and his wife have mentored and encouraged hundreds if not thousands of emerging Christian leaders. (I loved his book, years after Mustard Seed that showed the new century version of that conspiracy, entitled The New Conspirators. It is will worth reading and we keep it in stock.)  


Alas, Tom is still at it -- perhaps more urgent then ever -- inviting others and envisioning for us what it might look like for people of faith to become social entrepreneurs, bold agents of new hope, making a difference where we can with lives lived with passion and purpose for the common good. He has noticed many young and energetic groups doing this, often outside of the church, using their brains and talents and connections to start good stuff to solve major problems (locally and globally.) Why aren't those who follow Christ in the leadership of this new generation of changemakers?  How can we mobilize and equip church folks (young and old) to use their gifts and interests in ways that align with God's purposes in the world?

I've had opportunity to talk with Tom first hand about these things and chatting with him almost wears me out -- he is a bundle of energy, a vision-caster, hope-maker, relational and quite the networker and, if I might say so, proof that the Pentecostal promise of Joel is true: old men, at least that old man, is still dreaming dreams, and inspiring the young ones among us.  Tom and his wife have a wonderful ministry of hospitality -- they are foodies, actually -- and it is no accident that this provocative book title ends with a call to celebration. Yes, yes, yes. You should buy this book.  In a very moving forward, even Walt Brueggemann notes that the book is "quite remarkable" and that Tom's energy will be transmitted to readers. He says, "I am glad to commend this exposition that exhibits quite concretely ways to revision, reimagine, and reperform the gospel..."


Oh yes, and there's this: Tom is serious about all this (playful and energetic as he is) so he has included exercises and experiences and questions and activities to use with each chapter so that you (and your group) can process this stuff. Live Like You Give a Damn will inspire you to do so, but also to take real action steps and find options for involvement and ways to discover your own possibilities, which are all part of the fun. This isn't dry stuff about assets mapping or strategic planning, but more a holy and feisty practice of engaging in conversations around discerning calling and how to sow 21st century mustard seeds of wild, redemptive hope. This is a book, loaded with stories to combat cynicism or despair, and it is more. It is a guide to help you figure out how to join the celebration.


Heal Us, Emmanuel- A Call for Reconciliation, Representation, and Unity in the Church.jpgHeal Us, Emmanuel: A Call for Reconciliation, Representation, and Unity in the Church Doug Serven, editor (White Blackbird Books) $16.99  I will have to write about this in greater detail after spending more time with it, but this new resource is -- if I may be so bold -- one of the more significant books to be published within the conservative, Reformed faith community. Most of these authors are pastors, elders, or professors among the Presbyterian Church of America (PCA) and represent the good, good work being done within that denomination that has a bit of a racially storied legacy, stuff that has been talked about more and more of late. (One PCA church in Mississippi just recently issued a public proclamation of repentance and apology for a pro-segregation motion they passed in the 60s.)  This book offers what PCA folk are known for -- serious theology, good scholarship (the contributors have read widely and the footnotes are diverse and fascinating) and yet gospel centered with warmth and passion. (The irony that a book of multi-ethnic authors on being more inclusive and diverse includes no women is a matter of some weirdness, it seems to me.)

The authors are mostly working pastors or church leaders, and it shows. Although it is seriously done and mature, this isn't a thought-piece for the academy or showy "prophetic" stuff to make a statement. This is sincere, pastoral theology, grappling with racism and white privilege in their own denomination, and in the wider evangelical communions.  Most of the authors are not nationally known (although you may have heard of Kevin Twit, founder of Indelible Grace music, who has a great piece. I suspect it was from Kevin that the book title came about: it is taken from the title of an old William Cowper hymn.)  


Rev. Dr. Carl Ellis, Jr. is a seminary professor and associate pastor of New City Fellowship in Chattanooga, TN.  He has been a leader to many on this topic (he wrote a fabulous book which we still stock called Free at Last: The Gospel in the African American Experience) and he has a splendid, earnest foreword in which he says, "Heal Us, Emmanuel is a must-read and a must-have in the library of anyone who is serious about honoring God in this age of polarization."


All Things New- Rediscovering the Four Chapter Gospel.pngAll Things New: Rediscovering the Four Chapter Gospel Hugh Whelchel (Institute for Faith, Work & Economics) $6.99  Hold on to your hats, folks -- this is quite an announcement.  Here is a little book many of us have been looking for. It is a book that explores the creation-fall-redemption-restoration story.  (Did you see how I used that phrase as I lead into the description of Lisa Sharon Harper's forthcoming book The Very Good Gospel by noting how she offers a similar overview of the big Bible story as one of shalom/shalom wrecked/shalom restored?)  This move to see the unfolding drama of Scripture by way of four acts in a play, or four chapters in a story -- God's intentions, sin's wreckage, Christ's redemption and the scope of hope as creation is regained -- (again, that's creation/fall/redemption/restoration) is generative and useful, and many folks have asked us for a small group resource to do this in home Bible studies or Sunday school classes or discussion groups. 


This small book has short chapters -- one on creation and all that that implies, one on sin and the implications of living in a fallen world, a third on Christ-bought redemption, and a fourth on the big hope of God's promised restoration of all things. A fifth session contrasts this wholistic "four chapter" story with a more common-place "two chapter" version (we're sinners and God forgives us.)  The last chapter invites participants to discuss why this all matters. 

So All Things New is itself a six week study, designed with very short chapters and inductive questions from Bible verses, and would be ideal for any home Bible study, small group, or class that doesn't want to wade through bigger books. 


Hugh Whelchel is a good, good, guy, a business person who wrote the fantastic paperback How Then Should We Work? He formerly served as the President of the Washington DC campus of RTS (Reformed Theological Seminary.) 


Hurray, somebody said the other day. Now you don't have to write this, as I often said that if nobody did such a Bible study guide soon, I would.  Hooray, indeed.


On this title, since it is designed for a small group, order 5 or more and get a 20% discount.  We'll gladly offer that extra savings for larger orders.


How I Changed My Mind About Evolution.jpgHow I Changed My Mind About Evolution: Evangelicals Reflect on Faith and Science edited by Kathryn Applegate & J.B Stump (IVP Academic) $16.00  This project was part of the work of BioLogos, a faith/science think tank and advocacy group headed up by our esteemed friend, Harvard trained, evangelical and Christian Reformed scientist Deborah Haarsma.  It is a great example of what a small book can do; it is a fine, fine, paperback --  an extraordinary volume collecting first hand testimonials by a real variety of scholars.  As is obvious from the title, these stories tell of the ways in which these thinkers changed their minds.  That in itself is helpful --  thank goodness for those willing to admit they've switched positions and grown and  (dare I say it, with a smile) evolved. This topic -- what one thinks of science, generally, and evolution, particularly -- is laden with theological concerns (some quite legitimate, some mere baggage) and it is notable to have serious thinkers admit they've grown in nuance and insight as they've navigated to their own position in this field.


Here you will find pieces by scientists such as Jennifer Wiseman, one of our leading astronomers, NIH scientist Francis Collins, Deborah Haarsma, and Denis Lamoureux as well as Biblical scholars (Tremper Longman, Scot McKnight, N.T. Wright) and theologians and philosophers such as Oliver Crisp, James K.A. Smith, Richard Mouw, and Amos Young.  Even working pastors weigh in, telling their stories -- you'll be touched by the candor of Ken Fong, John Ortberg, and Laura Truax and other good preachers.  Rave reviews  for How I Changed My Mind... come from a variety of places -- Andrew Root, Mark Labberton, Mark Noll and Denis Alexander (the emeritus director of The Faraday Institute for Science and Religion) all rave.  This is a very, very nicely done book.


Kudos to Dr. Applegate, who is program director at BioLogos and she is skilled at designing programs aimed at translating scholarship on origins for the evangelical church, and Dr. Stump, a senior editor at BioLogos and author of Science and Christianity: An Introduction to the Issues. Agree or not with their insights, I hope you will be touched and gladdened by  the honest telling of their tales.  I'd even bet you could think of persons to whom this book would be a life-line, a great and grace-filled gift. Get one today! 


How to Survive The Apocalypse- Zombies, Cylons, Faith, and Politics at the end of the World .jpgHow to Survive The Apocalypse: Zombies, Cylons, Faith, and Politics at the end of the World Robert Joustra & Alissa Wilkinson (Eerdmans) $16.00  Okay, I'm going to admit it. I haven't read this yet, although I've been anticipating this for a year before it came out. The authors are my acquitances, and among the smartest, most astute young scholars I know.  Both write professionally -- you surely know Alissa from her well-respected work as film critic at Christianity Today and may know Joustra for his astute political-slash-philosophical commentary at Comment, the "public theology for the common good" journal  edited by James K.A. Smith.  So these are good thinkers and great writers, doing this very clever project: how in the world do we do hopeful, faithful politics in an age when everything is going to hell in  a hand-basket. From Walking Dead to the zombie apocalypse, from the dystopian Hunger Games and Game of Thrones to the jaded House of Cards, this pop-culture savvy study is, in fact, an exploration of Charles Taylor and more.  


Check out these great blurbs:


Makoto Fujimura

-- artist, speaker, writer, cultural shaper

 "In our culture dominated by fear and anxiety, I am grateful for the wisdom of teachers like Robert Joustra and Alissa Wilkinson in How to Survive the Apocalypse. From Mel Brooks to Game of Thrones, from the movie Her to the board game Settlers of Catan, this book is full of deft and engaged analysis, helping all of us to move deeper into our 'secular age' with conviction and faith."

 

Michael Wear

-- founder of Public Square Strategies LLC

 "Who said the apocalypse couldn't be fun? I binge-read this book. Wilkinson and Joustra take up some of the most important questions of our day in a fresh way. They give us a guide to the cultural and political terrain we must navigate together, providing encouragement to faithful Christians to enter the public square with confidence and purpose."

 

 Brett McCracken

-- film critic, author of Gray Matters and Hipster Christianity

 "An exceptional piece of theologically rigorous, culturally perceptive criticism. With Charles Taylor's monumental book A Secular Age as a guide, Joustra and Wilkinson show how narratives of dystopian apocalypse in contemporary films and television reveal deep philosophical, theological, and existential truths about today's world. . . . Whether dissecting Mad Men or The Hunger Games, Scandal or Game of Thrones, this book's analysis is timely, wide-ranging, and coherent, shedding light on power, politics, identity, and more in the twenty-first century."

 

Richard Mouw

-- president emeritus of Fuller Theological Seminary

 "Dear Netflix: Hold off on sending Parks and Recreation and start me on the second season of The Walking Dead. After reading this terrific book by Alissa Wilkinson and Robert Joustra, I have decided I am ready for more apocalypse. I had been immersed in the writings of Alasdair MacIntyre and Charles Taylor, but this book helped me connect their philosophical explorations to dystopian narratives. So I am now going to work at coming up with my own informed understandings of zombie plots."

  

Kevin R. den Dulk

-- director of the Henry Institute, Calvin College

 "Robert Joustra and Alissa Wilkinson insist the end is not near; it's already here, in the zeitgeist, even if the zombies and robot overlords are still at bay. With philosopher Charles Taylor as their guide, they cast a keen eye on how apocalyptic visions in recent popular culture reflect our rootless search for 'authentic' selves in a secular age. But they also leave us with a compelling alternative to defeatism in the face of the end times -- a clear-eyed pluralism rooted in the building of faithful institutions."

 

Stephanie Summers

-- CEO of the Center for Public Justice

 "With style and skill, Wilkinson and Joustra demonstrate that popular entertainment tells us something deeply important about ourselves. As our guides on a wide-ranging tour with an itinerary that includes Charles Taylor, Parks and Recreation, and modern political philosophy among many other stops, they lead us to a place where our participation as citizens is wholeheartedly encouraged and affirmed."

 

Gregory Alan Thornbury

-- president of The King's College

 "All too often, books on pop culture by Christian scholars, pastors, and theologians lapse into the 'what to think' category. What's different about reading How to Survive the Apocalypse is that we understand better why we're seeing what we're seeing. That's because a political philosopher (Joustra) and a cultural critic (Wilkinson) are probably in better position to guide us as to how our secular age has become perennially obsessed with the fantasy of 'the end of the world.' "


Publishers Weekly

" 'Just turn on the television. . . . Today, apocalypse sells like mad,' write Joustra and Wilkinson. Instead of lamenting secularized versions of the end times, however, the authors engage with them through an in-depth theological critique of popular culture. They note that the idea of future chaos followed by restoration has been a religious theme for millennia, starting with the first apocalyptic text from ancient Egypt. After a fascinating, breakneck rundown of utopian versus dystopian notions from biblical times onward, Joustra and Wilkinson zero in on recent movies and -- especially -- TV shows. . . . It is refreshing to see a willingness to find the best in secular art, rather than a blanket dismissal of it."

 

Medieval Wisdom for Modern Christians- Finding Authentic Faith in a Forgotten Age .jpg Finding Authentic Faith in a Forgotten Age with C.S. Lewis Chris R. Armstrong (Brazos Press) $19.99 Another book that should have you clicking send asap -- this is a "must read" book that will be loved by anyone who savors great learning, good insights about our past, or C.S. Lewis, for that matter. Armstrong is a wiz of a guy and a good friend; he is the director of Opus: The Art of Work, an institute on faith and vocation and Wheaton College. Previously, he has been a writer at Christian History magazine -- and, oh, how I loved his previous Patron Saints for Postmoderns, an only mildly edgy guide to why we, today, need to know something about those Christian leaders who have gone before us.  This new one is just what it promises: a wonderful introduction to a neglected era of our Christian tradition.


Look: Armstrong has taught church history, yes. But, as we noted, he directs a center designed to help young adults integrate faith and learning so they might be nurtured in a broad vision of vocation, serving God in their future careers and callings.  He is eager to help people live out daily discipleship very much in the modern world, the world you and I live in, for real.  (Heck, he is an editor at the Patheos Faith and Work Channel -- a quintessentially contemporary enterprise.)  So don't think this is for stodgy old medievalists or those who have time to be quaint.


Although, when you finish this lovely, fascinating, well-written book, you might be glad to think of yourself as somewhat of a medievalist. This is sturdy, relevant, amazing stuff.  As Dennis Okholm (himself author of Dangerous Passions, Deadly Sins Learning from the Psychology of Ancient Monks) says,


Armstong's approach to introducing twenty-first century Christians to the rich resources of medieval and monastic wisdom is ingenious. He uses C.S. Lewis to invite us into a conversation with other contemporaries who have found that this oft-neglected period of Christian history provides the kind of embodied and holistic spiritual life that is needed as a remedy for today's gnostic, individualistic, and shallow spirituality.


I like that the famous historian from Duke Divinity School, Grant Wacker, says this is written "with lilting prose and sparkling insight."  Just what we want in a book that uses Lewis to get to a "long-past but still remarkably relevant era."  


Divine Merger.jpgDivine Merger: What Happens When Jesus Collides with Your Community Mark E. Strong (IVP) $16.00  Again, this is a book I'm eager to tell you about, a great little sleeper of a book that you may have missed. The author is senior pastor of LifeChange Christian Church, a diverse congregation located in inner city Portland. Okay, get that: Portland is known as a pretty hip but secularized city, and the inner city -- well, any church that is thriving and doing good community development stuff could be a model and inspiration for us all.  I took notice of this church leader years ago, and am glad to see he has this new book.   It is a bit about urban ministry (think of John Perkins and the CCDA) and mostly about how to think well about missional congregational life -- wherever you find yourself.  Strong has pioneered innovative and energetic community ministry and has truly earned the right to tell his story (and inspire us all.)  I am not alone as he is esteemed in his community and among evangelical leaders throughout the Pacific Northwest.


Listen to this, by leaders we respect and writers we like:


"Mark Strong is a legend in our city. The archetype of a wise, humble, faithful urban pastor. Many younger planters look to him for more than mentorship, but for a template to pour our own lives into. When a guy like Mark talks about the collision of Jesus and community, I listen."

--John Mark Comer, Bridgetown: A Jesus Church, Portland, OR

"Mark Strong is a pastor's pastor, and a deeply committed leader and preacher. In Divine Merger he challenges us to do the spiritual work of bringing our communities and our churches together. He does this with wisdom and grace, inviting us to intentionally seek God's leading for change for both sides. The book is inspiring, biblical and practical. If you want to catalyze change in your church and community, this book, filled with stories of Mark's own experiences and insights learned on the battlefront, can be a trusted guide."

--MaryKate Morse, George Fox Seminary, author of A Guidebook to Prayer

"Gentrification, spiritual lethargy and the clash between new realities and old dreams are part of Mark's journey as a leader in his church and community. As one who strives to live his life fully invested in both spheres, Mark provides in this book a mixture of practical implementation, pastoral encouragement and theological grounding for embracing our call to partner with Jesus in the transformative collisions between our church and our community."

--Rick McKinley, lead pastor, Imago Dei Community, Portland, OR, author of Jesus in the Margins

The Bible Cause- A History of the American Bible Society .jpgThe Bible Cause: A History of the American Bible Society John Fea (Oxford University Press) $29.95  I don't know how many working historians you know, or even how many serious history professors, but Fea is a gem, a local treasure, a fun and whimsical guy who does remarkably serious scholarship.  Amidst his other award winning writing, teaching, and philosophizing -- not to mention being a cool  local fellow and husband and dad -- John was recruited by the American Bible Society to document their 200 anniversary. The Bible Society, it is interesting to note, is the nation's oldest philanthropy, and it is, to put it politely, storied.

Fea was given complete and open access to the legendary ABS records -- imagine the joy of finding documents of support from the likes of Francis Scott Key or Theodore Roosevelt -- and refused any sense that he was to write a puff piece or in-house congratulatory document for their own bi-centennial celebration.  No, this is the real, deal, worthy of such an important, historic organization and worthy of such a prestigious, scholarly publishing house.  Dr. Fea turned his skills towards telling this story well, with accuracy and insight, with charming anecdote and revealing stories.   

The ABS has aligned itself, often, with gatekeepers of American culture, and their single-minded passion to promote Bible distribution has been inspiring, and, admittedly, a bit perplexing, if not troubling.  With endorsements from major historians such as Mark Noll or Margaret Bendroth (the Executive Director of the Congregational Library and Archives) The Bible Cause is going to be an enduring and important bit of American history research.

In the words of Laurie Haffly-Kipp (who wrote Setting Down the Sacred Past: African American Race Histories) "Fea leas us through Bible distribution in ever-widening circles. His expansive sweep highlights dissemination on the US frontier, within war-ravaged communities of the postbellum American South, and around the globe. He shows how the Good Book both followed and accompanied US imperial aspirations, and also how its influence motivated believers to see American as a Christian nation united by reverence for the Word."

Well, so there's that.  And John Fea brings it all, in fascinating detail.  As Mark Noll says, The Bible Cause  "is full of unusually perceptive insights... it is a splendid book to mark a noteworthy anniversary."

Slow Kingdom Coming- Practices for Doing Justice, Loving Mercy and Walking Humbly.jpgSlow Kingdom Coming: Practices for Doing Justice, Loving Mercy and Walking Humbly in the World Kent Annan (IVP) $16.00  Emblazoned  in bold, blunt print on the back of this remarkable book is this obvious quote: "No one said pursuing justice would be easy."  And yet, we all get distracted, or, if active, burned out. Who doesn't struggle with cynicism and even despair, being jaded or just weary?  Big hope or not, to be active in taking on the cares of the needy or the desire for a better world (whatever your cause or passion) is tiring.  We get self-righteous, we get testy, we get anxious.  Do you know what I'm talking about?

There have been a number of books by respected, seasoned, righteous activists that I've suggested as must reads for anyone in serious, culturally-engaged discipleship who want to keep at it, fresh and refreshed, for the long haul, trying hard to make a difference. I've often commended The World Is Not Ours To Save by peace activist Tyler Wigg-Stevenson and Doing Good Without Giving Up by environmental activist Ben Lowe. I enjoyed and learned much from Just Spirituality: How Faith Practices Fuel Social Action by Mae Elise Cannon -- a gem of a resource, with each chapter highlighting a faith practice as lived out by a certain hero of Christian peace and justice work.  That these are all published by InterVarsity Press is telling: they get something very, very important about "a long obedience in the same direction" as one of their bestsellers by Eugene Peterson puts it.  Anyway, add, now, my friend Kent Annan's new book to this good handful of books in this marvelous genre. Kent, as much as anybody, knows well this hardship, this struggle, this need to be spiritually alive in order to keep at it our work.

Kent has written two other remarkably moving books, must-reads for anyone interested in global development. (He has worked and lived in Haiti, before and after the awful earthquake there, documented passionately in the exquisite, painful, After Shock.)  Here, in this brand new one, he walks us through sustainable practices fore those who want to live out faith in caring ways.  He explores ways to hep us "participate in the coming Kingdom" 

Here are the chapter titles -- you must believe me when I say he opens up in-depth and thoughtful considerations about our spirituality in these areas.

Attention: Awakening to Justice

Confession: The Posture for Engaging

Respect: The Golden Rule for Helping

Partnering: With Not For

Truthing: Hard Thinking and Feet on the Ground

And, then, this last piece, before a handful of appendices, study guides and the like: Practicing Faithfully Even When We Are Overwhelmed.

Did you get that? Practicing Faithfully Even When We Are Overwhelmed.

I think Jena Lee Nardella of Blood: Water Mission (and author of one of last year's best stories, One Thousand Wells) is exactly right when she says: Slow Kingdom Coming is one of the most honest yet hopeful reads for those who seek to do the work of justice today."

The work of doing justice and loving mercy is dependent upon our walking humbly with God, and this isn't quick or easy stuff. As Eugene Cho says, "it is long, laborious, and often messy..." This is a great, great book to guide you into and maybe a bit through the mess.  Order it today!

The Spiritual Life- Eight Essential Titles .jpgThe Spiritual Life: Eight Essential Titles Henri Nouwen (HarperOne) $27.99  Wow. I don't know exactly what an omnibus is, but I bet it is something like this.  Man, what a great, great volume.

In one big, fat, paperback  (of 665 pages) the publisher Harper has combined all of the books of Father Nouwen that they publisher -  eight of them, in full . A few of these have only been available in hardcover, and it is a great, great bargain to have them all in one convenient big paperback, a great savings.

In full paperback with french folded covers -- not unlike the way they did The Complete C.S. Lewis Signature Classics or  A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr --  this big book includes a lot. I assume you know how lovely and wise Nouwen was, and, yet, I bet that some of these books are not in your personal collection.

Here are the complete books by Nouwen that in in this one volume:

Intimacy

A Letter of Consolation

Letters to Marc About Jesus

The LIving Reminder

Making All Things New

Our Greatest Gift

The Way of the Heart

Gracias!

My, oh my. If you have most of these, you know how rich and beautiful and helpful they are. If you don't have most, then you may want to pick this up and get 'em all in one good volume.  This is good stuff, friends. Kudos to HarperOne for  this good, good release.   "The Kingdom is a place where God's Spirit guides us, heal us, challenges us, and renews us continuously" Nouwen has written. "When we set our hearts on the life in the Spirit of Christ, we will come to experience intimate connections between our spiritual life and our temporal needs. When we remain attentive to this divine presence, we will be led always deeper into the kingdom."  May it be so.


We've shown the regular retail price on these, but will deduct the discount when you click below.  Those links take you to our secure order form page.... easy; just tell us what you want, old-school, person to person. We'll follow up with a prompt confirmation, assuring you that we've got your order and that we're taking care your selections, wrapping them with a smile and a prayer. Thanks for caring about good books, and for being faithful to our bookish mission here at Hearts & Minds.  Let us know if you have any questions, want to ask about any of these selections, or if we can serve you in any further way. Happy reading.


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May 26, 2016

"Superheroes Are for Real", "Make a Stand: When Life Gives You Lemons - Change the World" and other children's books about making a difference ON SALE

Two of the themes that have been important to us here at the store (since we opened the brick and mortar location in 1982 and our website nearly 20 years ago) have been the obvious one that people of faith should use their spiritual resources not just for personal happiness or church activities but to make a difference in the world, loving our neighbors and making the world a better place and the related doctrines of vocation and calling, the notions that help us discern our own roles and places to serve, what we are given to take up and work on.

From older classics such as Os Guinness' erudite The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life to the popular story of coffee entrepreneur Jonathan David Golden, Be You. Do Good: Having the Guts to Pursue What Makes You Come Alive so full of passion and inspiration, from essential reads like Andy Crouch's Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling and Steve Garber's Visions of Vocation: Common Grace for the Common Good, books that are found in this basic constellation are game-changers for some, clarifying and transforming and, we think, joyfully important.  Over and over we've heard how grateful people are to have this fresh language and theological perspective to help them understand their faith and their place in the world.

Occasionally we are asked how to help children develop a transforming vision or learn the useful language of vocation.  How do we not only help kids learn to serve and care about the world but think about their own sense of giftedness and interests and vocations?

Sadly, books like this aren't used by parents or Christian educators much, I gather, since they tend to go out of print. For instance, we used to love a book about various occupations called The Kings Workers by Mary Hollingsworth or Dandi Daley Mackall's great Made for a Purpose but they are no longer available.  Try your library!

We delight in even little beginnings.  Do you know the Berenstain Bears books?  They have one called The Berenstain Bears Jobs Around Town by Stan, Jan, and Mike Berenstain (Zonderkidz; $3.99.)  Here's how they describe it:

Searching for the perfect job, Brother and Sister Bear learn to celebrate the many talents of others. In The Berenstain Bears: Jobs Around Town, they begin to imagine where their own God-given gifts might take them as they grow.
That's it, isn't it? At least part of it.  Why don't we hear more of these kinds of conversations in our talk about parenting and in our books about children's ministry?

It is a bigger question then we can answer here but here are books for parents and some for children that I wanted to highlight. One is a brand new children's book by a friend and H&M loyalist whose books we've promoted before, Ethan Bryan (among others, two baseball books, the great Run Home and Take a Bow: Stories of Life, Faith, and a Season with the Kansas City Royals and the exciting story of raising money to fight trafficking by playing catch, Catch and Release: Faith, Freedom, and Knuckleball and, more recently, The Cowboy Year: A Story of Dads and Guns.) Ethan's new one, his first kids book, is short and sweet and called Superheroes Are for Real. But first...

raising kids for true greatness.jpgRaising Kids for True Greatness: Redefining Success for You and Your Child Tim Kimmel (Nelson) $15.99  There are not too many books that explore how to parent with a view to nurturing a sense of agency and passion and world-changing vocations in kids, but, for now, this is certainly a useful read.  It doesn't cite Guinness or Garber, but it is moving in that direction, helping parents give their kids a vision of their own lives that can be (in Christian terms) truly great.  We liked Kimmel's Grace Based Parenting, too, by the way. Very nice.

It's not too late.jpgIt's Not Too Late: The Essential Part You Play in Shaping Your Teen's Faith Dan Dupee (Baker) $15.99  Admittedly, this isn't for parents of little kids, but, you know, it wouldn't hurt for any parent to read it. Dan Dupee's INTL is the best book that I know of for parents of teens (and, especially young adults) that not only affirms the parent's necessary role, but links the skill sets needed to be good at parenting to these very themes of being transformed by the gospel in ways that propel us to ask the questions of vocation and calling.  As you most likely read in my several BookNotes reviews of it, it cites most of our favorite books, and mentions Hearts & Minds as a resource for parents who want to help college student think about their callings in the world, even picking a major and a career.  It's not too late to read this book, and, I'd say, it is hardly too early, either.  Highly recommended.

growing compassionate kids.jpgGrowing Compassionate Kids: Helping Kids See Beyond Their Backyard Jan Johnson (Upper Room) $14.99  This great title is sadly out of print, but we have some left - a marvelous resource, a lovely book, by a writer who is profound and skilled in writing about both spiritual formation stuff (she has worked with the late Dallas Willard and published many books on the inner life) and social justice concerns she has been involved in Evangelicals for Social Action, for instance.) There are few really insightful, reliably faithful books about helping us do this kind of parenting work, and we commend Jan's book to you.  Get it while you can.

kingdom family.jpgKingdom Family: Re-envisioning God's Plan for Marriage and Family Trevecca Okholm (Cascade) $22.00  Okholm has been a professional Christian educator for more than 25 years and is currently serving as Minister to Children and Families at St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church in Newport Beach, CA. (Yay for certified Christian educators and members of APCE!) She received her master's in educational ministries from Wheaton Graduate School.  Fabulous blurbs from folks across the wider church have affirmed this. As S. Steve Kang (of Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary and co-author of Teaching the Faith, Forming the Faithful) writes, she has "cultivated the practice of practical theology leading to a genuine transformation of the family and the church." Ms Okholm reminds us that the local church helps form families for life in the world, and that our spiritual formation must have as it's frame a missional vision of the Kingdom of God. This recalls us to this broader, bigger picture of our lives together and yet offers practical, good, Kingdom practices for real life. 

Missional-Mom-cover-final_small2-198x300.jpgThe Missional Mom: Living with Purpose at Home & in the World  Helen Lee (Moody Press) $13.99  I love Helen Lee and this book is brimming with her grace and vision and energy, inviting moms to see their parenting work as a vocation in Kingdom terms, seizing on opportunities to connect the dots with and for their little ones between personal faith development in the home and God's service in the world. It isn't every book in this genre that carries rave endorsements from the likes of cross-cultural  leader Dave Gibbon or missional writers like Alan and Debra Hirsch, urban minister directors such Arloa Sutter, and great, great women writers like Caryn Rivadeneira.  Missional Mom is a very nice little book, carrying a grand and good vision for us all.


Superheroes Are for Real Ethan Bryan.jpgSuperheroes Are for Real Ethan Bryan, illustrated by Travis Hanson (Goldminds Publishing) $12.99 "Her dad says superheroes are for real. She isn't sure.  Game on."  That's the tease on the back cover.  This book is for young ones and is based rather simple - but ingenious - idea, told through a simply plot.  Ethan and his daughter - uh, scratch that, a fictional dad and his fictional daughter, are discussing whether superheroes are for real.  What parent hasn't had that kind of conversation? And what parent doesn't sometimes joke around with kids, playfully making stuff up, exaggerating the truth of things, daring the child to figure out the real truth of the matter.  Well, this starts with that kind of giddy exchange. 

super hero and child.pngThe father and daughter, we learn, dress up like different superheroes each Halloween, and love wondering which person in his or her street clothes are really superheroes in ordinary disguise.  Real superheroes, we all know, come in to help those who are in trouble, lending an extraordinary hand at just the right time.  (Even though, we see in one funny spread, "even superheroes have bad days.")

Well.  "Maybe tomorrow will be the day we finally see superheroes in action."  That's what the little girl, narrating the books tells us her dad says each day. 

Not only do superheroes help the vulnerable and serve those in need, they "inspire others to do their best."  Okay, so it gets a little didactic, but it is for young children. But maybe you are going to see where this is going.

Each day the little girl determines to look for evidence of real superheroes, whether they have their capes on or not.  And, wow, she finds some great stuff.

A gruff looking blue collar working man swoops in at a grocery store to rescue a little child about to be hurt by an avalanche of cans of peas.  At a park she notices some emergency workers aiding someone after an accident.  "At school," she notices, "my teacher always seems to be helping others."    And after each, the refrain: "Maybe she might be a superhero."   What a delight to see the various people within various occupations that are shown to be superheroes.  A scientist at the planetarium. A doctor and nurse who help when the little girl breaks her arm and she is scared.  Maybe even her dad, with whom she likes to hang out. 

She puts her findings in a little book that she shares with her dad.  He affirms her, noting that she helps with household chores and is clever to notice all these good people helping others in day-to-day ways. Who know, the reader is left to wonder: maybe even the little girl is a superhero, after all.  Surely the dad is, after all.

Maybe superheroes are for real.  This book - which models wonderful father daughter conversation, which shows the dad affirming his daughter at every point, so is worthwhile just for that - gets at a wonderful large truth in very simple prose.  Everybody can help others and maybe every job has within it the opportunity for it to be a holy calling, a way for it to be an avenue of helping, of serving, of doing, well, heroic stuff.  Ahhh, through the eyes of a child.

ethan bryan.jpgI encourage you to read a short piece author Ethan Bryan wrote for The Good Men Project, here.  As a stay at home dad, he describes his work as father and writer, the genesis of the idea for the Superheroes Are for Real book, and closes in a way that reminds us of the end of the book.  Ethan writes, "This is the story I want to tell, I want to live. This is what I want to do as a father: to let my daughters know that I am proud of them, amazed by their creativity and compassion, and encourage them as they go and do super things in this world."


Make a Stand.jpgMake a Stand: When Life Gives You Lemons, Change the World! Vivienne Harr (Chocolate Sauce Books) $18.99  This is a very colorful, very well made book we discovered not long ago, based on a true story.  It is, again, a rather simple story, but there's a bit more going on and the book unfolds with lots of content, interesting side-stories, and a big, big ending.  The short version is simply that the Vivienne Harr, age 9, learned something about modern day child slavery and determines to try to stop this awful plight.  With the faith and optimism (okay, call it naiveté if you must) of a child, she wonders with her sibling and parents what she can do.

"My parents couldn't believe that such a big idea could come from such a little person," she tells us.  There is some serious consideration - little thought bubbles appear naming some of the reasons not to act, but she says, "I didn't think of all the reasons why I couldn't. I thought of all the reasons why I must."   And, so, onward she goes.

"Lemonade was the only business experience I had. So I set up my lemonade stand (only not your ordinary lemonade stand."  We see a cool drawing of it, with her sign "kids should be free" and it is called Lemon-Aid.   

(I love that she reports so matter-of-factly about the matter of her previous "business experience."  Ha.)

Make a Stand Day 32 pic.jpgShe paints it with care, realizing it was going to be hard to achieve her goal of raising $100,00.00.  Talk about a superhero!   And then the story gets interesting.  On about day 20 after a lot of disappointment and frustration she decides to follow her heart (her parents suggestion) and starts giving away the lemonade to children.  A local news reporter ("a nice man" she says) does a story on her little project about freedom.  And, wow, does it ever take off. 

"Make a stand" becomes her watchword, and with some help from others, she has started a franchise deal.  Kids all over started to take a stand by making a stand -- a lemonade stand like hers.  

A page in the back reminds us that "Make A Stand didn't start as a product. It started as a promise - deep in the heart of a little girl who wanted to make the world a better place."

I don't think that most readers of this fantastic book are going to want to join this social purpose business enterprise, so please don't not get it because you don't want your kid insisting on this big project.  Maybe somebody you know will (who knows?) but that isn't the point, really.  More, it is a story of what one person can do, what some of us can do if we work together, of how every person matters (no matter how small) and how we can all experiment with ideas and see what develops as we try to do something helpful and good. Kids don't usually think of reasons they can't do things, and maybe we adults can even learn from that.  

I loved this colorful little book.  I really hope you consider ordering one from us, and sharing it with the kids you know, maybe donating it to the local library or church library.

Vivienne Harr and her Make a Stand book.pngTwo quick things: the art in this book is really, really interesting and the design is fabulous.  I don't always love the illustrations, but they work as they are designed on the page so creatively, with multiple things going on nicely, this drawing, that sidebar, another on the horizon. It's fun to look at.

And what is really great is how they have the illustrations of Vivienne and her Lemon Aid team sometimes superimposed on real photographs.  You see some real pictures of children carrying huge rocks, you see real pictures of Vivienne's first stand, and you see photographs of the New York City taxicabs from when Vivienne and her fam go to the big city to get a bottling deal.  Oh yes, you can see real pictures of the bottles with the labels of her Make-a-Stand-bottles.pngdistributed (organic) Make A Stand Lemon Aid lemonade. Whimsical and nearly implausible as this upbeat (true) book is, I was oddly moved by this success in her family's efforts. (And I smile when they called her The Little Lemonpreneur.)

In a dedication note at the end, Vivienne's dad writes, to child slaves "Don't ever give up hope. We're coming for you." Let us pray it is so, and let us hope that books like this inspire us all to think big about the biggest issues of the day, and what we can do, one way or another.  At least, it might inspire you to order some Make A Stand Lemon Aid drinks or tee shirts.  And a book or two.  We are proud to sell it here, and hope you help us spread the word.

Here, you can watch her doing what is basically a kids TED talk, five minutes of this charming little girl -- chief inspirational officer for Make a Stand. You have got to see it! Go Vivvy.


what do you do with an idea.jpgWhat Do You Do with an Idea? Kobi Yamada, illustrated by Mae Besom (Compendium Inc) $16.95 I read parts of this out loud to a group of church educators and you could feel it in the room and then we could hear the almost communal gasp, as we got to the end, the invitation to "change the world" with an idea that follows you around.  Their own ideas were spinning as they wondered how they could use this in a Christian ed setting, what kind of conversations it might start, what Bible texts it might be used with. This is playful, nearly minimalist, as we see the "idea" thing grow as the child grows in confidence. And then, as they say, something amazing happens. 

I like the way the publisher put it:

What Do You Do With an Idea is for anyone who's ever had an idea that seemed a little too big, too odd, too difficult. It's a story to inspire you to welcome that idea, to give it some space to grow, and to see what happens next. Because your idea isn't going anywhere. In fact, it's just getting started.

Harold Finds a Voice Courtney Dicmas.jpgHarold Finds a Voice Courtney Dicmas (Child's Play Inc) $7.99  This is a very colorful, just slightly oversized children's picture book about a bird that could mimic any sound. You can imagine the fun children will have following the antics of Harold as he makes so many funny sounds, just like a car horn or a ships blast or a dog barking, loud ones, quiet ones, funny ones, scary ones. Everybody and everything seems to have a voice, and then, finally, Harold lets at a squawk that goes one for two big pages - what fun, as he finds his own voice.  You get the point, I'm sure, and so will your little ones: we can come to realize if we don't have our own authentic voice and we may have to work to find and give voice to our own unique sound. Harold the bird grew tired of repeating other sounds, and wanted to make some of his own.  Called "vibrant and inventive", this hilarious tale might lead to some noise in your home.  And a lesson learned better sooner than later. 

The Plans I Have For You - Z Squad.jpgThe Plans I Have for You Amy Parker, illustrated by Vanessa Brantly-Newton (Zonderkidz) $16.99  This is not out yet, but we hope to get it in by late June... you can pre-order it now, If you'd like.  We will send it as soon as it arrives.

Here is what the publisher says: 

The Plans I Have for You combines playful rhyming text written by bestselling children's book author Amy Parker with whimsical illustrations by award-winning artist Vanessa Brantley-Newton to create a book that inspires readers of all ages to dream about their future. God has great plans for each and every one of us, and this book encourages children to think about the talents that make them special and will help them imagine how God may use our unique traits to make the world a better place.

You can see why I wanted to list this one here.  Kudos to the publisher for releasing a sweet and inspiring book like this. Pre-order it today!

me and momma and big john.jpgMe and Momma and Big John Mara Rockliff, William Low (Candlewick Press) $16.99  Candlewick is known for beautiful, beautiful children's picture books and this is one we've promoted before. It works on a number of levels, is artfully done, and tells the story of a mom who is a stonecutter at the cathedral the workers call Big John - the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York City that was begun in 1892 and is still under construction. Momma's son John and his sisters can't wait to see her special stone in this luminous true-life story. 

Read this description from the School Library Journal, that recommends it for K-Grade 2, at least:

When Momma comes home from working as a stonecutter for New York City's St. John the Divine, affectionately known as "Big John," she is tired and covered with dust. It is hard work, and no one knows how many decades it will take to finish the cathedral. Her middle son, the narrator, is amazed when he finds out that all this time she has only worked on one stone. His mother explains that what she does is an art, and the boy proudly imagines Momma's name on display in a museum. When they visit Big John, the boy is disappointed to find that his mother's stone looks identical to all the others, and that no one will ever know which is hers. But as they experience the majesty of the cathedral and lift their voices in song, he realizes that there is an art to being part of something bigger than yourself. 

Patrons and Protectors- MORE Occupations .jpgPatrons and Protectors- Occupations .jpgPatrons and Protectors: Occupations and Patrons and Saints: More Occupations Michael O'Neill McGrath  (Liturgical Training Publications) $18.95  We only have a few of these left, but I just have to list them.  These are explicitly Roman Catholic and talk about patron saints for various occupations.  There is a drawing of the patron saint doing his or her work in her ancient setting paired with a man or woman doing that very work in today's setting.  (And, oh, look for the dove tucked in on every page, showing God's very presence in each job site!)  Also, there is a short essay from a contemporary person describing how they serve God and the public in their work - most you haven't heard of but a few (like broadcaster and TV show producer Fred Rogers) are heroes to us all.

From the books publicity, you see why we love it so:

From the first-century Martha, who served meals to Jesus in her home, to the recently canonized Katharine Drexel, who built schools and colleges to improve the lives of Native Americans and African Americans, work and labor have been essential to Christian life. Alongside McGrath's commentary about why a saint is associated with a particular occupation are essays by men and women engaged in that work. As we see the variety of ways human beings contribute their talents and skills to building God's reign, we may be inspired to view our jobs--and our faith--with fresh eyes.

Most Protestants (in fact, even most Catholics) don't know that there are so many patron saints for so many specific careers and occupations, and it is fun to see the way they link up saints and service in the work world, from (just in the second one, More Occupations, pharmacists, librarians, beekeepers, photographers, scientists, firefighters, midwives, dentists, builders, actors, photographers, environmentalists, poets, and more.

Brother Bartholomew and the Apple Grove .jpgBrother Bartholomew and the Apple Grove Jan Cheripko, illustrated by Kestutis Kasparavicius (Boyds Mills Press) $15.95  We so like this legendary children's publisher and so love this wonderful book. I'm sure I've recommended it before.  The art is beautiful, soft, realistic watercolors, and the text is longer and more complex than some picture books.  (I think it is good for middle elementary grads.) The story centers on an old monk whose job it was to care for an apple grove (the monastery made apple sauce to help make ends meet.) A newer, younger monk had his eye on taking over for the older one, and, well, there's a lesson learned about ambition and greed and impatience.

Brother Bartholomew page spread.jpgOne theme of the story, I'd say, is about patience and sustainability, even caring for animals - and then, this big point: "God will provide." It is said, often, and it is what the older Brother Bartholomew says to Brother Stephen at the end, when Stephen realizes his barbed wire "improvements" to keep the deer away was not so good.  Called "haunting" and "moving" this warm tale of land and work and doing the right thing in God's own way, nearly could have been written by Wendell Berry.  A lovely, wise book -- we only have a few left.

Americans Who Tell the Truth.jpgAmericans Who Tell the Truth Robert Shetterly (Puffin) $7.99 This is a stunning picture book, with remarkable pen and ink and watercolor paintings of 50 great Americans with a quote from each on the facing page.  This is for older kids or politically interested teends and definitely for those whose values tilt toward the lefty and progressive; the activist background about the person is briefly told, so you'll learn about folks from Wendell Berry to Harriet Tubman, from Rachel Carson to Howard Zinn, from Sojourner Truth to Dorothea Lange, on through folks as varied as John Muir, Cesar Chavez, Susan B. Anthony, Dorothy Day, Dwight Eisenhower, Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Nader, and Rosa Parks.

Harriet Tubman.jpg abraham lincoln.jpgrachel_carson.jpgMostly these are portraits of noble rabble-rousers and social activists, although there are Presidents and authors and poets, civic leaders and courageous citizens. This book of 50 pictures could generate all kinds of interesting conversation and further study about standing up for one's convictions, organizing for social change, and using one's talents to probe against injustice.  Okay, it has a bias and it leaves out all kinds of good people, but it still deserves your attention.

cesar chavez.jpg















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May 28, 2016

12 Recent Novels for your Summer Pleasure -- ON SALE NOW at Hearts & Minds

byron reading book als.jpgIf Memorial Day is seen as the start of summer, why not get in the mood by thinking about what novels you might read this summer? Yes, plural.  Everybody ought to enjoy good fiction, and summer months are a great time for many of us to enjoy some stories and even some poetry.  I'm going to soon read a George Saunder's collection of short stories -- or so I tell myself today, but I have to finish the spectacular Tartt masterpiece The Goldfinch, not to mention the amazing memoir Smoke Gets in Your Eyes & Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty  -- and we're awaiting the forthcoming Wendell Berry poems (A Small Porch: Sabbath Poems 2014releasing in a few weeks.  How about you?


This isn't a list of best books or must reads or all time fiction favorites, just some I grabbed off our shelf that I thought would be fun to tell you about.  A few are fairly literary, a few less sophisticated, all fine choices, some very popular, some rather indie.  Want some other novel, old or new? We can easily get almost anything that is in print, so do let us help you have a good stack of summer reads and beach books for these longer and hopefully slower days, designed, it seems, for getting immersed in enjoyable reading, page by page by page.


The order form links below will take you to our secure order form page. Happy reading!


The High Mountains of Portugal.jpgThe High Mountains of Portugal Yann Martel (Spiegel & Grau) $27.00  At first I couldn't put this down, then it rather perplexed me, and then I was utterly captivated, and even a month later I can't stop thinking about it. This is by the famous author of Life of Pi and it is essentially three inter-related stories, pitched (on the back) as A Quest, A Ghost Story, and A Mesmerizing Tale of Love and Loss. The three sections are captioned in the book as Homeless, Homeward, Home -- itself intriguing, eh? The middle part is way weird, but not what I'd call ghostly; just magical realism, if you will.  A guy walks backwards, there's a search for an ancient crucifix from a disgraced missionary, learned about from a previously ignored diary found in a museum, there is a sad death, there is a simian, and the end offers a remarkable, homecoming resolution. Amazing.






Smoke Dan Vyleta .jpgSmoke Dan Vyleta (Doubleday) $27.95  I was glad our library had this as soon as it released this last week as it sounds to me like one of the most inventive novels in recent memory. The author is an esteemed historian and novelist and the advance word on this has been fabulous. (One reviewer says it is "one of the most original and enthralling books I have read in a long, long time.")  The plot seems complex -- I just started it last night -- but the premise is fantastical and intriguing: smoke arises from the bodies of people when they think bad thoughts; their inner lives of greed and lust and envy become known by all.  (The idea from this, by the way, came from one specific sentence in a lesser known Charles Dickens novel who pondered what such a world would be like.)


Part Victorian morality tale, part Potter-esque fantasy writing, perhaps informed by the likes of provocative Philip Pullman, Smoke was described by Publisher's Weekly as "a fiercely inventive novel." 

That review continues,


Vyvlet's bold concept and compelling blend of history and fantasy offer a provocative reflection on the nature of evil, power, belief, and love. Dickensian in its imaginative scope and atmosphere.


Obviously, a question emerges about whether the pollution of the common (second hand?) smoke effects others. Can sin be contagious? (Can virtue? But I digress.) What becomes of those raised in a  social environment that is, shall we say, smokey?  Is this something like the impact of soma in Huxley?


Here's another part, I think.  What happens when some -- the upper classes, of course -- are able to go to school to learn out to adapt, to control their excreting of smoke?  Can such persons start to look down their proverbial noses at others whose sins are more noticed? Is this, finally, a study of class, or is it a study of the making of Pharisees?  Why not order this from us today?


the secret chord.jpgThe Secret Chord: A Novel Geraldine Brooks (Viking) $27.95  What a solid book to hold in your hands, in the back yard or at your outdoor coffee-shop or, in my wife's scenario, before bed. She loved this artful and provocative re-telling of the David story, beautifully wrought and insightful -- "unvarnished" the publisher says --  from the admittedly imagined view of Nathan.  You should know the Pulitzer Prize-winning Brooks at least from her People of the Book, which we also loved.


Of course, in dealing with a fictionalization from the Bible, the author is not going to please everyone. There is plenty on display here about David's sensuality, his violence, even. (One reviewer somewhere used the phrase "alpha male personality.") I am sure the talented Ms Brooks means no disrespect to her source materials. Like other tales of this ancient era think of The Red Tent, set in an even earlier period) there is much to learn, and great artists can help. It's a novel, though, keep in mind. And apparently, a very thoughtful and entertaining one at that.


When Girls Became Lions.jpgWhen Girls Became Lions: A Novel  Valerie J. Gin & Jo Kadlecek (Gin/Kadlecek) $14.99  "The memory of a strong woman is a sanctuary..."  This is how the story, set circa 1983, begins, in this self-published novel by a legendary and beloved soccer coach and a renowned writer of nonfiction and memoir.  This is a story about soccer, about women's sports, specifically about the impact of Title IX legislation had on one mid-western town.  


Here is a description from the back cover: 


It's 1983. Teacher Bailey Crawford and a bunch of rag tag girls are about to make history as their school's first, and only, state champions. But few in town care; they're only girls, after all. It's not until twenty-five years later in 2008 when new coach Reynalda Wallace discovers their story, and recognition for the champs finally arrives. In the process, Rey learns how much of her own life--past and present--is bound to those first athletes whose struggle she never knew existed. Until now.


The rave reviews of this book have come from men and women, sports analysis, coaches, professors, young people and not a few famous leaders (such as the President of Tuskegee University, women head coaches, women in the Olympic Hall of Fame, and more.)


Listen to this rave  from Les Norman, former Jr. Olympic Gold Medalist, MLB outfielder, TV analyst and syndicated sports radio host.  Authors Val & Jo were recently interviewed on his show, Breakin' the Norm  He says,

As an AVID sports fan and voracious reader, I search for compelling stories that will both move my heart and have the potential to change the world.  I found those very things in When Girls Became Lions!  I laughed, cried, grew angry at injustice, and cheered with joy. This is not only a book about the champion spirit that lies within female athletes, but the athlete in general . . .

Jo & Val have given the highest honor to the trailblazers of Title IX, to those of us who've been honored & blessed to wear an athletic uniform, and to athletes, coaches and parents of either gender who live out their passion by giving with all their heart. When Girls Became Lions brings about a triumph of the human spirit and resolve, and is now one of my favorite books of all time!!  I highly recommend it for both female and male athletes alike!"  

Check out the trailer for their book, here, and then come on back and send us an order.


The_Chimera_Sequence_Elliott_Garber-copy-200x300.jpgThe Chimera Sequence Elliott Garber (Osprey Press) $15.99  I have been wanting to read this since I first heard about it from the proud papa of Elliott Garber, none other than Steve Garber, author of Hearts & Minds favs, Fabric of Faithfulness and Visions of Vocation.  As you know from reading Steve, he is passionate about equipping folks to think about faith relating to all of life (including work, career, and our duties in the world) and that he, himself, uses novels to help open up conversations with consequence about life and times. I cannot think of a time I've heard Steve lecture or preach where he hasn't cited stories, books, music, or films, and he and his librarian wife, Meg, raised their children around the very best books and films. I say all this to give you background and confidence that Elliott's book emerges from a mature and thoughtful place.


And oh, what a place it is. Young Garber has been on active duty as a military officer who serves as a veterinarian. He has lived and worked with large animals in India, Egypt, Mozambique, and Italy (and traveled to over 50 other countries, including a recent deployment Iraq.) It is this global experience that informs this thriller -- an action-packed work of science-fiction (or is it?)


Here is how the back cover explains it:


The story starts as Cole McBride makes a chilling discover while investigating a mysterious disease causing the death of endangered mountain gorillas in war-torn central Africa. When a humanitarian aid hospital nearby diagnoses a disturbingly similar human case, the former Special Forces veterinarian knows he must figure out how to stop this outbreak from spreading -- before it blows up into a global pandemic.


And that, apparently, is just the beginning. The story moves from a massive cargo ship moving out of Sudan's largest port which carries something headed for the Persian Gulf. A Lebanese restaurant owner in DC is involved, there is a plot worthy of House of Cards about an unpopular President and, well, you can imagine.


If you like thrillers based on real scientific research (well, at least the part about animal-spread diseases), this will be a winner for you.  Maria Goodavage, herself a New York Times author of Soldier Dogs and Top Dogs, says, "I couldn't put down Garber's engaging, rapid-paced, action-packed thriller."


Here is a great endorsement from James Rollins, author of the Sigma Force Novel, The 6th Extinction.


Elliott Garber's debut thriller The Chimera Sequence has everything I love in a novel:  great characters, a thrill ride of an adventure, and a looming global menace.  But best of all, the story hooked me from the first intriguing page to the last illuminating line. I can't wait to see what this guy writes next!


And, get this amazing quote, the sort any first-time novelist would be proud of:


"Not since Jurassic Park has a science thriller of this magnitude been written..."   Wow.


That's from Dr. Marty Becker who you may know as "America's Veterinarian" and a respected, best-selling author.


I don't know much about Ebola, and even less about Zika and their subsequent public health policies. We do quite a bit about the science and politics of Lyme and other tick-born diseases, which are only getting worse as they infect our geography and bodies and as the standard medical establishment refuses to keep up with vital research.  You know that this stuff could keep you up at night, and maybe it should. Perhaps The Chimera Sequence and its fiction of global menace is merely something exciting to read for those who love that kind of an adrenaline-packed reading experience. Or maybe it is more, something we really should be thinking about, imagining, talking about.  Kudos to Mr. Garber for releasing this important first novel, illustrating his own interest in eco-systems, public health, and helping us think about some of the biggest problems of our world.  All in the form of a high-energy thriller.


This Is Why I Came Mary Rakow .jpgThis Is Why I Came Mary Rakow (Counterpoint) $24.00  I am, as I often am, taken with a book just by reading a review of it.  Such was the case,  I suppose, here. I hope to spend some slow hours with this later this summer, but we ordered it forthwith as soon as I read a remarkable book review of it in The Christian Century (here) by the always impressive Rev. Lawrence Wood.  Here is how that review begins:


A  woman comes for confession, her first in 30 years. Anxiously she fingers a hand-stitched notebook filled with her own version of Bible stories, driven by her reimaginings of biblical characters. We never learn exactly why she has written these fragments, although themes emerge--uneasy family relationships, physical disabilities, mental illness. Perhaps the woman's own story shapes them. The stories are told slant, very slant, so the reader feels their gravity. But they truly engage the scriptures. They are luminous, numinous.

Her name is Bernadette. Like the visionary saint who saw the biblical Mary in Lourdes, France, in 1858, this Bernadette too is something of a cipher as she provides a link to the sacred. She does needlework like her namesake, shares the same infirmities, and wonders if she's going mad. She herself may be a saint--barely.

Mary Rakow's novel is just barely a novel. But in 62 brief chapters she manages to make familiar characters strange and fresh. They migrate from the Old Testament to the New, from the Bible to contemporary life, with the suggestion that they themselves may be authors...

So, the main character has a hand-stitched notebook full of Bible stories. (Does this seem like the famed collection found in Winesburg Ohio?)

Perhaps like that story, Wood suggests that That's Why I Came is "miraculous" as in it "the lines between sacred history and contemporary life might be wonderfully blurred." 

Later in the review he notes that these rambling pieces written by the novel's main character (Bernadette)  are both fragmentary and complex; the writing of the novel itself tends to the poetic.  It is, at times, raw and perhaps disturbing.  This is, I should note, on a serious, literary publishing house (perhaps best known for publishing the novels of Wendell Berry.)  Rev. Wood continues,

A lesser writer would have made this book a satire. Rakow, a theologian who studied at Harvard Divinity School and Boston College, instead has written with great love and deep faith, raising issues latent in the original text. Like Bernadette, Rakow seems to be sitting in church, hoping to find peace again.


The Abbey- A Story of Discovery James Martin.jpgThe Abbey: A Story of Discovery James Martin SJ (HarperOne) $24.99  It is great to see this popular nonfiction author -- who has written about Jesus, about humor (Between Heaven and Mirth), about the Jesuits, and more -- trying his hand at fiction, and, wow, has it been successful. This is a major book this season, lots of buzz -- one person likened it to Screwtape Letters (although another suggested The Shack.) It is notable for how it handles religious searching, grief, spirituality. (And it is, by the way, set in Pennsylvania.) The Abbey is getting lovely reviews.  Imagine having these authors blurb your book on the back -- Ron Hansen, Kathleen Norris, Richard Rohr, Joyce Rupp.  It has gotten many endorsements like this, from memoirist and poet Mary Karr:


With trademark wit, wisdom, and elegant prose, James Martin has written a powerfully moving novel about (among other things) how an unbeliever can journey from suffering into spiritual practice. How it happens in an eyeblink. Another triumph from one of our best scribblers working like a master in a new form.


The Nightingale- A Novel Kristin Hannah.jpgThe Nightingale: A Novel Kristin Hannah (St. Marin's Press) $27.99  The other day one of our staff paired this in a display with my favorite novel of recent years, All The Light You Cannot See. Not sure why, really, but the lovely, gold-embossed cover, is a rich and luscious one, and it calls out to be held. This is a serious, thick, and weighty novel, and it has been exclaimed about since it came out. Of course, it was displayed next to All the Light... because, it, too, is set in World War II -- France in 1939 to be exact.  As the description of it begins, "In love we find out who we want to be. In war we find out who we are."  This is an epic tale (Kristin Hannah is known for big and moving works of historical fiction) set in wartime France but about the divergent paths of two sisters. It is the sort of book that reviews claim to read in one sitting (although, at over 400 pages, I can hardly imagine.) I am sure at times it is harrowing, and it is said to be historically illuminating.


There are endorsements on the back from Lisa See (of popular best-seller Snow Flower) and Christina Baker Kline (author of the immensely popular and satisfying Orphan Train.) I appreciated this from Sara Gruen, author of Water for Elephants,


A beautifully written and richly evocative examination of life, love, and the ravages of war, and the different ways people react to unthinkable situations?not to mention the terrible and mounting toll of keeping secrets. This powerhouse of a story is equally packed with action and emotion, and is sure to be another major hit.


Thirteen Reasons Why.jpgThirteen Reasons Why Jay Asher (Razor Bill) $10.99  This is a powerful YA novel that an adult friend recently recommended.  We knew of its immense popularity, hear the author on NPR, maybe, and knew of its significance.

Neither Beth nor I have read this yet -- not sure if I am up for it, although I think I will. The plot is simple: a young girl named Hannah Baker took her life and left audio tapes behind, each for one of the 13 people who he saw as complicit in his death.  (You can listen to the "actual" Hannah Baker Tapes at a youtube site made to go along with the book.)  The book explores how these accusations and reports of petty cruelty effected Hannah, and how learning of this effected her friend Lay Jensen.


The reviews have been mostly stellar.


"Eerie, beautiful, and devastating" said the Chicago Tribune. "It will leave you with chills," said Amber Gibson on All Things Considered.  Words such as "shattering" and "anguishing" are understandably used by readers to describe it and yet it is also life-affirming and beautiful; the respected Kirkus called it "brilliant and mesmerizing."  It is known not only for the story, but for it's moving prose. Thirteen Reasons has been named on many "best book" lists and garnered many awards.  One line that most drew me in was the description by the wonderful YA novelist Sherman Alexi, who called it, "A mystery, eulogy, and ceremony."


For what it is worth, some have suggested it isn't realistic, that it does a disservice by not adequately exploring issues of adolescent mental health. 


Two Steps Forward- A Story of Persevering in Hope.jpgTwo Steps Forward: A Story of Persevering in Hope Sharon Garlough Brown (IVP) $18.00  I have mentioned this before and it seemed right to name it again.  Although it stands alone, it is a sequel to the popular Sensible Shoes, a novel which explores the emerging friendships of a group of women who meet at a spiritual retreat and agree to check back in with each other after their experiences with a spiritual director. Partly a story of women's friendship, partly a set of stories of how faith helps us navigate live's pains and challenges, and partially an observant report of what it is like having a wise spiritual director, this is a book that seems to be part novel and part spiritual guidebook. It is a story about what it means to be made in God's image, discern wisdom, find grace, and what it looks like to grow into greater Christlikeness.


Both Sensible Shoes and Two Steps Forward center around Meg, a widow and recent empty nester, Chrissa, a conscientious graduate student (and, in the second -- spoiler -- an unexpected pregnancy), Hannah, a pastor, now on sabbatical, and Mara, a wife and mother who longs for her difficult family life to improve.


Sister Eve and the Blue Nun- A Divine Private Detective Agency Mystery.jpgSister Eve and the Blue Nun: A Divine Private Detective Agency Mystery Lynne Hinton (Nelson) $15.99  I don't read mysteries, so don't know which are better than others. There is this whole thing of clerical sleuths -- think of Father Brown, at least.  Hinton is a long-respected author in the world of inspirational fiction and is a New York Times best-selling author. This is just out, the third in a popular series -- the first two were Sister Eve Private Eye and The Case of the Sin City Sister.  In each, I gather, the good sister's gifts for detective work might be seen as a calling, or a temptation. Eh? In this new one, it is set up like this: "After a murder at the monastery, Sister Eve may need a miracle if she is to prove a dear friend isn't a cold-blooded killer." 


The "Blue Nun" bit figures in because the poisoned victim was Dr. Kelly Middlesworth, a researcher on the life and ministry of the 17th century revered "Blue Nun."  A set of irreplaceable historic documents have disappeared before they could even be examined.  


Oh, did I mention that Sister Eve rides a motorcycle? So there's that, too. Ha.


Lord of the World Robert Hugh Benson (Christian Classics).jpgLord of the World Robert Hugh Benson (Christian Classics) $15.95 I am embarrassed to say I have never heard of this novel, although I've learned a bit about the famous author and the significance of the tale.


Written in 1907, we are told in an introduction to this new edition that,


Lord of the World claims to be the first modern dystopia, preceding the more famous ones, Huxley's Brave New World (1932) and George Orwell's 1984 (1949). For academics, Lord of the World has always been a scholarly footnote of the Catholic literary renaissance that saw so many British intellectuals and artists like Benson convert to the Catholic faith in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.


But here is something even more interesting; very interesting, indeed. It has been made known that Pope Francis has reported that this novel has significantly influenced his own thinking.  Mark Bosco explains:

In a homily in November 2013, the Pope referred to Lord of the World when he warned about the dark side of globalization. Offering the term "beautiful globalization" as an expression through which national identity and traditions are preserved, he warned that this phenomenon can become the more sinister "globalization of hegemonic uniformity" that is found in Benson's novel -- a uniformity of secular thought born out of human vanity and worldliness.

Get this:

In January 2015, as part of the Pope's in-flight interview from Manila to Rome, he referred to the "ideological colonization" of international family-planning agencies and national governments that impose population control as a condition of development aid. Asked what he meant by the term, Pope Francis told the plane full of reporters, "There is a book, excuse me but I'll make a commercial... it is a book that, at that time, the writer had seen this drama of ideological colonization, and wrote that book. It is called Lord of the World. The author is Benson... I advise you to read it. Reading it, you'll understand well what I mean by ideological colonization ...


I really enjoyed reading Bosco's complete introduction to this just today. There is also a "theological reflection" essay and a bit about Benson's conversion. This stuff helps, explaining why it is important. (And this cover gives it a bit more gravitas than the "Doomsday Classics" edition from Dover.) This intro is fascinating as it explores the rise of science fiction and dystopian, apocalyptic genre. (Just last night I was reading the recent Eerdmans release How to Survive the Apocalypse: Zombies, Cylons, Faith, and Politics at the End of the World by Robert Joustra and Alisa Wilkinson. Ooo-boy.) 


Apparently, Lord of the World by Robert Hugh Benson really is important, and apparently, it's a rip-roaring read. It is said not only to be quite well-crafted but "a prophetic novel that anticipates and dramatically renders the spiritual and cultural crisis of the twenty-first century."


Listen to the Tolkien scholar, Joseph Pearce, who commends this new edition:


Benson's dystopic novel is more sinister than the simple hedonism of Huxley's dystopia and more subtle than the sheer brutality of Orwell's. I welcome Ave Maria Press's new edition of this classic and prophetic work.


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