The Province of Joy: Praying with Flannery O'Connor Angela Alaimo O'Donnell (Paraclete Press) $16.99 Well, what to say? The book feels nice, has lovely French flaps making it is a higher quality paperback. There is a peacock on the cover which, as you know if your an O'Connor fan, is significant. Flannery O'Connor (1925-1941) was a rugged Catholic novelist and short story writer in the deep South whose bent tales helped us see grace in, well, in just about everything.
O'Donnell offers astute observations in small meditations about Flannery O'Connor--from her novels and short stories and from the pieces about being a faith-informed writer, about being an artist, and about the spiritual life amidst the dreary secularity of the 20th century--and offers them as a supplement for "praying the hours." It has some O'Connor quotes, but these readings are mostly devotional reflections by Ms O'Donnell, about O'Connor's work, her characters, her plot lines, her aesthetic or moral or theological judgements. James Martin, the funny Jesuit writer, says it is "something wonderful: a prayer book that is old and new, timely and timeless, comforting and provocative." Now here's the thing: this really is a prayer book (written by a Roman Catholic) so there are Scripture texts and intercessions and canticles and Nunc Dimittis, etcetera. There are some lectio opportunities and a few prayers to saints, and devotional writings such as "The Breastplate of St. Patrick" or from St. Teresa of Avila. Some good poetry shows up, such as lines from Gerard Manley Hopkins and Emily Dickinson, and a citations from Dostoyevsky and Weil and Newman You get the picture. O'Donnell teaches creative writing at Fordham and she obviously knows Ms O'Connor's body of work. By the way, we carry a number of other books about Flannery O'Connor, and her own literature and letters. But, I must say, this new one looks very, very special. Thanks to O'Donnell for helping us pray, by praying with O'Connor.
Song of a Scientist: The Harmony of a God-Soaked Creation Calvin B. DeWitt (Foreword by Bill McKibben) (Square Inch Books) $14.99 I love Cal DeWitt. I loved his great Bible study Earthwise, out now in a nice updated edition from Faith Alive. I loved that he was an early Christian leader in creation- care and co-founded the EEN (Evangelical Environmental Network.) I like that he spoke at the IAM arts conference in New York city last year. I like that this square sized small paperback is on the newish "Square Inch" imprint, which, you should know, is an allusion to that famous line of Abraham Kuyper about Christ presiding over "every square inch" of creation. I love that environmental activist and remarkably skilled Methodist nature writer Bill McKibben wrote the forward to this Reformed, evangelical book. I like that the blurbs on the back are from Richard Rohr (a Roman Catholic spirituality writer) and C. Rene Padilla (an evangelical theologian from Latin American with a keen sense of social justice, a man who has been in our store, and who I could hardly esteem more highly.) I love all this, and I've not even started to tell you about the book itself. I can only tell you, this is the real deal, a wonderful little package for an author who deserves to be taken very seriously. DeWitt is professor of environmental studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the director emeritus of the Au Sable Institute. Many of us have eager been awaiting a new book by him for a decade or so. Song of a Scientist is it! It shows, as Rene Padilla puts it, "the harmony between God's creation and God's salvation." Spirituality, science, Reformed theology, the work of a researcher and professor? Of course! This beautifully written book---yes, I've dipped in a bit already---quotes Aldo Leopold, J.S. Bach, John Calvin, John Muir, Rachel Carson, John Douglas Hall, Wendell Berry, and a ton of Bible passages. It is both about his work as an environmental scientist, and, more generally, about this wonderful vision of being a scholar, a scientist investigating a "God-soaked" creation. This paperback is a serious delight, important, and yet beautifully done and readily accessible to any interested reader. Highly recommended.
Hiking Through: One Man's Journey to Peace and Freedom on the Appalachian Trail Paul Stutzman (Revell) $13.99 Nature writing, adventure story, life-changing journey, Christian testimonial, struggle to overcome obstacles both physical and internal, recovery from great grief...this is a book that may have something for nearly everyone. But it is custom-made for those who like the story of a challenge, the call to pursue a dream, a human interest story about growth and redemption. If you know anyone who has done the AT (or other similarly extensive wilderness hikes) you know the thrill of accomplishment, the goof-ball people (and critters) you met along the way (just read Bill Bryson!) the ups and downs of making it in the great outdoors. This book tells of God's presence and power as this backpacker makes his odyssey Northward. Plainly written, with humor and good observation, this will be a perfect gift for somebody you know; it seems like the sort of thing that will truly touch folks. I look forward to checking it out, maybe later this summer with a day pack. I ain't going the 2,176 miles through fourteen states. Just sayin. You can check out Paul Stutzman's own Hiking Through website, here.
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