HEARTS AND MINDS BOOKS AWARDS 2006 PART TWO


Welcome to part two of the annual Hearts & Minds Books of the Year list for 2006. Please skip back to December's column for the first half where we unveiled our picks in several important category (including overall Best Books, spiritual formation, humor, academic, memoirs and others.) Here are some other titles and authors we are pleased to honor. If only our Awards earned them something important. They may alert you, though, to some good reads, some commendable books, more bread for your journey. Enjoy.

MOST LONG-AWAITED BOOK THAT IS SUPPOSED TO BE OUT IN 2006 BUT WILL ARRIVE IN EARLY 2007 BUT WE WANT TO HONOR IT ANYWAY

It Was Good: Making Art to the Glory of God
Ned Bustard, editor (Square Halo Press) $24.95 Okay, I admit to a gratuitous manufacturing of a category, but it just had to be awarded. I saw many of the newer chapters of this re-issued and considerably expanded version, and they are very, very good. I happen to know that everything from copy-editing to the printing quality of the full-color reproductions were done with personal care and commitment to excellence by our friends at Square Halo. Is using this dumb award title just giving a cheap, free announcement, because Square Halo mentions us on their website? No, not at all. I am glad to have an informal friendship with SH but this book would get the goldest of gold medals regardless. It was a highly esteemed book in its first edition, used as a text in classes on religion and the arts or Christian views of aesthetics. It’s blend of mature depth and practicality made it a winner in its first version; the expansions add important new chapters by important writers. For a collection about the arts written at a step above entry level, by an amazing collective of artists, critics, patrons and participants, this book is a must-have. One of the best of any year!

BEST NOVEL

Saving the World
Julia Alverez (Algonquin Books) $24.95 I discussed this in a column mid-summer and I’ve not stopped talking about it since. We all have read many novels here this year, and each of our staff has their favorites. I believe this truly was the best of ’em all----well-written yet engaging, a good story, much to learn, much to consider. The plot revolves around two parallel stories, one set in the 1600’s (and a medical plan to immunize natives of the New World) and a modern-day US Latina writer, married to an NGO worker doing AIDS work in the Dominican Republic. Faith, politics, science, romance, culture, writing, passion, purpose. A lot for even these two interwoven stories, but Alverez succeeds with a pair of well-drawn tales.

This Heavy Silence
Nicole Mazzarella (Paraclete) $14.95 The newly released paperback now comes with a reader’s guide for book groups and an imprinted seal of the Christy Award. When we reviewed it at the fiction column last June it had not yet garnered that prestigious award, but even then, I knew it was on our short list of the best novel I’d read in quite some time. A very well written story set in the hard times of an Ohio farm, it tells of motherhood, duty, land, and the debts we owe.

Andy Catlett: Early Travels
Wendell Berry (Shoemaker & Hoard) $23.00 Berry is a writer of integrity. We would award, I believe, anything he wrote. I will be honest: none of us have read this yet, save the beautiful excerpt in Christian Century. Set in 1943 when Andy (who is familiar to those of us who have inhabited the Port Williams fellowship) is nine years old, he is set upon a bus, alone. "As I saw it," young Andy recalls, "it was nothing less than my first step into manhood." We are glad this arrived a few days after Christmas so it could qualify for a much deserved (we are sure) listing on any year end list.

MOST PLEASURE IN A NOVEL

A Dark Oval Stone Marsena Konkle (Paraclete) $23.95 How to tell of why we wanted to offer a unique award for this very special story? It may be that we are acquainted with Marsena and her family. It may be that we understand her broader framework for thinking about writing, the arts, Christian faith in the post-Christian world since she once worked for Critique the excellent publication of Ransom Fellowship. So we had anticipated this for a long while, and we imagined the joy and trepidation of her friends and family as it finally arrived, and we started it. So, yes, this was special for Hearts & Minds. But---and please, know I am being honest here!---this book brought pleasures to me that were more than the fact that we care about the author. (We’ve had other friends write books too, books that did not necessarily have this effect.) A Dark Oval Stone really did grab me, it held me, it gave me pause, it brought laughter and tears to my eyes. I recall putting it down, sitting at my backyard picnic table, and wishing it were not over. And starting it again. That is rare for us and this work is well deserving of a very honorable mention.

BEST POETRY

A Compass of Affection
Scott Cairns (Paraclete) $25.00 There are few working poets today who are as esteemed within the Christian community as Cairns, and his Orthodox worldview and his serious commitments to excellence and insight are manifest. A very handsome volume with mostly previously published works and some new. We wish we could sell more, as he is truly a marvel.

Thirst
Mary Oliver (Beacon) $25.00 One reviewer notes that her poems--since before her Pulitzer in 1984---have included an urge for transformation "yoked to a joy in this moment, this life, this body." The Women’s Review of Books reviewer says "I think of Oliver as a fierce, uncompromising lyricist, a loyalist of the marshes. Hers is a voice we desperately need." This lovely, thin, yet weighty hardback is certainly deserving of more important awards than ours. Keep your eyes open.

BASIC CHRISTIAN GROWTH

What Jesus Demands of the World
John Piper (Crossway) $19.99 It isn’t often that I have been so engaged by a commentary, well-informed by time spent in the pastor’s study, that had such immediate, spiritual implications. I turned to it during a time of crisis, a time of hardship, and a time of fear. I struggled with his explication of the gospel accounts, and thanked God for his clear-headed, sober pastoral advice on how to see and do what the texts say. I don’t agree with all of it; even St John P has his blindspots. Still, it was one of the most useful books for me that I have read all year. Kudos.

Simply Christian
N.T. Wright (Harper) $22.95 There was a lot of press buzz about this being Wright’s attempt to do a contemporary Mere Christianity. Well, maybe. This may be nearly sacrilege, but it is, in my view, a much, much more usable book, at least for most people. Whether you give it to an unchurched friend, a seeker, or use it for your own introduction to the big questions, and the big answers the Biblical story provides, this overview is just spectacular. We could have awarded it in any number of categories (the Best Book category last month already had a Wright book, anyway.) Please get this book. Tell others to get this book. It is a wonderful introduction to Wright’s vision and style, and, better, an introduction to the faith, thoughtful and readable, Biblical and relevant.

Divine Nobodies: Shedding Religion to Find God (and the unlikely people who will help you)
Jim Palmer (Word) $13.99 I reviewed this at length at the blog, showing off it’s bright, hip cover, and talking about how each chapter introduces a different out-side-the-church (heck, outside-the-box) characters who helped this messed up puppy find a deeper relationship with God. I must admit I loved each chapter more than the next, grew to care for his story, his life, his voice, and was deeply moved by his (not terribly original) insights that God shows up all over the place. Perhaps he is the next Donald Miller, I don’t know. We loved this book so much we couldn’t wait to list it here, happily naming it one of the very best of the year.

Gracious Christianity: Living the Love We Profess
Douglas Jacobsen & Rodney J. Sawatsky (Baker) $12.99 I really enjoy "Jake" and Rodney was the President of Messiah College, near here, until he died (just after finishing this book) of a brain tumor. He notes in the preface that there is a certain liberating freedom in writing a book while dying. I found it interesting that I expected a book about acceptance and inclusion, being welcoming and full of loving grace. And this is a book that is intentionally ethical, inviting us to ways of living that are grace-filled and kind. Yet, it really is a very useful introduction to the doctrines of the Christian faith. With endorsements by solid thinkers like Richard Mouw or Dennis Okholm, you may realize that this doesn’t play off graceful living and graceful conviction. Richard Hughes has exclaimed "I have never read a more lucid or compelling summary of the Christian faith."

WORLDVIEW STUDIES & CULTURAL ENGAGEMENT

Creation Regained: The Biblical Basis for a Reformational Worldview
Albert Wolters (Eerdmans) $12.00 We have often said this is one of the best books to understand our approach here at H&M and Al has been an influence since the 70’s. This new edition includes two new chapters, interestingly, one that shows the relationship of Wolter's Dutch neo-Calvinism to the missiology of Leslie Newbegin, and another, which links the "unfolding drama of creation-fall-redemption" that is so central to CR to the popular Biblical work of N.T. Wright. Al revised this new edition just a bit, it has a nicer cover, a better type font, and with the new substantive chapters, it truly is an award-winning volume in it’s own right. We, especially, are very pleased to put it on the 2006 list. FYI: I’d put it on the list of the most influential books of the last 25 years. Ask me why, if you want to know…

A Mind for God
James Emery White (IVP) $12.00 At this price, and with a handsome, rich, dust-jacket, this very small book is a lovely gift, a treasure to have, a good and important reminder of much of what we believe God's people should be about: thinking deeply, reading widely, caring much, acting wisely. To be fully human, it reminds us, is to think, and we are to "take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:5.) Those who have heard me speak or preach now how pivotal I believe this verse is, and why our bookstore set out to help followers of Jesus act well in the contemporary world by thinking well. This lovely book helps us break from cultural captivity through the spiritual discipline of reading, study, and reflection. This deserves more than a "best book" Award. It deserves to be a best-seller. Please order one, pass it on, form a group, spread the word. You will be better for it. Soli Deo Gloria.

Catalyst: A Study for Next Generation Leaders: The Culture Issue
Jeff Shinabarger, editor (Nelson Impact) $16.99 This magazine-style "Groupzine" is volume two in the series that began with the eye-popping 2005 release of Challenge the Process which was also billed as a study for "next generation" emerging leaders. That new-looking resource blew us away and we promoted it often. Here, again, there are articles, essays, study questions, Biblical pieces, testimonials, and book reviews by some very helpful leaders and activists on the task of cultural engagement. Oodles of folks we know and love are in here: Andy Couch and Eugene Peterson, Shane Claiborne and Lauren Winner, Leonard Sweet and Andi Ashworth, Gary Haugen from the International Justice Mission and Josh Jackson from Paste magazine and Erik Lokkesmoe from Brewing Culture. There are good writers we like Donald Miller and Mark Buchanan and James Emery White, and topics that are extraordinary, all presented with breath-taking graphics and useful study apparatus. Whoever came up with this line-up deserves some kind of Hearts & Minds Editor of the Year Award or something, because this is really, really off-the-charts good stuff.

Evangelicals in the Public Square: Four Formative Voices on Political Thought and Action J. Budziszewski (Baker) $19.99 I blogged about this with great gusto this summer, and was very excited to show it where we could. Four writers who have been influenced by each of these evangelical heavyweights share a chapter testifying and explaining how that scholar shaped their particular tradition of evangelical cultural engagement. The four voices include Carl F.H. Henry, Abraham Kuyper, Francis Schaeffer and John Howard Yoder. If you are a fan of these kinds of books you know this will be a treasure trove and a bundle of fun insight. If you are not terribly interested, trust me: this is an important work that we would be wise to understand. Mike Cromartie did a good introduction, and Jean Bethke Elshtain did the afterword making this, besides one of the best book on Christian public life, one of the most collaborative books of the year. Thanks to all involved.

APPLIED THEOLOGY

Free of Charge: Giving and Forgiving in a Culture Stripped of Grace
Miroslov Volf (Zondervan) $12.99 This was named, a year ago, early in 2006, as the chosen book by the Archbishop of Canterbury as a book for Anglicans to read together during Lent. Volf’s renowned Exclusion and Embrace, his work on the Trinity in several edited volumes, and his brand new one, The End of Memory (which will surely be a 2007 winner) illustrate that he is one of the small handful of truly world-class and world-renowned theologians. That alone makes him important to read especially when he offers a set of reflections of this nature. Gratefully, these essays are nearly devotional in nature, are quite readable, accessible for the thoughtful layperson, and yet meaty enough for all of us to ponder for a lifetime. The subtitle nearly says it all.

Proclaiming the Scandal of the Cross: Contemporary Images of the Atonement
Mark D. Baker, editor (Baker) $16.99 What a fabulous idea: a variety of contributions from esteemed authors such as Richard Hays, C.S. Lewis, Frederica Mathewes-Green, Brian McLaren, Luci Shaw, Rowan Williams and others, each preceded by an introductory piece where the editor reminds us what is a stake in this particular reading. After the essay, there are some concluding reflections offered, as well, making this not only a fabulous reader, but a very useful study tool. As Marva Dawn puts it on the back, "(this) book offers us a treasure chest filled with complementary truths presented in distinct and surprising packages. Each chapter---a gem of poetry, drama, story or sermon---is a unique gift to enable us to see with fresh perspective and greater fullness what God has done for us in Christ at the cross and empty tomb. This collection is an outstanding contribution to widen our comprehension and deepen our adoration!"

BIBLICAL STUDIES

Like Fire in the Bones: Listening for the Prophetic Word in Jeremiah
Walter Brueggemann (Fortress) $35.00 Those who follow Dr. B’s striking career know that he has done some remarkably deep stuff. (Indeed, he has a brand new commentary just out from Cambridge University Press on Jeremiah.) In Like Fire…, though, he offers semi-scholarly essays, a variety of articles and sermons, that any serious Bible student can handle, compiled together neatly in a remarkably nice slim-line hardback (to match his earlier similar compilations such as last year’s The Word That Redescribes the World.)

New Interpreter's Bible Old Testament Survey and New Testament Survey
(Abingdon) $39.00 and $37.00 You may know the giant, big, black set of New Interpreter’s Bible Commentaries that were so highly reviewed as they released, one by one, over the last decade. Now, in two nice volumes, they’ve taken the introductory essays from each and compiled them into very insightful survey form. With contributions from mainline scholars who are very different that they excessively liberal bias of the earlier Interpreter’s series from the 60’s, you get the best of mainstream scholarship. Elizabeth Achtemeier, Carol Newsom, Walter Brueggemann, Donald Gowan, Christopher Seitz, Raymond C. Van Leeuwen, Richard Hays, Pheme Perkins, N.T. Wright, Duane Watson, Andrew Lincoln, Luke Timothy Johnson…and more! I would say this great idea of drawing the articles and pieces from those famous, serious commentaries is an idea that deserves blue ribbons. And, more importantly, the books themselves do. Congratulations!

The Burning Word: A Christian Encounter With Jewish Midrash
Judith M. Kunst (Paraclete) $15.95 This book deserves a number of awards---the gracefulness with which it is written, the exquisite curiosity and good-hearted nature of the author, the informative content about Jewish customs. And, oh yes, the illumination of God's Older Testament, the Jewish Bible read, creatively, through Midrash texts, by an evangelical Episcopalian. How's that for a recipe for a fascinating read? More than fascinating, this is wonderful. Three cheers, or more, and a place on the Hearts & Minds Best of 2006 list.

Proverbs (Baker Commentary on the Old Testament Wisdom and Psalms)
Tremper Longman, III (Baker) $39.99 Although Bruce Waltke’s two volume set on Proverbs may not be surpassed, this is certainly one of the defining commentaries of this bit of Wisdom literature. Longman is a scholar we trust, a guy we like, and an author the church should rejoice in. He’s widely read, open-minded, and evangelically orthodox. I don’t know how to sell more commentaries, but they are so very useful, and awarding this as an example of the kind of useful work we need, we hope, may help a tiny bit.

Judas and the Gospel of Jesus: Have We Missed the Truth about Christianity?
N.T. Wright (Baker) $18.99 I wasn’t sure if this slim volume deserved the accolades of a Hearts & Minds Best Book award. (Like Canon Wright need us! Ha!) I’d just as soon forget this little business of this goofy alleged gospel, and stash the Time cover story with other old quickly forgotten fads. Alas, upon closer look, I see that Wright not only clarifies the whole business of alternative gospels with great aplomb, but also goes after Gnosticism, and holds forth on the historicity of the gospels themselves. And he is good! Skip Judas if you want; even skip Da Vinci Code. But this is a very, very reliable and pleasant overview of issues that will not go away, and we are happy to say that Wright is a good guide to help us understand these matters and respond with both cultural insight and Biblical truth.

Covenant of Peace: The Missing Peace in New Testament Theology and Ethics
Willard M. Swartley (Eerdmans) $34.00 As one reviewer noted, few have undertaken what Swartley has done here, "develop a thorough, and thoroughly theological, analysis of the theme of peace as it is interwoven into the New Testament account of the work of Jesus Christ and the proclamation of the reign of God." This may be the most thorough Biblical account of how peacemaking and the gospel are so intimately related. Groundbreaking and sure to be a classic.


FAVORITE PAPERBACK RELEASES OF FORMER HARDCOVERS

Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Faith
Rob Bell (Zondervan) $14.99 I love this book, especially the last couple of chapters about the Kingdom vision of the redemption of all things, and the Lordship of Christ over every aspect of life in God’s world. The "White Album" look of the hardback was impressively artsy, but it is nice to have a cheaper paperback version. Four different covers, too, of friends of his doing the trampoline thing. You really ought to read this!

Mudhouse Sabbath
Lauren Winner (Paraclete) $14.95 It is a shame this paperback isn’t priced a bit more reasonably (can we give the publisher an anti-award for dumb marketing on this one?) Still, and I hope you hear me well: it is worth every penny! Don’t skimp, get a few. This is one of our favorite books of the decade for about a dozen different reasons. Each chapter is a delight, and truly, truly, (I say unto you) worth the investment. Come on, folks, let’s get this back in circulation again after the several year wait for the paperback edition. Or buy the hardback, which is still available. The paperback has a new sub-title, reading "An Invitation to a Life of Spiritual Disciplines" which is nice. It could also read, I’d say, "Stuff about embodied spiritual practices that I did better when I was a Jew but now that I am a Christian I must work harder at it and I think I even know some of the reasons why." Or, more simply "Things about embodied practices to enhance spirituality that Christians could learn from Jewish traditions told well by someone whose been there." We are all about this book and could make up even other sub-titles. More importantly, though, it is wise and good and faithful and funny.

Real Sex: The Naked Truth About Chastity
Lauren Winner (Baker) $14.99 We did a major review of this at our webpage a year or so ago when this came out in hardcover. We have, as have many others, declared this to be the best book on the subject for thoughtfully Christian young adults, especially. We are very glad it is now more affordable in paperback, and will get a bit more distribution. It deserves to be well-read, considered (argued with) and enjoyed as she reminds us of God’s good ways.

The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America
Jonathan Kozol (Three Rivers Press) $14.95 I have been a serious fan of Kozol since reading The Night Is Dark and I Am Far From Home in maybe 1975 and the American Book Award Winner Death at an Early Age (first published in 1967.) Many folks, gratefully, are paying more attention to urban affairs, racial injustices, domestic poverty and community development. Too few study the fundamental injustices of the "savage inequalities" of how schools are funded. Kozol and I shared a long car ride a decade or so ago, and we talked, mostly, about Jesus. He is a good man who cares deeply, and is one of our nation’s most relentless prophets for justice. We are very glad this previously very expensive hardcover is now available in an inexpensive paperback. Maybe you should send one to your congressperson. After, of course, reading it yourself, first.

CONGREGATIONAL LIFE

Exiles: Living Missionally in a Post-Christian Culture
Michael Frost (Hendrickson) $19.95 Anybody who has followed the Emerging Church conversations knows of Frost & Hirsch’s Shaping of Things to Come. This follow-up is spectacular and, I think, very important. Frost is not the first to appropriate the imagery of exile, but to put it together with a call to justice, the pomo sensibilities of the emergents, and the missional perspective makes for a powerhouse of a book. Very highly recommended.

Breaking the Missional Code
Ed Stetzer & David Putman (Broadman & Holman) $17.99 The sub-title explains it well: "Your Church Can Become a Missionary in Your Community." There are plenty of books which make the case for cultural contextualization, and some of them are trendy and not, finally, helpful for most of us. This, however, surveys all the current literature, has a very properly Biblical and wholistic perspective, and sites evangelical (and other) authors that are surprising and good. If you are buying just one book on this whole emerging field, this, well, award-winning.

Left Behind in a Megachurch World: How God Works Through Ordinary Churches
Ruth A. Tucker (Baker) $16.99 You hopefully have seen our Book of the Year award to Diana Butler Bass, who takes us through similar territory in her Christianity for the Rest of Us. This book, though, stands as award-winning in this category as it could be very useful and inspiring for those who are feeling like their smaller congregation, perhaps having plateaued, are doomed to mediocrity. Where Bass takes us through churches that have developed unique practices that become their strengths, even that may be a bit audacious for many. Tucker really tells it like it is, with very mundane churches quietly doing forming their people into Christlikeness. She does some study and critical evaluation of the church growth literature, too, which is a very helpful contribution. Yep, this book deserves to be on the Best Book list, right here on the important shelf of congregational life and books about the best practices of ordinary churches.

With All Thy Mind: Worship That Honors the Way God Made Us
Robert P. Glick (Alban Institute) $18.00 The veritable Alban think-tank has been doing a good series of books in a series called "Vital Worship-Healthy Congregations" that are co-published by the wonderful folks at the ecumenical Calvin Institute of Christian Worship in Grand Rapids. They have all been good, and yet this one really caught our eye: what a great title, what an idea, that we, as humans, are called to worship God, of course, in a manner God demands, of course, but, also, in a manner commiserate with who we are and how we are made. In this case, this leads the author (a Presbyterian church organist and Director of the Master of Church Music program at Erskine College and Theological Seminary) to do--get this!---brain studies. As Marva Dawn comments, "Glick’s book is as holistic as his purpose." Who else has thought to acknowledge the role the brain works and how it has played a role in our worship (and the recent "worship wars.")? It isn’t every book that carries a dedication not only to C.S. Lewis, but to various sorts of right-brain and left-brain thinkers the author loves. We wanted it on the list of our favorite books of the year, for sure.

FAMILY LIFE

In the Midst of Chaos: Caring for Children as Spiritual Practice
Bonnie J. Miller-McLemore (Jossey-Bass) $21.95 This great book is the latest in the Practices of Faith series that we so love. What a fun and instructive study of children, the role of children, a theology of family and how to develop thoughtful Christian habits that include deeply spiritual approaches to caring for children into our midst. The endorsing blurbs on this are all worth quoting, but this one by Wendy Wright may give a taste of how some have reviewed it: "What does it mean to ’sanctify the ordinary,’ to ’redeem the waking, walking, buzzing routine itself’? With wonderful honesty and a wisdom born of informed theological reflection, sound cultural critique, and the lived experience of parenting three boys, Bonnie Miller-McLemore helps us to ponder and to clarify the deep questions that stir in those of us who raise families, hold down jobs, and want our faith to mean something in the real world." There are many self-help kinds of books about family and marriage, many that are quite useful, and we happily recommend them. A Best Book of the Year listing, though, demands an extraordinary work that is enduring and important. And this, we are happy to exclaim, is one of these kind of exceptional books. Get one for your church library.

The Thrill of the Chaste: Finding Fulfillment While Keeping Your Clothes On
Dawn Eden (Word) $13.99 The first customer we sold this two emailed us back in about 48 hours saying how she devoured this fascinating story and told us to recommend it to other Sex and the City generation women and men. Eden writes well and, in this personal memoir, tells of her painful journey to sexual sanity and orthodox faith. The estimable Maggie Gallagher called it a "brave, beautiful book." She has thousands of eager fans on her Dawn Patrol blogsite. We think she deserves even more acclaim and are happy to list her here.

Hearts and Minds: Raising Your Child With a Christian View of the World
Kenneth Boa & John Alan Turner (Tyndale) $13.99 We are not excited about this because of the name, although I must admit it makes me smile. I am eager to promote this book and want to celebrate it because it does what so few parenting books have done, namely, to work specifically on the theme of nurturing a distinctively Christian worldview. Shaping hearts and minds is the goal of this well-researched and solid book. We haven’t seen a book like this in this category for years…

BEST WRITTEN BOOK OF THE YEAR

Booking Passage: We Irish and Americans
Thomas Lynch (Norton) $14.95 I didn’t feel I could list this as the Best Book of the Year since it came out in 2005. I didn’t want to only list it in best paperback re-issues, although it is now out as a 2006 paperback. It deserved better. It almost went in the category of the book I most enjoyed, the one that brought the most pleasure. But even that paled in significance to what I wanted to say about this extraordinary memoir and reflection on Lynch’s trips back to his ancestral homeland in rural Ireland. You may know that his previous two his work in the undertaking biz, The Undertaking: Life Notes in the Dismal Trade and Bodies in Motion and At Rest: Essays on Metaphor and Mortality are among my all time favorite books. This, too, is a wondrous, peculiar, deeply-felt collection of pieces written over time, about, well, about everything. But mostly Ireland, Lynch’s family, the dead and the dying. And the living. It is about the living. It is one of the best books of this or any year.

BEST SCIENCE BOOK

The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief
Francis S. Collins (The Free Press) $26.00 This is really an easy call: Francis has garnered such acclaim for his work as the head of the Human Genome Project that his evangelical faith has become renowned. (He shared some of his own testimony when he gave the commencement address at MIT a few years back.) We have a huge science section, and have enjoyed some very good ones this year, from a variety of perspectives. This is a solid, readable work, bringing together his faith and his work as a scientist. He walks a "third way" between the naturalistic assumptions of the Darwinists and the anti-evolutionary views of creationists. He discusses and brings some brief critique to the Intelligent Design movement, as well, (to which I hope ID scholars will reply.) It is good to have such a good man at the helm of such a momentous scientific project and such a large government agency. We were happy to see him debating Dawkins in Time glad the book has a buzz. We think he deserves the honorary mention here on our list.

Science and Grace: God’s Reign in the Natural Sciences
Tim Morris & Don Petcher (Crossway) $17.99 I was first struck by the great, sharp cover. I saw on the back that these guys have been influenced in their philosophy of science of the likes of Kuyper and Dooyeweerd. And, yep, this is a truly fascintating book, artfully told and solidly Reformed. Here is what Gene Vieth has said: "This is an extraordinarily important book filled with "paradigm-shifting" ideas. The authors break new ground in showing how Christians can come to terms with both Modernism and Postmodernism. Showing how Kuyper, Dooyeweerd, and other worldview thinkers anticipated the ’paradigm’ thinking that characterizes Postmodernism--which, in turn, can be appropriated by Christians today--is brilliant. Morris and Petcher write about complex issues in a remarkably clear and engaging way. " And that is what the Hearts & Minds Best Book Awards are all about.

BEST NEW AUTHOR WE DISCOVERED IN 2006

Look Homeward, America: In Search of Reactionary Radicals
Bill Kauffman (Intercollegiate Studies Institute) $25.00 I can’t tell you how I enjoyed this feisty writer, a guy who brings to mind James Howard Kunstler, with his palpable disdain for the modernist ways of suburban homogenizing, and, finally, profoundly ungodly ways of contemporary America. Here, he tells winningly about all kinds of oddballs with a better vision, from Dorothy Day to Wendell Berry, novelist Carolyn Chute to American Gothic painter Grant Wood, to President Millard Filmore. A cranky, fun-loving, historian with a sense of place, Kauffman is the man to watch. But, as Dylan famously said, about those "Down in the Flood," "he ain’t going nowhere."

Dispatches from the Muckdog Gazette: A Mostly Affectionate Account of a Small Town's Fight to Survive
Bill Kauffman (Picador) $13.00 If you’ve ever fought Wal-Mart or wished you had, if you’ve sent a check to your local historical society (or volunteered for them) or wish you had, or have ever been a fan of your home-town ball team (just be glad they aren’t called the Muckdogs, as Kauffman’s failing squad is) well, this book will win your heart. It is learned and passionate and yet is a down-home cry for place, for decent ways. Why do we say, "He’s going to go far" when we mean that someone is successful, as if leaving your home place is a sign of virtue? This love-letter to Kauffman’s goofy small-town in upstate New York, to which he returned after a speedy season inside the Beltway doing Big Things, and to the ball team that he loves, is a great, great book. We are glad we discovered this guy. Thanks to Caleb for the great recommendation. Now we have a category, just for him.

POSTMODERN STUDIES

How Postmodernism Serves (My) Faith: Questioning Truth in Language, Philosophy And Art
Crystal L. Downing (IVP) $18.00 Downing teaches at near-by Messiah College and, truth be told, I had no idea how amazingly learned she is, how thoughtful and active, and how the deconstructionists have come to mean much to her in her profession as Christian literary critic and as follower of Jesus. This book should be read by anyone that wants to understand the deep ways of the deconstructionists. Or anybody that wants a better understanding of postmodernism. Or anybody that has doubts about the sustainability of the Christian faith in our post-Christian culture. Or anybody that just wants to think. It was one of the best reads of the year, and there is no doubt that it has helped (or frustrated) many. There are way too many people writing on the relationship of faith and pomo culture these days. Few have the fluency in the field or a mature grasp on the writers. Happily, Ms Downing does, and we are grateful for this teacherly, passionate and insightful book. It deserves a place on this short list of best books in this category.

Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism?: Taking Derrida, Lyotard, and Foucault to Church
James K.A. Smith (Brazos) $17.99 This is another key book that has jumped to near the top of the list of the most important (and helpful) Christian books on postmodernism. Jamie is a philosopher I really admire, and we are grateful for the many ways he has served the church through his speaking and writing, mentoring and teaching. These were lectures, the preface tells us, originally given at Francis Schaeffer’s L’Abri and, given that many who are in Schaeffer’s tradition are nearly rationalists who are very leery of what they consider to be the relativism of postmodernism and the nihilism of postmodernity, they must have been difficult talks to give. Jamie was raised Pentecostal, though, and I believe the Spirit has anointed him well: these are some of the most cogent and impressive presentations on this topic I’ve seen. We are happy to mention these and honor him with our highest accolade.

BEST RE-ISSUE AFTER BEING OUT OF PRINT

Let Justice Roll Down
John Perkins (Regal) $19.99 Perkins has been the African American evangelical, and his influence is second to none within evangelical circles who now are passionate about racial reconciliation. That he has told his story tirelessly for decades, now, and organized not only in rural Mississippi and urban LA, and has lead the Christian Community Development Association, may remind us that he is a man of remarkable stature. It is long overdue that his powerful, simple story---originally published in the mid-70’s---is now again available. Shane Claiborne wrote a very moving forward, enhancing this new hardcover.

Things We Wished We Would Have Said: Reflections of a Father and Son
Tony & Bart Campolo (Authentic Media) $14.95 Why this fabulous back-and-forth co-authored book had to be re-published in England is a question worth asking, but, more urgently, how can we let people know it is now available? And how good it is! With a new forward by Bart, this is a tender book, a moving book, and, I think, a very helpful and wise one. I read it through different eyes this time (I think it came out 20 years ago, when Bart was just out of college.) My oldest daughter is now 24; my son is off at college; my own father and father-in-law have died. While we delight in our teenage daughter at home, I think about my older children, and my own role as a somewhat public leader, and I wonder how they would evaluate my parenting. I cried my way through some of Tony and Bart’s book. This deserves an award in a couple of categories. A big thank you to those who dressed it up with a new look, and got the thing back in circulation.

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS

There is No Me Without You: One Woman’s Odyssey to Rescue Africa’s Children Melissa Fay Greene (Bloomsbury) $25.95 We considered listing this under memoir, since it is a moving, first-hand account, but it is such an informative book, it deserves to be known not only in literary circles who like impressionistic story, but for anyone who cares about our world, is interested in international development or the horrors of the AIDS crisis. Greene first came to our attention years ago in a collection of essays on Africa published by an evangelical publisher (Regal) and then gained fame for her book about a church working to overcome racism in the rural south, Praying for Sheetrock. If you wonder if this deserves to be on our Best Books list, listen to Alex Kotlowitz: There Is No Me…is spectacular, both in its intimacy and in its reach. Greene"s writing sings. It agitates. It inspires. Even those who think they know about the AIDS crisis in Africa will savor this book, and for those who know little or noting about it, this is the way in, a way paved with decency and with hope. It is our contemporary Shindler’s List, one person’s heroic efforts to right a tilting world. After you read There Is No Me Without You the world will never look the same. "


IMPORTANT BOOK WITH THE MOST CLEVER TITLE

How Would a Patriot Act? Defending American Values From a President Run Amok Glenn Greenwald (Working Assets) $12.00 I must admit I haven’t paid much attention to the debates about the constitution, the power of the President to do wire-taps, detain people without warrant, wage war against terrorism without traditional legal assent. This author was not a political man, ill-informed and mostly supportive of the Bush administration’s involvements in Afghanistan and Iraq. Then he started reading about the rule of law, FISA and other seemingly arcane matters, started blogging, and now is widely read. I picked this up mostly because I got such a kick out of the play on words. Detailed legal arguments aren’t my favorite reading, but I couldn’t put this down. I want to commend it in some category, so I made one up. I wonder if that is legal?

So Smart, But"¦How Intelligent People Lose Credibility and How They Can Get It Back Allen N. Weiner (Jossey-Bass) $24.95 You’ve got to see this cover---a hipster young leader with a snazzy aluminum brief attaché which has fallen open, and his (oh so important) papers fluttering all over at his feet. That serious leadership scholars (like James Kouzes) have given advance praise shows that I’m not just being cute to award this for the fun cover design. Credibility is one of our most valuable assets, vital for personal success and certainly for professional and cultural impact. Tired of sabotaging yourself? Want to have a life that "gets it" and projects not just self-confidence, but credibility? Surprisingly good

BIGGEST SELLING BOOK OF THE YEAR

The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical Shane Claiborne (Zondervan) $12.99 This may be the biggest news around here, that because of Shane's support of our feeble efforts, he sends customers our way from his cool website from their urban activist community in Philly. Consequently, we have become one of the stores that have sold the most of this wonderfully provocative, very fun, very challenging (and not a bit troubling) call to radical discipleship, service to the poor and non-violent peacemaking. We reviewed this at length here at the Review column, and have blogged about his work from time to time. We are happy to share our snaps for this, and glad to generate some book-buyin&8217; zeal. We are also fully confident that this book, the publisher who bravely released it, The Simple Way community from which it emerged, and all our many mail-order friends who ordered it, deserve a big ol, magnanimous honorable mention.


DOUBLE DOUBLE AWARD FOR BEST AUTHOR WITH TWO AWARD-WINNING BOOKS THIS YEAR

Joy in Divine Wisdom: Practices of Discernment from Other Cultures and Christian TraditionsMarva J. Dawn (Jossey-Bass) $21.95 The third in the important "Enduring Questions in Christian Life" series, this explores ways to make decisions that are less about decision-making and more about spiritual discernment, less about being right and more about being wise, and--and here is what really sets it apart from other recent works on the spirituality of discernment---it invites us to do this together, communally, rather in typical North American style of individualism. This is rich, rare, high-octane Christian teaching and we simply must award it as one of the most important books of the year.

The Sense of the Call: A Sabbath Way of Life for Those Who Serve God, the Church, and the World Marva J. Dawn (Eerdmans) $16.00 Although there have been many good books in recent years about Sabbath and the spirituality of restfulness, Marva’s stunning Keeping the Sabbath Wholly was one of the first in recent decades, taking the thoughtful insight of Heschel (among many others) and making them available to a contemporary Christian readership. That book may be, when we think about such things in the next generation, one of the most important works of the last 50 years for the way it put that topic "on the map. " Years later, Marva has now re-visited those same four sections and asked how they influence our Kingdom service the other six days of the week. What a great idea, and what a great book. It would deserve to be on this Best Books list in a number of categories, so we made up one just for her. Highly recommended.

BOOKS ABOUT ECONOMIC LIFE

Following Christ in a Consumer Society (Twenty-Fifth Anniversary Edition)
John F. Kavanaugh (Orbis) $16.00 This book was important when we discovered it our first year of business, and it felt like we were among the only shops telling people not to buy so much stuff. Now, we realize there is a righteous cottage industry of books exploring our cultural addictions. We want to honor this long-standing book and compliment the publisher for doing the re-issue, and this blurb seems a worth way: "What I first read this important book nearly two decades ago, it was utterly life-transforming…Kavanaugh’s impassioned plea that we turn away from the false and dehumanizing gospel of consumerism and embrace our true humanity in Christ is a call as urgent today as when he first wrote it. " (Philip D. Kenneson)

Doing God’s Business: Meaning and Motivation for the Marketplace
Paul Stevens (Eerdmans) $14.00 There are plenty of great books about the vocation of work and the role of business in our lives. And Paul Stevens, Professor of Marketplace Theology and Leadership at Regent College has written many of them. Here he gives us the finest and most in-depth, highly readable overview of the field yet done. As the ever-eloquent Max De Press notes, this is "…a challenging and beautifully worthwhile book."

BEST BOOK WITH A RIDICULOUS TITLE, GOOFY COVER AND EVEN WEIRDER THEME THAT IS STILL REALLY, REALLY GREAT (IN ITS OWN FUNKY WAY)

The Adventures of Rabbi Harvey: A Graphic Novel of Jewish Wisdom and Wit in the Wild, Wild West Steve Sheinkin (Jewish Lights) $ 16.99 Yep, you read that right, pardner. These are classic Hasidic tales, retold in a graphic novel, with the lead being a Jewish rabbi in, yep, the wild West. To say this is a fresh look at Jewish folktales is an understatement. To say it deserves an award, uh, is also an understatement. The inestimable Rabbi Edward Feinstein writes, "For every kid who ever sneaked a comic book into synagogue, there is a new hero---Rabbi Harvey, who tamed the Old West with Jewish wisdom and humor. I’m hiding a copy of this in my tallis bag, hoping my kids will find it."