Hearts & Minds Best New Books Awards (and a few other things)Part 1

There are times when I use this space to review a particular title (like
last month’s
important review
of the very important Garber book, Fabric
of Faithfulness
). More often, I ramble about a raft of titles,
usually ones floating in the same stream. Occasionally, though, I offer
an update on a whole buncha books, random releases that I just have to
tell somebody about.

This month, welcome to my own little recent book awards show. Ladies
and gents: the envelopes, please.

If you tire of this long list — like any good award show —
remember that this is part one of two. Our final entry of part one is
my vote for best book of the year so far in 2004. Please stay tuned —
or just scroll down — to see that exciting announcement and a special
deal offering a pair of books and a CD at a great discount.

Best New Books on Family & Marriage

Selling Ourselves Short: Why We Struggle to Earn a Living and Have
a Life
by Catherine Wallace (Brazos, $22.99). In what is becoming
a Brazos trademark, this is intellectually rewarding, critical of how
the arrangements of modern liberal capitalism have deformed our culture,
all with a faith-based view of how to live more wisely in God’s world.
This is a serious book by the fine writer of Motherhood in the Balance
about the author’s ruminations on being a mom, her struggle with multiple
sclerosis, and her calling to be a theologian.

Real Kids, Real Faith: Practices for Nurturing Children’s
Spiritual Lives
by Karen Marie Yust (Jossey-Bass, $19.95). This
is the latest in the wonderful hardback series that we described a few
months back, "Families & Faith." Mainline denominational
folk writing well about children, spiritual formation in the home and,
in this case, the faith development of kids. We’ve met Karen a time or
two and this is thoughtfully done. It isn’t every parenting book that
quotes Dr. Brueggemann and Dr. Seuss, Maya Angelou and Robert Coles. Got

Little Lamb Who Made Thee: A Book About Children and Parents
by Walter Wangerin, Jr. (Zondervan, $12.99). Finally in paperback, with
a stunning cover and some new chapters. Does for parenting what his fabulous
and gripping As For Me and My House does for marriage. Finely
crafted, excellent information.

Never Mind the Joneses: Building Core Christian Values in a Way
That Fits Your Family
by Tim Stafford (IVP, $16.00). This may
be one of the best family books yet. Phil Yancey says as much in a stunning
blurb on the cover. I truly couldn’t put it down! Thoughtful, practical,
thoroughly Christian, wise. Wow!

I, Isaac, take Thee Rebekah: Moving From Romance to Lasting Love
by Ravi Zacharias (Word, $17.99). Could be the perfect wedding present
book! This is the intellectual apologist at his pastoral best, drawing
out a wedding sermon that is one of the most requested pieces he’s done.
Very biblical in orientation, yet quite practical, too. Wise, gentle,

Sacred Parenting: How Raising Children Shapes Our Souls by
Gary Thomas (Zondervan, $19.99). This book deserves a double-star beside
it, maybe a triple: it is a wonderful follow-up to his wonderful Sacred
, which really is more of a holy "meaning of"
than a "how to" book, deeply spiritual, funny and practical.
And, besides being personally convicting to me, it has this great tribute
in the forward to Hearts & Minds’ own Gordon Carpenter (who was an
advanced reader) and Gordon’s wife, Dr. Cathy Carpenter, whose own unpublished
work is cited by Thomas. Thomas, who Publishers Weekly calls "the
evangelical Henri Nouwen" has given us a great pair of family titles
and they both are wonderful.

Sexuality and Holy Longing: Embracing Intimacy in a Broken World
by Lisa Graham McMinn (Jossey Bass, $23.95). With endorsements
from fine evangelical writers such as Tremper Longman, Neal Plantinga
and Kay Cook (psych prof from Gordon College), this book is surely to
be trusted. But be aware, it is deeply moving, profoundly spiritual, and
dramatically honest. Beautifully done. See also her very useful Growing
Strong Daughters

Best New Books on Spirituality & Prayerfulness

Invitation to Solitude and Silence: Experience God’s Transforming
by Ruth Haley Barton (IVP, $14.95). This is a truly wonderful
book, well written, honest, gripping, challenging, yet gentle in its invitation
to rest, to a deeper knowledge of God and self, of seeing our own need
for a contemplative lifestyle amidst our hectic days. I will admit that
Ruth is a friend and that we regularly promote her extraordinary The
Truths That Free Us: A Woman’s Calling to Spiritual Transformation

(Shaw Books) and her book on gender equality, Equal to the Task:
Men and Women in Partnership
(IVP). These are all worth owning,
helpful resources on our journey to the reign of God. Please consider
this book, give it as a gift, use it yourself — slowly reading it
to see what God might do in you as you consider its simple and revolutionary
ways. This book could not be more timely. Happily, it is very, very good.

Running On Empty: Contemplative Spirituality for Overachievers
by Fil Anderson (Waterbrook, $16.99). The day this came, I was fortunate
enough to have some time to start it. I couldn’t stop. From his harrowing
account of a mental breakdown while engaged in vigorous and successful
ministry to his growing awareness — through a serendipitous encounter
with Brennan Manning — that his soul was empty and he was working
for approval and ego, this book takes readers into that place where we
can encounter our own lack of depth. Anderson learns the spiritual disciples
of the masters and here gives us an excellent guide to the spiritual life.

The Gift of Being Yourself: The Sacred Call to Self-Discovery
by David Benner (IVP, $11.00). This is a little paperback which is a sequel
to his stunning Surrender to Love, which Catholic mystic
and spiritual director Basil Pennington says is one of the best books
he has ever read! Pennington here writes a very moving forward.

Radiance: A Spiritual Memoir of Evelyn Underhill compiled
by Barnard Bangley (Paraclete, $16.95). This is an uniquely-constructed
book: beautifully compiled and gorgeously produced, it takes various writings
and reflections of Underhill and arranges them chronologically so as to
appear as a memoir.

The God Who Speaks: Learning the Language of God by Ben
Campbell Johnson (Eerdmans, $18.00). His previous book was on discernment,
and this follows well to guide us on how to hear God’s various voices.
God’s modes of speaking are described biblically, through the teaching
of various figures in church history (excellent research here!) and then
practical considerations.

Ears to Hear: Recognizing and Responding to God’s Call
by Edward S. Little (Morehouse Publishing, $15.95). At a recent class
at Messiah College, for a group studying one of my favorite books, The
by Os Guinness, I noted that exploring vocation, calling,
discerning God’s agenda and one’s passions is a very significant trend
these days. Integrating faith and learning, taking the gospel into the
marketplace, learning about how Christ is served in the work world —
these are themes familiar to Christian college students. Here is a gentle
set of Bible reflections on responding to God’s various callings; Bishop
Little offers good teaching, gentle wisdom, vibrant invitation. With an
endorsement on the back from the superb writer and Episcopal preacher
Fleming Rutledge, this book is a delight.

When God Doesn’t Answer Your Prayer by Jerry Sittser
(Zondervan, $18.99). Those who know us well know that we promote Sittser’s
book on grief, A Grace Disguised, nearly as much as any
book in our 20-some-year history. He followed that breathtaking work with
the very well-done and mature Discovering God’s Will
(previously entitled God’s Will as a Way of Life, a title he preferred).
This is his new one and he knows what he’s talking about. ‘Nuff said.

A World According to God: Practices for Putting Faith at the Center
of Your Life
by Martha Ellen Stortz (Jossey Bass, $21.95). The
only draw-back is that it is a hardcover… For those yearning for
real life, a deeply Christian way of being in the world, having the biblical
story animate daily life, this is a beautifully-written and thoughtful
approach. The forward by Catholic novelist Ron Hansen is itself pretty
durn good.

Falling for God: Saying Yes to His Extravagant Proposal
by Gary Moon (Shaw Books, $13.99). Want to fall head over heels in love
with God? Using contemporary psychological insight combined wisely with
three classic writers of spiritual formation, Moon gives us a winsome,
vibrant and passionate resource for growing into a more in-depth spirituality.

A Good Life: Benedict’s Guide to Everyday Joy by Robert
Benson (Paraclete, $13.95). This thin book of a handful of short essays
— longing, prayer, rest, community, work, living — is a delight,
a profound, slow delight, written in Benson’s wonderfully clear prose.
The economy of words somehow fits this Benedictine perspective on living
prayerfully in the midst of the hassles of ordinary life. Absolutely lovely.

Best New Introductory Books About the Bible
You Probably Haven’t Heard Of

God’s Big Picture: Tracing the Story-Line of the Bible
by Vaughn Roberts (IVP, $10.00). Published in England, we acquired it
so that we might offer it for those who need to be reminded (and who doesn’t?)
of the Big Picture. Excellent, brief, very readable.

From Creation to New Creation by Tim Chester (Paternoster,
$11.99). Another British import, this is remarkably readable and loaded
with redemptive insights about the flow of the story, how each piece builds
on the next, complete with little charts and sidebars that are nearly
brilliant. I love this book!

God’s Healing Strategy by Ted Grimsrud (Pandora, $13.95).
This isn’t new, but I have to mention it along with the above ones; it
is my favorite overview book, loaded with insight, connection, always
hinting at how the trajectory leads to faithful living today. A serious
Mennonite biblical scholar, he brings a helpful application toward peace
and justice, as the texts so often demand. If only it had a subtitle.

Passion for Gods Story: Discovering Your Place in
Gods Strategic Plan
by Philip Greenslade (Paternoster,
$15.99). The Bible is clear about its own intent: it unfolds as a drama
of God’s redemptive work, giving meaning and purpose as we find our role
in the ongoing effort of God to bring glory to Himself by expanding His
Kingdom. An absolutely excellent intro to the Bible with the sub-text
of helping us find our role. Very useful.

Reading the Gospels Today by Stanley Porter, editor (Eerdmans,
$24.00). This is not an introduction to how to read the Bible but rather
a rigorous and scholarly collection of various aspects of gospel studies.
I cite it here for one chapter important to many Hearts & Minds friends:
Al Wolters has a serious study of the vision and methodology of Brevard
Child’s canonical criticism, especially as it relates to New Testament
studies. While Wolters has much to appreciate in this approach, he still
critiques its concessions to Enlightenment epistemology. Go Al! If anyone
orders this over the internet, we will throw in a free copy of Wolters’
very influential treatise on a holistic, reformational worldview, Creation

God & Violence: Biblical Resources for Living in a Small World
by Patricia M. McDonald (Herald Press, $16.99). Okay, this isn’t introductory,
either. But as we learn the biblical story, increasingly are informed
by the shape and teachings of the narrative, we surely must grapple with
how to be peacemakers (as Jesus demanded!) and yet have these stories
of war and violence in our sacred texts. This Roman Catholic biblical
scholar (published on a Mennonite house) has gone a long way to help us.
Especially significant is the very critical appendix which shows why the
popular work of Rene Girard is not as faithful or useful as some think.
As Walt Brueggemann puts it, "this book is an act of courage that
invites a wide and thoughtful reading." Kudos to all involved.

And again: the envelope, please.
The winner in the category of my favorite title of this season —
the coolest, most interesting, best book I’ve seen so far this year!

(Stay tuned after this announcement for
a special discounted price.)

New Way To Be Human: A Provocative Look at What It Means To Follow
by Charlie Peacock (Waterbrook, $12.99). I want to shout
about this book for any number of reasons. Firstly, it is really well
done, nicely written, wisely clever, loaded with genuine insight and down-to-earth
helpful. Further, it really does present a vision of God’s reign as it
relates to everyday life, what some of us call "whole-life discipleship"
or living into a uniquely Christian worldview and way of life. His perspective
develops the "purpose-driven life" that so many are seeking,
putting actual flesh and bones onto those lofty ideas. His understanding
that a serious follower of Jesus will be more human (not less) more creative
(not less) more culturally engaged and artistic (not less) and more alive
is exactly the sort of passionate message that pushed us into starting
our little bookshop; we are confident it can animate and call forth creative
initiative and deeper lifestyles in its readers!

From influences as diverse as Francis Schaeffer to Charlie’s deep involvement
in the best of contemporary Christian music, New Way To Be Human
is not really new, although it may feel that way to some. It is important
stuff, but the book is written with a light touch, making it fun and winsome
to read, just the kind of book that we would hope many would take seriously
enough to ponder, talk about and act upon. Charlie and his wife, Andi,
founded The Art House, their home, shelter, and study center which nurtures
biblical study and engagement with the creative arts. This book clearly
emerged out of their hospitality there and out of their years of effort
to embody God’s grace in their vocations, callings, and gifts.

But wait, there’s more!
Although I mentioned it quite favorably when it first came out a year
ago, Real Love for Real Life: The Art and Work of Caring
by Charlie’s wife, Andi Ashworth (Shaw Books, $10.99) is another book
that we just love to tell people about. Very well-written, great and honest
story-telling, and solid biblical reflection make this call to care a
truly inspirational read. More than that, though, it offers a way out
of the odd quandaries of feminist vs. traditionalist, work vs. home, public
ministry vs. personal servanthood. None of these false dichotomies paralyze
Ashworth (she is a radically biblical Christian, after all, with a Godly
imagination, so doesn’t get sidetracked with ideological formulations
of the conservative or liberal variety). She is not glib, though, about
the cost of commitment to an artistic, hospitable and generous lifestyle.
This is a book for caretakers, homemakers, organizers, community leaders,
church workers, parents, spouses, leaders, leaders’ spouses… Real
Love for Real Life
shows how our stories can find fulfillment and
congruence in God’s Story of restoration and reconciliation. Beautiful.

And this winning package still isn’t

Full Circle is the name of the very, very cool CD that Charlie
Peacock, most likely with a lot of servanthood care offered by stalwart
hospitality guru Andi (see above), just released with a whole bunch of
musical friends and helpers. It is a retrospective collection of his various
songs, all done with hip musicians of various sorts that he has produced,
mentored or influenced.

This new recording is a gem — where else can you hear banjo-player
extraordinaire, Bela Fleck, dueting with Phil Keaggy as Sarah Mason sings
with Peacock on his wonderful "In the Light"? Or can you imagine
the brilliant and punchy "Insult Like the Truth" done with Kevin
Max sharing vocals with Charlie? Or old 77s friend and lost dog Mike Roe
singing the eccentric little "Monkeys at the Zoo"? Even the
pop hit "Every Heartbeat" that Amy Grant took to fame (and which
Charlie wrote) is given a fresh take here, with Sixpence None the Richer
and Leigh Nash doing a slow duet with Charlie. A pair of good new songs
round out this versatile collection, a "must-have" for Charlie
Peacock fans and a very good introduction to his songwriting talents.

We are happy to help celebrate Peacock’s longevity in the CCM world and
are happy to recommend this collection of songs and friends. (Although,
as he describes in New Way To Be Human, Peacock took some serious
flak for daring to write an album of mature love songs a few years ago
and had to defend the notion that conservative Christians might like to
kiss in a letter to the editor of the New York Times.) Check out
the remake here of "The Way of Love," nicely done by Christine
Dente, with husband Scott doing some excellent acoustic guitar work. Although
he has not been the only authentically creative voice in CCM, nor, arguably,
the most influential, his faithful and good work, which always raises
the bar within that evangelical subculture, makes him a very, very important
person in God’s plan. This CD is a joyous and meaningful milestone. Yeah!

So, here’s the deal: we’re selling
all three of these items as inexpensively as possible — the “Ashworth-Peacock
family triple book and music package.” Or, as I call it, the New
Way for Real Love to come Full Circle set.

Buy the package from us here — that’s New
Way to Be Human
, Real Love for Real Life and the CD tribute
Full Circle — for $30.00, which is more than a 25%-off discount
and a savings of more than $10.

This is a heart-felt plea to get these books and music into circulation
in our circle of influence. We will ship things, as usual, either UPS
or U.S. postal, whichever you request, and can take payment either from
credit cards or, as we say at our webpage order form, we can just send
a bill along with the order so that you can send a check back later in
a return envelope which we will provide. Just ask for the "Ashworth-Peacock"
package deal and we will send it right out at the special $30 price. Thanks.
This offer expires May 30, 2004.

And remember to log on next month for new categories of books in part
two of Hearts & Minds Best New Books Awards (and a few other things)!