Hearts & Minds Best New Books Awards (and a few other things) Part 2

Part Two of Two

(Click here for Part

Best New Books on Cultural Criticism
The Essential Agrarian Reader: The Future of Culture, Community, and
the Land
edited by Norman Wirzba (University of Kentucky Press, $27.00).
A year or so ago there was a serious conference celebrating and reflecting
upon the work of Wendell Berry. The occasion was the 25th anniversary
of The Unsettling of America, a book our community talked about when it
first fell into our laps in the late ’70s. This collection is wide, with
a diverse selection of usual agrarian suspects (Wes Jackson, Gene Logsdon)
and some international figures, an economist or two. A wonderful preface
by novelist Barbara Kingsolver makes this truly a special work—wise,
humane, and perhaps redemptive. For the seasoned Berry fan or anyone interested
in sustainability, decent food, work, caring community, and the ways
in which our current practices erode not only soil, but our souls as well.

The Long-Legged House by Wendell Berry (Shoemaker Hoard, $14.00). This
(drum roll pu-leeze) is a glorious reissue of W.B.’s very first book,
originally published in 1965. I’ve heard of it but never seen it. His
chapter against the Vietnam War is amazing; the piece against strip mining
is still relevant; the first chapter about a decent wood-worker living
in poverty is achingly honest and good. Thanks so this new press for reissuing
some older Berry, in handsome paperbacks.

True Truth: Defending Absolute Truth in a Relativistic World by Art Lindsley
(IVP, $12.00). Art has been a Hearts & Minds cheerleader for years,
a friend for years longer. He is known now as a serious-minded thinker
and top-notch teacher at the prestigious C.S. Lewis Institute in Washington
DC. (Yes, he’s working on a book on Lewis, due next year.) This is Art’s
hard-won, long-coming, thought-through attempt at constructing a way of
doing apologetics in the postmodern world. The main heading of Part One
says it all: "Absolutes without Absolutism." Or, as one chapter
suggests, we need to make assertions without arrogance. Still, Art has
no time for the relativism of our age and this book is well worth working
through. One doesn’t have to look too hard to see the influences of Francis
Schaeffer, Os Guinness, and, of course, Clive himself. Look for a more
substantial review in a month or so…

Living on the Borders: What the Church Can Learn From Ethnic Immigrant
by Mark Griffin & Theron Walker (Brazos, $19.99). The subtitle
says it all. This is nearly brilliant, remarkably wide-ranging, important
for those of us who care about ethnic diversity, immigrant rights and,
most importantly, how to keep the church of Christ from accommodating
itself to the surrounding ethos of the dominant culture.

Christian Reflections on ‘The Leadership Challenge’ by James Kouzes &
Barry Posner (Jossey-Bass, $22.95). If you have read the real thing and
are in the sound of my voice, get this book. If you have not yet read
The Leadership Challenge by Kouzes & Posner, well, you’ve got a choice:
get that one, or start with this. Both are significant. This book of stories
and application includes reflections by Maxwell (of course) Patrick Lencioni,
Nancy Ortberg, Ken Blanchard and others. Cool.

Flannery O’Connor and the Christ-Haunted South by Ralph C. Wood (Eerdmans,
$22.00). It has been a while since a really good work on O’Connor has
come out, and we are happy to report that this is a masterpiece. Some know
we’ve been pushing Wood’s book, The Gospel According to Tolkein, and attentive
customers will recall hearing him on the Mars Hill Audio Journal last
year. Intense.

Enemies With Smiling Faces: Defeating the Subtle Threats That Endanger
by Donald C. Posterski (IVP, $12.00). This, dear readers, CCO
staffers, Internet browsers, church buddies, is one of the best books
of the year! It is a quintessential Hearts & Minds book: serious but
not scholarly, evangelical yet progressive, critical of the cultural idols
and yet really, really helpful. Finally, this is a book warning us against
dangers to vibrant Christian living—stuff like affluence, quick-fix
faith, spiritual shallowness, self-righteousness, one-sidedness and the
like. This book is jam-packed with sound counsel in learning how to be
"wise as serpents and innocent as doves." Read, think, enjoy.
Very good stuff!

The Case for a Creator: A Journalist Investigates Scientific Evidence
That Points Toward God
by Lee Strobel (Zondervan, $19.99). Like his earlier
collections, this work brings together a who’s who of scientists and researchers
in the Intelligent Design movement and allows them to describe their work,
tell their stories and share their discoveries. This really is a fine
and intelligent "greatest hits" album of this movement.

The Making and Unmaking of Technological Society: How Christianity Can
Save Modernity From Itself
by Murray Jardine (Brazos, $24.99). Another
profound entry in the heady (and somewhat misnamed) "Christian Practice
of Everyday Life" series. Here, the author gives breath-taking overviews
of the rise of modernity, democratic liberalism, the market economy, and
how these influences have eroded gospel values. Excellent for those who
need to seriously understand the scholarly history of the rise of the
culture of technology, or who need a good follow-up to, say Borgman or
Marva Dawn’s latest. With endorsements from the likes of Bill McKibben
("exhiliaration…") Q Schultze ("sweeping yet incisive
critique") and Amitai Etzioni ("truly original and powerful"),
you know this is important. You heard of it hear first!

A Few of the Best Recent Memoirs
Redneck Riviera: Armadillos, Outlaws, and the Demise of An American Dream by Dennis Covington (CounterPoint, $25.00). For those who liked his indescribably
good, all-time Hearts & Minds fave Salvation on Sand Mountain, any new
book by Covington is worth stopping everything for. And this, while a
bit different, finally covers some of the same ground —the search for
meaning, the questions of God and life, reconciliation, lost dreams, reckoning,
dads. Called by Lee Smith "an audacious and brilliantly original
writer," Covington’s weirdo story about thieving rednecks and real
estate law is heartbreaking and poignant.

True Notebooks by Mark Salzman (Knopf, $24.00). Another Hearts &
Minds favorite author (we’ve read his wonderful coming-of-age memoir,
Lost in Place: Growing Up Absurd in Suburbia and have enjoyed his novel
about being a cello teacher, The Soloist, and his recent novel set in a
monastic order, Lying Awake). Here he tells of his being a volunteer writing
teacher in one of the roughest juvenile detention centers in the nation.
Riveting, deeply caring, funny, tragic and yes, redemptive.

Jesus Sound Explosion by Mark Curtis Anderson (University of Georgia
Press, $29.95). Somebody out there is going to say that this creatively-written
memoir of rock music and Jesus is their story too and worth every penny!
A wild, funny portrait of growing up too evangelical, which turns tragically
sad as the author drifts from and eventually denounces the faith of his
upbringing. The title, for those who might care, is taken from the live
concert album from the early Jesus festival, Explo 72. Parts of this — church
camp, for instance, and the tensions between church friends and school
friends, and his passionate description of his politically-charged college
years — could almost be my story (well, I wasn’t that wild and didn’t
experience his cycles of gross backsliding). Still, I couldn’t put this
moving and very insightful book down; it is one bouncy ride, from born-again
preacher’s kid to angry rock aficionado, true believer to seriously skeptical

A Priceless View: My Spiritual Homecoming by Deirdre Cornell (Orbis,
$16.00). With fragrant apple orchards on one side and the Hudson River
on the other, Cornell’s hometown is a study in contrasts — -rich and poor,
old homes and migrant workers. This is a richly rendered story of finding
a sense of place and of finding in that place a sense of solidarity with
the poor and oppressed. Very nicely done, full of grace and hope.

Some of the Best New Books About the Church & Worship
The Community of the King by Howard A. Snyder (IVP, $17.00). I have said
often that this is one of my absolutely favorite books about the church, on my short list of all-time favorite books about the Christian
faith. It is happily reissued in a much expanded and revised edition.
New chapters show growth in thinking about the Kingdom and the nature
of Christian community since this prophetic call came out in the 1970s.

It Takes a Church to Raise a Christian: How the Community of God Transforms
by Tod E. Bolsinger (Brazos, $16.99). Yes, Brazos has done it again.
A very thoughtful yet accessible book making the case that we are not
"lone ranger" Christians but a family of faith, learning the
ways of Christ as we pursue faithfulness together. A great endorsement
from the excellent preacher and dad of old CCO friend, Mark Roeda, Jack, says,
"Bolsinger proves himself a reliable guide to living exceptional
lives…He makes it all sing." Lively, Trinitarian Reformed eccesiology
made practical and fun. What a book.

High-Tech Worship? Using Presentational Technologies Wisely by Quentin
J. Schultze (Baker, $10.99). This little book is ideal for worship committees,
contemporary worship planners, educators or liturgists wanting to be discerning
and wise. It isn’t every book that carries a "must read" blurb
from Eugene Peterson and Robert Webber, Neal Plantinga and other such
trustworthy luminaries. This is a very practical aid, rooted in a solid
Christian worldview.

Exploring the Worship Spectrum: Six Views edited by Paul Basden (Zondervan,
$16.99). Get this: six views show their views and their rebuttals to each
other. Here are Paul Zahl (Formal-Liturgical), Harold Best (Traditional
Hymn-Based), Joe Horness (Contemporary Music-Driven), Don Williams (Charismatic),
Robert Webber (Blended) and Sally Morgenthaler (Emerging). I think nearly
every worship leader, liturgist, and preacher would benefit from a careful
reading of these fine arguments.

Worship at the Next Level: Insight From Contemporary Voices by Tim Dearborn and Scott Coil (editors) (Baker. $16.99). I had clipped some of these pieces from their original magazine publications and have been carrying them around in my briefcase, just to show people. I am so happy that these editors pulled together such an interesting, thought-provoking and substantial collection, with essayists as diverse as Leonard Sweet and John Witvliet; with articles from specialists in music, cultural studies, pastors and youth leaders. (Kendra Creasy Dean’s piece, “Moshing For Jesus: Adolescents As A Cultural Context for Worship,” is fabulous!)

Some of these writers are from the experiential and experimental (Mike Riddell) while authors are youthful but cautious (I love the writing of Andy Couch, and he has several good contributions) while others are more academic and theological (word to the wise: read anything Miroslav Volf writes). This is not only intelligent and (as one worship leader said in a new review, sagacious), it would be a great guide to discuss together, even for the most eclectic of groups. Very nice.

A Few Great New Books in Theology
The Futures of Evangelicalism: Issues and Prospects edited by Craig Bartholomew
et al (IVP England, $24.95). The wide and wise variety of essays in here
is impressive and a few chapters alone make the book worth buying.
Bartholomew’s contribution on Christian worldview is fabulous and exciting.
Eugene Peterson has a hallmark piece on spirituality, I. Howard Marshall
has a good overview of evangelical options for biblical interpretation.
Alister McGrath’s essay is a good summation of his book-length treatment
of the future of evangelicalism, and Vanhoozer’s piece on the church is
superb. There are articles on missions, apologetics, philosophy, charismatic
renewal and one that I highly recommend (especially in this election year)
by Hearts & Minds buddy and political think-tank activist for Center
for Public Justice, Stephen Lazarus, entitled "Evangelicalism and
Politics." His whole-life worldviewish vision of the Kingdom as it
relates to a nonpartisan, uniquely Christian take on political responsibilities
is refreshing and, I might add, urgent for our times. This is a truly
great book.

An Unexpected Journey: Discovering Reformed Christianity by W. Robert
Godfrey (Presbyterian & Reformed, $9.99). Godfrey is a well-loved and
deeply respected President of Westminster Seminary (West). Here, in memoir
format, he tells of his own journey to Calvinism, his grappling and growing
and embracing the classic Reformed creeds and worldviews. This is an informative
book about the reformed tradition and the instructive testimony of one
man’s spiritual search. As Michael Horton says, "Regardless of one’s
theological background, any believer can read with great edification this
hymn to God’s grace in Christ…" Very nicely done.

Vocation: Discerning Our Callings In Life by Douglas J. Schuurman (Eerdmans,
$20.00). This really is the theological topic of the day. There are cartons
of books being shipped hither and yon about purpose, being missional,
passionate living, adventuresome faith, vocation, calling, careers. Some
are better than others, all are pointing to God’s gracing us in these
days with a renewed vision of these themes and the very palpable hunger
we have for significance, direction, discernment and meaning. After recently
re-reading one of my all-time favorite books, Os Guinness’s impeccable The Call, I realized I needed to dig deeper into the doctrines and debates
of what constitutes calling. Lee Hardy calls this a "wise, judicious
and compelling rearticulation of the concept of vocation as an integrative
force in the Christian life." That it is — and given the popularity
of less substantial takes on this, we could hardly do better than to read
(or reread) Guinness and then dig deep into Schuurman. This may be one of
the more important books published this year.

Doing Evangelism Jesus’ Way: How Christians Demonstrate the Good News by Ronald J. Sider (Evangel Publishing House, $12.95). This is an amazing
little publishing event, a new Ron Sider book! Because this is published
by a small denominational publishing house, it may not get the publicity
it deserves. So please, help us spread the word! Jesus’ Way is an excellent
collection of Sider sermons, each making the same point — Christians could
truly change the world and honor our Holy God if only we were to take
discipleship seriously, live out the implications and mandates of our
faith, clarify our commitments to put Christ first (and not worldly prestige
or status) and actually incarnate the kind of fidelity the Bible so clearly
calls us to. No fake tensions here between word and deed, praying and
working, evangelism and social action, personal piety or cultural reformation.
Sider, as much as anyone in our time, has clearly and consistently insisted
on a multi-faceted, whole-life discipleship that is biblically-shaped,
Christ-centered and fully engaged in the needs of the broken world. Here,
in heart-enflaming messages, Ron boldly inspires us to integrate faith
and life in such a way that our ordinary encounters witness to the restoring
Reign of God, brings justice to the hurting and good news to the lost
of the saving Cross of Christ. Wow!

Heaven is a Place on Earth: Why Everything You Do Matters to God by Michael Wittmer (Zondervan, $16.99). To describe this great new book briefly is difficult; Hearts & Minds customers and CCO staff know how important this theme is to us. Books like Transforming Vision: Developing a Christian Worldview or Creation Regained by Al Wolters we often say are the most important books in our store, especially since they help us reject the unbiblical dualism between the so-called spiritual and the so-called secular which has deformed Christian witness for centuries. Paul Marshal’s spectacular and exceptionally useful guidebook to living as if daily life mattered, Heaven is Not My Home: Living in the Now of God’s Creation is one of our favorites. Heaven is a Place on Earth, by theology professor Michael Wittmer, offers a pleasant, user-friendly, Bible-b
ased study of worldview, the goodness of creation, the vast repercussions of the fall and the wondrous significance of the renewed task the redeemed have as we seek to honor God in all areas of life. His doctrinal studies of work and creation care are a delight in such book which seems to be so traditionally marketed (the restful scene on the cover makes it look both inviting and, I must say, fairly typical as an evangelical book on “Christian living”).

This book will give you the biblical framework you need for truly faithful living, it lays out in clear-headed prose the radical vision of worldview thinking and may be the best introduction it we’ve yet seen. Kudos to the author for drawing on such varied sources — from Olthius to Ortbrg! — and to Zondervan for making what ultimately is a quietly subversive book seem so sensible, accessible and joyous. Great discussion questions, too, making it ideal for small-group use. This is a Hearts & Minds kind of book and we hope our customers use it well.

Mere Theology: A Guide to the Thought of C.S Lewis by Will Vaus (IVP, $20.00). Great new books continue to come out about Lewis. A great two-volume collection of his letters are being collected and will release soon; recently we even saw the book about the exchange of letters between he and Arthur Clarke (From Narnia to 2001: A Space Odyssey). This new title holds a coveted forward by Doug Gresham, indicating it may be one of the most substantial studies of Lewis’ thought yet done.

Best New Books of Poetry
Water Lines: New and Selected Poems by Luci Shaw (Eerdmans, $18.00).
This thin, square hardcover is a delight to the eye, a wonder to behold
and includes a few older pieces and some wonderfully mature new poems.
Luci was at Jubilee this year and we have been honored to cross paths
with her occasionally. Happily, her older work is now being reprinted,
too. Not to be missed.

Drawn to the Light: Poems on Rembrandt’s Religious Paintings by Marilyn
Chandler McEntyre (Eerdmans, $20.00). Is this a gift book or a collection
of serious verse? Both! This brilliantly conceived idea is a companion
of sorts to her altogether lovely In Quiet Light: Poems on Vermeer’s Women.
Both include full-color plates of the artist’s work and poems inspired
by reflection on the painting. Poet John Leax says of McEntyre that she
has "a wild audacity of imagination." Full of wonder, glory,
empathy, and God.

Books on Christian Scholarship & Higher Education
What a recent season it has been for new and important titles in this field. Most stores don’t stock these kinds of strategic titles, of course, so we are happy to present them here. We hope somebody orders “Ëœem because they are very, very important. Know anyone who works on a college campus?

Faithful Learning and the Christian Scholarly Vocation by Douglas V. Henry & Bob Agee editors (Eerdmans, $18.00). From Parker Palmer to Tony Campolo, Art Holmes to Richard Hughes, this is a wide-ranging collection of essays on faith-and-learning integration.

Educating for Shalom: Essays on Christian Higher Education by Nicholas Wolterstorff (Eerdmans, $24.00). I do not think it is an understatement to suggest that Wolterstorff is one of the most esteemed philosophers of our time. That he has spent a lifetime being a thoughtful leader in this whole arena of how a Christian worldview effects education makes this book a major publishing event. A must-have resource.

Teaching as an Act of Faith: Theory and Practice in Church-Related Higher Education by Arline Migliazzo (Fordham University Press, $22.00). Richard Hughes calls this collection “priceless” while Joel Carpenter says it “should be on the short list of must-read books for professors who want their faith to make a difference in how they teach.” Fourteen master teachers explore what it means to teach well in the context of a given discipline and in the service of the gospel. Here find Mary Stewart Van Leuween (psychology), Ed Knippers (art), Harold Heie (math), and other stellar scholars. Excellent.

Christians in the Academy: Teaching at the Intersection of Faith & Learning by Harry Lee Poe (Baker, $19.99). Poe has become known of late for writing about a Christian witness of integrity amidst a postmodern culture and now is the Professor of Faith & Culture at Union University. Here he gives us a major introductory text covering the spectrum of American higher education and probing the basics of how to pursue the reformation of higher education. Nicely accomplished.

Scholarship and Christian Faith: Enlarging the Conversation by Doug Jacobsen & Rhonda Hustedt Jacobsen, editors (Oxford University Press, $29.95). Not only do I feel close to this project because of our geographic affinity for Messiah College and because I appreciate these ecumenical professors. Doug is a friend, a member of a UCC congregation, and studied under Martin Marty, who wrote a lovely and interesting forward to this volume. He is also deeply rooted in the Anabaptist piety from which this books largely draws its strength. Many of the best voices in the recent renaissance of integrated scholarship seem to presume a certain broad consensus about what constitutes uniquely Christian scholarship. These thoughtful essays, each written by a Messiah professor, suggests that there may be other models, other configurations, other voices in imagining authentic and faithful Christian scholarship. I am quite eager to continue reading this serious vol
ume and look forward to the ongoing conversations which will sponsored through conferences at the college.

This is not the first collection of explicitly Anabaptist views of higher education, but it is certainly a major contribution and will be surely be widely read by those who care. The last chapter — about campus culture and fostering an open climate of learning — is wonderful, even though they inexplicably ignore students and student contributions. This is an exceptional resource and highly recommended.

And a final award in a new category: Best New Blogs…ongoing Web logs you’ve got to visit regularly. Please order the books they mention from Hearts & Minds.
www.dwightozard.com Dwight is an old friend, a great, great writer, a visionary and all-around Christian activist who uses this blog to not only promote his own PR biz and consulting firm, but to review albums, offer cynical-yet-earnest opinions on cheesy Christianity and to offer hope for the real deal. His own ongoing cancer journal is itself worth reading for inspiration and instruction on how to Christianly cope with such stuff.

This is a great site and, after you mess around there a while, return to Hearts & Minds and order whatever music or books he’s raving about. (See, for starters, his review of the aforementioned Charlie Peacock release, Full Circle, a knowing review that does the work justice.) And pray that he keeps writing.

www.gideonstrauss.com Gideon Strauss is truly one of the most amazing people I’ve ever met. Born in South Africa, disillusioned with the lack of a relevant social vision among some evangelicals there, he struggled with the revolutionary movements, rediscovered Christian faith and came to Canada, where he is now a leader in the alternative Christian labor union movement there. His blog offers serious thoughts, fascinating links, intellectual stimulation, policy formulation, reformational philosophy and public policy proposals. And he gives a free ad to Hearts & Minds. How cool is that? It will be hard to keep up with his voracious reading and networking, but you should join this online community and, if need be, continue to learn to think well. God bless him and the pioneering work for justice and peace, good work and the reformation of commerce proposed by the CLAC.