Thanks to my friends, talk show hosts John & Kathy out in Pittsburgh, PA, who call from time
to time asking me for an on-air book reviews. They sometimes interview me and, as you may guess, they have a huge listening audience. I feel a bit intimidated, although they couldn’t be sweeter.
Or, sharper. Half the authors I recommend, they’ve had on the air, it seems–it is Christian talk radio done right! You may even be able to hear it on line at the WORD FM facebook page here.
I was on this afternoon, even fielding some calls from listeners. After talking about Coop: A Year in Pigs, Poultry & Parenting (Michael Perry), The Unlikely Disciple (Kevin Roose) and Holy Roller (Julie Lyons) and some of the others on our blogged list of most fun books of the summer, we got into it. Calls ranged from the need for books about financial planning to the consequences of the Protestant reformation, from a question about Little House on the Prairie to books for one going through a dark night of the soul. This was a bookselling buzz and the time went too fast. Thanks to those who called in.
I had a stack of books sitting by my phone, new stuff that I would have loved to have given a shout out about, but time didn’t permit. It is rare I get to celebrate and recommend books to such a vast audience, and I wish I coulda squeezed ’em in somehow. So, here, now, for anybody who was listening, the titles I intended to promote. Thanks again to J&K for their generosity and support.
In no particular order, then, here are some new, important books that we are excited about:
Bearing the Mystery: Twenty Years of Image edited by Greg Wolfe (Eerdmans) $30.00 Maybe it is best I didn’t bring this up live on air as I could have talked about it for the full hour: it is a large collection of essays, short stories, creative fiction, insightful non-fiction, paintings and a goodly number of poems from the flagship journal for those involved in the movement of those doing faith-based literary art. Image has been around for 20 years and stands doubtlessly as the most classy and significant faith-based literary magazine in publication. This wonderfully bound, handsome and thick hardback is testimonial that through much blood sweat and tears, joy, goodness and grace, a small band of serious Christian writers (and subscribers and donors) have kept this journal alive. Contributors to this “Images’ greatest hits” text include Scott Cairns, Annie Dillard, Clyde Edgerton, Mako Fujimura, Pat Hampl, Ron Hansen, Denise Levertov, Kathleen Norris, Ann Patchett, Richard Rogriguez and many, many more. Film-maker Wim Wenders has a piece; there is something by the late, great musician Mark Heard; there is poetry by Luci Shaw; there are stunning full color plates by the likes of Bruce Herman, Catherine Prescott, Tim Lowley, Ed Knippers. There is a great woodcut by Barry Moser, a moving charcoal scene of Christ’s passion by Wayne Forte, a haunting b/w piece (graphite, gesso, steel, and pastel on birch) by Erica Grimm-Vance. This book is a stunning bit of serious literature and art and criticism, artfully made, as a labor of love and celebration. With rave endorsements on the back dustjacket by Dana Gioia and Kenneth Woodward and Jeremy Begbie and Lauren Winner, you can see this is the highest quality stuff. It perhaps one of the best examples of the ways in which deeply religious artists have made a contribution to the culture. See their wonderful Image website here. Glory be.
Woman Overboard: How Passion Saved My Life Jo Kadlecek (Fresh Air) $17.95 This is the second book I’ve enjoyed from this new imprint of the legendary Upper Room press, and it is spectacular. Fireworks were going off in my brain with certain pages, and I kept running inside from my backyard perch to read a section to anybody that would listen. Kadlecek has written a number of books and she is good; very good. These autobiographical pieces hold together as nearly an extended memoir, offering insights about work, calling, passion, relationships, suffering, always finding a way to do more than just go through the motions of life. Robert Benson, whose tender book on vocation,
The Echo Within was one of my favorite books of the summer, says that she is a rare writer that has the courage to examine her life closely and gifted “to write so that others can more clearly see the truth in their own lives.” Learn more about her, her novels and other writing, and her husbands documentary film work at Lamppost Media, here.
Follow Me to Freedom: Leading and Following as an Ordinary Radical Shane Claiborne & John M. Perkins (Regal) $14.99 Since my Pittsburgh days with the CCO days in the 70s and our time spent hanging around a few urban churches then, we came to admire and respect John Perkins, an elder African American statesmen of evangelical faith whose books on racial reconciliation and economic development has made him one of the most significant writers of our lifetime. (Read his first autobiographical testimonial, Let Justice Roll Down if you don’t believe me.) That he founded the wholistic outreach and leadership school in Mendanhall MS, Voice of Calvary, and the important, national CCDA and authored books inviting conservative evangelicals into the civil rights struggle is not his only legacy; he has mentored dozens of others, leaders in urban ministry, mostly, and is now, in his 80s, wanting to know how to pass the baton on to create a new generation of leaders and followers. These are transcripts of live conversations, with John offering no-nonsense wisdom, and young Shane offering humor, passion and whimsical revolutionary spirit that was seen in his zany and profound Irresistible Revolution. His own experiences from his work in The Simple Way are amazing, and he adds very relevant insights. A book by either is worth reading, but this dialogue format makes for a really unique project.
These two men–and older black gentleman and a hipster young white guy— are a perfect duo, and this may be the most interesting book of the fall. Highly recommended, just for the privilege of listening in on two very, very important and feisty and experienced leaders.
Jesus Loves You This I Know Craig Cross & Jason Harper (Baker) $17.99 Many admire Craig Cross for his triple x church, the edgy outreach to porn stars and those in the thick of the adult entertainment industry. They’ve concluded that, in many ways, these are among the most despised folk of our day, and they’ve earned the right to be heard as they show up, buying booths, at this detestable venues (trade shows of porn dealers, etc.) Believe it or not, they are taken seriously (not so much by the church community, but by the porn dealers and filmakers.) So, now, after their stint in that, they’ve created this collection of stories that shows that God loves everybody, that the chance to repent is offered to all, and that it is the job of Christ-followers to met people “where they are at” and offer grace and mercy. These stories are basic, tender, tough, and strangely moving: God really is love, and as we share that good news, people come to understand religion–and a relationship with Christ–in a whole new way. There is a DVD that goes with it, too ($12.00.) This DVD has face-to-face conversations with the people described in the book, showing that Jesus does love the porn star, the outcast, the broken, the skeptic, the crook… Pretty touching stuff. Check it out at www.jesuslovesyou.net and then come back and place an order. Thanks.
The Gospel Driven Life: Being Good News People in a Bad News World Michael Horton (Baker) $19.99 Okay, wondrous literary work, passion for life, radical discipleship for justice, and tender tales of care and outreach make for wonderful, inspiring and helpful reading. I really meant everything I wrote above about how we commend these titles. I wish I could have explained about them on the air in the radio talk. Yet, it is our strong conviction (and has been for as long as we’ve been recommending books) that we also need solid, mature, and serious, orthodox theology to under-gird and guide our culturally savvy and edgy, relevant outreach. A year ago, Reformed theologian Horton gave a devastating critique to both mainline traditions and especially to shallow and trendy evangelicalism in Christ-less Christianity; he not only exposed the vapidness of liberal Christian doctrine, but lamented the lack of teeth in most evangelical theology. In both cases, both “sides” of the Protestant church are basically self-help: we can get by without a radical conversion to Christ exalting faith. We don’t really believe in the doctrine of grace. Here, Horton revisits this dilemma and offers lasting hope: the good news is a narrative of God’s saving work in the world, and the redemptive work of His cross can be applied not only to those outside the church (who need to “hear the gospel”) but to those inside the church who long for Christian growth and maturity. We must (as Luther said) preach the gospel to ourselves. This book shows you how. Right on.
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