In the last post I mentioned 12 books that were waiting here for us after a week away from the shop. Actually there were more. Here’s 10 of ’em. They deserve more discussion, they really do. But here ya go, short and sweet. Readers of BookNotes get a 20% discount—the handy link at the bottom takes you to our order form where you can type in whatever you want. We’ll take off the discount and ship it right away.
More Lost Than Found: Finding a Way Back to Faith Jared Herd (Nelson) $15.99 After reading and hearing David Kinnaman talk about his research of the epidemic of twenty-somethings drifting or dropping out of church, presented in the must-read You Lost Me, I now more than ever can’t wait to share this. Herd has a history of losing faith, now works with young adults, and is about as pop culture savvy as they come (drawing on Barry Taylor and Neil Postman and David Dark and David Bazan, and a fascinating crew of outside-the-box thinkers, writers, social critics and theologians.) Agree fully or not, this is a wild ride and a generous invitation to realize how God is calling us back to faith. Pretty darn cool, provocative, and finally quite helpful. The back cover suggests that “Herd comes alongside anyone who has ever struggled with faith to reengage them in the truth they long to hear. If you have ever felt you didn’t fit at church or had questions about God, may it’s time to give your faith another chance.” Herd’s messy family life–baptized in religion before he was every baptized in church–gives him a certain vantage point to understand the hurting and de-churched.
Be Not Afraid: Facing Fear with Faith Samuel Wells (Brazos Press) $17.99 Wells is the brainy British scholar-pastor who took Will Willimon’s place as the Dean of the Chapel at Duke. He is known for sparkling, powerful preaching, remarkable use of language, and solid, freshly construed, orthodox theology. Blurbs on the back are from Scott Bader-Saye, Lillian Daniel, Tom Long and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, all who rave about his “deep thought and wordsmith’s craft.” Long says “each essay is a gem…directly addressed to the reader’s heart and mind…” Wilson-Hartgrove avers that “Sam Wells is a great gift to the church today. Listen to him.” Lillian Daniel notes that the book is “witty, vulnerable, challenging delight, a perfect bedtime companion in the dark night of the soul and a worthy friend when the lights come back on.” A much-needed voice on a variety of deep questions and mature, vital matters. Go to the Brazos website to see the list of chapters and their topics.
Grace for the Journey: Practices and Possibilities for the In-Between Times Beverly A. Thompson & George B. Thompson (Alban Institute) $17.00 You may know that we stock nearly all of the Alban Institute’s many books and often affirm the way they bring serious research-based findings into view for mainline congregations. If you need practical stuff on vision statements, large or small churches, pastoring with fruitfulness, coping with clergy burnout issues, thinking about worship or preaching, or any number of such things about congregational management, they are a very valuable asset. And yet, they also do these occasional books that are just luminous, beautifully conceived, full of great stories and sweet passion for the call to ministry in our time. This book is grounded in Scripture, spiritual disciplines, and an astute understanding of congregational life, and yet is more than a practical resource, it is a warm and uplifting read that will fire your imagination about how to be a congregational leader. George also wrote Church on the Edge of Somewhere which was about how we place ourselves in our social terrain, one of the most stimulating and curious books I read last year. The couple co-pastors a Presbyterian congregation in Atlanta and work with the Interdenominational Theological Center (ITC) there.
Close Enough to Hear God Breath: The Great Story of Divine Intimacy Greg Paul (Nelson) $15.99 I have said before that I believe Greg Paul is one of the finest writers doing Christian books these days, easy to read (despite their raw honesty about the pain of this fallen world and broken culture) and hopeful. His first two books (God in the Alley and The Twenty-Piece Shuffle) were about urban mission, about the relationship between the well off and the poor, about how we all need each other to reflect God’s good desires for the planet. They are hardly known in some circles, and that is a shame. He is a creative writer (but not overly eccentric) and a passionate prophet. Leonard Sweet notes, in a spectacular rave endorsement, “This book has a heart that beats louder than most any book you’ll ever read.”
Here is what is says, loudly, on the back cover: “There are a thousand voices telling me who I am or who I should be. I want to hear what God has to say. I want to know that he’s really there. I want to know that in the whole grand, tangled sweep of the human story, my little story matters. I need to hear his voice, speaking to me, in my own ears…” Yes, there are dozens of fine books on God’s relationship with us and how our stories and lives matter to Him. Reading the Bible, they assure us, should help us understand that. This one really does. I’ll admit this has been here a few weeks, but it is still pretty new and I just had to give it another shout out. Won’t somebody give it a try?
Happiness Joan Chittister (Eerdmans) $20.00 The last few books by Sister Joan have been little prayer books, devotional pieces, delightful works of spirituality. This is brand new release is a bit more hefty, if you will, drawing on a variety of sources to explore the nature of human happiness. Of course she brings her sort of liberal Benedictine spirituality to it all–Rabbi Michael Lerner of Tikkun calls her a spiritual elder who is a “wise woman.” As Phyllis Tickle puts it, “Sr. Joan Chittister never disappoints, but here she has had exceeded even her own high standards. Happiness is a penetrating, insightful, wide-ranging study…it is pastoral. A thoughtful reader will be wiser for having read it, certainly, but also more complete and, I would wager, more at peace.” A quick skim of the table of contents assures readers that this is thorough, thoughtful, and covers a wide range o
f concerns, rooted in traditional insight of the Judeo-Christian heritage. Not preachy or directly theological, this could be a real gift for somebody you know.
The Christian College Phenomenon: Inside America’s Fastest Growing Institutions of Higher Learning Samuel Joeckel & Thomas Chesnes, editors (Abilene University Press) $24.99 I was sold on this book’s importance before I even ordered it and can’t wait to work through it’s copious amount of statistics and findings. Yes, evangelical Christian colleges are the fasting growing sort of colleges (by far; there are 110 college, by the way, in the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities) and they are growing, and often changing, dramatically, while working hard to be more integrated as wholistic institutions. Most are clear about wanting to honor God and serve their students well in everything from residential life to academic affairs, from multi-cultural concerns to service learning opportunities. Further, the language of relating faith and learning is common-place and most at least attempt to guide their students towards seeing their majors as holy vocations, not a passport to privilege but a door to serve. (This is a great passion of ours, by the way, cheering and resourcing uniquely Christian colleges in their thinking faithfully about these very things.)
Here, now, we have the inside scoop, with amazing research done on how faculty are doing, what the problems of race and gender might be, how scholarship is done, what research and teaching look like, and how the faith development of students is pursued. In my quick skim I am already hooked, wanting to know more about how these teachers and administrators really feel and what they reveal about their work. As Richard Hughes—himself a wise scholar and astute observer of these very matters—puts it, “This richly nuanced portrait of Christian higher education in the evangelical genre is a tour de force.” Know anybody who works in higher education? Anybody who cares about Christian colleges and universities? Anybody who is wondering about the next generation of evangelical leaders arising now in these places? Good reviews of this great book have been done by Mark Noll, and Lauren Winner (both who have PhDs in history, of course, and are sharp social observers.) Joeckel is an associate professor of English and honors professor at Palm Beach Atlantic (and has written on everything from C.S. Lewis to humor theory) and Chesnes is an associate professor of biology at the same institution. He is a rising voice in the conversations about faith and science and makes a perfect fellow researcher with Joeckel. Renowned scholars George Marsden and Martin Marty provide incisive concluding essays. A must-have work for anyone interested in this field. AUP is doing great work these days. Remember, you heard it here, first.
The Essential Commandment: A Discipleship Guide to Loving God and Others Greg Ogden (IVP) $16.00 I hope you know Ogden’s other popular workbooks like this (The Discipleship Essentials and Leadership Essentials.) They are very useful, including 24 different Bible studies or lessons good for individuals, small groups, mentoring, or classes. These are in-depth and well tested, evangelically clear, Biblical, solid as can be. I know churches that use them, campus ministers, folks who mentor others. Well, this is a brand new collection of 12 similarly thorough studies, complete with questions for discussion, that obviously come out of Ogden’s renown mentoring/disciple-making ministry at his Presbyterian Church. As the subtitle notes, these lessons are on just two big topics, two essential commandments: loving God and loving others. This stuff could deepen your own discipleship, transform your fellowship, rock your class, shape your congregation. Once again, IVP offers a clear, solid, useful tool, filling a need for just this kind of curriculum piece. Kudos to all involved.
What Shall We Say? Evil, Suffering, and The Crisis of Faith Thomas G. Long (Eerdmans) $25.00 Long is one of those eloquent and elegant erudite gentleman whose books some of us read regardless of their topic. One of our finest and best-read customers, a United Methodist pastor, just today emailed me saying he has started this and it is a great read. I’ve not read it at all yet, but was with him almost a year ago and he reminded me just was a great communicator he is; I’ve been waiting for this. Richard Lischer–who wrote one of my favorite preaching books, ever—from Duke notes that Long “knows where the action is—in the gulch between humanity’s perennial questions and God’s eternal revelation.” Yes, there are oodles of other theodicy book out there, but this looks to be very nicely done, warm and incisive, too. This project began, by the way, as the 2009 Thomas White Currie Lectures at Austin Theological Seminary, a distinguished series which includes in its linage Richard Niebuhr’s Christ and Culture. Long is a preaching prof at Candler, which is part of Emory University.
I Didn’t Ask to be Born (But I’m Glad I Was) Bill Cosby (Center Street) $21.99 Did I say above that one of these astute authors of a fairly serious book at studied the nature of humor. Well, Cosby has studied this his whole life and here he gives us a plain old book of humor pieces, the first one since his classic Cosbyology. I don’t have to say much about this, except maybe to note that I have been laughing right out loud a lot reading Flunking At Sainthood that I mentioned in the last post. She disses many of the spiritual classics and fails at most of her well-intended efforts to live out the practices (a different one each month) that she is reading about. It is splendid, insightful, and really, really funny. Cosby isn’t like that. He is just flat-out funny. He makes up some characters that may someday stand with Fat Albert and the Cosby kids. This looks great.
Barefoot Church: Serving the Least in a Consumer Culture Brandon Hatmaker (Zondervan) $18.99 The Leadership Network has created a series of books called Exponential, which is mostly about church planting, innovative outreach, missional initiatives to expand God’s Kingdom. This book deserves a longer review and I certainly hope to write more about it once I’ve read more of it—it brings together the Biblical insistence that we serve the poor and oppressed with the desire to reach the un-churched in authentic and caring ministry. This is loaded with ideas, powerful stories, extreme challenges. Two friends of mine in the last few weeks have mentioned this guy to me and I’ve wanted to know more about his Austin New Church and t
he strategic missional effort called Restore Austin. I presumed the book title emerged from the “barefoot doctors” movement in China but, in fact, the story is told about a Texan gentleman giving up his expensive cowboy books. Hatmaker brings serious missional thinking, good cultural criticism, tons of cool citations and footnotes and moves from their own inspiring work to offering ways to help you and yours get busy doing this wholistic ministry of word and deed, evangelism and justice. This book deserves to be considered, discussed, tried and tested. Join me in spreading the word. Good work, Austin folks. Good work, Zondervan.