I put a bit of time in each month reviewing books for at least two monthly on-line journals, and I am grateful that they allow me to offer input to their already great work. Occasionally, I get to do a column in other places, too. Unless you subscribe to BookNotes (getting a rough version of it via email) or follow me carefully on twitter, you may not even always know when we do a new BookNotes post. Because these build up over time, telling a bit of the story of our work at Hearts & Minds (and because we really do believe that the books I mentioned are resources worth knowing about, maybe even buying from us) we thought we’d do a bit of a quick-link round up. Not to be confused with the nasty toxic stuff they put on crops, or the genetically modified “round-up ready” crops that are designed to take the poison. Ugh No, this is a good kind of round up. Get ready to read.
In the June 29th issue of Comment, published by the gloriously heady but down-to-Earth think-tank
Cardus, I recently reviewed The Messy Quest for Meaning, a book written by Stephen Martin, a fellow who grew up here in Dallastown, went to our high-school, worshiped at the parish across the street, and is now a fine Catholic journalist, writing about the stages one goes through in discerning one’s calling and vocation. Also in that issue, I review the very important, brand new book on film history by William D. Romanowski, Reforming Hollywood (Oxford University Press.) It’s a demanding book and I’m proud of my review. We are co-sponsoring with the CCO a public lecture and book release party with Romanowski in Pittsburgh the evening of July 18th, and you’ll be hearing more about that soon. In the meantime, I’d be pleased if you read my reviews here.
In the May 25th Comment, I tell about four really great titles: Work Matters by Paul Stevens, a collection of letters by Abraham Kuyper from his early 20th century visit to America (published by Dordt College Press), a fabulous book comparing the worldviews and relationships of William Wilberforce and Thomas Jefferson by my very smart friend, Ray Blunt, called Crossed Lives, Crossed Purposes and a serious anthology called Hearing the Old Testament edited by really astute Bible guy Craig Bartholomew. Please read those reviews here.
If you go back to the April 27th issue of Comment, you will see my description of five books, including an elegant collection of essays by the wonderful writer Scott Russell Saunders, the brilliant study The Story-Making Animal: How Stories Make Us Human, and an easy-to-read, very wise, contemporary devotional on the Psalms. Then I tell of two titles by friends of mine, one fabulously inspiring one on global justice issues by attorney and activist Jay Milbrandt (Go + Do) and the popular A Faith of Our Own by Jonathan Merritt. Jonathan is an important author representing a new sort of young evangelical—mentioned in Gabe Lyon’s Next Christians, and you should at least look at my brief review commending his story. Read those reviews here.
I also get to write each month for the thoughtful Christian think tank which explores faith-based citizenship, The Center for Public Justice (CPJ), in a column they call “Politics & Prose.” That column of mine appears about once a month in their weekly Capitol Commentary, which is a very fine, faith-based, nonpartisan political newsletter. In late June, I briefly reviewed three really interesting books: a fabulous, introductory guide to thinking faithfully about politics, Honoring God in Red and Blue (Amy Black), a serious Biblical study that breaks new ground called Shalom and the Community of Creation (Randy Woodley) and the Oxford University Press current affairs title, The Price of the Ticket: Barack Obama and the Rise and Decline of Black Politics (Frederick Harris.) Read those reviews here.
In Capitol Commentary (June 1st) I describe three books: another review of the splendid study of leadership and social change in light of the comparison of Jefferson & Wilberforce, Ray Blunt’s excellent Crossed Purposes, Crossed Lives, Rachael Maddow’s powerful, important (and really interesting) book on the expanse of American militarism, Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power, and a quirky, theologically-informed collection of essays by Carl Trueman. Read those reviews here,
In Capitol Commentary (May 4th) I describe three diverse titles, each one the sort that you can hardly put down, realizing how important they are. I tell about scathing The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, then mention the critique of bad theology and cultural accomodation (in Catholic, mainline Protestant and evangelical movements) Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics by Russ Douthat, and lastly announce the latest N.T. Wright book, How God Became King, which certainly offers solid Biblical study on the theme of the Kingship of Christ in the gospels (and how we’ve tended to miss that.) I heard CPJs founder Jim Skillen preach like that in the early 70s and it changed my life.
N.T. Wright’s book is a must. Read those reviews here.
At the Hearts & Minds website, as you obviously know, we publish the BookNotes blog at least once a week, most often offering discounts on new books, important announcements, reviews, lists. Some are long-winded, I’ve been told (moi?) but when I get a big head of steam up, and want to share a large list or a big idea or a ton of books, I usually post those at the longer-form monthly column, found by clicking the tab at the top of the website. For instance, in July’s monthly column I posted last week a reflection on our current political climate, the need for civility, but — also urgent and less discussed — I shared our passion for nurturing the Christian mind and tried to suggest books that offer a very distinctively Christian approach to basic questions about government, the task of the state, the role of political ideologies, and why party loyalty is less important than honoring the Lordship of Christ over our political views and thinking through a coherent Christian political perspective. This is not a general list about public justice nor an exhaustive compilation of books on religion and politics. It is sort of my “best of” suggestions, essential to know about, vital to learn from, key resources that anybody who cares about faithful citizenship should consider. Come on, buy at least one and start a study group for this fall! It’ll serve our nation well, and God will be pleased. At least read the column and look through the list and see if any I tell about seem helpful. The one by Ron Sider, shown here, is an excellent book about the process of developing something that might look like a Christian view on an issue—the methodology of reading the Bible, developing a political philosophy, discerning the times, survey relevant texts, and doing contemporary social research with an open mind. If only the far Christian left and the religious right would take such careful steps, and then be humble about their tentative proposals. Well that’s the sort of stuff I talk about. Check it out.
By the way, these columns and all the BookNotes posts are all archived and some customers enjoy browsing through our older reviews. Unless we say otherwise, usually the discount offers are still good. We have a search engine at the site, and if you put a book title in, perhaps in quotes, or an author, it might lead to you times I’ve discussed that item at some BookNotes or monthly column. Use that inquire tab, too, if you have any questions at all…unlike some faceless on-line places, you’ll get a real answer from a real human.
One of the most fun and exciting things we’ve done at the shop in our near 30 years was hosting a month or so ago the world-class, Church of England Bishop and Bible scholar, N.T. Wright. You can see me listening to him finish up, getting ready to highlight a few more of his books for our gathered crowd. This is right behind the shop, in the yard behind the rear entrance. Here is a long piece from the monthly column (May 2012) which I wrote in appreciation of Tom Wright’s important body of work, and a bit of a reader’s guide to his many titles, from the easiest to the hardest. Enjoy.
Here is another fairly recent monthly column (April) about something else very dear to my heart: the music of and a book about Canadian rock music hero, Bruce Cockburn. Somebody at Rachael Held Evan’s blog just the other day was blasting Christian bookstores for playing it safe and not carrying substantial stuff, like, oh, say, Bruce Cockburn. I beg to differ. We not only carry his stuff, I went on and on and on about him. The piece was a window into my own life and times, I suppose, and I enjoyed sharing it with you. And, hey, you should “pay your money and take your chance” (as Cockburn sings) and buy the darn Brian Walsh book, Kicking at the Darkness, on the formation of the Christian imagination, informed by a close study of Cockburn’s allusive lyrics You’ll never read your Bible quite the same way again.
I’ve occasionally suggested The High Calling, a fabulous on-line magazine and community of writers (and bloggers) who share short bits about taking faith into the marketplace, about work, the role of the laity, serving God in the daily grind, living life well, making culture to God’s glory. These are often beautifully written pieces, commissioned around themes or topics. Someday I hope to get to The Laity Lodge who sponsors it all, but for now, I happily read the blog. Not long ago I was asked to write a piece—with a nod to the phrase “culture making” from Andy Crouch’s book of that name—in response to a swell essay by Sam Van Eman, about how different human activities can be seen as acts of contributing to culture, for God’s sake.
Here is the piece I wrote, Reading as a Cultural Act. The accompanying picture is cool, even if the hipster is not reading a real book! Haha. Be sure to read the fabulous threads of comments, too.
Here is another one I did from THC which I was pleased with, brief but to the point, called Style Matters. I hope you enjoy this affirmation of the way an author’s style is so integral to a book’s impact.
Lastly, I don’t have a link, but what we mostly do, is talk about books to customers in our Dallastown shop. Our great staff (Amy, Patti, Diana, Kimberly and book-keeper Robin) and my wife Beth are here six days a week, serving well, often searching for just the right title for just the right person. We know some on-line followers are also in-store friends.
We really value our on-line community, those scattered across the globe that embrace our work, follow my writing, read our reviews, and send orders our way. I hope this round-up informs you of some of the reviews you might not have seen at BookNotes, and reminds you of the ways you can stay in touch, join the conversation, and keep up with some of the places where I get to write, if briefly, about these wonderful things called books.
; Great writing matters and we are honored that you care to consider our suggestions. Thanks for reading.
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