I have written some long and hopefully helpful BookNotes reviews lately. I’ve gone on and on about two important new ones by James K.A. Smith — Who’s Afraid of Relativism and How (Not) To Be Secular; I’ve raved about the captivating and wonderful and important memoir by Bill McKibben, Oil and Honey, and last week, ruminated more than a bit upon the new and very lovely book by Barbara Brown Taylor, Learning to Walk in the Dark. Thanks for hanging in there with me, reading BookNotes — and even subscribing, if you do.
And then there were those two lists of gift ideas for high-school and college graduates.
But new books keep being released and I cannot even pretend to keep up, alerting you to the releases on our ever-changing “new book table.” If you are ever in South Central Pennsylvania, we do hope you will stop to browse. As you know, we don’t have our inventory listed on line, so you really do have to come and see for yourself.
Here, though, is a least a glimpse of a few that have caught my attention in the past few weeks. Even this isn’t an exhaustive list of new titles, but just a smattering of some we thought you’d like to hear about.
All are on sale at 20% off. We’ve shown the regular retail price, and will deduct the discount when you order, which you can easily do by clicking the order tab shown below hat takes you to the secure order form page.
We appreciate your interest and are glad for your support.
Soul Keeping: Caring for the Most Important Part of You John Ortberg (Zondervan) $22.99 Although IVP recently published a wonderful book co-written by John Ortberg and Dallas Willard before Willard’s death in May 2013 (Living in Christ’s Presence which I reviewed here) and HarperOne promises a June release of a posthumously finished sequel to Willard’s famous Divine Conspiracy, still, this new Soul Keeping is the one that I was looking forward to the most. It is just wonderful! In the clear and honest and poignant and funny prose for which Ortberg has come to be known and appreciated, he tells about the stuff Willard taught him over many visits to the Box Canyon home in which Jane and Dallas lived, and in many other calls and letters over the decades. This is a great book by Ortberg about his own faith development and care for his soul, and a call and guide for us to attend to our own interior lives. He tells stories of his own life — some quite candid — and about seeking spiritual guidance from Dallas Willard, recounting lessons the great and kind thinker taught him. Obviously the point here is how we, too, can have a more vibrant, healthy and Christ-transformed center. Ortberg, drawing on Willard, helps us understand the soul as our deepest center (what the Bible sometimes calls “the heart”) and why attention to our interior lives is so important. I highly, highly recommend this accessible, sweet, and very wise book.
By the way, we also stock the new 6 week companion video curriculum, also released by Zondervan. Ortberg is a real delight to watch and listen to, and the DVDs are very aesthetically pleasing — they are expertly produced. These are perfect for small groups, adult ed classes, spiritual formation partners, or even your own individual home use. Here is a short youtube trailer for it — very nice. The DVD and workbook pack sells for $36.99 (but at our 20% off sale price it is just $29.59.)
We stock all of his great DVDs, too, so let us know if we can help decide which to use.
The Keillor Reader Garrison Keillor (Viking) $27.95 I do not have to tell you about how great Garrison Keillor is as a storyteller, writer, novelist, essayist. Perhaps, though, you haven’t read his stuff lately, or have forgotten how prolific he is, (beyond the weekly Prairie Home Companion radio show.) This is a fabulous 350+ page book with pieces showcasing his several styles and across his good career. More than a retrospective “greatest hits” of the satirist (some call him that, anyway) there are some new pieces here, too, including a new essay, “Cheerfulness” in memory of his mother, a list of Lake Wobegon precepts, “What Have We Learned So Far?” that you must read if you are a fan, and a recollection of a series of fortuitous events that accidentally steered him to where he is today. Mr. Keillor continues to do good work, but says his ambition is gone: “burned away, but I’m still in the game, still contribution to the clatter and hubbub, the Niagara of wordage flowing through America.” I wished they’ve have subtitled it that, clatter and hubbub, don’t you?
Found: A Story of Questions, Grace and Everyday Prayer Micha Boyett (Worthy) $14.99 Some evangelical publishing houses put out fairly standard- fare stuff, even best-selling books by big names in the conservative televangelist circuit, but I sometimes don’t pay due attention to these houses. One never knows where some really fine treasures can be found! My friend Margaret Fienberg, herself a really energetic writer, is on this publishing house these days, and consequently, I keep an open mind for what they do. And they do some great books! This quiet new one has a wonderful preface by Ann Voskamp who says “I read Micha’s words and my breathing slows. She gives perspective. And hope. And a refreshing lightness to not take what doesn’t matter too seriously.” Popular blogger Rachel Held Evans says “With this beautiful book, Micha Boyett opens a door to Benedictine spirituality through which regular, busy, people can enter and taste, see, smell, hear, and feel what it means to life life as a prayer” and that gets it just right. It is a book about spirituality for busy folks. Spunky and talented author of When We Were on Fire Addie Zierman has a great blurb, as does Sarah Bessey (Jesus Feminist) if this gives you sense of the circles she runs in. I happen to know that Ms Boyett, a mom with a Fine Arts in Poetry degree from Syracuse, by the way, is serious about her craft and I suspect a real up-and-coming writer. How many folks get an endorsing blurb by memoirist and poet Mary Karr?
Ms Karr writes,
I read Micha Boyett’s Journey Into Prayer as any blackbelt sinner will, by which I mean anybody will — with sheer delight at her graceful language and riveting struggle for a hard-won faith. In a sense Found is a deep, sweet, invitation into God’s loving presence. A must read for nonbelievers and believers alike.
The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food
Dan Barber (The Penguin Press) $29.95 This hefty and handsome hardback
is surely going to be one of the most talked about books of the year,
talking the conversation further about localism, sustainability, the
joys and ethics of using food, and — since he is a chef — the actual
meaning of eating. Andrew Solomon says “Dan Barber writes with the
restrained lushness with which he cooks. In elegant prose, he argues
persuasively that eating is our most profound engagement with the
non-human world. How we eat makes us who we are and makes the
environment what it is.”
There are a lot of books around these themes, and we write about it from time to time. This one truly looks to be a very wonderful, and very important contribution. It is an impassioned “farm-to-heart” book.
Barber is the executive chef of Blue Hill in Manhattan and a very
important work for anyone concerned about the state of our food
systems. Can’t wait to start it!
Beginning with the Word: Modern Literature and the Question of Belief Roger Lundin (Baker Academic) $24.99 This is the latest in the impressive “cultural exegesis” series, and, as the title makes clear, it is about the question of religious faith and belief in modern lit. Lundin is a generous soul, a great reader and writer, and beloved as an esteemed professor at Wheaton. He exudes much that is the best about the whole “integrating faith and learning” conversation and this book is the accessible fruit of his lifetime of thinking about reading well. On the back there are stunning endorsements by stellar authors — Alan Jacobs, Christian Wiman, Jeremy Begbie. Ralph Wood of Baylor — I hope you know his books on O’Connor and on Tolkien — says he is “a master interpreter of modern culture…with no desire to damn or dismiss.” Yes, modern literature has been seemingly secularized and many write out of an aggressive naturalism, if not atheism. “Lundin replies not with grim rejoinders and loud laments but with a surprising revelations that our modern literary masters, when rightly read, still enflesh words with the weight of hope and even glory.” I am part way through this and it is a serious read, but oh, so good. A must for anyone who pays attention to contemporary literature and letters, and, of course, for any college lit major.
The Psalms as Christian Lament: A Historical Commentary Bruce Waltke, James Houston & Erika Moore (Eerdmans) $28.00 I hope you know that we promoted an early work by Waltke and Houston, The Psalms as Christian Worship, which was also a fascinating and valuable “historical commentary.” Not only do we get, here, like in that one, a robust bit of exegesis and spiritual insight from the texts, but we get a history of how the church has over the years used these passages to fund their imaginations — in the previous one, for worship, in this one, for lament. Erika Moore, a young scholar in Pittsburgh (the Old Testament and Hebrew professor at Trinity School for Ministry) joined these older stalwart, ecumenically-informed, evangelical scholars. Endorsements are vivid and good from J.I. Packer to John Walton, from Tremper Longman to Gordon Wenham. These essays are clear, thoughtful, broadly informed and pastorally useful. Wow.
A Farewell to Mars: An Evangelical Pastor’s Journey Toward the Biblical Gospel of Peace Brian Zahnd (Cook) $14.99 I am already thinking of what to award this book in our “best books” and most significant releases of the year, which we will run next January. Hmm; it will surely deserve some sort of acclaim. I know it is significant that a non-Mennonite, evangelical, theologically conservative pastor has written such a compelling book on Biblical nonviolence. (This is the second such book this publisher has released — see the very good Fight by Francis Chan’s pal, Preston Sprinkle, and that in itself is fascinating.) More-so, this is nicely written, heart-felt, humble, passionate, great for younger evangelicals or anyone wanting to revisit this complex topic with an open heart and mind. Zahnd is a good thinker and good writer — his earlier book that we carry and regularly take to events we do was on aesthetics and wonder, entitled Beauty Will Save the World.) He is an important voice to hear. A Farewell to Mars invites us to reconsider our whole “god and country” worldview. His critique of the gods of mars, the call to be peacemakers, the Christ-centered vision of serious, Biblical peacemaking, is commendable. And it is good to have an evangelical offer theological critique to the blasphemy of the “cross” made of fighter plans in the worship space of the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. That the church itself is made out of warplanes is itself odd enough, but that cross — I am amazed that no-one who exalts the cross like the guys who write at the Gospel Coalition, or Desiring God Ministries — have never commented upon it. Kudos to Zahnd and prayers for the team at David C. Cook, who will take some heat for this, I am sure.
There is a great forward to A Farewell to Mars by respected New Testament scholar Scot McKnight which is helpful, an opening epigram of a prayer from the Book of Common Prayer. But I share this, from Eugene Peterson, who writes that “Brian Zahnd fuses his vocation as prophet and pastor into a powerful evocation of the Prince of Peace, Jesus the Peacemaker… The writing is simply brilliant — not a dull sentence in the book.” Nice!
Yawning at Tigers: You Can’t Tame God So Stop Trying Drew Dyck (Nelson) $16.99 At first, I wondered if this might just be the “same old, same old” of the new kind of spiffy, evangelical writing. Clever, passionate, all about the grand dynamic of a God who loves us furiously, the most recent most popular adjective used these days, it seems, among the young, restless and really, really live. Nope. This guy is smart, really, smart, and is a judicious, but lively writer, offering what Phil Yancey calls “a needed corrective to self-indulgent Christianity.” Look: Yancey doesn’t endorse that many books, and he is as thoughtfully solid as they come, and such a fine writer to boot. If Yancey says it’s good, I’m checking it out. The footnotes themselves illustrate his wide sources — from the Babylonian Talmud to Oswald Chambers to Annie Dillard, from early church mystics to Christian Wiman’s thoughtful My Bright Abyss, from Leslie Newbigin to Jorgen Moltmann to R.C. Sproul. Love that breadth; a sign of a serious reader and good writer. Plus, he named his son Athanasius. Who wouldn’t want to read a book by a dad like that?
The Great and Holy War: How World War I Became a Religious Crusade Philip Jenkins (HarperOne) $29.99 I am not exaggerating when I say that Philip Jenkins is one of the most important popular scholars of our time, and he is a man I like and admire. (He for years taught at Penn State, although is now at the prestigious Institute for the Study of Religions at Baylor University in Texas.) He is an impressive and colorful historian and here he brings his vast knowledge and keen eye to this very, very important question: how do wars take on the tone of religious crusades, and in what ways to ideologies work to heighten the meaning and purpose (and destructiveness) of war itself? Here Jenkins explores the hidden religious motivations that sparked WW I and how that catastrophe reshaped religion for the next century. We were, by the way, the first to have this book as we helped launch it at a lecture at Cornell, co-sponsored by our good friend at Chesterton House there.
The Twilight of American Enlightenment: The 1950s and the Crisis of Liberal Belief
George Marsden (Basic Books) $26.99
I am not alone to suggest that not only is Marsden (perhaps even more than Jenkins) esteemed in his field, he is an honored exemplar of the evangelical/Reformed project of “integrating faith and learning” by offering a faithful orientation and perspective on the tools of his trade as a historian. He has written about a Christian historiography elsewhere, and very nicely about the vocation of a being a Christian in the academy and as an intellectual — see his small but important Oxford University Press book The Outrageous Idea of Christian Scholarship. In a review of this recent work, the Washington Post suggested that Marsden is “one of the most esteemed intellectual historians of his generation….” They continue, saying that The Twilight of the American Enlightenment “shines as a clear introduction to the dominant intellectual voices of the era.” Here, he makes a case for the significance of the 1950s for American liberal ideology and how religion, also, played into that; it is so important for any of us who needs to more deeply understand the religious voices and the self-understanding of our nation’s leaders in the previous generation. I read a really interesting review of this in The Christian Century and immediately started reading the book after that. It may be the most important book in the field of American studies and US history to be released this year.
View of the Top: An Inside Look at How People in Power See and Shape the World
D. Michael Lindsay (Wiley) $28.00 Michael Lindsay is a sharp,
evangelical sociologist, the young President of Gordon College, and
author of a previous Oxford University press book talking about how
evangelical Christians in past decades found themselves in positions of
power and influence. I’ve heard him lecture on this (at an Evangelicals
for Social Action gathering, actually) and his interest in networks and
practices of cultural transformation — think of James Davidson
Hunter’s famous book To Change the World — is fascinating. This
new one is based on his personal interviews with more than 500 of
America’s premier business, political and noon-profit leaders, what
Michael Useem (Professor and Director of the Leadership Center at the
Wharton School at U of Penn) calls “a research tour de force.” Rakesh
Khurana (professor of Leadership Development at Harvard Business School)
says “View From the Top is one of those rare books in leadership research that deftly connects biography to the larger social structure and society.”
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