Here are some fairly short, if not quite pithy annotations of some great new books. Most are brand new and I’ve only skimmed them, enough to say that they all deserve more then pith, even more than brevity. I’m too busy, though, for much more, now, but these are so good, I just had to tell you that we have them here in stock, on sale for BookNotes readers.
We show the regular retail price, but will deduct the discount when you order. As we say at our order form page, we can send you a bill so you can pay later by check, if you’d like, or you can use credit cards. Your digits are safe as our order from page is certified secure.
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The Bible Tells Me So: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read it Peter Enns (HarperOne) $25.99 Not too many professional Bible scholars have such deep history in places like an evangelical Christian college and Westminster Theological Seminary, where Enns was edged out having taught there for 14 years, as well as the more mainstream Jewish and liberal Protestant scholars at Harvard Divinity School where he was profoundly tutored about what to do “when the Bible doesn’t behave.” And none are as witty and entertaining as Enns as he walks us through the Bible’s big problems (Canaanite genocide, just for instance) and how to best understand them all. Rachel Held Evans says it is a “game-changer” and Brian McLaren says it is “super-enjoyable, highly informative, disarmingly honest, and downright liberating.” Tony Campolo writes, “I, as an old-fashioned evangelical have some problems with what he has written, I think that many other readers will find answers to some of the most perplexing questions that they have about the Bible.”
I love that he starts with a useful excerpt from C.S. Lewis (from Reflections on the Psalms on how to read the Bible.) It’s a small thing, perhaps, but I also loved the cleverly written acknowledgments, and his own story, “My Life, In Brief, and Such as it Is.” If his Bible teaching thing doesn’t pan out, maybe he could moonlight as a stand up comic. He’s told us he already failed at baseball. Agree or not, he’s right that we simply have to come up with better ways to read the Scriptures, and to be read by them. This is an upbeat books about a life-or-death matter, and we recommend it.
Shrink: Faithful Ministry in a Church-Growth Culture Tim Shuttle (Zondervan) $16.99 Listen to what Stanley Hauerwas of Duke says of this brand new book: “Church growth strategies are the death gurgle of a church that has lost its way. Suttle helps us see how God in our time is making us leaner and meaner. I hope this book will be widely read.” Who writes a book blurb like that, wanting us to be “leaner and meaner”? Ha! Intriguing, eh?
You may know we are bringing C. Christopher Smith (author of the fantastic Slow Church to D-town November 5th — more on that later) but here is what Smith says of this new book: “Shrink is one of the wisest and most significant evangelical books that I’ve read in the last decade; it is essential reading for every pastor and church leader!” Wow, that’s quite an endorsement for a significant author and cultural critic. You may have heard the phrase “good to great.” Shuttle maintains that “great may not always be good.” You may know that, or maybe this is a new idea. Surely you know that there is often some kind of tension between quantity and quality, and that church shouldn’t be mostly about numbers. I bet you need this book!
The Sacred Year Michael Yankoski (Nelson) $15.99 All right, I’ll admit it, I was drawn to this because of the cover. Yankoski is an energetic speaker and his book about living with the homeless — Under the Overpass — is fantastic: clear, passionate and inspiring. He received his MA at Regent in British Columbia and is a novitiate Oblate of St. Benedict, which is pretty cool. Here is what it says on the lovely front cover: “Mapping the Soulscape of Spiritual Practice — How Contemplating Apples, Living in a Cave, and Befriending a Dying Woman Revived my Life.”
This memoir of a year’s experiment just may be the most fascinating, and insightful, book about spiritual practices I’ve ever seen. Dear Phyllis Tickle says “This book is a joy to the soul and a delight to the heart. It is destined to become a classic within the genre of contemporary spiritual and religious writing.”
The Making of An Ordinary Saint: My Journey From Frustration to Joy with the Spiritual Disciplines Nathan Foster (Baker) $14.99 We know Nathan is a storyteller — he wrote a captivating, raw book about the growing distance he felt from his famous father (Richard Foster) and the subsequent disillusionment about Christianity he faced as a troubled young adult, and how he wisely challenged his dad to hike a bunch of Colorado mountains with him, in a last-ditch effort to restore their relationship. (That was the very nice Wisdom Chaser: Finding My Father at 14,000 Feet.) I heard the two of them do a splendid, entertaining tag-team talk at the Calvin College Festival of Faith and Writing last spring, and have been waiting for this book ever since. In a way, this is a second generation Celebration of Discipline as the hip, young son tells of his own frustrations (and restorative glories) of practicing the classic spiritual disciplines. Ruth Haley Barton says it is “Delightful…. simply delightful” and Eugene Peterson says “Read this book and find yourself a new companion as you follow Jesus.” Yeah, that’s it. He is a honest, ordinary, reliable companion. Richard Forster, by the way, offers a nice foreword and good reflections throughout.
Presence and Encounter: The Sacramental Possibilities of Everyday Life David G. Benner (Foreword by Richard Rohr) (Brazos Press) $15.99 I am really drawn to these kinds of books, about the spirituality of the ordinary, the mystical embedded in the mundane, practicing the presence of God and so forth. Some are truly luminous, beautifully done and so very helpful. I am sure that this book — inspired by the author’s early confrontation with the “I-Thou” worldview of Jewish philosopher Martin Buber — will help us realize that attentive presence is what allows for real encounters to occur. As it says in the advanced promo: “Drawing on over thirty-five years of experience integrating psychology and spirituality, Benner examines the transformational possibilities of spiritual presence and encounter in fresh, exciting, and practical ways.” There are end-of-chapter reflection exercises for individuals or groups, and these are profound and experiential (that is, not just discussion-based study questions.) This is a bit deep, and may be important for those longing for greater discernment about God’s presence in their daily lives.
Yes or No: How Your Everyday Decisions Will Forever Shape Your Life Jeff Shinabarger (Cook) $15.99 I hope you recall how we raved about Shinabarger’s previous book about a more simple — and creatively generous — lifestyle (called More or Less: Choosing a Lifestyle of Excessive Generousity.) In a way this new one, Yes or No, travels similar territory, invites us to think our deepest motivations and how we can be more of who we really want to be. This is more than a simplistic self help book, but it is exceptionally practical. There are good chapters here, explaining how to assess our natural decision-making styles, gaining tools to define our own philosophy of choice, and even how to engage a team or group with targeted discussion questions. This really is fascinating.
Check out www.yesornobook.com and come back and order this from us. After you ponder the decision, of course. It could shape your life forever, after all. Ha-ha. But, I don’t think I’m kidding — Jeff makes a strong case about how decisions have huge implications, and how to make them well. Do consider this; I trust this guy a lot, and admire his energy and insight, his storytelling and his clear teaching. I am sure there are those who would benefit greatly from this visionary, but wise assistance.
Red Brown Yellow Black White: Who’s More Precious in God’s Sight? A Call for Diversity in Christian Missions and Ministry Leroy Barber with Velma Maia Thomas (Jericho) $26.99 I have been with Leroy on several occasions and just love him — he’s real, funny, dynamic, caring, and a true leader, bringing together folks to care about racial justice, wholistic ministry, urban renewal and more. He told riveting short stories of urban youth and how Mission Year communities work for renewal in their lives and in their neighborhoods in the creative small book,New Neighbor, and then wrote a more general book which I adored called Every Day Missions. (If you haven’t used that in your small group or book club, it works really well.)
In this new RBYBW, Barber examines racial issues, especially within US ministries, and the implications of our racial dysfunctions upon who ends up taking up mission projects, domestically and globally. I think this may end up being a much-discussed, very significant book as it brings some things together about multi-cultural diversity and racism and missions that no other book has yet done. If you are in any para-church organization or mission agency, especially, it is simply a must-read — the sooner, the better, too. As Jim Wallis says, “It is the start of a much-needed conversation on diversity in missions leadership from a man who has lived out these ideas in his own life in an exemplary way.” Ground-breaking, yes, but with practical, action-oriented solutions. Let’s spread the word on this so the those who need to grapple with it learn about it.
Loving Our Enemies: Reflections on the Hardest Commandment Jim Forest (Orbis) $20.00 Those of us who have been involved in peacemaking ministries or anti-war activism know well the name of this author; he was an international leader of Fellowship of Reconciliation, a long-standing, vivid activist and advocate for nonviolent resistance, and wrote what some still think are the best biographies of both Dorothy Day (All Is Grace: A Biography of Dorothy Day) and Thomas Merton (Living with Wisdom: A Life of Thomas Merton.) I met Forest years ago, and admire his courage and depth and ecumenicity. He is now an Orthodox Christian (and has written a few good books on icons, too), living in the Netherlands. I am sure this will be very, very moving, insightful, a mixture of deep spirituality, Biblical study, and a bit of savvy public theology. Rowan Williams says it is “a statement of the gospel challenge and the gospel hope so clear that it is frightening; this is real, this is possible, this cannot be written off…” Even if one isn’t drawn to the bigger social issues of the day, all of us must learn to forgive, after all, and this certainly is a very helpful guide.
Occupied Territories: The Revolution of Love From Bethlehem to the Ends of the Earth Garth Hewitt (IVP) $16.00 This surely deserves a more substantive review, but for now you may know that Hewitt was a British evangelical folk/rock singer, doing thoughtful, engaging Christian music with friends of his such as the late Mark Heard and other socially conscience faith-based troubadours. (Has he ever played with Bruce Cockburn? I wonder.) Hewitt has worked for the Micah Trust traveling all over the world as a storyteller and advocate for just solutions to some of the world’s most grueling problems, and has written widely, and beautifully, including liturgical resources for peace and justice. I have a friend who knows him well, who worked on this manuscript a bit, and who assures me it is one of the best books in many a year!
If you were inspired by our program last month with Jeremy Courtney and his book Preemptive Love, or have any interest in the tragedies unfolding in the Middle East, this would be a very useful, very poignant, very important follow-up. Highly recommended. A beautiful cover design too — this is a very special book.
Overrated: Are We More in Love With the Idea of Changing the World Than Actually Changing the World? Eugene Cho (Cook) $15.99 I could hardly put this down, and could hardly stop grinning, so glad to hear an evangelical leader say this mature, wise, honest stuff about the recent rhetoric about changing the world, transforming the culture, serving the poor, et cetera, et cetera. (And, might I add, honest about his own foibles and lifestyle, motivations and family life.) The subtitle — Are We More in Love With the Idea of Changing the World Than Actually Changing the World? — says it all, but you will want to be warned that the author (who not only is a pastor but the visionary founder of One Day’s Wages) does in fact, want to change the world. His organization works to alleviate extreme global poverty and Cho does want to recruit us to make choices in our own lives to be more giving and active, more Christ-centered and faithful in our service to others. There’s a cool foreword by Donald Miller, too, but listen to these blurbs on the back, with which I heartily concur:
I read every word and pondered what I read. Overrated challenged and chastised me, inspired and energized me. I highly recommend it. Lynne Hybels
Eugene Cho shatters all our hipster coffee-shop talk of justice and dares you to dive into the trenches and do something real with your life. Shane Claiborne
I encourage all believers to read Overrated. John Perkins
Called: The Crisis and Promise of Following Jesus Today Mark Labberton (IVP) $16.00 This compact hardback is a gem — a small book elegantly written and exceptionally thoughtful and deeply moving about “first things.” It is not a rehash of the doctrine of vocation and calling, nor is it particularly about the interface of faith and the work-world as are many books with the word “called” or “calling” in the title. This really is about how to live as followers of Jesus, written by a hero of many, a long-standing Presbyterian pastor (at the storied and vital First Presbyterian Church (USA) in Berkley, CA), active ministry leader (having served with the John Stott Ministries and more recently as a Fellow of the International Justice Mission) and who is now the President of Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena. Blurbs on the back are from very respected writers, Andy Crouch, Soong-Chan Rah, Gary Haugen, Ruth Haley Barton, who all rave, recommending it to one and all.
As Andy Crouch puts it, “Too often we settle for a ‘calling’ that is really just sanctified individualism, paddling in the shallows of the self. This book pursues the deeper questions of flourishing, sacrifice, community and transformation that are the heart of the Christian life.”
The Pilgrim’s Regress – Wade Annotated Edition C.S. Lewis; edited and introduced by David C. Downing (Eerdmans) $25.00 Wow! C.S. Lewis fans have been wishing for a volume like this for decades, and when word was out that this was in the making, it has been eagerly anticipated. It is a needed book, and will help enhance many a perplexed reader.
As Alan Jacobs (author of The Narnian: The Life and Imagination of C.S. Lewis) says, “Among all of C.S. Lewis’s books, the one most in need of annotation is The Pilgrim’s Regress, which fairly bristles with allusions to writers and ideas, some ancient, some recent, some famous, some obscure. It takes a learned and discerning scholar to tease out all these references. Fortunately, David Downing is just such a scholar, and this book is an outstanding contribution to Lewis studies.”
Lewis’s allegory, a nod to Pilgrim’s Progress, of course, is the first book Lewis wrote after becoming a Christian and some appreciate it as a personal window into his own journey “from cynical atheist to joyous believer” (as Devin Brown puts it.) Brown continues, “It is no exaggeration to say that David Downing’s superb annotations allow those of us who do not share Lewis’s vast philosophical, literary, and linguistic background to understand and enjoy this classic work in a way that was not possible before. A must for all Lewis fans.”
Lewis himself, it is interesting to note, wrote later in his life of the “needless obscurity” of this early fiction about important ideas. Later, he added notes and a new preface; Dr. Downing happily uses these, and has done even more, explaining it all, making it accessible, clarifying and opening it up for us all.
As the preface tells us,
This edition of The Pilgrim’s Regress, produced in collaboration with the Marion E. Wade Center of Wheaton College, contains nearly five hundred page notes, including definitions of unusual terms, translations from a half-dozen foreign languages, identifications of key characters, and cross-references to other works by C.S. Lewis…. Lewis’s own handwritten notes in an early edition of Pilgrim’s Regress are set in boldface in this edition…
In a fascinating introduction Downing invites us to revisit “Lewis’s inaugural work of prose fiction and to see it with new eyes.”
Apart from its intellectual acuity and spiritual perceptivity, Regress also reveals the imaginative vitality and sparkling prose that would eventually make Lewis an author of worldwide renown. Despite its limitations, which Lewis himself recognized, The Pilgrims Regress remains a seminal text for readers of Lewis — a rollicking satire on modern cultural fads, a vivid account of contemporary spiritual dangers, and an illuminating tale for a whole new generation of pilgrims.
Three cheerios for this large project, this good work, for David Downing’s dedication, and for Eerdmans’ lovely new slightly over-sized, hardback edition at such a reasonable price. By the way, Eerdmans has also re-issued the excellent collection of Lewis essays (often over-looked) Christian Reflections in a paperback with new cover art, matching this new edition of Pilgrim’s Regress. They look nice together…
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