I hope you saw our last BookNotes post — they are all archived here at the website, of course. Some have subscribed and get them coming into their inbox each week, others just click through to the website from twitter or facebook. The formatting is always a little ragged when it goes out via email, but if you click on the top headline, it will take you to the somewhat nicer viewing on the real page.
Last time I told you about my affection for Brian Walsh, his books co-authored with Richard Middleton (Transforming Vision, Truth Is Stranger Than It Used to Be), Steve Bouma-Predigar (Beyond Homelessness) and Sylvia Keesmaat, (Colossians Remixed.) I think these are stunningly important, well-written, passionate and wise.
But, per usual, that was the set up, the background, helping you realize a bit of the backstory of the three new ones I told you about.
I explained about an important, if lesser known book that had been out of print and has just been newly reprinted in an updated version, Subversive Christianity: Imaging God in Dangerous Times (Wipf & Stock) and a newly re-issued set of daily readings for Advent (co written with three others, including Richard and Sylvia) called Advent of Justice. I closed with a summary of the brand new St. John Before Breakfast, homilies, reflections and some liturgies that have emerged from Brian’s work with a campus community at the University of Toronto. It is provocative, powerful, and generative. Again, it isn’t terribly well known (self-published as it is by their little Wine Before Breakfast worshiping community) which makes my short review so important. We need to help get the word out about it, and these other rich resources. I sincerely hope you were pleased to hear about these remarkable books, although the pleasure was mine to get to write about them a bit.
You can read or re-read it here; perhaps you could pass it on or share the news…
Between chasing a chipmunk out of the store today — you should have seen the little rascal scurrying and literally jumping off of a big stack of Old Testament texts, doing a little flip — and packing our rented van to head to our next venture (speaking and selling books at a symposium on faith, vocation, and work for college students at Montreat College in North Carolina) and getting ready for our evening with Chris Smith (author of Slow Church) next Friday, November 7th, I realized a ton of great new books have arrived.
They are the kind of books that I simply cannot not tell you about. Beth and I will be on the road, and if I don’t post something now about them, I’ll be thinking about it non-stop for the next nine hours as we drive down the edge of the now snowy Appalachians.
So, then. Here ya go: we list the regular price. We’ll deduct the BookNotes sale discount of 20% off if you order them from us. The order form page is secure — just type in what you want. Easy.
The Way of Tea and Justice: Rescuing the World’s Favorite Beverage From It’s Violent History Becca Stevens (Jericho Books) $22.00 Maybe you know the deep, profound, tender, feisty writings of this strong woman, who has given us lovely, thoughtful, good books in the past. Her own memoir, called Thistle was powerful and wonderfully written. Here she tells the story of her cafe and soap-making business that employs former prostitutes and addicts, giving them a new lease on life. Who knew this work with Thistle Farms and the Thistle Stop Cafe would end up not only being central to new stories and new lives for countless woman who have been abused, trafficked, silenced, but has become part of an astonishing movement to bring freedom and fair wages to women producers worldwide where tea and trafficking are linked by oppression and the opiate wars. As it says on the inside cover, “in this journey of triumph for impoverished tea laborers, hope for cafe workers, and insight into the history of tea, Becca sets out to defy the odds and prove that love is the most powerful force for transformation on Earth.”
Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God Timothy Keller (Dutton) $26.95 I probably don’t need to tell you that Tim is a thoughtful and articulate spokesperson for historic, Reformed faith, and is situated in Manhattan doing successful ministry with some of the world’s leading artists, financiers, designers, movers and shakers, along with the ordinary, forgetaboutit New Yawkers. Skeptic, seeker, struggler — anyone wanting a mature, no-nonsense, theologically mature exploration on the meaning and practice of Christian prayer will find this exceptionally valuable. Given that Tim’s own wife and he himself have suffered serious health issues (not to mention the stress of such a high-profile, demanding leadership calling) it should not come as a surprise that they have learned to practice daily prayer, and have considered its meaning, carefully, deeply. What might be surprising is how it didn’t come naturally, and how he has had to ponder, think, study, and obey the commands (and take in the promises) of the God of the Bible. Rev. Keller, as you might guess, is not fully comfortable with some of the more subjective mysticism floating around out there, and he does a good job distinguishing Christian spirituality that is wise and grounded from more trendy sorts of fascination with the inner life. More should be said, but this is an important book, a rare substantive contribution to a field that is loaded with titles, some good, some less so. Agree with all his conclusions or not, take up all his suggestions or not, this is very higly recommended.
Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More — Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist Karen Swallow Prior (Nelson) $24.99 Oh my, where to begin? I want to read this because I don’t know much about the remarkable woman who came alongside William Wilberforce in his on-going struggle against slavery (perhaps you recall her small role in the film Amazing Grace.) I am sure such a valiant woman’s story will be very, very valuable to many, and I for one need to know more about this era, and her role. Secondly, Karen Swallow Prior is the smart and sassy author — her first book was a memoir about influential books in her life — and I think I’d line up to buy whatever book she had on offer after that brilliant debut. And, then there are these magnificent, ebullient blurbs: sometimes you pick up a book just because so many people you really respect rave about it. From the foreword by Eric Metaxas (whose earlier book on Wilberforce was fantastic) to Richard Mouw to Mark Noll to Ann Voskamp to Leonard Sweet, many are insisting it is one of the best of the year. Sweet (who knows a thing or two about the Brits in this era, by the way) writes, “Here is that rarity of a book: scholarship of impeccable rigor that’s also a compulsive page-turner. Reading Karen Swallow Prior feels like a privilege.” Yes!
The Drama of Living: Becoming Wise in the Spirit David F. Ford (Brazos Press) $19.99
Again, with this release, Brazos shows themselves to be one of the most important presses in the North American religious publishing landscape. I’ve been waiting for this sequel to The Shape of Living for, oh, gee, maybe fifteen years. I read that book about the time my father died in car wreck (not realizing there was a chapter on death) and it took my breath away. Subtle, nuanced, deep, beautiful without being flamboyant, this wise, thoughtful theologian has given us practical theology and a spirituality of life itself. It isn’t simple, but it is eloquent.
Endorsements for the US edition are from the likes of Ellen Charry of Princeton, Geoffrey Wainwright of Duke, and the award-winning poet Micheal O’Siadhail (to whom the book is dedicated, by the way, and whose poems enhance the text.) In the acknowledgements he thanks (among many, many others) Rowan Williams, Richard Hays, Jean Vanier, Randi Raskover, (formerly of York College here – hey, hey) and the Irish Presbyterian mystic and Wild Goose songwriter John Bell. Kudos to Brazos editors Bob Hosack and Lisa Ann Cockrel for working on this project. I cannot wait to spend some slow, quiet time with this.
The ZimZum of Love: A New Way of Understanding Marriage Rob and Kristen Bell (HarperOne) $24.99 I suppose you know Bell’s pushing the boundaries, very creative, delightfully interesting and poetic writing style. I think you know he speaks to and for many, many people of diverse faith. I think he brings a lot of very helpful, Biblically-informed insight, and here he writes — perhaps almost like he did in that amazing little book on grief (Drops Like Stars) about a very personal, human situation: marriage. Tzimtzum is a Hebrew word, used at least in the Rabbinic traditions, as a way of getting at this energy of of creation. It’s about mutuality, and I suppose it is fair to say this new book includes a little sciency stuff, a little theology, a little self-help practical advise rooted in the deeper mysteries of grace, something built deep into the very fabric of the universe. There are some funny dialogues between Rob and his wife, and one I read touched me right away.
Do a google video search and you’ll find a number of promo video clips with Rob and Kristen talking about this “space between” a couple — big, wild, heart-breaking, sacred. He’s going on tour with Oprah, too.
Miracles: What They Are, Why They Happen, And How They Can Change Your Life Eric Metaxas
(Dutton) $27.95 I am sure you know: this guy is a way too talented follow, an amazing writer, a great conversationalists, a fabulously entertaining storyteller, funny as all get out (yes, it is true, he used to write for Veggie Tales) and his early books were very clever, straight one questions-and-replies for seekers and skeptics. This sort of brings all of this together in an amazingly energetic study and apologetic for that one-word title that has been appropriated by everybody from C.S. Lewis (always worth re-reading) to the smarmy tele-evangelist that is hardly worth watching for a moment. Yes, this topic has been done and redone, explored well, and poorly. This books has tons of fun and exemplary endorsements — from the hilarious Susan Isaacs and very smart actress to the artist Makoto Fujimura to the Daily Beast journalists Kirsten Powers.
Novelist Brett Lott says it has “the cool rain of intelligent truth.” This is storytelling, science, and a bit of journalistic magic: profound, curious, honest. As one author put it, “As a secular reader, I come to such books with a certain resistance. Metaxas won me over instantly by meeting me where I live. His intellectual honesty, coupled with an openhearted wonder at the sheer breadth of human experience, is irresistible.” You should buy two: one for yourself, and one to give to that person you are thinking of right now. You know who.
God’s Wider Presence: Reconsidering General Revelation Robert K. Johnston (Baker Academic) $25.99 Wow, I have got to get to this, and soon. Johnston is one of the premier faith and film scholars, having written widely about the common grace that comes to us through engagement with the arts, and specifically, the art of cinema. As Michael Frost says, “Johnston weaves a marvelously rich tapestry that opens up our understanding of how God’ whispers to us through nature, conscience, and culture. Who else could reference baroque art, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Ingmar Bergman, C.S. Lewis, and Star Wars in such a scholarly and yet readable fashion. I thoroughly enjoyed every page.”
Richard Peace (who himself has a lovely book in hearing God’s voice in natural surroundings, among others, in service, in solitude and the like) says it is “seminal., one that greatly enlarges our understanding of the multiple ways in which God is present in the world.” Amos Young says this “reconsideration of general revelation moves the discussion light years beyond the sterile binaries” and says it is “a new starting point for twenty-first century theological reflection on important matters regarding the human experience of and encounter with God.”
I could cite other rave reviews and interesting observations about this brand new, fresh release. I think it is going to be much discussed, and you should know about it.
Rumours of Glory: A Memoir Bruce Cockburn (HarperOne) $28.99
I zipped through the more than 500 pages of this in a few days over a weekend — my friend Jeff blessed me generously by giving me an early manuscript that he somehow acquired, and I’ve hardly been happier all year. What a read! How fun to revisit old songs and earlier albums, learning about them all.
Although, truth be told, my musical hero comes across as I feared: Mr. Cockburn no longer calls himself a Christian (although he is very, very candid about the earnest and thoughtful faith he held for years) and he is a bit spicy in his language (nothing new there.) He’s an eccentric dude, we know, and I realized this more and more in this very revealing memoir. He is honest about a handful of romantic relationships that haven’t worked out. Like many artists, he’s got some issues; he is also a remarkably virtuous person in many ways. His narrations of making music, writing songs, preforming with other great musicians, his production of his many albums — I know each one by heart! — is fantastic and a must for true fans. If you are interested in popular music, or care at all about this telling of his tale, this really is a great book.
Cockburn’s well known lefty activism, his philanthropy, his reporting from all over the globe, his travel-based research and bearing witness to repression, war, poverty, ecological crisis, and more makes the book not just entertaining and a good read, it is riveting, vital, important, deeply moving at times. We need to hear this stuff — from the awful ways in which the US funded torturers and death squads in Central America to the way the “radium rain” came down after Chernobyl to the land mind issues in Cambodia and Africa… one really learns a lot from this, and his explanations are often first hand and come from solid research. This is first hand story-telling, with politics and prayer, romance and sex, fear and bravado, song-writing and art, mixed together in a life story of one of the more important pop singers of our time.
Jackson Browne (who appears in it, of course) says
This is the story of the development of one of the most astute and compelling songwriters in the English language. Bruce Cockburn’s journey, both as a musician and as a thinker, draws us with him into spiritual and political realms and becomes a chronicle of his engagement in the major issues of the past thirty years. Rumours of Glory is highly personal account by one whose quest for expression engages the most important social questions of our time.
Lewis Hyde, author of that amazing book on creativity and generosity, The Gift (which inspired Bruce’s great song of that same name) says “Cockburn gives us a finely-grained account of the ground from which he harvested some of the finest songs of his generation.”
I have written elsewhere about my appreciation for Cockburn, and I’ve reviewed at BookNotes Brian Walsh’s book Kicking at the Darkness: Bruce Cockburn and the Christian Imagination, but I might add here, for those reading along — I first discovered Brennan Manning through the liner notes of Cockburn’s Big Circumstance album, and I once gave Cockburn a bi-lingual collection of some Nicaraguan poetry, while back stage chatting with him, Sam Phillips and Mark Heard. Unforgettable. Not in the book, though.
Let us know if you are interested in the huge, autographed, numbered box set of CDs that go along with this (8 CDs, one an entire disc of previously unreleased or rare releases) and a video of concert footage, as well as a 90-some page booklet that is said to be beautiful. It retails for $149.99 but we will sell it on sale, for $20.00 less– $129.99, if you just have to have it. It, too, is called Rumours of Glory: Limited Edition Boxed Set.
Small Talk: Learning from My Children About What Matters Most Amy Julia Becker (Zondervan) $15.99 Becker writes about faith, family, and disability for parents.com, the New Yorker Times, The Christian Century, Huffington Post, etc. Her first book (A Good and Perfect Gift about “a little girl named Penny” was excellent, and widely admired. (It was named one of the Top Ten Religious Books of 2011 by Publishers Weekly.) This just came in today, so I haven’t yet read any of it, but we all know that sometimes God uses the smallest voices to teach us great truths. The three main parts of these essays are “Holding On” “Letting Go” and “Growing Up” and I think it looks very, very good. excellent writers I admire give rave reviews — women like Margot Starbuck, Rachel Marie Stone, Ellen Painter Dollar, Rebekah Lyons. Looking for a smart, entertaining,reminder of the joys and issues of parenting, by a beautiful, thoughtful writer. This looks fabulous!
Soul Feast: An Invitation to the Christian Spiritual Life Marjorie J. Thompson (Westminster/John Knox) $17.00 This newly revised, expanded, updated edition just came out, and I’m glad it did. It carries a new foreword by the always eloquent Barbara Brown Taylor (as well as the classic one by Henri Nouwen.) Whenever anyone asks about good primers on spiritual formation, or a handbook for deeper growth, this is always one of the first I think of. From the contemplative practices of meditation to the corporate practice of worship, from Bible study to prayer, this offers nuanced, wise insights and helpful, good advice. She worked for over a decade as the Director of Congregational Ministry with Upper Room Ministries. We recommend this as a tool for your work, or, as Taylor says, “a map to living water, along with a packing list of what you might need…”
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