Join us online to meet Gina Dalfonzo and Karen Swallow Prior as we celebrate the new book “The Gospel in Charles Dickens” (Plough Publishing) THIS TUESDAY – SEPTEMBER 22, 2020 at 7:30 PM

Our BookNotes posts are known for often lengthy reviews and diverse lists of books that we sell here at Hearts & Minds. We curate and suggest different sorts of authors and titles that we think our fairly unique readership would find helpful, or at least interesting. We help you cut through the noise of the gigantic publishing industry to focus on titles we are excited about and think you should know about. We are glad you sometimes share these lists with other book lovers and we’re glad for our readers interest in supporting indie bookstores like ours.

Especially during this time when we are still not open for in-store shopping, we are grateful for our many on-line and mail-order friends.

This time, though, we just want to quickly mention one main thing (and spin off a very few related items.) We want to invite you to sign up right away for an on-line author event this Tuesday, September 22, 2020. (You must pre-register, so click on that link asap.)

We hope you read about this event in our previous BookNotes or saw the announcement at our bookstore facebook page, but if not, please know you can join us (for free) for this virtual book launch party — okay it’s basically an interview with an author and I don’t think she’ll be wearing a party hat, but I suppose one never knows — for her brand new book, The Gospel in Dickens: Selections from His Works, compiled and edited by Gina Dalfanzo (and published by Plough Publishing House.) The Facebook Live event in this Tuesday, September 22, 2020, and I will be the host, allowing Gina to tell us about the book. We will be joined by a very special guest and conversation partner, Karen Swallow Prior who wrote the marvelous foreword to The Gospel in Dickens. 

Here is how Plough Publishing has described this event:

Spend an online evening with Gina, as she launches The Gospel in Dickens, her contribution to Plough’s Gospel in Great Writers series. She’ll be joined by Karen Swallow Prior, who wrote the book’s foreword, and Byron Borger of Hearts and Minds Bookstore, who hosts the discussion.


In spite of – or perhaps because of – his own failings, Dickens never stopped exploring the themes of sin, guilt, repentance, redemption, and restoration found in the gospel.


In some passages the Christian elements are explicit, in others implicit, but, as Dickens himself said, they all reflect his understanding of and reverence for the gospel.

Celebrate these timeless themes as discovered in the pages of a rich new anthology. All attendees will be entered in a drawing for 5 free books!

You can sign up here:

With these two splendid women, both practiced, wise, readers and writers, my job will be an easy delight as I invite them to talk about the spiritual and moral value of reading the great Charles Dickens. I might try to crack a joke about Mr. Dickens’s penchant for wacky names in many stories (Uncle Pumblechook? Paul Sweedlepipe? Martin Chuzzlewit? Wackford Squeers? The Old Testament characters in Judges or Haggai can’t beat these!) but mostly we’ll allow these thoughtful women to teach us the good stuff. As the publisher promises, in The Gospel in Dickens, Gina “teases out dozens of the most memorable scenes [in Dickens’ body of novels and short stories] to reveal the Christian vision and values that suffuse all his work.” Before each excerpt, by the way, she has a fabulous little introduction to that reading, explaining what book it is from, setting the stage of what is happening in the chosen scene, and a phrase or line about why religious theme is to be seen in this passage. These are brief (the point it to expose us to the real depth of Dickens’s many stories and lively characters,) but really helpful.  Her introduction to the whole volume, by the way, is also outstanding and very interesting.

And Dalfonzo is clearly the one to do this — she is editor of the popular Dickensblog. She also likes old movies and is a columnist at Christ and Pop Culture, so that’s pretty cool. She has been an editor at BreakPoint and Christianity Today. Her writing has appeared in the Atlantic, National Review, The Gospel Coalition, First Things, and Guideposts.

Sign up right away for this evening of literary analysis through the eyes of Christian faith. The good folks at Plough will be giving away some free autographed books, too. And we have some signed book plates so those that want to order these with Ms. Dalfonzo’s autograph can get them from us now or then. Would make a nice Christmas gift, yes?

As we noted in the last BookNotes that went out a week or so ago, The Gospel in Dickens: Selections from His Works edited by Gina Dalfonzo (Plough Publishing) sells regularly for $18.00 but OUR 20% off BookNotes SALE PRICE = $14.40.


Just so you know, this marvelous book, the release of which into the world we will celebrate on Tuesday night, The Gospel in Dickens: Selections from His Works, is part of a series of other such titles done by Plough.  We stock all of these, which include:

We’ve said it before at BookNotes, but Gina Dalfonzo has authored other books, which are, of course, always available here at Hearts & Minds. We are impressed with her good writing and salute her for One by One: Welcoming the Singles in Your Church (Baker Publishing; $16.00) which  s so good on this topic that it is nearly is one-of-a-kind and deserves to be known among church folks, for sure.

Her very recent Dorothy and Jack: The Transforming Friendship of Dorothy L. Sayers and C. S. Lewis is also published by Baker ($16.99.)

Dorothy and Jack just came out mid-August and it is simply a great read, exploring not only good stuff about the extraordinary Dorothy Sayers (see the above Plough volume to dip into a great anthology of her various writings) and the well known C.S. Lewis (who is, II’m afraid, very well known but not read as much as he should be.) But more importantly, this is a study of the relationship of the two, their friendship.

We need really good books on friendship. (I loved Wesley Hill’s good volume, Spiritual Friendship, which includes a wonderful postscript chapter which reviews various friendships in novels. The brand new Friendship: The Heart of Being Human by Victor Lee Austin is excellent.) I think we especially need good models of men and women who are friends, and Gina’s study of Saint Dorothy and Saint Jack really does open up their relationship in a way that models how brothers and sisters in Christ can also be good pals.


What a great move to have Gina’s book on Dickens carry an astute foreword by Dr. Karen Swallow Prior. Prior is Research Professor of English and Christianity and Culture at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. We stock all three of her books, including the memoir Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me (T.S. Poetry Press), Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More — Poet, Reformed, Abolitionist (Thomas Nelson) and the exceptionally relevant On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life through Great Books (Brazos Press.) We appreciate one she co-edited, as well (with Josh Chatraw) called Cultural Engagement: A Crash Course in Contemporary Issues

On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life through Great Books (Brazos Press) sells regularly for $19.99 but at our 20% off price for our BookNotes readers, it is just $15.99. We named it one of the Best Books of 2018 and enjoyed  hosting Karen here at the store when the book first released that fall.

If you are not familiar with that stellar book, it basically opens with an excellent chapter or two about how reading well written and profound literature can help us grow in Christian virtue. She talks a bit about virtue theory, faith formation, discipleship and growing in one’s faith by way of reading fiction. And then she dives right in, doing a series of excellent book reflections, each novel (or short story) connected to a particular Christian virtue. I say all this to tell you (or remind you if you forgot) that she has a chapter dedicated there to Dickens’s masterpiece, A Tale of Two Cities. That’s the one that starts with those famous words, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” Do you know what virtue she says we can gain as we spend time reading Tale of Two Cities? 


By the way, Plough Publishing is one of the most interesting indie publishing ventures we’ve seen in our almost 40 years of bookselling and we’ve stocked most of their books since they started publishing. They are firmly planted in the intentional Anabaptist faith communities called The Bruderhof and their books and beautiful journal The Plough Quarterly journal are a true delight and a challenge to both hearts and minds. We thank them for their work and witness in the world, for those who have visited here to our bookstore, and for their willingness to allow us to host their virtual book launch event celebrating Gina’s The Gospel in Dickens. Vielen Dank.



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