Thanks to those who ordered that marvelously enjoyable Stories of My Life by the great children’s writer and advocate for literacy, Katherine Paterson. What a joy to also send out books like her Great Gilly Hopkins and Bridge to Terabithia and Jacob Have I Loved. Not to mention our friend’s great book that we featured again last week, Square Halo Books’ recent Wild Things and Castles in the Sky which we can’t say enough about.
This BookNotes is going to be a relatively rapid-fire listing of 12 new books we got into the store here within the last week or so. (Or in some cases, just yesterday!) I will try not to say much about them, other than that we ordered them months ago because we knew they’d be of interest to you, our peeps. We are glad you are so supportive of our efforts here at Hearst & Minds as we craft a somewhat different sort of Christian bookstore. Enjoy these varied new releases – and send us an order, soon. We are eager to serve, happy to help.
Be sure to scroll thru to the end where you will find the secure “order” links. We are glad for your commitment to support small business. We’ll be sure to follow up personally. It’s what we do.
Reorganized Religion: The Reshaping of the American Church and Why It Matters Bob Smietana (Worthy) $27.00 OUR SALE PRICE = $21.60
You may (or should) know Bob Smietana as one of the most respected writers on the religion beat. He is currently a national reporter for the wire service Religion News Service. Blurbs on the back include raves from the Washington Post religion writer Sarah Pulliam Bailey and the important Ryan Burge (author of The Nones.) He’s been at this for decades and this is his description of our times, skillfully helping us see the trends, get the picture, understand the data, and sense our place in these complicated and serious times. A key concern is why people are leaving the church and what we might wisely do about it.
This is brand new and important. Don’t miss it.
Low Anthropology: The Unlikely Key to a Gracious View of Others (and Yourself) David Zahl (Brazos Press) $26.99 OUR SALE PRICE = $21.59
Oh my, I’d like to tell you a lot about this – I’m part way through and find it a hoot and a half. The cover is weirdly funny and the title may be a bit obscure. Anthropology means a view of the human person (not necessarily cultural anthropology which studies, at least in our mind’s eye, rare tribes and far away people groups.) This, rather, is asking what we should think of ourselves, and other members of the pretty stupid (and grand) human race. It has been called perceptive, funny, subversive, nourishing. Zahl’s father, Paul, was a sober-minded and thoughtfully gospel-centered Episcopalian theologian (you should order his old Eerdmans book that we keep on hand, Grace in Practice: A Theology of Everyday Life.) David founded the uber-cool Mockingbird Ministries and is the chief editor of the “Mockingbird” blog. Not long ago he wrote (and then expanded in the paperback version) the deep but really great Seculosity: How Career, Parenting, Technology, Food, Politics, and Romance Became Our New Religion and What to Do about It.) We’re fans.
This excellent, witty new study of human nature and how it influences our expectations (from friendship to work to politics to marriage) is a thoughtfully Christian study, but is deeply human and humane. It is liberating, really, to, well (and this is a bit simple) lower our expectations. As an old comedy album from 1971 put it, “We’re All Bozos on This Bus.” Do I hear an Amen to that?
And – dang, I like this! – this may be the only book on which Nadia Bolz-Weber and Mike Cosper both have endorsements. Nadia says “This is the book I have been waiting for: an antidote to all the self-help nonsense that weighs down our bookshelves and our self-regard.”
Liturgical Mission: The Work of the People for the Life of the World Winfield Bevins (IVP) $20.00 OUR SALE PRICE = $16.00
Allow me to quickly say that I admire this author a lot. He is passionate about how evangelical and sacramental worldviews overlap and is convinced that many of our youngest, postmodern rising adults are drifting not from true faith but from a consumeristic and entertainment model of worship and church life. We really liked his book called Ever Ancient Ever New: The Allure of Liturgy for a New Generation And think he’s mostly right. We can hope so.
This new one now takes the author out and broadens it not just to a “new generation” but to all of us longing to reclaim ancient practices for everyday life and mission. As a Wesleyan, he gets a warm-hearted friendship with God, he preaches the gospel, and he has a robust cultural analysis and social engagement. He cares about reaching the world and he cares about congregational life. He knows that worship is formative and vital.
In this book he is, writing from his seat as director of the Center for Church Multiplication at Asbury Theological Seminary, showcasing his passion for mission and for a wholistic, missional mindset. We’ve got a million books on being contextualized and missional these days, but this is really fresh, bringing a liturgical awareness of the work of the people, for the sake of the world.
There is a lovely forward by Justo Gonzalez which should be greatly valued.
Christine Pohl weighs in, saying,
Rejecting common bifurcations of sacraments and justice, ancient creeds and current relevance, worship and mission, Bevins argues persuasively for a fresh integration of them in contemporary church life.
That’s really it, eh? No bifurcations! If only we could say it in Latin or something. What an invitation this must be. Can’t wait to study it and spread its wisdom.
God Is Mallory Wyckoff (Eerdmans) $21.99 OUR SALE PRICE = $17.59
I heard from our great Eerdmans sales rep that we’d like this, and he got me some early pages. Wow. I knew of Mallory from her work at Preemptive Love (which is high praise in my book, especially given some of their recent struggles.) Her DMin is from Lipscomb University (in “missional spiritual formation”) and she has done an advanced dissertation on the impact of sexual trauma on survivors theological perceptions and spirituality. Anyway, she is a young and rising star in Kingdom work and has been called “a trusted voice for people seeking to navigate their spirituality with curiosity, honesty, and courage.”
There are fabulous endorsements, too – Ian Morgan Cron, the great author (and, now, enneagram guru) says, “I urge you to accept my friend Mallory’s invitation to expand the ways you think about the Divine and live into a better, truer, story.” From Richard Beck to Catherine Meeks, wise people have noted that this study of the nature of God written out of the author’s own experience is (as Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove puts it) “something both beautiful and disorienting.” This is authentic stuff, poignant and helpful.
Strength for the Fight: The Life and Faith of Jackie Robinson Gary Scott Smith (Eerdmans) $24.99 OUR SALE PRICE = $19.99
Yes! This is the second book written by a friend and customer on the great Jackie Robinson. (I reviewed Michael Long’s 2017 Jackie Robinson: A Spiritual Biography commending it heartily. Now he commends this one, saying it is “meticulously researched” and both “insightful and uplifting.” Further, Mike says “Strength for the Fight situates Robinson’s faith in wider society and culture as no other book does. It’s a significant contribution not only to our understanding of Robinson but also the growing field of religion and sports.”
Gary is an excellent and esteemed historian, now retired from years teaching college. (He did two massive volumes about the faith of American Presidents published by Oxford University Press which indicates his sophistication.) He happens to have a Christian passion for the poor and underserved and has done good work in personal service in multicultural settings in Western PA. In any case, it makes sense for him to tackle this icon; it stands as one of the best in the prestigious Library of Religious Biographies that Eerdmans happily continues to publish. This one is surely a must-read. Congrats, Gary!
Practice of the Presence: A Revolutionary Translation Brother Lawrence; translated by Carmen Acevedo Butcher (Broadleaf) $25.99 OUR SALE PRICE = $20.79
It brings me great joy to recommend this, a fresh and inviting translation of this beloved classic. I have gotten a lot of mileage using the basic storyline of Nicholas Herman, better known as Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection, and his learning to pray while doing the dishes. His experience buying communion wine – exchanging filthy lucre, as they say, with heathens, no less, outside the walls of the French monastery yields a cosmic sense of oneness that rivals the famous passage of his vision in St. Louis told in Thomas Merton’s memoir. In any case, it preaches well, but I have to admit I haven’t truly adored the little book. Like many classics in the Renovare handbooks, I’m sort of like Jana Riess in her fun Flunking Sainthood. Yup; that’s me. But this handsome compact hardback with an excellent introduction to the life of Brother L, well, it just might be the book to bring his “spirituality of the ordinary” into our day and age. So far, I’m loving it and you just might as well.
Richard Rohr assures us that it is a “careful, comprehensive translation” and that it “beautifully captures Brother Lawrence.” Others who pile on the praise include the staid and deep Martin Laird and the lovely Barbara Brown Taylor and even Jamie Smith, who colorfully notes that to get this book you just have to “imagine Mr. Rogers as a mystic.” Exactly.
More of You: The Fat Girls Field Guide to the Modern World Amanda Martinez Beck (Broadleaf) $24.99 OUR SALE PRICE = $19.99
This is not brand, brand new, but I’ve not given it the shout out it deserves. Amanda Beck has written well about body image and weight issues and a spirituality of self-care in other books, including the very good Lovely: How I Learned to Embrace the Body God Gave Me. She is the co-creator and cohost of the “Fat and Faithful” podcast. She has received a lot of traction at her Instagram account which just indicates the remarkable need for resources like this. Beck’s passionate writing has been featured in various outlets, from the evangelical Christianity Today to the thoughtfully Jesuit America. Right on! It is an honor to care such vulnerable, thoughtful books.
A devotional author we like, Jessica Kantrowitz (365 Days of Peace) notes that,
Beck sets out to give the reader a knapsack of tools to navigate a world that is often unsafe and unjust for fat people. She emphasizes her signature line, “All bodies are good bodies.” This is a must-read for anyone with a body.
Elusive Grace: Loving Your Enemies While Striving for God’s Justice Scott Black Johnston (WJK) $19.00 OUR SALE PRICE = $15.20
The cover of this isn’t as classy as I’d wish – it really deserves to be an elegant hardback with deckled edge pages. With the lovely forward by Barbara Brown Taylor you are alerted that this is fully thoughtful and quite eloquent. Blurbs on the back are from great preachers such as Thomas Long and Cleophus LaRue, professor of homiletics at Princeton.
Yes, it is a bit provocative and yet delightful. (Barbara Brown Taylor asks, “In what other book can you find Lin Manuel Miranda and Ben Franklin in the same sentence?”) It is a sweet call to intentional patterns of Christian community that form us and it is about civic-minded, public life. It is about “reclaiming virtue” and “retraining our hearts.” There is a lot about the church and there are study lessons and discussion questions making it ideal for small groups, adult classes, book clubs and such within your church.
Elusive Grace is filled with hope-filled guidance and it’s rightfully critical of much going on in our polarized society. He brings a lot of voices into conversation with Holy Scripture, from Ta-Nehisi Coates to Emily Dickinson to Mister Rogers. I could go on with other fun pop culture examples, but you get the drift.
Scott Black Johnston is Senior Pastor of Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York City. In the PC(USA) that’s not too shabby.
Creating Cultures of Belonging: Cultivating Organizations Where Women and Men Thrive Beth Birmingham and Eeva Sallinen Simard (IVP) $20.00 OUR SALE PRICE = $16.00
This is brand new but we’ve been cheering for it for a year. As Mimi Haddad (President of CBE International) puts it, it is a “thoroughly researched, courageous critique of organizational practices and their impact on women and human flourishing. A must-read for women in Christian organizations.” I hate to admit it, but I know some who really need it, now.
The quote puts it clearly – it is a book inviting Christian organizations (from churches to mission agencies, nonprofits, schools, ministries, and parachurch groups) to reflect the diversity and justice of God’s Kingdom. Many of our best organizations desire to have women in positions of leadership, however this sometimes (for a variety of reasons explored here) sometimes proved difficult when the organizational culture is one that isn’t open. Sometimes the organizational culture silences women or even penalizes the unique giftings that women bring to the table. Obstacles are real, even in this day and age, and, sadly, a book like this is just what is needed – good data, important research, and lots of upbeat stories and solid guidance.
This guidebook is commended by organizational guru Tod Bolsinger and the wonderful writer and immigrant activist Karen Gonzales. (Karen has a new book coming in mid-October from Brazos which you can pre-order, naturally — Beyond Welcome: Centering Immigrants in Our Christian Response to Immigration. She serves as the human resource director at World Relief.)
Beth Birmingham is an NGO leadership and organizational consultant, development researcher, trainer and former college professor. She works with TearFund USA and is involved in the status-quo disrupting organization Christian Alliance for Inclusive Development. Eeva Sallinen Simard is director of an international health project at World Relief and has more than fifteen years of experience working with missional NGOs. She is co-convener of the Wheaton College Network Initiative for Development, Gender, and Christianity.
Bringing Up Kids When Church Lets You Down: A Guide for Parents Questioning Their Faith Bekah McNeel (Eerdmans) $26.99 OUR SALE PRICE = $21.59
This is a beautiful, complex, rare, and interesting book. I don’t often say loudly that there is no such book on the market but this seems true to me – there is simply nothing like this out there. It is a true story, an evangelical church woman who got burned out when hurt by a seriously toxic situation and simply drifted from church and, perhaps, from faith. She was, as they say, deconstructing.
I will write more about this in an upcoming BookNotes (eventually) about this very topic of those drifting from faith and deconstructing their older beliefs, for better or worse and will naturally name this. For now, know this: this combines her earnest grappling with what she and her husband believe and how all that changed when she had children.
As it says in the introduction:
This book is about the various places and ways that uncertainty shows up for parents who, having left or altered the faith they once knew, and now must decide what to give their kids. It’s about church attendance, Bible memorization, school choices, and sex talks. It’s about forging new paths in racial justice and creation-care while the intractable voices in your head call you a pagan Marxist for doing so.
I like the books of Cindy Wang Brandt (such as her lively, lefty Parenting Forward: How to Raise Children with Justice, Mercy, and Kindness.) Her long, good endorsement where she raves about this starts, “I’m biased because I wrote one, but I love parenting books. These books answer the question: where do we go from here as a human civilization?” Or, I might say, they at least try to. If you wonder, too, Bekah’s book, she says, is for you, mostly as stories to consider. I
Silencing White Noise: Six Practices to Overcome Our Inaction on Race Willie Dwayne Francois III (Brazos Press) $19.99 OUR SALE PRICE = $15.99
We have more books on racism and justice and multi-ethnic ministry and reconciliation and the like that it is hard to know what makes any new ones necessary. But this. This. Oh my, this is mature and solid and important. I hope to write about it more. I’ve had an advanced manuscript and have been waiting for this day when it arrives, as it did a day ago. Congrats to Dr. Francois (with a DMin from Candler) who is senior pastor of Mount Zion Baptist Church in Pleasantville NJ and seems boundlessly tireless. He teaches liberation theology at New York Theological Seminary and has created Public Love Organizing and its PLOT (Public Love Organizing Training) program, doing anti-racism work all the while teaching at Sing Sing Correctional Facility.
The rave endorsements on the back of this are from well known scholar activists, from Oberty Hendricks to Jennifer Harvey. Stephanie Paulsell of Harvard Divinity School says it is “an unflinching look at how the white noise of racism keeps us stalled out on the road to a true multiracial democracy and a call to cultivate practices that can get us moving.”
This is Biblical and theological but aimed at actionable steps. Kudos to Brazos, as always.
Necessary Christianity: What Jesus Shows We Must Be and Do Claude Alexander, Jr. (IVP) $16.00 OUR SALE PRICE = $12.80
Another brand new one that I’ve hardly looked at, but can assure you is solid, clear, poignant, and powerful, is this, Necessary Christianity. Bishop Claude Alexander, Jr. is the well-respected, black senior pastor of the Park Church in Charlotte NC and serves on the boards of numerous evangelical organizations (including the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities and IVCF.) This is, according to Mac Pier – who has written mighty books about prayer, by the way – “a brilliant exposition on the life of Jesus… by helping serious people of faith discover the “musts” of our followership of Jesus.” As Mac notes, Rev. Alexander helps us “live consequentially. Every major decision needs to be evaluated through the lens of Jesus’s musts on each of us.”
In other words, as Russell Moore puts it, this book is for you if you have trouble focusing on what really matters. This is about Christian maturity, about following Christ, about his cross and Kingdom. A few things are simply not optional, but necessary. This book explores what we do, day by day, and how to live with a sense of divine necessity, as he calls it. Nicely done.
There are six chapters and what looks to be a very good discussion guide in the back. Hooray.
A Hole in the World: Finding Hope in Rituals of Grief and Healing Amanda Held Opelt (Worthy) $27.00 OUR SALE PRICE = $21.60
This came out a bit ago and I’ve mentioned it before but I just have to announce it again. It is, quite simply, a beautiful walk through 12 different grief practices. Amanda is the bereaved sister of the late Rachel Held Evans so it starts with her coping with that sudden loss. She writes well, includes some humor, and the book feels like a clever cross between a memoir of sorrow and an anthropologist’s survey of what might seem like oddball practices to the uninitiated.
There is so much here – it’s a great read. From fairly common habits (sending cards) to the nearly superstitious (covering mirrors) to the nearly amusing (see “funeral games” – who knew?) to the beautiful (like coping with fear through “telling the bees”), there is something here for everyone. Join Amanda as she sits shiva or as she takes in the beauty of funeral food. You will laugh, I bet, and you may cry. It’s a great book.
The fine writer Jen Pollock Michel says it “invites us to put our aching bodies in motion, to glimpse at the surviving we can all do.” Other fine raves on the back are from Sarah Bessey, Jeff Chu, Michael Card, and K.J. Ramsey, all authors we’ve commended here. Trust us – A Hole in the World is well worth having.
The Other Side of Hope Danielle Strickland (Nelson) $18.99 OUR SALE PRICE = $15.19
Oh my, there’s a lot to explain about this but I promised I’d keep it quick. I’ve read several books by this heroic and outspoken leader who has worked against trafficking for the Salvation Army in Canada and has served in a large church (which she left in solidarity with abuse victims that were not being taken seriously until their pastor was arrested.) She doesn’t always do the courageous and heroic thing, according to this fabulous read (which is nearly like a memoir, each chapter telling about episodes of her journey.) But, wow, how God has shown up, claimed and empowered her. I still recall her fabulous talk at the CCOs Jubilee conference a few years back and appreciated her podcast with the ever-upbeat Bob Goff. Diana gets around and is an author you should know.
Here’s the fun thing: half of this book is stories of her slowly finding hope in her ragged, rugged situations. It is hard to put down and I kept saying to myself “I’ll just read one more” and on and on I went, turning pages, until…
Well, until you have to turn the book over and start over from the back, with an upside-down new start. The designers imagined this way to get to “the other side” of hope and the second half is described as “flipping the script on cynicism and despair and rediscovering our humanity.” I suppose we could say we start with stories and then get to the theory, but even this second section is laden with examples and stories of folks she’s met on her walk on the wild side. What hard won hope! Flipping the script, for real.
If the front of the book sort of looks like a classy museum painting, the back is the backside, the dirty canvas, the wooden frame and wires. Cheers to Hannah McNeilly for this original package design. And thanks to the candor and hope of this broken servant of the Lord, Danielle Strickland. Buy it today if you like good stories, hard stuff redeemed by a God who is there.
Following Jesus in a Digital Age Jason Thacker (B+H) $12.99 OUR SALE PRICE = $10.39
Jason Thacker is an amazing young scholar and this recent, compact book, while succinct, is weighty, full of substance and a bit of gravitas. It is a fine companion to one of our favorite reads of this year, The Life We’re Looking For: Reclaiming Relationship in a Technological Age by the remarkable Andy Crouch. Jason Thacker isn’t as charmingly eloquent but he’s solid and exceptionally sharp.
His first book (The Age of AI) carried an excellent forward by Richard Mouw, by the way, and this new one is less specific and looks at the broader scope of our technological age. He heads the ERLC Research Institute, researching technology and its impact. He is no Luddite but he is worried and here he calls God’s people to “step into the challenges of the digital age from a place of hope and discernment.” It’s a good perspective, a helpful way to lean into all of this, since most of us are nearly like the proverbial fish in water asking, “what’s water?”
Thacker invites us to pursue wisdom, truth, responsibility, and identity in our post-truth, curated, polarized age. Highly recommended.
In the Shadow of His Wings: 40 Uplifting Devotions Inspired by Birds Rosylnn Long (Bethany Publishing) $17.99 OUR SALE PRICE = $14.39
This doesn’t take much to describe but I wish I could put it into your hands to open it and gaze at the beautiful, full-color pictures. It isn’t overly artful or eccentric, just solid faith-building devotions illustrated with wonderful, inspiring photos. One friend of the store recently said she read through three or four devotionals straight through — they were that good. Designed for a 40-day journey, maybe you, too, will breeze through, and then come back to ponder. But half the fun is enjoying the photography.
Rosylnn Long’s photography has been featured in Birds and Blooms magazine, Minnesota Weatherguide calendars, and other Minnesota publications. (So you can guess where she’s from.) She loves God and God’s creation and her study of birds has given her this unique opportunity to dwell with God in His creation, observing. Check out her prints at lynnlongprintscom. This handsome hardback makes a nice gift, eh? Order one today.
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