The Doxology Conference, Books about books, the forthcoming Wendell Berry short story collection, Pádraig Ó Tuama, “A Century of Poetry: 100 Poems for Searching the Heart” by Rowan Williams and much more. 20% OFF

It was the first time I was at a bone fide big event in almost three years. (About 100 participants still seems like a “big” gig for me.) Before Covid, setting up book displays at conferences and gatherings was nearly a third of our business, and we have been immeasurably blessed by friendships solidified at these annual events. From UCC clergy retreats to Lutheran and Episcopalian Bishop’s convocations, from Christian Legal Society conferences to the Redeemer Center for Faith & Work events to the Wee Kirk (Scottish for “small church”) retreats, some of our best customers and favorite friends developed from our travelling roadshow. Shifting away from that these past years was painful — financially and relationally. And we remain wary, sad that it seems few care to wear masks indoors these days, all over.

So it was with a lot of hesitation that I got on a plane at BWI and headed to Western Michigan, to the lovely town of Holland, to take part in the inaugural Doxology gathering sponsored by our friends at The Eugene Peterson Center for the Christian Imagination. Inspired by Peterson’s gritty spirituality, Biblical theology, pastoral care, and appreciation for the arts, music, novels, and poetry, the Peterson Center is a haven and a blessedly fitting tribute to his gentle ongoing legacy.

Eugene was a loyal customer at Hearts & Minds and we had numerous conversations over the years, firstly in our  First Presbyterian Church of York parking lot (and later via fax or phone, and at locations as diverse as St. Mary’s Ecumenical Institute at the famous Baltimore seminary and at Wee Kirk at the Western Pennsylvania Laurelville Mennonite Retreat Center. He and Jan were always gracious when I popped in to their Pittsburgh Theological Seminary apartment to hand deliver an order and even in their fruitful retirement years in Montana as we sent them books and greetings from back East.

There was no hagiography at the Doxology event — they knew Peterson’s aversion to such hoopla and were intentional about not invoking his name too often. (He didn’t even like conferences, we were told, so, well, there was that. Ha.)

I had the immense pleasure of meeting and hanging out a bit with one of Eugene and Jan’s grown children, Eric Peterson, who I had spoken with on the phone but never encountered face to face. I really appreciate him a lot, for a bunch of reasons. You may recall that I reviewed two books he released just a few years ago — Letters to a Young Pastor: Timothy Conversations Between Father and Son (which was the publication of a set of letters between Eric and his dad) and Letters to a Young Congregation: Nurturing the Growth of a Faithful Church (remarkably wise Peterson-esque wisdom for any sort of congregation.) He’sa PC(USA) pastor, a very good writer and powerful storyteller. You can see my reviews of those two here. Both sell for $19.99 each and are still at our BookNotes 20% off, making either one $15.99.

One of the leaders of this Peterson Center is Winn Collier, a dear friend and fine customer of ours. I really hope you know his marvelous biography of Eugene, A Burning in My Bones: The Authorized Biography of Eugene H. Peterson (Waterbrook). We may be one of the only places that still have a few of the spanking new hardbacks in stock ($28.00 – OUR SALE PRICE = $22.40) as well as the recent paperbacks ($20.00 – OUR SALE PRICE = $16.00.) Beth and I both found it tender and bold, funny and inspiring, a page-turned we didn’t want to end. It’s a great story of a very good church leader, a colorful character in his own right, and in the telling of the life, we learn a whole lot about a whole lot of vital, human stuff. We highly recommend it.

Enjoy these two great endorsements, richly written as they would need to be to blurb this masterpiece:

How do you reduce into words the vital reality of this man, scholar, searcher, teacher, and faithful friend? Eugene was a man who brought Scripture to fresh life for me and millions of others–who else would invite the phrase Holy Luck into a retelling of the Beatitudes? Winn Collier’s skilled storytelling weaves the threads of Eugene’s life into something fitting, like the prayer shawl he wore in his study every day. — Luci Shaw, Regent College writer-in-residence and author of The Generosity poems

I knew Eugene Peterson for thirty years, or at least I thought I did. He didn’t talk much, especially about himself. I knew nothing about his mouse tattoo, his Pentecostal mother’s radio program, the abysmal failure of his first church plant attempt, his friendship with a young Pat Robertson, or his square dancing prowess. Somehow Winn Collier ferreted out the little known facts about Eugene that, taken together, complete the picture of a humble, gentle giant who brought the Bible to new life for millions and became an inspirational model for beleaguered pastors everywhere. — Philip Yancey, author of Where the Light Fell

I hope you also know Winn for his tremendous novel (in fictional letters) called Love Big Be Well: Letters to a Small-Town Church (Eerdmans; $17.99 OUR SALE PRICE = $14.39.) This small story has garnered amazing raves from the likes of Robert Benson, Corban Addison, Mandy Smith, Karen Wright Marsh.

A.J Swoboda said of Love Big Be Well,

Shatters all of our idolatrous addictions to big and growing and oversized franchised Christianities. Faithfulness absolutely must become the church’s new big. What Collier pens here is nothing short of miraculous. These letters demand to be read.

Pastor Peterson himself said about this story of the fictional pastor Jonas McAnn and his little church:

This book is a tour de force — an angle on understanding the life of both congregation and pastor that exceeds anything I have ever read. No directions, no programs, just an immersion into what really takes place in the life of a congregation and a pastor. Winn Collier’s writing is alive.

Under the guidance of Winn and his colleague Sam Gutierrez, the Doxology conference was a time for laughter and praise, song and poetry, anguished storytelling and quiet hope. I was honored to meet Samuel Wells (rector of St. Martin’s-in-the-Fields in London and author of over 40 books!) and the young, black, New York poet/pastor Drew Jackson, author of God Speaks Through Wombs: Poems on God’s Unexpected Coming and the January 2023 release Touch the Earth: Poems on the Way. 

I was really moved by the major presentations offered by Sam Wells. What a good guy. I admit to searching out his Hauerwasian influences, having just read most of In Conversation: Samuel Wells and Stanley Hauerwas (Church Publishing; $17.95 – OUR SALE PRICE = $14.36.) I am going to have another go of the second edition of Improvisation: The Drama of Christian Ethics (Baker Academic; $27.00 – OUR SALE PRICE = $21.60.)

I think if I were to recommend one recent Wells’ book it would be one that I tried to promote when it came out earlier this year, Humbler Faith, Bigger God: Finding a Story to Live By (Eerdmans; $22.99 – OUR SALE PRICE = $18.39.) It is a good read, serious but clear, and in many ways offers a re-working and compilation of much of his major writing. It serves as an excellent introduction to his body of work and a great summary of some of his greatest ideas and inspiring directives. I highly recommended it last Spring but now that I’ve met him and heard him (and pummeled him with questions during a ride back to the airport) I’m an even bigger fan.

We stock a good many of his titles, so give us a ring if you want us to find anything, even some published in the UK.

I also really, really liked meeting Drew Jackson. It is hard to describe his fabulous poems, drawing their inspiration from the gospel stories in Luke, and his contemporary blending of good words at the “intersection of justice, peace, and contemplation, with a passion to contribute toward a more just and whole world.” From hip hop stylings to quieter lines, his words dance off the page with allusive and aesthetically-pleasing energy and insight.

Drew Jackson’s first book was raved about by all sorts of folks from Richard Rohr to Jon Batiste to Nikole Lim   and is entitled God Speaks through Wombs: Poems on God’s Unexpected Coming. It offers poems (written during the pandemic in lower Manhattan) based on the first eight chapters of Luke. (IVP; $16.00 – OUR SALE PRICE = $12.80) and it was very popular last year.

The forthcoming one (officially releasing in early January 2023) has an introduction by Pádraig Ó Tuama! It similarly draws on Luke and will be called Touch the Earth: Poems on the Way (IVP; $18.00 – OUR SALE PRICE = $14.40. DUE January 10, 2022.) Described as part protest poetry and part Bible commentary, it is striking, inspiring stuff, some even better than the first great volume.

As stimulating as it is (and it is!) Drew is also a pastor and preacher, so he knows something about caring for his people, connecting, serving. I liked him a lot and appreciated the poems he performed from this forthcoming work. You should pre-order it now. It come outs January 10th but we will no doubt have it early. Yay.

I’m so glad to see our friend Cole Arthur Riley chiming in with this great endorsement:

This collection is a companion for mystics and storytellers alike. Poem after poem, Drew Jackson approaches questions of community and trust and meets them not with the bore of certainty but a reverence for the unspoken, for mystery and suspense. Jackson’s words will leave you waiting in the silence . . . but never alone.                     — Cole Arthur Riley, creator of Black Liturgies and author of This Here Flesh

Consider this insightful explanation from the great Barbara Holmes, author of Joy Unspeakable: Contemplative Practices of the Black Church:

In Touch the Earth, Drew Jackson’s poetry offers a word-weary world a new language of engagement, disruption, and insight. As with all great poetry, the words are spare, but the literary images loom large, creating indelible impressions on the reader. Like echoes that reverberate long after the first sound, the poems stay with you, they dance with your spirit. After reading the poem ‘Shake the Dust,’ I am still considering a much broader definition of power, one no longer confined to the monarchs, governments, and oppressors but with a conscience as sticky as cling wrap that refuses to allow its memories to be shaken loose. This collection is a meditative treasure.

Another lovely poet shared some of her work at Doxology and I was delighted to have met Amy Nemecek (a true bookstore lover, having worked in a very good one for years.) You should consider supporting her first release, The Language of the Birds and other Poems just out from Paraclete Press in their “Iron Pen” imprint. ($20.00OUR SALE PRICE = $16.00.) Poet Luci Shaw calls it “brilliant” and novelist Sharon Garlough Brown says reading her work was an “opportunity for worship.” Dwight Baker (CEO of Baker Publishing Group) refers to her “poetic grace.” It’s really good.

Amy’s poem’s shepherd by soul into a wondrous journey. I was inspired, transported, and seen. I highly recommend these poems for you. Enjoy how they will expand your own heart. — Gem Fadling, author of Hold That Thought: Sorting Through the Voices in Our Heads


I did a workshop a couple of times at Doxology, doing my thing about why the reading life matters, how engaging the printed page works, sharing stories of those who have found solace and insight in books. I really appreciated the chance to do this and thank those who were so complimentary and encouraging. Believe me, it was refreshing and real blessing for me.

I might try to do some of that stuff at some online thing sometime, but for now, you might want to know a few of the books I cited and quoted from. A few were real favorites.

(There are just so many artful titles to cite — my, my, I quickly quoted Anne Lamott and C. S. Lewis and Wendell Berry and Karen Swallow Prior and missed so many who were in my mind, from In the Shelter by poet/activist Padraig O Trauma to Catching the Light – Why I Write by Muscogee poet Joy Harjo to The Sound of Life’s Unspeakable Beauty by German luthier Martin Schleske to The Soul of Wine and The Spirituality of Wine by theologian and winemaker and vineyardist Gisela Kreglinger (with a Peterson forward) to Steeped in Stories by Matali Perkins to the brand new Let There Be Art by Rachel Marie Kang and the recent The Beauty Chasers by Timothy Willard to the many volumes of Mako Fujimura or Calvin Seerveld who I’m sure I name-dropped.)


(Order any of these bulleted listings and get a free book sent along with your order. We’ll send Reading for the Common Good out at no cost as our gift to you, while supplies last.)

This list of titles of books about books (mostly) that I actually used in my presentation at Doxology evolves and changes whenever I’m called upon to share this kind of reminder to read widely, but this time, I read moving excerpts from (or at least held up and celebrated) the following:

  • Subversive Spirituality Eugene Peterson (Eerdmans) $27.50
  • Reading for Preaching: The Preacher in Conversation with Storytellers, Biographers, Poets, and Journalists. Cornelius Plantinga (Eerdmans) $14.99
  • The Pastor’s Bookshelf: Why Reading Matters for Ministry Austin Carty (Eerdmans) $19.99
  • Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? Jeanette Winterson (Grove Press) $16.00
  • The Scandal of Holiness: Renewing Your Imagination in the Company of Literary Saints Jessica Hooten Wilson (Brazos Press) $24.99
  • Secrets in the Dark: A Life in Sermons Frederick Buechner (HarperOne) $16.99
  • Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies Marilyn McEntyre (Eerdmans) $19.99
  • When Poets Pray Marilyn McEntyre (Eerdmans) $20.99
  • The Preaching Life Barbara Brown Taylor (Cowley) $17.95
  • Imagining Our Neighbors as Ourselves: How Art Shapes Empathy Mary McCampbell (Fortress Press) $28.00
  • The Word: Black Writers Talk about the Transformative Power of Reading and Writing Marita Golden (Crown Publishing) $14.99
  • Reading Black Books: How African American Literature Can Make Our Faith More Whole and Just Claude Atcho (Brazos Press) $19.99
  • The Reading Life: The Joy of Seeing New Worlds Through Other’s Eyes C.S. Lewis (HarperOne) $19.99
  • My Theology: The Word within the Words Malcolm Guite (Fortress Press) $12.75
  • Breaking Bread with the Dead: A Reader’s Guide to a More Tranquil Mind Alan Jacobs (Penguin) $16.00
  • Naming the Animals: An Invitation to Creativity Stephen Roach (Square Halo Books) $11.99
  • Reading for the Common Good: How Books Help Our Churches and Neighborhoods Flourish C. Christopher Smith (IVP) $16.00


Okay, so I didn’t get to them all, but, each is a treasure to behold.  I’ll tell you what.  Order any from that list from the bullet points and we’ll send you a free copy (while supplies last) of Chris Smith’s essential little book, Reading for the Common Good.


It is often said that poetry slows us down, not unlike the best spiritual practices, helping us to pay attention, maybe even cultivating a sense of awe and wonder. Here are three very important new books, two about poetry, one by a poet, that are out now, or soon.

A Century of Poetry: 100 Poems for Searching the Heart Rowan Williams (SPCK) $26.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $21.59

We ordered this as an import from England because we realized just how important it could be. What a thrill that it just arrived! A beautiful, hefty hardback (with a helpful type font that isn’t too tiny) is extraordinary on several levels.

The compilation itself is unique and a great survey of a century’s worth of poems that would fit well on anyone’s shelf. Known as an astute reader (and a published poet himself) Williams picked from a massive array, narrowing it down to a few well known ones (W. H. Auden, T. S. Elliot, Denise Levertov, Thomas Merton, Dylan Thomas, Christian Wiman) and many that most will not know. Good for him that he picked some global entries, from the Jewish scholar Yehuda Amichai to authors with names like Tadeusz Rozewicz and Vikram Seth and Avrom Sutzkever. For thoughtful reasons that he explains in the introduction, the poets are arranged alphabetically. 

This book, however, is not just a collection of artfully reflective pieces, but each entry is followed by the great Archbishop’s Christian reflections on the searching nature of these poets and their work. I am sure I am going to love these ruminations and I am sure they will help those of us who are not all that fond of poetry (who sometimes don’t “get it”) and who need some guidance to see what is there to be seen. This is going to make a great gift this holiday season, too. Hooray!

Each poem in this collection is a door ajar, which Rowan Williams nudges open, inviting us in, where he carefully shows us around. He leaves us in a room of many windows, the light streaming in, our souls enriched, this book in our hand. — Frances Ward, poetry editor, Theology

This is a compendium of poems you could spend a lifetime absorbing. Rowan Williams has gathered a diverse array of poets that grapple with mystery, ultimacy, and the terrifying beauty of being human. These are deep wells,, and Williams is a gentle guide into the depths of riches. — James K.A. Smith editor-in-chief, Image, recent author of How to Embody Time

Inciting Joy: Essays Ross Gay (Algonquin Books) $27.00  OUR SALE PRICE = $21.60

Perhaps you know poet Ross Gay’s 2019 collection of essays, The Book of Delights that became a much-appreciated work during the time of quarantine. (It is now out in paperback for $17.99.) We are glad for his brand new second collection of nearly genre-defying lyrical essays, again about (as was said of Book of Delights), “the small joys we overlook in our busy lives.” True to its title, it is sure to inspire and delight —subversively working its magic in these often dreary days, guilty of inciting joy. Here is how the publisher describes it: 

Inciting Joy: Essays is a collection of long-form essays on joy, in which the author turns his curious and poetic mind to everything from skateboarding and cover songs, basketball and race, dancing and academia, death and laughter, and, always, the garden and the natural world”

Poetry Unbound: 50 Poems to Open Your World Pádraig Ó Tuama (W. W. Norton & Company) $27.95  OUR SALE PRICE = $22.36  DUE DECEMBER 6, 2022

I wrote about this in the last BookNotes but it is going to be so widely discussed, I wanted to announce it again. Here is some of what I wrote:

We hope you know the world-famous Irish poet, Pádraig Ó Tuama. His extraordinary, lovely book published by Broadleaf takes the name of his website, In the Shelter. He is interested there in questions of violence and exclusion, hospitality and home, shelter and redemption. In recent years he has become known for more than his peacemaking work in Northern Ireland (see his Daily Prayer with the Corrymeela Community or the moving Between the Bells: Stories of Reconciliation from Corrymeela) and is increasingly recognized as a poet of considerable skill and wide appeal. You may have heard him on NPR as he hosted the On Being poetry podcast called “Poetry Unbound.” It is from that project that he gets the title of this eagerly anticipated new volume.

This forthcoming book is a collection of fifty poems (mostly by contemporary poets, such as, say, Ada Lemon or Ilya Kaminsky or Margaret Atwood) and he then offers pages and pages of wonderfully touching and observant reflection. He is not only a splendid curator of poems, he is a teacher, a guide, and a spiritual director. It is extraordinary.

Poetry Unbound is fifty poems and 300 pages of commentary revealing and confessing why a line of verse might make you weep. But more than that, it is a collection of moments and meditations and a turning toward the ways that some memories, of sorrow and joy, might make us hold on a little while longer, long enough in fact.             – Reginald Dwayne Betts, author of Felon

Mesmerizing, magical, deeply moving… If you are looking for a read that will warm your heart, inspire your creative mind, and renew your faith in the resilience of the human race, look no further. — Elif Shafak, author of The Island of Missing Trees

How It Went: Thirteen More Stories of the Port William Membership Wendell Berry (Counterpoint) $26.00  OUR SALE PRICE = $20.80  DUE NOVEMBER 8, 2022

In a BookNotes post about Eugene Peterson and the Christian imagination it is perfect timing to tell you about a soon to be released collection of previously unpublished short stories by the master of the craft, Wendell Berry. Peterson really appreciated Berry’s fiction — he famously loved Jayber Crow as well as the Kentucky farmer’s serious nonfiction. I honestly don’t know if they ever met; I never heard, actually. Peterson also appreciated Wallace Stegner under whom Mr. Berry studied early on. I know Eugene appreciated Berry’s book about writing called Standing By Words and his marvelous study of the localized poetry of Juan Carlos Williams (“of Rutherford New Jersey”, as Berry always described him in the book The Poetry of William Carlos Williams of Rutherford.) He loved his sabbath poems…

And so, we have here a forthcoming volume of thirteen new stories. This is huge — almost as eager awaited (and in some circles, more so) of his major new nonfiction release this fall called The Need to Be Whole, which very deeply explores patriotism and race. I do not know of anyone who has seen How It Went, yet, but the publisher has said this much:

For those readers of his poetry and inspired by his increasingly vital work as advocate for rational land use and the right-size life, these stories of Wendell Berry’s offer entry into the fictional place of value and beauty that is Port William, Kentucky. Berry has said it’s taken a lifetime for him to learn to write like an old man, and that’s what we have here, stories told with grace and ease and majesty. Wendell Berry is one of our greatest living American authors, writing with the wisdom of maturity and the incandescence that comes of love.

These thirteen new works explore the memory and imagination of Andy Catlett, one of the well-loved central characters of the Port William saga. From 1932 to 2021, these stories span the length of Andy’s life, from before the outbreak of the Second World War to the threatened end of rural life in America.

Pre-order this now and we’ll send it as soon as it arrives, hopefully by November 8th 2022.

Reading for the Love of God: How to Read as a Spiritual Practice Jessica Hooten Wilson (Brazos Press) $24.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $19.99  DUE MARCH 28, 2023

I have not yet seen an advanced reader copy of this but I am positive it will be great. I know it is a long way out, yet — it is due out in March of 2020, but you can pre-order it now, of course. I wanted to mention it as it could be one of the very best books in this whole genre of reading well, reading widely, and doing so as a spiritual discipline. I know she will have a chapter on Augustine, one called “reading like Julian of Norwich” and another on “reading like Dorothy Sayers.” It will examine the multi-dimensional sensation of reading and ask, “what kind of a reader are you?” I really eager!

In a way, this is a follow-up to the one we have raved about (and listed above), this year’s The Scandal of Holiness: Renewing Your Imagination in the Company of Literary Saints.

The forthcoming masterpiece is already getting some early buzz. Listen to this:

In her deft and beautiful way, Jessica Hooten Wilson crafts a theology of reading for Christians who have forgotten why it matters. She challenges us to take up and read –not only because it teaches about the faith of our past but because it makes our faith stronger for the present too. Get this book to learn, to grow, and to be inspired. — Beth Allison Barr Professor of History, Baylor University; The Making of Biblical Womanhood

In Reading for the Love of God, Jessica Hooten Wilson makes the case for reading as a means of transformation into Christlikeness. Her own meditations on the theology, spirituality, and ethics of reading are punctuated with studies of great Christian readers, male and female, down through the ages, which adds a rich layer of historical insight to her own brilliant reflections. We live in an age of shallowness, and reading is perhaps its greatest casualty. But Hooten Wilson issues a clarion call to rediscover depth. This book is profound and practical at once. As St. Augustine would say, tolle lege (take and read)! —Tish Harrison Warren, Anglican priest;  Liturgy of the Ordinary and Prayer in the Night

To read Jessica Hooten Wilson’s Reading for the Love of God is to enter into a sacred apprenticeship with the faithful believers and minds of the church that have gone before us, learning at their feet with Hooten Wilson as our wise and faithful guide. To read this book is to truly learn how to read spiritually — and readers who approach this book humbly will not walk away unchanged. Reading for the Love of God is a tremendous gift, one that will shape, reform, and revitalize the way the church reads. By helping us read for the love of God, Hooten Wilson helps us live for the love of God. I’ll be recommending this book widely in my parish and beyond for years to come. —Claude Atcho, pastor of Church of the Resurrection, Charlottesville, Virginia; Reading Black Books

Again, please note that this releases in March 2023. Those who pre-order it will be our our solid waiting list but we won’t run your credit card info until we send it. Easy.




It is very helpful if you tell us how you prefer us to ship your orders.

The weight and destination of your package varies but you can use this as a general guide:

There are generally two kinds of US Mail options, and, of course, UPS. If necessary, we can do overnight and other expedited methods, too. Just ask.

  • United States Postal Service has the option called “Media Mail” which is cheapest but can be slow. For one typical book, usually, it’s about $3.69; 2 lbs would be $4.36.
  • United States Postal Service has another option called “Priority Mail” which is $8.50, now, if it fits in a flat rate envelope. Many children’s books and some Bibles are oversized so that might take the next size up which is $9.20. “Priority Mail” gets much more attention than does “Media Mail” and is often just a few days to anywhere in the US.
  • UPS Ground is reliable but varies by weight and distance and may take longer than USPS. We’re happy to figure out your options for you once we know what you want.

If you just want to say “cheapest” that is fine. If you are eager and don’t want the slowest method, do say so. It really helps us serve you well.



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Hearts & Minds 234 East Main Street  Dallastown  PA  17313

No, Covid is not over — it is now spreading again. Since nobody is reporting their illnesses anymore, it is tricky to know the reality but the best measurement is to check the water tables. And it’s bad. The virus is out there, seriously. It is complicated for us, so we are still closed for in-store browsing due to our commitment to public health (and the safety of our family, staff, and customers.) The vaccination rate here in York County is sadly lower than average and the newest variant is now spreading again; rates are rising. Our store is a bit cramped without top-notch ventilation so we are trying to be wise.

Please, wherever you are, do your best to be sensitive to those who are most at risk. Many of our friends, neighbors, co-workers, congregants, and family members may need to be protected since more than half of Americans (it seems) have medical reasons to worry about longer hazards from even seemingly mild Covid infections.

We are doing our famous curb-side customer service and can show any number of items to you if you call us from our back parking lot. We are eager to serve and grateful for your patience as we all work to mitigate the pandemic. We are happy to help.

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26 brand new or forthcoming titles to order or PRE-ORDER now — on sale at 20% off

Thanks to those who sent encouraging notes about our last BookNotes newsletter. It is intense stuff reading about the bizarre accusations of a stolen election and it is tragic to learn of the former President’s affiliation with such gonzo bad guys as Alex Jones, Roger Stone, and the Oath Keepers rebels. We understand that good people and faithful Christians can disagree about policy considerations and since the Bible itself has a fairly complex social ethic, it isn’t always simple to deduce what policies are best for the common good. But the ludicrous “stop the steal” stuff has to be resisted with all our might and good Americans should refuse to support those who are complicit in any of that Trumpian illogic. I trust that those books helped make a case about the systemic nature of the January 6th “unthinkable” that many Republicans are still saluting. Anyway, although we didn’t sell many of those books, we’re glad you read my thoughts about them.

We still have those five that I reviewed at a 20% off, so let us know if we can ship any to you or yours.


New books continue to come out and we are more than excited to share the news about some forthcoming gems, treasures of various sorts for all kinds of readers.

Here is a good list of forthcoming titles you can pre-order from us now. (Of course, as we often say, you can always pre-order anything, anytime.)


Visual Thinking: The Hidden Gifts of People Who Think in Pictures, Patterns, and Abstractions Temple Grandin (Riverhead) $28.00  OUR SALE PRICE = $22.40 AVAILABLE NOW

This thoughtful hardback just arrived and I’ve not had time to peruse it, but, you know, she is just amazing, a remarkable person, leader, thinker, and educator. She has a knack for demystifying complex social and psychological science. This introduces us to a certain sort of person and their perceptions, based on her own vivid experiences, I’m sure, and the latest research. 


Dinosaurs: A Novel Lydia Millett (W. W. Norton) $26.95  OUR SALE PRICE = $21.56  AVAILABLE NOW

Do you know the award winning novel A Children’s Bible from a year or two ago? Wow. This is Millet’s stunning new novel, named as one of the Most Anticipated Books of 2022 by the Boston Globe, Literary Hub and The Millions. It is the story of a man named Gil who walks from New York to Arizona “to recover from failed love.” You can expect that his life will be entangled with his new neighbors. One reviewer said the novel asks, “in the shadow of existential threat, where does hope live?” 


Blood from a Stone: A Memoir of How Wine Brought Me Back from the Dead Adam McHugh (IVP) $20.00  OUR SALE PRICE = $16.00  AVAILABLE NOW

You may know McHugh’s previous books such as his award-winning Introverts in the Church and the excellent, nearly contemplative paperback, The Listening Life. This brand new one, however, is about grief and loss and transition — helped along by the good gifts of God’s creation. Can this beleaguered, hurting author find healing through wine, friends, and the beauty of the French wine country or the glories of California’s central coast? Is there something to indeed savor, here?

With the first line being “This is the story of how wine brought be back from the dead” you know this is going to be interesting. As McHugh tells of his new take on an old story, he observes, “Most stories about religion and drink are stories of recovery. I’m not sure if mine isn’t a story of recovery too.”

McHugh is a sommelier and Certified Specialist of Wine who lives in Santa Ynez Valley, CA. And a very fine writer.

Adam McHugh’s stunning memoir, Blood from a Stone, brings a sideways beatitude: Blessed are the lonely, the detached, the fired, the tired, and the spiritually hungry. They will see God if they’re paying attention and willing to be surprised. Read, savor, and listen for the low hum of deep faith in this personal story of a man who writes with a keen awareness of grief and a self-deprecating honesty. You’ll leave with a renewed longing for food and meaning, cheese and history, and wine you can’t pronounce  — Emily P. Freeman, author of The Next Right Thing

Demon Copperhead: A Novel Barbara Kingsolver (Harper) $32.50  OUR SALE PRICE = $26.00  DUE OCTOBER 18, 2022

It has been several years since Kingsolver’s spectacular and very interesting Unsheltered. I have since re-read both of her collections of essays High Tide in Tucson and Small Wonders, both which I love. In this much anticipated story she puts a new twist on the Dickens classic David Copperfield, apparently, it is stunning. It has been called a tour de force and a virtuoso work. The short summary from the publisher summarizes the plot in a pedestrian way: “The teenage son of an Appalachian single mother who dies when he is eleven uses his good looks, wit, and instincts to survive foster care, child labor, addiction, disastrous loves, and crushing losses.” But, with Kingsolver there is always more going on, much more. I’m sure this is going to be much talked about these next months. 

Here are what some impressed advanced readers have said:

Demon is a voice for the ages — akin to Huck Finn or Holden Caulfield — only even more resilient. I’m crazy about this book, which parses the epidemic in a beautiful and intimate new way. I think it’s her best. — Beth Macy, author of Dopesick

Readers see the yearning for love and wells of compassion hidden beneath Demon’s self-protective exterior…. Emotionally engaging is Demon’s fierce attachment to his home ground, a place where he is known and supported, tested to the breaking point as the opiate epidemic engulfs it. An angry, powerful book seething with love and outrage for a community too often stereotyped or ignored. — Kirkus Review

A deeply evocative story…Kingsolver’s account of the opioid epidemic and its impact on the social fabric of Appalachia is drawn to heartbreaking effect. This is a powerful story, both brilliant in its many social messages regarding foster care, child hunger, and rural struggles, and breathless in its delivery. — Publishers Weekly

Liberation Day: Stories George Saunders (Random House) $28.00  OUR SALE PRICE = $22.40  AVAILABLE OCTOBER 18, 2022

Those who follow the art of the short story know that Saunders is considered one of the true masters of the form. (His only real novel, I think, was the highly regarded Lincoln in the Bardo.) These new stories, we are told, explore “ideas of power, ethics, and justice, and cuts to the very heart of what it means to live in community with fellow humans.” Well, that’s not too bad, is it? The Oprah Daily called it “pitch perfect” and “an exquisite work from a writer whose reach is galactic.” Allrightee, then.

Saunders makes you feel as though you are reading fiction for the first time. — Khaled Hosseini

The Old Testament and God – Old Testament Origins and the Question of God  Craig G. Bartholomew (Baker Academic) $54.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $43.99  DUE OCTOBER 18, 2022

Speaking of a our de force… It is a bit tricky to explain this briefly, but we can say two quick things. Firstly, Dr. Bartholomew is one of the best Biblical scholars around, weaving together his deep understanding of the best way to read and keen insight about how to inhabit the unfolding drama of the Biblical story. The world “worldview” may seem a bit dated in these postmodern times but he is what I sometimes call a worldviewish thinker and writer. He studied with Cal Seerveld at Toronto’s ICS, after all, and now directs the Kirby Laing Centre for Public Theology in Cambridge, England. Secondly, this book, to put it boldly, is going to do in world of the Old Testament studies what N.T. Wright’s magisterial multi-volume set did for the New Testament. You will note the hat tip in Bartholomew’s subtitle to Wright’s “Christian Origins and the Question of God” series.

The Old Testament and God, the first in a four-volume series, examines what we should do with the Old Testament, argues for a “critical realist” approach, situates the Old Testament against the worldviews of the ancient Near East, and explores the character of Yahweh as he comes to us in the Old Testament.

Rave reviews come from the likes of Richard Bauckham, Tremper Longman, Matthew Levering, and Christopher J. H. Wright. Serious Biblical scholars should certainly consider this.

And There Was Light: Abraham Lincoln and the American Struggle Jon Meacham (Random House) $40.00  OUR SALE PRICE = $32.00  AVAILABLE OCTOBER 18, 2022

Meacham is a Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer and historian. He has not done a new book of historical biography in a while and this is the one we’ve been waiting for. The endorsements have been predictably fabulous, insisting this is excellent history and a fine example of what I might call the relevance of good historical story-telling. Relevant, indeed. Listen to this:

In his captivating new book, Jon Meacham has given us the Lincoln for our time. And There Was Light brilliantly interweaves the best of gripping narrative history with a deeper search for the complex interplay among morality, politics, and power in a life, in a democracy, and in an America ripped apart over slavery. Here Meacham takes us to the heart of the president who shaped events at ‘the existential hour.’ In doing so, he fortifies us to meet our own. — Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

Biography at its best, the great historian Barbara Tuchman wrote, paints an intimate portrait of an individual which simultaneously provides a sweeping view of history. With this deep, compelling work, Jon Meacham has achieved this gold standard. Written with wisdom and grace, his story of Lincoln’s complex moral journey to Emancipation mirrors America’s long quest to live up to its founding ideals. — Doris Kearns Goodwin

If Dr. Henry “Skip” Gates says it is a biography “for our time” and if Doris Kearns Goodwin says it achieves the “gold standard” for such books, you know it is one you should consider. I know most of us only buy a few books about history any given year and most of us only buy a few on Lincoln. This should be on everyone’s list, I’d think…

Beyond Welcome: Centering Immigrants in Our Christian Response to Immigration  Karen Gonzalez (Brazos Press) $18.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $15.19  DUE OCTOBER 18, 2022

We have met Karen and think the world of her. Her previous book on immigration issues was a lovely read, passionate and solid. Kudus to Herald Press for that. Here, in her brand new one, she goes deeper, with even more zeal and understandable passion for making the story of immigrants — stories like her own — more central not only in the telling of the story of American immigration but in our speculation and theologizing about it all. The voices of the immigrant and refugee, the too often marginalized, ought to be more central in our attention and in our imagination and in our hearts.

Naturally, she tells a bunch of stories and she offers what can only be called a fresh Biblical hermeneutic to see how the Biblical stories interlock with those of her community. It’s a lively read, interesting, compelling, important. We just got them in and I’ve already skimmed it, realizing it is so very interesting. What a gem!

I like what it on the back cover:

Many of us have good intentions, working hard to welcome immigrants with hospitality and solidarity. But how can we do that in a way that empowers our immigrant neighbors rather than pushing them to the fringes of white-dominant culture?

Karen González draws from the Bible and her own experiences to examine why the traditional approach to immigration ministries and activism is at best incomplete and at worst harmful. She advocates putting immigrants in the center of the conversation and helps us recognize ourselves in our immigrant neighbors.

Here is the voice of her colleague at World Relief, Matthew Soerens:

Whether you agree with González’s conclusions or not —I  usually did, occasionally did not, and in a few cases am still wrestling with what I think, long after reading this poignant book — you will find Beyond Welcome to be challenging, constructive, and helpful.  — Matthew Soerens, US director of church mobilization and advocacy, World Relief; coauthor of Welcoming the Stranger

Jesus for President: Politics for Ordinary Radicals Shane Claiborne & Chris Haw (Zondervan) $24.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $19.99  DUE OCTOBER 21, 2022

One of the grand features of this radically Biblical volume (first published maybe a decade ago) is its extraordinary, full color imagery and hip graphic appeal. Edgy and cool, busy and splashy in a subversive sort of way, this illustrated book calls us to the Biblical images of exile and the words of the prophets, picking up the sort of stuff later spelled out in scholarly detail by the likes of Walsh and Keesmaat (in Romans Disarmed: Resisting Empire/Demanding Justice, which Shane endorsed.) Of course, Jesus isn’t exactly running for office these days so we now need to figure what to do; we must improvise our way towards faithful socio-political views and public actions. This book will help and we are glad that the publisher is seeing fit to bring it out anew.

There is nothing like it. Hooray.

Things That Matter Most: Essays on Home, Friendship, and Love  Christopher de Vinck (Paraclete Press) $22.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $18.39  DUE OCTOBER 25, 2022 (expected sooner)

Oh my, what a lovely, easy to read, and poignant little book. Some of our readers will love this and will love giving it as an encouraging gift for someone who needs a little “pick me up” with tender substance.

We’ve been fans of Chris de Vinck for years (probably since his stunning book The Power of the Powerless, which was a story about his own handicapped brother) released in the late 1980s. We have collected and read (and tried to sell) his essays and stories. He was, as you may know, a good friend and kindred spirit with the late Henri Nouwen and a very dear pal with Mister Fred Rogers. His most recent previous books included Ashes, a gripping World War II novel based on the experiences of his own relatives with the Nazi concentration camps and the life-long friendships that emerged and an sentimental holiday novel, Mr. Nicholas: A Magical Christmas Tale (with a forward by Joanne Rogers, Fred’s wife.) 

This new one has a grand introduction by one of our favorite people in the book industry, Jeff Crosby (formerly a bookstore worker, then a publisher at IVP, and now of the ECPA, and author of his own forthcoming book of reflections, The Language of the Soul: Meeting God in the Longings of Our Hearts. That isn’t due until next May but, yes, you can pre-order it now and we will be put on the waiting list.)

Jeff has long been a fan of de Vinck and has become a friend. His forward to Things That Matter Most: Essays on Home, Friendship, and Love is lovely, to say the least. He notes that it “helps us see with our hearts” which sounds more pious than it is, I think. With essays on fireflies and board games (and more on bugs) and much on the poignancy of human connection and empathy, and a section of pieces on humility, this is just really nice writing about things that matter, even if at first you haven’t pondered them. Like all good art, it nicely illuminates. 

I like collections of essays but this is designed with some larger fonts, pull quotes in sidebar boxes, and a touch of whimsy. It isn’t overly demanding or dense. I recommend it highly.

The Passenger: A Novel Cormac McCarthy (Knopf Publishing) $30.00  OUR SALE PRICE = $24.00  DUE OCTOBER 25, 2022

How do we begin to say the importance for serious booksellers of having a new McCarthy novel to sell? He is considered among the very best and it has been — not surprisingly — sixteen years since his last work. The Passenger is the first of a two volume series (the second, Stella Marris, comes in early December which you can also pre-order. There will even, then, be a boxed set of the two.) This novel is, on the surface, about a New Orleans salvage diver who is “haunted by loss, afraid of the watery deep, pursed for a conspiracy beyond his understanding, and longing for a death she cannot reconcile with God.”

McCarthy reigns as a titan of American lit — an undisputed heir to Melville and Faulkner, the subject of infinite grad-school theses, and a hard-nosed dispenser of what Saul Bellow called ‘life-giving and death-dealing’ sentences… It’s the humid, fevered, magniloquent, Bible-cadenced, comma-starved, word-drunk prose of what some fans consider his masterwork, Suttree. There’s a lot here. It might make your head spin… What it all adds up to — perhaps surprisingly — is a doomed and unsettling love story, a Platonic tragedy…. Electric and thunderous… An astonishing pair of novels. Taken together, The Passenger and Stella Maris are an intellectually breathtaking achievement. —Jonathan Miles, Garden & Gun

After sixteen years of characteristic seclusion, McCarthy returns with a one-two punch… The Passenger is an elegiac meditation on guilt, grief, and spirituality. Packed with textbook McCarthy hallmarks, like transgressive behaviors and cascades of ecstatic language, it’s a welcome return from a legend who’s been gone too long.        — Adrienne Westenfeld, Esquire

Chilling and masterly…. His prose frequently approaches the Shakespearean, ranging from droll humor to the rapid-fire spouting of quotable fecundity. Dialogues click into place like a finely tuned engine. McCarthy has somehow added a new register to his inimitable voice. Long ensconced in the literary firmament, McCarthy further bolsters his claim for the Mount Rushmore of the literary arts. — Booklist

Heart Speak: A Visual Interpretation of Let Your Life Speak Sherrill Knezel in collaboration with Parker Palmer (formatio/IVP) $18.00  OUR SALE PRICE = $14.40  DUE OCTOBER 25, 2022

I can’t wait to see this and I cannot say much about it other than tell you, simply, what it is. It is a colorful and creatively done visual adaptation of the classic book on vocation by Quaker writer Parker Palmer, Let Your Life Speak. If that book itself was gentle and generous, inviting us to take up a life that matters, listening well to our own hearts, this guides those who need a different approach to this material. There are infographics and calligraphied quotes and colorful hearts, a design style some call “sketch noting.”  I’m sure it is going to be very well done, not at all goofy, but not too psychedelic either.

The author, by the way, is a life-long doodler and “sketch noter” and she did a bit of research on the scribbling thing, taking in the brain science and data which she put into an excellent TED talk, telling her stories of the power of all of this, inspired somewhat by the author Mike Rohde. It’s amazing and you can watch it, here. (And you really should. But be sure to come back, since there’s more books to tell you about. Maybe it will remind you of a book I did a long forward to years ago by my friend Lisa Nichols Hickman, Writing in the Margins: Connecting with God on the Pages of Your Bible.)

Here’s what singer-songwriter, activist, and author Carrie Newcomber says about this soon to be released book inspired by Parker Palmer, Heart Speak:

I am charmed, delighted, and deeply touched by Sherrill Knezel’s Heart Speak. The illustrations offer a new and creative dimension to quotes I’ve treasured for many years. Sherrill’s commentary and reflective questions are wonderfully human, tender, thought provoking, and wise. I recommend this book to those who love the work of Parker J. Palmer, but also to anyone who is on the important and curious journey of becoming more fully themself. — Carrie Newcomer, songwriter and author of The Beautiful Not Yet

The White Mosque: A Memoir Sofia Samatar (Catapult) $27.00  OUR SALE PRICE = $21.60  DUE OCTOBER 25, 2022

Every now and then we hear of a book through industry journals or pre-pub newsletters and we are immediately struck by how very interesting a title or author may seem. This is exactly one of these — I’ve not previously heard of this writer, a highly regarded indie author, apparently, (known for fantasy novels) but here she is retracing some of the steps of her own people — Mennonites in the heart of Central Asia. 

One article about her started like this: “Sofia Samatar has a way with a sentence.” It goes on to mention her Nebula-and Hugo-nominated stories or novels and says, “her work has a way of pairing the mundane and the sublime with causal aplomb.” So there’s that that catches the eye.

But The White Mosque captured my attention further because the author once boarded at the well-known Mennonite high school near us in Lancaster, PA. Wow. Later, she fell into a rabbit hole, it seems, as she was trying to reshape some of her awareness of a group of German-speaking Mennonites who went to what is now Uzbekistan on a quest that “promised no less than the second coming of Christ.” Huh? Try as she might, she realized this was no novel, and her own journey to the site — lead by what one might call sort of a cult-leader — propelled her to weave together her own memoir into this odd, cross-cultural and inter-religious journey.  Ms Samatar is this child of a Black Somali Muslim and a white Mennonite and she became “obsessed with the story.”

As she grew into this life of two cultures she realized that what appeared to be, at first glance, “polar opposites” actually had considerable overlaps, confluences that helped shape how she now sees the world. Born and raised in Goshen, Indiana, she was, as they say, “a third culture kid” but she followed her parents around the globe. (Her father, Said Sheikh Samatar, was a professor of African history in Tanzania, London, Kentucky and Rutgers, NJ.  Her scholarly father wanted her, after her high schools years in Lancaster, to apply to Harvard or Yale but, against his wishes, she followed some friends to the quintessentially radical Mennonite college in Goshen, Indiana.)

I am not sure if this memoir covers her formative years, her reading habits (starting with Narnia, I’ve heard) or her marriage to another Mennonite writer, Keith Miller. The two of them did mission work, teaching high school in South Sudan during the Second Sudanese Civil War. With the country under curfew, both of them wrote and wrote — longhand.

This is a nonfiction story but, as she reports in a great article in Publisher’s Weekly, it’s “a nonfiction world that can still feel like a novel.” Writing it was surely transformative and we believe it’s a sleeper of a title that many of our customers will enjoy. I can’t wait. Pre-order it today!

The Inconvenient Gospel: A Southern Prophet Tackles War, Wealth, Race, and Religion  Clarence Jordan edited by Frederick Downing (Plough Publishing) $12.00  OUR SALE PRICE = $9.60   DUE OCTOBER 25, 2022 

I wonder if you know this terrific series of inexpensive, compact readers of significant Christian voices handsomely published by Plough Publishing? They have made very important contributions to Christian publishing by compiling these remarkable, compact, volumes. There is Love in the Void by Simone Weil, The Scandal of Redemption by Oscar Romero, The Reckless Way of Love by Dorothy Day, That Way and No Other by Amy Carmichael, and, recently, the fabulous Thunder and Soul by Abraham Joshua Heschel. The brand new one, The Inconvenient Gospel compiles the words and sermons and writings of Clarence Jordan, founder of Koinonia Farms in Americus, Georgia, as a “demonstration plot” of what the Kingdom of God might look like.

Beth visited there in the mid-70s and it was very influential, as you might guess. Years earlier they had been machine-gunned for being racially integrated and more than once their crops were burned. (To this day they have a fabulous mail order business of locally grown nuts; they shifted to out-of-state mail order since the locals boycotted them.) There are many stories about Koinonia Farms — Jordan was the preacher who told Millard Fuller to give away his wealth and come back to follow Jesus, which he did, starting up, eventually, a ministry called Habitat for Humanity. Jordan was a great Baptist who paraphrased the New Testament into what he called “The Cotton Patch” version, using colloquial Southern sharecropper lingo (Jesus is put in a peach crate, not a manger, and his best buddy was Rock.) He was known for being as blunt, and as kind, as Jesus.

These messages by Clarence Jordan (like the others in the series) are enduring but of all of them, this is the author whose writings may be the most likely to languish into obscurity. Big kudos to our Bruderhof friends for once again doing an excellent thing in adding the work of this rural Baptist preacher to this very distinguished series. Thoughtful ecological theologian Norman Wirzba calls The Inconvenient Gospel “an essential book.” Order one today.

(Watch this fabulous little documentary video where you can hear is voice and learn about his prophetic Kingdom work in Jim Crow Georgia.)

Care: How People of Faith Can Respond to Our Broken Health System  Scott Morris (Eerdmans) $18.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $15.19  DUE OCTOBER 27, 2022

Scott Morris is not as known as he should be, a real hero for those who know his good work in starting Church Health, a faith-based health care center in Memphis which serves the underserved with Christianly offering medical care. He’s been a strong voice for thinking faithfully about medicine and the spirituality of health and he has especially spoken for — and enacted — the need to include the poor and the vulnerable. The small but potent book Dust and Breath: Faith, Health, and Why the Church Should Care about Both by Kendra Hotz & Matthew Mathews tells of his work among the marginalized in Memphis as a case study of what churches can do to serve the health care needs of the poor. 

This new book, Care, is just what we need now, and Dr. Morris is a near-perfect author for the job. It is, as the subtitle suggests, less a call to start up Christian health care clinics, but how to push for, as citizens, a more comprehensive health care proposal for our broken health care system, which certainly will include private/public cooperation. I really do not know of any book quite like it.

As it says on the back, Morris draws on his experience as a medical doctor, pastor, and founder and CEO of the nation’s largest charitably funded faith-based health care center. As a United Methodist in the tradition of John Wesley, Morris knows a bit about the wholistic nature of the gospel — as his friend Jim Wallis writes in the moving preface, Wesley’s was a model for that kind of care for body and soul and he believed that special care must be given to the sick. Wesley was an advocate for and practitioner of the healing ministry of the church and that includes advocacy for good health care policy. 

There’s lots of stories here, both from the gospels and from contemporary America.  With endorsements from the likes of quality writers like Philip Yancey, this book is a winner. I hope health care workers, at least, join together to read it, as good, good things can come from small groups of folks reading dynamite books like this. 

Forgive: Why Should I and How Can I? Timothy Keller (Viking) $27.00 OUR SALE PRICE = $21.60  DUE NOVEMBER 1, 2022

Keller is a great communicator who is known for being quite fluent in the culture’s best thinkers and attuned to the conversations going on. He lives in Manhattan and has reached thousands with a wholistic, thoughtful, gracious Reformed worldview. I have a bone to pick with him from time to time but he nonetheless is a hero and model. He’s on that short list of authors who I think I’d read almost anything they wrote. He’s smart and yet not overly academic; he’s Biblically based and gospel-centered but not stuffy. We’ve got some connections with old mutual friends and influences and it has been an honor to sell books on occasion at his church — including one grand night with N.T. Wright, another with Bryan Stevenson, another with John Inazu as he presented (and then talked with Tim) about his then-new book on pluralism. I even got to speak about the vocation of bookselling once at one of his legendary faith and work conferences.

But here, this: along with a recent handful (on suffering, on prayer, particularly) he brings it down home and real personal. I’ve got an advanced copy of this one and I am so struck by how this brilliant theological mind with a disposition to talk about big cultural matters and equip Christians to be salt and light in their respective worlds, is also, truly, a pastor, and can guide ordinary folks into the hard stuff of Christian virtue. Like forgiveness. Wow.

Publisher’s Weekly tried to explain why it would be useful for bookstores to carry by saying it delivers a “thorough and eloquent apologetic for forgiveness” and another review assured us that it “presents a solid defense of Christian forgiveness theology within a modern, relevant context, quoting sources as varied as Augustine, Adele, Kafka, and Clint Eastwood…. Refreshing, accessible work on the basics of forgiveness from a Christian perspective.”

The subtitle tells much: it is both the “why” and the “how.” There are some exceptionally thoughtful but practical checklists and guidelines in several appendices, including on one forgiveness practices and another on achieving reconciliation. 250 good pages.

Liturgies for Hope: Sixty Prayers for the Highs, the Lows, and Everything in Between Audrey Allege & Elizabeth Moore (Waterbrook Press) $20.00  OUR SALE PRICE = $16.00  DUE NOVEMBER 1, 2002

Oh my, there are a lot of books like this coming out these days. Perhaps this wave of great new prayer books is inspired by the two exquisite, leather-bound volumes of Every Moment Holy or the online “Black Liturgies” created by Cole Arthur Riley (author of the stunning memoir This Here Flesh: Spirituality, Liberation, and the Stories That Make Us) or perhaps going back to the 2010 release of the groundbreaking Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals compiled by Shane Claiborne, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove and Enoma Okra. In any event, we’ve got recent, cool books like Prayers for the People: Things We Didn’t KNow We Could Say to God by Terry Stokes (Convergent Books) and Ordinary Blessings: Prayers, Poems, and Meditations for Everyday Life by Meta Herrick Carlson (Fortress Press) and her Broadleaf one called Ordinary Blessings for Parents: Prayers, Poems, and Meditations for Family Life. Maybe you’ll even recall our BookNotes rave about Cornelius Plantinga’s compact Eerdmans hardback, Morning and Evening Prayers.

Which brings us to Liturgies for Hope which releases in a few weeks. It is extraordinary, thoughtful, theologically substantive, raw; the prayers are long and often heartbreakingly honest and sometimes funny. I’m not sure about the language of “liturgies” these days since these are singular voice prayers, but they are solid and moving. The foreword is by Jon Tyson, pastor of Church of the City in New York, a guy I respect quite a bit. One of the authors works with the church and has received the Academy of American Poets Prize, among other awards. The other works in the publishing industry and serves the church on their creative team. 

There are amazing prayers here — good words for those complete in injustice, prayers for creativity, laments about public health, cries for those who are anguished by simply being alone, or by being too busy.  There are prayers of mystery, prayers of wonder, prayers of confession, prayers of joy, prayers of hope. And more. As good readers (and writers) Rich Villodas and Christie Purifoy say, below, this is a truly valuable resource. You should pre-order it today.

As someone who has spent many hours praying, here’s what I’ve come to realize: it’s still very hard to do. One of the best gifts that has helped me develop my life with God is the prayers and liturgies of others. I often need the words of others to help me form my own words. This is what Audrey Elledge and Elizabeth Moore do for us in this needed book. They offer beautiful words to help us access the longings of our souls and bring them to God. If you’re looking for a jumpstart to your spiritual life, start here. — Rich Villodas, lead pastor of New Life Fellowship and author of Good and Beautiful and Kind

This is a marvelous book. I am not surprised it emerged from one of the urban epicenters of our global pandemic — of course this fierce hope would grow in such a place and such a season. Audrey Elledge and Elizabeth Moore weave rich Scriptural imagery into powerful, prayerful poetry covering topics that are at once universal but also timely in their particularity. The liturgical pronouns shift between we, you, and I in a way that is spacious and welcoming. Best of all, this book compelled even this solitary reader to reach out to her friends; these are liturgies that simply must be prayed in the company of others.  — Christie Purifoy, author of Placemaker: Cultivating Places of Comfort, Beauty, and Peace

Surrender: 40 Songs, One Story Bono (Knopf Publishing) $34.00  OUR SALE PRICE = $27.20  DUE NOVEMBER 1, 2022

I hardly have to say who Bono is (do I?) or even explain how much the powerful, often groundbreaking, music of U2 has meant to us over the years. From their earliest records (which we stocked before most knew who they were) to their most recent work, and all the colorful zeal of their fearless leader, we have been very big fans. Knowing how his faith continued to seep out, sometimes behind the scenes, sometimes between the lines, but, often, directly, up front, out loud, Bono remains one of the most interesting followers of Jesus of our era.

I hope in this forthcoming memoir he describes his friendship with Eugene Peterson (who didn’t even take his call the first time Bono called him, since Peterson had no idea who he was!) and the beautiful video he and Peterson made, visiting together in Montana about the Psalms. 

Whether that small episode in Bono’s influential life appears or not, this is a book I know many of our customers will want to read. Others, I am sure, will want to give it as a Christmas gift. It’s on my list! 

Biblical Critical Theory: How the Bible’s Unfolding Story Makes Sense of Modern Life and Culture Christopher Watkin (Zondervan Academic) $39.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $31.99    DUE NOVEMBER 1, 2022

This is another that I am awaiting my own advanced copy, which may not come, so I’m just guessing here. But I’m excited and think this may be one of the great tools for thinking about God’s story and how it engages the human story of cultures unfolding and our role in it all. Watkin is a sharp guy — there is no doubt about that — and he is trying to center the Biblical vision of Christ’s Kingdom allowing us all to be “in but not of” the world in which we find ourselves. I think this is going to be great. In fact, Dan Strange (Plugged In and Making Faith Magnetic) calls it “absolutely essential reading” and Natasha Moore of the Centre for Public Christianity calls it “urgent and a tremendously exciting read.” 

For what it is worth, Watkin has published conservative critiques of Foucault and of Derrida. He wrote a very stimulating and under-appreciated volume on how Genesis 1 and 2 are, for lack of a better phrase, “tools of cultural critique.” He argues that we need not get consumed by debates about Darwin and dinosaurs and the length of days or the Earth, but, rather, should pick up from our primal origin story, classic doctrines of the Trinity and the substantive importance of creation itself. As was said about that book, Thinking Through Creation,

These foundational, biblical truths of the Trinity and creation are among the richest sources of insights and tools for robust and sensitive engagement with contemporary culture. With diagrams and clear explanations both of the Bible and our contemporary world, Christopher Watkin reclaims the Trinity and creation from their cultural despisers and shows how these foundational doctrines speak into, question, and reorient some of the most important debates in today’s society.

And so, we now have this major volume coming out and we are excited to alert you to it. Here is how the publisher describes it:

In Biblical Critical Theory, Christopher Watkin draws a winsome vision for biblical cultural engagement in which faithfulness to Scripture and sensitivity to culture walk hand in hand. If Christians want to speak with a fresh, engaging and constructive voice within our culture, we need to press deeper into the core truths of the Bible.

Listen to this:

A book that I have been eagerly anticipating for years. … My prayers are that this book will bear much intellectual and spiritual fruit in many lives over the decades ahead.      — Timothy Keller, founding pastor, Redeemer Presbyterian, New York 

An important update of Augustine’s City of God, a proposal for making biblical sense of what is happening in contemporary culture. — Kevin Vanhoozer, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, The Pastor as Public Theologian: Reclaiming a Lost Vision

Christopher Watkin’s expert, timely compendium of Christian Scripture’s subversive engagement of dominating themes of our modern age brings welcome healing to our world. — Esther Lightcap Meek, author of Longing to Know: The Philosophy of Knowledge for Ordinary People

Unruly Saint: Dorothy Day’s Radical Vision and Its Challenge for Our Times  D. L. Mayfield (Broadleaf) $26.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $21.59  DUE NOVEMBER 8, 2022

This sits even now on my bedside and my frustratingly hectic pace of life these past few weeks (and a stack of other important volumes) has kept me from diving in as a wanted to. But any day now this will become one of my favorite books of the year, I am sure.

Those who know much about Dorothy and those who do not, I think, will be excellently served by this one-of-a-kind book. Mayfield is an edgy sort of post evangelical, I gather, and this puts her among the very best fans of The Catholic Worker,  the newspaper and movement. Jim Wallis, Lisa Sharon Harper, David Dark, Shane Claiborne and any number of non-Roman Catholic activists have drawn inspiration from Day’s radical lifestyle, her service of the poor no matter what, and her faithfulness to the church, despite all. My own journey has been crisscrossed by a number of CW folk and I must say that the extraordinary biography Dorothy Day: Dissenting Voice of the American Century by John Loughery and Randolph Blythe remains one of my all time favorite books. As I heard that DL was doing this one, I prayed that she knew Loughery and Blythe’s work and indeed she does. The footnotes are just fascinating and excellent. This author of Assimilate or Go Home: Notes from a Failed Missionary on Rediscovering Faith has now given us a perfect follow up to that fabulous memoir.

Unruly Saint is written by a very good writer and a good thinker, a woman who, like Dorothy, it seems, is seeking some new way to be faithful to God, to inhabit the Christian tradition well, to serve and love others. In this sense the book is almost a memoir, a story of Mayfield’s own encounter with Day. Although she seems very knowledgeable she says it is not, technically, a biography. It is Dorothy’s challenge to us, illustrated keenly as DL herself grappled with the woman and her books and her legacy.

One of Dorothy’s friends was Robert Ellsberg, now editor at Orbis Books. He has a forward in Unruly (quite an honor) and he says that Dorothy would have liked DL and would have liked the book. He quotes, as I had hoped, that great line at the end of The Long Loneliness, “It happened as we sat there talking and it is still going on.” He continues, “In her encounter with Dorothy, D.L. Mayfield has caught that spark. And in this book she passes it on.”

There are bunches of great endorsements of this, but that one is all we need. If Ellsworth says it is one to read, then trust that. Pre-order it today and we’ll send it out a bit early. 

The Heart in Pilgrimage: A Treasury of Classic Devotionals on the Christian Life Leland Ryken (Crossway) $34.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $27.99  DUE NOVEMBER 8, 2022

I have not laid eyes on this at all but the name alone — esteemed literary professor, Leland Ryken — gives you a hint that this will be a rich, classic, warm (if heady) collection, nicely made by Crossway (even with a ribbon marker.) It’s going to make a fabulous gift for those who don’t mind the older cadences and rhetoric of classic devotional literature.

Since I cannot say much, here are those who can, and do:

Having already opened the eyes of the body of Christ to its treasury of devotional poetry in The Soul in Paraphrase, Leland Ryken now widens our vision to take in the depth and breadth of two millennia of devotional prose. Running the gamut from the giants of the genre (Augustine, John Donne, Jonathan Edwards, Martin Luther, Brother Lawrence, Blaise Pascal, Julian of Norwich, Bernard of Clairvaux) to writers we do not usually identify with devotional writing (Florence Nightingale, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, George MacDonald, Jane Austen, George Washington Carver), The Heart in Pilgrimage conducts its readers on a spiritual journey that is well worth taking. — Louis Markos, Professor in English, Houston Baptist University; author The Myth Made Fact: Reading Greek and Roman Mythology through Christian Eyes

Whenever I am asked to recommend a volume that combines literary study with sound Christian teaching, I recommend Leland Ryken. His new collection of rich devotional literature will move to the top of my list of recommended works. The Heart in Pilgrimage is a treasury of wisdom and beauty to which readers will return again and again.” — Karen Swallow Prior, On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life through Great Books

Like cool water to a parched throat, Leland Ryken has produced a soul-quenching gift with this collection of devotionals. Filled with beautiful writing devoted to an even more beautiful subject, The Heart in Pilgrimage delivers the truths of the Christian faith through masterful expression, promising to awaken fresh affections for the Lord among believers of every stripe. — Collin Huber, Senior Editor, Fathom Magazine

Christianity and Critical Race Theory: A Faithful and Constructive Conversation Robert Chao Romero & Jeff Liou (Baker Academic) $23.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $19.19  DELAYED – NOW DUE APRIL 2023

We have been waiting for a solid book like this with sympathies for racial justice activism and a knowing awareness that the Bible is clear about being, in a righteous way, woke. We must wake up to social injustices and imagine the new thing God is doing, calling out systemic injustices and helping us all grapple with where we are in this moment of history.

Naturally, some who have posited theories about the nature of the real world as we know it — as in the hard sciences, say — are atheistic, and of those, some are nonetheless congenial to Christian values and some are hostile. Some who are mostly right carry some odd baggage. It is, as they say, a mixed bag.

And so, in our efforts to be faithful Christian thinkers about the ideas that are in the air around us, we must “take every thought captive” and grapple wisely with the claims and the critique of every school of thought and every lively ideology. Things such as CRT.

Sadly, this particular school of thought has been bandied about with whole books against it, ill-informed preachers and writers throwing the baby out with the bath water, and, worse, getting on right-wing radio shows and firing up the crowds to get them to despise this “CRT” even as they hardly know what it is. Some pseudo-scholars have weighed in louder than they should have and even good friends have broken fellowship over their opinions of these second and third level authors. This forthcoming one is going to be wise and solid, I’m sure.

This book, I believe, will go to the primary sources, suss out what shapes them and how they have been influential. It will not suffer fools but it will not be partisan or ideological, either. As the publisher calmly puts it, “Their aim is to offer analysis and critique that go beyond the debates about social identity and the culture wars and aid those who are engaging the issues in Christian life and ministry. Reflection/discussion questions, exercises, a glossary of key CRT terms, and suggested readings make the book helpful for students or small groups.”

Here is the fascinating arrangement of the book. Notice this:

  • 1. Creation: Community Cultural Wealth and the Glory and Honor of the Nations
  • 2. Fall: Sin and Racism–the Ordinary Businesses of Society
  • 3. Redemption: CRT in Institutions
  • 4. Consummation: The Beloved Community

I cannot wait to get my hands on this. You, too? Pre-order it now and we will send it the moment it comes in — a bit early, we suspect.

Tolkien Dogmatics: Theology Through Mythology with the Maker of Middle-Earth Austin Freeman (Lexham) $26.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $21.59  DUE NOVEMBER 16, 2022

We’re very excited about this, seeing how a Protestant (with a PhD from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and now teaching at Houston Baptist, no less) creates what some will no doubt consider to be the standard text on the theology of JRR Tolkien. Allow me to just crib from the publishers info — it so fascinating us and want to highlight it here:

J. R. R. Tolkien was many things: English Catholic, father and husband, survivor of two world wars, Oxford professor, and author. But he was also a theologian. Tolkien’s writings exhibit a coherent theology of God and his works, but Tolkien did not present his views with systematic arguments. Rather, he expressed theology through story.

In Tolkien Dogmatics, Austin M. Freeman inspects Tolkien’s entire corpus — The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and beyond — as a window into his theology. In his stories, lectures, and letters, Tolkien creatively and carefully engaged with his Christian faith. Tolkien Dogmatics is a comprehensive manual of Tolkien’s theological thought arranged in traditional systematic theology categories, with sections on God, revelation, creation, evil, Christ and salvation, the church, and last things. Through Tolkien’s imagination, we reencounter our faith.

By the way, did you know that although there are maybe a zillion or so books about Tolkien’s pal C.S. Lewis, I only know one book that literally explores and systematizes Lewis’s theological ideas? That is the brilliant little volume called Deeper Magic: The Theology Behind the Writings of C.S. Lewis by the lively Donald T. Williams, published by Square Halo Books. And, by the way, you should know their two exceptionally interesting books, C.S. Lewis and the Arts: Creativity in the Shadowlands and J.R.R. Tolkien and the Arts: A Theology of Subcreation. So much goodness!

Poetry Unbound: 50 Poems to Open Your World Pádraig Ó Tuama (W. W. Norton & Company) $27.95  OUR SALE PRICE = $22.36  DUE DECEMBER 6, 2022

I hope you know the world-famous Irish poet, Pádraig Ó Tuama. His extraordinary, lovely book published by Broadleaf takes the name of his website, In the Shelter. He is interested there in questions of violence and exclusion, hospitality and home, shelter and redemption. In recent years he has become known for more than his peacemaking work in Northern Ireland (see his Daily Prayer with the Corrymeela Community or the moving Between the Bells: Stories of Reconciliation from Corrymeela) and is increasingly recognized as a poet of considerable skill and wide appeal. You may have heard him on NPR as he hosted the On Being poetry podcast called “Poetry Unbound.” It is from that project that he gets the title of this brand new volume.

This book is a collection of fifty poems (mostly by contemporary poets, such as, say, Ada Lemon or Ilya Kaminsky or Margaret Atwood) and he then offers pages and pages of wonderfully touching and observant reflection. He is not only a splendid curator of poems, he is a teacher, a guide, and a spiritual director. It is extraordinary.

Poetry Unbound is fifty poems and 300 pages of commentary revealing and confessing why a line of verse might make you weep. But more than that, it is a collection of moments and meditations and a turning toward the ways that some memories, of sorrow and joy, might make us hold on a little while longer, long enough in fact.– Reginald Dwayne Betts, author of Felon

Mesmerizing, magical, deeply moving…. If you are looking for a read that will warm your heart, inspire your creative mind, and renew your faith in the resilience of the human race, look no further. — Elif Shafak, author of The Island of Missing Trees

Learning Humility: A Year of Searching for a Vanishing Virtue Richard J. Foster (IVP) $25.00  OUR SALE PRICE = $20.00  DUE DECEMBER 6, 2022 (expected sooner.)

I have not seen this yet but it is nearly a publishing event when the great Richard Foster releases a new book. His Celebration of Discipline continues to sell decades since its release date and this joyous, exceptionally well-read, and helpful Quaker — who knows the Catholic monastic tradition better than most Catholics — has given us many rich and lasting books. This one is culturally urgent and is curious — it is arranged by the sessions of the Lakota seasons.

These two quotes by two respected companions and friends explain the book wonderfully. Please read: 

Humility is an essential and highly nuanced topic for us Christians; there are such fine lines to be found–between humility and humiliation, self-regard and self-promotion, healthy self-esteem and the sin of pride. Foster finds the line and walks it beautifully. The idea that we do not try to attain humility directly but we ‘come at the matter indirectly. We simply take up those things that, in God’s time and in God’s way, will lead us into the virtue of humility’ is tremendously hopeful. It is worth the price of the book. — Ruth Haley Barton, founder of the Transforming Center and author of Sacred Rhythms

Destined to be another classic from Richard J. Foster, Learning Humility is a gift from a gifted writer. In this book we get to walk with Richard not only on the trails of Colorado but also on the terrain of the soul. Richard is a true scribe of the kingdom who brings forth treasures old and new (Matthew 13:52). The breadth and depth of the wisdom bearers he quotes is immense, from Peter and Paul, to Evagrius and Julian, to Chief Joseph and Underhill, to Kelly and Law, and to Murray and contemporary writers. Framed by the thirteen months and moons of the Lakota and filled with liturgies and litanies, this book ignited in me a hunger for humility in my own life. This is one of Richard’s signature gifts: he makes us long for difficult things by helping us see that virtues, like humility, are the pearl of great price, worth giving all we have to obtain it. This book is an engaging and insightful gem, and I am the better for having read it.   –James Bryan Smith, author of The Good and Beautiful God

This is a major volume on a simple subject. Oh my. Order it now.

Life’s Too Short to Pretend You’re Not Religious: Reframed and Expanded David Dark (Broadleaf Books) $18.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $15.19  DUE DECEMBER 13, 2022

Coming a few weeks before Christmas, this newly imagined, significantly edited, “reframed and expanded” edition of a great contemporary classic is sure to be a great read for many (and a great gift as well.) I did a pretty lengthy review of the first edition back five or six years ago. What a joy to see it is being reissued, soon.

Here’s the gist: David is convinced, rightly so, that everyone is religious. No one is, as they say, neutral. Or to shift the image a bit, everyone lives within a story. Everyone is coming from somewhere. Helping people realize the urgency of this human task of being honest about what drives or inspires us is a great gift and with Dark’s characteristic fluency in the popular arts and Americana literature and great religious thinkers, he can appeal to a very wide swath of good folk. His imagined reader — at least for the first edition — was perhaps the somewhat culturally hip and socially aware “spiritual but not religious” or maybe the proverbial “none.” As in “none of the above.” But, of course, life is too short for any of that. “Come on, I’m talking to you” as the Tears for Fears song went. Come on!

David is fiesty and gentle, kind and blunt. He loves the poetic nay-saying of Daniel Berrigan and the bold prophetic clarity of Southern Baptists like Will Campbell and Clarence Jordan. He loves The Simpsons and early on wrote about Radiohead and U2. These days he’s a bit of a twitter sensation, a righteous gadfly and minor pain in the backside to those who do not love their neighbors well, especially if they are celebrities who might do otherwise. He’s a lovely man, a strong thinker, and a vivid communicator. This book is all that.

Here is what the publisher suggests is in store in this updated edition:

“With the same keen powers of cultural observation, candor, and wit his readers have come to know and love, Dark weaves in current themes around the pandemic and vaccine responses, Black Lives Matter, the #MeToo and #ChurchToo movements, Critical Race Theory, and more. By looking intentionally at our weird religious background (we all have one), he helps us acknowledge the content of our everyday existence–the good, the bad, and the glaringly inconsistent. When we make peace with the idea of being religious, we can more practically envision an undivided life.”

For those of us who claim to be religious and those of us who religiously deny such labels, Dark grants us the gift and burden to think deeply about the imagination, scaffolding, and consequences of our religiosity. In reading his journey and cautions, my sense of personal accountability and religious identity were expanded. Such is a book that reads the reader and if we stick with it we gain insight into self and neighbor. — Christina Edmondson, scholar activist and host of Truth’s Table podcast, author of Faithful Antiracism.

David Dark is one of our most astute and necessary cultural critics. His work gracefully opens new doors of understanding and breaks down barriers between secular and non-, and it puts a lot of old mythology out to pasture with a daring affirmation at the heart of his radical critique. Life’s Too Short refreshingly ropes everyone in, insisting that we’re all in it together. We forget that. — Jessica Hopper, author of The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic




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No, Covid is not over — it is now spreading! Since nobody is reporting their illnesses anymore, it is tricky to know the reality but the best measurement is to check the water tables. And it’s bad. The virus is out there, seriously. It is complicated for us, but we are still closed for in-store browsing due to our commitment to public health (and the safety of our family, staff, and customers.) The vaccination rate here in York County is sadly lower than average and the newest variant is now spreading again; rates are rising. Our store is a bit cramped without top-notch ventilation so we are trying to be wise.

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Five stunning books about former President Trump, the claim that the elections were “stolen” and the January 6th riots ON SALE NOW

Over the last few weeks I have had one of the most electrifying and harrowing reading experiences of my life. I have read a handful of books back to back and I want very much to tell you about them. No, I am not oddly obsessed (well, okay, maybe a little) but I feel strongly that I am trying to live into one of my life verses, 1 Chronicles 12:23, that the Lord gave to me in 1978. You’ve heard of it, I’m sure; it’s the one that mentions the “sons of Issachar” who “understood the times and knew what God’s people should do.” Our bookstore was designed and we continue to curate it, we sometimes say, to help cultivate wise sons and daughters of Issachar.

And so, I invite you to read my reflections on five books about the former President Trump’s campaign to stop the counting of proper votes in that dramatic 2020 election and his intention to overturn the certification of them in that fateful electoral college procedure on January 6th, 2021.

(As always, you can order them at our discounted prices by clicking on the link at the very end of this long BookNotes column.)

That Mr. Trump’s “Stop the Steal” campaign started even before he was elected in 2016 when he warned, wrongly, that American elections are fraudulent, is well known. The spectacular hold the vast pattern of often egregious lies, QAnon nonsense, and conspiracy theories that went from wacky to weird to truly absurd, has had on his MAGA followers has been truly something to ponder. That some otherwise smart people have gotten caught up in this cult-like devotion (despite no evidence proving any of his election allegations) is both heartbreaking and mind-numbingly maddening. That otherwise fine Christian folks would fall for the exceptionally strange ideas proposed by outrageous oddballs like Sidney Powell and Mike Flynn and evil-doers like Roger Stone and Alex Jones is absolutely beyond me. How can Christian people live with themselves aligning themselves with such stuff?

That it all gave rise to bloody and murderous hand-to-hand combat — outnumbered police were stabbed with flags used as spears; one poor cop had his gas masked ripped off of him while held down and was sprayed mercilessly with bear spray — as a traitorous Republican mob stormed their way into the Capitol, some intending to prevent the peaceful transfer of power (and others, it seems, intending to kill Mike Pence and Nancy Pelosi) is a stain on the Trump movement that we must never forget. 

These five books are reputable and moving. I found them difficult to put down; if it wasn’t so very recent and true and consequential I’d say they were entertaining in a spy and mystery-thriller kind of way. They are excellently documented and offer horrific detail and new insights into what went on leading up to the uprising, perhaps the most momentous civic event of our lifetime.

That the Republic Party has increasingly been taken captive by a new generation of extremist Trumpians is certainly one of the most significant developments in our contemporary political landscape. How Mr. Trump’s flamboyant dishonesty about “the steal” captured the imaginations of so many remains inexplicable. These books do not answer this question although they are stand-outs among a cascade of new titles (with more to come) trying to figure out what the heck has happened to us as a nation, and, at least, what we should do about the riotous mob who attacked the Capitol to do political damage if not to stage an actual coup.

Behind much of it looms the question of what we should make of the fact that many of our fellow citizens either deny or minimize the violent realities of the January 6th take-over of the Capitol and who continue to believe, against all evidence, that the vote counting of the 2020 election was dishonest.

(That some who are most vocal about the outlandish and unproven allegation of a “Steal” are running for office — like in our own state with the religiously unusual candidate Mastriano [don’t get me started about his refusal to disavow the Rod of Iron cult] and how he targets fellow citizens for future injustice — should alarm any normal citizen, and certainly Biblically-informed Christians who should surely know better. But he praises the Lord and plays Steven Curtis Chapman songs at his rallies. Heaven help us.)

This is serious stuff, my friends, and we at Hearts & Minds take seriously our Issacharian role to alert you to these sorts of books. As always here at BookNotes, they are 20% off. Order some today by clicking on the link at the very end.

TWO MORE QUICK INTRODUCTORY COMMENTS: Because this terrible assault on truth and facts and law and order and the duly elected winner of the 2020 election has been conducted by those on the far-right side of the political spectrum and given how the mainstream GOP was largely complicit and implicated in this, these books will seem quite partisan. I am sorry. One does not need to be a loyalist to the Democratic Party or its policies (I am not) to believe that the Republicans have lost their moral center by refusing to distance themselves from the racist alt-right and failing to extricate themselves from the dishonesty of the Trumpian MAGA movement.

I often call for followers of Christ to be less politically partisan and to stand with the poor and oppressed and for righteous ways regardless of party affiliation. “Principles, not parties” is how one good Christian civic organization puts it. We must critique the philosophical ideologies of both major parties and I often cite the heavy but important book by David Koyzis, Political Visions & Illusions: A Survey & Christian Critique of Contemporary Ideologies (IVP; $35.00 – OUR SALE PRICE = $28.00.) My dear and late friend Ron Sider was impeccable in this as can be seen in his manifesto about how to “think Christianly” about political policy, seen most thoroughly in his Just Politics: A Guide for Christian Engagement (Brazos Press; $24.00 – OUR SALE PRICE = $19.20.) There are plenty of other great books on nurturing a truly Christian sense of citizenship and political life but I mention these to remind us that we are not trying to be partisan. That isn’t the point.

In any case, of these five riveting reads, two were written by Republicans, one by a Democratic Congressman, and two by reporters whose affiliations I do not know. All are fair about the seriously unethical ways Mr. Trump comported himself and the incredibly odd situation with so many insisting, without any evidence, that the election was stolen. Each remind us that all of this is worse than most of us realize and that it is a cultural matter that we must more deeply understand.

Which leads me to a final point in my preamble. How in the world did so many people fall for the Big Lie and how does propaganda and disinformation make its way into the common citizenry? I have previously recommended Bonnie Kristian’s excellent new book Untrustworthy: The Knowledge Crisis Breaking Our Brains, Polluting Our Politics, and Corrupting Christian Community (Brazos Press; $24.99 OUR SALE PRICE = $19.99.) It is a wonderful read, eloquent and moderate in tone. (Given how wildly dangerous the QAnon and Stop the Steal stuff has been, I’d have wished for a bit more zealous outcry from here but she is exceedingly calm and exceptionally balanced.) Her study of mass media and groupthink and the ethics of news consumption and what to do about what we know and what we don’t know, is a must-read these days. As Jeffrey Bilbro (the gentle Wendell Berry scholar who wrote the beautiful Reading the Times: A Literary and Theological Inquiry Into the News) said of it, Untrustworthy “is never condescending and always sympathetic; it is never partisan and always incisive.” Kristian offers specific ways to take action to combat “the truth crisis” in our lives, families, and church communities, even offering a wonderfully clear proposal for “a practical epistemology.”  Thank God.

Okay. Put on your seatbelts, friends. This is going to get bumpy. I hope you order several of these from us asap.

 Here are the books I will be describing.

  • Betrayal: The Final Act of the Trump Show Jonathan Karl (Dutton) $28.00   OUR SALE PRICE = $22.40
  • The Steal: The Attempt to Overturn the 2020 Election and the People Who Stopped It Mark Bowden & Matthew Teague (Atlantic Monthly Press) $28.00  OUR SALE PRICE = $22.40
  • The Breach: The Untold Story of the Investigation Into January 6th Denver Riggleman with Walker Hunter (Henry Holt & Company) $29.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $23.99
  • Why We Did It: A Travelogue from the Republican Road to Hell Tim Miller (Harper) $26.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $21.59
  • Unthinkable: Trauma, Truth, and the Trials of American Democracy Jamie Raskin (Harper) $27.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $22.39

Betrayal: The Final Act of the Trump Show Jonathan Karl (Dutton) $28.00   OUR SALE PRICE = $22.40

Jonathan Karl is the Chief Washington correspondent for ABC News and the author of a previous work on the incessantly peculiar and often despicable behaviors of our 45th President, Front Row at the Trump Show. His crisp, informative reporting and essential fairness has been affirmed by many principled conservatives who endorsed his first book —Peggy Noonan (in the Wall Street Journal), the biographer of Ronald Reagan, Lou Cannon, the nearly impeccable George F. Will.

One significant critic said “we’ve read every book about the Trump presidency. This is the best.” 

This new one picks up where the previous left off, but it is travelling very certain ground—“the explosive account of the downfall of the Tump president and the betrayal of American democracy.” Karl has known Donald Trump longer than any other White House correspondent (and had remarkable access to him, including after Biden’s inauguration; there is a spectacular chapter at the end of Karl being hosted by Trump at Mar-a-Lago.

This is a vivid account of the last months of the Trump campaign by a highly qualified journalist. I have postie-notes and book-markers throughout this book highlighting hundreds of the jaw-dropping episodes that Karl tell. Some are utterly bizarre, others politically unorthodox, many just rude (such as how the Trump family broke the age old tradition of inviting the next President and his wife to visit in the White House before the inauguration; even though Trump had spent endless time trying to prove that Obama wasn’t even a real American, then President Obama and his wife entertained the Trump’s twice prior to their own move in day.) More egregious dangerous things unfold, as we know, and Mr. Karl gives us a front row seat.

It starts with the little known episode of how Mr. Trump’s royal “body guy” (a security guard who had previously been fired) was given an unprecedented position of power whereby he could fire almost anyone in the White House; the chapter called “The Purge” tells of the work of no-nothing Johnny Mentee. I could hardly believe my eyes learning about that. Karl moves to stories of Covid (and how the President knowingly risked spreading it to others, including the famous episode when Chris Christie got it) and the strange press conference where the President rambled on about possibly injecting cleaners. Poor Dr. Birx, who was sitting right there with the under secretary of Homeland Security who was equally aghast. It goes from bizarre to despicable when, in the next chapter, there is a moment by moment exploration of the famous church photo-op. You know — the one with the unjust, violent removal of protesters and the take-over of a local church while holding a Bible in a rather awkward manner. Whew.

Betrayal brings us into the frantic days of the election and the effort to overturn election results. On and on it goes for 350 pages and I wanted more when it was over.  There is so much included, and nicely written. Some have said it is the definitive account of the final months and no one reading it would deny that what happened at the end of 2020 was riveting to read about and enough to send shivers up the spine of most serious patriots. 

Betrayal convincingly makes the case that the period between Election Day and Inauguration Day was even more precarious than we knew at the time. Karl isn’t a progressive pundit or a hyperbolic columnist. He is one of the most-respected correspondents in DC He and so many others are saying: America was on the precipice of a constitutional crisis. And we could wind up back there again soon.          — Brian Stelter, CNN’s Reliable Sources newsletter

The Steal: The Attempt to Overturn the 2020 Election and the People Who Stopped It Mark Bowden & Matthew Teague (Atlantic Monthly Press) $28.00  OUR SALE PRICE = $22.40

This is one of the most detailed studies of the Trump Big Lie that I have read and should sure convince anyone anywhere that his conspiratorial accusations are nonsensical, incoherent, and often laughably ridiculous. You have to read the accounts of this dramatic story yourself to learn it all, but the short version is that it tells in narrative fashion — written with such verve that you almost think your reading a Grisham novel or spy drama — of the accusations of election fraud and what did or didn’t happen in each account. It would take pages to even summarize the many points and counterpoints but Bowden & Teague deserve an award for investigative reporting for this patriotic truth-telling. This is very, very informative and offers crucial information. One reviewer called it “a marvel of reporting.” Indeed.

Some of the accusations Trump’s people make (and continue to make) are just nutty and can be dismissed easily. There was a picture of somebody moving boxes and it was tweeted out with a caption insisting it showed shenanigans. On investigation it became obvious that the poll workers (under the constant gaze of bipartisan poll watchers) did this throughout their process, moving boxes from this location to that, counted and double-counted, moved from this space to that. There was absolutely nothing nefarious about the picture whatsoever.

In many of the cases — including some that the Trump team insisted was proof of fraud — Trump’s election count was actually in the lead. The claims of fake stuff happening was ludicrous, for starters, unkind to our many dedicated counters and poll workers who were doing their best and, frankly, foolish for Trump since he was winning in those very places he insisted stuff was fishy. How dumb.

The book goes into dramatic detail as it races across the country, follows the accusations and demands for recounts, the lawsuits (those thrown out and those that went to court where Trump’s team repeatedly lost. Lost, lost, lost. They had their day in court — sometimes tried by Trump-appointed judges! — and they lost. There is just no there, there. This book explains it all in dramatic storytelling, loaded with facts. 

The Steal is powerful on several levels and is a must-read for anyone curious about the legitimacy of the claims of fraud, the steal, the accusations of corruption. It takes these claims seriously at times and goes to great lengths to study the back story, the politics, the facts on the ground about how votes are counted and recounted, and how it all ends up. There is nothing like it in print and deserves to be widely known as we will continue to have to clarify the true truth to people who — for reasons that are beyond me — continue to believe against the evidence that the election was stolen.

Some of the claims that come into play are technical in nature (that is, claiming that Dominion computers could be hacked.) Upon closer look the allegations were just weird — claims about Venezuelan Hugo Chavez (who is dead) having intercepted computers that count votes (a literal impossibility, by the way, since the voting isn’t “on line.”) Claims that somebody in Germany was playing footloose with the votes. (Again, this is simply impossible. High school computer science geeks could explain this.) Sidney Powell and Rudy Giulianii continued to make outrageous claims of this impossible sort and continued to make them even after they were proven to be false. They were often chastised by judges during their proverbial day in court (get that: they evidence was so non-existence, that even Trump appointed judges mocked them and threw out the claims, almost always.) Still, they continued to spread falsehoods about the so-called stolen election, flagrantly repeating episodes that had been shown to be false. It took way, way too long for President Trump to finally cut loose the delusional Powell, but she did her damage.

The Steal explores the drama of these characters and their wacky schemes, going into great detail about the allegations made by the disgraced Attorney Powell and the scary Michael Flynn, of the Pillow Guy Mike Lindell and Jenna Ellis and the religiously heterodox Pennsylvania Gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano. If this were a suspense thriller, a spy novel, we would say these characters are simply too outlandish to be true. But yet, here we are.

The book tells of the true believers — there is the confused Gary Phelman who demanded access to where other poll watchers already were because he has an unofficial “certificate” making him (as he put it, “the ears and eyes of the President of the United States” who was apparently sending out these unauthorized certificates) and the pushy Greg Stenstrom in Chester County who demanded to be allowed to go behind the scenes at a ballot counting spot (The Wharf, in Delco, PA) because he had an authorization to be a poll watcher in another part of the county. That was where that footage came from that went viral of a Republican poll watcher being excluded — there already were proper Republican poll watchers in place and Stenstrom simply wasn’t authorized to be in that location, so of course they didn’t admit him. But it sure looked bad on film and not only did it fire up the skeptical base about Democrat shenanigans, it so fired up Stenstrom that he brow beat a local judge to pass a ruling allowing him to delay the count and get himself in. (Where, importantly, there was no foul play.) Then there were the unscrupulous folks behind Project Veritas — and the over-reaction story about one poor postal worker in Erie, PA. You’ve got to read about him. Story after story, The Steal will keep you up at night, exploring fairly each allegation, state by state, to determine what really happened.

Over and over the stakes are high and these accusations were gaining momentum, passed around the internets among those expecting a steal — Mr Trump had said it would happen — reading trouble into all sorts of pretty normal stuff. The self fulfilling prophesies won the day, despite the facts of minimal election errors. Granted, the Covid pandemic and the necessary rules about social distancing didn’t help any; that differing states having different rules about mail-in ballots is discussed which gave rise to some understandable frustrations which were properly adjudicated in the courts. (Our own situation in Pennsylvania being one of the more sticky ones, actually.)

The final clause in the subtitle of The Steal: The Attempt to Overturn the 2020 Election and the People Who Stopped It is important as the book looks at who the real heroes of our election were. It is, in the final analysis, a tribute to those who said “no” to the trouble-makers, who played by the rules and insisted others do, too. Some — like Brad Raffensperger, the Trump-supporting election guy (technically called the Secretary of State) in Georgia — famously stood their ground even when their preferred candidate lost the election. For bravely abiding by proper law and order with impeccable scruples they got death threats and vile phone messages, rape threats and hate mail and worse. Why the Trump-driven GOP didn’t “call out” those who are so vulgar and so unhinged is beyond me but I applaud this book for exposing the ugliness of some and the quiet heroism of others.

From Arizona to Michigan to Pennsylvania to George the threat of violence against those following the rules was sickening. Your heart will go out to those (often Republican) local leaders who didn’t fall for the groupthink of Trump’s pressure campaign and simply followed the evidence and stuck to the facts. And paid a price to do so. This book needs to be read.

There is a lot of content in this page-turner of a book, lots of drama; it is almost mind-numbing to what lengths the Trump MAGA team would go to try to save the election from being stolen, even as it became evident that the votes were legit and even after lawsuit after lawsuit found nothing. is a book that you will never forget about a movement that, sadly, we may not be able to forget. This stuff is not going away. The Steal is a book that is must to have on your shelf for future reference.

There are, by the way, three appendices included. There is a list of House of Representatives members who objected to certifying the electoral college results. There is a list of Senators who refused to certify the electoral college results. And there is a listing and guide to the lawsuits filed to challenge the 2020 election results. This, truly, will bring you up to speed.

The Breach: The Untold Story of the Investigation Into January 6th Denver Riggleman with Walker Hunter (Henry Holt & Company) $29.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $23.99

Okay, if Bowden and Teague are investigate reporters trying to fairly tell about the effort to undo the elections and the arguments about what was fudged, what was sound, what the complaints were and why those accusations all fall flat — all by immersing us in the stories of those who resisted these fly-by-night accusers (those they call “the true patriots”) then this book is an insiders look on just what happened and how it all went south, especially with the uprising on January 6th. This is one insider’s view and, man, is it spicy. And informative. And real.  Wow.

Denver Riggleman is quite a character. He served as a one-term GOP Representative in DC and because of his former career in the Air Force intelligence and experience with the NSA and expertise in the field of technical aspects of intelligence (tracking phone calls, just for instance) he served for a bit on The US House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol. (It was not a Commission, a la the popular 9/11 Commission, by the way, as that was voted down, after seemingly being agreed upon by the House Republicans.) We learn a bit about Riggleman’s story and how he came to serve the Committee as a technical advisor and investigator. It is colorful, a bit raw — he is not a polished writer but a straight shooting military guy who is concerned about all the partisan nonsense.

This is the first book by a member of the House Select Committee to Investigate — my hunch is not all on the Committee are glad Riggleman has published his own telling of his work so soon; he does seem to be a bit of a fast-moving, get her done kind of guy, so it makes sense. I have to tell you a bit about who Riggleman is and what qualified him to serve the Commission and why it is, I’ve come to believe, exceedingly valuable to have his side of things in print. His personal story interspersed with the drama of his technical investigations sure makes for one heckuva read. Wow — what a glimpse into the real world of intelligence gathering.

Three things about Riggleman. He was raised Mormon but left that world with some degree of appreciation — he’s a good guy at heart, I’m sure — but with a lot of red flags about cults, groupthink, superstition, conspiracy theories, and the like. He sees that stuff a mile away and he does not suffer fools gladly, as they say. He doesn’t cross over any lines — it could have been studied more — but his wondering why so many people fall for what he calls the “bullshit” (that’s about the least colorful thing he calls it) of the Trump MAGA accusations about a stolen election is tremendously interesting. His background in cults makes it even more so. He has seen radicalization in Afghanistan and the Middle East and cut his military teeth in the awful horror of the Serbian/Croatian wars so he has some experience in sizing up how people become “true believers” in a cause that is not rooted in reality or truth or goodness. Anyway, his growing up rough, the conversion of his family to a religious faith and his determination that it was somewhat cult-like is helpful.

Secondly, as I’ve said, he’s a military guy with tons of experience in cracking codes, tracking down hidden information, doing bigger things than finding missing phone numbers. But that’s where his expertise came in handy as he set up what he had hoped would be a several million dollar research center to trace the network of call contacts in the phone given to the Committee by Mark Meadows, President Trump’s Chief of Staff. The thousands of texts, images, calls, and connections are at first not useful information — they’ve got millions of lines of numbers, but at first no names attached — but he created a huge graph connecting who called who. He hired some geeks in Greensburg PA with various interfacing software programs to get on all this, trying to find out which unsavory characters — The Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers, etc. — were most in touch with White House personnel leading up to the legal and bloody attack on the Capitol on January 6th. What he discovers will blow your mind.

As I have said before — and as I trust you surely know — everybody knew they were coming. The White House had contact with some who planned the insurrection, and it was well known that some who were coming were spreading the word to bring weapons. Anybody paying attention to Facebook and the web that week knew it was happening; those tuned to the deep web and the dark web (as Riggleman explains) would have known much more. The question is how connected the White House was, and did the White House’s connection with creeps like Roger Stone (and Bannon and the rest of the cast of violent and unsavory characters) indicate that they had hoped for a violent attack on the Capitol police and the congresspeople in the building?  In any case, Riggleman has contacts in the spy biz  and he routinely consults with police investigations and he tells some pretty cool stories about the gear and the people — he knows a guy, as they say — they recruited on a shoestring budget to suss out who was involved in this illegal uprising to storm the Capitol and attempt to murder elected officials like Mike Pence. At certain points I had to pinch myself to remember this wasn’t a fictional spy novel but something that actually happened in our own capitol just a year or so ago.

Thirdly, Riggleman has been a life-long redneck conservative. He is proud that he lived in Appalachia for a while and he’s got this blue collar demeanor and perspective. He is outspoken and blunt, daring and right wing. At least he was. Like many people I know he overlooks the flaws of the likes of Ronald Reagan and George Bush and sees them and their time as an honorable era of positive, even Godly, Republicanism. He knows his Constitution and he loved his GOP. But with the Trump stuff, he grew sour and when he ran for office and ran afoul the party line — standing against racism, for instance — he grew bitter about much of the far right ideology and its tribe. His time in the Freedom Caucus (with central Pennsylvania’s own far right ideologue Congressman Scott Perry) has given him keen insight into human behavior, party loyalty, the idols of ideology, and why the “stolen election” nonsense has taken hold.

Riggleman is the guy for this book, exposing the stupidity of much of the Big Lie and yet showing compassion for the people — like his own mother! — who believe it. His blow by blow description of how they piece by piece figured out who was talking to who leading up to the riots makes the book move along with page-turning speed and gripping, no-nonsense prose. And there is the big question looming: who used that phone in the White House early afternoon June 6th to call somebody inside the Capitol, someone rioting that very moment? That seems to be Riggleman’s “white whale” and he is passionate about following the evidence, looking at the facts and seeing where that leads. He is less concerned about partisan points and more about the answers to his tech kinds of questions, especially questions about what he called “the Rosetta Stone for the January 6th investigation” — Meadow’s phone texts which, he says, provided “a staggering amount of information.” 

I suppose you know that (as he puts it) “The White House is technically required to keep track of the commander in chief’s calls, thanks to the Presidential Records Acts, which was enacted in the wake of Watergate.” He notes that this sometimes leaves room for negligence, carelessness, and, sometimes deliberate misconduct.

And I suppose you also know that on January 6th the White House went dark for seven hours and thirty-seven minutes.

He writes,

I didn’t know why the White House went dark and I didn’t really care. As an intelligence officer, you learn not to make assumptions. It might have been an innocent mistake; it could have been a cover-up. What mattered to me — as the senior technical advisor to the Committee and as an American — was why they stopped tracking the calls, and what happened next.

As the answers unfold and we learn the details (or at least those he in good conscience could share; he sometimes says he can’t say more) we also learn more about who is involved in this big network of neo-Nazi groups and Oath Keepers and right wing religionists and ordinary Republicans who believed Trump and his MAGA team. More interestingly, he wonders why people fall for this stuff.

Which leads him to QAnon. He is adept at cracking into the dark web and he knows some stuff — he can’t even say what all, I gather — about the espionage needed if we are going to figure out who is inspiring folks to do violence and things like the plan to prevent the election to go through. That there are these way-underground dark web groups with chat boards and such, shaping the fevered fears of many that then are picked up in more mainstream ways, is an immense problem. That huge networks like Fox picks up and repeat truly outlandish stuff from the dark webs is jaw-droppingly dangerous for our society and, frankly, our safety. 

Denver Riggleman tells of some sick, nutty conspiracies that someone who is at least seemingly respectable reports in some relatively mainstream way. The fake stories (about election fraud, or worse) get on some far right network — Trump’s own alternative to twitter, say, or OAN network. Next it is picked up by the more popular Fox and soon the sketchy story has been seen by millions. And they almost all believe it is gospel. How does this happen? What are we to do? 

Just when I thought The Breach had sort of peaked and had reached its dramatic climax, the next chapter (“The Traitor”) blew me away. Holy smokes — people actually believe that what was once a Benghazi conspiracy fringy story could morph into an accusation that Obama’s SEAL Team Six didn’t really kill Bin Laden (there was a body double) and Obama had one of the SEALs murdered. This harebrained QAnon stuff was retweeted by then President Trump!

Riggleman and his co-writer Walker Hunger tell of a press conference where Trump was directly asked about QAnon and he obviously lied about not knowing about who they are. The reporter played along, graciously explaining its theory about the Satanic cult of pedophiles and cannibals that the Democrats were supporting. The NBC White House correspondent Shannon Pettypiece said to the President, “Does that sound like something you are behind?”  The Breach tells what happened next and reflects on the story:

There it was. Trump was standing behind the White House podium. He hd the prefect opportunity to use the full force of his presidential platform to denounce the most unhinged and angry aspects of Canon. The chance to have a positive impact on the segment of his base that was going off the rails was all teed up for him. Trump didn’t take it. Nope. Rather than doing what any remotely decent person would have done, he actually doubled down and almost endorsed QAnon’s dark, apocalyptic vision of world affairs.

After quoting verbatim what the President said about QAnon, he observes,

The end-times death cult conspiracies were now coming from behind the White House podium.

This is not a curious digression but is deeply connected to the “Stop the Steal” marches, the wild stuff Ginny Thomas has said (about Democrats being captured and put on barges headed to GITMO) and more. How have things gotten this unhinged?

Riddleman — again, think of his background as a former Mormon which he now views as somewhat cult-like and his expertise on the psychology of radicalization from his work in counterterrorism doing Air Force intelligence in hot war zones overseas — is very, very concerned about the influence of conspiracy theories. In fact, before losing his last election, one of his heroic bipartisan efforts was to pass an anti-QAnon Resolution in the House.

This has led him also to take on the notorious election denier and Trump friend Alex Jones. If the Proud Boys engage in (among other awful stuff) holocaust denial, Alex Jones claimed that the Sandy Hook murders of children was a hoax. And these are the guys the beloved President befriended. Every time I see a Trump sign or yard side I think of this, wondering if my neighbors approve of such evil ideas? We simply must say it: Alex Jones is a dangerous and wicked man.  Riddleman is a brave Republican, willing to speak out about this sickness in the party.

And then, in Chapter 10 — “The Byrne Identity” — the book reports even yet weirder stuff. Riddleman expose the war documents Trump’s people had and, indeed, the next chapter is called “Executive Disorder” which shows how many MAGA hard-liners wanted Trump to use EO 13848, stretching it’s meaning, enabling him to declare an emergency and send out the National Guard and take over voting machines. This stuff tending towards a coup (and more from the likes of madman Patrick Byrne spelled out in his unbelievable Deep Capture website) was in the air. Trump’s advisers were increasingly bizarre and unprofessional — from Powell to Giuliani to Jenna Ellis. As a military man and hyper patriot, Riddleman has no time for the scoundrels. Of former and onetime national security adviser and dangerously odd General Michael Flynn and his coup-plotting (on, for instance, a Newsman interview on December 17th 2020), Riddleman cannot restrain his disdain:

I think Flynn is a shameful and spineless disgrace. I also recognize him as a clear and present danger.

I could say more but you get the drift. This is a deep dive into the far fringe elements of Trumpworld. Oddly, these conspiracy-filed voices seem to be his most loyal fans and certainly were influential in the days leading up to the big plan to take over the Capitol if Mike Pence didn’t come through to overturn the election. Surely not everyone knows that so much of this is so far out or otherwise good citizens would be running for the hills (or sending Tump-mania packing.) This kind of stuff needs to be read, discussed, and we need to put books like this into the hands of those who favor election-denying candidates. This book has some colorful language. It’s quite a read. You should know it.

Why We Did It: A Travelogue from the Republican Road to Hell Tim Miller (Harper) $26.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $21.59

I was not sure I wanted to review this book, as its subtitle is overly provocative and the writing laced with casual profanity. The young-ish, hip author has been the consummate Republican operative and is very well known within the higher-ups of the Grand Old Party. He did communication work for candidates, admittedly for short term gain (often doing negative ads.) He was not happy with himself. I am not alert enough to national politics to have know his name but those in the know in the Republican movement know him well. Since he early on realized Mr. Trump was not good for the country or the party Tim Miller has become anathema among his former friends and colleagues. He a self-confident worker and independent thinker so I have a hunch he doesn’t really care what they think of him. Except, well, he sort of undid a lifetime of professional friendships and, uh, his whole career. So there’s that.

I’ve got several good friends who are fond of the old political theory adage about how one may not want to see “how the sausage is made.” Well, this mea culpa gives us a very rare view into the back room deals and fund-raising plans and media appearances and campaign strategy meetings and red-eye private jet flights and all sorts of other gigs that make up typical big time American political efforts. Mr. Miller had never wanted to be an elected official so most don’t know his name. But he is known by those behind the scenes — and those who report on that stuff, such as pundit James Carville, who says, “Everyone should read this book, especially fellow Democrats who want to better understand our political foes.”

Here’s the short version of Miller’s fast-paced, snarky memoir: he rose to fame and influence in the RNC as one of the architects of its widely reported “autopsy” after the 2012 landslide for Obama. As a keen-eyed and principled strategist, he worked with other top-level leaders to forge a winning plan that would help Republicans appeal to more folks (women in the blue suburbs, immigrants, people of color, LGBTQ persons) and help them stay true to conservative values in a changing postmodern culture. Quite a feat, but this guy knew his stuff and worked hard with all sorts of important (and in some cases famous) politicos. 

Miller was the communication director for Jeb Bush’s 2016 presidential campaign and before that the chief spokesman for the Republican National Committee during Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential Campaign. He worked with McCain, even in Iowa. To say he’s been around is an understatement. (And, whew, the amount of late night drinking these guys do is truly remarkable.) There is candor and revelation (and, one has to wonder, maybe a hint of spiritual longing, with prayer even mentioned once or twice.) He did lots of interviews with old friends and co-workers asking how they (perhaps like himself) justified their work with candidates who they personally disapproved of. Naturally, many had jobs they needed and careers they wanted and, well, they were motivated often by just trying to stay afloat.

He actually has sort of a taxonomy of different ways different people could live with themselves working for stuff that was frankly wrong. These handful of chapters is very interesting and I think pretty insightful.

Interestingly he tells a lot of stories — once he was editing a fund raising newsletter that was targeting Republican senior citizens. It was laden with race-baiting and all sorts of alarmist scary stuff. He “red-lined” some of it but his bosses (and the candidate in question) told him that unless the press would write about this negative sort of fear-mongering stuff, he shouldn’t edit it. In retrospect he realized this was just wrong and he didn’t speak up.

Maybe you recall an old Sidney Lumet film called Power (with Richard Gere, Gene Hackman, Julie Christie, Denzel Washington) about the campaign consultants behind the scenes as they shape a candidate for public consumption and their own compromises with their own sense of ethics — it’s their job, after all. It’s a great movie about personal integrity and I kept thinking of it as I read this page-turning expose of how and why so many relatively normal, respectable, decent Republican players turned a blind eye to Trump’s corruption, narcissism, bad temper, crass materialism, no-nothing anti-intellectualism, routine dishonesty, and confusion about American politics and Republican principles. Why?

Why, indeed? We have heard that many Republicans privately despised the President (and many feared him as well, for understandable reasons.) Yet the question remains “How did this happen?”

Miller is angry and he is angry at himself. Yet he is not a jerk and this isn’t merely a hard critique, although it is that. He is understandably understanding. The jacket flap copy says he “cuts into all the hubris, ambition, idiocy, desperation, and self-deception for everyone to see” and he does. He names names, often, and describes long, heart-to-heart debates with key GOP operatives, pushing them to be honest with themselves, to speak out, to right the ship. It is bracingly honest, but while it promises to expose “the contortions of his former peers in the conservative establishment” he is not mean-spirited or ugly about it all. He is mostly heart-broken and alarmed. As he puts it, he “draws a straight line between the actions of the 2000s GOP and the Trumpian takeover of the Republican political class, including the horrors of January 6, 2021.”

That he tells of his coming out as a gay man (and the “mental gymnastics that enable him to justify becoming a hit man for homophobes”) reveals a lot. It is a gripping book, at times quite tender, and interesting in all sorts of ways. Beyond the political details, it is a profound study of what it means to be true to one’s values, to be authentic and honest, to have integrity. Wild as it is and as much cool, hipster lingo as there is, it is really worth reading. The author is earnest and it is to the point and is trying to cultivate a sense of honesty and integrity.

Consider this hefty endorsement:

When the history of this era is written, the dominant question will likely be, How did this happen? Tim Miller’s Why We Did It offers a crucial insider’s answer to that question. It’s a must-read report from the belly of the beast detailing how the unimaginable becomes inevitable. Looking back at a career in politics and being horrified at what you were part of is not the most fun exercise in life. Tim examines his role with clear honesty, sadness, and an amusing sense of the absurd. This is a big, important book. Read it. — Stuart Stevens, political consultant and co-founder of Strategic Partners & Media.

Or this, which captures much about Why We Did It:

Tim is a supremely gifted storyteller who writes with brutal honesty and stylish gallows humor about the GOP’s toxic mix of opportunists, joy riders, and grifters who enabled Donald Trump’s rise and guaranteed his enduring grip on the Republican Party. Tim takes a scalpel to the malignant tumor smothering American democracy by dissecting his own friends and onetime colleagues. The most valuable contribution of Tim’s book may be the anthropological examination of just how little separates a ‘normal’ Republican from an activist working to overthrow a free and fair presidential election. — Nicolle Wallace, Deadline: White House

Unthinkable: Trauma, Truth, and the Trials of American Democracy Jamie Raskin (Harper) $27.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $22.39

This is the book I wanted to introduce first, but felt like maybe the others fit better early on the list. They are clear-headed and honest and robust in their investigations of the often utterly bizarre accusations of the Big Lie that so many have fallen for. I listed those first, but this one — oh my. It blew me away and is one of the most moving and compelling and tender books I have read in years. I said to Beth the other day it may have to be added on to my ever-changing list of Best Books I’ve Ever Read. I think it is almost that good and surely is unforgettable.

As you may know, Congressman Jamie Raskin is a Democratic leader from Maryland who helped with the first impeachment hearings against Donald Trump (that was the whole Russian election scam.) Before his time running (with his kids helping with the campaign) for a seat in Annapolis in the State House he was a good natured law professor. (He is a Harvard Law grad and a constitutional law guy, actually.) That is he pretty far left — sort of a fun and smiling Bernie, maybe — makes him super interesting as well.

We learn a bit about his famous dad (who had worked in the Kennedy administration for a which) who was arrested for anti-draft protest in 1968 with Dr. Spock and Rev. William Sloan Coffin (for those old enough to remember that) and how his father helped start the Institute for Policy Studies with Richard Barnet. He learned his justice-seeking, civil rights values in this remarkable setting in a famously loving family; the civic pride he and his family takes in him being an elected official and public servant is palpable. He has good chums all over the country and is pals with folks from various poltical persuasions. His voice was immediately friendly and inspiring. 

Perhaps you may also know that his beloved young adult son and best friend, Tommy, took his own life on December 31st 2019. The book opens with that unspeakable tragedy and while I have read other narratives of families bereaved by suicide, I have never read anything so heart-breaking and gripping. I knew this was part of the backstory of Jamie Raskin as he took up Nancy Pelosi’s call to become the lead manager of the second impeachment trail against Donald Trump for his dangerous role in inspiring and possibly planning the January 6th insurrection.

This personal loss faced so bravely is part of what is so unthinkable, the double entrance of the title almost too painful to admit. This book is the first time the famous House leader discusses the “unimaginable convergence of personal and public trauma.” What a story. What a book. I am deeply grateful to the Congressman for doing the hard work of facing all this and telling us about it in this stunning book.

Although he is candid about the pain of losing his son (and how his wife and two daughters processed that as well and how so many good people rallied around them) the main story is about going back to work— the first time since the death of his son a week previous — on January 6th. His grown daughter and a son-in-law went along (to watch after him, actually, they admitted, in case he couldn’t emotionally sustain himself) and then the attack began. This insider’s account of the fear of an active shooter coming after them, the bloody combat, the stabbings and neo-Nazi stuff (you can imagine how Jewish people felt) and the toxic bear spray — the Trumpian MAGA team had come armed to the teeth. It is the most riveting account of the attack I have read and it is gruesome.

One story: some of the Democratic congressional leaders, flat on their bellies, crawled to the other side of the room to lie in place with Republicans thinking that if the mob broke through and started shooting, they would surely pick off the Democrats first. Can you imagine!

Another story: Jamie was honorably concerned about his friends and colleagues in the great hall at the time, but he was firstly alarmed for his daughter and his son-in-law who had been escorted out and were hiding under a Congress person’s desk. Cell phone was spotty as the surreal attack continued, hour after hour. He was understandably panicked as he had just lost one child and sure didn’t want to lose another — even as he blamed himself for allowing her to come along. What a nightmare.

On it went. He saw a police officer stabbed with a flagpole being used as a spear — this is no time for snarky comments about how unpatriotic that is. These rioters were inspired by a well-dressed US President but they were there in gear, prepared for battle; for many nothing was sacred.

Unthinkable is about trauma, not only his own private hell but the trauma elected officials felt that day (even though some, who were crying in fear and screaming in outrage soon minimized the damage in egregious turnabouts for obvious partisan optics.) And yes, the book moves not only through the horror of that day from an insider’s view but to the process of recovery from trauma that all good citizens had to begin. Somewhat like the attack on Pearl Harbor or the forever infamous 9-11 attacks, this murderous uprising must live in infamy. The casualties were obviously less (but more severe than most realize or dare to recall) but the fact that it came from our own — fellow citizens, driven on with complicity from the White House, later with elected officials implicated — it is a tragedy that simply must be faced. And this book helps us do that better than any I’ve read.

The vivid telling of the uprising to try to prevent the peaceful transfer of power after an obviously legitimate election — with chants of being willing to capture and perhaps even execute Mike Pence if necessary — is the first part of the book. If it were only that part it would be well worth reading (especially, again, as there are portions — not digressions! — writing seamlessly about his family, his son, how Covid prevented healthy and life-giving interaction for so many.) But the rest of the book picks up with Raskin’s courageous leadership in the second impeachment trail. How that developed, the round-the-clock research his team had to endure, the professionalism and patriotism of the crew, it is all very impressive.

I keep wondering, dear Hearts & Minds friends, how BookNotes readers who favored the Republican candidate will respond to my telling of how much I appreciated this important book. I know Raskin is not without faults. Still, I hope you are willing to engage, as they say, and take an open-minded look at the arguments for the second impeachment and the magnitude of the sheer dedication and tenacity that drove those committed to finding and exposing the truth of the President’s involvement in the traitorous uprising. Agree fully or not with all that Mr. Raskin believes (I surely do not) he is a  good and caring public servant and I feel he has his shared some of his soul in this vulnerable, honest book. He gives me hope that some Congressional officials can embody a deep and caring sort of integrity, combing the personal and the poltical it ways that strike me as good.   

Raskin is a moving writer. For instance:

This is not a book about Donald Trump. Quite the opposite. It is about the people whose dreams and actions have allowed us to survive Donald Trump…

Tyrants tell stories only about themselves because history for them begins and ends with their own insatiable appetites. But my own story of despair and survival depends entirely on other people, above all the good and compassionate people, the ones like my son, Tommy, the non-narcissists, the feisty, life-size human beings who hate bullying and fascism naturally — people just the right size for a democracy in which each person has one vote and one voice, where we are all ‘created equal’ and thus given an equal chance to lead a life of decency and integrity.

I have learned that trauma can steal everything from you that is most precious and rip joy right out of your life. But, paradoxically, it can also make your stronger and wiser and connect you more deeply to other people than you ever imagined by enabling you to touch their misfortunes and integrate their loses and pain with your own.

Yes, you will learn much of what you need to know about the nefarious alt-right groups that were inspired by the President and the vile uprising that tried to prevent the proper passing of the electoral college votes. Yes, you’ll learn about the President’s unseemly pressure upon (and then grotesque abandonment of) his Vice President. Yes, you will see how a few brave Republicans spoke out against the MAGA madness that had come to this. This is an excellent and informative book about all of that.

But, it is more. As David Remnick of The New Yorker has written about it,

Unthinkable is not a work of emotional austerity; rather, it is an unburdening, a howl, a devotional. The grief is nightmarish, but the love that suffuses the text is even more powerful—the love for family and a lost child, as well as a love for a fragile democracy. It takes its greatest inspiration from the idealism of Raskin’s son.




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There are generally two kinds of US Mail options, and, of course, UPS. If necessary, we can do overnight and other expedited methods, too. Just ask.

  • United States Postal Service has the option called “Media Mail” which is cheapest but can be slow. For one typical book, usually, it’s about $3.69; 2 lbs would be $4.36.
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Hearts & Minds 234 East Main Street  Dallastown  PA  17313

No, Covid is not over — it is now spreading! It is really complicated for us, but we are still closed for in-store browsing due to our commitment to public health (and the safety of our family, staff, and customers.) The vaccination rate here in York County is sadly lower than average and the newest variant is now spreading again; rates are rising. Our store is a bit cramped without top-notch ventilation so we are trying to be wise.

Please, wherever you are, do your best to be sensitive to those who are most at risk. Many of our friends, neighbors, co-workers, congregants, and family members may need to be protected since more than half of Americans (it seems) have medical reasons to worry about longer hazards from even seemingly mild Covid infections.

We are doing our famous curb-side customer service and can show any number of items to you if you call us from our back parking lot. We are eager to serve and grateful for your patience as we all work to mitigate the pandemic. We are happy to help.

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We are here 10:00 – 6:00 EST /  Monday – Saturday, closed on Sunday.