PART THREE of the Hearts & Minds Best Books of 2022 — 20 MORE, ALL ON SALE

You know sometimes when awards shows on TV get long, and they have to shorten some of the speeches? It feels a bit distracting, counting down how much time is left, and yet you know there’s some great (even important) awards to celebrate. And some good comments, maybe some surprise fun.

Welcome to the third installment of the Hearts & Minds Best Books of 2022. I’m going to try to keep it brief so we can get this thing wrapped. I’ve noted before my ambivalence about declaring my own personal favs “the best” but there it is.  We invite you to consider these titles, knowing how I value them. Please take in my short acceptance speeches on their behalf (since, well, the authors and publishers can’t be with us – they don’t even know about this.) I get to say why they matter to me and hopefully why they might matter to you. 

Scroll through to the end in order to see them all — you’ll find the order button at the very bottom. That takes you to our secure Hearts & Minds order form page which you can easily fill out. Be sure to notice the section asking how you want them sent.

(Basically, the options are the cheapest (USPS Media Mail) which can be a little slower, or quicker, which costs more, depending on distance and weight and whatnot. Let us know if you have clear preferences, or just ask if have questions.)

We’re here to celebrate books, affirm our growing community of readers, and get these books into your hands. Spread the word if you’d like. We’re always looking for friends and fans to support this work and we are grateful for those who send orders our way.

In the meantime, know that you are the best, reading as you do. Kudos to authors, publishers, sales reps, delivery guys, our hard working team here at the shop, and — perhaps most importantly — you, the readers, the heroes of the story.

(See Part One HERE and Part Two HERE.)

20 MORE OF MY VERY FAVORITE BEST BOOKS OF 2022. Part Three.

Celebrities for Jesus: How Personas, Platforms, and Profits are Hurting the Church Katelyn Beaty (Brazos Press) $24.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $19.99

My advanced copy of the manuscript is marked up and I knew, even as I was enthralled last summer, that it would be on my list of favorite reads and most important books. It is readable, breezy, in a way, but deadly serious. It’s hard to explain how a book about such unpleasant stuff — the sexual abuse perpetrated by Ravi Zacharias, say, or the loony wealth of some hip,  young, megachurch stars, or the shenanigans of some popular authors and their ghost writers — can be mostly enjoyable and very exciting. But it is and I seriously recommend it.

Publishers Weekly gave it a coveted “starred review” and said it is “required reading for all who love the church.”

It is not a book filled with gossip or mocking the obviously mockable. Such an approach would perhaps stand in the tradition of the prophets, maybe event use harsh satire, to expose the foolishness that passes within the Christian community today. But this is not that, just so you know.

Celebrities for Jesus is a study of how, as the subtitle suggests, too-often profit-driven creation of celebrity has afflicted the contemporary church. She does some history, some asset observations about the notions of celebrity, and makes extraordinary analysis of what Joni Mitchell once called the “star making machinery.”

I’ve said more about this here and many have complimented Katelyn on her honest, and even vulnerable, expose. Fame and power and maybe even wealth are not necessarily bad, but many — especially within the evangelical subculture — have a fixation on celebrity. She worries about the consequences of such social power without proximity (and sounds like a modern-day Eugene Peterson at times.) The lust for fame and the promotion of platforms has really gone awry in many ways, and this brave book calls us to faithful spirituality, mature theologically grappling with our postures towards culture. Her stuff on the book publisher world was, for this book lover, eye opening and yet utterly familiar. As one who works in Christian publishing she brings the details about what many have had hunches for years.

Stupendously convicting and well-researched. Celebrities for Jesus provides a timely, sober reflection on the toxic culture that often arises when piety and popularity mix.       — Jemar Tisby, author of The Color of Compromise and How to Fight Racism

Beaty brings knowledge and insights that will help anyone wanting to disentangle their faith from celebrity culture. But, even more than this, she offers an honest, humble self-examination that is a model many of us in the church need to follow. — Karen Swallow Prior, professor, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; author of On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life through Great Books

Unruly Saints: Dorthy Day’s Radical Vision and Its Challenge for Our Times D.L. Mayfield (Broadleaf Books) $26.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $21.59

Speaking of celebrities, here is a book about one who was, at her height of fame, incredibly well known in the Roman Catholic community, at least, and a radical inspiration for a rising generation of socially engaged young evangelicals, from Jim Wallis to Shane Claiborne. But, having committed to voluntary poverty and living, often, with the homeless and guests at her houses of hospitality, she mostly avoided the allure of fame and leveraged her influence for the sake of the poor. She was, as the title of this splendid biography puts it, unruly.

This book is somewhat of a memoir by the excellent writer and honest thinker D.L Mayfield, who wrote a previous memoir-like account of her work with refugees. She cares about people, wants to serve the outcasts, and desires, deeply to be found faithful by Jesus. Like Day, Mayfield is confounded that many don’t take Jesus all that seriously when He gives direct command to care for the poor and work for peace. Day was an unruly saint, indeed, in part because of her love for God and her following the ways of Jesus.

This may be my favorite biography of Day. Or at least my favorite short one.(For the record, for a longer one, Dorothy Day: Dissenting Voice of the American Century is doubtlessly the best.) Unduly Saint, though, is fiery, fun, interesting, telling of the evangelical Mayfield’s own discovery of Dorothy. She tells Day’s story with energy and seriousness, inviting us all to take her life and message seriously. Dorothy’s old friend and former managing editor of the Catholic Worker, Robert Ellsberg, has a nice forward.

If you don’t know much about Dorothy Day and her dramatic life, you owe it to yourself to discover her and this is a great way to read a bit about her. A prefect choice, actually. If you do know Day, then you’ll love this. Lisa Sharon Harper calls it “a gift to the world.” Right on.

Fortune: How Race Broke My Family and the World And How to Repair It All Lisa Sharon Harper (Brazos Press) $24.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $19.99

How can I not list this — it was one of the most memorable books I’ve read in years and a powerful example of a personal memoir with a social vision. There are tender moments, passionate stories, historical details with the constant backdrop of the barbarism of enslavement hovering. But yet, angering as it is to read about the mistreatment of real families of real people we care about (like Lisa, an author we admire and true friend) Fortune isn’t morose. It’s a fascinating and engaging read and we name it as one of the very best books of 2022.

You may recall a week or so ago I announced the “award” we gave to Amina Perry for her South to America. That was a massive work that I couldn’t put down but throughout I kept wondering if she knew Lisa’s book. I’m sure Lisa knows hers.

Jamar Tisby is right that this is “nothing less than an epic and true story of race, religion, history, and identity.” She is what Ruby Sales calls “a masterful storyteller” and we were thrilled to read about her own generational research, the DNA research, the documents she found, the oral histories. Ending with a solid vision of restoration and repair, Fortune: How Race Broke My Family and the World and How to Repair It All is a great, great book.

Plain: A Memoir of a Mennonite Girlhood Mary Alice Hostetter (University of Wisconsin Press) $26.95    OUR SALE PRICE = $21.56

I have pondered this, wondering why I was so very drawn, reading it non-stop one long Sunday afternoon. I wanted to just dip in a bit and found myself deeply captivated by this story of a Lancaster County farm girl in a fundamentalist family near a town we know well. There are farm chores and animals and a mostly loving, large family and there are revivalist preachers and end times scares. She is embarrassed by her plain style (and there is a chilling scene in which a public school teacher mocked the pacifism of Mennonite and Amish fathers who did not fight in World War II.) It is a gentle story, told fairly simply, and I kept turning the pages.

There are scenes central Pennsylvanians will understand well. She worked at Plain and Fancy for a while and talks easily about the Lincoln Highway, and there are scenes that only some will understand — the feelings she experienced in her first foot washing service was exquisitely told.

I turned the pages in part because I knew what was coming; Plain is part of a series by this publisher offering the stories of LGTBQ writers and while Hostetter’s sexual longings are not explored very much at all, it is a fabulous story of a person’s religious identity, belonging and not, of difference, and how her extended family coped with several families members moving away from the closed-knit community.

Actually most of the story is more generally about Mary Alice’s faith and lifestyle choices — she attends a Presbyterian church for a while (gasp!) and wears fashionable outfits as she teaches school and develops friendships in the upscale Philadelphia main line. She returns to the family farm often (and at least once a year to receive communion at the small country church) so this is not a story of family animosity or religious exclusion. But she is not a rigorous Anabaptist (and perhaps not a rigorous Christian at all; it is unexplored.) She leaves teaching, moves to Appalachia and helps restore an impoverished small town in a classic West Virginia holler.

When near the end of the book she writes to her strict, religious father — in his 95th year and by now in a Mennonite nursing home, having long lost the beloved farm — to share about her lesbian partner, he pondered it a bit and came to conclude that it shouldn’t tear apart a family.  If only all such memoirs ended that well. I had tears in my eyes as I finished it, quiet as it was, and then wanted more. Some say that is the sign of a truly great read.

The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind – with a New Preface & Afterword. Mark A. Noll (Eerdmans) $28.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $23.19

This anniversary edition, a reprinted volume with a new long preface and a solid afterword, is, as was the 1994 original, nothing short of brilliant. I devoured the new introduction and that afterward, wondering how Noll would frame this re-issue of the “prescient, perennially relevant, award-winning” book.

He has to revisit the question about whether or not we’ve had much progress away from the scandal of evangelical anti-intellectualism. He has to ask if his project — as historian and uniquely Christian scholar — is still urgent. Oh my, yes, yes, it is.

Of course he laments the way in which the very word “evangelical” has come to mean something somewhat other than it once did. With MAGA idolatry and alt-right ideology, for some, evangelicalism is a far cry from the robust, wholistic, Christ-centered, Christian worldview it once was. He struggles with that and his brief introduction is well worth the price of the book.

I trust you know the importance of this major work, one that I’d list as a key title showing some of why Hearts & Minds was started and what we are trying to be and accomplish. It means a lot to me, and I’d say it is one that is every bit as timely now as before. I was glad that, unlike many books we promote, this was, in the 1990s, reviewed in The New York Times and Commonweal and taken seriously in many places. CT named it their Book of the Year and Os Guinness said evangelicals should “finish it on their knees.”

Here are some others who have shared their story of why the new edition is so important.

More than a quarter century ago, Mark Noll issued a scathing indictment of the evangelical mind. The fact that the scandal has only intensified since then is a testament both to the depth of the problem Noll identified and the urgent need to revisit its causes and reconsider its remedies at this critical juncture of evangelical history.  — Kristin Kobes du Mez, author of Jesus and John Wayne

This book changed my life. Like countless others who grew up in the thick of the scandal, I found Noll’s ‘cry de coeur on behalf of the intellectual life’ at once revelatory and convicting. In this new edition Noll tackles the post-2016 landscape head on, considering whether ‘the evangelical mind’ is in fact an oxymoron — and ensuring in the process that this book will remain a must-read for decades to come.  — Heath Carter, coeditor Turning Points in the History of American Evangelicalism

The City for God: Essays Honoring the Work of Timothy Keller edited by Ned Bustard (Square Halo Books) $24.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $19.99

I honor this one of a kind book even as it is designed to honor the Kingdom work of PCA pastor and cultural thought leader, Tim Keller. Agree or not with all of Keller’s theology or analysis or, now, global church-planting networks, there is little doubt that he is one of the finest evangelical public intellectuals of our time, fluent in philosophy and cultural studies, the arts, and political discourse. He’s a gentleman scholar, not an activist, and, in that, it seems he has been faulted a bit by those in the academy (he’s not a professional scholar) and by those who are in the streets, doing gritty work of visiting prisoners and protesting injustice.

He has been a fabulously interesting church planter in an era when there were few seriously evangelical churches in Manhattan and his emphasis on thoughtful messages, cultural engagement, and foregrounding the call to think Christianly about work, has all been a distinctive mark of his presence in New York. Many have modeled their own common good ministries for their cities after his own teachings about nurturing a sense of place and a passion for the public square.

There is an eagerly awaited major biography coming soon (Timothy Keller: His Spiritual and Intellectual Formation by Collin Hansen, to be published next month by Zondervan; $26.99 – OUR SALE PRICE = $21.59) and we are taking pre-orders for it. I am very eager to see it, and hope to review it before long. For now, though, I seriously hold up this excellent 2022 resource as perhaps the best book we have seen — perhaps that we will ever see — about the character, pastoring, faith, and service of Tim Keller.

As I said in my first review at BookNotes earlier this year, The City for God is a collection of nearly 20 essays by friends, co-workers, colleagues and writers who admire Keller’s life and work. There is theology, spiritual formation, testimony, Biblical study, and lots of great stories. Even if you know little about this Reformed advocate for culturally-astute ministry and even if you don’t know the names in this collection, nearly every one is fabulous. You can read them in nearly any order and I am confident that you will be blessed, challenged, informed, and inspired. It is one of the Best Books of 2022 and a great example of how to write in the vein of, on the shoulders of, and alongside the work of Keller and Redeemer. Kudos, all.

Eighth-Day Discipleship: New Visions for Faith, Work, and Economics Richard H. Bliese  (Fortress) $22.00  OUR SALE PRICE = $17.60

I do not want to have our honoring of this good book sound like insider-baseball, as they say, suggesting it is only for those already involved in the wide-spread faith and work conversation. Sure, there is a movement these days, networks of ministries, equipping centers, podcasts and support groups and study materials. We have one of the larger collection of books on sale on this topic, anywhere, so I’m a bit skeptical when there appears yet another book on serving God in the work-a-day world, on living into and out of our visions of vocation. I’m glad, but not burning to read one more.

And then I decided I really should pick up Eighth-Day Discipleship and I was hooked. He is a solid Lutheran leader who has served the church in many creative ways He does, indeed, bring a fresh perspective and it is alway good when mainline denominational presses release books about discipleship. But this is not just a rehash of the importance of congregants taking their faith into their careers and callings, not just another study of marketplace mission. I was enthralled by Bliese’s integration of such a wide array of sources. I was glad that he not only cites some well-known Reformed insights (yep, he cites Abraham Kuyper) but also on elements of Luther’s Catechism.

We are glad for a book which has so many interesting folks endorsing it from a wide spectrum of church settings. I like that it not only invites personal faith that is applied to Monday work contexts but also looks at economics and the principalities and powers that deform our systemic and structural social lives. I like that he isn’t pessimistic about that, but does call for a moral framework for thinking about big, economic questions. I appreciate his creedal perspective and his bit about an “eight sided church” is great. I like his faith, his hope, his love.

Lutherans really need this, but, to be honest, maybe those less familiar with the nuances of Lutheran catechism might like it even more.

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

When I announced this at BookNotes earlier this fall I was hurrying, I’m sure. We had just got a stack of these in, maybe a bit early, and I wanted to shout about it. I looked at the table of contents, saw the rave reviews on the back, got a sense that it was clever and a good, redemptive story, and highlighted it. We sold a few and I was glad.

Now that I’ve read almost all of it I can say it is truly one of the most enjoyable and enthralling books I’ve read all year. I’m so excited about this and without giving too much away, I’ll say just a few quick things to try to convince you to join me in celebrating this amazing book, which was, I gather, a long time in coming. What a story!

McHugh was a college pastor, then a PCUSA clergyman, and then a hospice chaplain. He lost that job and then was re-hired, on the graveyard shift. For a rather melancholy guy (who also wrote the remarkable Introverts in the Church) with some major ill-content (and a marriage on the rocks) working with the dying in the middle of the night, night after night, was not, as they say, a good fit. He was literally dying inside.

And, seriously, he writes about this morose stuff with a fabulous vocabulary, a fine sense of humor, amazing wit, and, well, a little bit of mouthy attitude. I’m not sure I’ve seen this sort of, uh, colorful language in an IVP book before but I have to admit it tickled me. His writing was so moving about his near-despair that I nearly got weepy, and then he had me laughing right out loud. Or rolling my eyes when a joke was a bit much or just didn’t land right. But mostly, the writing is just wonderful, a gift, a generous gift. It is a really entertain read — just about the most fun I’ve had reading all year, which maybe says something about me, I suppose.

And then “the corkscrewing tale of how I got to Santa Ynez” — where he now works as a wine tour guide — begins in earnest. He goes on a fabulous trip to the wine country of Southern France and one learns not only about vines and terroir, and castles and medieval religious conflicts and religious orders, but also Van Gogh and soil and place and love and hope. It’s a great couple of chapters and I can’t imagine anyone not enjoying the ride, even as you learn so much about the French countryside and the wine it produces.

After France he ends up back in California and learns more about the good gift of wine, about friendship, about place. There’s so much interesting here as his story unfolds, as he teaches from the Bible and from wine history, even as his own vocation is being clarified. (His reflections on the emotional constraints of a pastor, and the joys and hardships of working with the dying are honest and fantastic!)  He has to say no to, and has to grieve the loss of, some old identities and welcome some new stuff, which he gets off his chest even in the writing; it is so palatable.

Blood From a Stone is a marvelous book, about wine history, about McHugh’s life, about faith and doubt and struggle and new possibilities. He drinks a lot, knows a lot, shares a lot. Almost always with a lot of wit and a lot of verve, even some of the book is about loss. I loved this book and may write more about it if the spirit moves. Cheers!

Wild Things and Castles in the Sky: A Guide to Choosing the Best Books for Children edited by Leslie Bustard, Carey Bustard, and Thea Rosenburg (Square Halo Books) $29.99                                  OUR SALE PRICE = $23.99

I raved and raved about this, so glad about it and wanting to have parents and grandparents of all ages appreciate the many chapters where various authors ruminate on why books matter in the lives of children. As I said in my BookNotes review, this is much more than a listing of titles (although there are bibliographic suggestions after every chapter that are handy when you head to the library or are making out your Hearts & Minds order.) Rather, it is a collection of thoughtful, often passionate and often poetic, pieces that show how to think about certain genres of children’s literature.

The contributors to this big volume are not famous (although Mitali Perkins is very highly regarded in YA work) but several are published authors. I love Margie Haack and Andy Ashworth and Katy Bowser Hutson, for instance and it is terrific to see them here. Matthew Dickerson has a great chapter on “Sorrow and Grace in Tolkien’s Works.” All, though, worked hard to create excellent chapters on their assigned topics, ranging from “Middle Grade Fiction’ to “Latino Literature”, from “Classic Picture Books” to “Family Reads.” There are chapters about books for toddlers,  chapters about books for high schoolers. There is a piece on graphic novels and there is a good chapter on poetry. From books about suffering to books about art appreciation to a good chapter on reading about those who are differently abled, this collection just doesn’t stop. There’s so much. A few are aesthetically oriented, thoughtful about representation or rhyme; others are eminently practical. Wild Things and Castles in the Sky is the best book I’ve seen to remind us all why books for children matter. Hooray.

For any parents or grandparent, any aunt or uncle, this generous guide for “what to read next” to your beloveds is a heartwarming, mind-enlarging appetizing pathfinder to the wide range of available kid-lit.  — Luci Shaw

The Wonders of Creation: Learning Stewardship from Narnia and Middle-Earth Kristen Page, with contributions from Christina Bieber Lake, Noah Toly, and Emily Hunger McGowan (IVP) $22.00                      OUR SALE PRICE = $17.60

Whenever a book is done in conjunction with the prestigious and important Marion Wade Center at Wheaton College, we take notice. It is the premium location collection C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien artifacts, papers, and forming a community of contemporary like-minded dreamers, writers, thinkers, artists. The Wonders of Creation came about in what are called the Hansen Lectureship Series which offers “accessible and insightful reflections by Wheaton College faculty members on the transformative work of the Wade Center authors.”

This one is a real winner, truly one of the most fun and interesting books of the year.

Here’s the question: “When an author of fiction employs their imagination and sets characters in a new location, they are in a sense creating a world. Might such fictional worlds give us a deeper appreciation for our own?”

And, if yes, the question is what we might learn from the beloved fictional landscapes of Narnia and Middle-Earth about caring for real-life landscapes, becoming better care-takers of God’s good creation.

Yep, this is a delightful set of lectures — with responses from Wheaton faculty — about the interface of fiction and climate change, fantasy and reality, Tolkien and Lewis, on one hand, and the concerns of creation-care and ecological ethics today. Wow.

For anyone who grew up mentally wandering the forests of Narnia or Middle-earth, this book will be a joy and a revelation–you’ll be reminded just how deep those images went into your heart. I’m pretty sure the best place to read it is with your back against a tree trunk on a sunny day–but if it’s cold and snowy out, these pages will summon that summer in your soul. — Bill McKibben, author of the Flag, the Cross, and the Station Wagon

The Wonders of Creation is a creative, insightful, and well-written book. It is, furthermore, a timely tome that shows how fictional landscapes, such as those created by C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien, can inspire us to care for the damaged landscapes of our world today. Drawing on careful readings of Lewis and Tolkien, ecologist Kristen Page weaves a tapestry of reflections on ecological literacy, lament, and wonder…The thoughtful writing in The Wonders of Creation will foster our care of our home places.  —Steven Bouma-Prediger, Hope College, author of For the Beauty of the Earth and Earthkeeping and Character: Exploring a Christian Ecological Virtue Ethic

The Completion of C.S. Lewis: From War to Joy (1945- 1963) Harry Lee Poe (Crossway Books) $34.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $27.99

At last, the remarkably good and highly regarded Poe trilogy on C.S. Lewis has been complete and this is surely a landmark in Lewis studies. The first two are Becoming C. S. Lewis (1898-1918): A Biography of Young Jack Lewis and The Making of C. S. Lewis: From Atheist to Apologist (1918-1945.) Now we celebrate and honor volume three, The Completion of C.S. Lewis that just came out this fall.

Many Lewis fans have their favorite biography (such as the wonderfully written The Narnian by the great Alan Jacobs or perhaps Alister McGrath’s thoughtful C.S. Lewis: Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet or, for a short read, Not a Tame Lion: The Life, Teachings, and Legacy of C.S. Lewis, one you should have on hand.)

Anyone serious about Lewis’s life and times simply must know of these Poe volumes, though. They are handsomely made, exquisite, almost, and exceptional in clarity and drama, well-researched and wonderfully told. These are, as Lewis genius James Como (founder of the New York C.S. Lewis Society and author of the popular Oxford University Press “Very Short Introduction” to Lewis) says, “require reading (including the notes!)” As he puts it, it shows “the ironies, tribulations, joys, and triumphs of a major figure of twentieth-century world literature.”

Others agree that this third volume is truly deserving of much applause.

Harry Lee Poe covers an extraordinary continuity of unfolding events and realities — moving from the effects of Lewis’s coming of age to outstanding maturity. — Colin Duriez, author of C.S. Lewis: A Biography of Friends and Tolkien and C.S. Lewis: The Gift of Friendship

To read this book is to walk side-by-side with Lewis through day-to-day life as well as through the life-changing events of his latter decades.  — Carol Zaleski, Professor of World Religions, author of The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams.

Salty: Lessons on Eating, Drinking, and Living from Revolutionary Women Alissa Wilkinson (Broadleaf Books) $25.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $20.79

The long opening introduction to Salty offers just such luscious writing, fun and energetic, eloquent, colorful, tasty, even. It invites us to a table —and from the sounds of it, it’s going to be quite a bash. The classic question of who you would invite to your quintessential meal with anyone hovers around the book, obviously and Wilkinson earnestly invites readers to ponder that themselves. She is learned and knows her way around foodie stuff, but the opening story about an open air market was so engaging, I was really jazzed.

Then the tone changed a bit, I think, and this is fine. I’m not sure I could handle that breathy style for almost 200 pages. The book is indeed about “eating and drinking” but it is also very much about the women who show up to this fictional party. As she guesses, some of them you may know. (Hannah Arendt and Maya Angelou? Octavia Butler and Alice B. Toklas? Holy smokes!)

Yes, this invites us to “gather around the table with a group of extraordinary women to explore how eating and drinking can ground us, sustain us, and connect us.” There is a Capon quote early on.

I think part of what made this so enjoyable for me, so unique, so award-winning, was less the dinner party itself, but the histories of the women. Salty, creatively written by a film critic and creative writer, and somewhat edited by the master Lauren Winner, does have extraordinary structure. But it also has tons of good stories about these nine women. (Not to mention clever drawings and a great bibliography after each chapter.)

The back cover said they are “sharp, empowered, and often subversive women” As Lauren herself comments in a blurb, “it is Alissa Wilkinson herself — the host of this dinner party and the author of this book — who turns out to be the most vivacious presence. It’s not nine companions this book offers; crucially, it offers ten”

Agreed. This whole thing — the dinner party, the recipes, the cocktails, the foodie writing, the women, the lessons learned from them, and Alissa’s own strong (and at times vulnerable) voice that makes this a major release — in one you should know. It’s one of my favorite books of 2022. It’s perfect for a book club, too, by the way. Join the feast!

Practice of the Presence of God: A Revolutionary Translation Brother Lawrence, translated by Carmen Acevedo Butcher (Broadleaf Books) $25.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $20.79

This is such a fabulous book, a smallish, compact hardback with a colorful cover, that just feels like a delight to hold, perfect for the book experience you will have when you take it up. It is, as I am sure you understand, a new translation by a fresh, vivid, deeply mystical writer herself, of this old, old classic. As I said in my BookNotes review, I loved the story of Lawrence learning to pray while doing the dishes, the idea of practicing being attentive to God’s daily presence. The actual old book, well, it’s one of those one is supposed to read, but most don’t. Or if they do, like me, it just wasn’t that captivating. I got the gist.

Now! Now we have a wonderful new translation — hot, I think I’d call it, or maybe it’s cool. It’s a cool package of a hot translation, fresh and lively and informed and contemplative. Butcher is a fine writer— we have other books of hers, daily devotionals and other translations of spiritual classics. Putting a fresh coat of paint on such a lasting classic must have been daunting for her but she shows no trepidation. She is sure of her holy calling, and this strong rendering is a great example of how a new translation can bring an old classic up to date, so to speak. It is a major literary contribution, a lovely gift of 2022 that will endure for a long, long time.

Mirabi Starr captures much of what’s so great about this book. Let’s let her say it:

What a bold, vibrant, and potent translation of this mystical masterpiece! As she did with the perennial wisdom jewel Cloud of Unknowing, Carmen Acevedo Butcher once again breaks open the stilted and patriarchal language that encrusts our most life-giving spiritual treasures and makes The Practice of the Presence of God easy to grasp and impossible to resist. Its author, the humble seventeenth-century sage Brother Lawrence, reminds us that every task, no matter how ordinary, is a fresh opportunity for drawing near to the Friend. And that the more we take refuge in this intimacy, frequently repeating such phrases as ‘My God, I am all yours, ‘ or ‘God of love, I love you with all my heart, ‘ or ‘Love, create in me a new heart,’ the more often we find ourselves simply resting in the presence of Love Itself. — Mirabai Starr, translator of John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, and Julian of Norwich; author of God of Love and Wild Mercy

Earth Filled with Heaven: Finding Life in Liturgy, Sacraments, and Other Ancient Practices of the Church Aaron Damiani (Moody Press) $14.99              OUR SALE PRICE = $11.99

This is a book I really enjoyed and truly valued and want to hold up as worthy of our best books list. I say this carefully and sincerely — it fills a real need and his writing style is such that it reaches a certain sort of audience. And this deserves a lot of holy hullabaloo, if you ask me. Although that’s not the way this Anglican mystic would put it.

Here’s the deal. Damiani was a former evangelical. Maybe charismatic. He was narrow in his Biblical interpretation (and still may be) and solid in his theological bone fides (which he certainly still is.) And then he discovered — as many have in recent decades — what was once called “The Canterbury Trail.” He didn’t convert to Episcopalianism, though, or Orthodoxy, but to the new version of evangelical Anglicanism that is growing everywhere these days. He is currently an Anglican priest in the ACNA.

I lament the splits within the Anglican communion but it is, as they say, what it is. And this book shows how a younger generation is rising to lead vibrant sacramental worship, teaching many about spiritual formation, about eucharist, about liturgy, about ordered worship and fixed hour prayer. There are ancient habits of faith that have shaped more liturgical churches for thousands of years and the most vibrant voices for that tradition, these days, it seems, are former evangelicals, newly embracing a deeper, more ancient sort of discipleship and congregational life. That this deep and wise book quoting church fathers and Orthodox monks and sacramental scholars passed muster of Moody Press speaks volumes. That they dressed it up so nicely with colored pages and nice ink and handsome pull quotes makes it that much more attractive.

There are other more scholarly Anglican works, there are serious Lutheran and Catholic theologians writing about the mysteries of the liturgy. We have bunches. But this is reaching out to new folks who may not be prepared to read Alexander Schmemann or Gordon Lathrop, let alone Fagerberg’s Liturgical Dogmatics, etc. Earth Filled With Heaven is a great entry to good things.

Steeped in Stories: Timeless Children’s Novels to Refresh Our Tired Souls Mitali Perkins (Broadleaf) $24.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $19.99

I mentioned Matali Perkins above, noting that she contributed a chapter to the lovely and broad book Wild Things and Castles in the Sky. She has written some children’s picture books and she has won prestigious YA awards for crafting some of the most memorable and important juvenile fiction in recent years.

We were ecstatic to see that she has published this lovely book, a call to take kids books seriously and to learn from their nuances, wisdom, and artful storytelling. For those who love books, some of this is common and familiar – the power of story, the glory of language, the religious importance of fiction. Yes, yes, and yes!

And there is her own wisdom as a guide for us all. Significantly, she warns about cultural blindspots in old tales, stuff we should be aware of, even offended by, but, with grace and discernment, never throws the baby out with the bathwater. She offers a robust and visionary capacity to love good stories, even when there is weirdness in them. Even when we have to push back.

As it declares on the back cover, “the stores we read as children shape us for the rest of our lives.” As do the stories we read to our children and grandchildren, loved ones and neighbors. This book is beautifully crafted and vital, lovely and important. One of the Best Books of 2022.

Mitali Perkins’s winsome way with words seeps through every page of this useful guide that’s so much more than a guide. Her love of classic writing, even with all its flaws, serves as a compass for us to navigate the ins and outs of timeless stories so that they do more than entertain our modern craving for amusement.  –Tsh Oxenreider, author of At Home in the World and Shadow and Light

Life’s Too Short to Pretend You’re Not Religious – Reframed & Expanded David Dark (Broadleaf) $18.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $15.19

This is an awards show, ladies and gents, and time is running short. I should write pages on this provocative book (and, in fact, I have, when I reviewed the first fabulous 2016 IVP hardback edition.) David has always been a storyteller, a good writer, and an observant reporter on the human condition and I admire him so much.

(One earlier book was called The Sacredness of Questioning Everything which itself hints something about his way.)

This new edition of Life’s Too Short to Pretend… is notably reframed. It’s an important word for him, I think. In a long afterword he talks about repenting, even. He’s not just tweaking things a bit, he is offering regrets for how he was perhaps dismissive or argumentative. This really is remarkable, actually, the example of a good person who is willing to change his mind and revisit previous books.

It is complicated to try to paraphrase quickly the exceptionally complex oration found in those closing pages; even more to explain the dense new opening. Agree or not (heck, understand fully or not) it is worth it to savor every sentence, some which come strong, others that have a smiling wit. It is a reading experience like none other and at the very least I want to honor this extraordinary book for its candor, breathtaking sentences, moral seriousness, and yet good humor. It’s not everybody who can be so full of zeal and so kind, so honest to say what he thinks and yet willing to say he must repent of some of his rhetoric and intellectual formulations. This is one heck of a read, a book I think I will ponder for a long time.

Hear these two women who say why they value Life’s Too Short…

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, author of Faithful Antiracism and host of Truth’s Table podcast

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.  — Jessica Hopper, author of The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic

Unthinkable: Trauma, Truth, and the Trials of American Democracy Jamie Raskin (Harper) $18.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $15.19

I like some books that are ponderous, weighty, provocative, nuanced. Others grab me immediately, make me rage and weep and I want to tell everyone about them. Last summer I read six big books about the crazy “Stop the Steal” movement and the latter-day MAGA lies leading to the storming of the Capitol on January 6th. Book after book I read on, late into the night, and I wrote a long BookNotes review hoping to interest readers in joining this deep dive into what happened just a few years ago. And then I read Jamie Raskin’s stunning book, now out in paperback, and I knew it was the best of them all, a book I would gladly list as one of the most important books of recent years, a lively memoir of a public servant stuck in the revolt of the alt-right, and duty-bound to speak out and stand with integrity.

But what really grabbed me was the backstory (or is it the lead story?) — the unthinkable loss of Mr. Raskin’s when his adult son who committed suicide on December 31st 2020. The brave telling of this vulnerable tale makes Unthinkable a political/current events book unlike any you’ve ever read. (And Raskin’s moment-by-moment description of January 6th and the brave, urgent work in the weeks following, always entangled with the family heartbreak of the loss of their son, makes this a family grief memoir unlike any you’ve ever read.)

The accolades for this marvelous read have poured in (even as the hate mail and death threats have as well.) Laurence Tribe of Harvard calls it “a masterpiece”  Vogue called it “extraordinary.” I call it one of the best books I’ve ever read.

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. — David Remnick, The New Yorker

 

Voices of Lament: Reflections on Brokenness and Hope in a World Longing for Justice edited by Natasha Sistrunk Robinson (Fleming Revell) $19.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $15.99

The editor of this classy volume, Natasha Robinson, is a memoirist who wrote a great story of her own very interesting life (A Sojourner’s Truth) and a fine book on discipling others called Mentor for Life. Here she has pulled together a remarkable array of black women to reflect — almost like a daily devotional — line by line on Psalm 37. Do you know it?

There are seven main portions — strophes, we are told — and these are sort of like units or chapters. Within each of these seven sections there are four (although one section has more) devotional contributions, starting with a poem, making this great for a 30-day read.

Here is how the publisher puts it:

Inspired by Psalm 37 and inviting empathy and healing, Christian Women of Color who have faced deep suffering and injustice hold their lament in holy tension with hope and love through this unique collection of reflections, poetry, and prayer.

Even if the content wasn’t excellent and accessible and wise; even if the topic wasn’t so sadly urgent; even if the authors weren’t so very interesting (some of them rather well known, at least in our circles) I think the very idea of this — a collaborative project on one Psalm of lament — is nothing short of brilliant. Kudos to Fleming Revell for a nice design, for the amazing pencil drawings of women of color, for making this book a classy and useful resource. And thanks to the many women who shared their souls, grappled with faith and the Scriptures, and offers “voices of lament.” The essays, prayers, poems, songs, and liturgies are powerful for us all.

Freeing Congregational Mission: A Practical Vision for Companionship, Cultural Humility, and Co-Development B. Hunter Farrell with S. Balajiedlang Khyllep (IVP Academic) $26.00                  OUR SALE PRICE = $20.80

What a joy to have followed a bit of this book before it came out; to have met the authors and to believe in their strong work. This is a book that stands out — we have a large missions section and there are fascinating books highlighting God’s work all over the globe — and we want to honor it now.

The topic is not unknown these days although, as you will see, the need to articulate a serious theology of collaboration and humility is as urgent as ever. Nobody likes the old image of the imposing colonial missionary and many are at least sensitive to how our translation of the gospel needs to be contextualized and gracious. But few have gotten below the surface of this audacious shift in missiology and not only explain it theologically, but made a programmatic argument of what it looks like. Hunter Ferrell, who has lived and served all over the world, it seems, and his brilliant colleague at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, Bala Khyllep, are done an exceptional job. This is not only a magisterial work but a very important contribution.

Virtues of companionship and cultural humility are the starting points for a missional vision which affirms co-development. It is as simple and as endlessly complex as that. That may be why it takes well over 250 pages showing how — get this — the local church community is that place “well-positioned to build a spreading circle of relationships centered in Jesus Christ” that can direct resources in truly faithful and life-giving ways.

As one reviewer put it, Freeing Congregational Mission is “a vision, a road-map, and a vehicle for parishes to revitalize their mission to the world.” Huzzah.

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

I list this last although I might have listed it first. It is a book of breathtaking depth, readable, and energetic. It covers philosophy and culture, visits current ideological debates and explores how we got into some of the entanglements within our culture that we now have, at least within the Western world. This is a magisterial volume — just shy of 650 pages — and it deserves many an award just for doing such a capable job of exploring cultural analysis in light of the Scriptures. In a conversational and often chatty way. It’s heavy stuff, granted, but it is not a dry tome.

Watkin is doing a lot here, and has read incredibly widely. I smiled when I realized he was drawing on Dutch reformational philosopher Herman Dooyeweerd and delighted to see a reference or two from N.T. Wright; he offers surprising insights from everybody from Chesterton to Paul Ricoeur, from Oliver O’Donovan to Charles Taylor. Naturally he draws on James K.A. Smith (and on Augustine — in a way, this is a 21st century City of God, or so it sort of seems.) I was delighted how he handled the brilliant Esther Meek and her insights about knowing (a la Polanyi.) It’s not everybody who interacts so flawlessly with Bavinck and Bonhoeffer and Brueggemann.

I have not finished this yet. I have hardly stopped pondering the many rave reviews, from Natasha Moor (at the Centre for Public Christianity) to Richard Cunningham of Bruce Riley Ashford of the Kirby Laing Centre for Public Theology. In some circles this book is being taken very seriously, and we want to add our voices to the choir, tipping our hat and suggesting it to you.

Can we make Biblical sense of what’s going on around us these very days? Can the grand story of the Bible itself somehow subvert some of our modern ways? Can we take seriously the latest in philosophy and “read” the times in light of the Scriptural story? With a forward by Timothy Keller, this offers evangelical faith and a Biblical vision aimed at understanding the times, and perhaps helping to heal them. I am not fully convinced of all of his direction thus far, but I am fully convinced that it is one of the great books of 2022, and one of the most momentous of its kind in many a year. Serious thinkers should have it.

TO PLACE AN ORDER 

PLEASE READ AND THEN CLICK ON THE “ORDER HERE” LINK BELOW.

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 quick, 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 $3.85; 2 lbs would be $4.55.
  • United States Postal Service has another option called “Priority Mail” which is $8.50,  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 so let us know. Just saying “US Mail” isn’t helpful because there are those two methods, one cheaper but slower, one more costly but quicker. Which do you prefer?

– DON’T FORGET TO LET US KNOW WHAT SHIPPING METHOD YOU PREFER –

BookNotes

Hearts & Minds logo

SPECIAL
DISCOUNT

20% OFF

ALL BOOKS MENTIONED

+++

order here

this takes you to the secure Hearts & Minds order form page
just tell us what you want to order

inquire here

if you have questions or need more information
just ask us what you want to know

Hearts & Minds 234 East Main Street  Dallastown  PA  17313
read@heartsandmindsbooks.com
717-246-3333

No, COVID is not fully over. Since few are reporting their illnesses anymore, it is tricky to know the reality but the best measurement is to check the water tables to see the amount of virus in the eco-system. It’s still bad, and worsening (again.) With flu and new stuff spreading, many hospitals are overwhelmed. It’s important to be particularly aware of how risks we take might effect the public good. 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. Our store is a bit cramped without top-notch ventilation so we are trying to be wise. Thanks for understanding.

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 and back yard customer service and can show any number of items to you if you call us from our back parking lot. It’s sort of fun, actually. We are eager to serve and grateful for your patience as we all work to mitigate the pandemic. We are very happy to help do if you are in the area, do stop by.

Of course, we’re happy to ship books anywhere. 

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

MORE FAVORITE BOOKS of 2022 — 15 More Best Book Awards, all on sale.

It was hard narrowing down that previous list of my absolutely favorite books of 2022. Just ten? You’ve got to be kidding me!

Most of these awarded below could have easily been on that list. They are wonderfully written, offering rigorous ideas; they beautifully teach and vividly entertain. Overtly Christian or not, read with discernment, they are edifying. Here, then, is the second portion of our three-part awards show.

Don’t forget to scroll the whole way down to see the last few. Use the order form link at the bottom, please. All are 20% off.

And the envelope please…

The Life We’re Looking For: Reclaiming Relationship in a Technological World Andy Crouch (Convergent) $25.00  OUR SALE PRICE = $20.00

Sometimes at awards shows, the same film or director gets brought to the stage for yet another award. I want to once again honor this one, one I named in my “Top Ten” list last week. It’s’ just that good.

From the moment I started this book I was captivated, brought in, glad for how wonderfully written and wise and interesting it was. Andy would not want us to overstate his genius and he’s critical of a world that created that kind of hubris. In fact, in this book, he explores the history of the notions of magic, alchemy, and — in modern times — manipulation through new forms of technology and mass media. He knows all this, and (is self aware enough to know that he flirts himself with it all) is inviting us to consider not only our technological environment (with some astute cultural criticism) but inviting us to being fully human, humane, righteous in the very best ways.

He draws on the Scripture, and the Bible, always. He riffs on history and he explores what reviewer Tom Holland cleverly calls “The Holy Ghost in the machine.” That is, how does power, and technological power, work out in our lives? Is it what we want and what is best?

I think of Andy’s extraordinary second book, Playing God: Redeeming the Gift of Power which is perhaps the best book I know of on the topic of power, idols, and how good things can be dangerous and redeemed. Somehow, this new book is shaped by that grand vision. Can our world of devices and technology be redeemed? Can we figure out how to allow human-ness and community and goodness and beauty to carry the day?

Tish Harrison Warren calls this book “breathtaking.” I, too, was deeply moved by this beautifully profound book. Here is what Tish wrote about it:

I was surprised to find myself tearing up often, not because it is a book about tragedy or loss but because Andy Crouch, perhaps more than any other writer of our day, perceives and names the deepest and most vulnerable longings of the human heart.

The Life We’re Looking For is biblically-interesting, culturally wise, honest, vulnerable, tender. He has a great and interesting vocabulary illustrating how very smart he is without being obscure or overly academic.  And as I said before, there is a lot going on here. Brilliant cultural critic Sherry Turkle (MIT professor and author) asks, in her rave about Crouch’s book, “What would it take to insist that personal technologies become personal instruments of wonder?” As she notes, “Crouch asks us to summon the intelligence, resolve, and faith to regain lost ground.”

This is a stunning book, a delight, a wonder. I highly recommend it.

This Here Flesh: Spirituality, Liberation, and the Stories That Make Us Cole Arthur Riley (Convergent) $26.00 OUR SALE PRICE = $20.80

This, like others on this new list, almost ended up on that first post of my favorite 15 of 2022. How could it not? Cole Riley is a friend, a young woman I admire very much. She and her husband (another dear pal) grew up in Western Pennsylvania — her years in Pittsburgh figure into this memoir quite vividly and we love books set in our old town. She is a woman of deep faith, a thoughtful writer, an honest and I might say courageous person. She is following her heart — tattered as it may be in some ways — and putting it out there, as they say. She is honest, and this candid story illustrates her grace, her forthright truth-telling, and her move into a more capacious sort of faith experience than perhaps she lived with previously. This Here Flesh is a book by a strong black woman about her family, about the power of stories, about justice and change and pain and hope. It is a book many have adored.

I say often about books by good friends that it is hard to be objective, as they say. That is, knowing the author, I can hear her voice, almost literally. I pick up on some cues and hints, assuming that I might know the place or people she is alluding to. Anyway, what’s not to like when a friend has a New York Times bestseller on her hands?  (Oh, how Beth and I smiled when we saw a Facebook picture of Cole and Billy in New York looking at the book’s name as a sparkling sign on a Times Square marquee.) So, given our closeness to the book, might I really say it is that good? Honestly?

Yes. Yes I do. The advance praise has been astounding (maybe I dreamt it, but I thought I had heard there was some talk of her connecting with Oprah, whose own magazine touted it, no common feat.) The blurbs on the back are mighty, from evangelical writer and hip-hop wordsmith Amena Brown to mystic interviewer Krista Tippett to the remarkable storyteller Kate Bowler (who calls it “beautiful” and “soul-stirring”) to the amazing Southern, black memoirist Dante Stewart, whose Shoutin’ in the Fire also gleaned near-universal applause. Stewart says it is “rigorous, joyous, complex, and honest, and tells the story of how we get free.”

This deserves to be on the Best Books of 2022 list, a memoir by a rising star (she’s the curator of the Black Liturgist instagram sensation.) I have read this twice. I eagerly commend it to you, hoping you, too, will gain a creatively written glimpse not only of a woman’s life — going back in time, and looking forward — but hints and hopes of a beloved community, a space of grace.

This book is an invitation into the delicate weavings of family, inheritance, and pain, how they mark a bloodline and connect a people. Cole Arthur Riley writes with grace and gravity. And somehow she teaches us to think of ourselves as deserving of such grace along the way. This is the kind of book that makes you different when you’re done.       — Ashley C. Ford, New York Times bestselling author of Somebody’s Daughter

Between the Listening and the Telling: How Stories Can Save Us Mark Yaconelli (Broadleaf Books) $24.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $19.99

Well, if the very first one I list is mostly a creative nonfiction foray into memoir, I suppose this argument for the importance of story needs to be listed next. I adored this book, loved it, and found it more moving and entertaining than I even expected. Mark is a good writer, honest and sober, candid about things that matter. I would read anything he does, I suspect, and this was a winner. We are happy to award it a Best Book of 2022.

For the record — not unlike that famous line from Dostoevsky about beauty saving the world — I can live with the phrase if I take it as a somewhat writerly hyperbole. I’m still among those who say that Jesus is the only savior. Still, if Yaconelli is in league with Dostoevsky’s romantic overstatement, that’s not too bad, actually. As he tells it, it sure seems he is mostly right. Stories matter, they can bring healing and hope, renewal and something better than clarity. I get it. This book is a beautiful example of just how holy this can be.

And the book is simply amazing. Anne Lamott says it is an “owner’s manual for the soul.”  Progressive preacher John Pavlovitz (author of, If God Is Love, Don’t Be a Jerk) says, nicely:

For a world so afflicted with isolation and disconnection, this beautiful book is medicinal. Yaconelli reminds us how we find our way home.

Indeed, this is a book about finding our way home. In fact, some of it is about Mark’s own upbringing and longing for home, sharing candidly some hard stuff with his famous evangelical dad, Mike. (For those of us who grew up following Mike’s good work and wild antics at YS or reading the Lampoon-esque Wittenberg Door, this is hard, unpleasant revelations.) As Mark unfolds his own story, we come to learn a bit about his move from youth worker to Christian contemplative to, now, this work as storytelling trainer and gatherer and how it became so life-giving for him and those around him. It is, as one reviewer put it, “an immersive, elegant meditation.”

There are stories here about storytelling, about the magic of storytelling events, of the hard and buoyant places where “facades fall and suffering and joy are metabolized.” It is really well written, the stories told with economy and grace. He makes good points and ushers us into a broad vision of a good life.

There are a few major stories set aside as interluded. One about his spiritual director and friend Morton Kelsey is — I kid you not — worth the entire price of the book. Those few pages are simply astonishing, a story of loss and God and goodness and, well, it’s amazing.

His work now is doing this as storycatcher and movement activist. He goes to war zones, works with immigrants at the border, helps those in need of retreat to find ways to integrate storytelling into their work or ministry. It is more than a handbook and you will come away feeling somehow uplifted, more compassionate. It’s a great read.

Refugia Faith: Seeking Hidden Shelters, Ordinary Wonders, and the Healing of the Earth Debra Rienstra (Fortress Press) $23.99 OUR SALE PRICE = $19.19

I raved about this in our earlier BookNotes review, suggesting it was both beautifully written and ethically urgent. Rienstra is a great writer, a literature professor at Calvin University (I’ll admit, I’m partial to folks there) who knows a whole, whole, lot about climate change and deep ecological stress, Biblical creation-care, and deeply Christian insights about the natural world. Refugia Faith is a marvelously made book and a true treasure.

We were not alone in sharing how great this book is. Good folks from indigenous theologian Randy Woodley to activist Bill McKibben to leaders in the Evangelical Environmental Network all agree. This extraordinary book’s invitation to become “a healer of a damaged Earth” is inspired.

As her colleague Kristin Kobes Du Mez (of Jesus and John Wayne) put it:

Filled with beauty, wisdom, and a vision for how things might be, this book itself saves as a refuge for the weary, discouraged, and disheartened. Imaginatively conceived and gorgeously written, it is a work of profound insight and deep goodness.

Refugia Faith is absolutely one of the best books of recent years, richly enjoyable prose bringing serious, compelling truth and a fresh way forward.

Breaking Ground: Charting Our Future in a Pandemic Year edited by Anne Snyder & Susannah Black (Plough Publishing) $35.00  OUR SALE PRICE = $28.00

This came out early in the year and as soon as I saw it I knew it would be a book we’d cherish for a very long time. There’s so much in it, and it is so mature and rich, I knew it wouldn’t be stormed through quickly. I tried to celebrate it at BookNotes and, now, I am even more glad for its presence in the literary landscape. I hope you consider it — certainly a deserving Best Book of 2022 award.  Here’s some of what I said at BookNotes:

Every season or so a book comes out that is just so very special, brilliantly conceived, handsomely made, beautifully written, wisely argued, offering solace and joy, guidance and provocation, that as booksellers, we just want to celebrate its presence in the publishing world, want to press it into the hands of nearly every thoughtful reader, and certainly want to write more about it than I should here at BookNotes. Breaking Ground is just such a book. It is an extraordinary volume, one you will keep and cherish for a lifetime.

Breaking Ground can be explained in several ways, from several angles, but I’ll say this much: Anne Snyder and Susannah Black are two very different Christian women who individually edit our two favorite journals, magazines of class and intelligence, faith and vision, publications that we admire and support. Snyder is the editor of Comment (our friends Jamie Smith and Gideon Strauss were her predecessors, and I’ll admit I was honored that they allowed me to contribute to their magazine that was, in certain ways, in the lineage of Abraham Kuyper’s neo-Calvinist movement which we have written about in previous BookNotes.) She has worked at think-tanks and in journalism, is a graduate of Wheaton College and is married to the well-known pundit and public intellectual David Brooks. Comment is an artful, remarkable thought journal about rebuilding our crumbling social architecture and publishes some of the best writers about public life from within what we might call a broad and generous orthodoxy. They have published Smith, Seerveld, Mouw, of course, but also David Brooks and Mark Noll and N. T. Wright and Marilynne Robinson. And they just keep getting classier.

Susannah Black is also a remarkably gifted editor for another magazine, perhaps our favorite these days, Plough. From a different (more ecumenical and even interfaith) literary tradition and somewhat more unique perspective — it emerges from the Jesus-following, Anabaptist folks who live in intentional, shared community in places called The Bruderhof; Plough, like Comment, offers exceptionally high-quality nonfiction writing about society, culture, faith, and values, enhanced by great photography and artwork. While Comment has roots in the Dutch Reformed community and Plough is grounded in the simple way of the Bruderhof, both have a knack for offering profoundly Christian insight into the issues of the day without being preachy. They include classic poetry and fine essays and astute social commentary (with Comment sometimes tending a bit socially conservative and Plough titling a bit leftward, sometimes, or so it may seem.) Each are exquisitely designed, illustrated with full color art.

When the pandemic got serious nearly three years ago, Snyder and her team at Comment (and their sister-in-arms Canadian think tank, Cardus) deepened their work which was already in progress about strengthening civic bonds, healing the fraying social fabric, explore the way the spirit of the age has deformed mediating structures and institutions. I do not recall if they ran pieces by Yuval Levin, but they might have. This project grew to become an online collaboration between Comment and Plough and enlisted all sorts of supportive organizations; Breaking Ground: Charting Our Future… grew out of these remarkable networks such as the Center for Public Justice, the (&) Campaign, The Institute for Human Ecology at the Catholic University of America. It isn’t every day we see The Davenant Institute collaborating with The Awakening Project, and it is lovely to see The Trinity Forum listed next to Mosaic and Bitter Sweet. Kudos to educational organizations like the CCCU and Regent College and Fuller Theological Seminary and to policy think tanks like Initiative on Faith and Public Life for their role. That this beautiful book of essays and articles is a collaboration is an understatement. It is one of a kind.

This kind of collaboration, they tell us, is “an expression of unity amidst plurality and respectful engagement in the context of diverse perspectives.” A lot of good stuff came out of that “web commons” and this book is the result of that “real time” writing offering insight about what we might do as we move forward past the worst years of the pandemic. Those who care about the common good and who long for fresh insights and daring but doable proposals, will find this book a major resource.

Here is what is on the back of the book to explain the genesis of the Breaking Ground project and eventual book:

A public health and economic crisis provoked by Covid-19. A social crisis cracked open by the filmed murder of George Floyd. A leadership crisis laid bare as the gravity of a global pandemic met a country suffocating in political polarization and idolatry. In the spring of 2020, Comment magazine created a publishing project to tap the resources of a Christian humanist tradition to respond collaboratively and imaginatively to these crises. Plough soon joined in the venture. So did seventeen other institutions. The web commons that resulted – Breaking Ground – became a one-of-a-kind space to probe society’s assumptions, interrogate our own hearts, and imagine what a better future might require. This volume, written in real time during a year that revealed the depths of our society’s fissures, provides a wealth of reflections and proposals on what should come after. It is an anthology of different lenses of faith seeking to understand how best we can serve the broader society and renew our civilization.

The authors contributing serious content to this nicely crafted thick hardback (of just over 450 pages) include Mark Noll, N.T. Wright, Grace Olmstead, Jennifer Frey, Michael Wear, Dante Stewart, Marilynne Robinson, Tara Isabella Burton, Phil Chrisman, Jeffrey Bilbro, L. M. Sacasa, Oliver O’Donovan, Jake Meador, Cheri Harder, Amy Julia Becker, Jonathan Haidt, Gregory Thompson, Duke Kwon, Luke Bretherton, Doug Sikkema, Shadi Hamid, and more. You really show own this collection of original pieces by these great writers. They are a remarkable and astute group and this volume — arranged in four seasons — is a gift to behold.

Breaking Ground is surely one of the most important and beautiful books of 2022, a book to cherish. Thank you to all involved. Almost a year later I am still convinced of its lasting value, and want to honor it the best we can. Kudos.

Agents of Flourishing: Pursuing Shalom in Every Corner of Society  Amy L. Sherman (IVP/Made to Flourish) $26.00  OUR SALE PRICE = $20.80

If you are drawn to the collaborative vision of Comment and Plough (above), wanting to enlist the most talented, balanced, caring folks to envision a better future, drawing on distinctively Christian practices for the common good, and joining them in ways that non-religious folks might value; that is, if you want to make a difference in the big picture of our needy world without any of the right-wing hoopla of the conquering dominionists, then you may want a serious, careful, studious but upbeat resource offering the Biblical basis for and the spiritual guidance to accomplish just that. Can we really be transforming agents that create goodness and beauty, “pursuing shalom” as “agents of flourishing” as this author puts it?

There is simply no better book to explore these things in this way. I admire Amy very much and commend her work at the Sagamore Institute’s Center on Faith in Communities “which trains and consults with faith-based social service providers and religious congregations desiring to invest more effectively in their neighborhoods.”

She has a PhD (in international economic development ) from the University of Virginia. I’m sure you recall us often mentioning her stand-out Kingdom Calling: Vocational Stewardship for the Common Good. She also, I might add, did what may be the best chapter in the book I edited, Serious Dreams: Bold Ideas for the Rest of Your Life.

Although I’m inclined to say a lot about this amazing book — almost 350 pages if you count pages of endnotes — perhaps the back cover is helpful to show why we care so much about it. And a bit from the publisher:

God calls Christians to participate in his redemptive mission in every sphere of life. Every corner, every square inch of society can flourish as God intends, and Christians of any vocation can become agents of that flourishing.

Amy Sherman offers a multifaceted, biblically grounded framework for enacting God’s call to seek the shalom of our communities in six arenas of civilizational life (The Good, The True, The Beautiful, The Just, The Prosperous, and The Sustainable). Because we believe in what is good and true, we strengthen social ethics and contribute to human knowledge and learning. Because we value beauty, we invest in creative arts. Because we are committed to a just society, we work toward restorative justice and a well-ordered civic life. And our desire to see society prosper sustainably means that our business practices seek the economic good of the community while protecting the physical health of our environment.

This comprehensive volume showcases historical and contemporary models of faithful and transformational cultural engagement, with case studies of all kinds of churches advancing human flourishing. It provides a roadmap for leaders wanting to participate in Christ’s mission of holistic renewal. Discover how being God’s agents of flourishing can change our communities for the better and offer a winsome witness to a watching world.

I’m not alone in insisting this book is truly great and very important.

Agents of Flourishing is a timely book loaded with expert guidance and amazingly practical insights for local churches (agents of God’s inbreaking kingdom) seeking the flourishing of their communities. It presents captivating examples of local churches’ engagement with six community endowments–the good (ethics), the true (knowledge), the beautiful (creativity), the just and well-ordered (political), the prosperous (economic), and the sustainable (natural environment)–as congregants carry out their priestly work of restoring shalom: rightness of relationships with God, self, others, and creation.  –JoAnn Flett, executive director of the Center for Faithful Business at Seattle Pacific University

In an age of political division and a shrinking Western church, Amy Sherman gives pastors, scholars, and students a comprehensive vision for equipping the saints to work toward the healing of our cities. Sherman bridges the gap from Scripture to praxis and gives readers both theological frameworks and practical examples of how our work and churches once again show our culture what the gospel looks like in the ordinary, everyday movements in our lives. I highly recommend Agents of Flourishing for anyone longing to see a reintegration of faith and work, private and public, church and city.  –Jeff Haanen, founder and CEO of the Denver Institute for Faith & Work

What Are Christians For? Life Together at the End of the World Jake Meador (IVP) $22.00 OUR SALE PRICE = $17.60

We highlighted this when it first came out, celebrating Jake’s follow up to his excellent 2020 release In Search of the Common Good: Fidelity in a Fractured World. Like that one, this is exquisitely written, combining stories and examples with fairly profound thinking. To say he’s a combination of Wendell Berry and Jamie Smith with a dash of Timothy Keller wouldn’t be too off base.

In this volume the editor of Mere Orthodoxy brings together the extraordinary thinking of black scholar Willie James Jennings, putting him into figurative conversation with the old Dutch theologian Herman Bavinck. Meador, too, not unlike Amy Sherman (above) explores a “thick conception of the natural order” as a life-giving way to see goodness, beauty and truth.

His call to a more profound sort of Christian politics, a social ethic that seems radically different than the fundamentalist right or the liberal left, is mind-stretching. For some it will be mind-blowing as he makes a seriously Biblical, deeply faithful critique of racism and capitalism and ends up with a profoundly pro-life witness

You’ll have to read this amazing book to see what Meador means by it all and see how he calls us to “renounce the metallic fantasies that have poisoned common life in American life for too long.” For what it is worth, he worries that our Western assumption is to bend the natural world (and all of life) to its own political and economic ends. This is sort of a radical application of some natural law theory and I think it is something we really need to consider, ponder, grapple with.

Alastair Roberts at the Theopolis Institute call it “provocative and unsettling” as a critique of modernity. And yet, it is hopeful, good, gracious. I very highly recommend this book.

Untrustworthy: The Knowledge Crisis Breaking Our Brains, Polluting Our Politics, and Corrupting Christian Community Bonnie Kristian (Brazos Press) $24.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $19.99

When I announced this earlier at BookNotes, almost as vigorously as I could, I said I would come back to revisit it. I have pondered it for months and my instinct that this is a very important book has not left me. I adored Kristian’s previous book — a guide to all manner of different sorts of Christians and their practices and insights — and was sure this would be wise and fun.

Well, it isn’t that fun. But it is beyond wise, it is nearly brilliant. It is one of the Best Books of 2022. And if not enough people buy it, I’ll name it as one of the best books of next year, too. It’s that important.

There are three things I loved about Untrustworthy. Firstly, it isn’t that academic or dense. There are books about fake news and our propensity to believe weird stuff, and why these days are prone to conspiracy theories and whatnot and some are very dense. This explores this complex topic with astute insight but it isn’t a drag or more than you need to know. It is serious and meaty without being needlessly deep.

Secondly, akin to the first, Untrustworthy is very readable. At times I smiled knowing just what a fine writer she is and how good the prose was. There are stories. Maybe it was a fun and enjoyable read after all, come to think of it. It is sober and serious and although she doesn’t overstate the concerns, I’m convinced that this is one of the most urgent topics of our times. This one will not be the last book we read on this complex and pressing matter, but it should be the first.

Thirdly, if this “knowledge crisis” is “breaking our brains” (and “polluting our politics”) what do we do? Here, again, Ms. Kristian is a mere Christian (I’m alluding to Lewis), standing firmly in the classic ground of Christians from all times and places. That is, she is not overly eccentric, not an oddball not fanatic, but a reliable theological voice. She offers deeply Christian ideas about wholesome practices, from enhancing the Christian mind to being an agent of civility, from forming communities that care about cultural discernment to becoming people who, in graciousness, know how to stand for truth.

Many of us know that all media outlets are biased — it’s just the way we limited, believing, humans work, objectivity being a myth, after all. But fewer of us know how the massive amount of information we have may be verging on propaganda, and what to do about that. How can we be a more responsible consumer of the news? Who can we trust? How can we combat misinformation and lessen its impact on the people I love (not to mention our neighbors and culture at large.)

There are forces that contribute to this crisis. Overcoming the current polarization is going to demand we think harder and work more conscientiously on trust, truth, knowledge. This book is one of the very best — indeed the only book like it. Highly recommended.

Her Country: How the Women of Country Music Became the Success They Were Never Supposed to Be Marissa R. Moss (Holt) $28.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $23.19

I happily read a number of pop culture books, several each year, and this stood out, head and shoulders, above any others — and I don’t even pay that much close attention to country music. I know little about Nashville, even though Beth and I adored the TV show, Nashville.

This book grabbed me even more than Sarah Smarsh’s populist study She Come by It Natural: Dolly Parton and the Women Who Lived Her Songs that I raved about last year. It is so well written, upbeat, lively, with edge-of-your-seat gossip and drama. And some very touching, earnest, even, look at a few key women in country, alt-country, roots and new folk. As Brandi Carlile notes in her great blurb, Moss introduces us to “the modern-day pioneers, the rebels, the risk-takers, the marginalized, and the misfits.”

I did know quite know about the “startling inequities” in the country music industry. Despite a few famous ladies — from Loretta Lynn to Dolly to Reba — record for record, dollar for dollar, women in country women have been woefully ignored and often overtly mistreated.

Here’s part of the thing as Moss explains it (and man, it leads to some amazing drama): in country music so very much has to do with radio airplay. Unlike other forms of popular music (from soul to rock to hip-hop) Nashville radio DJs and the network of country music radio leaders, call the shots. If one doesn’t get airplay, records aren’t known, and albums don’t sell. This is true for men and women, but, uniquely, an even harder hurdle to get over if one is a woman.

In this sense, Her Country, shows what in older days they called the payola scandal. Except for women, you can imagine the sexual favors that may be demanded by country radio executives.  It has been an uphill battle, and this book bravely details artist after artist, songwriters and performers.

The Dixie Chicks, now The Chicks, famously spoke out against then-President Bush’s ill-begotten war in the Middle East. The backlash was fast and furious and put a chill among song-writers wanting to address anything political. Women writers and players were especially marginalized. This is a shocking story almost on par with the McCarthy red-baiting and Hollywood blacklisting of decades before as right-wing talk radio and country music stations mocked women who dared to speak out at all.

Even those who stuck to typical country themes — including some who were Christian and/or gospel — were not given their fair shake. There is even computer soft-ware that country radio stations use to make sure two songs by women singers were not played back-to-back. To circumvent the “good ‘ol boys” power of Music Row was nearly impossible.

Her Country circles back and forth around the lives and history of a few key players — Kacey Musgraves, Maren Morris, and Mickey Guyton, especially. That these talented writers and players couldn’t get their work heard was remarkable. That they spoke about LGTBQ equality and that Mickey is black didn’t help their mainstream popularity. (That these women paid incredible dues on the roadhouse circuits in their home state of Texas is itself a story.) The advocacy for a more diverse sort of singer in the country music scene is a fight worth knowing about.

Recently, in the very moving TV show of the Kennedy Center Honor Awards, one of the honored artists was Amy Grant. One of the groups singing one of her songs was the Highwomen, a bit of a supergroup modeled after the Highwaymen. The struggles and joys of this band coming together is part of Her Country as well (not to mention their legendary work getting more women on the stage at the Newport Folk Festival.) To see Brandi Carlile, Natalie Hemby, Maren Morris, and Amanda Shires (all who I had just read so much about) honoring Amy was a blessing. And to think I had just been reading about them a week before.

Some of the country history here, stuff about the Opry and songwriter circles and talent agencies and white privilege and studio musicians and so on is a blast. Her long playlist is worth the price of the book, including solid tunes from everyone from Patsy Cline to Shania Twain, from Jeannie C. Riley to Faith Hill. From Tammy Wynette to Carrie Underwood. Of the dozens and dozens of songs there are many I never heard of and some are, Moss insists, very important. She’s an unapologetic LeAnn Rimes fan, and highlights singers as diverse as Mindy Smith and Margo Price and the great Rhiannon Giddens.  It was a blast from my past recalling Jessi Colter and the wonderful Patty Griffin. (If only she had mentioned Nanci Griffith.)

Marissa Moss even has a few men in her list — guys whose good work comes up in the book since the playlist folders her almost 300 pages; alongside the Pistol Annies there is Jason ispell, Sturgill Simpson, and even Tim McGraw (“Last Turn Home.”) The remarkable playlist just illustrates how deeply researched this is, how this New York author knows the genre, and just how much there is to gain when women — straight, gay, of any race — are given a fair artistic shot. Politics and cash, religion and culture wars are the larger backdrop and these women wouldn’t allow the shift to a brash and macho national ethos constrain them. It is an amazing story.

 Her Country shines a light in the dark corners we don’t talk about; it’s equal parts unbelievable and completely believable. These realities are used brilliantly in this book as a tool to illustrate how women are breaking the mold, changing the rules, blurring the lines of genre, and how strong, resilient, inventive, and inclusive these women are.  –Holly Laessig and Jess Wolfe of Lucius

Imagining Our Neighbors as Ourselves: How Art Shapes Empathy Mary W. McCampbell (Fortress) $28.00  OUR SALE PRICE = $22.40

Thinking about our favorite books and favorite moments in bookselling this past year, I am deeply touched with gratitude to recall how we got to help host an online launch party for this book. Along with former Calvin College pop culture curator (and very good friend) Ken Heffner, we kicked off a day of live Facebook presentations about how “narrative can make us better neighbors.” Imagining Our Neighbors shows us how and that good day reminds me of just how good a book this is.

I reviewed this, then, at BookNotes and we were pleased to sell a bunch. It is surely one of the great books of 2023 and we enjoyed it immensely. As Karen Swallow Prior notes, it will “instruct and delight any reader who cares even a little about art, imagination, and humanity.”

With rave reviews from the artful likes of Makoto Fujimura and Jessica Wooten Wilson, this book has been much discussed and I am not alone holding ups its vision of empathy gleaned through stories. As our longer BookNotes review explained, she looks at all sorts of narrative work, from TV shows to novels, from films to record albums. Her tastes are wide and her insight profound. Professor McCampbell invites us to enter into a deeper care for the world by hearing well the stories of artists, religious or not (usually not, at least not overtly so) who bear God’s image and offer insights into the world as it is — and perhaps offer visions of how it might be. This is one of the great books of 2022.

McCampbell takes the ingredients of the familiar and invites us on a theological and experiential journey to self and neighbor compassion. In her book, both storytelling and story analysis, from film to Holy Scripture, inspire and equip us to grow what seems so lacking today: empathy. — Christina Edmondson, psychologist, cohost of the Truth’s Table podcast, and author of Faithful Antiracism: Moving Past Talk to Systemic Change

A Hole in the World: Finding Hope in Rituals of Grief and Healing Amanda Held Opelt (Worthy) $27.00  OUR SALE PRICE = $21.60

I’ve mentioned this more than once at BookNotes and I can’t shake how interesting it is, a grief book unlike any I’ve ever read. It is surely one of my favorite books of 2022.

Here is what I wrote back in at the end of the summer:

This came out a bit ago and I’ve mentioned it before but I just have to announce it again. It is, quite simply, a beautiful walk through 12 different grief practices. Amanda is the bereaved sister of the late Rachel Held Evans so it starts with her coping with that sudden loss. She writes well, includes some humor, and the book feels like a clever cross between a memoir of sorrow and an anthropologist’s survey of what might seem like oddball practices to the uninitiated.

There is so much here – it’s a great read. From fairly common habits (sending cards) to the nearly superstitious (covering mirrors) to the nearly amusing (see “funeral games” – who knew?) to the beautiful (like coping with fear through “telling the bees”), there is something here for everyone. Join Amanda as she sits shiva or as she takes in the beauty of funeral food. You will laugh, I bet, and you may cry. It’s a great book.

The fine writer Jen Pollock Michel says it “invites us to put our aching bodies in motion, to glimpse at the surviving we can all do.” Other fine raves on the back are from Sarah Bessey, Jeff Chu, Michael Card, and K.J. Ramsey, all authors we’ve commended here. Trust us – A Hole in the World is well worth having. I think it is one of the most interesting books I’ve encountered this past year and I am sure we’ll be recommending it for years to come.

Good and Beautiful and Kind: Becoming Whole in a Fractured World Rich Villodas (Waterbrook) $24.00  OUR SALE PRICE = $19.20

As I’m sure you appreciate, we recommend a real diversity of books here at Hearts & Minds. And our shop is even more complicated than our somewhat curated BookNotes. We really do appreciate so very much and are glad for books to read, good books, joys and challenges.

When it comes to recommending titles, we’re trusting and eager — not too many of our customers are offended by this or that, even if it isn’t for them. We know some read a bit out of their conventions sometimes, just to grow and learn. I love that. I suspect more conservative evangelicals read more liberal stuff than vice versa, but, in any case, there’s a lot of cool diversity here. We’re grateful.

But then there are those authors that really resonate, that are, in one way or another, nearly soul mates, or close to it. I feel that way about the work of Rich Villodas. I’m not alone as a fanboy, of course, and his first book, A Deeply Formed Life, invited many fairly straight-arrow evangelicals to see that racial prejudice was not merely a trendy justice topic, but a matter of the formation of our souls. Agree or not about his traditional views of Christ and the atonement or his gracious but traditional view of sexual ethics, he was a good man, inviting readers to a deeper life, shaped in the virtues of Christ, from the inside out.  He offered monastic values, reminded us of emotional health, showed how our bodies connected with our spirituality, insisted on a multiracial vision and called us to a missional way of being the hands and feet of Jesus in a consumerist world.

And then he wrote the follow up, one of 2022’s best books. I couldn’t put it down and have fond memories of reading it outdoors, late into the evening. Good and Beautiful and Kind nearly blew me away, in part because it was so interesting, built on so much good thinking (illustrated by the amazing footnotes and citations.) Here was a theologically conservative evangelical — a grad of the CM&A’s Nyack College—  citing Walter Wink (and our old friend Marva Dawn on Walter Wink),  Benedicta Ward, Orthodox fathers, James Cone, Karl Barth, Fleming Rutledge. He knows the work on trauma done by Bessel Van Der Kolk (and cites Curt Thompson.)  I loved his drawing on a lesser known book by Barbara Brown Taylor. Man, this dude reads widely and writes so nicely.

Importantly, though, for anyone, but dear to the heart of the urban pastor that he is, he knows black literature. I was deeply moved by his use of Ralph Ellison’s The Invisible Man. And, giving him the title, a poem by Langston Hughes.

This book flows out of his experience with his faith community. They seem to have a healthy thing going on and I’m grateful, given how many churches are either toxic or boring. If his community is being shaped by his words — on being good and beautiful and kind — they are, as are we when we join in through reading this book, becoming whole.  Which is to say, we are growing in love. In discipleship. In hope. This is a transformational book, not complicated to read, about 200 pages. Highly recommended — the kind of book nearly any of our buyers should appreciate.

Faithful Anti-Racism: Moving Past Talk to Systemic Change Christina Barland Edmondson & Chad Brennan (IVP) $25.00  OUR SALE PRICE =$20.00

I almost feel like I could give an award to InterVarsity Press for doing the most good books on racial justice, cultural diversity, multi-ethnic ministry and racial reconciliation. In recent years they have been consistent and solid, fresh and wise. There’s been a lot on this topic, from other good publishers too.

It was hard to pick just one that stood out to me, but I am confident this should be on any list of the most important books of 2022. I’ll write another time of other good books in this key aspect of ministry and prophetic work, but for now, I want to honor this extraordinary book. I could go on and on, but will just say three things about what makes it so very useful, stellar, even. It’s a stand-out and should be award-winning.

First, it is unapologetically Biblical and Christina Edmondson and her co-author are excellent on this. (Kristin Kobes Du Mez, who knew Christiana from when she was at Calvin University in Grand Rapids, in fact notes the book’s “sophisticated engagement” with Scripture.) It isn’t a lengthy, arcane treatise, but it is mature and serious in its Biblical orientation.

Secondly, the phrase “faith anti-racists” puts it at loggerheads with both conservative ideologues who decry anti-racism as nothing more than far-left lingo rooted in Marxist CRT  and well-intended progressives who just adopt ideological views of anti-racism as if there is nothing to ponder. She is wanting church folk to get beyond talk and good intentions but doesn’t just jump into the anti-racist biz without some theological reflection. Her call to fidelity in our anti-racism work is vital. Naturally, this includes a passion for whole-life discipleship and culturally-astute, systemic changes that are necessary. These authors do not shy away from important, big picture stuff.

Thirdly, this book brings to us the most updated, urgent, illuminating data, research done by the landmark Race, Religion and Justice project (led by Michael Emerson, who wrote a significant foreword.) I said this in a previous BookNotes review but this is, as Duke Kwon puts it, “unparalleled among Christian treatments of the topic.”

There are other reasons I value this — there are excellent discussion questions and eloquent honest prayers. It is nicely made, not too hefty, and really is one of the Best Books of 2022. Kudos to all.

The Merton Prayer: An Exercise in Authenticity Steven A. Denny (ACTA) $19.95  OUR SALE PRICE = $15.96

Can I name a book as one of my favorites of the year because I am footnoted in it? Ha! Golly, it’s a little thing but although I’ve been thanked and even described in a few books over the years — Rich Mouw gives me a couple of pages in All That God Cares About: Common Grace and Divine Delight, a book I adored, by the way — but I am not sure I’ve ever been actually in a footnote. And there you have it: I was delighted, nonfiction book nerd that I am.

More importantly, this is a book that is unlike any that exists. So many people appreciate and have been deeply touched by the famous Merton prayer (at least part of it) found in Thoughts in Solitude, one of the books I often tell people to read first if they are tackling the famous contemplative. My acquaintance Steven Denny — we met at a conference — had his own life transformed by praying this prayer and asked me if it might help anyone by writing a book about it. I assured him there was, indeed, a need for just such a book. On the big, wide, Merton shelf there’s nobody talking much about it. Yet, it’s so helpful. And so Denny wrote this, his own simply-told story of his own encounter with the famous prayer.

The Merton Prayer is the one that starts, “My Lord, God, I have no idea where I’m going.”  You may have heard some of the later lines: “The fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.”

As I’ve described before in BookNotes Denny does a few simple things. To be honest, none are brilliantly literary, not over-the-moon stunning. It is just so earnest, so clear, so sane, so helpful. Step by step, Denny — a former evangelical preacher turned lawyer — walks us through the prayer, line by line. In that, there are worlds of insight and many treasures. It makes this small book on a small press a very significant book. I’ve read it more than once, which is rare for me.

There are three sections that Steve offers for each phrase. First he does some Bible study. Nothing is rocket science here, but he’s a solid preacher and knows his way around the Scriptures. It’s good. Then he exegetes the lines (sometimes even the words) of the prayer. I’m not sure it was necessary to call this exegesis, since that isn’t a word most people use, but we’ll overlook it — he’s an evangelical preacher turned lawyer, remember? The point is he examines the prayer carefully, highlighting a phrase, a bit of grammar, offering reflections on Merton’s own usage. It is amazingly rich, good, solid, stuff, freshly shared. I’ve never seen anybody ruminate on Merton like this, and it is very, very lovely.

The third part in each portion is where we are invited to “turn it, turn it, turn it.” By which he means to ponder, reflect, apply. How do we live this stuff? What difference does it make? How do we inhabit this prayer as our own, knowing what we know now? This is really good stuff and he guides us towards our own deep reflections on the ground words of The Merton Prayer.

There is a fantastic introduction to Merton in the beginning that is really nicely done. There are photographs for those that might appreciate the visual metaphor. All in all, it’s a fine book, made that much more important because it is on a topic that is not often explored — how to use this famous prayer about seeking God’s will when we don’t know where to turn.  As he says, “it’s a prayer for you.”

How to Inhabit Time: Understanding the Past, Facing the Future, Living Faithfully Now James K. A. Smith (Brazos Press) $24.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $19.99

I have mentioned this book a lot at BookNotes so it will come as no surprise to our friends to see me list it here. It was certainly one of my favorite reads — in part because it pushed and pulled me into new ways of thinking and in part because I just so enjoy this author’s voice. But also, it is important because there is nothing like it that I know of. Nothing I can even compare it to. It deserves an award for that!

There are those who may want to dive into this not because they are drawn to the author but because they are intrigued with the topic and are taken by the themes. Please, please do. I am a big fan of this, dense as some parts are, complex as it may be. Because I trust him so, and value his voice and writing, I hear Smith and smile when he warns/advises in the good, long introduction that citing philosophers (not unlike citing poets and artists) is a chance for the reader to slow down. To ponder and reflect. This is a book which, he says, hopes to draw you more deeply into contemplation. It is, very much, about inhabiting.

As I noted in an earlier review, Smith says,

“…the hope of this book is to occasion an awakening, a dawning awareness of what it means to be the sorts of creatures who dwell in the flux of time’s flow, who swim in the river of history. Knowing when we are can change everything.”

Although it waxes eloquent at times about all manner of obscure goings on and explores in detail stuff like “A History of the Human Heart” and “The Sacred Folds of Kairos” or, as that chapter subtitle puts it, “How (Not) To Be Contemporary” it is at times clear and convicting. Very early on, and then several times later, he asserts:

“Knowing whether it’s dawn or dusk changes how you live in the next moment.”

To wit, he coins an annoying little word he uses throughout, about a debilitating ignorance about not knowing what time it is, or thinking we (and God!) somehow “floats” above it all, not concerned about being in time and in history: nowhen.

This is a book about temporality — which implies an awareness of where we are in history, how we have been generated and how we are to feel about it all; and, he is eager to help us understand the grace of living, appropriately, in a futural manner. The now is pregnant with the future and we live into God’s realm in fresh aways each day.  But first, of course, we must reckon with our past. I really resonated with how he used that word, reckoning.

With examples from the tangible, visible arts, to poets and rock singers, with studies from philosophers and social critics, with plenty of Bible and church history How to Inhabit Time is a masterpiece, one of the very best books of 2022. Even if it is at times a bit arcane, a bit dense, a harder work that his most popular few of recent years.

I wonder what reader’s reactions have been to his chapter “Embrace the Ephemeral” (which, happily, starts with a description driving through our local Susquehanna Valley in late October.)

I enjoyed his “Seasons of the Heart” chapter helping us to “inhabit your now.” (Ahh, his bits about the Grand Rapids community garden are very sweet.) His deeper dive into the classic “a time for…” section of Ecclesiastes 3 (cue up Pete Seeger about here, or Cockburn’s version, if you like — it’s not the first Cockburn allusion) is richer than most of the obvious explication in standard commentaries. His call to discern the times cites Gaudete et Exsultate, Pope Francis’s exhortation on holiness in today’s world and he explores how “seasons are transitory yet focal.” All of this is remarkably rich and very thoughtful and, yes — inspiring. From a Fleet Foxes song to a passage lifted from Proust, we come to see how in harder, quieter seasons we can learn much, even as we are attuned to Scripture differently than before. Smith notes that,

“…a life lived with God through time is a period of incubation in which the Spirit of God is creating the capacity within us to hear the same Word anew and to make the Word echo afresh in the new crevices of our heart.”

We are creatures of time. There are, as he notes more than once, vicissitudes. Jamie is a smart guy with a great vocabulary, but he is also a tender guy, sharing about his own depression, drawing out the contours of his homes, celebrating his marriage, a good witness that it is. He is also a philosopher so expect some forays into some deep stuff, but even that is clever and readable. Only Smith calls Huesserl, whom he loves, “a fusty German” and draws on Kierkegaard and Martin Heidegger (a student Kierkegaard) as well as Henri Bergson, “the great turn-of-the-century phenomenologist of time (where Proust was the best man at his wedding!)” Who knew?

Yes, you get some cool lines from the Avett Brothers and he cites the moving memoir of Brandi Carlisle and he goes on, righteously, about BLM and Alice Walker’s food revolutions. But you also hear his calm ruminations on Reinhold Niebuhr and other heavyweight thinkers. (Did you see his piece in the Christian Century about Niebuhr? It was quite good.) From Winn Collier’s lovely recollection of Eugene Peterson’s “aha” moment about becoming “unhurried” (as told in Winn’s biography, A Burning in My Bones) to his citation of a beautiful passage on leisure by Calvin Seerveld, he helps us live into the vicissitudes, and hear the “tempo of the Spirit.” I told you it was interesting.

I name this now as a favorite book of 2022 and one of the best, delighted as I was to be challenged to think more about being an eschatological person (or, better, to be part of a eschatological people.) The notion of longing for “kingdom come” is different, of course, than (as he explains beautifully) counting down the days to a rapture; fixation on the end times, he curiously shows, is, actually, rather a-historical, as we wait for God to wipe the slate clean. His vision of God’s renewal of all things is very, very different — nor nowhen. It is worth having. I hope you order it today.

James K. A. Smith shows us that time is a gift waiting to be redeemed, and a central conviction of this book is that ‘the Lord of the star fields’ is intimately attuned to our haunted, beautiful histories. Dwelling with these lucid, winsome meditations on ‘spiritual timekeeping’ was like listening in on a lively conversation between St. Augustine, Gustavo Gutiérrez, James Baldwin, and Marilynne Robinson, while Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon played in the background.  — Fred Bahnson, author of Soil and Sacrament

James K. A. Smith’s inspired work examines time not as hourglass sand running hopelessly through our fingers but as a divine gift that we can capture just enough to recognize the pearl of life that time shapes. A thoughtful and engaging book.  — Sophfronia Scott, author of The Seeker and the Monk: Everyday Conversations with Thomas Merton

This Contested Land: The Storied Past and Uncertain Future of America’s National Monuments McKenzie Long (University of Minnesota Press) $24.95  OUR SALE PRICE = $19.96

There are some academic publishing houses that make very nice general market books beside their arcane scholarly texts. Books by the University of Minnesota have blessed me nicely over the years with some very nice volumes, and this is certainly one of them. I’m not kidding — it’s a joy to hold, hefty and nice.

It is also funny to think that parts of an early chapter of this were first published in a journal called Nowhere. Which isn’t exactly “nowhen” (see above) but still sounds fishy. But this book is anything but nowhere: it is precisely about specific places and whether you have been to them or not, this author takes you there with vivid prose, solid natural history, good stories, colorful concerns. It’s a great read.

There are interviews galore, informative and captivating history, and stuff about landscape and wildlife and, yes, politics. From the older travesties of the removal of indigenous people to modern debates (from Obama to Trump to Biden) about national moments, this is cutting edge, vital stuff. I am very glad to name it here, celebrating it as a wonderful read, a very good book, and an important contribution to our contemporary discourse.

This Contested Land, you should understand, is about taking a closer look at twelve national moments (which she calls “the scrappy younger siblings of National Parks.”) I have not been to most of these and had not even heard of a few. The first one she visits because President Trump was decreasing its land size by 80-some percent. Of course, he wanted to sell it off for drilling, mineral rights, and other capitalist gains, rejecting the notion from Ulysses Grant on through Roosevelt and most others that we need such public spaces.

The book is arranged with a handful of chapters in each of three sections, Rock, Ripple, and Rift. She takes us from Bears Ears National Monument, Utah, to Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument in Maine. One is in Hawaii, another in Hanford, Washington. Most, like the fabulous Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Nevada are “out West” as we East Coasters say, like thrilling spots in California, New Mexico.

Author McKenzie Long is a rock climber, graphic designer, and writer who lives in the Sierra Nevada. A former managing editor at OutdoorGearLab.com, she is the coauthor of two climbing guidebooks and author of an award-winning essay, “The Alphabet Effect,” published in Nowhere magazine. Some of our readers will be glad to know that was a writer in residence at Mesa Refuge in Point Reyes, California, where she was named the 2019 Terry Tempest Williams Fellow for Land and Justice.

In This Contested Land, McKenzie Long reframes national monuments in the American consciousness. With painterly language, superb historical research, and engaging boots-on-the-ground storytelling, this book explores crevices for meaning and truth in what for many is a gray area between politics and place. This is a vivid, smart, and overdue book.–Kathryn Aalto, author of Writing Wild: Women Poets, Ramblers, and Mavericks Who Shape How We See the Natural World

With intricately woven stories and stunningly artistic prose, This Contested Land invokes the intense power of relationships between humans and landscapes–a force that not only influences what people think should happen to a specific place but what the future of our Earth itself might become. — Katie Ives, editor-in-chief of Alpinist and author of Imaginary Peaks: The Riesenstein Hoax and Other Mountain Dreams

TO PLACE AN ORDER 

PLEASE READ AND THEN CLICK ON THE “ORDER HERE” LINK BELOW.

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 quick, 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 so let us know. Just saying “US Mail” isn’t helpful because there are those two methods, one cheaper but slower, one more costly but quicker. Which do you prefer?

– DON’T FORGET TO LET US KNOW WHAT SHIPPING METHOD YOU PREFER –

BookNotes

Hearts & Minds logo

SPECIAL
DISCOUNT

20% OFF

ALL BOOKS MENTIONED

+++

order here

this takes you to the secure Hearts & Minds order form page
just tell us what you want to order

inquire here

if you have questions or need more information
just ask us what you want to know

Hearts & Minds 234 East Main Street  Dallastown  PA  17313
read@heartsandmindsbooks.com
717-246-3333

No, COVID is not fully over. Since few are reporting their illnesses anymore, it is tricky to know the reality but the best measurement is to check the water tables to see the amount of virus in the eco-system. It’s still bad, and worsening (again.) With flu and new stuff spreading, many hospitals are overwhelmed. It’s important to be particularly aware of how risks we take might effect the public good. 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. Our store is a bit cramped without top-notch ventilation so we are trying to be wise. Thanks for understanding.

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 and back yard customer service and can show any number of items to you if you call us from our back parking lot. It’s sort of fun, actually. We are eager to serve and grateful for your patience as we all work to mitigate the pandemic. We are very happy to help do if you are in the area, do stop by.

Of course, we’re happy to ship books anywhere. 

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

MY FAVORITE 10 BOOKS of 2022 — ALL 20% OFF

It often happens this time of year. My head is nearly spinning, giddy with the thought of sharing with you our picks for the Best Books of 2022. Christmas is always hectic here in retail-land and then the new year is often (thank goodness) a bit more hectic than we expect or remember. We’re so glad folks are sending us interesting requests for us to weigh in on, asking for book ideas for their winter programing, for their reconvened book clubs, for their upcoming preaching season, for their classes, for their own personal reading plans. It’s just a busy time of year to be creating this momentous post.

Which then makes me ponder about the point of all the list-making and honorable mentioning. As a struggling bookseller, I’ll admit: our goal is to persuade you to buy books. From us. Obviously.

And yet, there is some altruistic motivation, too, an educational offer for the common good. We really do want to inform the reading public and (insofar as they notice or care) honor publishers and their authors who do good work. There’s no real awards show or prize money, of course, so our little hoopla goes mostly unnoticed.

Yet, our fans and friends and followers want to know what we think. I am so honored by that. We thank you for caring.

So, here is a righteous shout-out to a handful of really good books. My top ten.

Here’s my caveat, offered as bluntly as I can put it. I am not insisting these are the “best” books, whatever that may mean. Heaven knows, I am not a judge of that.

But they are books I loved. Books I think others should read. Books we want to honor.

Soon, we’ll do a second list of more titles and authors that we consider the cream of the crop of 2022; the best of the best, in the literary world that I know, at least. I can’t wait to list those for you.

But here, today, I want to celebrate my choices for my own favorite books of the year. These are the ones I most enjoyed and that I think are worthy of being on a year’s end recommended reading list. These achieved that sweet spot of being delightfully written, artful and entertaining, and important, with something vital to say. These are my own choices for my favorite (nonfiction) books of 2022. I commend them all, strongly so. Each is a masterpiece that gave me many meaningful hours with these good volumes in my lap. I hope you order something from this list today.

The ORDER LINK is at the very bottom of this column… don’t forget to scroll down the whole way.

MY VERY FAVORITE BOOKS OF 2022

Wastelands: The True Story of Farm Country on Trial Corban Addison (Knopf) $30.00                    OUR SALE PRICE = $24.00

This is one of the most dramatic and well written books I have ever read. Like a novel (and I’ve read this author’s fiction) it has such lush description and well crafted sentences — it’s a beauty to behold. I have to say this is the book I enjoyed the most all year and I highly recommend it to anyone who likes vivid, energetic prose and one heckuva story.

Yet, it is hard to say I “liked” it because it is horrendous, deeply so. It is about a major, years long, lawsuit against the CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation) hog operations in North Carolina and the extraordinary lengths the fat cats at Smithfield (now owned by a communist Chinese business tycoon) and their acolytes in the North Carolina legislature went to fight this suit.

Along the way you meet the folks — mostly Black — who inherited land generations previous and their hopes for a quiet, agrarian life. Most are church-goers and since the author himself is a Christian (I know from his other work) he seems particularly aware of the sustenance and value simple country folks get from their small churches. Drawing on faith and hope and a good bit of love they take their stand against the sickening odors and disease from these shit-filled facilities.

(One learns quite a bit about the extraordinary amount of refuse that comes from packing tens of thousands of hogs in a small space — more waste than a small city would handle, but devoid of regulation. The pollution is gross and offensive with foul lagoons overflowing, trucks that carry out dead hogs disrupting the quiet nights, the spray method — spraying the excrement into the air — beyond ridiculous; cruel. Other proven methods less harmful to public health would cut into Smithfield’s profits a bit, so were obviously tabled time and again. The public officials tasked with protecting people simply ignored the issues. The EPA was nowhere to be found, in any event, useless against the war chests of big meat.)

Faithful followers of Christ or not — and many seem to be — the heroes of this story (besides the dignified homeowners who protested, and are forever hated by many of their neighbors) are the valiant lawyers from a small practice in North Carolina (who recruited a passionate public interest attorney from Colorado) and their teams who are on the side of the angels. Over and over and over they face obstacles, including threats of intimidations and violence, by those who start up these huge industrial hog facilities (I will not call them farms; one does not have to be Wendell Berry to see the utter disregard for and even disdain of traditional agriculture from these CAFO billionaires.) This is the wildest David and Goliath story I have ever read.

The great foreword is by Baptist bestseller, the one and only John Grisham. He lamented that he hadn’t made up a story this thrilling or told one so well as this. It is remarkable praise and after reading Grisham’s foreword I was hooked. If you like his legal fiction (or movies like The Pelican Brief or the iconic Erin Brockovich) you have to get this book immediately. You won’t be able to stop turning pages, believe me. Who knows, you may end up wanting to go to law school to take up public interest advocacy.

The history of black property owners is explored. The rise of the meat industry and the big slaughterhouses are explained. There’s some fascinating studies of the science of aroma (and the bogus study of smells that the high-priced, pseudo-scientist Smithfield put on the stand.) From pondering legal jurisprudence to the inside look at a mid-size law firm (these are not the big shots from “The Good Fight or other such big city practices) to the toll stressful cases take on mental health and relationships — again the case took years and years with millions of dollars of expenses and multi-millions at stake — Wastelands is so informative. Anybody interested in lawyering or legal practice has to read it. The details of jury selection and court process and how an opening argument is crafted (and rehearsed) and the complexities of cross examination and — yes — appeals are all fascinating, written with expert detail but colorfully textured that, again, is like an unfolding novel. Beside the turn-paging plot and the struggle for justice (one could hardly make up such corrupt bad guys), the telling is gripping. I’ve said before that Corbin Addison is one heck of a storyteller and an artful writer.

As Grisham himself puts it, Wastelands is:

Beautifully written, impeccably researched, and told with the air of suspense that few writers can handle…

This absorbing book that evokes thrills and emotions and makes you think about so very much will, in the words of the remarkable nonfiction master Wilbur Smith, “hold you spellbound with his elegant prose from his first word to his last.”

Jonathan Harr, author of the best-seller A Civil Action, says:

In this book, Addison turns a novelist’s eye to the thorny complexities of a real legal case. The prose is lyrical, the cast of characters jump to life on the page, and the result is a captivating account of how a small group of citizens bring a huge corporation to justice.

A few more things to be aware of, things that make this even more page-turning and so very important, given how our democracy is these days.

There is evidence here — explicitly documenting and powerfully exposing — a propaganda campaign on the part of the meatpackers at Smithfield. They spent millions airing sweet TV footage (and creating billboards) of family farms with bucolic scenes in lovely rural villages (and their smiling children) all the while implying that the litigants — who have hog excrement (from the CAFO’s spraying methods) on their laundry lines and cannot stand having a picnic or worship service from the affront of the odor and presence of the CAFO’s waste — hate farmers, hate meat, hate bacon. What a batch of lies, these industrial hog-facilities portraying themselves as quaint rural farmers with traditional (Christian) folkways. And people fell for it, believing the litigants were liberal leftists who are trying to stop farmers and American business and small farmers. That the lawyers were just in it for the money. This PR campaign was insidious and despicable but it framed the lawsuits in a certain (utterly untrue) light. It is an ugly part of the book even though Addison doesn’t dwell on it.

Secondly, the ungodly relationship between government and business was so odd that even super strict conservative constitutional scholars opposed the machinations of the North Carolina House, if to no effect. We’ve seen shenanigans in our own State House and we all know what goes on in DC sometimes. This is the most egregious move to pass legislation that would prop up an industry under fire of which I know, and I’ve studied this sort of injustice a bit. Man. Read it and weep, especially if you live in North Carolina. Those who voted to protect Smithfield from litigation should be ashamed of themselves.

Thirdly, although it isn’t directly an overt part of this story, there is hovering around this plot the question of how we eat, what sort of farming practices we want to encourage, and how to reform large scale agriculture. (For another expose of the meat industry as such, see Raw Deal: Hidden Corruption, Corporate Greed, and the Fight for the Future of Meat by Chloe Sorvino.) Insofar as the Smithfield-led CAFO industry was forced to grapple with their irresponsible business practices which clearly harm the air and Earth and neighborhoods (not to mention abusive of the animals) there is some modicum of reform. But the bigger questions this raises are themselves huge.

Wastelands brilliantly in captivating detail offers an important investigation, creating a truly great story, making this a rare, exceptional book. I am happy to name it as one of the Very Best of 2022.

South to America: A Journey Below the Mason-Dixon to Understand the Soul of a Nation Imani Perry (Ecco) $28.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $23.19

I have reviewed this, briefly, before, and I have pondered my comments last summer when I read this the first time. I admittedly skimmed some in the beginning as I just knew it was so important I had to describe it for you. It is so rich, so vast, covering so much — more on that in a moment — and is so wondrously creative that I was glad to commend it. It subsequently won the prestigious National Book Award and, so, I was proven right. South to America is extraordinary, nothing short of brilliant. As the great Isabel Wilkerson notes, describing its elegance, it is “by an esteemed daughter of the South and one of the great intellectuals of our time.”

I was correct to explain that this is part African American history, part cultural studies, in the format of a travelogue or memoir. I noted the book’s light touches — she talks about candy or sweets that she likes, the outfits she wears, shoes, pop music, memories of her girlhood, gentle conversations she has along the way.

Let it also be said that there are reports here, consistently, of the savage ways Black people have been abused, from the Middle Passage to the slave blocks, from the Plantations of certain parts of the South to the Jim Crow lynchings and the onerous daily indignities faced by Black people everywhere in America, almost always. Isabel Wilkerson is right to say that this is a meditation on “the complexities of the American South — and thus of America.” I believe this is one of the most educational, informative, inspiring books on America I have ever read.

To remind you, the structure of the book is splendid. In each chapter Perry visits a certain location, usually a city or region, ranging from Virginia, Annapolis, Baltimore, and West Virginia through Louisville, Memphis and Nashville, into a chapter on North Carolina called ‘Tobacco Road in the Bible Belt” and to the deeper South (Birmingham and Mobile, Atlanta and the famous “Black Belt.”) From Baton Rouge and New Orleans (what a chapter) to Florida (and its important survey of indigenous people and Spanish colonization) to (yes, and it’s important) the Bahamas, Cuba, and Haiti, she explores so very, very much.

If you like travelogues, this should appeal to you. I had little idea about any of these places, even though I’ve visited a few and read about others. South to America, though, filled in the color, the details, the local history, good and bad. If you want to learn some fine details through the eyes of an expert in Black history and Black literature, Perry is the best possible guide you could find. Read South to American, please.

You should know this; Perry is from the South, but now lives around Philly while she teaches at Princeton. (And, yes, there is a chapter on that most Southern of the Ivies.) Her parents were Black civil rights and movement activists and they introduced her to everybody. She is young, but knows so much about so much. The book shifts and moves, almost stream of consciousness-like, at times. One minutes she is describing something about the colors of historic cloth used for certain things in the colonial era or wild Savannah legends or Haitian slave revolts or the racial history of Beale Street and Elvis or riffing on mobile homes in Mobile or the rise of black Catholic nuns in New Orleans or offering great details about entertainers or artists. She knows quite a bit about African history and she knows tons of details about characters she introduces us to in the US cities she visits. She gets around.

Dr. Perry is a scholar, a writer, an artist, and a historian. (She wrote a previous book that was seriously awarded on the life of Raisin in the Sun playwright Lorraine Hansberry called Looking for Lorraine: The Radiant and Radical Life of Lorraine Hansberry that illustrates her wide knowledge.) I admire her greatly. There are moments, though — I’ll admit this but I hope it doesn’t scare you off — I had no idea what she was talking about. There are sentences that are gloriously poetic but, frankly, made no sense. Over and over I’ve re-read certain paragraphs and, not unlike the hippest of contemporary creative writing, some of it leaves me scratching my head. I had to look up a few words — and oh, what a wordsmith she is. Some of it, I suspect, is my lack of familiarity with deep Black culture. In any case, this is mostly wonderfully written, deep, thoughtful, poetic, mystical, inspiring. It’s an amazing book, one I have read twice and will surely find time to read again. We eagerly add our voices to the many who have named it one of the great books of our time.

I do not want to overstate this but I have read a number of books about Black history, African- American culture, racial justice and multi-ethnic ministry. We have a lot of good ones. There is something about South To America that was so rich it demanded more than one read and there is so very much happening, so many turns of events and so many places she talks about that I think it is one of the most important books in this field that I’ve ever read. I cannot imagine a white person, at least, and probably most others, who will not learn something new.

South to America marks time like Beloved did. Similarly, we will talk not solely of books about the south, but books generally as before or after South to America. I have known and loved the South for four decades and Imani Perry has shown me that there is so much more in our region’s fleshy folds to know, explore and love. It is simply the most finely crafted and rigorously conceived book about our region, and nation, I have ever read. — Kiese Laymon, author of Heavy

The Pastor’s Bookshelf: Why Reading Matters for Ministry Austin Carty (Eerdmans) $19.99                OUR SALE PRICE = $15.99

If there is one recent book that I wish every pastor and Christian leader would read, it is this one. My, my, it is a blast, fun, even. The author was on the national TV show Survivor, for crying out loud — how can it not be? It is nicely written, moving at times, serious minded without being fussy. His unique combo of clarity and sophistication and teacherly explanation reminds me of Richard Mouw, and that is saying a lot. He’s a very good writer, not overly flamboyant, but he’s obviously got some colorful writing chops.

But more to the point, this chronicles Carty’s increasing awareness that to be a good pastor in the classic sense, he simply must be a reader. He must make it a point to read daily, and to read widely, including lots of fiction. He is, I dare say, in this regard, at least, the closest thing we’ve got to Eugene Peterson whose love of reading and convictions about that hover around the entire book. If you appreciated Peterson’s almost grumpy resistance to trends about mega- leadership and speedy techniques for growth and formulas for hipper churches, you’ll love Austin Carty. He isn’t quite so old as Eugene but there he is, citing Peterson’s stories about reading well as a pastoral duty.

I so appreciated his calm guidance, his stories of meeting with others to invite them to read more, his suggestions on how to make it happen. This is exciting for any of us who are book lovers and great for those who need an extra push in the right direction. He’s got both a deep and big perspective but he’s also a good teacher about this stuff, practical and helpful.

Naturally, he uses the trope of reading for “formation, not information” which if you’ve heard me on this topic, you know I recite routinely. He shows how reading can nurture wisdom and help us learn to love.  This whole section about formation is rich and inspiring and, I might add, good for anyone, not just pastors.

The next portion covers specific practices and aspects of the reading life as it works out in a pastors life. I am not a clergy person, but this still was fabulously inspiring for me as he explores how reading well can help with sermons and pastoral care, vision casting and leadership. He is right that reading is “not a luxury.”

The final part includes six great chapters on reading with a good attitude, on the spiritual discipline of study, of how to choose what to read. (He even has a section on marking and filing, which was awe-inspiring, but I’m not there. Whoa.) The final chapter, which is fantastic, is about reading the Scriptures — obviously.  It’s a great way to end the book and wise on any number of levels.

The Pastor’s Bookshelf: Why Reading Matters is truly one of my favorite books of the year. I hope you get a few and share them with readers and maybe those who are not as given to the reading life. Pastors, certainly, and others.

As the great pastoral leader and author Thomas Long puts it in his fabulous introduction, “One remarkable feature of Carty’s writing in this volume is how much of it is done in conversation with others, particularly parishioners and others who are on the receiving end of ministry. Carty hopes to encourage pastors who read, but not merely as a form of gratuitous self-improvement, but reading done among, with, and for the people of God.” Nice, huh?

Christians are a people of the Word, yet we are formed more and more today by wanton, careless words. Those who will lead the church well will be those who are formed by good words — those who know the power words have over our hearts and minds. Those who read good books well will be such leaders. Pastors who read and live by the wisdom in this book will be changed, as will their ministries and the people to whom they minister. This book belongs on every pastor’s shelf.  — Karen Swallow Prior, author of On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life through Great Books

Reading is crucial for ministry, not as a mine for anecdotes and illustrations, but as an apprenticeship of the imagination. In this warm and wise book, Austin Carty invites pastors to develop capacious reading habits, as wide and curious and wonderful as the world in which they serve. I hope this book is an occasion for many pastors to build new shelves of poetry and fiction, biography and memoir, all of them adventures in understanding humanity.  — James K. A. Smith, editor of Image journal, author of You Are What You Love

I am gobsmacked by this book’s threefold beauty: its writing, its erudition, and the author’s deep commitment to what true reading can give not only pastors, but us all.  — Maryanne Wolf, author of Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World

Surrender: Forty Songs, One Story Bono (Knopf ) $34.00  OUR SALE PRICE = $27.20

I have written in my mind about five different reviews of this, sharing this or that feature, recalling this or that story, saying which parts I was most moved by. I think to honor this as one of my very favorite books that I read this year, nearly devouring it, I’ll just share what I wrote back when it first came out before Christmas.  Here goes:

Surrender: 40 Songs, One Story is one of the very best books I’ve read all year and it will certainly be in my personal favorites list coming up next month. In a way, it is a book of a lifetime for me. As a fan of U2, as a music-lover, as a uniquely Christian music-lover, this book resonated with me so very, very much. It brought stunning insight and joy; lots of joy. And, man, does Bono know his stuff. He knows so much stuff. Sure, he’s got the swagger, and he (as one reviewer noted, here “embraces his contradictions.”) But he really is smart. This book is an education in the popular culture of the last 40 years.

Let me just say four quick things about Surrender. I could, and surely should, wax more eloquently about it (it’s over 550 pages, after all) but I want to keep this relatively succinct. I want you to know (if you don’t already) whether this book is for you.

Uno, the book is not exactly linear and chronological (would you expect it to be?) but it mostly is. And there are song titles for chapter headings; naturally the first chapters are entitled from songs from their earliest recordings. (And the last few are, naturally, from their last albums; the important penultimate chapter is called “The Moment of Surrender” which you know from the No Line on the Horizon album.)

We learn from Mr. Paul Hewson in his own words a lot about his boyhood, the rough and rowdy ways of the religiously-conflicted Northern Ireland during the years of the troubles. With famous songs about “Sunday Bloody Sunday” outspoken pacifist tirades by the socially aware frontman of the social aware band, with nuanced lyrics recalling about how they cut down the few trees in their neighborhood and used them against their enemies (from “Peace on Earth” on All That You Can’t Leave Behind) I would have expected a bit more of the Troubles. Instead we hear about his love of bands, his school experiences, the impact of books he read, like Lord of the Flies, and — a theme throughout the whole book — the sudden death of his mother, Iris, when he was a young teen. So many of the lyrics of his long career, we come to find out, are veiled (or not so veiled) references to his mother and father. (As he sings in “Iris (Hold Me Close)” on Songs of Experience, “The ache in my heart is so much a part of who I am…”)

He’s a hurting punk and wanted to be a punk rocker, and man, I grew to love him more, learning a bit, in impressionistic style, about his youth and his longing for a more stable family.

He met his best friend, Ali, in his teen years in Dublin, Ali who became a girlfriend, who became his wife, early on. Again, this bit of his past is exceedingly important to him, enduring for him. My hunch is that many celebrities and certainly many rock stars are less connected to their youth, their past, their families. Or at least they think it isn’t cool to share that sort of sentimental family stuff. I loved that Bono has such affection for his dad (even if there was a lot of brokenness) and it was fun learning about Ali. It was fun learning about how he met the other three guys in the band and the importance of their friendships. His loyalty to these men is remarkable and in a way Surrender is a memoir of the trusting loyalty of these friendships.

I am a serious fan of the music, a real fan of Bono’s political action, and have admired his sly art as it transfigured and changed over the years. I really enjoy all of the albums and admire them all. (As we suspected, by the way, the changes were often very intentional; the Zoo-TV era antics of the Fly and the sensory overload of the shows were almost fully satire, some of it literally informed by C.S. Lewis’s Screwtape Letters, messing with the devil, their dangerously materialistic lifestyles mostly an embodied prophetic experiment.) So I know their work. But I have not read fan bios and knew very little about Bono’s family life. Maybe other fans knew about Ali and his children, but I think this is the most forthcoming he has been about them. There are beautiful pages, lovely episodes shared with many passages about the hard conflicts and honest struggles. Bono knows he has a very good woman by his side and he knows if he isn’t careful (as one of the most famous rock stars in the world) he could blow it. He almost did. But, man, his candor and poetic insight was some of the most romantic stuff I have read, ever. My hat is off and my heart is warmed.

Dos, did I mention the music? I could quote pages and pages about this (and have sticky notes throughout the book in case I want to do a serious study.) He goes on tangents — not really tangents, just colorful side-journeys, into his friendships with other artists. From punk guys to Frank Sinatra, soul singers to new wave artists, from Prince to black gospel choirs, he tells endearing and sometimes heartbreaking tales of the many people he admires and loves. It is very obvious — he never speaks badly of anyone (except himself) and even when talking honestly about the horrors of drug or alcohol abuse (even Adam’s) he is not judgmental or mean-spirited. His generosity is lovely and his Irish storytelling — often of drinking late at night — is captivating. As a celebrity he knows he has been given quite remarkable opportunities, but he is also a gregarious bridge-builder and he knows more artists, working in different genres, than you could imagine.

He has encouraged many rising artists to apply their craft to anti-poverty and other justice measures; he tells of fashion designers, models, film-makers, poets, novelists, painters, dancers. Wow. Not bad from a kid from the Northside.

His story of how Pavarotti got him involved in relief work in Sarajevo is, by the way, hilarious. Annoying as it was, he applauded Pavarotti’s tenacity in pursuing him. “Miss Sarajevo” (from the pseudonymical “Passengers” album) remains one of Bono’s favorite pieces of his career. His moving reflections on Sinatra were powerful; his tribute to Michael Hutchence (of INXS) and his suicide was very tender.

Do you recall when a hard rock band was playing in Paris (in 2015) and a mass shooting killed dozens of audience members? U2 were doing a series of stadium shows also in Paris that week and their show was shut down — it wasn’t the only time Bono had experienced a mass shooting, by the way. When they rescheduled the cancelled show they brought the smaller bar band — Eagles of Death Metal — onto their stage so they could finish their show that was so horrifically interrupted. These small stories of bands and stages and colleagues in the music biz were a blast to read and often inspiring.

And the recordings! I have read lots of books about rock music. Serious music lovers who read this sort of stuff may know Greil Marcus’s magisterial work Mystery Train: Images of American in Rock ’n Roll Music or his book on Dylan and the Band’s “Basement Tapes” sessions (Old, Weird America.) And there are some really cool books on the details of certain recording sessions. Bono doesn’t give us that much of that sonic and technical detail, but there is plenty for even the most geeky fans of recording studios. Not to mention the small revelations of the band’s work with lighting artists and staging designers creating what have been some of the most outlandish, brilliant, and expensive stage shows in the rock touring world. This is all so interesting but it never turns self-indulgent, naming the obscure brands of tubes or speakers or the sorts of electronics in the amps. (Although it might be said that it is self-indulgent in a different way as he talks much about the personal stuff going on in the midst of these urgent sessions, squeezing in so much global activist between tours and recordings, struggles with his voice, and the constant guidance of producers like Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois.)

I love hearing bits about so many songs — his reflections nearer the end about writing songs about friendship (“Bad” for instance) or linking the famous “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” to Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress or how one song was co-written by Salman Rushdie. I was glad to hear about them holding their ground on changing the plans for a nice, spared-down, acoustic rendition of “Ordinary Love” (from the Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom Movie) for a live, Oscar show performance.

So there’s family stuff, friendships, relationships, old ones and new ones. There’s music, U2s and Bono’s numerous friendships with so many other rock artists. There’s great stuff on performing, on singing, or writing, or recording. If you like rock music (and especially if you like U2) this book is going to be a true joy.

Tres — and this is huge —there is a whole lot on politics. I found these portions hard to put down and as one who has engaged in a tiny, tiny bit of lobbying and protesting and building civic coalitions, I found this insider’s look to be a blast. Early on, Bono learned (from a story about Dr. King told to him by Harry Belefonte) to build bridges even with those one might not want to work with. There were times when Bono was deeply lobbying the Bush administration — with the Jubilee campaign to cancel the third world debt, with ONE and then with his DATA and (RED) to fund life-saving drugs against AIDS in Africa — and was becoming friends with those who others on his team (and in his band) found unsavory. Bush was bombing Iraq, of course, torturing Muslims in off-the-grid black sites, and cutting budgets for the poor in the US. Yet, as he endured, learning from all sides, he came to be convinced of some of the value of conservative economic theory and in his famous office visits to right-winger Jesse Helms even found a friendly prayer partner. I was on the edge of my seat as Bono had to make some decisions regarding the leader of the free world and consequential choices about aid and trade, war and peace. Interestingly, though not surprisingly, friends like the late Mike Gerson are named. What a thrill, knowing how it finally turned out.

From his meetings with Nelson Mandela (and other lesser known African leaders) to his off-the-record opening of his home to Mikhail Gorbachev (despite Ali’s outspoken work with anti-nuclear power activists resisting Russian malfeasance at Chernobyl) to his palling around with (and fallings asleep at) the Obama’s, it is very entertaining, although none of it feels like name-dropping. To listen in on one with such amazing global connections who was actually nervous about it all — imposter syndrome, don’t ya know — and his bits of candor about, say, fretting about what to wear when one is a rock star visiting the Oval Office, made for a great read. If you care at all about how the world works and how change happens, if you’ve donated money to ONE or (RED) or other similar anti-poverty groups, listening to Bono will be as inspiring as listening to the likes of Gary Haugen or Melinda Gates.  He knows a lot about the facts of economic development and global politics and he weaves it into magical stories, often with stories of his on-the-ground, real-life volunteerism in poor villages. You’ll learn a lot.

Catorce? I sort of hate to mention this final element as a discreet point since it is interwoven so naturally throughout the book, but it should be noted that Bono’s Christian faith — unorthodox and uneasy as it may seem to some — is central to the whole story. It is not just cited a little, it is not just mentioned briefly. There are Bible allusions and explications, basic theology, Christian authors mentioned, and spiritual realities talked about in significant ways during every portion of his life, so throughout the 40 chapters. (And you know, of course, that one of their most famous songs (”40”) is a nearly verbatim rendition of Psalm 40. Fans used to leave the stadium singing over and over “How long…”)

There is even a moving telling of the family’s deeply affecting religious tour of the Holy Land, which, for a glitzy rock star seems such a conventional, churchy practice. This is from the guy who says he “has never left Jesus out of the most banal or profane actions of my life.”

Most know how Bono’s father was a not terribly active Catholic and his mother was a good Protestant and how three of the band members came to a lively faith in a charismatic, Jesus-movement sort of evangelical ministry in their young adult years.They remained in touch with some of that crowd even after their faith moved to more ecumenical and liberationist ways and Bono continues to be haunted by that robust sense of the Spirit and that strong teaching of Biblical truth. For many of us, his casual, humorous, but serious-minded love/hate relationship with the church, is an inspiration. His honest lament and plea, of the sort found in “Wake Up Dead Man”, (from 1997’s Pop) means more than any number of happy-clappy CCM ditties.

Through his fame and tenacity and righteous commitments Bono has had contact with world-class Christian leaders, from Desmond Tutu to Eugene Peterson to a hilarious episode that he writes about with Pope John Paul II. When he is visiting dignitaries he mentions that he sometimes gives away books— often a volume of Yeats or other Irish poetry. But I happen to know he’s given away his share of The Message, too. I admit to getting teary-eyed when I read his brief acknowledgment of Eugene Peterson.

Relationships, music, politics, faith. Stories galore, goodness and failure, temptation and joy, meaning and vision, art and wealth, compromise, justice, romance, sex, life and death. There is so much in this marvelous, stimulating book.

One final word: Surrender is creatively and colorfully written. Bono can really write; it is whimsical, a bit stream-of-consciousness, and, man, can he turn a phrase. There are witty lines on every page, brilliant sentences, wondrous prose. His clever honesty has him say things like about his ego being “far taller than my self-esteem.” Ha.

As the flyleaf of this well designed volume puts it,

A remarkable book by a combative artist, who finds he’s at his best when he learns how to surrender.

The Invisible Kingdom: Reimagining Chronic Illness Meghan O’Rourke (Riverhead Books) $28.00  OUR SALE PRICE = $22.40

Memoirs of those with chronic pain or the drama of trying to find a diagnosis are important to me. So many of us suffer with unusual ailments and for some, the pain (or the quest for answers) can nearly lead to madness. For others, it generates remarkable insight into the broken human condition and allows for a sense of grace, despite all. From practical guides for life lived while in chronic pain like the very good Hurting Yet Whole: Reconciling Body and Spirit in Chronic Pain and Illness by Liuan Huska (IVP; $17.00) to powerful stories like the brilliant The Deep Places: A Memoir of Illness and Discovery about Ross Douthat’s battle with Lyme disease (Convergent; $26.00) that carries a fine endorsement by Kate Bowler, there are many to commend.

The Invisible Kingdom is one of the best books I’ve read this year because it is so full of pathos, yes, but also because it is so elegantly written, so very thoughtful, so honest and real.

O’Rourke is an academic who teaches in New York City and makes her living also as a writer and poet. Besides contributing intelligent pieces to The Atlantic, The New Yorker, and the like she has done several volumes of poetry and, a decade or so ago, a moving memoir about the early death her mother called A Long Goodbye.

The Invisible Kingdom was a finalist for the American Book Award and that, of course, carries its own weight and recommendation. It is notable because it is so well written (and in that sense, I say, carefully, that it is in a sense entertaining, a good read) but also because it covers not only her own story, her marriage, her work, her aspirations and fears and (yes, of course) her many encounters with medical practitioners (And, like Ross Douthat’s with alternative medicine folks who she might have been averse to in another life, but, now, desperate, is willing to try nearly anything in the search for answers and relief.)

If this were all this book did — a moving memoir offering a writer’s candid glimpse into the life of one with eccentric disorders and unclear diagnoses — it would be more than enough. I honor Ms O’Rourke for her candor and courage in sharing this stuff so very, very well. Her coping with a compromised autoimmune disorder is not uncommon but her writing is extraordinary.

But there is, as the telemarketers say, still more. Besides this eloquent and life-giving memoir there are excursions into the history and philosophy of science, of medicine, of women’s medicine. About the common accusation that “it is all in your head.” The trends in medical care and the backstory value systems that are in the air — Freudian assumptions, views about hysteria, and more — are vital to understand and O’Rourke carefully dissects many of the prevalent motifs that entangle even caring physicians.

Not to mention those who are not so caring. And those who wish to be but may not buck the managed care strictures of the insurance companies demanding that they spend less time with patients, not more. Anybody who cares about humane and effective health care simply must keep up with some of the debates that this book evokes, and The Invisible Kingdom is a good way into those discussions. At times searing, and at times tender, I recommend it to doctors and nurses of all sorts.

Allow me to be blunt: if you opposed President Obama’s reform of health care, popularly known as Obamacare, a few years ago, you need to read this book, hearing from the ground up what a middle class professional goes through in managing her appointments and less than efficient doctors, all time strapped due to financial considerations of the management teams to supervisor most hospitals in America. If you worked for passage of some kind of health care reform, this will be a refresher course — in the first person — of some of what is at stake. This is not, I’ll remind you, a book of politics or policy but a narrative of illness and struggle, a search for hope. But some of the health care reforms (starting with doctors not dismissing their patients and their stories of discomfort) that are so very needed are insinuated into this well-crafted story.

Of the many rave reviews this book has garnered here are just two:

In this elegant fusion of memoir, reporting, and cultural history, O’Rourke traces the development of modern Western medicine and takes aim at its limitations, advocating for a community-centric healthcare model that treats patients as people, not parts. At once a rigorous work of scholarship and a radical act of empathy, The Invisible Kingdom has the power to move mountains. —Esquire

Listen to this amazing quote by Esme Eijun Wang, author of The Collected Schizophrenias, a quote saying it is “the best book on the subject.” Wow.

I’ve gone through much literature about being sick, hoping to better understand the tangle of circumstances relevant to chronic illness. In The Invisible Kingdom, O’Rourke brilliantly unpicks the threads, creating the best book on the subject that I’ve read yet.

Wildland: The Making of America’s Fury Evan Osnos (Farrar Straus & Giroux) $30.00  OUR SALE PRICE = $24.00 // now in paperback $20.00  OUR SALE PRICE – $16.00

I think I am not going to try to say much about this other than to assure you that if you are one (like so many in America) are trying to figure out how it all happened — people falling for Trump’s election lies, the storming of the Capitol, the right of the alt-right, the wild weirdness of our civic life these days — if you are among those grasping at ways to discern how we got here, this, then, is a must read. It is more detailed than some may want but it, in my view, top notch reporting and expose, narrative nonfiction that rivals classics such as Dopesick or Soul Full of Coal Dust (among my favorite books in this genre.) Not quite as eloquent and dramatic as Wastelands it is none-the-less a page turner. I couldn’t put it down and didn’t stop reading (as I often do) until I finished the acknowledgements on page 433. What a book.

The short version is this: Wildland is a study of three pockets of American culture, including the very rich in the financial sector, including dubious hedge funds (in Greenwich CT — I had no idea that place was that wealthy) and the financially hard off in small town West Virginia, and in quintessentially mid-western Chicagoland. The author (a master craftsman of investigative writing who won a National Book Award for his book The Age of Ambition) had lived in the Middle East and in China for years and upon returning home could hardly recognize the culture he left more than a decade previous. He went to three towns in which he had lived, which he thought he understood, and began to explore the stories of his former neighbors, telling about how things changed in the fast-paced era leading up to the Trump era. I like nonfiction narrative that is colorfully written with a personal touch and as Esnos tells of his connections to these three very different places, we learn to trust his instincts and become eager for his analysis, his evaluations. We are caught up in his own story, the search for answers, or at least some clues.

The stories switch back and forth from one place to the other, so much that it has been called “sprawling” and a “reportorial tour de force.” There are the super rich who came to favor President Trump (even though some despised him, personally) since his policies favored their Wall Street investments. (There are shades in this portion of the great literature and film that came out of the years of the Great Recession, with works about the subprime scandal like The Big Short.) There is the declining local newspaper in Clarksburg, West Virginia (and, yes, some shades of Dopesick and other studies of the complexities of Appalachian towns and governance.) The politics of Chicago and the black neighborhoods? Oh man — there’s much to be said but you can imagine.

This is not the study that is typical these days of disaffected poor white folks hitching their hopes to the straight talking Trump, duped into thinking he was on their side. That’s a story that has been well told, often. This, or so it seems to me, went after a different nuance, the shift in worldviews among the rich and the powerless, blacks and whites, from here and there, but often with a realization of how the greedy left such an impact. The scope is broad, if focused, and what he comes up with is nuanced and insightful. It is less about the wild rebellion of the Tea Party movement inspired by Bannon, segueing into the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers. It’s maybe less dramatic than that kind of wild story, but, at the end, it pays off with greater insight into what makes this sad country tick. I really recommend it.

Diligent and deeply researched . . . Osnos offers intimate portraits of the men and women in the three communities on his radar . . . Wildland is written in first person, which often gives the book a satisfying immediacy . . . Osnos himself seems too driven, too idealistic to give up on the America that he once promoted on his travels abroad. But as he makes painfully clear in Wildland, the underbrush is still parched, and a mere ember could set it ablaze. — James S. Hirsch, Boston Globe

Evan Osnos’ Wildland is a reportorial tour de force, describing the kaleidoscopic changes that threaten to cause America to come apart at the seams. He deftly connects the dots between the hedge-fund billionaires of Greenwich, Connecticut, the opioid-soaked towns of Appalachia, and the gun-heavy gangs of Chicago. By turning his trained eye as a former foreign correspondent on his own country, Osnos paints an indelible picture that is heart-rending, appalling and hard to put down. — Jane Mayer, chief Washington correspondent for The New Yorker and author of Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right

The Life We’re Looking For: Reclaiming Relationship in a Technological World Andy Crouch (Convergent) $25.00  OUR SALE PRICE = $20.00

From a few pages in I knew I would love this book and early on I said to myself (and anyone else listening) that it surely will be among my favorite books of the last year. Yes, indeed. To honor it as a Best Book of 2022, I’ll reprise some of what I wrote back in April.

Andy is an elegant and careful writer, always offering interesting insights that set him above most authors of what I might call profoundly Christian cultural studies. But the genre of “cultural studies” doesn’t exactly capture the nature of his work which is notably personal as well. For instance, his book (one of my all time favorites) Culture-Making is about the human vocation to make things, to shape culture, to better the world —“recovering our creative calling” as the subtitle puts — so while it is in some ways about culture, informed by remarkable Bible study and a uniquely Christian world and life viewpoint, it isn’t essentially cultural criticism or social analysis; it is an invitation to a better way of life in and for the world.

It’s the same with his exceptionally important book on using power, Playing God: Redeeming the Gift of Power where he makes an impeccable case that, like other things in God’s good but fallen world, institutions and organizations and influential leadership (that is to say authority and power) can be misused but, with great intentionality and care and prayerful innovation, can be exercised with grace and justice…

The Life We’re Looking For is new and after writing a small and practical book about using smartphones and computers well in a family setting, Crouch has returned to offer another major work. It comes to us in a slightly trim-sized hardback so even though it is 226 pages (including the intriguingly exquisite footnotes) it isn’t too long or hefty. It is mature and stimulating in his most gracefully crafted style yet. Tech scholar Sherry Turtle of MIT raves about it, calling it a “personal meditation” written with “warmth and erudition.”

Already in the pocket-sized Tech-Wise Family Crouch explored what it does to us when we are shaped — our habits, our inclinations, our desires, our sense of how the world is to work — by our devices. (He doesn’t note James K.A. Smith’s notion of “secular liturgies” in the new one but he surely could have.) The Life We’re Looking For goes a lot deeper and in different directions than Tech-Wise, inviting us to reflect on the meaning of being human, the importance of being made in God’s image, and how to exercise our capacities (even drawing on self-help neurological studies about “flow” and the like.) He is trying to consider what we really want — what Tish Warren in her back cover blurb calls “the most vulnerable longings of the human heart.” He knows that we have a primal need to be seen, to be “embedded in rich relationships.”

As we all know, one-click ordering from faceless corporations is designed to be seamlessly smooth and very efficient. And, as we should know, these algorithms and  bureaucracies are damaging us, eroding community fabric and molding our attitudes. His brief rumination on not knowing the UPS and other delivery drivers in his neighborhood anymore, since Amazon has gig workers is quite observant and telling.

Do we really want this shallow connection — quantity over quality? Do we want devices to make everything easy (even if they could) as we become consumers, but less adept at using our bodies, playing instruments, cooking our own food?  Do we want to be tethered to multitasking and regularly speed-speed-speed through increasingly impersonal environments? Do we want rugged individualism or do we long for communities of care, extended households, even? Andy’s chapters on the formation of such households — a countercultural move to subvert the individualism and even loneliness brought on by technocracy — were simple and radical and moved me to tears.

In an otherwise very positive review in Publisher’s Weekly they worried that The Life We’re Looking For was uneven, and I sort of understand why — Crouch covers a lot of ground. There are sections which include a bit on the history of technology, a look at alchemy (with a nod to Harry Potter), a good bit on artificial intelligence and “boring robots”, a powerful reflection on money/Mammon and nature of capitalism, his wife’s use of instruments in her scientific research, and an admitted excursion in what calls an “intermission” on a very moving story from the New Testament as a remarkable reminder of the early church’s presence within first-century Roman Empire.

All of that, and more, could be seen as tangents, but, trust me: they are not. The chapters weave together and reward the patient reader as connections are made and insights circle back and layer on one another, bit by bit. We all know these are confusing and contradictory times (“we love it, we hate it, ain’t that life?” the late, great Mark Heard sung so powerfully in “Nod Over Coffee.”) Andy’s book helps us navigate in healthy and even beautiful ways, the tensions and trade-offs of these days.

To glean the evocative style and deep wisdom of this book, ponder (and be enticed) by just a few of twelve chapter titles, paying close attention to the helpful subtitles:

  • The Superpower Zone: How We Trade Personhood for Effortless Power
  • Modern Magic: The Ancient Roots of Our Tech Obsessions
  • From Devices to Instruments: Truly Personal Technology

None of this is bombastic or heavy-handed (as passionately concerned as he obviously is.) The book is not overly polemical nor alarmist. It is often gentle, even a bit quiet, in a way that seems proper for the human-scale ecology into which he is inviting us. In a chapter called “From Charmed to Blessed” he tells a story that you will long remember as he calls us to “the community of the unuseful.” In the telling about our New Testament friend Gaius and the odd, diverse community under Roman rule of which he was a part, he describes them as “fragile.” He follows that with reflections on own ancestry and I found it very tender.

This lovely, thoughtful book offers plenty of well-researched information and teaches us much, even a bit, as we’ve noted, on AI and computer science, which is enlivened when he mentions his Roomba and how he sneakily alludes to a dishwasher as a computer. He observes a bit about the human-scale texture of our lives when we give ourselves over to automation. (Which is, by the way, one of the reasons we always reply with a personal note acknowledging orders here on line, trying in our small way to redeem the online buying experience, inefficient as that may seem.) Naturally, the book includes poignant stories (and some fun ones, for instance about his own bike riding habits and his driving habits as well.) In the second portion, Crouch offers “redemptive moves” — new postures and habits to “help us begin, right now, to live more fully human lives.” I am convinced that it just might. I am sure reading it will help us cope with  — you’ll have to read it to get the full irony — “the loneliness of a personalized world.” For starters, he reminds us that we “do not have to accept our technology’s default settings.” They can be adapted “to serve a new and better set of purposes.”

As Andy so nicely invites us to move away from “ever-increasing isolation” and create homes “that become creative centers far more consequential than the refuges of consumption and leisure have let them become” he also pushes us to include the outcast, the unwell, the unproductive, the overlooked.

And he is hopeful:

The great news is that there are already examples of these redemptive moves — some seedlings, some saplings, some beginning to bear widespread fruit — and we all have a part to play in helping them grow.

Quiet and reflective as it may be, finally, The Life We’re Looking For: Reclaiming Relationships in a Technological World is not a gentleman’s armchair treatise. It is a reformational manifesto, calling us to renewal, change, redemptive efforts, to become agents of the shalom God wills for us all. Or at least a bit more sane in this fast-paced, digital world. It is a wise and wonderful book.

Alan Jacobs is one of the prominent essayists of our time, and knows a thing or two about the implications of our shift to machines in the middle of modernity. (Read his spectacular Year of Our Lord: 1943 for a particularly in-depth study of what five important Christian thinkers were thinking about these very things.) Here he says this is Andy’s best book yet:

The Life We’re Looking For is, and this is saying something, Andy Crouch’s best book: a deeply moving meditation on the human need to find true personhood, which means, among other things, to know as we are known. Strong and cogent critiques of Mammon’s empire–which, as Crouch shows, is where we live–are not unheard of, but a book that goes this deeply into the heart of things, into the heart of God, is a pearl of great price. — Alan Jacobs, author of How to Think and Breaking Bread with the Dead

Listen to Tish Harrison Warren, who writes so well about so much:

As I read this breathtaking book, I was surprised to find myself tearing up often, not because it is a book about tragedy or loss, but because Andy Crouch, perhaps more than any other writer of our day, perceives and names the deepest and most vulnerable longings of the human heart. The Life We’re Looking For describes the confusion and contradictions of our cultural moment in clear and resonant ways and, more important, offers hope that we might find a beautiful way of living amidst them. – Tish Harrison Warren, author of Liturgy of the Ordinary and Prayer in the Night

The Flag, The Cross, and the Station Wagon: A Graying American Looks Back at His Suburban Boyhood and Wonders What the Hell Happened Bill McKibben (Henry Holt & Company) $27.99        OUR SALE PRICE = $22.39

I raved about this in the June 23, 2022 BookNotes, a column I was proud of. Here are a few key excerpts, sharing why I think this book was so very good, such a great read, and one of my favorites of 2022.

The format of this memoir is, obviously, in three big parts. But first, why do I say “quasi-memoir”? I’ll leave aside if that is even a word, but the point is made clear in the beginning when McKibben wryly notes that the best memoirs have drama and adventure and pathos and since he grew up in a pretty ordinary, middle-class, stable family, was dealt a good hand and has had a fairly uninteresting life, his memoir, such as it is, is going to be more social history than gut-wrenching autobiography.

McKibben is a prolific author of great renown, actually, and he not only is a professor of note at Middlebury College in Vermont but has founded several environmental organizations. He has travelled the world. His campaigns to do MLK-type mass civil disobedience to try to stop dangerously polluting pipelines and his mobilizing even against the Obama White House is, frankly, quite thrilling and would be, for most, drama enough for several lifetimes, so he’s being a bit demure in suggesting that his life doesn’t have enough angst for a full-on memoir.  Maybe that will come later.

For now, though, he uses this storytelling format of recalling moments and eras of his life as a window to see other, bigger things. He has an agenda and it is to illuminate much about the last fifty years of US history and how patriotism, religion, and our consumerist way of life (rooted as we are in suburbs and automobiles) have shaped our culture and the world’s climate, how these things have themselves changed in recent decades, and need now to be reimagined and refined if we are going to rise to the occasion of being faithful in this day and age. That he is finally getting at how to more urgently and effectively mobilize to lower our carbon output and mitigate the disastrous climate change (of which he is an expert) should not surprise anyone who knows him. That he would do so with antidote and charm and a lovely survey of his own patriotism and faith, while not exactly surprising, is a writerly delight and makes for one tremendous book. I am not alone in suggesting this may be his best book yet. (And I’ve got The Bill McKibben Reader by my bedside!)

“Bill McKibben has written a great American memoir, using the prism of his own life to reflect on the most important dynamics in our society. Bill McKibben’s writing is poignant, engrossing and revealing. His message is a clarion call for a generation to understand what happened to their American Dream, and to fight for our common future.”  — Heather McGhee, author of The Sum of Us: How Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together

THE FLAG

This is a fabulous couple of breezy chapters – not long — where McKibben shares his own passion for US history, especially colonial history. You see, he grew up in Lexington, Massachusetts, and worked as a teen as one of those New England historical interpreters, wearing his tricorn hat and waxing eloquent about the shot heard round the world and the nearby Battle of Bunker Hill and Paul Revere’s famous ride. He knows that stuff cold and his retelling of it is vital, and with enough local color and backstory to make it captivating. In memoir fashion, he is telling us of his telling of it (a standard colonial-era joke, playing the board game Risk while waiting for the next crowd to arrive, his “half hour spiel” to “maybe one family with a couple of bored teenagers, maybe an entire bus of Japanese tourists” and holding out that hat” to collect tips, which was his summer job pay.) This respected scholar and activist-leader and New Yorker writer who is known around the world was a pimply faced kid wearing that three-sided cap and earning tips by sharing his passion for the great US revolution. I loved it, hearing of his love for our country and its founding story.

As McKibben puts it, “I came by my patriotism honestly.” He writes about the account the guides would deliver and the lasting influence of the basic importance of the story,

It was a clean and brave story, and, as I say, it has informed me ever since. The valor of standing up to unjust and arbitrary power seemed to me its clear and obvious moral. Indeed in the years that followed, as I read more deeply in American history, the importance of that stand sank further in.

I want to talk about that – to tell how and why the Revolution came to seem so important to me. I want to draw the picture in as bold lines as possible. Because soon enough the picture is going to get much more shaded, much less noble. But not quite yet.

Here it gets even more interesting and provides good instruction for many of us. He tells briefly about the important work of the 1619 Project and what new insights it brings to our understanding of our nation’s early history. He is embarrassed that his teenage job holding forth about the revolutionary years in Lexington didn’t have him telling the truth about the indigenous people nor the role of enslaved people (or black freemen like Crispus Attucks, say.) He ponders which is worse, that they knowingly ignored the unpleasant fact or if they just didn’t think to include them – an example of the generous but candid self-awareness that gives this book much of its appeal.  That is, it is neither a white wash or a diatribe. It’s just a good man trying to say what he’s learned to be true and ponder its significance for us all today in our own cultural moment.

It is, as I’ve implied, earnest and fair and wise. Terry Tempest Williams (whose most recent, luminous writings are collected in Erosion: Essays of Undoing) described McKibben as an “everyday hero” and says the book is plainspoken, direct, and conversational. His candid and well-informed critique of the right-wing pushback against the 1619 Project is worth the price of the book; it is not overly zealous and it is not unfair. But on just a few pages and with a few key examples he shows why we need the insights of black and native peoples and why their stories need to be part of our national story. I’ve read a bit on the controversy and think McKibben is sensible and right; I’m surprised that some writers I respect have fretted about the Project – I just don’t get it, and so appreciated McKibben’s sensible generosity.  It is interesting how he gets a bit passionate and names what needs to be named, but comes back to the memories of his own early patriotism formed there in the Lexington Green.

(There is one paragraph unlocking a racially-consequential line in the famous poem about Paul Revere that will take your breath away if you do not know about it; I did not, and McKibben’s discovery is stunning.)

There is a pivotal event that happened in the town when he was a kid and I won’t spoil the show by saying anything about it, but I want to say for the record that I so admire his parents and was very glad for this fascinating glimpse into small town New England politics in the late 1960s. Kudos to local historians and small town storytellers who write booklets and make tapes and keep records and oral accounts alive in local libraries and historical societies. McKibben comes back to this episode throughout the book, but I don’t want to ruin it by saying more.

There is a part that explains, too, about the economic realities that emerged from our troubling history of white privilege. Books like Richard Rothstein’s must-read The Color of Law, Dorothy Brown’s scholarly treatise The Whiteness of Wealth, Randall Robinson’s The Debt and Ta- Nehisiha Coates’s stunning 2014 call for reparations are mentioned and it becomes clear that McKibben’s commitments to the flag, seen in his telling of his pride in raising Old Glory with his Boy Scout troop – a lovely paragraph that made me smile — are now deeply tied to true truths about economic injustice stemming from a history of institutional racism. What the hell happened? This book explains it as clearly and succinctly as any I’ve read.

I needn’t say much more about his early formation as a proud, if now sobered, US citizen, but I will note this:  I’m inclined to protest, or, these days, at least compliment those who do, when things go haywire. But the sort of honest lament McKibben names about our sinfulness doesn’t mean we cannot affirm the good ideas and good things that emerged from our founding as a nation. McKibben’s reflections on the flag and proper patriotism are solid, balanced, and, I think, very important.

THE CROSS

Beth and I were thrilled even by the first page or so of this section where McKibben describes the character and tone of his youth group (often held in “fellowship hall”) and church camp and mission/service trip and endlessly singing songs like “Kum Ba Yah” and “Day by Day” from Godspell. (Does anybody out there remember “Pass It On”?) These were the early and mid-1970s and kids didn’t sing “praise and worship” songs like they do today. His testimony of the value of his UCC church was as wonderful to read as, well, some of the scenes in Jonathan Franzen’s Crossroads novel that I devoured last summer. His earnest mainline faith, his reading of the gospels, his telling of his own faith journey is simply delightful.

Those that have followed the nature writer, environmentalist, anti-global warming activist, and social critic, have known of his faith. He writes for Sojo and had a book published years ago (on Job, actually) by the prominent religious publisher Eerdmans out of Grand Rapids. But to hear him talk about his Sunday school teachers and his spiritual concerns as a young adult is terrific and encouraging. Importantly, his description is not offered only for the purpose of literary memoir but to make an observation, to testify, about the positive formative nature of much mainline Protestantism and the social ethic that emerged from this broad, non-fundamentalist youth ministry which so influenced him. In fact, this piece is, in many ways, a eulogy for a certain sort of healthy civil religion that allowed mainline Protestant public intellectuals (from Reinhold Niebuhr, say, to Martin Luther King to Dorothy Day) to have influence over the discourse and values of American culture.

I might want to push back in conversation about his take on mainline Protestantism although, given his framing of it – in the 60s we had Tillich and Barth and King and the brilliant William Sloan Coffin as public representatives of Jesus and in more recent times we have had the Jerry Falwells, Franklin Graham, and Trump sycophants that seem to care little for the Bible or Jesus – it is hard to argue. Hipster evangelicals mock “Kum Ba Yah” (as did Donald Trump, for that matter) but if singing that around the church camp campfire gave us the likes of Bill McKibben, I’ll take it.

McKibben is earnest, also, about his college years and it is a great grace that he sought out thoughtful Christian leaders while a student at Harvard. He is never proud or smug about this but it is clear that he was mentored, in part, by the black, Republican (and gay) preacher there, Peter Gomes. McKibben is nearly evangelistic when he wishes others would read Rev. Gomes’s book The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus: What’s So Good About the Good News?

There is little doubt that Christianity has been a hugely important influence, for better or worse, in both forming and fraying our social fabric in the last few decades. No social commentator can ignore the role of faith communities, or what we sometimes called “the religious landscape.” It is helpful that McKibben here shares both personally and more broadly, about his sense of how the Christian faith ought to be an influence for the common good. It is all so very interesting, informative and at times beautiful.

As in the previous section, he refrains from academic footnotes, but there is a fabulously interesting essay about sources and book recommendations in a final epilogue. His passion for early US history is evident and his suggestions there offer a year’s worth of reading, at least, starting, not least, with the important work of Gordon Wood (for instance, his early The Radicalism of the American Revolution.)

For the section “The Cross” he thanks his friend Diana Butler Bass (a fine church historian and contemporary writer who I mention often in BookNotes) and he commends her on-line newsletter “The Cottage.” He names the magisterial collection, The Future of Mainline Protestantism in American, edited by James Hudnut-Beumler and Mark Silk, the fabulous edited IVP volume by Mark Labberton called Still Evangelical? and he highly recommends Jemar Tisby’s The Color of Compromise. I was glad to see that he pointed readers to Kristin Kobes Du Mez’s must-read Jesus and John Wayne — again, a book that we very, very highly recommend. One would almost think he’s reading BookNotes. Ha.

THE STATION WAGON

I suppose it makes sense that McKibben uses the station wagon – indeed, one that his family owned and for which he has great affection to this day – as a symbol of the consumerism and social inequity caused by the rise of the American suburbs. I mentioned the rowdy critique of the ugliness and ecological harms of suburbia described with such wit and zeal by James Howard Kuenstler and McKibben stands in his tradition, I suppose, without any of his cynicism or rudeness. (I kept wishing for a quote from The Geography of Nowhere or Home from Nowhere.) Happily suburban bred and raised, McKibben realizes that the rise of individual homes, and the station wagons that transported the (mostly white) kids across this land in those glory days of the American Dream, became detrimental to the planet and here his passion about climate change begins to appear.

We knew it would, of course. He’s been writing about this since his 1989 breakout bestseller The End of Nature — inspired, as I recall, by his colleague Jonathan Schell’s The Fate of the Earth — and the influential Eaarth that came out in 2010. In the previous sections of The Flag, the Cross, and the Station Wagon he exposed how the lovely boyhood and middle class, churched upbringing contributed to a distorted understanding of our society and how things work in the world, but here – oh my. His reporting continues to shine; his prose riveting and his insight brilliant. The relationship of the flag and the cross are coming into focus and much of it is about, well, not exactly the station wagon, but the money accrued from the homes where those station wagons were parked. I know housing bubbles and interest rates and zoning battles may not seem like the sexiest topics for an entertaining nonfiction read, but trust me.

McKibben has lived this stuff, but he has also researched it well, drawing on the definitive and the most fascinating works, such as Meg Jacobs, who he thanks, for her Panic at the Pump: The Energy Crisis and the Transformation of American Politics in the 1970s.

Here, particularly, is where McKibben’s writing style makes this complicated stuff accessible – he is able to tell a story or two, bringing in a big picture analysis, and name the need for some kind of repair – all while keeping the prose light, the information interesting, the story compelling.

You see, he is showing the ways in which owning one’s home naturally creates wealth; generational wealth. Yes, certain suburban cul de sac lifestyles can cause increased pollution and alienation from place and creation, and yes, ice caps are melting due to our materialistic extravagance. But that is only the most calamitous of the implications. Along the way we got racist policies (like redlining and the gross injustice in disallowing black World War II vets access to the benefits of the GI Bill, educational opportunity, lines of credit, jobs.) Deeper wealth discrepancies developed and the economic injustices based on the rise of the US suburbs (and subsequent home ownership and banking) is damning. That he isn’t even more emphatic and prophetic in his denunciation is admirable. The social evils are so obvious in his telling, the book could have gone off the rails with screeds and anger and extremist proposals. He verges on it, but he returns to his town, the ups and downs, the good and bad, rooted in a good family and good faith and decent folks who mostly want to make a difference. The “Station Wagon” section, like the others, is a fair-minded, honest critique. It is the kind of analysis that, if widely heard – that is, if this book sells well and is discussed widely – could become a compelling game-changer. We hope you consider it and order a few. It is, no doubt, one of my favorite books of 2022.

The Flag, The Cross, and the Station Wagon is a great read, and much of it is really quite entertaining. For instance, what a blast to hear his own story of the famous solar panels installed on the White House by Jimmy Carter and famously taken down, out of spite or ideology stupidity, by Ronald Reagan. (I recall that Ed Meese called them “a joke.”) McKibben actually knew a bit about those panels as they were rescued from some Washington warehouse and ended up being used effectively at a small college in Maine. Bill tells the rest of the story, including a large Chinese business startup making more of these panels, inspired by one they got from the college in Maine, and how he got some students to create some holy trouble when they brought some of the remaining panels — still working good as new — as a gift to Obama whose people refused to meet with them, let alone put them up on the White House roof.

In retrospect, McKibben writes, sharing his disillusionment, “it was pretty clear why Obama wanted nothing to do with those solar panels: they were tainted by their association with Carter. The 1980 election, thirty years later, still dominated our politics.”  Yup.

There is a final piece to The Flag, The Cross, and the Station Wagon which I will only mention briefly, but it is his big altar call / patriotic ending. It is hinted at in the story about taking college kids on the road trip – stopping for PR events along the way – to the White House to give the historic Carter-era solar panels back to the Obamas. He mentions that he truly felt bad causing the disillusionment of the youth he had brought along. It was a tell-tale line in passing, but McKibben – as the subtitle notes – is graying. And this is how he ends the book, with some remarkable stuff about how older people can become mentors for younger ones, can encourage and fund them, how our more experienced citizens can mobilize alongside the idealistic younger leaders. He has (of course he has) started a great organization to help facilitate that and it is already going strong.  Check out his group, Third Act.

Mr. McKibben’s last, short chapter is inspiring, entitled “People of a Certain Age.” He writes about caring for kids and grandkids and is encouraged that many older people are ready to act differently in their public duties, as well. He notes that “many of us are now emerging into our latter years with skills, with more than our share of resources, and with grandchildren. Surely that might give us the capacity and the reason to help.”

Evangelical Anxiety: A Memoir Charles Marsh (HarperOne) $27.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $22.39

I started out my BookNotes review last June with this:

I want to start this BookNotes edition telling about a book that blew me away and which I am now reading for the second time. It is rare when I make time for an immediate repeat but this book was so engaging – that is, it was very well-written in a way that was artful and richly-crafted but was equally inviting and enjoyable. Not every book that is written with literary verve and gorgeous prose is, frankly, still that interesting. This, though, a memoir of a journey in and coming out of a southern sort of fundamentalism, and finding a way through the hurts and hang-ups of that milieu, is a page-turner. My mind is reeling thinking of a dozen things to say about it as there is so much going on in this breathtaking story.

The least I can do to honor this extraordinarily honest and fascinating story is to name it as a Best Book of 2022. It was certainly one of my favorite reads, even if some of it left me pondering. I suppose that is the sign of a good book, eh? Kudos!

Evangelical Anxiety by Charles Marsh is some of what I might have expected in a memoir from him, knowing a bit about Dr. Marsh’s journey and scholarly interests from his previous books. I am not sure I can describe simply his current, lively, Episcopalian kind of mere Christianity, but his conservative, Southern evangelical past is the swamp he has slogged through. As a Bonhoeffer expert (his second Bonhoeffer book, Strange Glory, is an essential one), a scholar of and advocate for racial justice (and author of several excellent books on these exact themes, including one co-written with John Perkins called Welcoming Justice) and Director at the Project for Lived Theology at Charlottesville’s UVA, I assumed his story surely included some shift away from evangelicalism and distancing himself from the ugly compromises made by many white evangelicals in the last decades as they’ve drifted from gospel clarity and focused increasingly on right wing politics. When former evangelical leaders like Jerry Falwell, Jr say that Jesus doesn’t have anything to do with their values voting, what is a somewhat socially progressive evangelical Christian to do? Needing to disavow the weirdness of a shallow God and Country sort of so-called evangelicalism has produced a number of memoirs and a number of serious studies about the value and wisdom – for the sake of the gospel! – to no longer use the phrase evangelical. Other books in this recent genre are less about the current state of the evangelical brand, and are artful tellings of the tales of living through what was often a toxic sort of legalism. There’s a lot of deconstruction type narratives with a lot of anxiety.

We have commended, for instance, the much-discussed Where the Light Fell by Philip Yancey as a gripping look at the boyhood and young adulthood and ongoing faith journey set in this complicated and sometimes religiously harmful subculture. As any good memoir, Yancey’s book allows us to look over his shoulder and into his life as he navigated his broken family and harsh faith – it’s an entertaining if intense read; I often say that well-written memoirs provide a reading experience akin to reading great fiction. In some cases, one could hardly make up such astonishing stuff. Let’s face it, regardless of what one thinks about or what relationship one has with a given religious subculture, it makes for great literature.

This is a long way to get to a major point about the exquisitely written story, Evangelical Anxiety. It is, in fact, mostly not about the somewhat predictable question of how a smart young scholar and person of conscience with devout commitments to Christ can abide being a evangelical, given how grubby that phrase has become these days. I was wrong to assume he was talking about that anxiety. (Although not as a memoir, Marsh did explore this already in 2007 with an acclaimed Oxford University Press book, Wayward Christian Soldiers: Freeing the Gospel from Political Captivity.) With Charles’s masterful writing chops and his extraordinary mind and learning, it would be fabulous to have a book about his worries, struggles, disagreements, cognitive dissonance, and theological ruminations, about his evangelical past. However, I was wrong about this being mostly that kind of a story, really. It is, in fact, about his real anxiety disorder. In this stunning report that reveals more than I expected, we learn about Marsh’s years of psychotherapy to cope with his nearly debilitating panic attacks and something akin to depression.

Within the opening paragraphs we realize how very well written Evangelical Anxiety is and what an artful reading experience it will be. Wow. Soon enough, we realize that even as some of the themes are what we might first expect – a strict religious background giving way to a more expansive faith, the struggle to understand for oneself the spiritual life in the college and young adult years, the not uncommon journey from sparred down fundamentalist preaching services to a more liturgical (Episcopalian) worship — we soon realize that coping with real anxiety is much of what this book is about. And, well. What a story it is!

You should know this: Mr. Marsh wrote an earlier autobiographical account of his growing up years and it focused on an exceptional episode in his young life, a life-changing season at his father’s church, and while Evangelical Anxiety is not a sequel or second part of his life story, the remarkable stuff told in that previous one, does inform this new one. He explains those years briefly since it comes up over and again.

In The Last Days: A Son’s Story Of Sin And Segregation At The Dawn Of A New South, written in 2001, Marsh tells about how his father, a good preacher and thoughtful Baptist pastor, realized that there were violent KKK guys in his church, even on his leadership council. The Last Days tells of their horrible crimes, his father coming to terms with it. Like many Protestant pastors in those hard years in the South, Reverend Marsh was not an active anti-segregationist nor grossly bigoted. He was, perhaps, the sort of leader who would have realized that King’s famous Letter from a Birmingham Jail was, in part, addressed to him. He was a good man and a good father, if conventional in that Southern Baptist setting and slow to come around to the courage needed to confront the likes of Sam Bowers, the Imperial Wizard of the White Knights of the Mississippi KKK who lived near the Marsh’s in Laurel, Mississippi.

The violence in the town, aimed at Blacks, of course, was in the air, and Marsh was not unaware of this fearful texture to daily life. But when his father removed the men of the KKK (and their families) from his church, the violence was aimed at his family as well. Young Marsh — athletic, popular, strong — couldn’t sleep at nights.

In a nutshell – and Marsh describes it with considerable beauty and pathos and understanding and keen insight based on his own decades of studying the civil rights movement in the American south – this consequence, this violence and fear of violence, is the origin of Marsh’s own crippling anxiety attacks.

Yes, he reads literature and theology by authors outside of his evangelical world in high-school and then college; yes he ends up at Harvard Divinity School after Gordon College with some nearly anti-Christian teachers, or so it sounds. Yes, there is this refining and reframing of his faith and church life (perhaps akin to what some today call deconstruction) but all of that, or so Evangelical Anxiety suggests, is colored by the trauma of growing up in a repressive fundamentalist subculture, and of coming of age in a time and way that might suggest his fears are a fallout from his father’s fidelity to the gospel. Charles does not cheaply pat his father and mother on their backs and does not portray himself as collateral damage from their small, if belated, part in the civil rights struggle. But he knows the cost of discipleship in his bones. It drives him to seek help.

And this – oh my – is where the book gets even more captivating. He ends up (to make a colorfully long story of his circuitous path a bit shorter) in Freudian psychotherapy.

Think what you will about the appropriateness of a Biblically-trained evangelical young man heading to the couch to talk about his sexual desires and his mother and such, it is at the heart of this story. In a few spots, the book admits to Marsh’s own awareness of the irony of this (he knows all about Jay Adams and the anti-Freudian teaching from conservative evangelical thinkers who propose more overtly Biblical counseling; golly, he had a meeting with Francis Schaeffer when he was a teen as he sought guidance and direction. The story is made that much more fascinating knowing just how unlikely it was for this young man to take up such therapy.

As a broke young scholar with a new wife, feeling drawn into therapy, he ends up in a rare situation of doing analysis with a new shrink in a nearly free program in Baltimore. For those who know anything about this, you won’t be surprised that it goes on, almost daily, for years. Some of his breakthroughs and insights are disclosed here although the book never devolves into a mere account of his id and superego. It’s a great memoir, not a document of his therapy. Nonetheless, working on the couch has been a significant part of his life in coping with his disorders, and, well, there it is, written about with candor and wit. It is sharp and at times funny.

As Jemar Tisby puts it:

Marsh probes the realms of piety and mental health with engrossing prose and naked honesty, showing us how the sacred can be found in literature and on the therapist’s couch. Anyone curious about a better way to navigate mental health and belief will find hope and inspiration in this.

I do not think I have ever read a book like this. The glimpse into a professional and religious life in which debilitating panic attacks and gripping depression and unusual ticks and so many concerns are described in such detail (without being overly dramatic or maudlin or self-pitying) is rare and so very interesting. I was stunned when I read early on in the book about his first attack. (Sorry for the spoiler alert — I hadn’t seen it coming. It is, no matter, an amazing piece of writing.) If you care about how some people cope with psychological disorder and their subsequent physiological consequences, this book will be illuminating. (Granted, he is from an educated class, a world-famous scholar, and award-winning author and the book is a memoir, not a guidebook, of his particular experience as a professor, academic, writer, and theologian.) I do not think it is a bad thing to say Evangelical Anxiety will be entertaining, a good read, as they say. There were descriptions and well-crafted sentences that just made me shake my head in wonder and there were episodes described that made me laugh out loud. Publisher’s Weekly called it an “endearing and rewardingly unusual account of mental illness and faith.”

Patricia Hampl, author of The Art of the Wasted Day says,

“A harrowing book but, weirdly and wonderfully, also a hoot. I kept laughing aloud – and then sighing. A remarkable achievement.”

But, again: Mr. Marsh’s story unfolds against the backdrop of considerable anxiety around the religious questions of leaving behind a strict version of faith; it is, as more than one reviewer observed, connected to the questions about the relationships of the so-called secular and sacred; the split between body and soul, desire and duty. As in the Yancey memoir, moving away from the faith and very worldview of one’s youth, especially if it was a demanding subculture defined as over-and-against all others, can be painful and can create relational ruptures. Fortunately, Marsh’s parents were not toxic or harmful and some of his faith experiences (and the webs and networks of relationships he experiences) were perhaps less caustic that the caricature of this harsh setting might conjure; still, getting severely paddled by high school coaches and terribly shamed by youth group leaders was part of what was considered ordinary in that time in that place.

As Marsh comes of age in the 1970s there is cultural change in the wind, not unrelated to the seismic shifts begun in the 1960s. “The Times They are a Changin’” Dylan sang and the words were prescient. I feel it in my gut as I type it, knowing how I myself snarled out the words with my own cheap guitar in the ‘70s. Marsh reports well how one person and family – including his beloved wife K – negotiated these changes in these times as they moved into their early married years of the 1980s and on. Again, I could not put this book down and was very deeply moved by it all; I can at least say that anyone who is aware of the nature of Protestant life during the end of the 20th century and into the new millennium will find it fascinating.

We need you, dear and gentle reader, to know something else about this stunning memoir. It is honest. Marsh is exceedingly candid about his fears and his failures. Do I need to issue a trigger warning? Perhaps. He is candid, particularly, about his sexuality and, given the way purity culture was made into a fetish in some evangelical circles and how the Biblical teachings not to have sex before marriage were made exceptionally clear and linked to the looming threat of hell in his subculture, it is no wonder, I suppose, that he, uh, had issues.

A scene in Evangelical Anxiety of Charles and his then girlfriend reading wildly together while house-sitting in the home of Elizabeth Elliot of all people (look her up if you don’t know) is so erotically charged I don’t know how they remained chaste. In any case, there is some very frank talk in parts of the book. As a reader with a pretty wide palate for “language” in stories and who doesn’t think that human sexuality needs to be off limits for writers telling about their life story, I still have to say that some of this felt gratuitous. I think an editor should have put her foot down a time or two, even if Publisher’s Weekly enjoyed the “bawdy” parts.

Nonetheless, the book really does need to explore this stuff: it is an integral part of the story. It was the heavy-handed sexual repression combined with the ubiquitous racial violence that helped shape the psyche of a man who realized he could not manage a life in these modern times, as a faithful person, without unpacking it. And, so, he goes there, sharing without shame some intimate details of his life and not so unusual desires.

The very discerning James K.A. Smith called it “at once transgressive and faithful.“ Perhaps that’s it — both transgressive and faithful.

Other early readers also have raved about this long-awaited memoir by Mr. Marsh. We know it may not be for everyone but it is a major book by an important voice, and it was very difficult to put down. I’m happy to tell you about it and hope you’ll send us an order.

There is vivid storytelling, there are remarkable recollections of important stuff, and there is some broad-brush cultural analysis, placing his own journey in the context of the fundamentalist and evangelical world of the past generation, up to and including his own worship experiences today.

The opening page describing in smooth detail the crisp khaki trousers and brand name shirt of the Anglican worship leader presiding at worship, the tasteful praise songs, and the shockingly weird sermon, was so well written and deftly designed, shifting to a line at the end of the page that made tears well up in my eyes, alerted me that this was going to be one great read.

There is also great tenderness in Evangelical Anxiety. Marsh writes about taking his kids to a Christian camp. He describes his love for his mother, including the solace she offered during his fearful nights as a boy. He is deeply remorseful when he has hurt his wife. He struggles with how to relate his own scholarship – he writes about Bonhoeffer, after all – with his own practice of lived discipleship. He holds what he knows to be true about the world, its racism and violence, and is learning how to carry on as a sane and happy person. In a simple passage about finding joy in good things in God’s creation, the spirituality of the ordinary, so to speak, he mentions how his friend, the evangelical, black leader John Perkins likes blue berries. I got a lump in my throat, just such a lovely little line about a man who has suffered much and experienced great fame, Charles’s friend. Many who pick up this book and enter this story will also be struck by Marsh’s great love for literature and the often beautiful way he mentions novels and authors, his intimate relationship with their truths and artful pleasures. I so enjoyed reading about a man I respect and the books he loves and the authors who have informed him.

This is a bold, beautiful memoir, at once transgressive and faithful. Marsh embodies a theology with the courage to tackle the taboo, including depression and desire, in prose that is evocative and seductive. In the end, we learn that the most astounding grace is found in the God we can tell our secrets. — James K.A. Smith, Calvin University, editor in chief, Image, author of You Are What You Love and On the Road with Saint Augustine

Stories of My Life Katherine Paterson (Westminster/John Knox) $22.00                           OUR SALE PRICE = $17.60

This. Yes — one of my favorite books of 2022.

I will never forget the spectacular talk the esteemed YA novelist gave at the 1998 Calvin College Festival of Faith and Writing on the role of the imagination, the best of the keynotes that year, sandwiched between Elie Weisel and John Updike. In Stories of My Life, Patterson tells about that lecture, and staying in the Grand Rapids home of the legendary writer (and Calvin prof) Gary Schmidt for that weekend, when she got the phone call saying she won the prestigious Hans Christian Andersen Award.  It is just one of the great, tender moments in her new book of memories, Stories of My Life. It is utterly magnificent, touching, and I found it captivating — a gentle but absolute page-turner!

I was very moved by this sprawling set of memories from her life, including what she has learned about parents and grandparents on her side of the family. We learn a bit about the colorful stories of her late husband — he was a Paterson (“with one t” she noticed, quickly) whose own father had very colorful years of, among other things, serving in World War One, being gassed, losing a leg, and being treated for TB. It is very nicely written with a calm and no-nonsense style. It was truly lovely, without being luminous, engaging without pretension. She says firmly in the beginning that it is not a memoir. It is, as the title sensibly proclaims, a set of stories from her life.

And what a life she has led. I can hardly say enough about this wonderful read about a wonderful Christian woman whose contribution to (and fame in) the world of contemporary children’s literature is nearly unsurmountable. She is, certainly, one of the great children’s writers of these times.

How can I persuade you to order this handsome volume full of entertaining and edifying stories of a life well lived? If you do not know that she was born in China (her parents were medical missionaries) who fled as a little one during the Japanese invasion, and who returned, only to be exiled again (mostly due to tensions with the communists that time) and you do not know that she herself was a Presbyterian missionary in Japan, if you do not know her moving stories like Bridge to Terabithia and her several nonfiction books about the role of the imagination and of faithful but not overtly religious storytelling, I hardly know where to begin. Any good library would have her many out of print children’s titles and now you can easily learn about her life and times.

Here are just a few fascinating and enjoyable moments you will encounter if you order Stories From My Life. I’m only scratching the surface — it is such a great read.

Firstly, you know you are in for a treat (and will be walking among the gods of stories) when you open the book to find a fabulous short intro by none other than Kate DiCamillo. She highlights a key moment of vulnerability in the narrative when she alerts us to Katherine’s story of being a child (home from the Chinese mission field, wearing second-hand clothing, a bit shy, and seemingly not welcomed into her new school) and not receiving any Valentine Day cards in school. Kate notes that Katherine writes that she told her mother many years later about this and she was, of course, aghast. Mother wondered why Katherine never wrote about the hurtful incident. As DiCamillo recalls, Katherine “answered her by saying, “All my books are about the day I didn’t get any valentines.”

And then, in her own great gift, the great Kate DiCamillo says:

This book is a valentine.

It is Katherine’s Valentine to her parents and to her children. It is her Valentine to life and to stories.

It is her valentine to us.

Kate Dicamillo also has badgered Katherine to include the story of Maude, a relative of her grandfather’s who was the last person to kiss Robert E. Lee, who, in turn kissed little Katherine. DiCamillo loved the story so, she threatened to write it up herself if Katherine didn’t write it down. So, yes, here is the bit about Lee, although, personally, I enjoyed the episode about her brother and the bones of Lee’s famous horse, Traveller. You will have to read it to discover that yourself.

The second foreword is so endearing and masterfully written and insightful that I’ve read it twice — it is by writer Nancy Price Graff and she tells of the twosome’s weekly lunch at a diner in their town in Vermont. For over twenty years the women have grown old together in their regular Naugahyde booth. Paterson has written 40-some books in fifty years, performing what she calls “the fragile magic” of spinning stores for children and young adults. But she doesn’t talk about her writing or much about her fame.

“Week after week,” Graff writes,

…one of the great storytellers in the world has told me the story of her exceptional life. Diners no more than three feet away, deep into their meatloaf, are oblivious to the presence of the former National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, the winner of the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, and the Hans Christian Andersen Award. It would never cross their minds that the gray-haired woman sitting two booths over, wearing a turtleneck and a pink sweater, might have had dinner last week with the librarian of Congress or the empress of Japan.

The stories are not exactly chronological and in fact, starts with a good piece responding to “Three Frequently Asked Questions.” I was hooked. In one of these early pages she tells of being at the Presbyterian School of Christian Education in Richmond, Virginia. (Now known as Union, it was started when there was a need for theological education for women headed to the mission field or into educational tasks since the Presbyterian churches were not yet ordaining women so women were not as likely to attend a seminary like Princeton, say.) One of her favorite professors stopped her in the hall — he has been reading her exam —and said in made her wonder if she ever thought of being a writer.

Now I, the lifelong reader, the summa cum laude graduate in English literature, knew what great writing was, so how could Dr. Little imagine, on the basis of an essay on an exam, that I could be a writer? ‘No,’ I said primly. I had no intention of being a writer because I wouldn’t want to add another mediocre writer to the world.

Well, the prof pushed back, wondering if perhaps that was exactly what God was calling her to do.  Katherine tell us simply:

It was hard to imagine that God needed a lot more mediocre writers in the world, so I didn’t become a writer or movie star. I became a missionary.

Her first piece of writing, by the way, was a great Sunday school book for middle school age kids published in 1966, Who Am I?, which is still in print from Eerdmans. She was by then home from her Japanese mission experience (1957 – 1961), had married John whom she had met at Union Theological Seminary in New York, and was teaching in Pennington NJ, while John attended Princeton. By ’66 they had moved to Tacoma Park, MD.

One of the opening questions in that long opening chapter was “How does it feel to be famous?” Children and others ask this at book readings and interviews and it is a question she is not fully comfortable with. She tends to be shy, although has learned to be brave. She tells of being at very fancy dinners at a head table and being ignored. She has been shunted here and there on book tours and speaking engagements and sometimes mistreated. She reports that she’d come home whining to her husband that she is not treated “like a human being.”  This reveals both her insecurities, it seems, and her life’s overarching principle — that people, made in God’s image, should be treated with understanding and kindness. This matter of being uncared for comes up over and over and I found it quite gripping. Near the end of Stories… she admits that she wrote  The Great Gilly Hopkins after pondering a question of how it would feel to be considered disposable.

The Paterson’s have adopted two children, one from Hong Kong and one an indigenous Native baby. She and her husband were great parents, it seems. They have been foster parents, too, and it was painfully difficult. “After The Great Gilly Hopkins was published, I realized, belatedly, that I had put two foster children in the story. I might not have been Gilly. I might well have been William Ernest.”

She was an honorable child, usually, it seems, but playful and adventurous (and a good reader, bored with early school book readers.) There are stories of family in China, and of being back in the US, a “home” she did not know, of course. (Today we call this phenomenon being “third culture kids.”) Her parents loved her dearly, even though there were harrowing times of her dad being on Chinese riverboats trying to smuggle life-saving medicines and supplies to Christian hospitals for the Chinese people. There were times when he’d to travel undetected for remarkable distances, keeping away from the Japanese invaders and the young communists and certain military officials. What a story!

(Her parent’s backgrounds were fascinating themselves. She is somehow distantly related to Mark Twain. After WW I her father was cared for by a Mrs. Lathrop Brown, whose husband was a special assistant to the Department of Interior, high up in the Wilson administration. She had been a New York debutante and her husband had been Franklin Roosevelt’s roommate at Harvard. As a disabled veteran, he was fortunate to have her as a caregiver and she stayed in touch with her parents until she died. In fact, she sent boxes of children’s books to little Katherine in China. When they were exiled from China and spent an awful time in 1938 as refugees, she had arranged for a chauffeur to meet them at the boat in New York harbor.)

Katherine’s time in Japan is explained and there are a few memorable stories. It doesn’t take much —she’s working that ‘fragile magic’ — and I was in tears at a going away party which had a Japanese pastor reading Ephesians 2:14 (a personal favorite, about the dividing walls being broken down in Christ) and Paul’s revolutionary words in Galatians 3:28. It is especially powerful knowing that Katherine had admitted that she had trained to return to her native China. Going there on mission was not to be and when she was assigned to Japan — the feared and despised enemy that had attacked China (and perpetrated atrocities such as the Rape of Nanking in 1937) — it caused turmoil in her soul. Of course she went and then, knowing the language and caring for the people, a Japanese pastor says,

Katherine is young, I am old. She is a woman, I am a man. She is American. I am Japanese. When she was the child of missionaries in China, I was a colonel in the occupying army in Manchuria. She comes from the Presbyterian tradition, I come from the Pentecostal. The world would think it is impossible that she and I should love each other. But Christ has broken down the barriers that should divide us. We are one in Christ Jesus.

After her own sermonizing just a bit, she notes how the influence of Japan is evident in all her work. “My first three novels are set there, as well as the beautiful picture book The Tale of the Mandarin Ducks, whose illustrations by Leo and Diane Dillard garnered a Boston-Globe-Horn Book Award.” She has translated some Japanese folk tales, as well, illustrated by the award-winning Suekichi Akab. She quietly notes that she wouldn’t be the writer she is if it were not for her four years in ministry there. “To be loved by people you thought hated you is an experience I wish everyone could have.”

She loved her job as a teacher, then, first in 1955 reading aloud to poor rural kids in a one-room school in Virginia. Oooh, was she irritated that these kids were all said to be dumb because they supposedly had done poorly on IQ tests. These kids were not dumb! (And she henceforth distrusted standardized tests.) She doesn’t think she was much of a teacher but she gave them good experiences (including a trip to the National Zoo in DC that, trust me, was a great episode to read about.)

I choked back tears when she tells of going to visit the little school in Lovettsville years later while passing through the region. It was now a community center so she found the newer building. School had just closed but teachers were there, cleaning up as they do on their last day. Katherine marveled at the well-stocked library. Nobody had time, really, to chat until it became evident that she used to teach there and some old-timer had some recollections of people she had known decades beforehand they realized who she was. Oh, were they pleased, confident that Bridge to Terabithia’s Lark Creek was based on Lovettsville. The current sixth grade teacher said that he tells their students that each year and they never believe him. She assured him that he was right.

She also taught for a while in a Methodist boys school, teaching the Bible. There’s a great story there about a boy complaining about how all the kings of the Old Testament seemed to be getting killed and how irrelevant that all was. Before she could even answer, the classroom door was thrown open. “The history master was standing in the doorway, ashen faced. ‘The president has been shot,’ he said.” She comments,

Without a word, we filed out into the common area where there was a large television set and watched in horror until Walter Cronkite finally announced the news that Kennedy was dead. The boys didn’t try to argue about the stupidity of the ancient Hebrew ever again.

This is a typical passage — casually reported yet full of pathos, poignant, even, and sort of sly. There are some fun laughs in the book —her young married life was hard and she had four young children (two of two different races) and yet she and her husband made do and did well. It’s a glorious part of the book, hearing about their married life and her efforts as a parent.

One of the most moving stories comes at about page 270 as she tells of her son, David, finally getting a good friend; Katherine had been diagnosed with cancer and worried about her children, but David, especially, needed a good pal. And then one day he met Lisa. Who — to cut a tender story short — was suddenly killed, struck by lightning at Bethany Beach. This was, of course, the genesis of the tragic story of a boy/girl friendship and the way youth cope with death that became Bridge to Terabithia. (You may recall that in that story they read The Chronicles of Narnia together.) She hardly wanted to finish writing the story and tells of putting off doing the chapter when Leslie Burke would die.

And to think Bridge to Terabithia has been maligned and banned! To think we have been criticized for carrying it!

It is fascinating how Katherine Paterson has often written about serious things. Her story of struggling with her first novel, The Sign of the Chrysanthemum, comes to mind. It is nicely told and she tells us much, but she offhandedly observes that she was doing a juvenile novel set in 12th century Japan (with a storyline of ancient civil strife, poverty, and which included trafficking and a brothel) at the same time that the nation’s number one best seller of adult fiction was a calming, almost silly narrative about a seagull named Jonathan. If you are a baby boomer, you know what she means.

There are fun things to learn while reading Stories of My Life. She has a whole chapter called “Pets” and it involves more than their beloved dogs. Yes, the great Gilly Hopkins is named after Gerard Manley Hopkins. Jacob Have I Loved came out of thorny ground and a difficult time — her editor, the famous Virginia Buckley, had to push and pull to get her to develop it suitably. She missed the first Newbery Award press conference when a plane couldn’t land —Peter Spier was the only one who made it and he “single-handedly charmed the press and the American Library Association, melting the heart of blizzard-bound Chicago.” The story of what she allowed her kids to do with the first Newbery Award check —one thousand dollars was the prize amount and it was the most disposable income they ever had —is cute and made me chuckle.

Early on Paterson notes that there were stories she heard growing up as the family did the dishes together. She wondered why many of these stories were not passed on to her own now grown children and grandchildren. You never told us that, they’d exclaim. (The answer is easy — they had a dishwashing machine which eroded such family time.) In a way, this book was written for her own loved ones. She set about finding diaries and letters and researched things in far away courthouses and museums to get more information behind the anecdotal stories she grew up with. She added much from her own life, her writing career, her travels around the world as an internationally known figure promoting children’s literacy and the imaginative arts.

I will not spoil the last two chapters but they are tender and touching. The very last is short but she ponders that one famous reviewer said, looking back over her work, said that she is a writer of hope. Indeed. But there is something behind that, she insists, and it is the Biblical doctrine of grace. She cites the words to the hymn Come Thou Font of Every Blessing. She is now 90, doing well, and active at the First Presbyterian Church in Barre, VT, where, as she puts it, she has “experienced the true communion of the saints.” It is a lovely ending to a marvelously entertaining book. It is surely one of my favorite books of 2022.

TO PLACE AN ORDER 

PLEASE READ AND THEN CLICK ON THE “ORDER HERE” LINK BELOW.

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 quick, 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 so let us know. Just saying “US Mail” isn’t helpful because there are those two methods, one cheaper but slower, one more costly but quicker. Which do you prefer?

– DON’T FORGET TO LET US KNOW WHAT SHIPPING METHOD YOU PREFER –

BookNotes

Hearts & Minds logo

SPECIAL
DISCOUNT

20% OFF

ALL BOOKS MENTIONED

+++

order here

this takes you to the secure Hearts & Minds order form page
just tell us what you want to order

inquire here

if you have questions or need more information
just ask us what you want to know

Hearts & Minds 234 East Main Street  Dallastown  PA  17313
read@heartsandmindsbooks.com
717-246-3333

No, COVID is not fully over. Since few are reporting their illnesses anymore, it is tricky to know the reality but the best measurement is to check the water tables to see the amount of virus in the eco-system. It’s still bad, and worsening (again.) With flu and new stuff spreading, many hospitals are overwhelmed. It’s important to be particularly aware of how risks we take might effect the public good. 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. Our store is a bit cramped without top-notch ventilation so we are trying to be wise. Thanks for understanding.

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 and back yard customer service and can show any number of items to you if you call us from our back parking lot. It’s sort of fun, actually. We are eager to serve and grateful for your patience as we all work to mitigate the pandemic. We are very happy to help do if you are in the area, do stop by.

Of course, we’re happy to ship books anywhere. 

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

 

“The Intentional Year” and other books for reading in a new year — ALL ON SALE NOW

As always, you can easily get to the secure order form at our website by scrolling down to the very end of this column where you will see the order links. That’s the best way to order – or call. We’re happy to help and, as always, thank you sincerely for business sent our way. 

Intentional. It’s a great word, but was hardly in our vocabulary a few decades ago. Like “coming alongside” someone or “loving on” them, it seemed faddish at first. Yet, those I knew who used it — some specialists in group processing and experiential education who read widely — were, well, intentional. If God was making “all things new” then they wanted to be open to God’s grace re-orienting everything and they worked for how that might be. They were people who did not allow their faith to develop willy-nilly (which is to say, haphazardly at best) or through some technique-laden, formulaic plan.

These friends eschewed both shallow sentimentality and harder-core manipulation. Still, they organized folks into groups (often in wilderness adventures) who learned to be honest about their lives (being authentic was another buzz word in those days) and somehow grew as real humans in a good if broken creation, reflecting a new identity in Christ. My friend Sam Van Eman writes a bit about some of this in his classic Disruptive Discipleship: The Power of Breaking Routine to Kickstart Your Faith (IVP; $17.00 / OUR SALE PRICE = $13.60.) He doesn’t overuse the word, but it’s a book about being intentional.

Andy Crouch, in his extraordinary, eloquent rumination on healthy change, Strong and Weak: Embracing a Life of Love, Risk and True Flourishing (IVP; $18.00 / OUR SALE PRICE = $14.40) also reminds us of how certain moves — intentional ones — can deepen both our capacity to risk while honoring our human limitations. The notion of being self-aware and setting some sorts of goals for our lives can be misused, wrangled into some straight-jacket of false security, but, still, understood well, intentionality is good.

Which brings me to give a happy thumbs up to the brand new, self-help guidebook done by Holly and Glenn Packiam, The Intentional Year. I’m not sure I can take a whole year of being intentional but maybe you can. Wowza. Here we go.

The Intentional Year: Simple Rhythms for Finding Freedom, Peace, and Purpose Holly & Glenn Packiam (NavPress) $16.99                           OUR SALE PRICE = $13.59

Allow me to briefly say just a few things about this good book that will set you at ease and, hopefully, help you see how it could be a life-saver for you or somebody you know.

First, The Intentional Year isn’t just for January, useful as it is this month; sure, some people make New Year’s resolutions, but many make resolves during Lent;  any time in the calendar year we might face what seems like a momentous turn of events. Maybe it is a birthday or anniversary, a sudden awareness of a painful predicament, a new job or an old ailment or a new college major. Maybe it is just the realization that, as they put it, “the frantic pace of your life no longer needs to define you.” The Packiams invite us to choose to live on purpose, with intentionality. Any time is a good time to refresh our sense of things and set some new goals, to “embark on an intentional year.” Maybe buying this book now might become the nudge you need.

Secondly, this book is chatty — it reads nicely, with back-and-forth conversations between Holly (who holds a master’s degree in counseling and is a pastor of parenting ministry at New Life Downtown in Colorado Springs) and Glenn (who has his doctorate in theology from Durham University in the UK and has written rich books on liturgy, music, and worship and what nearly could be called a sacramental worldview. I really liked his Blessed Broken Given: How Your Story Becomes Sacred in the Hands of Jesus.) These two are evangelical church leaders who read very widely, draw on a remarkable array of resources, and yet live busy, complicated lives like many of us. They get us, they really do.

Glenn’s last book was one I raved about at BookNotes a few months back (The Resilient Pastor: Leading Your Church in a Rapidly Changing World) and his upbeat style of storytelling serves them well, here. Holly is a gem and we not only learn a bit about her mid-Western agricultural background, their current lives, raising four multi-ethnic kids at their home, and her practical spirituality. So the book is easy to read — fun, even. It would be a breezy and practical outworking, perhaps, for those who have read Ruth Haley Barton’s somewhat more spiritually intense Embracing Rhythms of Work and Rest: From Sabbath to Sabbatical and Back Again (IVP; $25.00 / OUR SALE PRICE = $20.00.)

Thirdly, The Intentional Year is a book that calls us to be intentional about retreating for refreshment and renewal is and is what I will call wholistic, even if not fully comprehensive. That is, it focuses on five key spheres of our lives and how we must be thoughtful about God’s presence in those areas. These five spheres really do include a lot — from personal to public and much in-between — and they show the importance of each arena.

Here are the five chapter titles (in the central second part of the book) that explore the five “spheres”:

  • Practices of Prayer
  • The Power of Rest
  • Pathways of Renewal
  • Circles of Relationship
  • Habits of Work

Again, The Intentional Year is written as a resource to help us focus on being more intentional, taking steps to work out some specific stuff in our real lives. I sometimes mock cheesy and formulaic self-improvement books, but this nicely invites us to spiritual practices and gentle habits that embody our deepest longings. They are trusted guides and wise (and honest about their foibles and the difficulties of some of this.) Yes, they’ve been reading Jamie Smith (like You Are What You Love) and they cite the cool popular science books about behavior change like Atomic Habits, but they are more at home quoting the Benedictine writer Esther de Waal or Vancouver’s Ken Shigematsu or, of course, Eugene Peterson. Contemplative as it may be (and, happily, there is a section about the importance of reading for personal depth), still, their guidance is directive and really practical. They talk about “connecting, sharing, and processing.” And they repeat it and tell some stories, lots of stories about this process. They invite us to “take inventory” and such. Holly and Glenn help us to (as it says on the back) “identify themes and callings and start to implement life-giving rhythms.”

They speak eagerly of their planning times where they discern the need for establishing rhythms for the next season. I’m lucky if I make a plan for the day. How about you? The last chapter is creatively called “Calendar Rules” and the double entendre has captured my attention. I know I’m not the only one who needs some encouragement about this sort of intentionality.

As their friend Rich Villodas writes in a very complimentary foreword,

As I read through this book, I was blown away by how much ground they cover in such little space. This is a book you can read rather quickly, and at the same time, it’s a book you will want to return to for years to come. Glenn and Holly offer beautiful theology, accessible spiritual practices, and a refreshing honesty that will put you at ease. Instead of wanting to “try harder,” you’ll walk away with a longing to order your life in a way that bears good fruit.

Instead of wanting to “try harder,” you’ll walk away with a longing to order your life in a way that bears good fruit.

They open the book with an epigram from John Lennon and his beautiful song “Beautiful Boy.”

Life is what happens… while you’re busy making other plans.

Indeed. Yup. This book can help. Order one today — or maybe more than one to share. It would be a blessing, I’m sure.

Habits of the Household: Practicing the Story of God in Everyday Family Rhythms Justin Whitmel Earley (Zondervan) $19.99                                      OUR SALE PRICE = $15.99

Okay, in many ways this is a sequel, for families, from his stellar 2020 release, The Common Rule: Habits of Purpose for an Age of Distraction (IVP; $20.00 / OUR SALE PRICE = $16.00.) That colorful, practical book stood as a beacon to me as a new sort of self help book. It got its start on the internet and uses graphs and charts, positive psychology and theological insights. Rooted in his own narrative of near-breakdown, he invites folks to give up certain things, and take up certain things — daily, weekly, monthly. This planner is one of the most hip and compelling resources we’ve seen.

Habits of the Household: Practicing the Story of God in Everyday Family Rhythms flows very naturally from that one, although one doesn’t have to read it first. It is more of the same, but a lot of new material, too. It has full color charts and little graphs full of ideas to reframe the story of your family. It invites us to quality time (in the internet age) and evokes new desires, new habits, new lifestyles. It’s sort of a self-help version of some of Jamie Smith’s key insights and offers some very practical handles on — shall I say it? — being intentional about the habits of our households. It’s the quality and calibre of a book that Andy Crouch has called “gold.”

As I said in BookNotes when we first premiered it about a year ago:

Ann Voskamp calls it “a gem of a book that I want to give to absolutely every family I know.”  She continues, “Earley hands us transformational hope for every family with these practical and gospel-saturated pages. I couldn’t put it down.”

Earley hands us transformational hope for every family with these practical and gospel-saturated pages.

Undistracted: Capture Your Purpose, Rediscover Your Joy Bob Goff (Thomas Nelson) $26.99          OUR SALE PRICE = $21.59

Bob Goff is celebrated as one of the most interesting characters and most interesting writers working today. I dare anyone to read a page or two and not smile with his wordplay and not be gripped by his stories. He has seen some stuff — some quite heavy, some nearly unbelievable, as good as the wild stuff Campolo used to talk about. He harnesses his passion (and whimsy) into well-crafted books such as Love Does and Everybody Always. They are fabulous.

A few years ago he developed a coaching business, mentoring hundreds through dreaming big, cooking up their own creative plans, mentoring others towards a godly purposeful sort of ambition. A book about that (certainly good for a new year) is called Dream Big: Know What You Want, Why You Want It, and What You’re Going to Do About It $26.99 / OUR SALE PRICE = $21.59.) I liked it a whole lot and have revisited it often, reading it at least twice.

In a way, Undistracted is a sequel to Dream Big, exploring the obstacles that are often in the way as we are distracted from our ambitions and goals. Naturally, he gives us great stories and examples and principles for overcoming these distractions and recovering a sense of purpose.

A year or so ago when it first came out I wrote this about it, and I still believe it:

We are distracted by our own fears and foibles. We are distracted by very real problems and limitations (Goff over and over acknowledges this, although his optimism could feel a bit dismissive if you feel called to lament and sorrow.) We are distracted by others who are intent on tearing us down; Bob gives good advice about not engaging with the cynics. We all have endless to-do lists and most of us scroll on our phones just a bit too much. The list of distractions, big and small, are endless.

Goff has an uncanny ability to make nearly anything a teaching moment. From some major heart problems to dashboard lights going out on a plane that he was solo night-flying to the story of a high school wood-shop teacher missing some fingers, this guy can turn anything into a parable. I grate against zippy bromides and chicken-soup-for-the-soul happy thoughts, but, again —  even though Undistracted may seem a bit like that, with its pithy stories, life-lessons, urgent advice, and all those analogies and metaphors (the book is, he tells us, like those rumble strips along the side of the road, reminding you if your drifting off course) I could not put it down.

Props to him for the never-ending delight of finding lessons in nearly everything. He has good stuff to say and it is important stuff, even profound, even if he’s not too busy having fun and spinning his magic to say that it is. It is. As it says on the back cover, “Bob shows you the way back to an audaciously attentive life.”

How to Inhabit Time: Understanding the Past, Facing the Future, Living Faithfully in the Now James K.A. Smith (Brazos Press) $24.99                  OUR SALE PRICE = $19.99

Okay, just to show that BookNotes doesn’t just recommend the accessible, fun, and easy-to-read books that we highlighted above, I’ll once again recommend this. Smith is a working philosopher and a professor at Calvin University in Grand Rapids. He is as wide-reading, artful, ecumenical, and interesting as anybody I know. I admire him a lot.

This book, which you’ve seen listed here at BookNotes before, and you will see next week as one of our “Best Books of 2023”, deserves to be added here to our little list about being intentional. As the great books listed above show, we simply must attend to the textures of our lives, which is to say, our habits, our details, our liturgies, rituals, practices, the stuff we care about which (as Smith showed so well in You Are What You Love) bubbles up from “under the hood.” Our lifestyle emerges from those values that are inherited as we are conscripted into certain sorts of stories. What’s it all about? What do we live for? What gets us up in the morning, and what’s that all about? What stories and habits most influence us? These are questions worth asking anytime but certainly in January.

How to Inhabit Time takes Smith’s work about our subterranean lives — written about so wonderfully in both his On the Road with Saint Augustine and You Are What You Love — and applies that vision to how we understand and live into and out of a view of time. It sounds a bit arcane — who thinks about that? — and on some pages the weeds are a bit deep. It is not your typical self help book. But, as we’ve said over and over in these pages, it is a magisterial book, a rich reflection on why we discredit our creatureliness (and our indebtedness to time — the past, present and future.) There is a better way. It isn’t simple. Smith is the right person to help us reimagine some things and “live faithfully in the now.”

You’re Only Human: How Your Limits Reflect God’s Design and Why That’s Good News       Kelly M. Kapic (Brazos Press) $24.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $19.99

I’ve mentioned the word “creatureliness” in talking about Smith’s view of us as creatures who not only live certain places, but in particular times, upheld by God, always. This isn’t unusual, but it is a bit unusual to say and reflect upon. It’s a deep non-negotiable for Christians who have a solidly Biblical worldview; we are here, now, dependent, with limits. It’s the really real of the creation, how it’s meant to be. The internet and Tic Toc makes us seem as if we are connecting to “viewers” (with our “content”) all over the world, but there are constraints. Jesus was tempted severely before His ministry and even he renounced the demonic offer to control everything, to have it all. We cannot have it all.

This is a natural thing that even secularists at their best remind us of in the new year’s advice columns. We’ve got to be in touch with our limits; don’t forget to rest. We’re only human, they say.

Well, they are right. But to keep such a bromide from being an excuse for inappropriate living and, better, to evoke from it an intentionally Christian bit of enduring guidance, we need somebody who has really thought about this well.

Kelly Kapic is that guy. He is theologically rich (he teaches Reformed theology at Covenant College) and yet is not overly strict or ideological. He knows a bit about suffering (and has written widely about it.) He is encouraging, interesting, as he plumbs the depths of how good theology can shape our daily lives as well as anyone.  As his subtitle puts it, our limits “reflect God’s design” and “that’s good news.” Really?

Need some gospel-centered good news that invites us to live in a Kingdom coming (but not of our own work?) Want to imagine your very bodies as places where God shows up? Want to think about finitude and embodiment that leads to a “joyful realism”? Do you need some of relief that comes from remembering that we are not God?

You’re Only Human offers us readers more than a framework, but a process. He invites us to embodied worship in a community with others where in freedom we can live well in our limited lives. I’m telling you, this is a great sort of book a wise and helpful book. Disability activist and scholar John Swinton calls it a “hopeful gift” and contemplative spiritual formation writer Ruth Haley Barton calls it an “uplifting work.” Karen Swallow Prior says “it’s a celebration of being human.” I know even our wallets are finite and for many of us, quite limited, but this is a book you really should get. Thanks, Dr. Kapic, for this very good news.

Low Anthropology: The Unlikely Key to a Gracious View of Others (and Yourself)  David Zahl (Brazos Press) $26.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $21.59

One last title in this peculiar list of books that offer a glimpse of being intentional as Christians this new year. I adore — as I have said — the practical edge of books like The Intentional Year: Simple Rhythms for Finding Freedom, Peace, and Purpose by Holly & Glenn Packiam, discussed above. Justin Whitmel Earley’s books (The Common Rule and Habits of the Household) offer helpful, cool insights into arranging our lives in new ways, making some life-giving hard choices and establishing some new patterns. Although Bob Goff may not see himself as a “self help” author, his practical (if hilarious and moving) stores guide us to live undistractedly. Yeah.

There are other good guides and helpful books of self improvement that we carry. Of course we do.

But while I’m not as stodgy as C.S. Lewis who said we must mostly read old books, I do worry about those who read only or mostly these breezy, practical guides to happier living. They have their place, and some are more thoughtful than others. But still.

So you can see that I’m ending this list with a book that is sort of an anti-self help book. It is really well written, fascinating, even. There are stories galore and helpful illustrative examples. Despite a rather weird cover, and a cleverly odd title, it’s a great book.

I love Nadia Bolz-Weber as a writer. Even when I disagree with her, I sometimes weep through her poignant, holy stories, and her deep care (and her breathtakingly good sentences.) Here is what she said about this conservative (Lutheran-ish?) writer and his new book:

This is the book I have been waiting for: an antidote to all the self-help nonsense that weighs down our bookshelves and our self-regard. I feel lighter, freer, and less alone with every word I read in Zahl’s brilliant and truthful Low Anthropology. — Nadia Bolz-Weber, author of Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People

What is a low anthropology? I’m sure most readers can figure this out, but just in case, he does not mean “cultural anthropology” a la Margaret Mead and those who study other cultures. Anthropology is merely the term used to mean our view of the human person; as he points out, not the exotic sounding store of a similar-sounding name, either. Just your view of people.

Low? Well, it’s a hard sell for some, but yep. Zahl spends this whole page-turner of a book explaining why a high view of the human condition leads to disappointment. A lower (more realistic, informed by the Biblical doctrine of sin and fallenness I suppose) view keeps us from idolatry, positive thinking, over-promising, dreaming too big.

Here’s how the book marketeers put it, helpfully:

“Many of us spend our days feeling like we’re the only one with problems, while everyone else has their act together. But the sooner we realize that everyone struggles like we do, the sooner we can show grace to ourselves and others.

In Low Anthropology, author and theologian David Zahl explores how our ideas about human nature influence our expectations in friendship, work, marriage, and politics. He offers a liberating view of human nature, sin, and grace, showing why the good news of Christianity is both urgent and appealing.”

By embracing a more accurate view of human beings, we can discover a true and lasting hope.

So, this fascinating book cuts through the religious and inspirational noise inviting us to deep truths, truths already anticipated in Kapic’s Your Only Human. We aren’t all we’re cracked up to be and, frankly, that’s a good place to start.

Sure we need to be intentional about creating space for God; we need to hear the Packiams and their call to set aside time to refresh, replan, repent, even. God cares about all areas of our lives and we need to think seriously about what that looks like and how to “inhabit time.”

But let’s be realistic. Remember that buzz word, authentic? I’m not sure all that it means, but it at least means this much: we are sinners and God loves us anyway, ragamuffins that we all are. A low anthropology has vast implications, some of which Zahl explains in vivid detail. Others we can ponder ourselves, maybe for the rest of our lives. Low Anthropology is a game changer.

As the publisher said: “Many of us spend our days feeling like we’re the only one with problems, while everyone else has their act together. But the sooner we realize that everyone struggles like we do, the sooner we can show grace to ourselves and others.”

Here’s a great recommendation for the book by — get this — a self-help writer who wrote a book about time management. Ha. Here’s what he says about Zahl’s Low Anthropology:

A remarkably perceptive, funny, subversive, and nourishing book that hasn’t left my mind since I read it. David Zahl shows that transformation — and the kind of hope we can actually rely on — isn’t to be found in the oppressive perfectionism of self-improvement but rather in accepting the liberating truth that we’re all flawed, finite, prone to overconfidence and messing things up, and in need of forgiveness.                — Oliver Burkeman, New York Times bestselling author of Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals

TO PLACE AN ORDER 

PLEASE READ AND THEN CLICK ON THE “ORDER HERE” LINK BELOW.

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 quick, 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 so let us know.

– DON’T FORGET TO LET US KNOW WHAT SHIPPING METHOD YOU PREFER –

BookNotes

Hearts & Minds logo

SPECIAL
DISCOUNT

20% OFF

ALL BOOKS MENTIONED

+++

order here

this takes you to the secure Hearts & Minds order form page
just tell us what you want to order

inquire here

if you have questions or need more information
just ask us what you want to know

Hearts & Minds 234 East Main Street  Dallastown  PA  17313
read@heartsandmindsbooks.com
717-246-3333

So, COVID is not fully over. Since few are reporting their illnesses anymore, it is tricky to know the reality but the best measurement is to check the water tables to see the amount of virus in the eco-system. It’s still bad, and worsening. With flu and new stuff spreading, many hospitals are overwhelmed. It’s important to be particularly aware of how risks we take might effect the public good. 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. People are dying. Our store is a bit cramped without top-notch ventilation so we are trying to be wise. Thanks for understanding.

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 and back yard customer service and can show any number of items to you if you call us from our back parking lot. It’s sort of fun, actually. We are eager to serve and grateful for your patience as we all work to mitigate the pandemic. We are very happy to help do if you are in the area, do stop by.

Of course, we’re happy to ship books anywhere. Just click on the link above.

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

“Living Under Water: Baptism as a Way of Life” and 14 books on Jesus (to read after Christmastime.)

We here at Hearts & Minds hope you are happy celebrating the twelve days of Christmas. Before the dumb “Merry Christmas” wars made me self-conscious, I loved saying ‘Happy holidays.” Not only as a consideration to Jews or other non-Christians who celebrate this time of year but because we do have Advent, and Christmas, and the 12 Days, a couple of Feast Days in there, (my birthday, too) and the ringing in of the New Year. Hard as these times are for many of us, laden with disappointment and heavy with hearts sad about the state of the world, there are some festivities to be had. Whether you celebrate large or small, with family or mostly alone, we hope you are well and that this season is meaningful, maybe even with some delight. We can hope.

Even if we aren’t obeisant about it, most of us get that there is a flow to the church calendar, which is essentially a year-long reflection on the life of Christ. From annunciation through birth, baptism and transformation, passion and death, resurrection and ascension (and on to Pentecost, celebrating the birthday of the church, as some call it) the calendar orients us less towards New Year’s Rockin’ Eve and Valentine’s Day and Tax Day and the 4th of July but to  pivotal moments in the life of our Savior.

It makes sense that if Christ is who the carols say He is, then everything must reflect “the wonders of His love” as “heaven and nature sings.” This includes even how we think about time and the flow of our days. It might even shape our reading habits a bit…

James K.A. Smith ruminates on this with sophistication and candor, sharing his philosophically-tinged insights about the importance of a Christian view of time in his major work that came out early this fall, How to Inhabit Time: Understanding the Past, Facing the Future, Living Faithfully Now (Brazos Press; $24.99 – OUR SALE PRICE = $19.99.) It isn’t on the church calendar as such, but is a book I had to mention in this little BookNotes preamble as it is so framing and foundational for this essential aspect of our faith, knowing how to be in time. We are the kind of creatures, he observes, who remember, and who have the capacity to hope. He worries that we often experience “temporal dislocation” and live as if our faith is nowhen (a play on the word nowhere.) It is a deep, extraordinary book and I’ll be celebrating it soon as one of the top releases of 2022 when I post our BookNotes “Best Books” column.

I bring all this up not just to say happy Christmas-time and joyous Epiphany (and suggest we give gifts during that celebration, since that is when Jesus got his first Christmas presents from his wise visitors from the East.) It is also to say that on the heels of these occasions, most liturgical calendars and church year schedules jump to the Sunday that commemorates the Baptism of our Lord.

Which is a long-winded way of saying this: we can use this occasion when the text point us to John the Baptist and Christ’s own baptism by considering our own. That is, we can read up on the sacrament that is, frankly, more important than most realize.

And boy, do I have a book for you. Living Under Water is one of my favorite new books about faith and discipleship, spiritual formation and theology, nicely written with plenty of stories, and I can’t wait to tell you about it. After that, I’ll list over a dozen books which help us explore the person of Jesus, the meaning of the incarnation, and the call to follow Christ; not a bad segue after Christmas, eh?

In one of my Advent BookNotes lists I suggested in passing that folks might want to order On the Incarnation by Saint Athanasias. Nobody did, so I’ll revisit that and a handful of other books that remind us who this person is that we celebrate as God-With-Us, the baby King of the Cosmos.

But first, one of my favorite books of the year, Living Under Water. 

Living Under Water: Baptism as a Way of Life Kevin J. Adams (Eerdmans) $19.99                 OUR SALE PRICE = $15.99

I loved this book for several reasons. I hope you’ll find these reasons compelling but even if you don’t, it is a wise and good book that I am sure will benefit both ordinary Christian people and pastors, too, maybe especially. It is reflective enough to be nearly a spirituality book but with enough stories about congregational life that it would be a good read for any congregation or parish. It is delightfully ecumenical in the very best sense, drawing on Orthodox writers and stories from Assembly of God pastors and Baptists both rural and urban; the author is Reformed but started his cool California CRC congregation as a very creative, evangelical church plant. He is mainline but spirited, orthodox but open-minded. He cares about serious Christian practice within the faith community and he knows that this simply must equip us to be God’s workers in the world. He is not afraid to draw out some of the specific issues that we must face when, as we say in the classic baptismal ritual, when we proclaim that we will “renounce evil.”  He’s my kind of guy.

Here are seven big reasons I really value Living Under Water. Besides Adams’s well-honed gift of being a good writer and the clever, evocative title, which is a big win for starters.

FIRST I’ve mentioned that Pastor Adams is ecumenical. This is important, a matter of fidelity to the gospel, and good for all of us. You may not know Alexander Schmemann, but you really should and Adams cites him nicely. You may not know much about Roman Catholic practices or free-church Pentecostals, or Lutheranism, but here you get to hear Adam’s nicely informative name-dropping of church leaders as well as first hand conversations with pastoral colleagues telling how they do things. This is a delight and really helpful. I found myself feeling more loyal to the big body of Christ, despite our different styles and convictions, and these days, this is a very good thing.

You are, I bet, longing for a better sort of faith experience in your church and in your life, one that is somehow enriched, but, rooted, probably, within your own tradition; this book will be an ally on your journey. Your own faith will be enhanced from his many diverse citations, quotes, and stories, all shared with considerable open-mindedness. These kinds of books are all too rare, and I applaud Adams for his graciousness. (It comes as no surprise, really, that he is a program affiliate at the Calvin Institute for Christian Worship and even got a grant to take a sabbatical to travel and interview various pastors and church leaders from the Louisville Institute and the Lilly Endowment.) He thanks John Witvolet, which speaks ecumenical volumes in my book.

SECONDLY, I think it is wise to read books that are knowledgeable about church history and the broader discussions about faithful life and practice across denominations and time. Adams is the sort of writer that can with whimsy and grace offer glimpses of historical theology without it being boring or dry. As Cornelius Plantinga puts it in his charming foreword, “Kevin has done his historical research.” Plantinga also says, “You wouldn’t necessarily think of a book on baptism as interesting – let alone fascinating. To me, this one was.” Yep, historical theology made compellingly rich and even fascinating.

THIRDLY,  Living Under Water is a book chock-full of stories. This makes in touching, both entertaining and powerfully gripping at times. I chuckled and I wiped away tears. I shook my head in disbelief (well, not really disbelief, as I, too, have seen some pretty wild stuff in my years as a church guy.) I nodded a lot, saying, yes, yes, yes, I’ve seen that. Or, wow, I wish I’d seen that. There’s a lot to learn and every few pages I kept wishing I could share this with pastors I know who long for greater liturgical integrity in their rituals and greater depths of discipleship in their church circles. This book shows, through realistic stories, how this (usually) slow, transforming work gets done. As he makes clear, Adams is sure that deepening our teaching about Baptism will help our congregations find renewal and clarity about being followers of Christ, but he gets at it by storytelling, mostly.

FOURTHLY, Living Under Water makes a few very important points, mostly focusing on our identity. That is, Baptism is that ritual that bequests to us a new identity and we are no longer firstly a Republican or a Democrat, not even a Presbyterian or Anglican, a mainliner or evangelical, an American or Russian or Mexican or whatever. We are baptized in the name of the Triune God who adopts us into His church. This is the most fundamental reality, the core truth of who we are as baptized believers. We are given a “baptismal ordination” and we put on “baptismal clothes.”  This tell us who and whose we are.

It strikes me that there are those who talk about conversion and salvation as a thing we “do” (receive Christ as savior, recite a “sinner’s prayer” or whatever.) And there are those who think it is is a thing we come to understand (being able to articulate the ideas of atonement and justification.) And, again, there are those who don’t really do any of that, that just run congregational programing and hope some of it sort of rubs off. For those who are revivalistic to a fault, or those who overly intellectualize conversion, or those that don’t really face profound spiritual transformation at all, this book will help restore balance and a smidgeon of helpful theology, experienced through this liturgical ritual laden with lasting implications. He says all this much better than I do, but I hope you get my hope: this book will offer a correction or reorientation to our language and habits about conversion, church life, discipleship, spiritual formation, and such. My hunch is most of us need this revitalization of language and images and could draw on baptismal insights quite helpfully.

FIFTHLY, the book explores the best practices and creative ways to get towards a meaningful baptismal rite. It does not attempt to resolve the differences of opinion about the best method or age to baptize and while Adams baptizes infants,  even families, he actually does a lot of immersion baptisms of youth and adults. The stories of these are often deeply moving (and often entertaining) as he tells the stories of those who longed to be washed clean in the bath.

Naturally, Adams makes much of the Biblical, theological, and ceremonial significance of the notion of going down into the waters to death and arising with newness of life. (Did you know that that in the early church many baptismal fonts were shaped like coffins? Wow, talk about serious business! One chapter is entitled “Drowning in a Coffin.”) He ponders the preparation needed before a good baptism and with healthy open-mindedness describes those with long and hefty catechisms and those with scant prep. He insists that the best traditions all describe how the ritual is formational and how we must underscore that in our congregational cultures. He shows some good ways and some not so good ways to pursue this.

(Call this point 5.5 but along with these good baptismal practices, almost inadvertently, he tells stories of what can only be called evangelism and congregational renewal. People want to get baptized because they’ve come to belong to a faith community and they now have come to belief. The stories of the often-slow process of folks showing curiosity about God, a desire to be apart of a congregation, and longing to cross over the line of faith, so to speak, and desire baptism, is inspiring and a helpful reminder for any church that is wishing to deepen their own outreach to seekers and their ministry with the unchurched. Afraid of the “e-word”? Read Living Under Water; it might help.)

SIXTH, there are several important chapters about abuses of the sacrament. He made me laugh reminding me of an old Simpson’s episode when Bart and Lisa are nearly baptized against the families will (by, of course, Ned Flanders) but he nearly made me weep in telling of folks he has met who have deep distrust of congregational rituals because they were foisted almost cruelly upon them as children or youth. Lord have mercy. There are several chapters of different sorts of abuse and it is touching and good to consider.

SEVENTH. Yes, a seventh reason to read Living Under Water. It is the way in which he weaves in what I might call a world-and-life view and a faithful bit of cultural criticism. That is, the sacrament of baptism has often been seen as sentimental and lovely, whether done in a genteel font or an outdoor swimming pool. But Adams reminds us that Christ is Lord of all areas of life and a deep awareness of our Kingdom identity will necessarily lead us to what might end up being countercultural values in the worlds of politics, social concern and racial justice issues. Without overstating things, he goes there.

Liturgy shapes life, of course. This theme is a great gift and while it is carefully explored, it is a powerful contribution. This world belongs to God and – guess what? – in some streams of the church baptism is almost considered as a exorcism, casting out idolatry and brokenness, restoring us to our proper, creational role in a good (if fallen) world. Baptism, in this view, help situate us within the unfolding Biblical narrative of creation, fall, redemption, and restoration.

His stuff on race was especially well done, and I’d advise a good reading of this for almost any sort of church. Further, he has a section on the famous (but not often reasonably explored) insight that baptism is connected to healing. There are some bits in that chapter that I do not want to tell you about as the surprise will grip you. His missional sense is that this primal Christian ritual truly makes a difference as “God is seeding shalom” (in the worlds of Leanne Van Dyk on the back cover.)

I wish I had time to lift long quotes from Living Under Water. You will underline stuff and if you have a book club study of it, I’m sure your participants will each find lovely or challenging portions to discuss. There’s a lot there in 13 lively chapters. The last talks about “the baptized imagination” and is a splendid, big ending. I didn’t want this book to be over and am happy to suggest it to you.

You can order this item (or anything else) by clicking on the secure ORDER link at the end of this column. Just scroll down and tap the link and we will reply soon. Thanks for your support.

 

FOURTEEN BOOKS ABOUT JESUS

I have created other lists of books about Jesus (HERE, for instance, are 20 titles; or read my review of Diana Butler Bass’s fabulous Freeing Jesus, now out in paperback, HERE.) I could do others. There are so many that are well done for ordinary folks (and plenty of scholarly ones as well.) I think my all time favorite book on the enormous subject is The Incomparable Christ, in part because it covers so much ground, so well. Let us know if we can help find something right for you. Here are some mostly recent ones that come to mind that help us ponder what Christmas has wrought — the Son of Mary, God incarnate, born into the world.

On the Incarnation  Saint Athanasias (St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press) $17.00        OUR SALE PRICE = $13.60

shown on far left

 

 

On the Incarnation Saint Athanasias (Whitaker House) $12.99                                     OUR SALE PRICE = $10.39

This is one of the most enduring books in church history, written importantly in the fourth century, and one that ought to be considered by many of our BookNotes readers. The St. Vladimir’s Seminary edition is nicer, compact, with the famous preface by C.S. Lewis (who affirmed, as we know, reading older books.) There is also a long introduction by editor John Behr. SVS Press is Russian Orthodox and they make very impressive volumes; this one is in their “Popular Patristics Series” of which we carry many.

The second version listed is a few dollars cheaper, a different translation, slightly abridged, I think, drawing from a translation by a religious woman of the Community of St, Mary the Virgin and first published by MacMillan in the 1940s. It is by a more fundamentalist publisher, on cheaper paper, but the type is a bit bigger. Not a bad choice.

Incarnation: The Surprising Overlap of Heaven & Earth William Willimon (Abingdon) $15.99               OUR SALE PRICE = $12.79

This is a fine little book in the fantastic “Belief Matters” series. (Our friend and regular customer Kenneth Loyer did the one called Holy Communion: Celebrating God with Us, by the way.) The series seems to get authors with theological chops and invites them to write a basic primer on a complicated topic. It attempts to show that by “thinking more clearly about faith, persons can love God more fully, live with confidence, and change the world.” No pressure, but it’s true. Belief does matter and knowing a bit about doctrine as it makes a difference in our lives, can be incredibly helpful.

Willimon is one of the most lively mainline pastors writing today and while he has done massive books (on Karl Barth, say, or preaching, or Barth’s preaching, for that matter) this is as succinct as he has been. The book has an easy-to-read print size and is less than 100 pages. Yet, this mystery (that Jesus is fully human and fully divine) is shown to be a bedrock truth of the faith and a great promise of God to be with us.

I love this summary of the book, and the warning not to read it. Ha.
Will Willimon has given us a fine gift: a thoughtful and provocative look at the Incarnation. At the core of this narrative, and at the center of the book, is the commanding figure of Jesus, once again overthrowing expectations, defying glib explanations, calling followers, forging a radically new community. If you are looking for a soothing devotional manual, don’t read this book, because this is instead a whitewater, wind-in-the-face adventure of the spirit.  — Thomas Long, Candler School of Theology, Emory University

Veiled in Flesh: The Incarnation: What It Means and Why It Matters Melvin Tinker (IVP-UK) $18.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $15.19

The first half of this serious lay-person’s guide to the incarnation is a study of the book of Hebrews. “This grounds the doctrine in Scripture and works through some of the theological and pastoral implications,” he says.

The second part goes deeper, “drawing on systematic and historical theology to tease out what the doctrine means and why it is vital to the life and health of the church.” As you will understand, this leads to a bit of reflection on the Trinity and even the atonement. Tinker is Senior Minister of St John Newland, Hull, UK and a respected, evangelical speaker. Nice endorsements on the back are from popular writer Tim Chester and Gordon Conwell scholar, David Wells.

God Will Be All in All: Theology through the Lens of Incarnation Anna Case-Winters (WJK) $30.00  OUR SALE PRICE = $24.00

I have not read this but it looks intriguing and, to be honest, we just don’t know of anything like it. In an ecumenical Christmastide list of books about incarnation, this has to be listed. Thomas Jay Oord says it “elucidates God’s incarnation in mind-blowing and life-enhancing ways.”  He thinks she is on to something and that she makes a compelling case “for how best to understand God with us. The implications of her views are deep and wide.” She is known for being a bit of an iconoclast and is respected for serious ecumenical work for the PC(USA) serving the church in conversations towards Christian unity.

Listen carefully to Ronald Cole-Turner, a professor Emeritus (of theology and ethics) at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, who writes:

This book does just about everything right. It offers a courageous and resounding defense of Christianity’s two most powerful ideas: The Trinity and the incarnation. It combines feminist, womanist, and liberationist insights necessary for any credible theology in an age of Black Lives Matter. Most of all, it demystifies the jargon but reawakens the mystery of the church’s vision of a creation overflowing with the transforming grace of our loving God! God Will Be All in All is a great choice as an introductory text or as a pastor’s self-guided refresher course.

On Earth as in Heaven: Daily Wisdom for Twenty-first Century Christians N.T. Wright (HarperOne) $29.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $23.99

One can hardly name a more prominent and, in our view, delightfully creative and orthodox, New Testament scholar than the internationally known, UK Bishop and historian, Tom Wright. He goes way back with one of my pals, Brian Walsh, and has written dozens of books both academic and popular. He brings a certain Kingdom vision to his work on Jesus and has captured the attention of the scholarly guild by insisting on the historical facts of the resurrection. He has captured the attention of the church — evangelical and mainline — for insisting that this Jesus is Lord of the creation and is bringing restoration to the world, a project we get to be a part of. His missional vision and his Biblical teachings, informed by historical study of first century Judaism, make his many big volumes exceedingly important.

His popular level books on Jesus — think of Simply Jesus or How God Became King or, drawing on John, Broken Signposts — are true favorites of mine.

This nice, hardback volume that came out last years is a daily reader, a devotional that allows you to dip into excerpts from his books day by day for a year. That in itself is terrific and makes On Earth as in Heaven a very useful resource, but what makes it genius is that the book’s editor (Tom’s son, Oliver) arranged the excerpts in somewhat of an an order, paralleling the liturgical calendar. It follows the life of Jesus for a month, and then has excerpts of the implications of that aspect of Christ’s life in the following month. For instance, following readings on the Ascension, there are readings on power. After Lent, interestingly, there is freedom. Following the Advent season are readings on justice. It makes great sense.

Curiously — and it, too, makes great sense — the book starts us off in Easter. That really is the “new year” for believers and Wright’s work on the resurrection obviously is his strongest suit. So this daily reader, in a way, starts in the Spring. Naturally, you can dip in and start any time you want — perhaps in the sections bout Christmas (followed by a month or so of lush and thoughtful explorations about “truth.” )

On Earth includes readings about contemporary Christian ethics and what we might call public theology. But most is grounded by and circled around the readings about Jesus. It’s a great book, a great primer for reading about Christ and a great primer for learning about the important work of N.T. Wright.

A Doubter’s Guide to Jesus: An Introduction to the Man from Nazareth for Believers and Skeptics John Dickson (Zondervan) $18.99       OUR SALE PRICE = $15.19

I have highlighted this before so I will be brief. This is a compact sized paperback that is truly fabulous. (Tim Keller says “I can’t recommend this book enough.”) It is, as the title suggests, good “for doubters” but it really is for nearly anyone – believers or skeptics, those who know Christ well or those who are unfamiliar. It is a systematic guidebook written in nice prose, with clear and clean categories and chapters, making the case for who Jesus claimed to be and what the Bible says about Him.

There are some opening chapters that I loved (“Imaginations”, which explores our visions and longings for such a Person and how we have often poorly “made Him in our own image,” and “Sources”, which lays out some of the technical and historical data about what we know and how reliable our written accounts are.) From there it covers various aspects of Jesus’s life and work with some further chapters on his preference for the lowly and poor, the meaning of his death, the claims of resurrection, his subversion of Caesar’s empire. There’s a rousing and beautiful short chapter showing Christ’s own relationship with God. That’s called “His Oneness with the Almighty.” It’s a good thing to read and ponder right after Christmas, I think.

This is interesting and fair, intriguing and balanced, all informed by ancient history, primary sources, and a robust awareness of the implications of all that Jesus did and said. It is not manipulative or preachy, let alone argumentative, but it is, shall we say, “eye-opening.” A great little book.

Confronting Jesus: 9 Encounters with the Hero of the Gospels Rebecca McLaughlin (Crossway Books) $14.99   OUR SALE PRICE = $11.99

Ms McLaughlin has her PhD from Cambridge and is an award-winning author, most famously for Confronting Christianity which was named Christianity Today’s 2020 winner in their “Beautiful Orthodoxy” category. She has a heart to reach the skeptic and unchurched, is aware of serious questions of postmodernity (and postmodernism) but has a fairly strict, orthodox angle. (One small book she did for the Gospel Coalition is called The Secular Creed which draws on the likes of Carl Trueman for punchy cultural exegesis.)

This new book offers reflections on the eyewitness accounts within the gospels which illuminate Jesus’s identity. It is good for those who are exploring Christianity, perhaps for the first time, or the first time seriously, or if you just (as J.D. Greear puts it) “want to learn something more about the beauty of our Savior.”

Listen to this lovely endorsement by Rev. Irwyn Ince, urban pastor and Coordinator of “Mission to America” for the PCA, and author of the excellent book on the multi-ethnic church, Beautiful Community:

Rebecca McLaughlin has done us a kindness by laying out the beauty of Jesus with clarity and conviction. Bring your questions and, through these pages, find Jesus ready, willing, and able to answer.

The Nazarene: Forty Devotions on the Lyrical Life of Jesus Michael Card (IVP) $16.00                       OUR SALE PRICE = $12.80

You may recall when Michael Card, musician extraordinaire, Bible scholar and teacher, graced us with his presence here in Dallastown. We partnered with a local church, had tons of great food, and as Michael played and spoke, I got to interview him. (Talk about nervous! But he’s a good guy and played along with my curious questions and our awed local crowd.)

What brought Mike to us was not really to do a full concert but to promote a book project he was working on. We’ve stocked his many books over the years (and there are a lot) but a few years back he did a set of four commentaries on the gospels. They were called the “Biblical Imagination” series and in them he did typical commentary stuff – informed exegesis of Greek words, lucid explanations of key notions, savvy reminders of the ancient cultural background and the like – but added a small element of creativity, of engaging not just the mind but the imagination. These artful writing projects were ideal for those who wanted to study the Bible in a way that yielded transformed affections and wilder, more Christ-like lifestyles, creative but bounded by Scripture. He wants us to imagine the Kingdom.

This recent book, The Nazarene, is, in a way, a lovely glimpse into the imaginative rendering of Jesus from the pen of Mike Card. It is even more rooted in his work as a poet and songwriter that the commentaries, it seems. Each devotional reading on Jesus actually starts with a lyric and then offers a mediation. Sometimes these insights into the Christ would stand well on their own without the poetry/song lyrics, and, of course, the poems/lyrics stand on their own. Sometimes he draws on his own rendering (and sometimes has a “lyric note” as an afterward.)

Card never wants to draw attention to his own serious education or his talent or aesthetic style. This book isn’t a proud retrospective of all the songs he’s written about Jesus (although there is a fabulous and fabulously-useful index in the back highlighting more than a hundred of his Biblically-influenced songs from his dozens of albums.)

The Nazarene is a poetical vision of who Jesus is shared by a singer-songwriter and serious follower of the Way. Having met Mike more than once, I can assure you that he’s the real deal. Having read this book quickly, I can say I will pick it up again, perhaps even during Lent, using it to guide me more deeply into a love of the Lord and a more serious dedication to follow the Master.

Touch the Earth: Poems on the Way Drew Jackson (IVP) $18.00  OUR SALE PRICE = $14.40

One of the great joys of this past season was experiencing the privilege of being at an event at Western Seminary (in Holland, MI) sponsored by the Eugene Peterson Center for Christian Imagination. Pastor and poet Drew Jackson was a speaker there and it was a great honor to meet him and hang out just a bit. His urban pastoral sensibility was powerful and his poetic style remarkable — accessible, but not simplistic, Bible-based, but not didactic. Touch the Earth is so aesthetically rich it carries a forward by the great Irish wordsmith and activist, Padgraig O’Tuama.

Touch the Earth is brand new and picks up where his 2021 release, God Speaks Through Wombs leaves off. That collection, subtitled “Poems on God’s Unexpected Coming” (and with a vivid foreword by popular musician Jon Batiste)  draws its allusive, poetic insight from Luke 1 through 8. Touch the Earth also reflects on Luke, through poetry, starting with Luke chapter 9. And, whoa, is it captivating: the first poem is about his father’s good actions caring for Drew’s mother as she was dying of cancer. I have pondered the next one, on Luke 9: 3-4 (“Take Nothing”) more than I’d expect. Ruth Haley Barton, who says it has touched something deep in her, invites us to “partake Drew’s newest collection of poems with an open heart and an open Bible.” Right.

Our friend Cole Arthur Riley says of it:

Poem after poem, Drew Jackson approaches questions of community and trust and meets them to with the bore of certainty but a reverence for the unspoken, for mystery and suspense.

Luke: Jesus and the Outsiders, Outcasts, and Outlaws Adam Hamilton (Abingdon) $19.99           OUR SALE PRICE = $15.99

I suppose if you follow religious publishing at all, or read BookNotes very carefully, you know who Adam Hamilton is. The pastor of one of the largest United Methodist churches in the country and a very popular Bible teacher, his DVDs are standards, these days, used by many. He is affirmed on book jackets and given accolades by evangelical moderates and those in more progressive movements; from Jim Wallis to Philip Yancey to Brian McLaren, he is honored as a balanced and thoughtful voice teaching the church good stuff about the Scriptures. He has done several on the birth of Christ, several on His life, a few on the cross and Holy Week. He has done short ones on Bible characters, too — Moses, Peter, etc. This one is down-to-Earth and full of insight; Susan Hyman (NT prof at Candler) says it is “Readable and relevant, this book will both delight its readers and discomfort them, just as the Gospel does.” Yup.

This may be the first time Hamilton has tackled a whole book of the Bible and I am both appreciative and a bit frustrated. It isn’t a commentary as such and he obviously can’t cover the whole book in a six short DVD sessions. The hardback book (which has six key chapters, and an afterword and such) is handsome and solid and very readable, as you’d expect from the popular mega-church communicator. Even with the forward and footnotes it’s only about 150 pages.

As anyone who cares about the integrity of the preaching with close attention to the Biblical text would affirm, it is good that he sees how Luke brings in stories of justice and poverty, economics and politics, healing (he was a doctor, they say) and hope. The subtitle says much, illustrating his clever and entertaining approach and the seriousness with which he takes what the Bible actually says.

Of course it doesn’t say all that needs saying, but for a great introduction to Jesus as seen through the eyes of Luke, this new Adam Hamilton resource is great. We have the hardback books, the DVDs, of course, and the adult leaders guide. Maybe you could use it for a small group or adult education class at your church.

Finding Messiah: A Journey into the Jewishness of the Gospel Jennifer M. Rosner (IVP) $17.00      OUR SALE PRICE = $13.60

There are lots of books (thank goodness) that explore the Jewishness of Jesus. From Messianic followers of Jesus to Jesus scholars who remain Jewish (like Amy-Jill Levine, say) to hefty historians like N.T. Wright, there is much to learn.

This recent book captured my attention when I saw the foreword by Richard Mouw, an author I admire greatly. In his opening remarks (where he ably tells what is good about the book) he admits that it has forced him to reconsider, yet again, some of his own deeply held assumptions about the relationship between Christians and Jews and, more, between the gospel of Jesus and the role of Judaism. In other words, this isn’t just a lovely little guide to some of the distinctly Jewish ways of Jesus or how He fulfilled certain prophecies of the Hebrew Scriptures. It’s very engaging but meaty.

As you may know there are serious questions among and even controversies between Christians about all this. (Not to even mention a horrendous background of persecution visited on Jewish people by so-called Christians.)

This book is both a dive into that contentious space and a lovely overview for those wanting refreshed in hearing the story of a Messianic Jews. As Brian Zahnd puts it, while saying how much he enjoyed Jennifer Rosner’s book, “her attempt to bridge the ancient rift between Jewish identity and Christian faith is timely and important.”

“This is a book I didn’t know I was waiting for.”

“This is a book I didn’t know I was waiting for,” says Marty Solomon (president of Impact Campus Ministry.) “Look no further,” says Gerald McDermott – “This is the most enjoyable introduction to Jesus and Judaism you will ever find.” It is an account of some of the scholarly debates but it not only helps those conversations come alive, but it offers a bit more light and not just heat. I’m impressed, even if I (like Mouw) still have questions to ponder and issues to work through. Finding Messiah is a wonderful book, written by a woman who is now teaching at Fuller Theological Seminary in California.

As Mouw writes,

So, yes. Jen Rosner has forced me to face issues that I have long been willing to ignore, and I will now continue to face. I am confident that her wonderful book will motivate others to make the journey, also. Jen still has questions that she is pursuing, so it has to be a continuing journey for all of us. For now, though, I can express deep gratitude that she has prodded me to take some new steps along the path.

Saints and Scoundrels in the Story of Jesus Nancy Guthrie (Crossway) $16.99                OUR SALE PRICE = $13.59

I have often said that for a straight-arrow, solidly evangelical, straight-forward teacher of the Bible, Nancy Guthrie is hard to beat. She is one of the most reliable and interesting writers in that good tradition and while she doesn’t take in edgy postmodern ideas or add zippy applications from contemporary culture, she is lively enough, interesting, earnest, and (as one reviewer put it about this new one) “can speak directly to the realities of your life, giving you a fresh glimpse of all that can be yours in Jesus Christ.”

In other words, get ready to see yourself as a scoundrel and, by God’s grace, increasingly, as a saint.

Yep, as Rosaria Butterfield writes, this book is “convicting and comforting at once.” God’s family is, as Rosaria puts it, “rough around the edges and held together by grace and blood and faith and the King of kings and Lord of lords…”

The story of Jesus in the Gospels includes all kinds of interesting people. (Think back to the subtitle of the Adam Hamilton study of Luke!)  As the back cover of this new Nancy Guthrie volume puts it, there are “some who claimed to be saints but proved to be scoundrels, as well as scoundrels who were transformed into saints.” If you were paying attention during Advent and Christmas, you got some of that, I’m sure. Even in our Christmas story there are some rough characters and some wild goings-on, and always the possibility of surprise reversals.

With fine writing and deep doctrinal knowledge and clear-headed faith she offers a fresh look at what shaped and maybe what motivated the likes of John the Baptist, Peter, the Pharisees, Zacchaeus, Judas, Caiaphas, Barabbas, Stephen and Paul.

Granted, there are bunches of books that have done “character studies” and, yet, we still are often moved by finding ourselves in their complicated stories. These kinds of books often work, and in her hands it is for reasons other than what we might call moralism. What is especially strong, here, in this telling of these tales, is how she helps us see so clearly how each reveals something of the goodness of God and the grace of Jesus towards all. God, finally, is the point of these very human stories. God, revealed in the person of Jesus the Christ.

Damon Garcia (Broadleaf Books) $18.99                 OUR SALE PRICE = $15.19

I have been to protests where our nonviolent leadership was ignored and ugliness arose. (I have been to some where, despite our nonviolence, police ugliness arouse, too – whew.) I get how things can go haywire in such turbulent, contentious contexts. But I am not a fan of riots and there is no justification for destruction in the name of peaceful protest. Even though I liked the controversial 1971 Sly Stone album There’s a Riot Goin’ On, I’m taken aback by the title of this book.

Here, in this boldly provocative and passionately frank book, we are invited to realize that Jesus was a God who invited people to resist oppression, to take a stand against injustice, to rise up, and, well… be disruptive. One only need to think of Dorothy Day or MLK or the Berrigan brothers to recall how many great saints who knew their BIbles well understood something of this call to outcry.

You can read for yourself how this fresh public theology is informed by liberation themes and de-colonial theory. We are now years away from Occupy Wall Street, but this live on-the-streets storytelling in The God Who Riots and Garcia’s passion abasing structural injustice that hurts God’s little ones brings to mind that resistance work. From that socio-political angle, he takes up a fresh reading of the gospels.

Garcia knows the Bible and respects the Scriptures trajectory, even if less interested in this book about systematic details. This is a big look at God from the margins, insisting that following Jesus is costly. As one activist theologian put it, “our work today is to count the cost of what it really means to follow a Brown Palestinian Jew.” Are we now in Babylon? Do we need a whole new way to think about our relationship with the Empires of the age? It’s a live question.

Another similar book, while we are on this testy theme of deconstructing the safe and domesticated Jesus, which also does this with what some will think is an overcorrection, is Not Your White Jesus: Following a Radical, Refugee Messiah written by Sheri Faye Rosendahl (WJK) $18.00 – OUR SALE PRICE = $14.40. She bluntly states that Jesus is not American, does not want to “make America great again.” You get the vibe. She is unflinching in wanting to be true to the authentic Jesus and his subversive teachings, contrary to the gods of consumerism and nationalism and privelege. Listen to this, about Not Your White Jesus:

Be moved by the passionate, heartfelt reflections of a brutally honest, refreshingly real woman who is totally devoted to following Jesus into the hard places and among those often overlooked by the church. Yes, she’s forthright and candid. Yes, she says things that will likely rub you up the wrong way. She’s just trying to be true to Jesus – the radical, brown-skinned, refugee Jesus.”  –Michael Frost, author of Keep Christianity Weird, and Surprise the World!

Daman Garcia, in The God Who Riots, may also not have all the answers, but it seems obvious that, at least, “the Jesus who flipped tables in the temple led an empire-destabilizing movement for liberation.” This isn’t exactly a consistent study of the life and teachings of Jesus but somewhat of a story of a guy who read the footnotes, so to speak, learned to be inclusive and gracious to outsiders who were shunned in his pious and conventionally evangelical upbringing and needed to depart that tradition in order to embrace a progressive, radical faith and community. Agree or not, this story raises righteous questions for anyone paying attention to the themes of the Bible, the nature of Jesus, the teachings of the Master, or the anti-imperial, counter-cultural lifestyle of the early church. Whew.

TO PLACE AN ORDER 

PLEASE READ AND THEN CLICK ON THE “ORDER HERE” LINK BELOW.

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 quick, 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 so let us know.

– DON’T FORGET TO LET US KNOW WHAT SHIPPING METHOD YOU PREFER –

BookNotes

Hearts & Minds logo

SPECIAL
DISCOUNT

20% OFF

ALL BOOKS MENTIONED

+++

order here

this takes you to the secure Hearts & Minds order form page
just tell us what you want to order

inquire here

if you have questions or need more information
just ask us what you want to know

Hearts & Minds 234 East Main Street  Dallastown  PA  17313
read@heartsandmindsbooks.com
717-246-3333

No, COVID is not fully over. Since few are reporting their illnesses anymore, it is tricky to know the reality but the best measurement is to check the water tables to see the amount of virus in the eco-system. It’s still bad, and worsening (again.) With flu and new stuff spreading, many hospitals are overwhelmed. It’s important to be particularly aware of how risks we take might effect the public good. 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. Our store is a bit cramped without top-notch ventilation so we are trying to be wise. Thanks for understanding.

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 and back yard customer service and can show any number of items to you if you call us from our back parking lot. It’s sort of fun, actually. We are eager to serve and grateful for your patience as we all work to mitigate the pandemic. We are very happy to help do if you are in the area, do stop by.

Of course, we’re happy to ship books anywhere. Just click on the link above.

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

Celebrating Christmas: a list for those who are hurting or sad or in need of substantive hope – ON SALE NOW

Here’s a little essay to offer some context before I list five specific books that are seasonal, and then more than 20 that are more generally for those feeling conflicted or at the end of their rope this Christmas. Thanks for allowing me into your inbox this busy season; we don’t take it for granted. You can scroll to the very bottom to see our link to our secure Hearts & Minds order form. All books are 20% off.

I love Christmas. I love the joy, the sentiments, the colors, the smells. We don’t give a lot of family gifts anymore but I love the idea of nicely wrapped presents; I love trees and lights. I love the movie Elf.

And of course I love our church family and a very special service on Christmas Eve. Although we avoid singing them in Advent, and love Christmas carols.

But yet, I have long felt that even as we sing “oh come let us adore Him” we don’t really. We don’t pay much attention to the details of his real birth (a teen birth, a nearly homeless couple, born with animals and the very blue collar shepherds, etc.) Bracketed by Mary’s revolutionary cry in Luke 1 [the piece to the right is by Philadelphia artist Ben Wildflower] and the non-Jewish wise men’s civil disobedience against the genocide of the ruling powers, the story is never as quaint as it seems in Christmas cards. Or in most church services.

When I was a teen during some kind of youth Sunday at my church I played the Simon and Garfunkel song off their 1966 Parsley, Sage Rosemary and Thyme album called “7 O’Clock News/Silent Night.” As Wikipedia puts it, the track is a sound collage juxtaposing a rendition of the Christmas carol “Silent Night” with a simulated 7 o’clock news bulletin consisting of actual events from the summer of 1966.”  I am not sure I had yet heard the famous quip by Karl Barth that we must read our Bibles with the newspaper in the other hand, but, as I dimly recall, not everyone in my EUB church saw my gimmick as fitting for a Sunday service. I knew it was a good juxtaposition, but couldn’t exactly say why.

Only later did I come to understand (a little bit, at least) of the theology of the incarnation (try the classic On the Incarnation by Saint Athanasius to study up a bit) and the all-of-life-redeemed worldview that now seems so natural, but even as a teen I intuited that the Biblical story is messy, that Christmas is complicated, and that we humans are not as cheery as the Rockwell paintings might surmise. And that God was born into what Thomas Merton, I later learned, called “this demented inn.”

(Listen to this stunning song “Bethlehem” by Over the Rhine for a mournful song of longing that says much in a few moving minutes.)

No, I didn’t know much but I knew that the Lord had lots to say about serving others, not accumulating wealth, turning the other cheek and whatnot.

I didn’t need Jackson Browne’s “The Rebel Jesus” to remind me of the radical disruption the words of Jesus might bring to our holiday festivities, but it didn’t hurt.

The other day Fleming Rutledge and I were exchanging brief correspondence about her splendid, must-read book Advent: The Once and Future Coming of Jesus Christ in which she quipped that Advent is not for the faint of heart. The paradoxical embrace of light within darkness, of the now and the not yet, of crying out “Maranatha” even though we know that may mean judgement and something that seems like woe, is complex and intense. Her sermons in that book are among the very best I’ve seen and we do seriously recommend it. They will last a lifetime.

If you are interested, here is an Advent meditation I wrote for the annual CCO’s Advent devotional; they wanted a story, so I started with a story. Here is a really great one, and another that moved me deeply and yet another must-read by author Steve Garber, about crying out “How Long O Lord?”

And so, here we are in this last week of Advent, hoping against hope, longing for restoration, knowing that we have much to shout about given that Christ did come (even if the story is challenging) and that He can be “born in us today.” Yes, Advent looks back to the first coming of Christ, invites us to discern how Christ comes afresh, daily, now, and — and many miss this — how we are to eagerly await His return to bring healing judgement and final restoration to the cosmos. Past, present, and future.

For many of us, it is this waiting for final restoration that creates the texture of our hope. We are reminded by Bible verses galore and many great carols that the Kingdom breaking into human history in the incarnation (followed by the decisive death and resurrection of Christ, His ascension and the giving of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost to empower the counter-cultural faith community) underscores and makes meaningful “the hopes and fears of all the years.” The story of our faith isn’t separate from the story of our lives. We can be honest about our hopes and we can be honest about our fears.

Which is a long way of saying that we don’t need to be jolly this time of year and while Andy Williams or whoever croons that it is the “hap, happiest time of the year” it simply isn’t so. At least not always.

For some, being “home for Christmas” is toxic. For others, being at home without all the loved ones present reminds us of our losses. Some have died of damn cancer (or whatever) and others from COVID. We are rightfully angry at Trump and the other anti-maskers who exacerbated the pandemic early on and allowed the spread of the disease causing more than a million fellow citizens to die, many needlessly.  Where is the judgement of Mary’s Magnificent when we need it?

I don’t know if you carry great burdens this time of year but I bet you do. Young or old, you know people who struggle with depression, who have faced great losses, who are ill, who understand in their bones those lines from “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” about the “crushing load” and that speaks of “all the weary world” (with “sad and lowly plains” no less.) I know you know about weariness, about crushing loads. We all do, but some of us more than others.

I do not mean to dampen anyone’s Christmas Spirit but the season of Advent — which, as Fleming implied, is not easy to practice well — invites us to be real about all this stuff. We long for God’s presence, we hunger for God’s healing, we cry for God’s redemption of all things. Laid low by political injustice here and abroad, gripped by the sorrows that now go by a new name, “climate grief”, or plagued by typical doubts about the reasonableness of our faith itself, or the sustainability of our church life, we soberly bring those things into the light that is to come.

It is paradoxical, weird work, this “already but not yet” project, and yet, despite the sadness we carry, the Jesus whose birth we celebrate (for 12 days at Christmastime!) grew up to say his burden was not heavy. Yes, the way is narrow, but it is not harsh. He calls us to pick up our crosses but he also invites us to a feast. He has come to bring life, even abundantly, Jesus promised in John 10:10. I love that verse! It is a counter script to the pain.

The generous abundance of renewed life in Christ does not negate the brokenness of the world. And so we learn to practice waiting. We do Advent, and get in touch with our hopes for peace and goodness, in part by being honest about our hurts.

On Easter morning I often put on Facebook my favorite version of “I Know That My Redeemer Lives”, a rare recording by the late, great Mark Heard. I sometimes note that it is a majestic song, made gritty and real by the nearly fragile rendition the world-weary Heard gives. Similarly, I love Sufjan’s Stevens’ quiet “Joy to the World” (from the gorgeously eccentric Songs for Christmas.) It’s not roaring out a triumphant victory with brass but it is so pretty it almost makes me weep.

FIRST, FIVE FOR AN HONEST HOLIDAY SEASON

A Weary World: Reflections for a Blue Christmas Kathy Escobar (WJK) $15.00                                  OUR SALE PRICE = $12.00

I highlighted this last year and should have named it again this year — it is the best book intentionally designed for those who find the holidays to be less than happy. Whether you wrestle with chronic pain or broken relationships or shattered dreams, a fragile faith or unexpected losses, “our grief and sorrow feel particularly acute when compared to the festivity and joy everyone else seems to be feeling.”

Kathy Escobar is pastor of The Refuge, a radical Christian community and mission in North Denver. She is a trained spiritual director and author Practicing: Changing Yourself to Change the World.

Honest Advent: Awakening to the Wonder of God-with-Us, Then, Here, and Now Scott Erickson (Zondervan) $19.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $15.99

This is for any who want to re-focus on the deepest meaning of the holiday season, resisting consumerism and the loss of wonder. As Scott says, “Maybe for you, it has become a bittersweet season of complicated family dynamics, a predictable brand masking insatiable consumerism, or simply a sacred story that feels far too removed from our current chaotic world.”

Scott is an artist, a graphic designer, an on-the-ground theologian of sorts. Honest Advent shares “the shocking biology of a home birth that goes far behind the sanitized brand of Christmas as we know it.” This is a truly great book, nicely illustrated with hip graphics and raw prose. Particularly for younger folk, it is a must. We’ve got a few left — order now!

Wounded in Spirit: Advent Art and Meditations David Bannon (Paraclete Press) $29.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $23.99

Here is something I wrote about this beautiful book a few years ago:

We raved about this earlier in the season, explaining that Bannon is himself a bit of a hurting man. He is an honest guide as he’s had his own struggles; among other things, his adult daughter died in an awful tragedy. He knows a life of faith and he knows a life of sorrow.

Consequently he has been drawn to paintings that evoke lament and that honor the grief of these hard times and the art is ravishingly shown in this fabulously designed, handsome hardback. The paintings are mostly older, classic, even (Gauguin, Delacroix, Van Gogh, and more) and often done by artists who themselves were facing deep disappointments. Besides his own informative and tender prose, Bannon adds remarkable lines from poets and writers and thinkers — from N.T. Wright to Barbara Brown Taylor, Philip Yancey, Bonhoeffer, Nouwen, Paul Tournier, Joan of Arc, and more. He shares a bit about the latest research on grief. Yet, these rich daily reflections are more than an admitted “pilgrimage of brokenness.” Wounded in Spirit is a book of lovely, tangible hope.

There is a great forward by Philip Yancey (who says it has “become his guide.” Poet Luci Shaw calls these meditations and images “a marvelous gift.”

Because this book deserves to be known and taken seriously, allow me to excerpt a quote from the good Christian Century review written by Elizabeth Palmer:

David Bannon… has lived through the realities of failure and grief. In this book, he intersperses carefully curated photos of Christian art with his own reflections on the artists—their lives, their tragedies, and their persistent hopes. Bannon also evokes an honest grappling with grief by including brief quotations from a variety of thinkers: Carl Jung, Annie Dillard, Terence Fretheim, Isabel Allende, Elie Wiesel, Julian of Norwich, Simone Weil, N.T. Wright, and Søren Kierkegaard make appearances. Particularly evocative are the excerpts from Friedrich Rückert’s poems, which Bannon translates here into English for the first time: “Do not wrap yourself around the night, / bathe it in eternal light. / My tent is dark, the lamp is cold, / bless the light, the Joy of the World!”

The Advent of Justice: A Book of Meditations Brian Walsh, J. Richard Middleton, Mark Vander Vennen, and Sylvia Keesmaat (Wipf & Stock) $12.00  OUR SALE PRICE = $9.60

I have suggested this rigorously most previous years, suggesting that it is one of the most honest Biblical studies I know, exploring the socio-political context of the Advent texts of Isaiah and the gospels.  All four authors, who each take a week, are friends I admire more than this short shout-out can say.

I assume you know Old Testament scholar Richard Middleton (whose recent Abraham’s Silence: The Binding of Isaac, the Suffering of Job, and How to Talk Back to God is groundbreaking, not least in its honesty before God) and Brian and Sylvia, (see their amazingly provocative Empire Remixed website, and their amazingly good, very provocative commentary on Romans, Romans Remixed: Resisting Empire/Demanding Justice.) Mark is an old Pittsburgh friend, fellow peace-maker and activist and now therapist. The four of them did this book to commemorate the advocacy work of Canada’s Citizens for Public Justice and I list it here for those who long for some healing from our ugly and dysfunctional political situation. It is honest and doesn’t flinch from the deeply challenging poetry of the prophet of exile and homecoming. I have used this over and over and am still probing its Brueggemann-esque prose and deeply Biblical vision of God’s redeeming work in the world. It is Biblically solid, and consequently hopeful, but without any commercial sentiment whatsoever. If you haven’t gotten this, you should. It will help.

Advent: The Once Future Coming of Jesus Christ Fleming Rutledge (Eerdmans) $31.99         OUR SALE PRICE = $25.59

I have described this often, cited how some of the best theological thinkers and Christian writers working today have esteemed it. From Richard Hays to Marilyn McEntyre, from Michael Gorman to James K.A. Smith, her wit and wisdom is commended, her brave sermons
“tastefully unfolds the ethical and future-oriented significance of Advent for the church.”

Few resources have helped me understand a more historic and profound understanding of Advent waiting and the eschatological hopes of this season and its unique, sober practices. I very highly recommend it.

We still have it here at our 20% off and hope you order it. It’s 400 pages of mature Biblical insight.

BOOKS ABOUT COPING WITH HARDSHIP, SORROW, LOSS, PAIN…

A Crazy Holy Grace: The Healing Power of Pain and Memory Frederick Buechner (Zondervan) $16.99 OUR SALE PRICE = $13.59

Our friend Caleb Seeling, a Colorado editor and publisher, studied Buechner in college under the great Dale Brown. In Seeling’s fabulous introduction to this collection of various excerpts from Buechner’s many books he ends by citing a line from the novel, Godric — “All’s lost. All’s found.” And then writing:

And that’s what this new collection of Buechner’s writings, including a lecture he gave that has never before appeared in print, aims to help us realize — that when we enter the gates of pain and use the healing power of memory, we will hear God speaking, and we can take comfort and rest our weary souls in his crazy, holy, grace.

If you’ve not read Buechner’s lively, honest memoirs or theological prose, this is a great introduction. If yoiu love his work, you will appreciate this fabulous anthology.

You Can Talk to God Like That: The Surprising Power of Lament To Save Your Faith Abby Norman (Broadleaf Books) $16.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $13.59

In recent years many good books have come out about lament as a faithful Biblical practice. Some are almost exclusively Biblical; this one is not like that. It is full of stories, ideas, practices, permissions, honoring our pain and inviting us to be real before God and others. Abby Norman’s got some wit and some energy going on so it isn’t a heavy book, really, even if it evokes some serious humane spirituality.

It is billed as “a hopeful and transformative introduction to the practice of lament.” It looks at many Psalms and invites us to bring our honest emotions and messy lives to God, for real.

In a moment when many around the world are experiencing grief, it’s also clear that many of us have forgotten how to lament. Abby Norman’s timely and wise book will help anyone who struggles with the language and expression of lament, whether collective or individual. — Kaya Oakes, author of The Nones Are Alright and The Defiant Middle

This book is an absolute gem of straight-talking encouragement and practical wisdom for anyone who’s frustrated by the lack of authenticity in church. Everyone needs an Abby Norman in their life: she has a rare gift of writing about unresolved suffering that will leave you feeling seen, hugged, and galvanized at the same time. — Tanya Marlow, author of Those Who Wait: Finding God in Disappointment, Doubt and Delay

Prayer in the Night: For Those Who Work or Watch or Weep Tish Harrison Warren (IVP) $22.00  OUR SALE PRICE = $17.60

We have raved about this before and any who order it from us (at our previously announced BookNotes 20% off) inevitably get a little message from me not only thanking them for ordering such a fine book but assuring them that it is, indeed, one of my all time favorite reads. It is gripping, honest, raw at times, deeply rooted in ancient faith insights (including some use of the Book of Common Prayer) and yet is utterly contemporary. Tish is a gifted writer and a fine thinker. It is an honor to call her a friend and this book allows us all in on some of the intimate struggles of her and her husband.

Like her must-read and thoroughly lovely Liturgy of the Ordinary, this one is nicely arranged and wonderfully written, serious without being heavy or academic. She’s a good pastor, a sharp thinker, but doesn’t write from the ivory tower. He life as a mom and wife and church worker is revealed as one that is hectic and sometime anguishing; she has experienced more sorrow than many of us.

Prayer in the Night is about how to pray in the midst of that context, one that is not uncommon, since all of us have sorrows, hurts, and fears. As I’ve said elsewhere, the “night” in the title is both metaphorical (praying in the dark night of the soul, with the gloom of doubt, amidst the midnight of hardship — you know) but it is firstly literal. It is about praying at night, using the structure of the BCP prayers of Compline.

Whether you are Episcopal or Anglian or Roman Catholic (and familiar with Compline) or not, this evening prayer makes sense and it is a practice that is both revealing and transformative.

To be creatures is to face many nights: the darkness of the unknown, the uncertain, the unseen. God, in his grace, does not promise to expel the dark; he promises to be with us in the night. In prose that is both powerful and vulnerable, Tish Harrison Warren invites us to receive Compline as a gift to help us face the dark. Prayer is how we press our hands into the invisible and find the hand of Christ reaching back. –James K. A. Smith, Calvin University, author of How to Inhabit Time

By the light of an ancient nighttime prayer, this book tenderly and thoroughly explores the beautiful and precarious reality of our shared human life. And it illuminates for us the ultimate Christian question: what it means to love and be loved by a God who made us as vulnerable as we are, and also made himself as vulnerable as we are. — Andy Crouch, author of The Life We’re Looking For

Companions in the Darkness: Seven Saints Who Struggled with Depression and Doubt Diana Gruber (IVP) $18.00  OUR SALE PRICE = $14.40

This is a go-to book for us nowadays that we recommend for nearly anyone struggling with depression and/or doubt because it is rooted not only in the author’s own anguish but in clear-headed exploration and storytelling of others from church history who have walked that hard road. I appreciated learning about the historical realities of depression among the saints — who knew? She tells about Martin Luther, Charles Spurgeon William Cowper, Mother Teresa and Martin Luther King, Jr. and others.

There is a great forward by counselor Chuck DeGroat, fabulous endorsements by the likes of Dr. Richard Winter and novelist and spiritual director Sharon Garlough Brown. Nicely done.

Time and Despondency: Regaining the Present in Faith and Life Nicole M. Roccas (Ancient Faith Publishing) $17.95  OUR SALE PRICE = $14.36

Dr. Nicole Rocca’s, a young Orthodox scholar (who lectures at Trinity College in Toronto) does, here, what most mature Orthodox writers do well — invites us into a deep, careful consideration of ancient sins in light of ancient truths and the good news of Christ. Without shaming us, she reminds us that Idleness, apathy, restlessness, procrastination are all symptoms of what the earlier Christian writers called despondency (or acedia.) It is a disorder of sorts, a “spiritual sickness rooted in a lack of care.”

As it says on the back cover:

A condition as old as the ancients, despondency thrives in today’s culture of leisure, anxiety, and digital distraction. Time and Despondency is a penetrating synthesis of ancient theology, spiritual memoir, and self-help practicality. It envisions despondency as the extension of a broken relationship with the experience of time.

Did you get that? If you’ve read the essential How to Embody Time: Understanding the Past, Facing the Future, Living Faithfully Now by James K. A. Smith (who shares a bit therein about his own struggles with depression) this last sentence will make sense, I think. It is still jarring, though.

Roccas invites us to regain the sacredness of time and to “re-encounter the Resurrection of Christ in the dark and restless moment of our lives.”

It isn’t about Advent but since Advent is the start of the liturgical calendar and the church year, this is a good time to start to ponder this serious book.

A Beautiful Disaster: Finding Hope in the Midst of Brokenness Marlena Graves (Brazos Press) $19.00  OUR SALE PRICE = $15.20

Whenever anyone asks us about books on contemplative spirituality, the desert fathers and mothers, or how evangelicals might discover a more profound and ancient way of walking in faith, I almost always suggest this first book by popular writer, activist, leader, and author Marlena Graves. Rachel Held Evans, before her passing, called this “an extraordinary debut by one of today’s most promising new authors.” Other blurbs were from Dennis Okholm (Monk Habits for Everyday People) and Jan Johnson and Emile Griffin, all known for deeper, contemplative practices. Karen Swallow Prior called it “a rich blend of theology, devotional, memoir — which at times breaks into sheer poetry.”

Rachel Marie Stone (author of the stunning Birthing Hope: Giving Fear to the Light) is right in commending Marlena’s “gentle wisdom, pastoral tenderness, and graceful convictions” but says much when she observes that this book “offers a balm to the hurting and hope that our dry and weary times will with God’s help, bloom into something beautiful.”

Balm for dry and weary times. Yep. The heart of the book, actually, is a walk with Christ through the wilderness. Perfect for the time after Christmas.

Shaky Ground: What to Do After the Bottom Drops Out Traci Rhoades (Church Publishing) $18.95  OUR SALE PRICE = $15.16

Traci is a gem of a person, upbeat and witty, but down-to-earth and honest. She has travelled in diverse religious communities that she happily and honestly wrote about in Not All Who Wander (Spiritually) Are Lost and here, again, she shares with a ecumenicity and generosity that is striking. There is a lot to commend about her writing but mostly, she’s an honest storyteller.

And that counts for a whole lot for most of us. For one thing, it shows that we aren’t the only one who has feel the bottom drop out.

As it says on the back cover, “When all seems lost, we are not alone.”

“When all seems lost, we are not alone.”

The back cover copy continues: “Shaky Ground is an engaging roadmap through life’s struggles for anyone looking to dive deeper into faith.” This book is actually about just that — learning spiritual practices that help us seek meaning, even when things go haywire. Her spiritual disciplines are evolving for her as she finds ways to navigate faith in a fallen world.

There is a fabulously fun foreword by the great writer Catherine McNiel (All Shall Be Well: Awakening to God’s Presence in His Messy, Abundant World) who affirms her friend’s writings and the careful, solid, what she invites us to move along, even on shaky ground.

Turn My Mourning into Dancing: Finding Hope During Hard Times Henri Nouwen (Thomas Nelson) $16.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $13.59

This small hardback is a solid, lovely book that you won’t forget.Father Nouwen offers solace without platitudes — never simplistic, always gentle; he wrote The Wounded Healer early in his ministry, so knows a bit about our fragile condition. This is a deeply comforting book and includes a lot. It was first gleaned from previously unpublished writings and presentations given by Nouwen over the years. I suppose you know that Henri wrote a book about the death of his father, another on the death of his mother. He was sensitive, caring, thoughtful, and always aware of the deep wounds of the world. Yet, he clung to Matthew 5:4, the promise of comfort for those who mourn.

These chapters are compiled from previous unpublished presentations, good for “even the darkest night.”

Out of Chaos: How God Makes New Things from the Broken Pieces of Life Jessica LaGrone (Zondervan Reflective / Seedbed) $18.99               OUR SALE PRICE = $15.19

This is an extraordinary book; can anything good come out of the chaos of life? I tend to be suspicious of books that gloss over our pain with religious platitudes, that fail to honor the struggles of real people. Because this author is the Dean of the Chapel at Asbury Theological Seminary I know she is experienced in comforting those in pain; she knows how to honor the chaos and relates well to those who experience bedlam and the struggle.

Here, though, while she is not offering cheesy “silver lining” bromides, she does challenge “the hope-destroying belief that God has abandoned us in our broken relationships, our pain, and our grief.”  “When the Spirit of God hovers,” she explains, “chaos can give birth to hope.”

There’s an excellent foreword by A. J. Swoboda, himself a very good writer, one who has written good books with titles like A Glorious Dark: Finding Hope in the Tension Between Belief and Experience and After Doubt: How to Question Your Faith Without Losing It. If he recommends it, you know it’s worth reading, especially if you are facing your own chaos.

Voices of Lament: Reflections on Brokenness and Hope in a World Longing for Justice edited by Natasha Sistrunk Robinson (Revell) $19.99             OUR SALE PRICE = $15.99

I am thrilled with this recent book which I’ve only dipped into a bit. It has lots of great Biblical content, powerful voices by women of color, stories, meditations and exegesis of the famous Hebrew lament text, Psalm 37. Line by line they reflect on it, drawing in contemporary women writers we know and respect —Jenny Yang, Pat Raybon, Vivian Mabuni, Marlena Graves, Sheila Wise Rowe, Robinson, herself, of course and many more — and there are selections from women from around the globe (some who are no longer living) who offer essays and poems and meditations. This book is just a tremendously rich compilation with various genres side by side, giving a multidimensional appreciation for the Bible texts in question.

It is not overly dour, but it is a book of lament, beautifully done. We need this. Highly recommended.

Bright Hope: Discovering Resilient, Sustainable Ways of Living Through Even the Darkest Times Ted Blackman (Cascade) $31.00                               OUR SALE PRICE = $24.80

I was hooked on this powerful, thoughtful, serious book from the wonderful introduction by the author’s old friend from seminary days, Jim Wallis. Jim, as you may know, started up the Post American and, when their radical community of idealistic counter-cultural evangelicals moved to DC, changed their name of the flagship journal to Sojourners. Ted was part of that, an activist, more than a voice for peace, justice, reconciliation, and such, but was a doer, a servant of the poor, a street-level leader. And he became a psychologist and therapist. It seems like he evolved into a politically-savvy, righteous pastoral counselor who integrated faith and psychology, and not only for the privileged.

As becomes clear in Jim’s tender forward, Ted got cancer and, with a terminal diagnosis, set out to live a life of Christ-centered resilience. He was given less than a year to live, but lived more than a decade; deepened by that experience he developed and lived out a way of life “animated by hope in the transcendent reality of God’s future coming to us in the present. He is, I’m sure, an honest and yet inspiring companion for all of us.

Tristia Bauman (an attorney at the National Homelessness Law Center) calls it,  “A light in dark times.”

“A light in dark times.”

The book is for those who feel defeated or seek a new way forward “that reframes the present.” It is also for caregivers and activists and advocates who may “need new tools for replenishing both internal and external resources.” It is even good for congregational reading, for those communities of faith who are seeking to bring change to (or empowering hope for and with) marginalized folks.

We are all dying every day, but not all of us know that to the depths as did Ted Brackman. His book is a passionate, intelligent, faithful cry from the heart that speaks to all people seeking to follow Jesus in challenging times. Drink in Ted’s words of wisdom and be inspired anew to walk in joyous discipleship. — Wes Howard-Brook, author of Come Out, My People, God’s Call Out of Empire in the Bible and Beyond

How to Begin When Your World Is Ending: A Spiritual Field Guide to Joy Despite Everything Molly Phinney Baskette (Broadleaf Books) $26.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $21.59

I like Molly Baskette for being a witty young UCC pastor who has other books about church revitalization, especially from her own mainline denominational context. This book, though, is her moving and quite witty, even probing, set of chapters helping folks through hard times. As one Jewish Rabbi wrote, “Your brain, heart, and soul will be better off for having spent some time in Molly Baskette’s extraordinary company.” I have been with her and can attest.

It is funny and nicely written, and it “whirls her reader through stories of hardship with a light step and a deft hand, all to the rhythm of grace.” As Emily Scott (who wrote the spectacular For All Who Hunger: Searching for Communion in a Shattered World), put it, “This book is for anyone learning to dance through difficult days.”

The Lord Is My Courage: Stepping Through the Shadows of Fear Toward the Voice of Love K.J. Ramsey (Zondervan) $22.99                                  OUR SALE PRICE = $18.39

We have reviewed this powerful read before (it came out over the summer) and we think it important to mention it again. K.J. previously wrote the extraordinary book about chronic pain called This Too Shall Last: Finding Grace When Suffering Lingers and here, in this newer one, The Lord is My Courage, she walks through Psalm 23 as it ministered to her in a season of pain, trauma, church stress, toxic faith and more. She asks how we can cultivate courage when fear overshadows our lives. “How  do we hear the Voice of Love when hate and harm shout loud?” This is somewhat memoir, somewhat Bible study, balm for anybody hurting or disillusioned.

The stunningly good, artfully Christian psychiatrist Dr. Curt Thompson wrote a great foreword to The Lord Is My Courage which alerts you to its significance and quality.

PRE-ORDER: By the way, we already have a little waiting list for her mid-January release, The Book of Common Courage: Prayers and Poems to Find Strength in Small Moments. It releases 1/17/23 and goes for $19.99 — our sale price = $15.99. PRE-ORDER it today by using the link at the end of this column. We won’t charge you until we send it, of course in January.

I Understand: Pain, Love, and Healing After Suicide Vonnie Woodcock (Eerdmans) $14.99     OUR SALE PRICE = $11.99

There are several books like this that we carry; from the very short one by the excellent Catholic mystic Ronald Rolheiser (Bruised and Wounded: Struggling to Understand Suicide) to the recent memoir about the extended family by Heidi Paul (Abiding Light: In the Shadow of Your Absence) there is much good and helpful writing.

I Understand is written by the wife of a well-known business leader, Rob Woodrick, who took his life in 2002; she writes movingly how in the aftermath she wanted to understand. There was, of course, the stigma of mental illness that loomed large over Rob’s death which, she notes, made healing more difficult.

Vonnie found that the common assumptions surrounding suicide to be false. She says “Rob was not ‘crazy.’ He did not choose to take his own life. He was in agony and only wanted the pain to end.” Over a decade later she and her children created a nonprofit (i understand) to help others enduring this same grief and loneliness.

The back cover says, “This is the story of ow love transformed Vonnie’s brokenness into hope — not only for herself and her family but for anyone struggling to emerge from the darkness of suicide.”

A review I read somewhere online said this:

I Understand is about the living, about picking up the pieces and moving forward, about understand the root cause of suicide, about forgiving, about grieving, and about changing the conversation in how we talk about suicide.

There is, somewhat remarkably, a very good forward by actress Mariel Hemingway (whose famous grandfather, Ernest, famously shot himself) and who became friends with the author. Mariel writes,

“This book is an invitation to be brave enough to share our demons with others so that we can let them go.”

 

Sparrow: A Book of Life and Death and Life Jan Richardson (Wanton Gospeller Press) $24.00  OUR SALE PRICE = $19.20

A simply exquisitely made book, hefty, handsome, with deckled pages, one can tell it was designed by a maker, an artist. We carry Jan Richardson’s several books of devotionals and spirituality and very much recommend her prayerful poetic meditations and blessings in The Cure for Sorrow: A Book of Blessings for Times of Grief (also published by her Wanton Gospeller Press, in hardcover or paperback.)

Richardson, you may know, is a beloved writer, artist and ordained minister in the United Methodist Church. She is the director of The Wellness Studio in Florida. She frequently collaborated with her husband and creative partner, the singer/songwriter Garrison Doles, until his sudden death in 2013.

Sparrow tells the story of their love, his death, and her soulful recovery. As she says,

We are attended. We are accompanied. We are asked to open our eyes, our hearts to the grace of it, that we might bear witness not only to the fall of the sparrow but also to what follows it.

A Hole in the World: Finding Hope in Ritual Grief and Healing Amanda Held Opelt (Worthy) $27.00  OUR SALE PRICE = $21.60

Christmas is so very interesting in part because many families have unique and idiosyncratic ways of enjoying the holidays together. There are special family gatherings, distinctive rituals, habits that are so engrained that they become almost sacred, maybe what Jamie Smith (in You Are What You Love) called “liturgies.”

This idea for this extraordinary book is written by the bereaved sister of the late Rachel Held Evans (who died suddenly a few years back) as she tried to know how to grief. The idea of the book is simple and I do not know of any book like it. Each chapter of A Hole in the World is her learning about a certain grief ritual. She ponders wearing black, she explains the history of tolling bells, has a chapter on sending sympathy cards, she talks about sharing casseroles and a chapter on “funeral games.” We learn about Sitting Shiva. There’s a chapter called “Telling the Bees” (a rumination on fear) and a beautiful chapter on how memory is shaped by photography.  You get the point — it is somewhat of a history of grief rituals and it is somewhat a memoir of her own season walking through these distinctive practices. It’s a great read, interesting and healing, good for those in grief, or for those who will (I guarantee it) someday be in grief.

A Grace Disguised: How the Soul Grows Through Loss revised and expanded Jerry Sitter (Zondervan) $25.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $21.79

I could do an entire BookNotes post about the many, many good books about grief but I can save you some time by suggesting this, our most-often recommended title for those in awful grief. Sittser is a great writer, a fine Christian leader, and suffered the loss of his wife and daughters in a horrific car accident. This book tells his story with honesty and grace. Philip Yancey (who has written some good titles on this) says it is “realistic and redemptive.”

This is a book you will never forget and, I suspect, will recommend to authors who have experience traumatic loss or serious grief.

Dare We Speak of Hope? Searching for a Language of Life in Faith and Politics Allan Aubrey Boesak (Eerdmans) $18.00  OUR SALE PRICE = $14.40

I have written and spoken about my admiration for this black, South African neo-Calvinist who was best friends with Desmond Tutu and helped lead the religious movement fighting for freedom during the evil apartheid regime in South Africa. It is rare to find scholar/pastor/activists who know Calvin and Kuyper and were friendly with Biko and Mandela. Who has himself despair (and been to jail.) As Nicholas Wolterstorff says in his very moving forward, this study of Biblical hope is “eloquent, challenging, and a deeply spiritual book.”

And so, while Curtiss Paul DeYoung calls it “a masterpiece” and “powerfully persuasive” it also is, it seems to me, a possible meditation for those who can’t quite wrap their minds around the joyfulness of a status quo Christmas. How do we practice hope in all its social and political implications? How do the oppressed of the world come into our thinking as we embrace this question of hope?

Yes, this is a book on politics. But it is also a deeply theological and deeply realistic study of God’s faithfulness and our call to what another has termed the audacity of hope. We hear about hope at Christmas, of course, but few holiday homilies get this real with the notion.

Songs of Resistance: Challenging Caesar and Empire R. Alan Streett (Cascade) $27.00             OUR SALE PRICE = $21.60

This new book looks fascinating to me and I very much respect this Baptist scholar, a researcher at Criswell College in Dallas. His previous books include Subversive Meals and Caesar and the Sacrament, both doing socio-political study of the meaning and implications of these sacraments.

Does cheesy praise music sometimes get you down? Do you wonder why some church groups can raise their voices (and maybe their hands) to worship Christ but then vote in ways that do not honor his basic teachings? Is there a way to rethink how we think about praise of Christ Jesus? Shouldn’t paying homage to this kind of King change our very lives?

This powerful, studious work looks at the hymns of the New Testament — that is, the praise and worship songs of the early church. He discovers that their lyrics contest and defy the “great tradition” of Rome and its claim to power.

Streett says,

The early Christ followers sang songs that opposed the empires worldview and offered an alternative vision for society. These songs were a first-century equivalent of modern-day protest songs. But instead of marching and singing in the streets, believers gathered in private spaces where they lifted their voices to Jesus and retold the story of his execution as an enemy of the state and how God raised him from the dead to rule over the universe.

“As they sang,” he notes, “believers were emboldened to remain faithful to Christ and withstand the temptation to comply with the sociopolitical agenda of the empire.”

Dr. Streett looks at Mary’s Song (Luke 1), the lyrical prologue of John 1, the hymn of Christ in Philippians 2, naturally Colossians 1:15-20, and the bit about the mystery of Godliness in 1 Timothy 3:16. He explores some hymn fragments and has a chapter about the songs of Revelation. Wow.  With the conclusion, there are 11 chapters in all. This is radical, Biblical stuff, maybe a strong enough salvo to help you with your Christmas funk. I hope so.

TO PLACE AN ORDER 

PLEASE READ AND THEN CLICK ON THE “ORDER HERE” LINK BELOW.

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 quick, 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 so let us know.

– DON’T FORGET TO LET US KNOW WHAT SHIPPING METHOD YOU PREFER –

BookNotes

Hearts & Minds logo

SPECIAL
DISCOUNT

20% OFF

ALL BOOKS MENTIONED

+++

order here

this takes you to the secure Hearts & Minds order form page
just tell us what you want to order

inquire here

if you have questions or need more information
just ask us what you want to know

Hearts & Minds 234 East Main Street  Dallastown  PA  17313
read@heartsandmindsbooks.com
717-246-3333

No, COVID is not fully over. Since few are reporting their illnesses anymore, it is tricky to know the reality but the best measurement is to check the water tables to see the amount of virus in the eco-system. It’s still bad, and worsening (again.) With flu and new stuff spreading, many hospitals are overwhelmed. It’s important to be particularly aware of how risks we take might effect the public good. 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. Our store is a bit cramped without top-notch ventilation so we are trying to be wise. Thanks for understanding.

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 and back yard customer service and can show any number of items to you if you call us from our back parking lot. It’s sort of fun, actually. We are eager to serve and grateful for your patience as we all work to mitigate the pandemic. We are very happy to help do if you are in the area, do stop by.

Of course, we’re happy to ship books anywhere. Just tell us how you want them sent.

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

26 MORE Exceptional Children’s Picture Books ON SALE NOW (Part 2)

Welcome to Part Two of this 2022 Christmas list of some good suggestions of (mostly recent) children’s Biblically-themed titles, a few children’s Bible storybooks, or other books that are explicitly about Christian formation for our little ones. Like yesterday’s more general list, we can say this just scratches the surface of the many books in this category that we stock here in Dallastown. Over our forty years in business we’ve accumulated a lot and new things keep coming. There’s just so much that is worthy, lasting, entertaining and edifying.

Please scroll to the very bottom where we have a link to our secure order form page. All books mentioned here at BookNotes are 20% off and we can send them out promptly. Enjoy the browse.

And, don’t forget — we’ve got the 12 Days of Christmas, too, so you need some gifts for that, right? Of course you do.

The Apostles Creed For All God’s Children Ben Myers, art by Natasha Kennedy (Lexham Press) $17.99                 OUR SALE PRICE = $14.39

Funny how sometimes mainline denominational publishers shy away from overtly theological stuff for kids and the more evangelically-oriented publishers think their customers don’t care about creedal teaching. But yet, this creed is among the oldest formulations of the faith we’ve got and if you understand that the expressive individualism of our culture causes us to erode ancient truths as we make it up as we go, you’ll know why you should immediately buy this book for any kids you know. It’s fun, clever, artfully designed, accessible and a guide to helping kids visualize, memorize, understand, and confess the Apostle’s Creed. Which, as it says on the back, “has united all Christians for centuries.” At least on paper, I’d say.

This is based on the tremendous little hardback for adults by Ben Myers, a theologian and author from Brisbane, Australia.  Readers are guided through this kid’s version by FatCat, the friendly feline, who, we are told, might show up in further FatCat adventures in other similar books.

As the publisher puts it,

Young readers and families will read a line from the creed along with a simple reflection to tuck into their hearts. With a list of Scriptures for further learning and a family prayer, this FatCat book is perfect to read again and again.

The Celebration Place Dorena Williamson, illustrated by Erin Bennett Banks (IVP Kids) $18.00                OUR SALE PRICE = $14.40

Wow, what a great story, a great gift to any family that goes to church or for those for whom church is a bit of a mystery. There are tons of Christian children’s books about God, Jesus, the Bible and living with virtue in the world. There are, oddly, not so many about the local congregation. We have a few about worship, a few for kids in liturgical churches, a couple about baptism. But we need more books like this, that are situated in a house of worship, and there are several spectacular things about this, at least.

The Celebration Place is about the local church. (“Here in God’s house, we all join together. In good times and bad, we need each other.”) Short and sweet, a nice message for kids about church. It also shows (as it says in big letters on the back cover) “No longer is church a divided space — now it’s a Celebration Place.” Yep, this shows that racial reconciliation is key to a healthy local church and that that, then, leads to celebration.  A book about church, about ethnic diversity, and about a life together marked by celebration: now that is a book we’ve been waiting for!

It is true that I do not know of any church like this, where “A young man raps, nodding to the beat. Even old folks stomp their feet” and where “indigenous dance with feathers that fly — arms stretched out to the Creator on high.” But it is beautiful to imagine, eh? I’m glad to read that the black preacher’s voice “booms” but that, “the baby’s coo isn’t too much noise.” (Perhaps the most controversial line in the book — ha!) We are glad it envisions a place where “rolling with wheelchairs or running in, all lift up a hearty ‘Amen!’”

I don’t know of any book, either, that starts telling the story of civil rights activism in the US, shows a colorful spread or two of Martin Luther King, and then shifts to a local church living out the dream of diversity in unity. And ends up reminding us of heaven’s diverse worship showing the multi-ethnic beauty of that future reality. Three big cheers for the great, colorful art of The Celebration Place and offering a one-of-a-kind book about racial and ethnic diversity situated in a local church.  Ages 3 – 7. If you don’t have little ones, why not buy one and donate it to your church library. It’s important.

A World of Praise Deborah Loick, illustrated by Helen Cann (Eerdmans) $17.99                    OUR SALE PRICE = $14.39

This is one of the most lovely books of 2022 and we can’t say enough about its gentle, glorious prose and extraordinary, aesthetically-pleasing illustrations. The author and illustrator have worked on various projects with some of the world’s leading publishers of children’s work (including DK, Lion Press, Chronicle, and Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.)

This starts with Psalms 24:1-2, as nearly every book could, and offers a beautiful “global hymn to God’s abundant love and care for His creation.” The text is not baby-ish and the illustrations are warm and rich, with hints of various lands and cultures. Some further Bible texts at the end remind us of God’s goodness and care.

This is, without a doubt, one of the nicest books this year.

Little Prayers for Ordinary Days Katy Bowser Hutson, Flo Paris Oakes, and Tish Harrison Warren (IVP Kids) $15.00                  OUR SALE PRICE = $12.00

We raved about this when it first came out. The great educator Katy Bowser and the popular author, Tish Warren, joining with their friend Flo Paris Oakes seem to be the prefect women to do this little book. We love it.  Here is some of what we said last Spring.

Even though there are plenty of little prayer books for children, there is nothing quite like this. Perhaps inspired somewhat by Tish Warren’s own Liturgy of the Ordinary or the author’s familiarity with Rabbit Room’s Every Moment Holy, this small book for kids is simple, the prayers short, nothing fancy, but sure and sound and God-glorifying. There truly are prayers for throughout the day, evoking God’s presence into the seemingly secular and mundane. Beth and I respect these women immensely and we remain very eager to recommend it. Perfect as a little stocking stuffer. Hooray!

You Are With Me: Prayers for Every Part of the Day (board book) Birgit Antoni (Spark House) $7.99        OUR SALE PRICE = $6.39

A delightful, small board book that names a certain situation and what a child might do about it, with a very simple prayer. Each episode is coupled with a short line from a Biblical Psalm. 

It starts with a child waking up and moves through their day, ending as they lie down at night. Sweet and vital.

 

The Story of Us Mitali Perkins, illustrated by Kevin & Kristen Howdeshell (Beaming Books) $18.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $15.19

Just when we thought we don’t need yet another creation story in our already overstuffed shelf of retellings of Genesis 1 and 2 (and sometimes 3) along comes a stunning portrayal given fresh voice by one of the fabulous and rightfully well-award children’s authors of recent years. It is so, so good. I highly recommend it.

You may recall us celebrating Mitali Perkins books for older readers, some of which have been best-sellers. Her first picture book came out in 2019 and was a great story about the power of love (to overcome the border wall) called Between Us and Abuela: A Family Story from the Border. We loved her fabulously creative picture book inviting readers into the world of Holy Week. (That was called Bare Tree and Little Wind and was so uniquely done!) Or, perhaps you will recall how we tried to encourage everyone to read her great book for adults called Steeped in Stories: Timeless Children’s Novels to Refresh Our Tired Souls, which, by the way, would make a lovely little gift for a teacher you may know, or anyone who appreciates classic kid’s literature. My goodness, Perkins even has a chapter in the remarkable collection put together by Square Halo Books, Wild Things and Castles in the Sky: A Guide to Choosing the Best Books for Children.

She obviously is quite gifted and she knows what she’s doing. She has lived all over the world and has a true multi-cultural imagination. In The Story of Us she teams up with the highly-regarded Howdeshells who have done everything from books for children to album covers to movie posters. Wow.

This is, we must say, one of the most epic tales a writer can tell and some such attempts are too quaint, too sweet, too self-evident. This, though, brings nuance and glory and power as it poetically tells of the very good world God made and what went wrong. In a way, the story is told from the view of air, water, earth, and fire, and how Adam and Eve were “for them.” With lines like “Breath-takers, tag the breeze” and “Thirst quenchers, dance with rain” we are given allusive insights into the cooperation between humans and other creatures. It doesn’t feel like a facile retelling of the Bible, but an epic in its own right, but yet obviously based on our Scripture’s holy tale.

The humans cry out “No creator!” (It is said twice, maybe once a philosophical claim that there is no creator or, perhaps, a “no” to the rule and grace of the creator.) I almost cried reading this terse description of the rebellion and, turning the page, realizing the cosmic implications.

Yet, the redeemer comes, and the air and water and soil and fire are brought in, again, in redemptive and glorious way. I won’t spoil the whole story but the restoration of creation and the power of the redeemer’s work is fully evident. They never come near the theological phrase “creation/fall/redemption/restoration” but in allusive and nuanced wording that only such an expert wordsmith can creates (and with remarkably artful pictures done by this contemporary design team) The Story of Us is itself a work of art and they invite us to imagine this big vision of all of life redeemed. What a great epic story that explains “the story of us.” The Story of Us. Highly recommended.

The Awesome Super Fantastic Forever Party: A True Story About Heaven, Jesus, and the Best Invitation of All Joni Eareckson Tada, illustrated by Catalina Echeverri (The Good Book Company) $14.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $11.99

This books in this ongoing series of “Tales That Tell the Truth” are, I’d say, among the very best Bible-based children’s books of the last decade. Kudos to the good folks that have tried so hard to be both whimsical and faithful, using great wisdom and profound Biblical insight to see how texts hold together, how one story can point to another, and how the whole unfolding Biblical drama moves to the climax of Jesus’s life, death, resurrection, and restoring rule, which is, always, very good news. Over and over, whether retelling an Old Testament story or a New Testament one, the authors partner with the ever creative Catalina Echeverri to bring home the true truth.

In this case, the story is not exactly a specific text but it is about Jesus offering an invitation, an invitation to heaven. Happily, Joni goes out of her way to remind children that this isn’t some invisible place where we sit on clouds all day. It is a renewed and restored new creation where we will be healed and whole — realize how powerfully good news this is for the author, a quadriplegic person since her teen years — and where we can play (and more!) forever. The feast/banquet/party is “awesome, super fantastic” and this book is, too. It helps kids get excited about the broader horizons of their young lives and will help them not fear the death of older relatives.

Most importantly it offers a chance to make responses to Jesus’s great invitation. This isn’t cheesy or pushy and so may now be one of my favorite evangelistic tools for kids. Use this book! And then get one of the others in the series from us. (See the whole list of them here, but do come back, please.)

The Creator in You Jordan Raynor, illustrated by Jonathan David (Waterbrook) $11.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $9.59

I have been waiting for years for a book like this, a simple enough idea, but one untouched in religious children’s picture books (as far as I know.) It is going to help thousands of little ones get a picture of their life that includes a sense of calling, of purpose, a vision of vocation. It makes clear that we are made in God’s image and therefore we are — get this if you haven’t heard it! — also creators, in that sense, like God. In the earliest days of the seminal Christian story, God works, makes stuff, creates, speaks (and then rests, too.) We, in God’s image, are wired to do likewise. We are not all painters or artists, really, but we are all culture-makers. The Creator made us in the Creator’s image. It’s what we do.

As the back cover playfully puts it, “Before His day off, God had one more to-do: on His sixth day of creating, God chose to make you.”

And here’s the important part, rarely said in typical Genesis Bible books.

Because while in six days God created a lot, there are so many things He simply did not — like bridges and baseballs, sandcastles and s’mores. God asked us to create and fill the planet with more.

The cover art is nice but doesn’t capture the wildly rich illustrations inside. This book is a blast for boys or girls. No matter what dreams or proclivities your child has — art, science, storytelling, building, caring, managing — he or she can find assurance that this is God’s call to them, to get busy, to realize God wants them to carry on, making stuff of the world they’ve got. If you’ve read Culture Making by Andy Crouch (or even Garden City by John Mark Comer) you’ll get this. Yay. I’d say this is for ages 4 – 8.

Just a quick note: you also may want to check out The Inventions of God (and Eva) by Dave Connie, illustrated by Amy Domingo (Waterbrook; $12.99 – OUR SALE PRICE = $10.39) which is another similar book, for maybe younger children, featuring Eva, a girl who is an inventor of sorts. It celebrates God’s call to innovation. Hooray.The art is dynamic (even if I’m not a real fan) and vividly colorful with a really solid message. I’d say ages 3 – 6 or 7. Fun and perfect for some young girls you know, I’m sure.

I Am God’s Dream Matthew Paul Turner, illustrated by Estreall Buscunan (Convergent) $12.99                     OUR SALE PRICE = $10.39

You may know other little kids books by Matthew Paul Turner such as When God Made You and When God Made the World or the very nice When I Pray for You. (A Lutheran pastor friend read his copy in worship this past week!) Matthew Turner is an edgy young activist/theologian (he has written with the late Rachel Held Evans.) His children’s work is really appreciated by his many fans, young and old. We are among them.

This newest one is a beautiful celebration of the “unique, strong, and wonderful traits in every child — and how God delights in each and every one.” It has that very modern look — the kids with such big eyes — that I guess is drawn from certain popular cartoon shows of movie graphics. It’s all that.

As you might guess from such a rather progressive thinker and artist, they go out of their way to show all kinds of kids — kids in wheelchairs, kids of different races and ethnicities, kids who are happily urban and kids planting a garden in what seems to be the countryside. In any case, it’s a rollicking blast, lots of fun, with the sort of goofy illustrations that are so popular these days. This is a great self-esteem booster, helping children know they are special and loved. Ages 3 – 6 or maybe 7.

Known: Psalm 139 (board book) Sally Lloyd-Jones, illustrated by Jago (Zonderkidz) $10.99                            OUR SALE PRICE = $8.79

When we had the great privilege of being with Sally Lloyd-Jones this past fall she told me this was coming and we are so glad it arrived. It is a slightly oversized, handsomely padded, board book, which can now be put alongside her other similar best-sellers, Found, Loved, and Near.

You surely know the author from her wonderful Jesus Storybook Bible (and its wonderful sequel, Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing), all illustrated so very creatively by the ultra-modern designer, Jago. We love them.

These board books are not as abstract or wild, making them ideal for the very young. Inspired by the basic truth of Psalm 139. Nice.

I Wonder: Exploring God’s Grand Story: An Illustrated Bible Glenys Nellist, illustrated by Alessandra Fuse (Zonderkidz) $18.99            OUR SALE PRICE = $15.19

I loved how this tender book has as chapter headings “I wonder about…” It’s a healthy way to invite children into these extraordinary ancient, inspired stories.

Glenys Nellist is the author of the very creative Love Letters from God books (that have tipped in envelopes that open up with little letters inside.) She’s creative and theologically aware. This book, full of engaging storytelling, is ideal for ages 4 – 8, at least, and ties in a faith-building journey by retelling more than 30 stories from the Old and Newer Testaments. Great illustrations.

Growing in God’s Love: A Story Bible Elizabeth F. Caldwell and Carol Wehrheim, editors (WJK) $25.00  OUR SALE PRICE = $20.00

We have a very large selection of children’s Bible story books and there are some with various strengths, angles, tones. All things considered, we have often said this is one of our very favorite Bible storybooks for ages 4 – 8, or maybe slightly older, I’d think, even if the cover may imply that it’s for preschoolers. It features 150 Old and New Testament stores divided into 13 themes that relate to the lives of children. It is really beautifully illustrated, colorful and winsome at times, but nicely, professionally done. There is some diversity and I’m sure it appeals to various ages and stages (and families of all sorts.)

A special feature is how it has questions to ponder (inviting readers to really hear, see, and then act.) The editors are themselves nearly legendary educators in mainline denominational circles who have served the church well for many years. This is one example of their lasting legacy. Cheers!

Listening for God: Silence Practice for Little Ones Katie Warner, illustrated by Amy Rodriguez (TAN Books) $16.95  OUR SALE PRICE = $13.56

I hardly know any other book like this and this conservative Catholic publisher did a great job with fabulous illustrations, a nice retelling of a popular but curious Bible story, showing the final upshot that we need to be still to listen for God.

The story is of Elijah in 1 Kings who puts up with all kinds of racket and storm, only to find God speaking in the classic “still, small voice.” Do children know this story? Do they have the capacity to listen for God? Oh, of course. There is so much explored in this small book and so much taught in it that I’d recommend nearly every Sunday school teacher to have it. The one page note to adults at the back reminding them about this sacred silence practice is very useful, too.

Jesus Loves Everybody Katie Kenny Phillips, illustrated by Mike van der Merwe (iDisciple) $14.99                OUR SALE PRICE = $11.99

Colorful, cartoony fun, this is a great overview of Jesus’s life and His acts of service, his love for others and his big command — that we “love each other as I have loved you.” You may not know it, but, believe me, it’s fabulous.

“Imagine what our world would look like if we loved everyone just like Jesus” it asks on the back. Not a bad question.

Jesus Loves Everybody says (also from the back) that the Bible is filled with all sorts of people,

From stinky fishermen to little children to people who looked the same and people who didn’t? There were people who made good choices and bad ones, were happy or sad, and everything in between. And Jesus was sent to love them all!

God’s Beloved Community Michele Sanchez, illustrated by Camila Carrossine (Waterbrook) $12.99            OUR SALE PRICE = $10.39

This new book for ages 4 – 8 or so is part of a bigger project by Michele Sanchez who has recently released the adult book Color-Courageous Discipleship, and a youth/teen version of the same. (We’ve got those, too, natch.)This offers radically Biblical insight that is framed in terms of faithful discipleship and spiritual formation. It is solid, clear-headed and helpful.

This new kid’s edition starts with a child saying how she learned in school that Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream said we should judge people not by the color of their skin and how some people think that means we are to try to be color blind. Her teacher taught that, actually, Dr. King was a Christian pastor and knew that we shouldn’t be color-blind but “color brave.” Right!

God created a world filled with “vibrant variety” and called it good! With a Biblical and historical journey to learn more about what King meant by a “beloved community” and how to achieve it by loving other’s well, Sanchez’s little book is a terrific resource for any parent wanting to help our children learn about gospel centered love. We can delight in our differences, stand up to bullies and unfair rules, and “declare with our lives and our love that everyone matters to God.”

The Sower Scott James, illustrated by Stephen Crotts (Crossway) $16.99      OUR SALE PRICE = $13.59

I was immediately captivated by this visually stunning — if a tiny bit understated, in a wise, good way — book full of prints that look like demurely colorized woodcuts. I’ve seen other books like this but this is surely a favorite, artful and rich, the writing as lyrical as the images. As YA author S.D. Smith (of the “Green Ember” series) put it, its blend of truth and beauty is “nourishing.” Yes!

It is a story that is designed to plant the seed of faith in children. Trillia Newbell said it will help readers “imagine the Lord as he truly is — the one who creates, tends, prunes, and cares.”

The Sower really is a tale told about a loving creator, a Sower. In a way it recalls (in a simple manner) the old classic The Singer. It is imaginative, telling the story of redemption, from (as it says on the handsome inside cover), “from God’s creation and restoration to the promise of final reconciliation.” It is about a God who tends to His people and His creation. Special kudos to Stephen Crotts for this amazing bit of printmaking, the muted colorization of what is nearly black and white. There’s a nice foreword by Andrew Peterson, too. I don’t know which I appreciate more, the lush prints or the lyrical text. Both!

Joesy Johnson’s Hair and the Holy Spirit Esau McCaulley, illustrated by LaTonya Jackson (IVP Kids) $18.00  OUR SALE PRICE = $14.40

We love this so much we have to tell about it again, even they we promoted it when it first came out. Here is how we described this fabulous book then.

Oh my, many have been waiting for this one since it was announced a while back. The fabulous and respected IVP publishing house has launched out into kids books and this is not only fairly unique, but is written by one of their very important authors, the esteemed Biblical scholar Esau McCaulley (of Reading While Black: African American Biblical Interpretation as an Exercise in Hope.) McCaulley, you may know, got his PhD in Biblical studies under N.T. Wright (I’ve heard him talk a bit about being a black guy from a deep South, black church studying with Anglicans in Scotland of all places!) Dr. McCaulley writes op-eds for The New York Times and one notable piece was about his experience of his wife being away on military service and him being for a season functionally a single dad. I have a hunch he knows a lot about the hair of his beautiful black daughter.

This book is about Josey Johnson’s hair and about the upcoming celebration of Pentecost. In the story — energetically illustrated in a way that is just full of motion, it seems — Josey has to get her hair done and buy a new red dress as they get ready for the church commemoration. Besides the beauty shop, they visit an art museum, too. Of course there is the question, “What is Pentecost?” And, I might add, “What difference does it make?” Might it have something to do with the claim on the back cover that says:

We’re all different because God is creative. Each one of us is God’s unique work of art.

You’ll have to get this one to put it all together, but it is an exciting story, a tender story, an educational one for most of us (who may not know that much about Pentecost, actually.) So, yep,  this is a vivid story about a celebration of a girl’s hair and a key moment in the liturgical calendar. If that isn’t interesting to you, I don’t know what is!

A Taste of Paradise: Stories of Saints and Animals Katherine Bolger Hyde, illustrated by Anastasia Sokolova (Ancient Faith) $23.95            OUR SALE PRICE = $19.16

Although they are often pricey, I adore the children’s books from the Orthodox publishing house, Ancient Faith. They are often very, very well-done, nicely made, serious with a side of holy whimsy.

In this case the book highlights stories, legends and fables of great saints who had remarkable encounters with animals. This is interesting in itself, but in good Orthodox fashion, they frame it by harkening back to how the creation was first ordered and how it will be, again, someday. They say it like this:

Long ago in Paradise animals and men walked side by side. When we return to Paradise, the wolf will lie down with the lamb, and a little child shall eat them. In the time in between, many holy men and women have befriended even the fiercest beasts throughout the power of God’s love.

Come meet a few of these saints and their animal friends in this beautifully illustrated collection of inspiring stories. That cover is really great, isn’t it?! Congratulations, or, may I say, “συγχαρητήρια.”

His Grace Is Enough: How God Makes It Right When We’ve Got it Wrong Melissa Kruger, illustrated by Isobel Lundie (The Good Book Company) $12.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $10.39

Called “adorable” by one mom, “relatable and delightful” and “Good news from cover to cover,” His Grace Is Enough really does explain the core gospel truths of God’s forgiveness offered, sin redeemed, grace being sufficient. This book explains heavy Biblical truth that is so liberating — coming to grips with this core part of who we know we are and trusting God to help us confess, receive forgiveness and move on. And how God loves us no matter what and has made a way.

We all get things wrong sometimes, it says. “And we can’t make everything right again, however hard we try.  But Jesus can.”

This playful book looks at several kinds of kids and different responses — all in clever rhyme. For instance, there are those who run away from what they’ve done, some who get mad and act out, some who try to make up for things by working extra hard; you know, the perfectionist types. No need for any of this. His Grace Is Enough. Nice.

When Did God Make the Dinosaurs? An Exploration of Science and Creation Rhonda N. Smith (Westbow Press) $16.95                              OUR SALE PRICE = $13.56

A kindergartner boy named Brandon comes home from school confused in this lovely little book, the best thing we’ve seen yet offering a non-creationist affirmation of standard scientific facts in light of a robust, deeply Christian view of faith, creation, the Bible and science.

The illustrations are standard fare kid’s book drawings and the art and story moves from Brandon’s question — he heard about the earth being made over billions of years but he also knows that his Sunday school teacher told him that it took Got just seven days — to entering a pretend time machine and exploring all kinds of good stuff. Fun!  I like that the story is, in a way, a low-key adventure as the family happily grapples with the honest questions of the children. It “explores some of the interplay between our scientific understanding of the universe’s beginning and the Biblical account of creation” as it says on the back.

The author is a friend of ours from Pittsburgh, a mother of three, who — as the story so often goes — couldn’t find appropriate resources on this very topic when her kids were little. She is theologically solid and well informed. In her bio page she mentions the Reasons to Believe Institute. You should try it; it will create great conversations, for sure.

Gemma Hunt’s See! Let’s Be A Good Friend Gemma Hunt (Lion Press) $12.99                               OUR SALE PRICE = $10.39

I love ordering books sometimes from UK publishers who often have a certain style and class about them. This is charming, thoughtful, not dumbed down, if still super cute and very child-oriented. It’s a funny blend of stories and, sometimes, Bible stories retold subtly in modern language. It will allow you to explore with young children what makes a good friend, for instance, and then in the See! Section learn fun and lively stories that show how to live out these virtues from the Bible. It’s upbeat, tender, enjoyable, with great illustrations. Gemma Hunt is a media figure in England, and I can see what.

A delight to read. Gemma Hunt brings the Bible stories to life in a new way, engaging young minds. — Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby

The Holy Ghost: A Spirited Comic John Hendrix (AbramsComicArts) $18.99                  OUR SALE PRICE = $15.19

We are sometimes asked for lists of graphic novels and comic-arts books. This new one is now on that list, joining what may be our biggest seller of this sort, John Hendrix’s previous The Faithful Spy: A True Story! Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Plot to Kill Hitler. He has some beautifully done Bible story books, too, but this new one is, well, really something. In cartoons.

The Holy Ghost (with that clever subtitle, “a Spirited comic”) is pretty much an “apologetics” work with various thought-provoking comic strips (featuring conversations between a squirrel, a badger, and a friendly blue ghost.) It’s upbeat and charming and witty. I’ll admit it is a bit odd. It is for older kids. Hendrix is a genius, there’s no doubting that…

Finding Jesus on Upside Down Days: Family Devotions From the Barnyard Jill A. Miller, illustrated by Brad Woodard (New Growth Press) $18.99   OUR SALE PRICE = $15.19

This is a great, great collection of 52 family devotions all based on stories from the farmyard. Jill Miller (the wife of respected author Paul Miller) here gives families a weekly message to consider, complete with very cute animal cartoons and drawings. Some of these are, believe me, a bit topsy-turvy. Her friends (the animals) are used by God to teach us about God and how to have peace in trusting him. Lovely, fun, interesting, and simple, solid stuff.

I am glad that Jill has a particular passion to assist those with disabilities. She has a handicapped daughter, and another that died tragically. She’s had some pretty upside-down days herself so this would certainly be suitable for any families going through hardship or for those involved in special needs settings. This is fun and tender. It will point you to Jesus. What family doesn’t need that?

How Great Is Our God: 100 Indescribable Devotions About God and Science Louie Giglio with Tama Fortner, illustrated by Nicola Anderson (Tommy Nelson) $17.99                                     OUR SALE PRICE = $14.39

We have announced all three of the books in this series that are all colorful and sound devotionals that show God’s providence and care in the marvels of science. From the first one (Indescribable) to the more recent The Wonder of Creation, each offers Biblically-inspired, science-oriented mediations. There are nice indexes, too, showing which entries are about animals, say, or the Earth or bodies or outer space. With a great blend of colorful illustrations and photography and nice sidebars, it’s an eye-popping gem. What a blast. For kids maybe as young as 6 up to maybe 10 or 11.

The Story of God’s Love for You Sally Lloyd-Jones (Zondervan) $14.99                                    OUR SALE PRICE = $11.99

We announce this from time to time, reminding folks about it — what a great option to give to a young person as a lovely, handsome small (but life-changing) gift. Here’s the deal, in short:

You may know (I hope you do) the wonderful preschoolers Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones, The Jesus Storybook Bible. Well written, charming, and theologically substantive (where “every chapter whispers His name”), it is a best-selling favorite — so much so that people often give it to older kids, even high-schoolers. Jago’s children’s art is super cool, but, still.

Soon enough, the publisher realized this so they took out the children’s pictures, changed the cover, renamed it, added some classy, discrete blue graphics on nice, thick paper, and added a handsome ribbon marker and — yep! —it is the same Lloyd-Jones children’s Bible text without the little kids look. What a great idea, making it a handsome intro to the Bible for middle grades and even older readers of all ages.

TO PLACE AN ORDER 

PLEASE READ AND THEN CLICK ON THE “ORDER HERE” LINK BELOW.

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 quick, 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 so let us know.

– DON’T FORGET TO LET US KNOW WHAT SHIPPING METHOD YOU PREFER –

BookNotes

Hearts & Minds logo

SPECIAL
DISCOUNT

20% OFF

ALL BOOKS MENTIONED

+++

order here

this takes you to the secure Hearts & Minds order form page
just tell us what you want to order

inquire here

if you have questions or need more information
just ask us what you want to know

Hearts & Minds 234 East Main Street  Dallastown  PA  17313
read@heartsandmindsbooks.com
717-246-3333

No, COVID is not fully over. Since few are reporting their illnesses anymore, it is tricky to know the reality but the best measurement is to check the water tables to see the amount of virus in the eco-system. And it’s still bad. And with flu and new stuff spreading, many hospitals are overwhelmed. It’s important to be particularly aware of how risks we take might effect the public good. 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. Our store is a bit cramped without top-notch ventilation so we are trying to be wise. Thanks for understanding.

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 and back yard customer service and can show any number of items to you if you call us from our back parking lot. It’s sort of fun, actually. We are eager to serve and grateful for your patience as we all work to mitigate the pandemic. We are very happy to help do if you are in the area, do stop by.

Of course, we’re happy to ship books anywhere. Just tell us how you want them sent.

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

22 Exceptional Children’s Picture Books ON SALE NOW (Part 1)

Ho, ho, ho, good friends. Welcome to PART ONE of a two part BookNotes. Tomorrow we’ll do another, highlighting other children’s books. We are able to send these out right away and they will easily get to you with a week or less. No worries, if you get on this quickly. What fun.

Here I will list 22 children’s picture books that we think are extraordinary that are not, at least not at first glance, particularly religious or Bible-based. Most have wonderful themes and point towards faithful values, but are selected here because of their artfulness and/or sure delight.

Tomorrow I will list more that are overtly Biblical and obviously Christian. Stay tuned for PART TWO. Look for that BookNotes next.

All are 20% off.  You can click on the link at the very end which takes you to our store’s secure order form page. Thanks for sending orders to us here in Pennsylvania.

Yellow Dog Blues Alice Faye Duncan and Christ Raschka (Eerdmans) $18.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $15.19

Selected a few weeks ago as one of the top ten children’s books in the country by the New Yorker and the New York Times, this could end up with a Caldecott. The art is ingenious, all stitched, and tells the story of the road-trip down Highway 61 looking for a runaway dog. Aunt Jessie picks up Bo Willie in her pink Cadillac and together they end up in juke joints and tamale stands, hearing the music of B.B. King and Muddy Waters.

This is a “boogie-woogie journey along the Mississippi Blues Trail” with swinging free verse. The publisher says it is a “soulful fable about what happens when the blues grabs you and holds on tight.” Wow.

We Are Better Together Bill McKibben, illustrated by Stevie Lewis (Henry Holt) $18.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $15.19

You may recall my rave review early last fall, energetically. recommending Bill McKibben’s The Flag, the Cross, and the Station Wagon: A Graying American Looks Back at His Suburban Boyhood and Wonders What the Hell Happened. Near the end of that survey of his decades thinking about patriotism, Christianity, and the rise of the suburbs (and climate change) he tells about his newest organization which invites older folks to get involved with the younger set for meaningful multi-generational service to the common good.

This kids book seems connected to that and, in any case, is a delight, reminding us that this human thing is a “team sport” and that, working together, we can do so much to care for and better our planet. It is eloquent, lovely, with vivid illustrations, insisting that “when we work together we can do incredible things” This is a book of fresh ideas, good hope, huge possibility. We are better together, after all.

I Hate Borsch! Yevgenia Nayberg (Eerdmans) $17.99                                 OUR SALE PRICE = $14.39

This edgy/cool book was designed in Europe before the Russians invaded Ukraine and conversations about borsch became more popular throughout the world. By the time Eerdmans Books for Young Readers picked it up, the war had started, and now that we have it we think it is a great way to remind our little ones about cultural differences, food and recipes, and the passions for local cuisine that are so evident in this fascinating part of the world.

Here’s the set up:

All Ukrainians are supposed to love borsch — but what if you hate the red stuff? A young girl despises Eastern Europe’s most beloved soup, and not even the grandmothers of Kiev can persuade her to change her mind.

But when she immigrates to the United States, American food leaves her feeling empty. Maybe that disgusting beet soup deserves another chance…

This is “imaginatively illustrated with splashes of borsch-bright red,” this book really tries to get at the complicated experience of rejecting and/or embroils one’s culture. It is witty and poignant.

Change Sings: A Children’s Anthem Amanda Gorman, illustrated by Loren Long (Viking) $18.99                         OUR SALE PRICE = $15.19

Young Harvard grad Amanda Gorman became an overnight sensation after delivering a poem at the 47th Presidential inauguration and within a year she had published a collection volume and this, a children’s edition of one of her famous poems.

“I can hear change humming in its loudest, proudest song. I don’t fear change coming, and so I sing along”

Loren Long is a skilled and respected illustrator having done the great Of Thee I Sing by Barack Obama and Love by Matt de la Pena. Not to mention his own Otis series.

A Door Made for Me Tyler Merritt, illustrated by Lonnie Ollivierre (Worthy Kids) $17.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $14.39

I almost wish I didn’t have to list books like this (and we have a lot) that highlight the unique problems of racism and remind everyone that kids of color have very special worth and dignity. Based on a true story experience by the author (the writer of I Take My Coffee Black) it is about doors that open and doors that close (sometimes right in your face.) Two boys (one white and one black) have had a successful day fishing and they are showing off their catch to various other (white) kids in the neighborhood. Many doors will not open, and young Tyler is hurt and confused.

“You are loved. And you are perfect just as you are,” says an elder to him, finally. “Another person’s hate doesn’t change that. You’ll find a door that’s right for you.”

Building An Orchestra of Hope: How Favio Chavez Taught Children to Make Music from Trash Carmen Oliver, illustrated by Luisa Uribe (Eerdmans) $18.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $15.19

As real life hero from Paraguay Favio Chavez says, “The world sends us garbage. We send back music.”

The story is set in one of those slums where folk forage through mountainous garbage dumps searching for anything of value.  Chavez brought his classical musical instruments with hopes of teaching the children but, of course, there simply were not enough instruments to go around. And here the ingenuity and fun begin.  Yep they make instruments from what is thrown away, and the illustrations are fascinating.

That this is a true story makes this terrific book that much more inspiring. There is a great resource list of videos and articles in the back, and the book shares this:

In April 2018 the Recycled Orchestra of Cater participated in a charity concert in Spain and earned money to help build a community health center in Banado Sur. They have also worked to bring more art and culture into the area with mosaics splashed on building walls. During the COVID – 19 pandemic, the orchestra supported families with food, aid, and computer equipment so kids could focus on their schoolwork.

As Fabio has said, “Music is a bridge.” This book is, too. Spread the word!

Dream Big for Kids Bob Goff and Lindsey Goff Viducich (Tommy Nelson) $18.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $15.19

Yes, this one is by a gospel-guy, Bob Goff, and his talented school-teacher daughter, and it mentions God, but it is so wildly appropriate for nearly any family that we wanted to list it here. I wonder how Favio Chavez (see above) got the idea to “dream big” and start a “recycled orchestra”? It sounds like the kind of thing Bob Goff would tell in his upbeat and inspiring books.

Well, this is an invitation to kids to be those kind of innovators, to get in touch with their ambitions and hopes and go for it! As Bob and Lindsey ask,

What if you were created for something so special, so amazing, so big, that you could change the world?

And so, this colorful collection of inspirational thoughts drawn from Bob’s big-person book (Dream Big) carries kids into that place of embracing creativity and purpose and service and goodness. What enthusiastic fun.

The Lantern House Erin Napier, illustrated by Adam Crest (Little Brown) $18.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $15.19

I love this book. The charming author is the co-host of the hit TV show Home Town (and co-author, with her husband, Make Something Good Today: A Memoir.) Their show documents small town achievements and renewal, how they use their entrepreneurial passions to enhance local places. Growing out of their memoir about their love of small towns in the American South and their work on the show comes this lovely, lovely, children’s book which is described as “the quintessential celebration of home.”

Get this: the book is told from the viewpoint of the soulful house that so enjoys the family who builds a little fence and plants flowers and has children playing  (“piano in my living room.”) The house worries about its windows growing dark and yet will “wait and dream of a family that will love me again. I will wait for the next story to unfold within, and for someone new to call me “home.””

Oh my, this is lyrical and lovely and the pictures are vibrant and touching. Very, very nice.

Here: The Dot We Call Home Laura Alary, illustrated by Cathrin Peterslund (Paraclete Press) $17.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $14.39

This is a great book with simple but endearing illustrations (the illustrator and cartoonist studied at The Animation Workshop in Denmark and lives in Copenhagen.) The child in the story finds clues that there were others who lived in her house before she did and that gets her wondering and thinking about those who lived here on Earth before we did. Her sense of home is touching even as it expands through time and space. What a big-hearted perspective. And then she zooms back, realizing she has certain responsibilities, to care for her particular place, here and now.

List to these to very astute reviewers:

In Here: The Dot We Call Home, Laura Alary reminds us that home is the daily spaces we inhabit, the history we are a part of, and the universe that holds us. In this book, she beautifully weaves humanity into relationship with the creatures around us and the Earth herself, reminding us that while we can’t fix all the problems we encounter, we can be present to the life we’ve been given. That is enough. I’m so grateful for this book and what it will teach kids and adults alike about how to practice kinship and belonging. — Kaitlin Curtice, author of Native

Laura Alary’s The Dot We Call Home, teaches children to be co-sustainers in a real place, right where they are. What could be more important, loving, or more human than that? — Randy Woodley, author of Becoming Rooted: One Hundred Days of Reconnecting with Sacred Earth

The Book That Kibo Wrote Hariana Ruiz Johnson (Eerdmans) $17.99                           OUR SALE PRICE = $14.39

Speaking of building bridges, this book, about a book, is one we just love that shows how words and the printed page can help people connect and learn to share their stories.

Kibo the Rhino sits under the acacia tress writing a story about home. His neighbor Naki reads his words and binds them into a book. (Who knew African animals could do book bindery?) She takes it to the city where the book passes from hand to hand, from friend to new friend and, well, one thing leads to another. As they put it, it moves on, “inspiring new creations and good conversations”

The back cover asks, “Where will Kibos book go next, and what will it spark for each new reader?”

The Greatest Thing: A Story About Buck O’Neil Kristy Nerstheimer, illustrated by Christian Paniagua (The Little Fig) $19.99                    OUR SALE PRICE = $15.99

This is an outstanding, truly wonderful children’s nonfiction book about the great Negro League ball player Buck O’Neil. His story is remarkable, even as he ended up with the Chicago Cubs in the late 1950s, the first professional black baseball coach, in the majors. He was an eternal optimist and faced huge obstacles starting as a boy with one team and ending up with the legendary Kansas City Monarchs. He is one of the most revered players in the country, honored and beloved. The author is an energetic writer for the Kansas Historical Society; the fabulous author is an alumnus of the Pratt School of Design in NYC.

Room for Everyone Naaz Khan, illustrated by Mercy Lopez (Atheneum Books/ Simon & Schuster) $17.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $14.39

This is one of my favorite picture books of the year with so much action, so much motion, so much drama, and so much rhyming fun. It is about a daladala which rumbles and roars as Muse and Dada head off to the shore. Naaz says in an afterword that Room for Everyone was inspired by his own “fantastically fun daladala ride from Stone Town to Nungwi Beach, in Zanzibar.” Zanzibar, he explains, “is a beautiful archipelago (a group of islands) and a part of the country of Tanzania. He explains about the many languages and cultures (and the music, art, crafts, architecture, languages and foods) in Zanzibar.

“On the daladala,” he explains,”you can hear Zanzabaris speaking Swahili, a Bantu-based language s with some elements of Arabic.”

The minibus keeps stopping to pick up more people as the conductor helps more and more people join the trip. It’s a blast and very, very colorful. There’s even a little glossary in the back.

Apple and Magnolia Laura Gehl, illustrated by Patricia Metola (Flyaway Books) $18.00           OUR SALE PRICE = $14.40

This book is about, well, it’s about a lot of things, but at the heart is an unusual friendship. It is eccentric and creative and the pastel art grows on you as you see more and more happening in the scribbly, artful pages.

I am sure you’ve heard of great popular science books like The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben which how trees communicate with one another and actually help one another. This takes that notion seriously (playfully?) and suggests that these two trees are best friends. The little girl (Britta) just knows it.

As Magnolia’s branches start to droop, Britta wonders if there is anything she — or Apple — can do. Wow. What an allusive and provocative book.

Magnolia Flower Zora Neal Hurston, adapted by Ibram X. Kendi, illustrated by Loveis Wise (Amistad) $19.99   OUR SALE PRICE = $15.99

This oversized hardback is one of the most plush books of the season, a beautifully illustrated volume by a renowned designer from Washington DC. (She has done two other acclaimed children’s books, The People Remember and Ablaze with Color.) Kendi is a National Book Award-winning author, who teaches at Boston University. He obviously knows Zora Neal Hurston’s work, novelist, folklorist and anthropologist of the Harlem Renaissance  that she was.

This graciously done adaption of a 1925 Hurston story was described well by the prestigious Kirkus Review in one of their fairly rare “starred” reviews:

A powerful example of Black and Native resistance — an aspect of history that far too often goes undiscussed. Wise’s earth-toned, opalescent illustrations make the trees, water, and flowers feel just as key to the tale as the humans. The excellent marriage between lyrical text and stunning visuals makes for a moving, memorable story. An artfully rendered tale of life and love that also conveys an essential but often overlooked chapter in U.S. history.

Publisher’s Weekly notes that:

Digital illustrations from Wise make for a bountiful, nature-centered accompaniment to this romance set against the changing landscape of freedom for Black and Indigenous peoples.

Letters from Bear Gauthier David, illustrated by Marie Caudry (Eerdmans) $17.99                     OUR SALE PRICE = $14.39

This is another of these rather curious, thoughtful, European titles that Eerdmans has picked up, putting it out here to much acclaim. This is a series of heart-felt, poignant letters that a bear writes to his bird friend and it tells the tale of his journey across the globe to find her. Badger and Fox and Beaver are going to be thinking of Bear, but there is great hope since Bird migrated and Bear is going to find Bird. This is very special, unique, poignant.

There’s a touch of O. Henry here and yet there is great hope for these star-crossed lovers. Can they connect at long last? What a story — especially for anyone who misses someone and who may need encouragement to write letters. The art is nearly wild, almost with hints of the Romantic era, art deco and the like in some scenes.

Polly and the Screen Time Overload Betsy Childs Howard, illustrated by Samara Hardy (Crossway) $18.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $15.19

This is a simple tale with playful, goofy pictures that kids will like. The story tells of a little girl who goes to stay with her grandparents on a farm and yet is distracted by her constant use of her screen device (called, in the story, an iTab.) In one scene she wants to show her Grammy pictures on line of a horse when, in fact, there is a real horse in the barn waiting for the little girl to visit. Polly comes to her senses, of course, and learns much about a balance of screen time and more essential, in-person experiences. There is a Bible text on the back cover (1 Corinthians 10:23) but that’s the only indication that the author offers a God-influenced viewpoint. It’s a good morality tale, needed for nearly all children these days. The “Note to Parents” at the end is helpful and wise. Kudos to Crossway.

Liberty’s Civil Rights Road Trip Michael Waters, illustrated by Nicole Tadgell (Flyaway Books) $18.00     OUR SALE PRICE = $14.40

This is a great story as Liberty goes on a trip through history. I am sure you have heard of (and maybe even have gone on) a civil rights pilgrimage or educational trip. This delightful — if serious at times — book tells the true story of Liberty and her friend Abdullah and their families heading across the Southland. First stop is Jackson, Mississippi and then they go to Glendora, Memphis, Birmingham, Montgomery, and finally Selma, for a march across the iconic Edmund Pettus Bridge.

This is a great way to teach about the people, places, and stories that transformed history and invites readers to, as it says on the flyleaf, “be courageous as they work together to make the country better for all.”  Who knows, maybe the adults reading this with the children will learn something too, or be newly inspired.

Good People Everywhere Lynea Gillen, illustrated by Kristina Swarner (Three Pebbles Press) $15.99        OUR SALE PRICE = $12.79

We have celebrated this simple book before and it seems so interesting for little ones to be reminded that all over the world people are doing good things and that there are “beautiful, caring people in their world.” Each of these pages delightfully unfolds with endearing examples and vibrant illustrations to inspire children to grow into grateful and giving people.

This won a “Moonbeam Children’s Book Award” and a “Teacher’s Choice Award” from Learning Magazine. Nice.

Cheer: A Book to Celebrate Community Uncle Ian Aurora, illustrated by Natalia Moore (Flowerpot Press) $16.99                               OUR SALE PRICE = $13.59

I love this book. As it says on the back cover, “Hooray! Invite your little one to follow along with this adorable story that is sure to make them cheer!”

If not cheer, at least understand a bit more about the network of people, organizations, and public servants who help create a flourishing community.  This is fun and funny, cute and touching as it invites kids to cheer for grandparents, moms and dads, various family members, and others — people who pick up the trash, teachers, principals, janitors, school bus drivers, librarians, scout or squad leaders, teammates. The author is a hoot and this simple rhyme is lots of fun. Simple, but very highly recommended.

We Are Still Here: Native American Truths Everyone Should Know Tracie Sorell, illustrated by Frané Lessac (Charlesbridge) $17.99                        OUR SALE PRICE = $14.39

This author/illustrator team worked on another book we stock called We Are Grateful: Otsaligeliga; Traci was born and raised (and still lives in) the Cherokee Nation and has written tons of Native and indigenous work, from poems to Indian youth books to AIYLA winners. She also has a law degree.

The device this colorful and energetic book uses is simple and fun: each two-page spread shows a “presentation” offered by a youth during Indigenous Peoples Day Presentations, with each young person doing showing his or her project. After each informative sharing of good information, there is often a setback calling for new confidence for the struggle. Each pages ends with the refrain, “We Are Still Here!” What an educational and inspirational read.

A Beginner’s Guide to Being Human Matt Forrest Esenwine, illustrated by Andre Colin (Beaming Books) $17.99                                 OUR SALE PRICE = $14.39

I’ve got a number of opinions about this colorful and kind book, but I will keep it brief. It shows (with some well-placed wit) how being a human being can be tricky; it reminds children that there will be joy and anger, sadness and gladness, good times and bad. It moves towards several virtues. (When mentioning the Golden Rule, it says it has worked well for thousands of years. “As rules go, it’s a keeper.” Ha!) It suggests that families are diverse (and shows same-sex parents) and is generally just a wonderfully caring, very simple guide to being a decent person. There are ‘pro-tips’ about how to take steps to practice things like self control or the habit of forgiveness. It’s very well done and ends with a grand invitation to love. Hooray for that.

My one concern — for what it’s worth — is that it doesn’t suggest that yearning for a sense of meaning (let alone the deepest questions that matter most, like “Is there a God? and “Why are we here?” and “Why is there sadness?) is a normal, human trait. It’s a pretty big weakness (and  awkward, given that it is released by a religious publisher.) There are plenty of other resources to help you have the most human conversations of all with kids but it would have been nice to have some hint about spirituality or the human quest for meaning here in this “beginners guide to being human.”

Outside Inside LeUyen Pham (Roaring Brook Press) $18.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $15.19

I get choked reading this — it has happened twice now — and I so appreciate the good, simple writing, the interesting, detailed art illustrations, and the clarity about why, just a few years ago, almost everybody “went inside.” Outside some people had to work, but most went indoors, where we grew and changed (as did the animals and everything outside.)

This book is a nuanced and compassionate recollection which explains to children, yet again, why we were quarantining during the worst of the pandemic, and both celebrating and lamenting how a few years passed, mostly “inside.”  I am sure this is more important than some may think and it is very well done.

LuYyen Pham is a world-renowned children’s book creator and Caldecott Honor winner.

 

TO PLACE AN ORDER 

PLEASE READ AND THEN CLICK ON THE “ORDER HERE” LINK BELOW.

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 so let us know.

– DON’T FORGET TO LET US KNOW WHAT SHIPPING METHOD YOU PREFER –

BookNotes

Hearts & Minds logo

SPECIAL
DISCOUNT

20% OFF

ALL BOOKS MENTIONED

+++

order here

this takes you to the secure Hearts & Minds order form page
just tell us what you want to order

inquire here

if you have questions or need more information
just ask us what you want to know

Hearts & Minds 234 East Main Street  Dallastown  PA  17313
read@heartsandmindsbooks.com
717-246-3333

No, COVID is not fully over. Since few are reporting their illnesses anymore, it is tricky to know the reality but the best measurement is to check the water tables to see the amount of virus in the eco-system. And it’s still bad. And with flu and new stuff spreading, many hospitals are overwhelmed. It’s important to be particularly aware of how risks we take might effect the public good. 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. Our store is a bit cramped without top-notch ventilation so we are trying to be wise. Thanks for understanding.

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 and back yard customer service and can show any number of items to you if you call us from our back parking lot. It’s sort of fun, actually. We are eager to serve and grateful for your patience as we all work to mitigate the pandemic. We are very happy to help do if you are in the area, do stop by.

Of course, we’re happy to ship books anywhere. Just tell us how you want them sent.

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

25 Books about Christmas for children — 20% off

There are so many great books for adults to give as Christmas presents, I hope to highlight more soon. From Padraig O’Tuama’s remarkable Poetry Unbound: 50 Poems to Open Your World (thanks to all who pre-ordered it) to the deeply thoughtful, new theology volume by Miroslav Volf & Ryan McAnnally-Linz, The Home of God: A Brief Story of Everything to the moving story of “One Woman’s Journey into Everyday Antiracism” called Doing Nothing Is No Longer An Option by Jenny Booth Potter (with a great forward by Austin Chaning Brown) to the new, quite handsome hardback by Richard Foster called Learning Humility: A Year of Searching for a Vanishing Virtue to important novels like Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver or The Passenger (and the brand new sequel, Stella Maris) by Cormac McCarthy, you can see we’ve got all sorts of good stuff for all kinds of readers.

As promised, though, here are a good handful of some great books to help mostly younger children enjoy the Christmas season. All are 20% off and we’re shipping them, or most of them, anyway, quite promptly — while supplies last.

Please be sure to scroll to the bottom — you don’t want to miss any of these nifty holiday titles. The easy order form link is at the bottom which takes you to the secure order page at the Hearts & Minds website right here at our shop in south central PA. We’re at your service.

Saint Nicholas the Giftgiver Ned Bustard (IVP Kids) $18.00               OUR SALE PRICE = $14.40

Not only is this our favorite book about Nicholas, it is so well designed with full color linocuts by the talented (and in demand) Ned Bustard.  The font is attractive, the size of the print is great, the stars are so cool.. This shows the truth behind the legends and how this gift-giver inspires us still today to give so many presents. Highly recommended, especially for families with preschool children or kids up to 7 or so…

Brown Baby Jesus Dorena Williamson, illustrated by Ronique Ellis (Waterbrook) $15.99                     OUR SALE PRICE = $12.79

This is a great book on many levels, a creative walk through the Biblical history of redemption,  showing, but not really discussing, the dark skin of the chief characters. As it says on the back, Like Moses, brown baby Jesus would be a deliver. Like Rahab, brown baby Jesus would save and protect God’s people. Like David, brown baby Jesus would rule as a great King This is rich with Scripture and displays “a multicultural weaving of love.” Clear God includes many races and nations in the story that lets up to the Christmas we celebrate each year. This really gets it right. They say this is good for ages 3 to 8. For sure!

You may know the author from her lovely picture book called Crowned with Glory, that follows a young African American girl’s journey to “let go of comparison and find her true beautiful self,” as she rocks her beautiful black hair.

The Christmas Promise Alison Mitchell & Catalina Echeverri (The Good Book Company) $16.99   OUR SALE PRICE = $13.59

We love the remarkably fun and deeply Biblical “Tales That Tell the Truth” series from this gospel-centered, British publisher, and we happily stock them all. (There are about a dozen of them now, all just tremendous. The newest came out this summer, by Joni Eareckson-Tada, illustrated again with great whimsy and power by Catalina Echeverri, called The Awesome Super Fantastic Forever Party Storybook: A True Story about Heaven, Jesus, and the Best Invitation of All. ) The Christmas Promise has been a staple for us as it highlights the profound theological insight that the Incarnation and Christ’s birth is a part of a story of promise, and God is faithful to the plot of the redemptive story. It’s so good. Who would have thunk it, a baby King?

The Christmas Story: The Bible Version Carine MacKenzie (Christian Focus Publications) $9.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $7.99

This is a splendid, clear, delightful, honest re-telling of the famous Christmas narrative — a great bargain in full-color hardcover. Allow me to say just one or two quick things: the cover of this strikes me as needlessly plain — unless these conservative Scots were trying to make a joke with the US movie set in the 1940s US. And the church on the cover is odd since this book is about first century Palestine. The chalk art is colorful and done by a remarkable artist, Natasha Ugliano — her name should be on the cover. So don’t be misled — this is a marvelous work, colorful, if muted, gospel-centered, Biblically faithful. It explains the straight, full story very well.

The Shepherd’s Story Jimmy Dunne, illustrated by Ivan Cravats (Loyola Press) $19.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $15.99

This is a fun book and the art, in so many shades of blue, is stunning. I love the dog that trots along beside the boy as he responds to the angel’s call to go find the baby. It is set to the cadence of “The Night Before Christmas” so is lots of fun and easy to read out loud. There’s corny, contemporary phrases (the kid is “psyched” as he goes to “B-town”) bit it mostly is pretty straightforward. I like how the lad sees the love in the family’s eyes, the glory of a real birth, the beauty in a newborn child. Not much about Jesus as Messiah or King or Savior, but it still works as a nice re-telling. The shepherd boy ponders, at the end, “As I walked back that night, I stared up at the stars, and thought about how truly blessed we all are.”

The Animals Speak: A Christmas Legend Marion Dane Bauer, illustrated by Brittany Baugus (Beaming Books) $18.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $15.19

Well, this is a creative and classic way into the Christmas narrative, about which children’s book specialist and author Kathi Appelt says, “In a perfect combination of lilting prose and radiant art, this age-old story feels brand new. Rejoice!”

The story is pared down, the lyrical text spare, retelling the old legend about the animals all speaking at the manger on Christmas Eve. It somehow evokes joy, then and maybe even now. Rejoice, indeed. I wish it had reveal who this Child was that causes such rejoicing. You can ask your child about that, okay?

Song of the Stars: A Christmas Story regular edition Sally Lloyd-Jones, paintings by Alison Jay (Zondervan) $17.99                       OUR SALE PRICE = $14.39        Song of the Stars: A Christmas Story – Board Book Edition Sally Lloyd-Jones, paintings by Alison Jay (Zondervan)  $7.99                        OUR SALE PRICE = $6.39               Please be sure to tell us which one you prefer.

I have said often in recent years that this is one of my favorite books for little ones, artful, allusive, great prose with colorful paintings that evoke Americana folk art. The upshot is that all creation gets in on this big redemptive story and all the various animals and all of God’s good creatures join in the long-awaited song. It is a poem of sorts, simple yet profound. I cannot say enough about it — it has grown on me year after year. I sort of hate to say it, but the more expensive regular size hardback is much better, both the color and the striking impact of the images. The small, chunky board book works nicely, too, though. Enjoy and join in “the song of the stars.”  I’m sure you know the great Sally-Lloyd Jones from her many books, especially the best-selling Jesus Storybook Bible and its sequel, Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing.

Don’t miss the simple, charming, and important Song of the Stars, in the regular picture-book sized edition or the smaller, chunky board book version.

The Nativity illustrated by Julie Vivas (Voyager Books) $7.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $6.39

I am not alone in declaring this one of the most amazing children’s picture books of the Christmas story we know. First released in the mid-1980s, year after year, folks discover this and are amazed by the vividness, the humor, the humanity.  (And, like clockwork, some complain. Yes, there is a full spread picture of the new, naked, baby Jesus, penis and all. Take it up with God if you don’t like that, since, well, that’s how it is.)

There are other things that are jarring that folks either love or hate. Mary is very pregnant and over the years that has become less bothersome to those who found it a bit too sensual (thank goodness.) The angels have these huge freaking wings, like the dragons on the cover of some graphic fantasy novel or some old Yes album cover. That one of them, a spiky-haired Gabriel, is wearing army boots just seals the deal for those who know the Hebrew meaning of “Lord of Hosts” (which Eugene Peterson in The Message rendered “Lord of the Angel Armies.”) But these army-booted wild angels are wide-eyed and eager to help, even if a bit — as most everybody in the story is — a bit clueless. There is wonder, amazement, and awe among these humble peasants and assorted servants at play in the fields of the Lord.

Apropos of not much, there’s one scene when one of the peasant gang is scolding a sheep for following, shooing it the other way, and it puts its head down like a puppy. It makes me smile every time, realizing that somebody was trying to keep the new baby safe. And then there’s the scene — I missed it at first — of an angel riding a sheep. Ha! The people have a Middle Eastern or South American look, or somehow Semitic, so much so that the New York Times called it “A people’s nativity.”

A Very Noisy Christmas Tim Thornborough, illustrations by Jennifer Davison (The Good Book Company) $4.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $3.99

This is another inexpensive winner from The Good Book Company, a gospel-centered company that provides really attractive books that are clear about gospel truth. We stock all of their children’s books. This one is really inexpensive, has artwork that features non-European-looking characters, whimsical as they are. It is designed to be read out loud, it playfully instructs you (even by the size and shape of the particular font) to whisper some sentences and to really shout out other parts. Fun! Most parents and children will get a kick out of doing this together (probably over and over!) How loud can you shout? How quietly can you whisper? The first Christmas was both quiet and noisy, after all (and the birth of Jesus is worth shouting about!)

After the opening page of instructions on how to read this little book it says, “And if you’re lucky enough to have a grown-up read to you, make sure that they use their loudest, softest, and silliest voices!” Consider yourself warned.

At this price you can get several and pass ‘em out. And then shout about it.

The Christmas Surprise Steph Williams (The Good Book Company) $4.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $3.99

This is even smaller than the above Very Noisy Christmas but has the same fun, fun appeal. This one is even more rowdy as it basically walks through a bunch of scenarios where the skeptical onlookers holler “Whaaaat?” There is so much surprise anticipated that it almost defies belief. And yet, the Christmas promise  — a baby born to be King, born among the rough-shod poor? — is outrageously surprising. This is a really good little book, funny, full of skeptics who come to realize the surprising truth.

At our sale price, only $3.99. Whaaaat?

Sounding Joy Ellie Holcomb illustrated by Laura Ramos (B+H Kids) $12.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $10.39

I hope you know Ellie Holcomb, artful Christian singer and very cool and quite popular kids author. (We really liked her previous two, Who Sang the First Song and Don’t Forget to Remember.) This is a rich oversized board book asking, in rhyme, “What does joy sound like? Does it sound like falling snow? Or a kiss on your cheek? There are fun wintertime scenes that warmly lead to the big answer: joy sounds like the song the angels sang “the night Hope was born.”

There is something nostalgic about the mood of the art which many will enjoy. There’s a line about heaven being our home at which anybody who has read NT Wright will cringe (but, hey, we can talk about the new creation explained in the Bible to our little ones, eh?) The big ending is to rejoice. Nice.

Jesus Was A Refugee Andrew McDonough (Sara Grace Publishing) $7.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $6.39

We only have a very few of these simple children’s books (that are imported from Australia.) With a blurb on the back by Max Lucado and Lucy Moore (of Messy Church), this colorful simple, cartoonish rendering invites readers into the sorrow of the Christmas story by exploring Mary, Jospeh and baby Jesus needing to flee to Egypt in order to escape Herod’s merciless attack. Bright colors, classic contemporary animation (not unlike the style of, say, The Beginner’s Bible) with some jarring (if cartoonish) bad guys. There is a small bit of helpful fine print by the author (who has worked with refugees) explaining a bit about this unusual book and the text of Matthew 2 in the CEV. Wow.

Santa’s Favorite Story: Santa Tells the Story of the First Christmas Hisako Aoki, illustrated by Ivan Gantschev (Simon & Schuster) $9.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $7.99

Years ago we promoted this as a way to enjoy the Santa stuff without compromising the centrality of Christ in the Christmas story. Some families thanked us profusely. I don’t know if this tension continues among God-fearing folk these days but it should. And this is a delightful answer to the quandary.

The short version of the story is that Santa seems to be waylaid and the animals in the forest are beside themselves. What will happen if Santa doesn’t do his thing? Ha! Santa gathers all the creatures around and tells them with his own great jolly authority that Christmas is not, after all, about him. It is about Jesus — even Santa knows that — and he retells a short version of the Biblical narrative. (Of course, Santa does, after all, get to go out on his global gift-giving trip, the reindeer help, and they all retire the next day to the North Pole to remember the greatest gift of all and the true meaning of the holiday.) Hooray. The Bulgarian-German watercolor art is just a touch creative and artfully playful — it’s very well done. Don’t miss it if you have children or grandchildren.

All About… Christmas Alison Mitchell (The Good Book Company) $17.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $14.39

We mentioned this in the list of books we sent out for Advent reading, not so much because this was uniquely Advent-oriented but because there is so much here that it can’t be read in a few days. Yes, the very first Christmas is one of the most famous stories in the world. It is, after all, a 2000 year old story and it is celebrated around the world.

This book firstly asks, “How do we know it is true?” And “What are the facts behind it?” In a sense, this is apologetics for kids, maybe a colorful kid’s nonfiction book like, maybe, Keller’s The Hidden Christmas.

Dig into the Christmas story from the Bible books of Matthew and Luke; investigate what life was like in that time and place; discover why we still celebrate this baby King every December.

One reviewer calls it “a wonderfully accessible, fascinatingly fun, all-ages adventure into the biblical experience of Christmas.”  Almost 50 large size, full color pages.

Seek and Find: The First Christmas Sarah Parker, illustrated by Andre Parker (The Good Book Company) $14.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $11.99

With over 450 things to find and count, this is nearly an activity book. With a rich hardback cover and super whimsical drawings (yes, with a dark-skinned baby) this book is great fun. The pages are thick, like in a board book, but it is not baby-ish. Pete Nicholas, one of the senior pastor’s of Redeemer Presbyterian (in downtown New York City) says it “holds kids’ attention and teaches them the glorious gospel of that first Christmas.”

Abby Wedgeworth (who wrote the book Held) says,

In a hectic season, this book makes meaningful quality time between parent and child simple and easy. Our family is so grateful.

That Baby in the Manger Anne E. Neuberger, illustrated by Chloe E. Pitkoff (Paraclete Press) $15.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $12.79

This was a good seller for us a couple of years ago so we wanted to name it again. It is a paperback with colorful, somewhat modern art, which makes it a beautiful sight to behold. It is just creative enough to provide allusive nuance to the portrayal but it isn’t odd or disorienting. That is, it is just a great visual treat. The story is more than a treat, it is nothing short of a profound blessing, nearly prophetic in its gentle but potent truth-telling.

Neuberger tells here a true story of a Catholic priest who is talking with the children of his parish — children of non-European descent. As they reflect on the creche scene, the children ask if Jesus really had blue eyes. Lurking just below the surface of The Baby in the Manger is this child-like question that has adult-world ramifications: can people of color relate to a white Jesus? Or, better, can Jesus relate to “all the children of the world” as the Sunday school song promises? This very clever priest, Father Prak, has this situation on his hands and invites the children to bring their own dolls to the nativity scene. Oh my, the glory of what happens and the great love this pen and watercolor artist put into her illustrating it is spectacular. It is fun and sobering, joyful and touching.

Let’s be clear: it gets at issues of racism and true inclusion but it does so with great care and gentle storytelling. Please, please, give this a try. Buy a few and spread the word. No matter what you or your friends look like, no matter who they are, the Christ child is born for them. Do you believe this? Can you proclaim such the wide, wide mercy of God without having this conversation? This book is a tool to help, as the best stories always are. Highly recommended.

Stations of the Nativity Lawrence Boadt, illustrated by Patrick Kelley (Paulist Press) $10.95  OUR SALE PRICE = $8.76

Many have heard of the classic Roman Catholic experience of the “Stations of the Cross” and in recent years many Protestants, too, have adapted it for their own deeply spiritual experiences. Not as many have attempted “Stations of the Nativity” — there are several books and lots of churches (Catholic and Protestant) do something like this. In this delightfully illustrated kids book beginning with the Annunciation, there are fourteen key moment from the Christmas story that are depicted in lush paintings and accompanied by Scripture and reflection. This is simple enough to be appreciated by most children, it is ideal for families who want a devotional pattern during the time of Christmas. There is a liturgical prayer and “lesson” for each art piece. The artist lives in Grand Rapids and has done lots of books for Paulist Press including a popular one on C.S. Lewis.

The Sister Seraphina Mysteries: The Curious Christmas Trail Haley Stewart with illustrations by Betsy Wallin (Pauline Kids) $24.95   OUR SALE PRICE = $19.96

This is a curious book, indeed; what fun! Thanks to a customer who alerted us to it. It’s a 65 page primary school mystery story, with delightful illustrations. The Catholic nuns and children in the story are dressed, of course, but are portrayed as mice. And the heart of the story is of a beloved Sister Dymphna, gone missing just before the rehearsal for the eagerly anticipated Christmas play.

And here is where it gets even more interesting — you see, it is Christmas Eve and under the floorboards of G. K. Chesterton’s home there are curious clues…

Yes, that G.K, Chesteron, of Father Brown fame, who, by all accounts, loved Christmastime.

There is a page offering directions for making home-made paper snowflakes, a script for a little Nativity play, and a page on “Who was the real G.K. Chesteron?” The author, by the way, has an great adult book called The Grace of Enough and a recent one on Jane Austen.

Tomie dePaola’s Book of Christmas Carols Tomie dePaola (Simon & Schuster) $19.99     OUR SALE PRICE = $15.99

In our 40 years of bookselling there is hardly a children’s writer and certainly no illustrator who has left his mark like the great Roman Catholic artist and storyteller (and lover of children) the late, great, Tommy dePaola. We have loved his many books and we are glad that this collection of art inspired by carols, next to the music and lyrics of more than 30 classic carols. What good poetry, what good singing, what good theology — and what wonderful art to enjoy. Very nicely done.

Christina’s Carol: Featuring the Classic Christmas Carol “In the Bleak Midwinter” by Christina Rossetti Tomie dePaola (Simon & Schuster) $17.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $14.39

Here is what I wrote last year about this, then brand new: It is hard not to get a bit choked up describing this; we have loved selling Tomie DePaola books over our nearly four decades, decades when his popularity was at its height. We have friends that met him, others who have been to retreat centers where he would sometime visit to pray. We have loved his folk tales, his funny ones, his Bible stories. His distinctive style has been much discussed in children’s literature circles and he is as esteemed as are only a handful of our finest writers and illustrators. He was awarded  both the coveted Newberry and Caldecott Awards medals (the Caldecott in 1976 for Strega Nona and the Newberry in 2000 for 26 Fairmount Street.) In 2011 he was given what was then called the “Laura Ingalls Wilder Award” bit which is now known as the Children’s Literature Legacy Award. We could say more.

This book was what seems to be his last, incorporating previously used pictures from some of his other seasonal books and drawn from some of his last known paintings. While they say this is good for ages 4 – 8 I would say older children might appreciate the interesting, colorful art and many adults, of course, truly love the moody, somber, wintry song with its declaration of love for Christ. The last picture of a heart just gets me.

Here is what Publisher’s Weekly wrote:

Based on the 1872 Christmas carol “In the Bleak Midwinter” by poet Rossetti, this illustrated edition combines previously published artwork and unseen art from the late dePaola’s personal collection. The artist’s trademark style brings charm to the classic poem, with photographed three-dimensional dioramas set alongside traditional illustrations rendered in vibrant washes of color. The book offers multiple depictions of characters and scenes; in one memorable spread, the Virgin Mary and Jesus are shown in four different styles surrounded by the text, “But only His mother/ In her maiden bliss// Worshipped the Beloved/ With a kiss.” DePaola fans will rejoice in having this lush, multilayered illustration of a classic hymn for their collection.

The Story of the Three Wise Kings Tomie dePaola (Simon & Schuster) $7.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $6.39

We should extend our children’s joy and our own being shaped by the joyous mysteries of this time by year by somehow celebrating the 12 days of Christmas. Epiphany, of course, is the day the traditional church has celebrated the coming of the wise guys from the East. This is my favorite book on this, what Horn Book called “gorgeous and sumptuous.” There is something deeply prophetic about these scholars (kings?)from distant lands coming to visit Christ and there is something that children truly appreciate in this. A lovely paperback for little ones.

Home by Another Way: A Christmas Story Barbara Brown Taylor, illustrated by Melanie Cataldo (Flyaway Books) $18.00  OUR SALE PRICE = $14.40

This is one of the great Episcopalian preacher’s famous sermons, telling the story of the flight away from the awful King Herod. The wise men went of course, “home by another way” and Ms Taylor tells the tale nicely. To be read after Christmas, naturally; ideal for Epiphany. The illustrations are realistic and gorgeously done.

God’s Holy Darkness Shared Green & Becky Selznick, illustrated by Nikki Faison (Beaming Books) $17.99    OUR SALE PRICE = $14.39

We sold a number of these last month when we highlighted it as a book to ponder over Advent. Here is a re-run of what we said, then: This is one of the most amazing children’s books in many a year, powerful, aesthetically stunning, exceptionally well done. I highly recommend that you find a way to integrate this into your Advent reading with kids of various ages, even though it isn’t directly an obvious Advent book. There is one facing spread that does speak of Advent, so I guess it is an Advent book.

There are two important threads of import in this striking picture book. Firstly, it is (obviously) about darkness. That in itself resonates with themes of Advent, doesn’t it? We really appreciate how artfully it shows this and how vital and captivating this book is, inviting us to “celebrate the beauty of God’s holy darkness.” (Perhaps you recall the wonderfully written memoir exploring this by the exquisite Barbara Brown Taylor called Learning to Walk In the Dark: Because Sometimes God Shows Up at Night; this children’s book is a good companion for that.)

The second theme is wanting to — how do I say this? — redeem the notion of blackness. Too often we hear, or assume subconsciously, that black is bad, that dark times are irredeemably bad, that night and dark are scary and troubling. We needn’t overstate the case but some black friends have said this can be hurtful or confusing, so we need to think this through. God’s Holy Darkness is, in a sense, an anti-racism book.

As it says on the back cover of God’s Holy Darkness:

From the darkness at the beginning of creation to the blackness of the sky on the night when Christ’s birth was announced, this captivating picture book deconstructs anti-Blackness in Christian theology by exploring instances in the story of God’s people when darkness, blackness, and night are beautiful, good, and holy.

We often talk about how Christmas is best understood in the flow of the unfolding drama of the history of redemption. That is, we should frame the Christmas season by the whole story of God as portrayed in the big story of Scripture. (In the book by Daniel Spanjer that I highlighted in a previous BookNotes, Advent is the Story: Seeing the Nativity Throughout Scripture, it shows how to do this.) This exceptionally artful book does just that allusively, simply, walking us through the pages of Scripture. This is redemptive, nearly subversive, Biblical theology for children. What a book!

A Stubborn Sweetness and Other Stories for the Christmas Season Katherine Paterson (WJK) $20.00  OUR SALE PRICE = $16.00

We have spoken before of our admiration for the great youth novelist Katherine Paterson — I hope you recall my long, rave review last summer of her memoir Stories of My Life which will surely be one of my favorite books of the year.

Over her illustrious career she has done two paperback collections of holiday-themed stories, and this draws from those two, and adds two new stories. (Those previous books, now out of print, were Angels and Other Strangers and A Midnight Clear, which I know many of our customers dearly loved.)

Here is some of what the publisher says about this anthology:

A Stubborn Sweetness and Other Stories for the Christmas Season is a collection of modern-day short stories by Katherine Paterson, award-winning author of Bridge to Terabithia and The Great Gilly Hopkins both loved by children and adults for over twenty years. This compilation includes stories of real-life people such as a shopping mall’s night watchman, a lonely widower, a pregnant teenage runaway, a political prisoner in China, a grieving mother, and a privileged American, who have forgotten the true meaning of Christmas because of loss, pain, greed, or circumstances. Through unexpected and uplifting ways, each is reminded of the first Christmas story and the vision of hope and peace it offers the world. They realize that even in the darkness, the light and song of Christmas can be seen and heard.

This heart-warming gift book, filled with stories of realistic people finding hope, courage, and faith amidst life’s circumstances, radiates the spirit of the season and reminds each of us what Christmas truly means. Originally written to be read during her church’s Christmas Eve service, this collection of holiday stories is perfect for individuals, families, and churches to read and share during the season.

WHILE SUPPLIES LAST – 30% OFF                            IT’S NOT TOO LATE

The Birth of Jesus Advent Calendar: The Light Shines in the Darkness Agostino Traini (Beaming Books) $18.99  OUR EXTRA SALE PRICE = $13.29

We have bunches of different sorts of Advent Calendars, of course, classic one-page (9″ x 12″ or so) with old fashioned art and nifty little doors to open. Many are inexpensive and some are larger and some are small. They come and go each year depending on what we find that’s useful.

But this. This is a larger one with a more sturdy wooden design making it truly reusable, year after year. It is modern,  colorful and fascinating —  like a combo pop-up book and nativity scene, perfect for the whole family to use together. This is designed by the illustrious Italian paper artist, Agostino Traini, who has also done, for instance, the Birth of Jesus: A Christmas Pop-up Book and an array of other lavish, pop-up book creations for Beaming Books (such as an incredible one on the creation story, the Lord’s Prayer, an Easter one, and more.) The Birth of Jesus Advent Calendar is a unique item, though — instead of a “window” to open there is a cut-out figure to punch out of the page which becomes a developing, stand-up nativity scene.

If you order this we’ll send you a link to a free guide to download that has a brief bit of info about each of the 25 characters (including the three wise men that are used the day after Christmas.)

We only have a few of these left this year and we’re selling this at an extra discount. While supplies last.

TO PLACE AN ORDER 

PLEASE READ AND THEN CLICK ON THE “ORDER HERE” LINK BELOW.

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 so let us know.

– DON’T FORGET TO LET US KNOW WHAT SHIPPING METHOD YOU PREFER –

BookNotes

Hearts & Minds logo

SPECIAL
DISCOUNT

20% OFF

ALL BOOKS MENTIONED

+++

order here

this takes you to the secure Hearts & Minds order form page
just tell us what you want to order

inquire here

if you have questions or need more information
just ask us what you want to know

Hearts & Minds 234 East Main Street  Dallastown  PA  17313
read@heartsandmindsbooks.com
717-246-3333

No, Covid is not fully over. Since nobody is reporting their illnesses anymore, it is tricky to know the reality but the best measurement is to check the water tables to see the amount of virus in the eco-system. And it’s still bad. And with new stuff spreading, many hospitals are really overwhelmed. It’s important to be particularly aware of how risks we take might effect the public good. 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. Our store is a bit cramped without top-notch ventilation so we are trying to be wise. Thanks for understanding.

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 and back yard customer service and can show any number of items to you if you call us from our back parking lot. It’s sort of fun, actually. We are eager to serve and grateful for your patience as we all work to mitigate the pandemic. We are very happy to help do if you are in the area, do stop by.

Of course, we’re happy to ship books anywhere. Just tell us how you want them sent.

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

Surrender: 40 Songs, One Story by Bono – ON SALE NOW (and 21 other books to read about music.)

Don’t forget to scroll down to the very end. You can easily order any of these by using the link at the bottom that takes you to our secure order form page our the Hearts & Minds website. We are grateful for your business.

“Words can’t express,” says the wordy bookseller, who with his less talkative wife staked their livelihood on the power of written words. No, words can’t adequately express the gratitude we feel in reading the many words of encouragement folks shared on our Facebook accounts where we posted the link to the “Hearts & Minds 40th Anniversary” edition of BookNotes. Apparently people enjoyed reading about our 40 years as a bookstore. Lots ”liked” the column and many went to the effort of offering blessings. These days anyone who is a promoter of the printed page will be appreciated by book lovers, but this was really an extraordinary outpouring of support. We are profoundly grateful for each and every customer and friend.

That some said they’d renew their effort to get folks to send some business our way is a life-saver, too. As one person insisted years ago when we pondered closing up shop due to the financial stress, we are in this together. It sure felt that way this week. Thank you.

In that post there was a lot I didn’t say about our 40 years in the book biz and maybe throughout this year I might recall a few stories to give you a greater glimpse of the joys and sorrows these last decades as we tried to buck at least some of the trends in the industry. It has been interesting, trying to steward the insights and passions God has given us, curating a place that we thought would be helpful.

One thing I alluded to in that BookNotes piece was that we have sold a lot of different kinds of music here at the shop — records and cassettes, back in the day, and then CDs. I’m sad that the old sort of record store (like the one I worked in as a high-school kid, The Platter Palace in Hanover, PA, and then in their shop in downtown Gettysburg, PA) is even more rare than old-school bricks and mortar bookstores. Although quite specifically curated, mostly around our own interests and values, we had, without a doubt, the most diverse record department of any Christian bookstore in the country.  From black gospel to ska, Christian metal to neo-folk protesters like Ani DeFranco and Billy Bragg, to remarkably talented bluegrass bands as well as classical and jazz, we had a lot.

Entire books have been written about the best (and worst) of the usually wholesome (and often serious) CCM performers like Amy Grant and Phil Keaggy, Jars of Clay and Switchfoot, and, say, the very cool, edgy bands like the 77s, The Choir, Chagall Guevara, etc. etc. and what for a while what was called “alternative” rock. We met Mark Heard a time or two, shared a stage once with Rich Mullins, and not too long ago hosted the great Michael Card. We had fun selling Celtic stuff, and lots of instrumental recordings — we stocked every album Windham Hill released, for instance, and hated calling it “new age.” We usually followed the Grammy Awards and stocked whatever classical albums were considered the best and similarly with jazz. Remember that minute when Benedictine chant was at the top of the charts? And, after all, shouldn’t every Christian bookstore carry Arvo Part?

There were Christian singer-songwriters who were in the mainstream and we appreciated them the most. Friends like Pierce Pettis and Brooks Williams were in the regular rotation. Mark Heard, naturally. T-Bone Burnett. Over the Rhine. Alice Cooper. (Yes, you read that right.) Sufjan Stevens, Brandi Carlile. We tired of the question “Is Kansas a Christian band?” and ” Why do you carry Earth, Wind, and Fire?” even though Philip Bailey was well known as a follower of Christ. Aretha’s album of hymns? Obviously. Bruce Cockburn was the best example of an outspoken Christian in the serious rock world, as were the Indigo Girls and Johnny Cash, and, at least for a while, Van Morrison. And, of course, U2. Praise Yahweh.

Although I listened mostly to Jackson Browne and Bill Mallonee (first as Vigilantes of Love and then as a brilliant an exceedingly prolific solo artist) I must admit that as I read Bono’s new memoir — Surrender: Forty Songs, One Story — I not only was delightfully brought through these last decades with renewed memories of the soundtracks for our lives but I was reminded just how much music means to me. As a guy in his late 60s I now savor silence more than I used to, but I am still grateful to my earliest friends who helped me grow beyond my passion for Simon and Garfunkel and Bob Dylan. I discovered James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, Dan Fogelberg, early Elton John, John Prine and Neil Young and, well, I was off the deep end smitten. Unlike some legalistic evangelicals, I did not burn my albums and was glad, years later, when guys from Grand Funk Railroad or America (not to mention Dylan) got born again. Bono, it seems, is not that different, coming of age in an era of punk with a dad who loved opera, drawn early to charismatic faith and tons of rock and roll, Irish soul, blues. Maybe you, too, will relate to this disaffected kid with anger issues who found meaning in the music, even if you weren’t a fan of Joey Ramone and The Clash.

Surrender: 40 Songs, One Story Bono (Knopf) $34.00  OUR SALE PRICE = $27.20

Surrender: 40 Songs, One Story is one of the very best books I’ve read all year and it will certainly be in my personal favorites list coming up next month. In a way, it is a book of a lifetime for me. As a fan of U2, as a music-lover, as a uniquely Christian music-lover, this book resonated with me so very, very much. It brought stunning insight and joy; lots of joy. And, man, does Bono know his stuff. He knows so much stuff. Sure, he’s got the swagger, and he (as one reviewer noted, here “embraces his contradictions.”) But he really is smart. This book is an education in the popular culture of the last 40 years.

Let me just say four quick things about Surrender. I could, and surely should, wax more eloquent about it (it’s over 550 pages, after all) but I want to keep this succinct. I want you to know (if you don’t already) whether this book is for you.

(And then, I’ll list briefly 21 other fantastic books about music that we have sold over the years. The great books on this list, too, could be described in much greater detail, but I’ll be brief. Hopefully, just enough to entice you to order one or two, maybe as Christmas gifts. There are a lot of pop music fans out there, so check those out.)

Firstly, the book is not exactly linear and chronological (would you expect it to be?) but it mostly is. And there are song titles for chapter headings; naturally the first chapters are entitled from songs from their earliest recordings. (And the last few are, naturally, from their last albums; the important penultimate chapter is called “The Moment of Surrender” which you know from the No Line on the Horizon album.)

We learn from Mr. Paul Hewson in his own words a lot about his boyhood, the rough and rowdy ways of the religiously-conflicted Northern Ireland during the years of the troubles. With famous songs about “Sunday Bloody Sunday” outspoken pacifist tirades by the socially aware frontman of the social aware band, with nuanced lyrics recalling about how they cut down the few trees in their neighborhood and used them against their enemies (from “Peace on Earth” on All That You Can’t Leave Behind) I would have expected a bit more of the Troubles. Instead we hear about his love of bands, his school experiences, the impact of books he read, like Lord of the Flies, and — a theme throughout the whole book — the sudden death of his mother, Iris, when he was a young teen. So many of the lyrics of his long career, we come to find out, are veiled (or not so veiled) references to his mother and father. (As he sings in “Iris (Hold Me Close)” on Songs of Experience, “The ache in my heart is so much a part of who I am…”)

He’s a hurting punk and wanted to be a punk rocker, and man, I grew to love him more, learning a bit, in impressionistic style, about his youth and his longing for a more stable family.

He met his best friend, Ali, in his teen years in Dublin, Ali who became a girlfriend, who became his wife, early on. Again, this bit of his past is exceedingly important to him, enduring for him. My hunch is that many celebrities and certainly many rock stars are less connected to their youth, their past, their families. Or at least they think it isn’t cool to share that sort of sentimental family stuff. I loved that Bono has such affection for his dad (even if there was a lot of brokenness) and it was fun learning about Ali. It was fun learning about how he met the other three guys in the band and the importance of their friendships. His loyalty to these men is remarkable and in a way Surrender is a memoir of the trusting loyalty of these friendships.

I am a serious fan of the music, a real fan of Bono’s political action, and have admired his sly art as it transfigured and changed over the years. I really enjoy all of the albums and admire them all. (As we suspected, by the way, the changes were often very intentional; the Zoo-TV era antics of the Fly and the sensory overload of the shows were almost fully satire, some of it literally informed by C.S. Lewis’s Screwtape Letters, messing with the devil, their dangerously materialistic lifestyles mostly an embodied prophetic experiment.) So I know their work. But I have not read fan bios and knew very little about Bono’s family life. Maybe other fans knew about Ali and his children, but I think this is the most forthcoming he has been about them. There are beautiful pages, lovely episodes shared with many passages about the hard conflicts and honest struggles. Bono knows he has a very good woman by his side and he knows if he isn’t careful (as one of the most famous rock stars in the world) he could blow it. He almost did. But, man, his candor and poetic insight was some of the most romantic stuff I have read, ever. My hat is off and my heart is warmed.

Secondly, did I mention the music? I could quote pages and pages about this (and have sticky notes throughout the book in case I want to do a serious study.) He goes on tangents — not really tangents, just colorful side-journeys, into his friendships with other artists. From punk guys to Frank Sinatra, soul singers to new wave artists, from Prince to black gospel choirs, he tells endearing and sometimes heartbreaking tales of the many people he admires and loves. It is very obvious — he never speaks badly of anyone (except himself) and even when talking honestly about the horrors of drug or alcohol abuse (even Adam’s) he is not judgmental or mean-spirited. His generosity is lovely and his Irish storytelling — often of drinking late at night — is captivating. As a celebrity he knows he has been given quite remarkable opportunities, but he is also a gregarious bridge-builder and he knows more artists, working in different genres, than you could image.

He has encouraged many rising artists to apply their craft to anti-poverty and other justice measures; he tells of fashion designers, models, film-makers, poets, novelists, painters, dancers. Wow. Not bad from a kid from the Northside.

His story of how Pavarotti got him involved in relief work in Sarajevo is, by the way, hilarious. Annoying as it was, he applauded Pavarotti’s tenacity in pursuing him. “Miss Sarajevo” (from the pseudonymical “Passengers” album) remains one of Bono’s favorite pieces of his career. His moving reflections on Sinatra were powerful; his tribute to Michael Hutchence (of INXS) and his suicide was very tender.

Do you recall when a hard rock band was playing in Paris (in 2015) and a mass shooting killed dozens of audience members? U2 were doing a series of stadium shows also in Paris that week and their show was shut down — it wasn’t the only time Bono had experience a mass shooting, by the way. When they rescheduled the cancelled show they brought the smaller bar band — Eagles of Death Metal — onto their stage so they could finish their show that was so horrifically interrupted. These small stories of bands and stages and colleagues in the music biz were a blast to read and often inspiring.

And the recordings! I have read lots of books about rock music. Serious music lovers who read this sort of stuff may know know Greil Marcus’s magisterial work Mystery Train: Images of American in Rock ’n Roll Music or his book on Dylan and the Band’s “Basement Tapes” sessions (Old, Weird America.) And there are some really cool books on the details of certain recording sessions; I’ve read a few on the details of making of Abbey Road, for instance. Bono doesn’t give us that much of that sonic and technical detail, but there is plenty for even the most geeky fans of recording studios. Not to mention the small revelations of the band’s work with lighting artists and staging designers creating what have been some of the most outlandish, brilliant, and expensive stage shows in the rock touring world. This is all so interesting but it never turns self-indulgent, naming the obscure brands of tubes or speakers or the sorts of electronics in the amps. (Although it might be said that it is self-indulgent in a different way as he talks much about the personal stuff going on in the midst of these urgent sessions, squeezing in so much global activist between tours and recordings, struggles with his voice, and the constant guidance of producers like Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois.)

I love hearing bits about so many songs — his reflections nearer the end about writing songs about friendship (“Bad” for instance) or linking the famous “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” to Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress or how one song was co-written by Salman Rushdie. I was glad to hear about them holding their ground on changing the plans for a nice, spared-down, acoustic rendition of “Ordinary Love” (from the Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom Movie) for a live, Oscar show performance.

So there’s family stuff, friendships, relationships, old ones and new ones. There’s music, U2s and Bono’s numerous friendships with so many other rock artists. There’s great stuff on performing, on singing, or writing, or recording. If you like rock music (and especially if you like U2) this book is going to be a true joy.

Thirdly — and this is huge —there is a whole lot on politics. I found these portions hard to put down and as one who has engaged in a tiny, tiny bit of lobbying and protesting and building civic coalitions, I found this insider’s look to be a blast. Early on, Bono learned (from a story about Dr. King told to him by Harry Belefonte) to build bridges even with those one might not want to work with. There were times when Bono was deeply lobbying the Bush administration — with the Jubilee campaign to cancel the third world debt, with ONE and then with his DATA and (RED) to fund life-saving drugs against AIDS in Africa — and was becoming friends with those who others on his team (and in his band) found unsavory. Bush was bombing Iraq, of course, torturing Muslims in off-the-grid black sites, and cutting budgets for the poor in the US. Yet, as he endured, learning from all sides, he came to be convinced of some of the value of conservative economic theory and in his famous office visits to right-winger Jesse Helms even found a friendly prayer partner. I was on the edge of my seat as Bono had to make some decisions regarding the leader of the free world and consequential choices about aid and trade, war and peace. Interestingly, though not surprisingly, friends like the late Mike Gerson are named. What a thrill, knowing how it finally turned out.

From his meetings with Nelson Mandela (and other lesser known African leaders) to his off-the-record opening of his home to Mikhail Gorbachev (despite Ali’s outspoken work with anti-nuclear power activists resisting Russian malfeasance at Chernobyl) to his palling around with (and fallings asleep at) the Obama’s, it is very entertaining, although none of it feels like name-dropping. To listen in on one with such amazing global connections who was actually nervous about it all — imposter syndrome, don’t ya know — and his bits of candor about, say, fretting about what to wear when one is a rock star visiting the Oval Office, made for a great read. If you care at all about how the world works and how change happens, if you’ve donated money to ONE or (RED) or other similar anti-poverty groups, listening to Bono will be as inspiring as listening to the likes of Gary Haugen or Melinda Gates.  He knows a lot about the facts of economic development and global politics and he weaves it into magical stories, often with stories of his on-the-ground, real-life volunteerism in poor villages. You’ll learn a lot.

Fourthly. I sort of hate to mention this final element as a discreet point since it is interwoven so naturally throughout the book, but it should be noted that Bono’s Christian faith — unorthodox and uneasy as it may seem to some — is central to the whole story. It is not just cited a little, it is not just mentioned briefly. There are Bible allusions and explications, basic theology, Christian authors mentioned, and spiritual realities talked about in significant ways during every portion of his life, so throughout the 40 chapters. (And you know, of course, that one of their most famous songs (”40”) is a nearly verbatim rendition of Psalm 40. Fans used to leave the stadium singing over and over “How long…”)

There is even a moving telling of the family’s deeply affecting religious tour of the Holy Land, which, for a glitzy rock star seems such a conventional, churchy practice. This is from the guy who says he “has never left Jesus out of the most banal or profane actions of my life.”

Most know how Bono’s father was a not terribly active Catholic and his mother was a good Protestant and how three of the band members came to a lively faith in a charismatic, Jesus-movement sort of evangelical ministry in their young adult years.They remained in touch with some of that crowd even after their faith moved to more ecumenical and liberationist ways and Bono continues to be haunted by that robust sense of the Spirit and that strong teaching of Biblical truth. For many of us, his casual, humorous, but serious-minded love/hate relationship with the church, is an inspiration. His honest lament and plea, of the sort found in “Wake Up Dead Man”, (from 1997’s Pop) means more than any number of happy-clappy CCM ditties. Through his fame and tenacity and righteous commitments Bono has had contact with world-class Christian leaders, from Desmond Tutu to Eugene Peterson to a hilarious episode that he writes about with Pope John Paul II. When he is visiting dignitaries he mentions that he sometimes gives away books— often a volume of Yeats or other Irish poetry. But I happen to know he’s given away his share of The Message, too. I admit to getting teary-eyed when I read his brief acknowledgment of Eugene Peterson.

Relationships, music, politics, faith. Stories galore, goodness and failure, temptation and joy, meaning and vision, art and wealth, compromise, justice, romance, sex, life and death. There is so much in this marvelous, stimulating book.

One final word: Surrender is creatively and colorfully written. Bono can really write; it is whimsical, a bit stream-of-consciousness, and, man, can he turn a phrase. There are witty lines on every page, brilliant sentences, wondrous prose. His clever honesty has him say things like about his ego being “far taller than my self-esteem.” Ha.

As the flyleaf of this well designed volume puts it,

A remarkable book by a combative artist, who finds he’s at his best when he learns how to surrender.

Episodic and irreverent, introspective and illuminating, Surrender is Bono’s life story, organized — but not too tidily — around forty U2 songs.

Scroll to the end of BookNotes to get to the ORDER link.

 

21 OTHER BOOKS TO READ ABOUT MUSIC – ALL 20% OFF

It Was Good: Making Music To the Glory of God edited by Ned Bustard (Square Halo Books) $24.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $19.99

This is one of my all time favorite books, a diverse and splendid collection of pieces or various aspects of understanding, making, enjoying, and promoting music. 30 chapters from folks as diverse as Nashville singer-songwriter Sandra McCracken and Grammy winning jazzman John Patitucci and hipster Vito Aiuto; from Shai Linne to Keith Getty to Ruth Naomi Floyd to William Edgar, this is a great book.

Visit our archived BookNotes from a decade ago to see my long review of this wonderful resource, HERE.

Kicking at the Darkness: Bruce Cockburn and the Christian Imagination Brian J. Walsh (Brazos Press) $22.00  OUR SALE PRICE – $17.60

I cannot say what an honor it is to have a blurb on the back of this serious Biblically-informed study of Cockburn’s lyrics and the social imagination it alludes to. A brilliant analysis, a book to savor and ponder. This is how to do uniquely Christian criticism for the common good. I hope you know Walsh’s many books (most recently, Romans Disarmed, co-written with his wife, Sylvia Keesmaat, an exceptionally poetic and respected Biblical scholar.) And, yes, this line is from the Cockburn song (“Lovers in a Dangerous Time”) that Bono himself wrote about discovering in his classic song on Rattle and Hum, “God Part II”. You know what, though? Even if you don’t care for U2 and don’t know much about Cockburn, this is a great study for Christians in the arts, for those wanting to learn how to do a close reading of contemporary lyrics, of one guys illuminating study of one artist’s creative formation of a social imagination. It’s a great, great book, despite the rare picture of Bruce with a rather rare haircut.

I did a two part BookNotes exploration of this book when it came out, so you can check that out if your interested. Start HERE.

Beatles ’66: The Revolutionary Year Steve Turner (Ecco) $16.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $13.59

I have written often about my friend Steve Turner (whose Imagine: A Vision for Christians in the Arts is a must-read for anyone wanting a helpful Christian framework for thinking about the popular arts, and whose Pop Cultured: Thinking Christianly about Style, Media and Entertainment is absolutely essential for thinking about film, TV, fashion, comedy, video games, advertising, photography, celebrity, and such.)

This grand book is one of several on the Beatles written by this this esteemed rock critic (Turner really is one of the top five or six rock critics in the world, who has met and most likely interviewed almost every important rock star of the last 50 or more years.) Here he makes the case that 1966 was the crucial year, as Barry Miles, biographer of Paul McCartney, put it, “in the Beatles amazing journey from being the Fab Four to becoming the princes of psychedelia.” Who knew that so much happened in so short a time?  Turner is truly one of the most prominent music journalists and rock critics and he knows as much about the Beatle’s as anyone writing today. This is a great read, lots of fun about the entire British pop culture scene and about the lads from Liverpool.

Reading Beatles ’66, I’m right there — and where else would you want to be if you love music?”  Bono

She Come By It Natural: Dolly Parton and the Women Who Lived Her Songs Sarah Smarsh (Scribner) $16.00  OUR SALE PRICE = $12.80

This was a National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist and one of Time’s “must read books of 2020.” I agree, and raved about it in BookNotes back when it was still in hardcover. You may know Sarah Smarsh, a journalist who has reported from and about the hardships of rural life, mostly in the Midwest, and whose first book, Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth, was nothing short of brilliant. We of course still stock it.

She Come By It Natural started out as a four-part long-form essay in the Americana/roots journal No Depression and was expanded her into a book, “anointing Parton as a badly needed beacon: in a divided country, she remains that rare someone who everyone can love”  Yet, as a blue-collar, Midwest feminist, Smarsh shares much about gender, class, and culture through Dolly’s trailblazing life and songs.  You learn about Dolly, her hard-scrapple life in Appalachia, her music, and how Smarsh’s own people drew courage and joy from it all.  I loved this book.

Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music: Larry Norman and the Perils of Christian Rock Gregory Alan Thornbury (Convergent) $26.00         OUR SALE PRICE = $20.80

I could go one and on (and I did in a BookNotes review a few years ago when this book was brand new) just describing how many great writers, thinkers, artists, and theologians have raved about this book. Yes, from scholar Charles Marsh to activist David Dark to artist Dan Haseline (of Jars of Clay) who calls it “required reading” so many have shared their joy and appreciation. There are curious blurbs on the back from various sorts, including Black Francis (lead singer of The Pixies) and singer-songwriter Alison Moore, who affirms the book’s “delicious detail.”

Larry Norman was obviously very, very important as an artists of the Jesus Movement and influential and the way he did and did not reflect the ways of CCM. I believe it is vital to understand. It is the definitive book on Larry Norman and his era and we very highly recommend it. Kudos to Gregory Thornbury, a rebellious evangelical thinker and wild-child not unlike Larry himself. Kudos.

A Supreme Love: the Music of Jazz and the Hope of the Gospel William Edgar (IVP) $24.00  OUR SALE PRICE = $19.20

We have raved in these pages about many of the books by Dr. William Edgar, a professor of cultural apologetics at Westminster Theological Seminary. Many know that Bill —then a sharp, young Harvard kid — found evangelical faith while visiting Francis Schaeffer in the early 1970s. (His book on Schaeffer, Schaeffer on the Christian Life: Countercultural Spirituality, tells some of that story and is excellent.)

In this recent work Edgar shares so much about the gospel roots of jazz, the Christian theological underpinnings of much black music, and the way in which jazz can express so much about life, even the uniquely Christian life. (He has written a magnum opus on culture-making, released a few years ago, Created and Creating: A Biblical Theology of Culture.) In this one, he really shines, sharing insights he has been developing for decades, even as he as performed live pieces on solo piano and with jazz bands for years. There are blurbs here by important, theological voices (like Charlie Peacock, Calvin Seerveld, and Jeremy Begbie) but the short foreword by Carl Ellis and Karen Ellis, thoughtful black leaders in the PCA church, is itself nearly worth the price of the book.

As Bill says, this book is a labor of love. We highly recommend it, especially if you want to know more about Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Jon Coltrane, Ellas Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. 

Citizen Cash: The Political Life and Times of Johnny Cash Michael Stewart Foley (Basic Books) $32.00  OUR SALE PRICE = $25.60

Wow. For starters I might mention that in a chapter in Surrender, Bono says much about his affection for Johnny and June. (And says that Cash’s dinner grace was the most beautiful such prayer he’s ever heard.) If you are a U2 fan, you should care about Johnny Cash.

I suppose I should say that the authorized biography of Johnny Cash is by the aforementioned Steve Turner, The Man Called Cash: The Life, Love and Faith of an American Legend; if you know anyone who is a fan, it is a must; now in paperback.

But this new one by Michael Stewart Foley? Oh my —what a book! It is what documentary filmmaker Ken Burns calls “an important reassessment of one of American music’s greatest performers.” This remarkable book is about Johnny and his times; it is about his “deep reserves of empathy and insight” which made him an artist for his times. And ours, eh?

Beth Bailey says that “Foley beautifully combines historical biography with his knowledge of Cash’s music and its context. This is a masterful work.”

The Soul of Hip Hop: Rims, Timbs and a Cultural Theology Daniel White Hodge (IVP) $26.00  OUR SALE PRICE = $20.80

There are several good books offering a distinctively Christian approach to hip hop and rap, and, for my money, this is the best. Prof. Daniel Hodge has written a lot (and edited The Journal of Hip Hop Studies.) We’ve got several of his (see his stunning Homeland Insecurity: A Hip Hop Missiology for the Post-Civil Rights Context that I cautiously raved about here when it first came out) and by other authors, as well. The Soul of Hip Hop remains the very best starter book — a gem. And don’t miss the chapter on Tupac.

For what it is worth, if one wants to look at the much-discussed work of rapper Kendrick Lamar (who has won 13 Grammys) see the searing cultural biography, The Butterfly Effect: How Kendrick Lamar Ignited the Soul of Black America by Marcus J. Moore (Atria Press; $17.00 – OUR SALE PRICE = $13.60.) Also, we have a fabulously cool and very creative coffee table book with art entitled Promise That You Will Sing About Me: The Power and Poetry of Kendrick Lamar by Miles Marshall Lewis (St. Martin’s Press; $29.99 – OUR SALE PRICE = $23.99.) Both are important, I’d say.

The Day Alternative Music Died: Dylan, Zeppelin, Punk, Glam, Alt, Majors, Indies, and the Struggle Between Art and Money for the Soul of Rock Adam Caress (New Troy Books) $16.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $13.59

Oh my — this. This is a book I’ve adored, promoted, highlighted, and exclaimed about, not only because it is so enjoyable (for rock music fans) but because it is so important, a massive case study of a major question for anyone thinking well about the arts — namely, the interface of art and business, creativity and making a living. Or, as the author put it, “the blatant commercialization and homogenization of alternative music” in the 1990s. As Adam shows with such great and enjoyable detail, there has always been a ping-ponging across the abyss as “rock music’s pendulum has been swinging back and forth between artistic and commercial aspirations.” He starts the story with a fabulous bit of insight into the rise of critical rock journalism inspired, he claims, by the early work of Bob Dylan. He gets to Nirvana, of course, but has to draw some good background.

This is the complex story of those tensions “grafting the untold and vital story of the rise and fall of the alternative music scene of the 1980s and 90s into a larger rock music narrative that spans half a century, shedding light on a number of crucial developments in rock and popular music.”

Go to our website to find my 2015 review of this if you want more details. I discussed it with great passion and and detail.

Adam Caress has worked in the music industry as a performer, recording artist, even a booking agent. He has been employed at Montreat College, a Christian college in Montreat, NC and now teaches at Middle Tennessee State University. This is a great read, highly recommended.

Voices: How a Great Singer Can Change Your Life Nick Coleman (Counterpoint) $26.00  OUR SALE PRICE = $20.80

When Roddy Doyle (of The Commitments) says a book is “exciting” you know it must be. Whew.

Each chapter in this amazing work explores various singers that the author (himself a music critic) enjoys. That he is moved by and finds, even, transformational. Or what we used to call “mind-blowing.”

From the early rock and rollers like Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry, and Elvis, he moves to the girl groups (The Ronettes, The Marvelettes, and the Shangri-La’s.)  His chapter on vulnerable singers looks at Marvin Gaye and Roy Robinson. I adored his chapter (the first I read, actually) on Joni Mitchell called “An Urge for Going” (which also looked at Jackson Browne, Paul Simon, Rickie Lee Jones, and Steely Dan.) You’ve got to read his “Class Acts” which, while looking at everybody from The Kinks and Bowie, mostly focus on Lennon and Jagger.

You get the picture — this good work is a study about “hearing voices.” What book has a great chapter on soul and then looks at crooners as diverse as Sinatra and Kate Bush and Luther Vandross (and Iggy Pop, believe it or not!)

The chapter “Psalms and Raptures’ explores Van Morrison, Burning Spear, and more (with a bit on Bob Dylan) and the “spectacle of anguish” looks at Janis Joplin, Billie Holiday, and Amy Winehouse and more. His groupings of singers is fascinating and I learned (and came to appreciate) a lot. You will, too.

Resonate: Enjoying God’s Gift of Music Mark Beuving (Zondervan) $16.99                                  OUR SALE PRICE = $13.59

I was going to list this one first as it nicely sets the stage for so much of what seems behind all of these suggestions, at least for many BookNotes readers. That is, it’s no secret that some Christians (many of us, maybe) are somewhat ambivalent about so-called secular popular music. (Not to mention our concerns about music in the church.) This nice, Biblically-based book offers what is said to be a “wise and winsome approach.” Resonate invites us to recapture the wonder and value of this legitimate aspect of living in God’s good creation.

I might be a bit more illuminated by themes of “common grace” and want to affirm more about seemingly secular music, but this author isn’t bad on that. He is sure that pop music is often an “unappreciated gift” and here he gives a careful, Christian apologetic to rock on.  Nicely done.

Resounding Truth: Christian Wisdom in the World of Music Jeremy S. Begbie (Baker Academic) $35.00  OUR SALE PRICE = $28.00

This is major book in the esteemed “Culture Matters” series and is the creme de le creme when it comes to thoughtfully written, deeply foundational books on the meaning of music. Begbie, influenced as a young classical music conductor and composer by Calvin Seerveld, has gone on to become the premier theological writer about aesthetics and, more generally,  about Christian views of the arts. We have most of his weighty works (and know another one called Abundantly More: The Theological Promise of the Arts in a Reductionist World is coming in 2023.)

Resounding Truth, on music, is the best book of its kind. A must for music majors, classical music aficionados, and anyone wanting a deep rumination on the way music matters in God’s good world. I love the play on words, resounding Truth or Re-sounding truth.

We Get To Carry Each Other: The Gospel According to U2 Greg Garett (WJK) $20.00  OUR SALE PRICE = $16.00

There are several Christian reflections on the life and work and lyrics of U2 and this is doubtlessly one of the best. Garrett is an English prof at Baylor, a film critic and novelist. This book has been called “smart, sincere, and serious.”

The book is arranged in three major sections — Belief, Communion, and Justice. And there is a nifty conclusion, “Ten Spiritual Lessons from U2” followed by some good remarks on No Line on the Horizon. Very nicely done.  By the way, for an excellent early exploration see the lovely classic by Irishman Steve Stockman, Walk On: The Spiritual Journey of U2.

Get Up Off Your Knees: Preaching the U2 Catalog edited by Raewynne Whiteley & Beth Maynard (Cowley) $14.95  OUR SALE PRICE = $11.96

I used to recommend this book often, reviewed it here years ago, and now realize it is so very, very good, I wanted to link it to the career-spanning memoir, Surrender: 40 Songs, One Story. This is a great collection of sermons based on U2 texts. Two things had to be in place for these chapters to be considered: they really did have to be engaged with the lyrics of a specific U2 song and they had to have been really preached. It ends up being an international and intergenerational collection of gospel-centered preaching and U2 exploration. What a book.

I have to say that two of my favorite friends — Steve Garber and Brian Walsh — each have two excellently powerful chapters in here. They are, I might add, among the very best in the book. Yes!

Folk Music: A Bob Dylan Biography in Seven Songs Greil Marcus (Yale University Press) $27.50  OUR SALE PRICE = $22.00

I have only started this so can’t speak in detail, but I’ll say this: Marcus loves the long, complex sentences. He is a scholar and a long-standing fan. This is not his first book on Dylan and he is notable, even in scholarly circles, as a “supreme artist-critic.”

As one reviewer put it, “Decade after decade, Greil Marcus has proven himself to be not only a brilliant cultural critic about music, lives, and stories that have helped shape contemporary American consciousness, he has also done much to articulate why our music has always stood at the axis of sound and politics.”  He writes with someone called “critical exuberance.”

His intro shares about how at first he didn’t like “Blowin’ in the Wind.” (He later wrote a lovely introduction to the power of the song for a kids book, believe it or not.) But then, well…

This may be unsurpassed; it is amazing about Dylan, but not really a biography; he opens with a brief bit about the difficulties of the very notion of biography. Of course he does.

Here is Greil Marcus at his most brilliantly insightful, eloquent, persuasive, brimming with information about Bob Dylan and his music, unique in his ability to combine the most candid sort of memoirist prose with truly inspired commentary. As Dylan ‘sees himself’ in his subjects, so Greil Marcus ‘sees himself’ in Dylan, the most original musical genius of our time, the perfect subject for the most original music critic of our time. –Joyce Carol Oates

Rumors of Glory: A Memoir Bruce Cockburn (HarperOne) $28.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $23.19

I have made it clear that I really appreciate — adore! — the many albums of Bruce Cockburn. I reviewed this long memoir in a BookNotes post when it first came out and I can’t say how much I still value this amazing story.

That Jackson Browne has a blurb on the back (calling it “the story of the development of one of the most astute and compelling songwriters in the English language”) is beyond cool. Lewis Hyde, the philosopher of the arts known for the generative book The Gift, which inspired a favorite song by Cockburn, says it is “a finely grained account of the ground from which he harvested one of the finest songs of his generation.”

Cockburn tells a good story about life and faith and beauty and justice. There are things in here that wonderfully struck me, some sad stuff, some insights about his writing and record, politics and advocacy. I’m grateful for such autobiographical accounts and this is one I’ve really enjoyed. How could I not?

The Art of Worship: A Musicians Guide to Leading Modern Worship Greg Scheer (Baker) $18.00  OUR SALE PRICE = $14.40

I could listen 20 great books about worship and a lot about the role of music in worship — we have our favorites. I wanted to have a least one on this list be about church music and this one is a true gem. Whether your church tilts contemporary or traditional (or what some call blended), Scheer is going to be an ally and help. It is (in the words of John Witvliet from the Calvin Institute on Christian Worship) “a very practical nuts and bolts of contemporary worship music leadership that will challenge both new and veteran leaders to rethinking their approach to a host of practical challenges.” Greg is a fine composer and liturgist, rooted well in the solid theology of the broad, historic church, but has lead contemporary praise services as well. His reminder that the congregations voice is central is an important insight and he is adept at offering Biblical principles and action steps, theological soundings and good stories. Nicely done.

Ponder Anew: Conversations in 21st Century Church Music edited by Jessica Nelson (Church Publishing) $19.95  OUR SALE PRICE = $15.96

I haven’t read this yet but this very new book from the Episcopal publishing house looks great — consider Ponder Anew. There’s some good folks included — choirmasters, liturgists, organists, a campus minister from Harvard, and several directors of music including one from a prominent church in White Marsh, outside of Philadelphia, where we have been.)  This looks like a fabulous collection.

 

The Sound of Life’s Unspeakable Beauty Martin Schleske, translated by Janet Gesme (Eerdmans) $25.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $20.79

I have raved about this at BookNotes before and can’t say enough about the mature eloquence and deep charm of this wonderful book by a German luthier. It is about wood and nature, about work and craft, about music and joy, about faith and beauty. Schleske’s thoughtful theology of creative beauty discerned through his own work making violins and cellos and guitars is translated beautifully by classical musician Janet Gesme — and celebrated with a robust forward by abstract painter and culture-care advocate Makoto Fujimura.

This heavy, well made book — with some artful black and white photos — was one of our very top books just a few years ago and I couldn’t let this list on pop music pass without reminding our friends of the exceptional quality of his remarkable work.

Reading these richly evocative reflections, I found myself again and again ‘surprised by joy.’ And gratitude. I was reminded that when people live into their callings deeply and faithfully, they become beacons: they remind us what happens when one says yes to the Spirit’s invitation daily and faithfully. Stories from Schleske’s work as a violinmaker, his knowledge of trees and music and even varnish, become heart-opening parables, not by preachment, but by the loving particularity with which he pays attention to the work he was given.  — Marilyn McEntyre, author of Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies and When Poets Pray

I have never seen someone so passionately and comprehensively express the relationship between calling and faith. Page by page, Schleske offers lessons along his violinmaking journey that are sure to inspire his readers. His book compels me to join him as a friend and fellow traveler, walking in the woods with him as he shares his beautiful insights. Schleske is the teacher. I am the student. And in the end, I find in the book a sense of hopefulness about the world in which we journey.  — Tony Payne, Wheaton College

TO PLACE AN ORDER 

PLEASE READ AND THEN CLICK ON THE “ORDER HERE” LINK BELOW.

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 so let us know.

– DON’T FORGET TO LET US KNOW WHAT SHIPPING METHOD YOU PREFER –

BookNotes

Hearts & Minds logo

SPECIAL
DISCOUNT

20% OFF

ALL BOOKS MENTIONED

+++

order here

this takes you to the secure Hearts & Minds order form page
just tell us what you want to order

inquire here

if you have questions or need more information
just ask us what you want to know

Hearts & Minds 234 East Main Street  Dallastown  PA  17313
read@heartsandmindsbooks.com
717-246-3333

No, Covid is not fully over. Since nobody is reporting their illnesses anymore, it is tricky to know the reality but the best measurement is to check the water tables to see the amount of virus in the eco-system. And it’s still bad. And with new stuff spreading, many hospitals are really overwhelmed. It’s important to be particularly aware of how risks we take might effect the public good. 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. Our store is a bit cramped without top-notch ventilation so we are trying to be wise. Thanks for understanding.

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 and back yard customer service and can show any number of items to you if you call us from our back parking lot. It’s sort of fun, actually. We are eager to serve and grateful for your patience as we all work to mitigate the pandemic. We are very happy to help do if you are in the area, do stop by.

Of course, we’re happy to ship books anywhere. Just tell us how you want them sent.

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