Books that I wished had come a few days earlier so I could have taken them to Jubilee 2010: The strongest BookNote list so far this year

It almost always happens: we’re off to sell books at some great venue—-the UCC clergy retreat, a C.S.Lewis conference, a Christian education symposium, or Jubilee.  Jubilee is our biggest event of the year, an annual gathering that, in the 1970s, catapulted us into a worldview and way of thinking about faith that included a redeeming gospel influence over every area of life. Thoughtful, culturally-savvy, interesting books are really essential at this event and it is our grandest display ever.

The 2010 Jubilee conference was as electric as ever, and the many good speakers (thanks to those who stopped by) and authors did a fabulous job.  We get to sell books about so many things to so many difference sorts of folks.  We saw anti-nuclear weapons activists and Christian specialists in medicine; we chatted with students wanting to think about how to do normative engineering while rejecting the idolatry of technology and we showed books to praise music leaders wanting a more mature and meaty theology of worship.  Thanks to the students who asked about reading faithfully in their majors—nursing, business, psychology, social work, education—and thanks to the speakers like David Kinnaman whose UnChristian documents that without this kind of robust, vibrant, faithful and relevant form of witness outside the walls of the church, we will do little to win a lost and sometimes hostile generation.  From racial reconciliation to third world development, from authors like Leroy Barber (The New Neighbor) to Peter Greer (The Poor Will Be Glad) we had a chance to sell books not only about work-a-day faith in the vocation of careers, but how ordinary folks can make a difference in social reforms, turning around awful manifestations of human sinfulness such as poverty, disease, AIDS or environmental waste.  Yep, Jubilee allows us to showcase many of our favorite books, and many folks (older participants, especially, who have the eyes to see say they’ve never quite seen such a diverse array of theologically interesting Christian books before.  If you’ve read BookNotes for a while, or come in to the shop, ever, you may know that what at first glance may seem overwhelmingly random—science? film? sexuality? gardening? prayer? economics?—are somehow inter-related and form what may be nearly a coherent selection.  We are seeking the wise ways of God, through His grace, so that we might live into the “good works” that Christ has for us to do.  Yes, we have books about the atonement, the cross, salvation and personal devotions.  Yes, we have tons of stuff about church-life and congregational health.  But, also, we have books for nearly any career or zone of life— open-minded, good-hearted, Biblically-shaped wisdom for the real world.  Christ does, after all, as the Jubilee slogan this year put it, hold all things together.  It’s all His.

Well, as I said, it almost always happens.  Just after we skedaddle for the Big Event, in comes a box or two which I find when we return.  I nearly blow a fuse with frustration—if only this would have come a day sooner, we could have taken it to the conference!  Here are a few we found a few days ago, great books that I’d have been proud to push in Pittsburgh.  I think it would have been cool, too, to have braggin’ rights on these, being the first place to show ’em off.  Tee-heee.  So we’re happy to brag about em here.  You are among the first to know.

after you believe.jpgAfter You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters  N.T. Wright (HarperOne) $24.95  Oh boy, am I glad this is out.  This is the sequel to the excellent Simply Christian and Surprised by Hope, asking the basic question of how we shall live given this broad view of the Kingdom coming, the new creation we are born into, in Christ.  Not only what shall we do–this missional Kingdom vision–but, more, what kind of people must we become?  The first few chapters are on character (and may seem a tad dry or arcane to some, but it is important) and the second half soars, showing us with great erudition, just how the virtues of Christ can be worked out and the implications it has for daily living.  One reviewer said his vision is “both gentle and radical”.   Wow, this is one of the books of the year, for sure!  Regardless of your own denominational affiliation, I am convinced that you and your people need this book.  Think it through, stretch yourself, and be glad for such a thoughtful, articulate, gracious, and radical call to vibrant ethical living.  Yes!

surprised DVD.jpgDVD.gifSurprised By Hope DVD  N.T. Wright (Zondervan) $24.99  Zondervan sure has been promoting some very, very well made video product lately, and this 6-week DVD looks to be spectacular.  What does happen when we die?  Are we just to sit around waiting for heaven?  Why is the resurrection of the body such a key phrase in the Apostle’s Creed?  If we really are resurrected to a new creation, how does that effect our daily living now?  Can we be people whose lives are signposts of real hope, hope within history? Is there a connection between this life and the next?  This would have been perfect to suggest to collegiate Jubilee groups to watch in a study group back home, living out the implications of the J vision.  I’m going to use this is our adult Sunday school as soon as they’ll let me.  I hope you consider it too.  Very helpful. 

The Last Christian On Earth: Uncover the Enemy’s Plot to Undermine the Church  Os Guinness (Regal) $14.99  Dr. Guinness’ The Call remains a perfect Jubilee book–gracefullylast christian on earth.jpg written, well-informed by literature, philosophy, history, and offering the most elegant and profound invitation to find the grand purpose of our lives of any book I know.  Yet, it was Guinness’ provocative, deeply sociological study of the nature of modernity (and the churches capitulation to the spirit of the times) that riveted many of us when he lectured powerfully at Jubilee in the early 1980s.  Soon, the fascinating Screwtape-esque set of fictional memorandum collected as The Grave Digger Files was released.  This brand new release is a slightly expanded version of that creative bit of cultural critique, now given this new title.  Guinness has often been asked if Screwtape was his inspiration for putting out these alleged letters from the evil side, and actually, he reports in a great new forward, that it was John le Carre “and his brilliant descriptions of the gray world of intelligence” that inspired him.  And, he writes, as many of us had expected, “As for the “old Fool” he is Malcolm Muggeridge, who was alive and well when I first wrote the book, and a dear friend.  His utterly hilarious, but deadly seri
ous, brand of fool-making has long been an inspiration to my lifelong passion for Christian persuasion.”  Os continues, “He is now in heaven, but he read the book when it first came out and his kind commendation has always meant the world to me.”  The former BBC skeptic and public intellectual, Muggeridge, by the way, wrote of the first edition that it is “a most brilliant book…it is beautifully worked out, enormously entertaining and conveys great truth.”

Other endorsements for it come from Peter Berger and David Wells, who says “This is Guinness at his very best: clear and vivid language, sharp and cutting insights, and a brilliantly executed explanation of the current weakness of the Western Church.  We ignore this argument at our peril.”

Our sociology section at the conference book display would have been stronger if we had The Last Christian On Earth, as it is a most interesting way to discern the contours of the times, a summary of a major sociological insight about modernity, success, and “digging our own grave.” .  It could have been in our “church” section, too, as it is ultimately a critique of how the church buys into the spirit of the times in a shallow search for cheap relevance.  And it could have been offered to our writing workshops, literature majors, as it is a fun and exemplary example of creative ways to use contemporary genres to teach and inform about the deepest truths.  Ahh, I hope we can promote it now, as it is deep, intellectually demanding, rich, playful and spot on.

vertical self.jpgThe Vertical Self: How Biblical Faith Can Help us Discover Who We Are in an Age of Self-Obsessions  Mark Sayers (Nelson) $14.99  Sayers wrote a stunningly important and woefully under-appreciated book and DVD a few years ago, a clever and engaging study of consumerism (The Trouble With Paris.)  This is a perfect follow-up (or perhaps it could be read first) to that fabulous book about consumerism, false hopes, disillusionment and grounding a realistic faith in the doctrines of creation and incarnation.  What a book (and contemporary DVD) that was!

In this postmodern, hot-wired culture, where we are offered the plastic promise of “being whatever we want” Sayers reminds us of the fundamental truths of our identity, and our placed-ness in God’s good but fallen creation.  Our carefully cultivated personas just frustrate and confuse us, finally, and this book invites us to rediscover the one thing that can really fulfill—radical holiness, and a desire for appropriate health before a loving God.  Young adults at Jubilee are surely on a journey of discovering who they are.  This book could help.  It has a blurb on the back by Chris Seay and a forward by Len Sweet (which is one of his more interesting ones, and he is always a great foward-er!).  It is not another self-help book, in fact, he teaches us how that view of self is itself part of the problem. A quick skim of the footnotes, showing forth deep and important stuff like Richard Middleton’s vital work on the image of God, The Liberating Image, Rushkoff’s DVD The Merchants of Cool,  the acclaimedThe Saturated Self, Neal Gabler’s Life: The Movie, and the very important work of Christopher Lasch.  And nearly any book that cites Walsh & Keesmaat’s Colossians Remixed is worth reading.  Wow, this looks great!  Fun, informed by the best scholarship, culturally-relevant and deeply spiritual.  Perfect!

belief.jpgBelief: Readings on the Reason for Faith  Francis Collins (editor) (HarperOne) $19.99  Every year at Jubilee we have conversations with non-Christian students, seekers, agnostics, confused and agnostic kids.  Some are very aware of their anti-Christian bias (but they came to the conference out of curiosity or because some good-lovin’ Christian friend paid their way.)  I know other workshop leaders and CCO staff have these meaningful conversations, too, but they do seem to often gravitate to the bookstore.  “What does that author mean?”  Why do you have those kinds of books?”  “Do you have anything that might convince me to believe in Jesus?”  It is rare that in a matter of a few days we have so many deep and important conversations. This year was no different, perhaps more so, as there was a Jubilee track dealing with the new atheism.  Several atheist students were given time to speak and atheist leader Hemant Mehta (I Sold My Soul On E-bay) was on a panel discussing the relative merits of Christian convictions and the new atheism.  And so, I really, really wish we would have had this reader as it is the prefect collection to put into the hands of anyone seeking after truth, anybody who wonders if it is intellectually credible to explore Christian faith, or for anyone who feels a need to study up on these foundations so they might answer the questions that come your way.

Do you have deep questions of faith, reason, justice, science, the credibility of belief?  Do you know anyone who does?  Francis Collins, as you most likely know, now serves in the Obama administration as the Director of the National Institute of Health.  As former Director of the Human Genome Project, and a medical researcher known in cystic fybrosis work, he becamecollins.jpg known as one of the most renowned Christians in the sciences in our generation.  His Language of God was a New York Times bestseller, he has a new volume coming soon on science, so this work of apologetics is a splendid resource, introduced and explained, by an esteemed and reasonable gentleman of deep Christian faith.

Here, in Belief, he collates and introduces a good 25 or so essays from a wise variety of sources that can walk readers towards the destination of knowing that religious faith can be credible, intellectually-sustainable, and that we can have good reasons to believe.  From the earliest writers in the West (Plato, Augustine, Anselm,) through renowned writers such as Pascal and  Locke, Collins shows the classic arguments for faith and reason.  He has a wonderful few pieces on “the meaning of truth” (Os Guinness, Madeleine L’Engle, Dorothy Sayers) and some moving work on the problem of evil (from Art Lindsley to Desmond Tutu and Elie Wiesel.)  I love his section “loving God with all your mind” which includes a classic piece by Elton Trueblood and a good essay by John Stott; in “the cry for justice” he includes a contemporary piece from Tim Keller’s Reason for God and a classic by Martin Luther King, Jr.  And so on–from his beloved C.S. Lewis to Viktor Frankl to some “voices from the East” (Gandhi and the Dalai Lama) we see a breadth and depth of short excerpts, designed to not only whet the appetite, but to actually fill one with the cumulative weight of glory.  It is the best meal of its kind. 

Collins introduces these pieces well, and we come to see a solid understanding of the harmony of science and faith (for instance, John Polkinghorne) and a bit on the irrationality of atheism from the likes of Chesterton, Kung, Alvin Platinga and Anthony Flew. 
Any book that has my friend Art Lindsley (a piece from his excellent True Truth) and Tom Merton (a bit on mysticism from his Ascent to Truth), the remarkable Alister McGrath and Mother Theresa, well…this is a stunning collection of essential writings, and I only wish I could have shown it to some young uncertain intellectuals at Jubilee.  Maybe you know somebody you’d like to share it with? There may be other anthologies like this, but I don’t know any quite as good. 

untamed.jpgUntamed: Reactivating a Missional Form of Discipleship  Alan & Debra Hirsch (Baker) $14.99  We know Hirsch as one of the premier writers about the movement called “missional” and a helpful guide about how the church must contend with the trends of the new 21st century epoch.  Here, he invites us to get serious about discipleship, a provocation to dedication, call call to contemporary commitment.  This book is plucky and fun, edgy and serious, full of whole-life discipleship.  It might have been good for the Jubby students to see these Aussies expose the pagan notion of a sacred/secular dualism (and that CCO aren’t the only folks insisting that as a central part of a Christian worldview, the rejection of dualism.)  Jubilee pal Gabe Lyons has a blurb on the back noting its importance, as does Neil Cole, Margaret Feinberg, Reggie McNeal and Greg Boyd.  Amazingly interesting, vital, earthy discipleship.

for the beauty of the church.jpgFor the Beauty of the Church: Casting a Vision for the Arts  Edited by David O. Taylor (Baker) $14.99  We had a great display of books about the arts, aesthetics, creativity and such.  Mako Fujimura did both a plenary session and a workshop, and we had poets, writers and dancers doing their thing.  Interestingly, much of our effort is to convince folks that taking up their artistic calling before God does not mean one must work in or for the local church.  Of course we need more artistic influences in our congregations, and it would please God (and many people) if aesthetically wise people contributed to the making of banners, bulletins and hallway art in our ordinary church buildings.  Still, we need artists in the wider culture, too, and Jubilee invites young art majors to serve God with their creative selves, not only in the doing of liturgical art or Sunday school pictures, but in galleries and graphic design studios.

So, along comes this book, informed by precisely such a broad vision of God’s good creation and the call to serve Christ in the marketplace, with callings and careers, integrating faith and daily work (in this case the work of painting, dancing, film-making and such.)  Yet, this book wisely also says that, yes, indeed, our artists can serve the Kingdom in the world, but must also serve the congregation and the church.  There are chapters for pastors, for patrons, for artists in the congregation, a look at “dangers” and great chapter on worship, one called “the practitioner” that looks very good.

Let’s hear it for this excellent collection, with lavish endorsements from rock music producerdavid o. taylor.jpg and author Charlie Peacock, poet and memoirist Luci Shaw, writer and church leader Marva Dawn and, yes, abstract artist, Makoto Fujimura.   Here we have what sure looks like profound and wonderful pieces by Eugene Peterson, Lauren Winner, Barbara Nicolosi, Andy Crouch, Jeremy Begbie, John Witvliet and more. (My, my, I looked at this again, in the middle of my dumb blogging here, and stopped–I just had to read Lauren’s chapter, which is truly wonderful writing, and very, very insightful and honest about being supportive of the arts.  What a piece! Andy’s is excellent, and I note that Eugene Peterson cites a book that I once sent him. Nice.)

So, this is nothing short of a thrilling book,  a great and interesting and enjoyable anthology of some of our best church leaders calling us to consider the church’s stewardship of the arts.  I am glad we had It Was Good, Objects of Grace, Walking on Water, Art and Soul, Breath for the Bone, God in the Gallery, Refractions and (of course) Rainbows for a Fallen World as foundational books for the art students at Jubilee.  But, gee, I sure wish I could have shown this to some folks.  It may be the next great book in this vital, developing field, with this great application to ordinary congregational life.  Kudos to Taylor and team.  Check out his blog, here.

Well, there are more.  The latest in the “Living Theology” series edited by Tony Jones just arrived, called The Promise of Despair: The Way of the Cross as The Way of the Church by Andrew Root (Abingdon; $18.00.) While it may be a bit much for younger students, it is certainly a book I simply must read–about the nature of suffering and being a community that attends to the hard stuff of life.

  Or, for instance, a brand new book on why we should love the church, esp as it teaches us spiritual disciplines and forms us into a community, may have been excellent to show these young leaders: Giving Church Another Chance: Finding Meaning in Spiritual Practices by Todd Hunter (IVP; $18.00.)  With rave endorsements from everyone from Phyllis Tickle to Jim Belcher to Dallas Willard, this looks tremendously rich.  If only it had come a few days earlier!

Ron Martoia is an author whose work seems to resonate with Jubilee; his amazing Tranformational Architecture talked about seeing your life as a story, and learning to tell that story has changed (by God): narrative theology mashed up with spiritual formation as the key
bible as improv.jpg to authentic evangelism!  So I was frustrated that his brand new book came a bit early, a few days after the big conference.  The Bible as Improv: Seeing and Living the Script in New Ways (Zondervan; $14.99) looks really right on, a helpful way to honor the immense and foundational ways the Bible shapes us, but also how our outworking of our tasks simply must have a degre of “improv” to them.  The Bible must stimulate dialogue, discussion, discipleship, play, experimentation, risk.  Alan Hirsch says this is “unconventional” but it seems to make perfect sense.  With comedian and actress Susan Isaacs (Angry Conversations With God) at Jubilee, it would have been fun to promote a book about improv.  So, I improv now, riffing on a book I’m excited to tell you about.  Yeah.


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John Perkins, historic African American leader rocks the Jubilee conference

Well, we got the rented truck unloaded from Jubilee and we’ve now got dozens of boxes underfoot and even more in the garage.  Our ears are still ringing and every muscle aches, but it is the sort of exhaustion that comes from very good work.  We were thrilled to be selling books to young adults, students, scholars, activists, fellow-vendors and leaders, and nearly as thrilled to be up front,byron on stage.jpg speaking with passion and joy about the duty to read widely, study hard, learn much, as we become savvy ambassadors, translating the message of the reign of God to a post-Christian culture. I’ll give a more full report later, but the chance to cross paths with prominent authors, old friends, great students, and to do several workshops and talks and book announcement–well, whewie, what a few fabulous days! 

crowd.jpgWhat a great Kingdom vision Jubilee holds up, and what honor CCO staff and Jubilee volunteers manifest in running this innovative and electric gathering.  Years ago, when Episcopalian minister Sam Shoemaker insisted that someday Pittsburgh would be famous for God, and then worked to nurture Bill W. (founder of AA and the small group movement) and a lively faith-at-work ministry in that city of steel, he set the stage for a lay-oriented, ecumenical renewal that lead to the formation of Coalition for Christian Outreach and its campus ministry.  It took some Dutch Calvinists and Francis Schaeffer to deepen the intellectual vision of integrated Christian scholarship for Christian students, and it took preachers like Tony Campolo reminding us to live out this “Christ across the curriculum” worldview in tangible acts of service, justice, and peacemaking, but the CCO has seemed to have followed its calling, living out the DNA of its unique organizational convictions and traditions.  The CCOs Jubilee event has long been an interesting blend of thoughtful stuff about vocation, calling, and careers, and social transformation, missional service, and justice-advocacy.  In and through and for Christ Jesus, ordinary folks take up their high callings to be agents of Christ’s ways in the university, the work-world, third places of the arts and culture, and as citizens and neighbors.  Jubilee teaches ’em how to rock this world, and we are thrilled.

There is one man who has been a regular every so often at Jubilee over the years, and if not at Jubilee, at several Pittsburgh-area churches.  Or, at CCO-related colleges through-out the mid-Atlantic. One man surely stands out as having helped CCO, especially, with issues of race and class, and called us to make multi-ethnic ministry an important aspect of our work.  There have been others, but Dr. John Perkins, founder of Voice of Calvary (in Mendenhall Mississippi) has been more than a friend to the CCO, he has been a supporter, one to consult with and challenge and provoke us, a leader among leaders, who has insisted that the gospel be worked out in ways that show God’s plan for reconciliation. 

You can read more about Dr. Perkin’s truly remarkable life here, here, or about his work here, You should
John Perkins.jpg know that he has not only been supportive of the CCO and has left his mark on their work for more than 30 years,  but that he once again this year gave of himself to inspire and equip the young adults at the Jubilee conference.  As one of my very best friends, Ken Heffner, of Calvin College, put it, after hearing him preach Sunday morning, “I’ve been listening to John Perkins for 34 years and he just keeps getting better and better.”  His radical call to justice, his confidence in the vast implications of grace, his insistence that race and class divisions are worldly and can be overcome by Christ’s cross, and that God is about the business of reconciling all things….well, it just doesn’t get much better. This message was full of power, conviction, anointed by God’s Spirit, and delivered by a man who bears the marks of suffering and dedication.  Dr. Perkins honored us once again at Jubilee, and it reminded me of the many times I’ve heard him or that we have been with him.  He has been one of the top heroes and models for Beth and I and we wanted you to know. Friends of H&M should know of John Perkins.

I will be honest, too: Perkins spoke at Jubilee late Sunday morning, and after a spectacular (and pretty frenetic) week-end, the dazzled students had little time to get back to the book display to buy his books.  So, we have a lot left over.

SO, here is what we’d love to do.  To honor Dr. John Perkins, the CCO, and this invitation to a wholistic vision of a Christ-centered multi-faceted reconciliation, we will offer a buy-one-get-one deal.  Here are three books that we are offering, while supplies last, of the honorable social reformer, civil rights leader, and Christian activist, John Perkins. They are great books.

let justice roll.jpgLet Justice Roll Down  John Perkins (Regal) $19.99  Here is what it says on the front of this newly re-issued edition of his classic biography, “His brother died in his arms, shot by a deputy marshal…he was beaten and tortured by the sheriff and State Police…but through it all he returned good for evil, love for hate, progress for prejudice and brought hope to black and white alike.”   Anyone who thinks this is overly sentimental, or less than fully Biblical religion should know that this is clearly about the kind of social action that should come out of knowing Jesus Christ as Savior.  It is about forming visible community development that is creating new models for black housing, economic independence, education and health care, but is rooted, as he puts it, in “only the power of Christ’s crucifixion on the cross and the glory of His resurrection.”  One of the great biographies of a Christian leader of the 20th century, a leader born of share-croppers in Mississippi who returned there to work in a Christ-centered, radical ministry, who has earned honorary PhDs and remains true to his founding vision.

with justice for all.jpgWith Justice for All: A Strategy for Community Development (revised and expanded) $17.99  John has done decades of work, forming organizations, models, networks and ministries around the themes of this powerful, pivotal book, the work that explains his three-fold call to transformation.  Put simply, this is his development of what he calls “the three Rs—Relocation, Reconciliation, Redistribution.”    This is an outstandi
ng book for anyone interested in social change or wholistic ministry, for anyone or any church who has interest in a missional vision or in service to those in need.  His updated chapter on “redistribution” especially is very important for our current “common good” public debates, and a lovely edition includes an afterward by his daughter on how a younger generation is being embraced in a new decade. Truly, truly outstanding.

follow me to freedom.jpgFollow Me to Freedom: Leading as an Ordinary Radical John Perkins & Shane Claiborne (Regal) $14.99  I raved about this when it came out, and think it is a gem of a read.  Here, we have this African American sage elder and this pugnacious hipster white kid, both of whom share a passion for serving the poor and working to see God’s Kingdom come as the church becomes a serious crucible for transforming and healing broken lives.  As the baton is passed from one leader to another, this book of conversations (literally) ranges from leadership to followership, from being faithful in service to learning how to endure over the long haul.  There is some nice stuff on prayer and some great humor as the prankster Shane tweeks his older, black brother.  This is a fun, funny, and altogether interesting book for anybody interested in what these two important author activists have to say to one another, and to us all.  Love it.

 Let Justice Roll Down
 With Justice for All  or Follow Me to Freedom
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New Books arrive even as we pack for the Jubilee conference

Those that follow BookNotes know that every year we sell books at the biggest thing we do all year, the big conference organized for college students in Pittsburgh, Jubilee.  Go back to last year’s blog posts here, or here, and you’ll see our passionate ruminations on why this event is so exciting (and exhausting.)

 Thank goodness for organizations like the CCO who help college students relate faith and vocation, who equip a new generation of Christian folk who serve God in the work-a-day world, being “salt & light” in the midst of careers and callings.  Would that ordinary churches would more esteem their lawyers and science teachers and physical therapists and film-makers, their artists and business leaders, their engineers and elected officials.  That this culture-making, Kingdom-announcing, whole-life vision of relevant faith is so appreciated by young believers is inspiring to us.  Pray for us as we work hard to do this thing right.  Pray for CCO and their Jubilee, too; believe it or not, some thing they are amiss in holding up the Lordship of Jesus over every dimension of life.  Some mainline folk think it sounds a bit too radical, bringing the authority of Scriptures to bear on public life like that and some fundamentalists think we are diluting the call to evangelism and spiritual integrity.  As most BookNotes readers will surely agree, it is tricky to be faithful (in the words of Indian missiologist Leslie Newbegin) to proclaims “the gospel in a pluralistic society” but it has always been so.  The missional movement is reminding us that in a post-Constantine world, we must ponder anew what Augustine meant (and what Willimon and Hauerwas meant) by call to be “resident aliens.”  It sure makes bookselling fun, that’s for sure.

And so, even as we have dozens of heavy boxes scattered all over our shop,cardboard boxes.jpg and our hard-working staff are lugging them to and fro, new stuff keeps coming.   We’re pretty crazy here, but so glad for customers who visit on line or stop by.  Even while Beth and I are out of town, our staff soldier on, keeping things running smoothly.  It’s amazing when we box up for these off-site events, to be reminded of just how many unusual and hard-to-find books we’ve got–from a Christian theology of math to new resources on race relations; from brand new titles on faith and science to old favorites in art, poetry, books about writing….  We’re excited!

new kind of christianity.jpgWe will tell you next week more about them, I hope, but know that we got the new, controversial, and very interesting Brian McLaren book, A New Kind of Christianity: Ten Questions That Are Transforming the Faith (HarperOne; $24.99). Some respected reviewers are being terribly injudicious in their rhetoric (inappropriately saying McLaren “hates God”) while others seem unwilling to be even somewhat critical of Brian’s latest articulation of his journey.  I think it is an important and valuable book, have read most of it twice in an earlier review copy, and even if it is not all that some of us had hoped for, there is much good insight.  We are eager for serious and thoughtful conversation about it, and will have to discuss it further, later.

practicing resurrection Peterson.jpgWe’ve gotten the new, final volume in the Eugene Peterson “spiritual theology” series, Practicing Resurrection: A Conversation on Growing Up In Christ (Eerdmans; $24.00.) You may know that we think this series to be some of the best religious publishing of our bookselling careers, and we very highly commend them.  I’m sure this one will be no less significant and gracious and wise.  We’ll celebrate it more soon, too.

 Beth and I devoured Sarah Miles’ latest, Jesus Freak: Feeding–Healing–jesus freak.jpgRaising the Dead (Jossey Bass; $21.99) a powerful memoir to follow her spectacular Take This Bread: A Radical Conversion. One need not agree with her on everything to be utterly taken by her amazing writing, her honest and raw testimony, her stunning prose about her vibrant work among the crazy and poor and disenfranchised in San Francisco.  I tell folks that she makes wild-woman Anne Lamott seem like Barry Manilow.  Steve Brown, a conservative Reformed author and radio guy we trust, had a fabulous interview with her a while back, so we aren’t the only evangelicals insisting she is worth reading.  Books and Culture did a podcast discussing her work, too, which I have not yet heard.  Check it out here.

journey to the common good.jpgAnd, we just got a stack of the new paperback by Dr. Walter Brueggemann, Journey to the Common Good (WJK;$16.95.)  These were wonderfully delivered at Regent College in British Columbia, and I’ve listened to the CDs more than once.  To see these three major addresses in print is thrilling.  I may become one of our favorite Brueggy books.

We’ll tell you more about these, and more, in due time.  If you want to order them now, we’ll offer a 20% discount off any listed.  Just email the order here (tell us you saw the special offer to indicate that you are a BookNotes reader) or call us at the shop (717-246-3333.) 

20% off
brand new books by
McLaren, Peterson, Miles, Brueggemann
Hearts & Minds 234 East Main Street  Dallastown, PA 17313     717.246.3333

BEST BOOKS of 2009 (Part Two)

trophy 2.jpgWe’ve posted the long and interesting—if we do say so ourselves—second part of our collection of quirky awards, well-intended celebrations, and honorable mentions of some of the best books that we think deserve some extra accolades this past year.  We hope you will read through them, send a link to others, spread the word.  If we can honor these good publishers by buying some of the more interesting books they’ve released this year, that is a helpful thing.  Vote in the marketplace, as they say.  Thanks for caring, for being book-loving, for your edgy willingness to read real books.

So: here’s an award to you all (very, very sincerely given) for your willingness to read our stuff, your support of our bookstore, your interest in indie shopping, your commitments to read widely.  We think God is glorified when people think well, learn deeply, love much.  We think this year gave us some great resources to help us along the way.

 Here is how the Best Books (Part Two) column starts.  You can read the rest over at the January 2010 monthly review column here at our website. 

Well, friends, welcome back from the awards show intermission. We hope you had a
good stretch. Thank your seat fillers, and settle in for the second part of our
2009 ceremony. It will be an exciting time, without commercial breaks. We think
you will enjoy it. Thanks for joining us for the remainder of our celebration.
Let’s bring on the dignitaries, and break out the award medals. Figuratively
speaking, that is

books in a row.jpg

I liked the look of this nice row of books, all nominees for the British Costa Award, not the Hearts & Minds list…

Hearts & Minds 234 East Main Street  Dallastown, PA  17313  717.246.3333

Great recent children’s picture books

A Hearts & Minds friend wanted to give a gift to honor a young teacher friend, who works in the public schools with younger children.  She didn’t want anything too overtly religious, of course, so we listed a few that have a good moral or message, or that offers something particularly interesting.  Thought you might enjoy seeing our suggestions of these recent recommendations.
lion.jpgThe 2010 Caldecott Award was announced just a few
weeks ago, and the Medal for the Best Illustrated Children’s book of last year
was The Lion & The Mouse illustrated by the
wonderful, creative, and beloved Jerry Pinkney (Little, Brown; $16.99.)  This
breath-takingly beautiful book is very well manufactured, sturdy, with good paper and expert design, and the
painting is so, so clever (without being odd or self-indulgent.) Congratulations, again, to Mr. Pinkney. This is the
classic Aesop’s Fable, set in the Serengeti of Tanzania and Kenya, where “even
the king needs help…and little friends may prove to be great friends.”  A
wordless wonder–you have to see it!  
Beatitudes.jpgWe have a new book that is very moving, in 
beautifully illustrated watercolors for children, that is more or less the
history of African Americans, from slavery through the underground railroad,
into the civil rights movement, ending with the inauguration of President Obama. It is
called The Beatitudes: From Slavery to Civil Rights
written by Carole Boston Weatherford (Eerdmans; $16.99.)  It is
beautifully done, emotionally powerful, and what is so interesting is that it has the beatitudes from the Bible, showing that these faith principles nourished the African American
community over time.  It is in that sense overtly Biblical, but could be appropriate
for public school use, integrating this historically-accurate insight that the
Bible gave comfort and inspiration to the struggle for justice.  It might work,
without seeming “pushy” or “sneaking” religion into school, since it is a true account of how this ethical code was part of much of black history. And about
the power of the text. For ages 7 or 8 and up thorough 12 or so, although it
does show some of the civil rights ugliness, so might upset children that are
unaware of what happened…For those who follow such books, Tim Ladwig is the amazingly talented illustrator who did the rich and important edition of the 23rd Psalm, set in an urban ghetto, and another one, about a black child, living into the promises of The Lord’s Prayer.  They are called Psalm Twenty-Three
Psalm Twenty-Three.jpg and Lord’s Prayer, both in paperback from Eerdmans.  Perhaps not as useful for public schools, but you should still know these excellent and colorful books.

Ben and the Emancipation bigger.jpgAnother lovely book we are very, very fond of is brand new—the truly
stunning Ben and the Emancipation Proclamation
written by Pat Sherman, and illustrated by the famous Floyd Cooper (Eerdmans;
$16.99.)  The attention to detail and extraordinary art is spectacular, but the message is equally powerful.  It tells the tale of a 1860s slave boy who learns to read (he has to keep it a
secret for a while) and eventually comes to be the one to read the Emancipation Proclamation.  It is about the most evocative, beautiful children’s book about
the African American experience I’ve ever seen, and the subtext is that knowing
how to read is liberating.  What a great, great, book! Great for ages 7- 12. Highly

the flower.jpgSpeaking of the power of reading, The
written by John Light and illustrated by Lisa Evans
(Child’s Play; $16.95.)  This is a hard book to describe, a bit darkly
illustrated, allusive in the mysterious way that some of Chris Van
Allsburg’s work is. (I told you about The Wretched Stone before, about
the sailors who turn into monkeys because they watch what the reader learns in
the end is a TV. Ha!)  In this story, the world is strict, dark and gray, and
the boy lives in a small gray room. He goes to a boring, scary library, where
forbidden books are kept (you’ve got to see the pictures!) and discovers a book
that is called “Do Not Read.”  Of course he does, and the upshot of the
story–through some clever twists–is that it tells how to grow plants, which
over-take the darkness of the concrete culture.  These green sprouts make him
smile, of course, and brings life to the city.  Simply and a bit haunting, yet
finally joyful. Very few words on the page, so it is good for early elementary,
but the creepy look of some of it might appeal to even older kids.
curious garden.jpgThe Curious Garden  Peter
Brown (Little, Brown) $16.99 Funny that I picked this one, too, to tell you
about as it is a very similar story, although not nearly as mysterious or dark
(and nothing about a book.) The pictures are less haunting, and Brown is known
for his usually cheery and whimsical stories. Here, a boy starts planting
gardens around a drab and broken-down city, and he brings beauty place by place,
until everybody gets excited, and gardening breaks out, people start trimming
hedges into beautiful landscapes, and he beautifies the city, “one garden at a
time.”  Fun, especially for early elementary or pre-school, even.
dreams to grow on.jpgDreams to Grow On 
Written by Christine Hurley Deriso Illustrated by Matthew Archambault
(Illumination Arts) $15.95  In this lovely book, a dark-haired middle elementary
age girl imagines what she might be when she grows up.  She imagines all these
options, and each soft water-color just shimmers with hope and idealism. (In
most frames, she is doing something rather normal, and certainly plausible, but it is framed in a positive way, nearly noble.)  Interestingly, she
gets each idea from looking around, and seeing her brothers or mother or father doing
stuff.  Written in sweet rhyme, this is a delightfully inspiring book of good 
dreams.  Theologians might say it is a book about calling and vocation.  

sunday in kyoto.jpgSunday in Kyoto Songs by Gilles Vigneault
Illustrated by Stephane Jorisch (The Secret Mountain) $16.95  This is so cool
and rather rare, so had to tell you (since I know you are interested in
music.)  This is a wildly illustrated kid’s book, with very sparse text, telling a whimsical story about an old Cajun banjo blues player who moves to Japan with his Asian
wife, where he meets up with various musicians who come to play–a classical
guitarist from Spain and several Asian musicians with their unique
instruments—bouzouki, the koto, a shamisen— who all then do a concert for
some Buddhist monks in their flowing robes, and a surprise ending. There is a CD-rom slipped in the
back that has a great audio recording of the song that this story grew from, and 13 other quirky story-songs, all written by the famous French Canadian, Gilles Vigneault (who some call the Pete Seeger of Quebec.)  For what it is worth, if you want some little-known street cred with hipster kids, this publisher did a similar storybook/CD to some songs from the band Trout Fishing in America.  Betcha didn’t know that!

We’ve carried their Down at the Sea Hotel book/CD of tender (and sometimes odd) lullabies, sung by the likes of John Gorka, Eliza Gilkyson, and the Wailin’ Jennys (before they were quite so famous) doing songs by the likes of Nanci Griffith, Carole King, Greg Brown and (yes!) Bruce Cockburn (Little Seahorse, naturally), so we like this publisher. Sunday in Kyoto, showcasing these songs of Gilles Vigneault, is fabulously interesting, even if you are not a French Canadian. Enjoy.

Hearts & Minds 234 East Main Street  Dallastown, PA  17313     717.246.3333

The Gospel According to Lost

the gospel according to lost.jpgAm I all a-flutter about the new episode of Lost?  Yep, you betcha.  Beth and I have become fans even though (you might know) that most evenings I’d rather be reading, maybe even something like Puritan theology, social ethics, or some heart-breaking memoir.  Beth continues to read novels, research Lyme disease, and generally avoids most of the pop stuff on TV. (Our daughter insists that we are the only family she knows who doesn’t have cable.  Shoot, I know families who don’t have a TV!) But then we discovered Lost a few years ago on DVD and we’ve been loving it ever since. I’m so hooked.  And all those book references? The philosophical names? The Biblical allusions?  I’m not going to lie: we love it.

So, The Gospel According to Lost (recently published by Thomas Nelson; $14.99) is the latest by Chris Seay, a pastor in Texas who serves a church gathering called Ecclesia.  He’s done The Gospel According to the Sopranos, a pretty cool book on The Matrix films (The Gospel Reloaded) and a brilliant book interviewing crooks from the Enron scandal, asking how it could be that people raised in a Southern fundamentalist culture could go to work and cook the books.  Ahhh, that old sacred-secular dualism, that compartmentalization, that failure to connect the dots between Sunday and Monday, between prayer and politics, between work and worship. 

Well, our man Seay, who will be on the main stage at the CCOs Jubilee conference in Pittsburgh in a few weeks (it is not too late to sign up!), is a master of seeing God’s truths in chris seay.jpgpopular culture, in exegeting the images of our times even as he exegetes the Bible.  He is wild about Lost, has a real passion for the show, and does some interesting ruminating about the meaning of it all as he dedicates a chapter to each main character. And I mean he is exploring the Meaning Of It All, as only a Lost fan could do.  This is a fun and interesting book, and some have said that even if you haven’t watched the show, it is a great way to generate faith-based conversations with those who do watch the show.  So, fan or not, this is a great primer, because it allows the deeper questions that so naturally surface in the show to come to the fore. 

There are included some painted “icons” of each of the main characters, too, and these full color plates are worth the price of the book for true fans. Saint
icon of hurley.jpg Hurley, Sayid, and the one of Daniel Faraday (“Patron Saint of the Mystic Scientists”) are especially moving to ponder. (Oh, and the one of Iko is powerful, with that weird walking stick with the Bible verses, and the icon of John Locke, while not particularly endearing, is very well done.)  But the artwork is the icing on the cake: the great part of this book is how the author explores an essential theme in each character, developing insights, perplexities, joys and sorrows of each, and honors the artistry of the show on its own terms.  And then, wisely, slyly, even, he shifts from some arcane detail of episode such and such, or some scholarly footnote about a name or book that appears in the show, and he’s off, hipster preacher that he is, talking about eternal things, offering a distinctively Christian perspective on the issues of the episode.

Yes, it could be cheesy,using the show for his gospel purposes.  Given the way the arts work, and the utter urgency of the gospel itself, I don’t necessarily think that is always wrong; using stuff from nature or culture or the world of ideas as a springboard to deeper conversations isn’t necessarily inappropriate. Although some secularists might object, it is, most should agree, a way to honor the art, to take it seriously. (This is a case that is very well explored in Bill Romanowski’s ground-breaking and very important Eyes Wide Open: Finding God in Popular Culture [Brazos; $21.99. Call us immediately if you need some good grounding in this; it’s the best!) 

There is no doubt in my mind that Seay is not just “using” the popular arts for his own purposes, he is deeply engaging it, as one who appreciates and enjoys it, and he does so as a follower of The Christ.  His reflections end up being intregal, not somehow exploiting the show, but woven together, most often nearly seamlessly.  Seay cares about the characters, and he obviously gets a kick out of the communal nature of the Oceanic buzz, the speculations, the blogs and water-cooler conversations, even the pop songs that have emerged from the show, the that song by The Fray.  It has been a while since a show has generated wide-spread conversations about faith and reason, about social philosophers like John Locke, or the nature of God’s providence in matters of good and evil.  That this is a cool show, an intelligent show, a show with some overtly Christian content (despite some very troubling matters, from violence to gnosticism, to paganism) and a show that has drawn in a large part of our nation can’t be denied.  That a joyful Christian leader would engage it with such verve and true insight is a blessing to behold.  There may some day be a more definitive Lost text.  For now, we are so happy to be able to tell you about this.  And very excited that we’ll get to meet Chris at Jubilee 2010.

Check out The Gospel According to Lost by Chris Seay.  Then, if you’re up for it, consider Lost and Philosophy:The Island Has Its Reasons edited by Sharon Kay (as part of the Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture Series) which is a fully serious collection of contemporary philosophy buffs doing serious cultural studies work, using Lost as a springboard for some very deep speculations.

I couldn’t resist showing this picture from Chris Seay’s twitter post today, showing Kate all dressed up at the Hawaii parties this week, with The Gospel According to Lost in her hands.  How cool is that?  She is, by the way, known as a person of faith, a star who spends her off time in refugee camps in Africa.  From what I hear, she’s the real deal.  And she’s happy to have the book.  You will be too, even if you aren’t wearing an evening gown when you order it.

kate & gospel according to lost.jpg

Kate getting book.jpgBL

The Gospel According to Lost

Chris Seay
20% off

We can mail it out right away.  Thanks for ordering through us.

Hearts & Minds 234 East Main Street  Dallastown, PA 17313     717.246.3333