Hearts & Minds BookNotes

annotations, blurbs and ruminations

to enlarge the heart & stimulate the mind

and to happily generate mail order business for Hearts & Minds bookstore

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Location: Dallastown, PA

My lovely wife Beth and I own and operate--proprietors makes us sound more classy than we really are--a cluttered, diverse and independent bookstore in Central Pennsylvania. After well over 20 years, we are still not sure what to say when people ask if our shop is a "Christian bookstore." I do a monthly book review column over at our website; we hope that these new blogged bits will afford friends and customers the chance to see other books I happen to be reading, wishing to read, pretending that I read or at least believe that others should, if not read, know about. We have three children, attend a Presbyterian church in York, PA and have no hobbies.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

contemporary fiction: Listening for God

Contemporary Literature and the Life of Faith is the subtitle of a set of four paperbacks which are designed for small group studies, Adult Sunday School classes or other such reading groups. Of course you could use them alone, too---but why not call a group together? The titles of each of the four volumes are Listening for God: Contemporary Literature and the Life of Faith (volumes 1-4) and they are co-authored by Paul J. Carlson & Peter S. Hawkins (Augsburg-Fortress) $13.99 each.

These are arranged nicely with a very brief study of each author which include a few predictable choices (O'Connor, Buechner, Updike, Berry, Dillard) and a few that you may not think to use in a Christian ed setting---Raymond Carver, Sue Miller, Gail Godwin, Oscar Hijuelos, Reynolds Price, James Baldwin, Doris Betts...

As you can see, these are the best of the best of contemporary authors who address faith issues, that have something to say that is important about various aspects of the spiritual life or a life lived with integrity.

After the overview and reflection, there is a brief chapter (several pages, at least, not just a quick sidebar) which is an excerpt from a novel or short story of the author under consideration. Then there are discussion questions for reflection and group conversation.

This is a great way to be introduced to authors, ways to organize a study around theme of modern ficiton, and a fun break, perhaps, from whatever curriculum or study matierals you may currently be using. You can even order DVD's that cover some of this matieral (which, although we stock them, I'm too cheap to open 'em up. I really ought to get to watching this supplemental video, but I'm still reading through these great excerpts.)

A few customers have used them in their own small group, and after a while, they call up and order the next one, so they must be working well. Kudos to Augsburg for putting these out, and for reminding us that even in our fiction reading, we can be listening for God.