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.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

A Mind for God

James Emery White has written a batch of good books lately, all readable and interesting. Notably, we been excited about Serious Times: Making Your Life Matter in a Serious Day which uses brief biographies to introduce us not only to history-making faithful Christ-followers such as William Wilberforce or St. Patrick or Dietrich Bonhoeffer, but how to learn from these saints of God in ways that can sustain our own efforts for social and cultural reformation. It is the kind of book we like since it isn't at all a dry, academic treatise, yet it is unlike so much trifling, self-indulgent stuff that is common-place in evangelical publishing (not to mention in new age and esoterica shops) these days. Now that it is out in paperback, we are thrilled.

Mr. White's brand new book, A Mind for God, is a bit larger than pocket-sized, a handsome, compact shape, thin with a beautiful dust jacket. It is, in a little less than 125 pages, a call to develop the mind, to make commitments to read widely, to engage the conversation of classic literature so that we might honor God by being involved in cultural affairs. He duly frets over the dumbing down of our culture and holds up a standard of intellectual excellence for followers of Christ in the modern world. He lists Bible verses, makes bookish recommendations and tells stories about his family and their struggle to maintain joyful reading habits.

Most of you skimming this are friends or supporters or customers of Hearts & Minds and you know (and maybe appreciate and share) our passion to get people reading quality books (good ones, yes, but not necessarily needlessly highbrow; that isn't us, and we know our best customers are not eggheads, either.) I don't mean to sound crass, but A Mind for God is nearly an advertisement for what we are about here. Like Your Mind Matters (a little book by John Stott that we gave away during our grand opening nearly 25 years ago, which we still happily recommend----heads up to IVP, by the way: give that chestnut a new coat of paint, will ya?) this new one by James White is a short and sweet call to the life of thinking Christianly. It is sweeter, too, than Stott, rigorous yet sweet. I am enthralled with this book, deeply glad that he "gets it" and truly grateful for Christian leaders who call others to love the printed page.

(I myself have recently written a lengthy essay about reading, designed especially for college students. It was published by our good friends at my favorite on-line journal, Comment (of the Work Research Foundation, a very thoughtful Canadian Christian think-tank that works mostly on public life and civic affairs.) I will tell you more about it later, but if you'd like to check it out, click here.)

I couldn't agree more with James Sire's nice blurb on the back of A Mind of God where he says,
God wants us to have the mind of Christ. But what is that mind and how do we get it? James Emery White answers these questions in some of the most lucid prose being written today. A pleasure to read. A joy to take his advice.

The Mind of God James Emery White (IVP) $12.00

email an order, go to the website, or call 717.246.3333

Monday, June 26, 2006

Shane Clairborne's Irresistible Revolution on the Radio

You most likely read at least some of my lengthy review of The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical by Shane Claiborne back in March at our Hearts & Minds website. I think I raved and critiqued in helpful ways, and we are selling a few of the book; not enough, but more than most places. (Blog special, still, by the way, we sell IR for $10.00 ) We find ourselves eager to tell folks about it, and it is fun to hear reactions as people read, are moved by and enjoy the plucky call to radical Christian discipleship from this young prankster who loves Jesus. He takes seriously deep theology and lives practically, trying to be faithful to a new way of life in the midst of the worst hurts of our fallen world.

I have a dozen new other books I want to tell you about---one on the Christian mind and the important of reading which I will post soon--- and I have promised to review some extraordinary fiction, too, but tonight, I just got info that Shane is going to be on the Steve Brown radio show soon. It is a live stream on line, and I guess a radio show, aired later. I think hearing this interview will be fabulous---Steve is open-minded and culturally-savvy, if more socially and theologically conservative than Shane (does anybody recall the TV shows that we now rent as videos, where Steve Brown & Tony Campolo argue in a set designed to look like a diner with the waitress as the host? Nice.) Please spread the word of the chance to hear Shane on the air, this Friday, 12 noon.

Here is a link to the Steve Brown podcast info. http://www.stevebrownetc.com/

Here is a link to a blog that says it more attractively, a blog about the podcast. The fun part here, though, are the posts about Shane (and the art of posting blog comments) all in haikus. Who are these guys, who write in the style of Japanse poetry? http://pingetcetera.blogspot.com/

Join the Revolution. Not the haiku one, but Shane's Irresistible one. Which, I'd say, is really Jesus's. At least listen up on-line Friday, 12-2 EST.

Does anybody know more about the details of the actual radio times? Or is etcetera only streaming podcast? I know Brown is on Radio America, too. (This is complicated, but ping is a blog which lives to promote the Steve Brown etcetera radio (podcast) show. Is it on real radio? Help!)

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Subscription Snafu

Just a very quick announcement to tell you that the Hearts & Minds BookNotes blog automatic subscription---you can "subscribe" and you will be notified with a brief email when I post a new one every few days---has been somehow snafued, disabled, kaput. But now it has been healed. Or at least somewhat healed, for now.

Please, if you're reading this and you have not subscribed, please consider doing so. It takes five seconds and it would give you a chance to know whenever I ramble. Well, whenever I ramble on about books....if I leave the house for parts unknown, you won't know that. I'd be happy to see your email name in my subscription list and it will keep the H&M crew assured that I'm not wasting my time on this.

We trust that the subscription service is now up and running again---scroll on down a bit and see how many entries you've missed. Hopefully, now, though, we are "Automatic for the People."
Tee hee.

A special kiss of peace (Biblical guy that I am) to those special few who were worried about us when they weren't notified. It means a lot to think somebody notices these things.

women's issues part two

A week ago I made a list for a customer who works with women in a college resident hall. It happens to be a church-related college but, of course, even Holy Spirited-institutions are mired in the brokenness of our culture and social, sexual, emotional and vocational quandaries are the stuff of life for all of us East of Eden. And so, I made a list, at her request, of books mostly about body image, modesty and such. I shared that list with the customer so she could know the kinds of things we recommend on that topic and hopefully buy a few as resources for her career and ministry come Fall. We posted that here on the blog, and you can find it by scolling down just a bit.

Here are a few more (a few could have been listed specifically with that list about identity, gender, and such but a few are on other topics.) It is a rather random list; just a handful I grabbed off the shelves that I find myself routinely wishing folks would buy. We have tons more, but this gives you an idea of the sorts of things that are solid and helpful. If you know anybody that could find these useful, pass it on.

Can’t Buy My Love: How Advertising Changes the Way We Think and Feel Jean Kilbourne (The Free Press) $15.00 Although not faith-based, this book is used by wise student affairs folks everywhere as it is the definitive guide to how media impacts us all, especially women, to think about themselves, their bodies and their sexuality. A must read for anyone who cares about our culture. I should have mentioned this last week since it is so important. Check out her website here for her documentaries and essays, but order the book from us!

On Earth as it is In Advertising: Moving From Commercial Hype to Gospel Hope Sam Van Eman (Brazos) $14.99 I’ve often mentioned Sam’s good book and it would be especially helpful for study groups at religious colleges or any individual who wants to be more aware of the power of mass media; it brings Kingdom vision to the whole question of consumerism, self-identity, and is a good and faithful follow-up to Kilburn (who, by the way, has a glowing endorsement.)

The Truths that Free Us: A Woman’s Calling to Spiritual Transformation Ruth Haley Barton (Shaw) $12.99 Page for page this is one of the best books for Christian women that we know of; a delightfully written, mature and multi-faceted invitation to spirituality and wholeness. Thank God for such reliable and solid guidance. Check out Ruth's other books on spirituality, solitude and the pace of life.

Revealed: Spiritual Reality in a Makeover World Linda Clare & Kristen Johnson Ingram (Revell) $12.99 From my middle-school daughter to a women’s retreat for ladies of all ages we did this Spring, I've learned that “makeover” is a word that, well, I’ve got to learn to use. Shallow as the concept may strike me, there is a redemptive way to think creatively about what a more substantive makeover would be. Here, these good authors draw upon other women writers---poet Luci Shaw, youth novelist Melody Carlson, the wonderfully thoughtful Vinita Hampton Wright, for instance—to work the spa- make-over- beauty- transformation-health metaphor. Very, very practical, really thoughtful and tons of fun with all kinds of insight about spirituality and growth. Very nicely done.

Fresh Brewed Life: A Stirring Invitation to Wake Up Your Soul Nicole Johnson (Word) $13.99 Over the last few years this may be our biggest selling book of basic Christian growth for women. It uses films and pop songs (David Wilcox, for instance) and makes fun suggestions for coffee-conversations and creative activities. Still, it doesn’t get caught up in silly antics; there is substance and wisdom, delivered with joy and wit. Younger women, especially, love her style and appreciate this kind of guide to relevant Christian discipleship.

Are Women Human? Astute and Witty Essays on the Role of Women in Society Dorothy L. Sayers (Eerdmans) $9.00 Yes, yes, this long-out of print classic was reprinted a year ago. Dorothy Sayers was the first women to graduate from Oxford University, offer, in her piquant style, a sensible and pointed argument for treated women as true individuals. C.S. Lewis, of course, admired her immensely, and her mystery novels are themselves worthy of revisiting. (A new edition of Creed and Chaos came out last year, under the name Letters to a Diminished Church by the way, as did a great study of her work, Creed Without Chaos by Laura Simmons. What an important thinker and writer!)
For other titles on gender roles and thinking about Biblical views of feminism and such, call us. Or, at least, see the few we listed on the previous blog from last week, such as Gender & Grace or the work of Elaine Storkey.

Living on the Boundaries: Evangelical Women, Feminism and the Theological Academy Nicola Hoggard Creegan & Christine D. Pohl (IVP) $18.00 A rather specific title, but my-oh-my, how important. There is this tension between evangelical women and feminism and between evangelical women in the theological academy. For any woman considering advanced studies in seminary or who feels called to ministry, this is a thoughtful, balanced, compelling and nuanced study. With rave (rave!) reviews from the likes of Richard Mouw, John Franke, Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen, this is a major contribution for women and their faith development. Pohl, you may know, wrote the spectacular and highly regarded book Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Practice, which would be an excellent study for anyone, living in a residence hall or communal setting. Or those who don’t, and wish to be more inclusive in their offering hospitality to others.)

From Battle Scars to Beauty Marks: Portraits of Women Who Turned Trials to Triumph Ellie Lofaro (LifeJourney) $12.99 A good telling of a number of women who have gone through various trials and struggles---from abuse to eating disorders, from living with illness to coping with grief. These are wonderfully moving stories, each helping the reader learn to trust God and celebrate a life (as Dan Allender say on the back) “ of tenacity, hope and transformation.”

Soul Virgins: Redefining Single Sexuality Doug Rosenau and Michael Todd Wilson (Baker) $14.99 I wish this could have been listed in the previous post where I listed books like Lauren Winner’s Real Sex, but it just arrive. We very much like Rosenau’s previous Celebration of Sex (rather a manual for newlyweds.) This bills itself as a book “when “How far is too far” doesn’t go far enough.” Seems to cover an extraordinary array of information, Biblically-shaped and wise, speaking candidly to this generation with their hurts and sexual confusion. Hip cover, too, which never hurts…

Mean Girls All Grown Up: Adult Women Who are Still Queen Bees, Middle Bees and Afraid-To-Bees Cheryl Dellasega (Wiley) $24.95 Here, the author of Surviving Ophelia, follows up the “mean girls” studies. An important study of the sources of women’s aggression and a reminder that the “queen bees” of our youth do not necessarily fade away…

Peacemaking Women: Biblical Hope for Resolving Conflict Tara Klena Barthel & Judy Dabler (Baker) $14.99 The Bible is clear that we are to be God’s agents in offering reconciliation and building communities of care and unity. This takes the excellent work of Ken Sande and applies those peacemaking principles to women. From friendship quarrels to love turning sour, women can represent Christ in ways that are helpful and reconciling. This book will help us follow the instruction of Ephesians 4:3, for instance.

Women to Women: Perspectives of Fifteen African American Christian Women edited by Norvella Carter (Zondervan) $12.99 While a few chapters may be most useful for married women in the hometown community, many of these excellent chapters are ideal for young women of color, or anyone who cares about racial justice and cross-cultural sensitivities. We specialize in this area, so if you have special interests here, call us. Or, at least check out this review done last year at the website. Besides a number of Christian and general market books noted, please look at our remarks about Some of My Best Friends: Writings on Inter-racial Friendships, a book that blew me away. Most of the chapters are highly recommended, thoughtful, litarary, passionate, challanging.

Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia Marya Hornbacher (Harper) $13.95 A scary but tentatively triumphant memoir…told with grace, sharp humor and candor.” So says the San Francisco Chronicle. Other reviewers have called in “gritty and unflinching …raw … disintegrated...unsparing …terrifying.” It is indeed powerful and intelligent

Holy Hunger: A Woman’s Journey from Food Addiction to Spiritual Fulfillment Margaret Bullitt-Jonas (Vintage) $13.00 A memoir---daughter of an esteemed Harvard professor and a pious Radcliffe trustee---of a superachiever in academia who was “eating herself to death.” A fascinating an moving account of compulsion and the healing process…a rave review from Anne Lamott on the cover may appeal to some.
By the way, I know some college age women who find Traveling Mercies to be one of their all time favorite books; ribald and funny, tragic and finally hopeful as she comes to a rather unorthodox conversion to Christ, that set of reflections on doubt and faith by an esteemed bohemian novelist, is widely used, despite the colorful language. Plan B is even more funny, the author remains in love with Jesus, tries to love President Bush and the so-called Christian right (which she despises), and she continues to slip in to the language that is common in her world of recovery and lefty artists, but used to be reserved for sailors. We highly recommend her excellent and provocative writing and hold her up as a Christian woman author in the real world of letters; they may not be for everyone, though.)

Appetites: On The Search for True Nourishment Geneen Roth (Plume) $11.95 For those with eating disorders, Roth’s important handbooks are helpful, inspired and provocative. A bit new-Agey, not Biblically-oriented, they offer a vision of the relationship between eating and intimacy (one earlier book is called When Food Is Love) and are standards in the field. This one is written more as a memoir as Roth explores the process of questioning what was at the core of her own life.

Parched Heather King (NAL) $12.95 King is the brave gal---now a Hearts & Minds friend---who wrote the best response to the James Frey fiasco (his Oprah-plugged memoir of addiction and recovery ended up largely fictionalized) in Publisher’s Weekly, to which we linked you back at our blog post about it.) Her detailed, raw memoir of her early alcoholism is gracefully written, charming, even, even as it is yet unnerving, a very well done piece that explains her journey to sobriety and her eventual conversion to Catholic faith. Wonderfully done and very helpful, loved by those who read it. She is known by some for her NPR pieces, but this book has not gotten the publicity it deserves. Pre-order it now and we will send it right out when it is released at the end of the summer.

Smashed: The Story of a Drunken Childhood Koren Zailckas (Penguin) $14.00 Read it and weep; what a powerful story of a high school alcoholic and her early years at college. Powerful and relevant.

Preventing Hazing: How Parents, Teachers, and Coaches Can Stop the Violence, Harassment, and Humiliation Susan Lipkins (Jossey Bass) $14.95 We’ve gotten an advanced manuscript of this, to be released in August 2006, and I could not put it down. Dr. Lipkins is one of the leading hazing experts and is currently working on a documentary on two of the more publicized recent hazing events that turned to vicious sexual violence. This problem permeates schools, colleges and communities and this not only explains some of this dangerous behavior, it offers practical advise for those who can intervene in perhaps life-saving ways. Very important.

Quick Scripture Reference for Counseling Women Patricia Miller (Baker) $10.99 This is not the space to do a whole list on counseling, spiritual caring or a Christian approach to psychology. But this spiral bound collection of Bible verses collated by topic (self-worth, contentment, depression, birth control, dating, etc.) is a useful tool to have around for those who work with women. Very handy…

Well, thanks for reading through this list. If you’ve gotten this far, you have not only a taste of the diverse books we stock on personal development and social wellness, but of the ways in which books can help us be prepared to assist those around us. Whether you are, like our customer for whom this list was custom made, are working in a college residence life program or have a young adult ministry, or just know and love young people, these are the kinds of tools we can use to help us in the job of caring well. It is our privilege to serve you as you serve others. Stay in touch…

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Best Christian Short Stories

A month ago I suggested in our regular website column that, especially for people of faith who are frustrated with Dan Brown, we ought to encourage the writing of better stories. Problematic art, literature, or mass media can be bested by better art, literature, or mass media. There are two exceptional novels I've been itching to tell you about, and the writer of one of them---a first time novelist and Hearts & Minds friend, Marsena Kunkle---is in this brand new collection that I present to you here. I'm still trying to figure out how to tell you about the novels (stay tuned) but for now, a quick annoucement of this unique find.

The Best Christian Short Stories is a gathering of excellent short fiction, chosen (and introduced) by N Y Times bestseller, Bret Lott. These do not emerge from the safe, evangelical sub-culture of "Christian fiction" nor are they sweet "chicken soup" inspirations. These are, as described on the back, "contemporary fiction that combines the artistry of critically acclaimed writers with a clear Christian worldview." As Lott himself says in the introduction, these authors---with whom he stands---"are tying to smash the gates of serious literature with the joy and light and hope of a personal, saving, supernatural God."

Included here are Homer Hickam (yes, the Rocket Boy) and one of the great writers of the last half of the twentieth century, Larry Woiwode; Erin McGraw offers a piece that had been in an anthology, James Calvin Schaap's entry had been in the old The Other Side. Two have previously appeared in Image: A Journal of Arts and Religion, an excellent journal that is masterfully edited by Gregory Wolfe (aside: don't believe me about Wolfe? Read through his lovely collection of essays from Image put out by Square Halo Press as Intruding Up0n the Timeless: Meditations on Art, Faith and Mystery.)

And, very, very deservedly, our friend Marsena, who you may know from the years she edited the excellent Critique journal that we've mentioned here, has an excerpt of her new novel, A Dark Oval Stone (Paraclete Press) included. It is an exquistely rendered telling of a death that happens early in the novel, oddly beautiful in a simple and plainspoken way; those who have had to speak of sudden deaths and such will find much to appreciate. It won't spoil the larger book to read this excerpt and, I hope, it will have you calling for the book itself. We will be sure to review it soon.

But for now, consider this fun collection, this fine example of the exact kind of thing that is so important: Christian writers in the mainstream culture, doing excellent work that can resonate with all readers, religious or not. We are not only glad for the idea of it, but, as it must be, for the stories themselves.

The Best Christian Short Stories edited by Bret Lott (WestBow) $14.99

Monday, June 19, 2006

A Quick Hooray for Kelly Monroe Kullberg: Finding God Beyond Harvard

I wish I had time to describe for you the various nifty aspects of this long-awaited sequel to Kelly Monroe's marvelously done, very important (and, in my opinion, not mentioned nearly enough) edited volume, Finding God at Harvard: The Spiritual Journys of Thinking Christians. The new one tells the story of Ms Monroe's humble but dogged efforts to help the evangelical presence at Harvard earn respect among their secularized peers and professors, and to take the renowned model of Veritas Forum on the road to colleges and universities across the land.

You may not know this grand story, but the first collection, Finding God at Harvard is an anthology of various speakers that spoke at Harvard, with luminaries and dignitaries, lesser known but wonderful Christian scholars and spiritual leaders as diverse as Nicholas Woltersdorff, Lamin Sanneh, and Mother Theresa. These thoughtful and commited Christian scholars addressed Harvard's InterVarsity Christian Fellowship group, or the campus at large, offering real-world examples of Christian conviction in the arena of higher education and illustrations of followers of Christ giving witness to their vocations in the world. It is a great resource since it covers such ground, with lectures on science and economics, politics and apologetics, gender and racial justice. Philosophers are there, public servants of all sorts, and a few theologians; most however share a Christian view of their work in fields other than theology proper. Some are teachers at the nation's oldest university and many hold high degrees from other prestigious hallowed halls. It is a useful gift for a youngster going off to college who wants to integrate her faith into her collegiate experience.

After her experience at Harvard, Kelly worked hard with literally hundreds of volunteers throughout the country to set up debates, forums, lectures and conferences which presented Christian claims amidst secularly spirited views at other universities. Her Veritas Forums---Veritas is the Latin phrase for truth, of course, and still stands in the motto for Harvard---have been held in remarkable locations, almost all to great acclaim. (We've even sold books at one or two over the years, and can testify to their thoughtful approach, their fruitfulness in sharpening the Christian mind and their boldness in presenting gospel claims in ways those in the modern university can relate to.) This brand new book, Finding God Beyond Harvard: The Quest for Veritas (IVP; $20.00) tells that story in dramatic and inspiring ways and we are thrilled about it.

We will surely talk about this in weeks and months to come. If you've ever helped arrange a Veritas Forum at your campus, your name is most likely listed here...weeeee! It is a warm and interesting book, easy to read. Blurbs on the back illustrate Kelly's great reputation; Mark Noll calls her "peripatetic" and while I do not know what that means, I suspect it is pretty darn great. Armand Nicholi, esteemed Harvard Medical School prof (himself author of A Question of God: C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud Debate God, Love, Sex and the Meaning of Life) says "This deeply moving story of her personal journey gives the reader new insight into her remarkable achievements."

If you know anybody that does campus ministry, if you know anybody who works on a campus, if you know any students going off to school, either of these two books---the collection of essays and lectures or this more memoristic story of the Forums---would make great gifts.

Finding God At Harvard: Spiritual Journys of Thinking Christians Kelly Monroe (Zondervan) $12.99
Finding God Beyond Harvard: The Quest for Veritas Kelly Monroe Kullberg (IVP) $20.00

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Books on Body Image, etcetera

Sometimes, we get requests from customers for lists on certain topics. And, sometimes, I think others might like to see our replies (and, who knows, add your own suggestions to ours in our comment section. Or as at least one might, criticize our recommendations.) So, here ya go. This was for a young woman who is a resident hall director at a woman's dorm at an unnamed Christian college. She asked for stuff on body image, indentity, gender and related topics.

This is "part one." Hope it's helpful; sorry it is so long. If you know any woman who work on the floor of a college resident hall, or anybody else who might enjoy this, please forward it on. Thanks.

Beyond Identity: Finding Yourself in the Image and Character of God Dick Keyes (Although this is out of print, we have just a few left…imported from England. Dick is on staff of the New England L’Abri (the community study centers started in the spirit of Francis & Edith Schaeffer) and one of our sharpest evangelical minds today. This book is the best on the topic of identity; not exactly a "self-help" book to enhance one’s self-esteem, but rather to think deeply about the notion of identity and how our self-hood can be shaped by the character of God. I could list others along these lines, some perhaps more "practical" but this is the best.

Want to be Her: Body Image Secrets Victoria Won't Tell You Michelle Graham (IVP) $12.00 I reviewed this at our monthly website a year ago and raved about it there as the best basic book on this topic. Practical, well written; a must-read!

Eve's Revenge Women and a Spirituality of the Body Lilian Calles Barger (Brazos) $14.99 Without a doubt the most important serious book on this subject. Very insightful. The author has some connections with our friends at the New England L’Abri, and we esteem her immensely. Thank God for thoughtful and relevant Christian books like this!

God Knows You’d Like a New Body: 12 Ways to befriend the one you’ve got Carl Koch & Joyce Heil (Sorin) $11.95 Probably the most practical, easiest to read, resource available. Written by a fairly ecumenical Roman Catholic (which is to say that it doesn’t seem overtly Catholic at all, and not too much about Christian faith, directly, making it useful even for seekers or non-churched folks; it has interesting quotes from various perspectives and spiritual writers that conservative evangelicals might not like.) The "God knows…" series includes several other very helpful guides to other topics, too, like grief or career satisfaction.

Body Wars: Making Peace With Women’s Bodies: An Activist’s Guide Margo Maine (gurze) $14.95 Not written from a Christian perspective, this still is helpful for those wanting a guide to thinking through these issues and how to create conversation and programs to effect change in attitudes. Very practical with lots of recommended resources.

The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women Naomi Wolf (Harper) $14.95 I hope you know this one, one of the most talked about women’s books in the mainstream book world, written by a prominent secular journalist and feminist writer who actually has great interest in Christian faith...

The Body Project: A Intimate History of American Girls Joan Brumburg (Vintage) $14.00 A fun and interesting read of how the female body has been understood, seen and experienced in American girlhood culture. A sure discussion-starter and useful overview.

Sexy Girls: How Hot is Too Hot? Hayley Demarco (Revell) $14.99 This may be written more for older teens, but it is so brightly-designed, with great (retro) photographs, and solid Christian guidance, this is fun and basic stuff.

The Beauty of Modesty: Cultivating Virtue in the Face of a Vulgar Culture David Vaughan & Diane Vaughan (Cumberland House) $12.95 Packaged in a way that isn’t terribly inviting (and, for those who fret about such things, is frankly odd---there is a statue of a Greek goddess in marble or something on the cover which surely isn’t the best model for robust Christian sensibilities, the pagan Greeks! Yikes!) Still, this conservative book on virtue is a winner and we recommend it especially for those who want a solid Bible approach with very traditional gender assumptions.

Return to Modesty Wendy Shalitt (The Free Press) $14.00 Written when she was still a young woman college feminist, and a nonpracticing Jew, she released this brilliant and sophisticated treatment of the "erotic virtue" of modesty to wide-spread acclaim. She has a very thoughtful approach, rooting very traditional values in her experience as new millennial New York single woman. Wonderfully done, very provocative with much to enjoy and consider.

Gender and Grace Mary Stewart Van Leuuwen (IVP) Although not just for women, this is our all-time favorite book on gender concerns, a reasonable and Biblical view of equality and how this effects our approaches to work, family, friendship and marriage. Very nicely done, by a feminist-studies scholar who is a sure-footed and very sharp evangelical. My wife and I are mentioned in her book about men’s issues, My Brother’s Keeper. Hooo-ray!

Origins of Difference: The Gender Debate Revisited Elaine Storkey (Baker) $12.99 Previously issued in England (where she has worked with John Stott and Tear Fund) under the title Gender: Created or Constructed. We love Elaine’s passionate, solid, thoughtful and engaging research. Very useful. This is out of print and we are pleased to still have some in stock.

Real Sex: The Naked Truth About Chastity Lauren Winner (Brazos) $14.99 I suppose you know all about Lauren, perhaps the hippest Christian writer these days, and a good H&M friend; her other two are absolute must reads (Girl Meets God and Mud-House Sabbath) and they remain very popular, esp among college gals. This one is the best reflection and study of chastity for serious young adults we've yet read. Very important, just now available in paperback. Order a bunch!

Every Woman’s Battle and Every Young Woman’s Battle Shannon Ethridge & Stephen Arterburn (Waterbrook) $13.99 each. The subtitle reads "Guarding Your Mind, Heart and Body in a Sex-Saturated World". And serves as a women’s version of Every Man’s Battle (which, as you know, is about lust and pornography and such.) These are really, really useful, with the "young woman’s" one especially good for younger collegiates, and the other one perhaps aimed at married women. Some women think these are excellent while a few more sophisticated ones may find them a bit less so, but they are doubtlessly the best we’ve got on this exact topic. Cover some areas---fantasy and romance novels, say---that few other books discuss. There are workbook type study guides available, too.

Sex and the Cynics: Talking About the Search for Love Edited by Tony Watkins (Paternoster) $9.99 We import this small book from England not only because it plays off the Sex and the City TV show, but because we find many evangelical thinkers in Britain to be reasonable, culturally engaged and radically faithful…nicely done.

The Technical Virgin: How Far Is Too Far? Hayley Demarco (Revell) $14.99 Like her Sexy Girls: How Hot Is Too Hot this is packaged to attract hip, younger women, with solid insight and practical wisdom. Honest and credible, easy-to-read and fun.

Sexual Ethics and Adolescent Girls Barbara Blodgett (Pilgrim) $20.00 This is not for everyone, but it does offer a remarkable bit of thinking of how liberal feminist theologians—who typically affirm the erotic—have perhaps failed to adequately understand the development of adolescent girls. Semi-scholarly research on the sexual attitudes of young women in light of liberal feminist thought. Fascinating.

Real Choices: Listening to Women, Looking for Alternatives to Abortion Frederica Mathews-Green (Concliar Press) $14.95 This is an extraordinary book, based on great journalistic interviews, solid and helpful faith perspectives and a passionate care for those stuck in hard places of unexpected pregnancies. The author is a bridge-builder between those who hold opposition view of the legality abortion, but invites all to help support troubled pregnancies and offer true choices for life and hope. Nothing like it in print; highly recommended.

Monday, June 12, 2006

new Dallas Willard

Many of our readers know the name Dallas Willard. He is a professor of philosophy at University of Southern California, has taught at UCLA, and is generally known as a thoughtful, balanced, wise, and important guide to the inner life and the practical details of following Jesus. His name often comes up associated with Renovare, the contemplative ministry of Richard Foster et al. His practical stuff on how to grow spiritually, how to literally see God effect change in our lives, is some of the best written in this area. As Os Guinness says in a blurb in Willard's brand new one, "I know no one like Dallas Willard who can express profound things so simply and simply things so profoundly. I never fail to benefit from his writings." Other writers of spiritual formation that we admire---Ruth Barton, Eugene Peterson, Richard Foster--offer rave endorsements too. A new book by Willard, you should know, is very good news.

The Great Omission: Reclaiming Jesus's Essential Teachings on Discipleship is what might be called a "Dallas Willard reader" as it is collection of various pieces he has done elsewhere. Or, if you prefer, call it a greatest hits collection with bonus tracks, previously unheard stuff, bootleg cuts and unplugged versions. None of these chapters is fully new, but they've never been compiled before. Some were previously published in popular sources (like Christianity Today or Leadership) while others were found initially in less well-known journals (Christian Scholar's Review or the Journal of Psychology and Theology and one was intially in a Korean magazine.) Some were found as speeches or as chapters in other anthologies. Here, they seem coherently woven together like a new book, flowing naturally from one section to the next. The theme, as the title implies, always comes back to this: why the disconnect between what is promised in the gospels--transformation!--and the real world in which Christians are feeble and ineffective? What are the consequences of our ommission of discipleship from our ministries? How is it that we have failed, in the grand words of Steve Garber, to "weave together belief and behavior"? If we are meant to be inhabited by God so we can live like Christ---think of Romans 8:11---then how can the God-empowered life be seen, personally and publicly? What does it look like to be that kind of disciple? Why does it seem odd to many to say we are an apprentice to Jesus?

Richard Foster is clearly one of the most important writers on spiritual formation and whole-life discipleship writing today. His breathy forward to Willard's 1998 best-seller, The Divine Conspiracy still stands as one of the most positive raves of a book I've ever read; Foster insists that it is a modern classic, that it will go down with the great books of all time. Well, even if he is only half-right, that makes it surely one of the most important books of our time. The Great Omission is a fabulous follow-up to that, or a fabulous introduction to the wise mind and good heart of an author who is surely your ally. You should know his work, follow his ideas, and be blessed to see God "renovate your heart" as Willard puts it. We are offering his new collection on sale, now. See the BookNotes blog special below.

The Great Omission: Reclaiming Jesus's Essential Teachings On Discipleship Dallas Willard (Harper SanFransico) $23.95

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Friday, June 09, 2006

Two on Leadership

In my last two postings I’ve raved about the new and wonderfully-written memoir of extraordinary preacher, writer and thinker, former Episcopal pastor, Barbara Brown Taylor. Entitled Leaving Church, it is about her life as a clergyperson, and, by book’s end, her journey out of traditional parish ministry. It is moving, funny, at times luminous in wonderfully captured vinettes, even as it tells the not uncommon story of clergy dis-ease and burnout. I found the book hard to put down (and, you must know, I put books down all day long; some I can barely stand to skim.) It is marvelous, honest, and illustrative. I hope you scroll back and read my review, if you haven’t, and maybe forward it to any pastor friends you have.

Brown tells much of her life as priest and pastor and preacher, but I do not recall her using the language of leadership. I’m reminded by the fine books on vocational holiness by Eugene Peterson that this is as it should be; there is way too much glib talk about leadership these days, and, as Peterson (and others) have written, the business model of being a corporate exec has too easily slipped into the consciousness of what we expect of our pastors, and what too many pastors want to be.

Having noted that the business model of leadership is not the best for pastors, and hinting that there are too many shallow or wrong-headed books on leadership, I still wonder what kind of a leader Rev. Taylor was. How might her memoir of faith and the story of her pastoral role in a small Georgia parish be understood in light of recent work being done on leadership development? You may not know it, but we have oodles of books of all sorts on leadership development, and it is an area we are interested in. I’m currently reading, in fact, the new Sharon Parks’ study of Ronald Heifetz leadership classes at Harvard…

We have gotten two brand new books on leadership in the shop recently that I want to rave about. One should be fairly well known, the other is rare. I will tell about them both, briefly, and trust that you may find them of interest. I have a hunch that while we may not have many pastors or preachers reading BookNotes, there may be a few leaders.

We are huge fans of Richard Mouw, the President of Fuller Theological Seminary, and stock all his books. He is a devout and pious gentleman, one who reads widely in the spiritual classics, but one who is happily sure-footed in his own tradition; he is one whose historic five-point Calvinism is solid (but relayed in open-minded and gentle ways; see the wonderful Calvinism at the Las Vegas Airport.) Mouw has been an advocate for social justice concerns, for a Christian worldview that relates faith to learning and culture, and he has logged his fair share of time in ecumenical study groups, interfaith dialogues and such. He gets stuff done. I say this to suggest his bone fides in putting together the first book I will mention; Dr. Mouw is undeniably a leader, and a thoughtful one.

Traditions in Leadership: How Faith Traditions Shape the Way We Lead was compiled and edited by Mouw and Eric O. Jacobsen (you know him from the new urbanist book, Sidewalks of the Kingdom, which we often promote here.) The solid hardback was published by the Max De Pree Leadership Center and is, sadly, hard to locate in ordinary stores. In it, various authors from various faith traditions describe how their particular faith perspective shapes their understanding of leadership. For instance, what is peculiar to a Jewish view of leadership? How does a Roman Catholic approach leadership questions in a way that is uniquely Catholic? How do the practices esteemed by Mennonites effect notions of leadership? It isn’t every volume that has chapters by a Mormon and a Pentecostal, a Quaker and a Lutheran, so you can imagine our thrill to see this delightful array…This not only helps us all understand some inter-faith distinctives, but goes a long way in helping explore the meaning of leadership and consider notions that are nearly uniformly agreed upon, and other notions that a quite contested.

A new book by the very popular Dan Allender offers a view of leadership that is very, very significant. His last book, you may recall, was one of our picks for last year’s Book of the Year (that one was called To Be Told: Know Your Story, Shape Your Future.) Leading With a Limp: How Our Weaknesses Shape our Leadership (published by Waterbrook) brings redemptive insights and very realistic psychological counsel to the task of leadership development, even in our brokenness. Allander is a solid, Biblical thinker, a counselor who knows the hurts of the world deeply, and a writer whose authenticity and clarity can only be called inspirational. What a fine book this is! There is a study guide, too, making it ideal for group use.

Traditions in Leadership: How Faith Traditions Shape the Way We Lead edited by Richard J. Mouw and Eric O. Jacobsen (De Pree Leadership Center) $25.00

Leading With a Limp: Turning Your Sruggles Into Strengths Dan B. Allender (Waterbrook) $19.99 Workbook; $9.99.
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Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Frederick Buechner on Barbara Brown Taylor

Yesterday, I reviewed Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith by one of our favorite writers, Barbara Brown Taylor. I noted a sadness I have about it, near the end, but this surely is no reason not to get it; it will be one of the most talked about books of the year and will be a memoir of pastoral life that will endure. Buechner, Gomes & Jones may be a far ways from her working farm in rural Habersham County, Georgia, but these quotes are so nice, I wanted to share them with you. Enjoy.

Barbara Brown Taylor's beautiful book is rich with wit and humanness and honesty and loving detail. It is a book about the wonderful mess of being alive in this world, and about the wonderful and terrible things that happen to us in it, and about the dream of God…. I cannot overstate how liberating and transforming I have found Leaving Church to be.
Frederick Buechner

How fortunate we are that Barbara Brown Taylor is here yet to remind us ‘that the call to serve God is first and last the call to be fully human.’ This memoir redeems the form and is full of surprises to those who may have grown tired of ‘church.’ In her renewal is our own; and wherever she is, she still preaches.
Peter J. Gomes, Harvard University

A fiercely honest and gracious book about our primary vocation to be human. Here the reader will find an awesome reverence for mystery. This book comes as a refreshing challenge to reconnect with the longings in the depths of the soul. Many will read this book with relief and recognition.
Alan Jones, Dean of Grace Cathedral, San Francisco

Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith Barbara Brown Taylor (HarperSanFransico) $23.95

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Tuesday, June 06, 2006

new Barbara Brown Taylor

I felt privileged to have had an early draft of Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith, which is now out in a glorious hardcover, the first one of Barbara Brown Taylor's many good books to be issued in such a sturdy edition. She has long been known as an exquisite speaker, preacher, and writer and she is one of those few authors that I've said I'd read anything she wrote. I devoured her sermons, her excellent one on preaching, her book on sin, the one on science. I will buy a whole anthology, just for her chapter.

In talks I sometimes give, I carry along her first book published by Cowley, The Preaching Life, and read a few of the quotes that are so very sweet, and important. As she tells of her coming to faith, her early experiences of church, her love for nature, and her theological insights about worship, sacraments, the spirituality of the mundane, the glory of all careers and callings, I just shudder. She not only gets it really right, but says it with such wonderful prose that I put the book in my lap and shake my head.

This new book, already being reviewed in magazines and being taken seriously, is not only wonderfully, wonderfully told, but a story of huge importance; in many ways, despite the authors notable self-awareness, it is a classic form, a common story, actually. It tells, again, of her calling as an Episcopal clergyperson, her involvement in a busy, loud, urban church (a part of her life we have not heard about in previous writings) and her need to find a smaller church, a more humane pace, a calling that didn't detract from her own spirituality.

A small northern Georgia town and her even smaller parish became her new home, and we learn not only of her ministry there, the people and place she easily learned to love, the joys and strains of worship and service, but of the ways in which her dread and burnout eventually returned. Despite finding a wonderful plot of land to steward, building a lovely country home there, her pace of life, the demands upon her in a growing church (and as the internationally- known darling of the homiletical literati), Ms Taylor found it hard to maintain health, maintain faith, maintain sanity. Some of us will know just what she means.

Leaving Church is one of the best memoirs I have read in recent years, and I could not put it down. It was written with wondrous sentences, glowing, bright, clever, often very amusing---words escape me to describe well in this brief space just how deftly told and nicely rendered this story is. Her move, finally, to become a professor of religion at a small nearby college, is documented as a crucial, life-saving, step on her journey. Even as she has recently written that "journey" imagery may preclude genuine mindfulness of each moment, this book speaks clearly that her spiritual life has been, and remains, an up and down, circuitous and open-ended journey.

I must be honest and say (gently) that, for me, and most evangelical readers---perhaps most mainline readers, too, for that matter---will find Barbara's wholeness discovered at the expense of Biblical orthodoxy, a journey finally not given shape essentially by the Biblical language of sanctification, but of seeking, to be bittersweet. I do not need Barbara to walk the sawdust trail; I am not that sad that she has left her role as parish priest (although her movement away is described so achingly, even I---champion of the laity, quoter of her first book that celebrated ordinary jobs as holy--got a lump in my throat as I swallowed my grief for her loss.) It is, though, a matter of great sadness that she is drawn less to classic and historic Christian conviction and increasingly to the oddballs in the tradition, less to the best of the Christian way, and more to those outside the faith.

Is this classic liberalism, just silly old-school, relativism afflicting a mind that should know better? Is it a delayed adolescence---romantic, modernist, sprees of freedom and autonomy---out of which she may emerge poor of spirit but more grounded? Or is it a very, very profound move towards a mature, Christ-like spirituality, a generous orthodoxy that remains rooted in the truths of her beloved BCP even as she experiences grace in unusual ideas? Time will tell. For now, this luminous book tells of her journey, her embracing a God whose mercy is wide and whose callings upon our lives and vocations remain, finally, mysterious, hard, and healing. It may be a shame that, like the bird flying away from the cage on the eerily handsome cover art, some need to be liberated from the constraints of ministry to experience the fullness of this Divine healer, but there it is.

Any who care about healthy pastors and vibrant churches will be very interested in this journey. Those who care about our beloved Barbara, whose sermons and essays and workshops and Christian Century columns have sustained us so well for over a decade, will be glad that she is happy, hopeful that her faith sustains her towards her new-found calling as professor Taylor. Anyone, Christian or otherwise, perhaps especially the de-churched or ex-Christian, will surely find her story a blessing. Let us hope it is widely read, enjoyed, and pondered well. She has poured out her life in good and glorious sentences, and such a gift deserves our attention.

Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith Barbara Brown Taylor (HarperSanFransico) $23.95

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Saturday, June 03, 2006

Pentecost Post

Is it proper to say “Happy Pentecost?” Or Merry Holy Ghost Day, or something? I’d write it in ancient Greek or breathy Hebrew if I could…

We tend not to honor this important liturgical day as we do Christmas and Easter. (And certainly not as we do, say, the Fourth of July or Boxing Day.) So, a brief Pentecostal post.

In preparing for an Adult ed class I am teaching on Pentecost, I have consulted the first volume in what will be a truly remarkable set of theological commentaries. Called the Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible, the first one out is Acts, penned by the esteemed, late Jeroslav Pelikan. Of course much of the dualism that we so often rant against in the Western church can be traced to the misreading of texts and the pagan accommodation (can you say neo-Platonism?) in the earliest of Christian centuries, so a Patristic reading ought not be privileged unconditionally. Still, the erudite Dr. Pelikan’s vast knowledge of church history makes him a helpful interpreter of Dr. Luke’s second book. (For instance, in the section on Acts 2 he naturally was drawn to questions of the early church’s view of the Trinity, the debate about the Nicene Creed, and the East-West split over the filioque clause. Of course, it is unwise to speak of Pentecost without addressing the notion of the Triune God.) This would be a very valuable edition to your library. (Brazos Press; $29.99.)

We are really happy to see the newly re-issued, very handsome paperback of James Montgomery Boice’s expository messages on Acts (Acts: An Expositional Commentary, published by Baker; $24.99.) This isn’t the place for an exhaustive list of Acts commentaries, but I did find this very helpful in my preparations.

I also enjoyed re-reading one of the earliest Leonard Sweet books, New Life in the Spirit which is now available again as a reprinted paperback. (Lightening Source; $19.95.) What a great little book, clever and insightful and learned! In a couple of pages, Len offers some very helpful and balanced critique of the two errors of charismania and charisphobia. I loved the line, working with the notion of ruach meaning “breath” where he says,
Breathing is unconscious; we don’t think about it. When we do we can hyperventilate---which is what happens spiritually when some Christians focus on the respiration instead of the application of the Spirit.
And, speaking of which: may we recommend the old, small, and exceptionally helpful Baptism and Fullness: The Work of the Holy Spirit Today by John Stott. (IVP; $8.00.) It still stands as the best, brief treatment of the once-for-all experience of receiving the Spirit (in regeneration) and the ever-present need to be anointed, filled and re-energized in the fullness of the Spirit. I long for greater charismatic power in my life and community, but agree with Stott’s critique of the Pentecostal doctrine that implies one needs to “get” the Spirit at some point after conversion. (See, for instance, Romans 8:9.)

Many modern writers, including those in mainline circles, who have taught on the Spirit properly note the Spirit's role in the Bible in creation, re-creation, and in public matters of all sorts. An excellent way into that conversation is Wheaton College prof (and Jubilee 2006 speaker) Vincent Bacote's fabulous book on the ways in which Dutch neo-Calvinist theologian and statesmen, Abraham Kuyper's understanding of the Spirit fueled his public work. See The Spirit in Public Theology: Appropriating the Legacy of Abraham Kuyper (Baker; $18.99.) It compares and contrasts other “public theologians” who wrote on the Spirit, like Jurgen Moltmann. Very, very nicely done, readable and important. Maybe the wind will blow you to it. If so, give us a ring. You don't have to speak in tongues to get this discount on any of the aforementioned titles.
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Thursday, June 01, 2006

Wendell Berry and marriage

Although I have promised not to turn this blog into a journal of my comings and goings, or my varied and sundry opinions, I must tell of the past weekend in Grand Rapids. A dear friend of the family, the second son of our best friends, stood before a gathered community from across North America--the bride's family hail from Western Canada---and across past decades. We saw folks we had not had good conversations with since the late 70's, and enjoyed the young couple's zany friends. College professors and farmers, a couple of authors, lots of fellow book-lovers and some old peacenik rabble rousers from our old days, Christian friends and friends of friends gathered at a weekend of celebration that seemed to be of near-Biblical proportions. Suffice it to say it was the best wedding ceremony we've ever been a part of (with music from Sigor Ros, no less) and one of the better times away we've had in recent memory. Thanks to those who made it so, and those who prayed for our fam while on the road. Imagine, driving the van without it being full of boxes of books!

And here is just one example of why this was so heart-breakingly wonderful: at the wedding, the father of the groom read from Wendell Berry. Ken said, jokingly, "...and for those following along..." and he put on his teacherly glasses, took up the Berry chapter with tears in his eyes and a lump in his throat and his heart on his sleeve.

Lovers must not, like usurers, live for themselves alone. They must finally turn from their gaze at one another back toward the community. If they had only themselves to consider, lovers would not need to marry, but they must think of others and of other things. They say their vows to the community as much as to one another, and the community gathers around them to hear and to wish them well, on their behalf and its own. It gathers around them because it understands how necessary, how joyful, and how fearful this joining is. These lovers, pledging themselves to one another "until death," are giving themselves away, and they are joined by this as no law or contract could join them. Lovers, then, "die" into their union with one another as a soul "dies" into its union with God. And so here, at the very heart of community life, we find not something to sell as in the public market but this momentous giving. If the community cannot protect this giving, it can protect nothing...
I suspect that some of us will watch others of us make wedding vows this Spring. I hope we entertain what it might mean for us all, to be vulnerable and accountable. To be community.

Surely, this fine work of Mr. Berry's would be a good place to start.

Sex, Economy, Freedom & Community Wendell Berry (Pantheon) $12.95