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, October 26, 2006

hot off the press: Making the Most of College

I want to give a shout out to our friends at Calvary Baptist and the CCO staff at Penn State who are hosting a conference this week-end (yes, we get to set up books there, too) on developing "Faith for Thought." I will do one of the plenary keynote talks, as will the very prestigious Dr. Philip Jenkins. You can see the description of my talk about cultural engagement, developing the Christian mind and using thought not for pride but for the reformation of culture to the glory of God at their site. Check out the various workshops----on dance, law, C.S. Lewis, pop culture, linguistics, sexuality, peace-making, business, environmental stewardship...it's going to be a great time! (Am I wrong to suggest that this could be considered a pre-Jubilee gathering?)

Dr. Jenkins, you may know, has written widely on a bunch of topics (from the rise of mystical cults, to anti-Catholic prejudices, to a new book studying the impact of the era of the 70's, esp 1975-1985, which is provocatively entitled, Decade of Nightmares.) He is most known, though, for his groundbreaking and widely-read study of global Christianity called The Next Christendom (now out in paperback) and the brand new hardcover sequel, The New Faces of Christianity: Believing the Bible in the Global South (both published by Oxford University Press.) These are very, very important books and I am very much looking forward to meeting him.

I thought you'd enjoy seeing the very nifty video clip that the Faith for Thought team has put together than invites people to this conversation about meaningful faith in the university setting. Please call anybody you know near State College, send this little video out, or pray a bit. We hope for a good turnout of students and faculty, hope to select and display the right book titles. I admit to being a bit stressed about the talk-- I've got hours of this material, and desire to be fruitful in sharing that which will be most motivational and helpful.

In the meantime, Beth & staff are taking books to a PhilipYancey event at the Episcopal Church of the Good Samaritan in Paoli, PA, Friday night, so I am obsessed thinking about that (not to mention the upcoming Texas trip, but I digress...) We announced Yancey's new book Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference when it came out a month ago and those who have started it are raving. When good friend and former Hearts & Minds man Gordon Carpenter raves, you know it is good!

I will feature, at the Faith for Thought event, the typical books I take to college crowds, stuff on the Christian mind, worldview formation, vocation, calling, the responsibility of taking learning seriously, serving God in academic discipleship, and being engaged in social action. You may know of our annotated bibliography which lists starting books for those interested in integrating faith and learning in different academic and professional fields.

But the item I am most excited about is not exactly a book. It is a quarterly journal, one of our favorites, called Comment. The brand new issue is a special edition for college students (or those going off to college) called Making the Most of College. I am so proud to be in it, with an article ("Learning to Love Good Books") on why we should read, how reading widely can enhance our knowing and be a life-long skill for on-going, relevant faithfulness. I'm pretty happy with it, and the layout is fabulous. Best, I am in this special collegiate issue with Gideon Strauss, Calvin Seerveld, and a batch of top-notch writers and thinkers that I admire. One essay is on the arts, one on history, one on writing, one on forming friendships...what an honor to be published in such a cool and important venue. It sells for $8.00 and is very, very attractive. (The piece on how to get the most out of studying the arts has some full color reproductions, giving it an extra, rich appeal.) I will be talking this up for a while, I bet, so you might as well consider ordering one now. Know anybody in college? I'll tell ya, Gideon's piece on asking big questions is just about the best brief thing I've seen on how young adults become deeper and better people, by learning to ask the biggest questions. That he quotes Hearts & Minds favorite The Fabric of Faithfulness: Weaving Together Belief and Behavior by Steve Garber makes sense and may give you an appreciation of the caliber of this great little magazine.

If you are interested, you can read most of these fine pieces on line at the weekly Comment e-zine . I think you can find most of them archived, and their other stuff is well worth reading, too. In fact, it is one of the weekly 'zines we get that I always, always read, no matter what the topic. They pick special previously posted pieces and then publish a print copy a few times a year. This one is very attractive, nice to hold and a great resource to offer your younger friends.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Christian Imagination

Some customers have told us that they enjoy hearing of our travels; I suspect it may get tiresome for others. We may be idealistic to think it excites you to hear that we've sold books here or there, that we are one step closer to maybe being solvent this year, that God's people were served as they were introduced to volumes that, frankly, they wouldn't have seen elsewhere. We thank you for your prayers and support and interest. Beth and I and our dedicated staff have logged long hours trying to make this thing work, and we know that YOU are a part of it. So thanks.

So, for those that are pushing a little push-pin into some map somewhere tracking the exploits of the Hearts & Minds book van, you can mark us down for having been outside of Philly, in the lovely neighborhoods around Newtown Square, to a classy Christian school called The Deleware County Christian School. We've got friends who have graduated from there; a friend and neighbor here has a son teaching there. We were honored---really!---when their good headmaster called and asked us to set up a large display on the arts, literature, fantasy, music, poetry and such. If somebody mentions "worldview formation" or "cultural engagement" you know we are interested! Their annual "Renewed Minds" conference this year was featuring none other than the esteemed Wheaton professor Leland Ryken. Ryken has done a great book or two on work & leisure, he has our favorite book on the Puritans, and several on the Bible as literature. He is in love with the English language and has vast appreciation for the arts. We've appreciated his good call to faithful artistic appreciation, the great The Liberated Imagination and, on very good one on literature, Windows to the World (both happily reprinted recently by Wifp & Stock. God bless 'em.)

My favorite, though, is the second and considerably expanded edition of the fascinating The Christian Imagination: The Practice of Faith in Literature and Writing (Shaw; $17.99. See below for sale price!) Even if it is often used as a college text, this anthology is a treasure for any home and we couldn't commend it more. It has wise explanations and study questions and such, but the heart of it are extended primary source excerpts from writers such as J.R.R. Tolkien, Frederick Buechner, Annie Dillard, G.K. Chesterton, George MacDonald, Francis Schaeffer, Luci Shaw, T.S. Eliot. What a thrilling collection, to have Denise Levertov next to Robert Siegle, to read the book-loving ruminations of Sven Berkett alongside Peter Leithart; to ponder the work of Jacques Maritain and Gene Veith. (Ahhh, if only Calvin Seerveld was included here!) But Madeline L'Engle is, and so is Larry Woiwode. Old Wheaton guys like Tom Howard and Clyde Kilby are here, but so are film buff Brian Gotawa and Kentucky farmer/poet Wendell Berry. And more, many more.

If this doesn't pique your interest, perhaps this isn't your thing. But if you read Hearts & Minds BookNotes, I suspect that if you don't want this, you know somebody who would. Call us today and get a blog special.


regularly priced $17.99

email us at read@heartsandmindsbooks.com or phone 717.246.3333

Friday, October 20, 2006

new Walt Mueller---lean but not mean

Since I actually referenced a hip TV show in my last post (and admitted I loved the thing) and then proudly strutted our classical music sensitivities by describing two lovely new lute recordings that we stock at the shop, I thought I'd segue into a promo of something I'm very happy to announce---a new, inexpensive and astute little book about media and pop culture by our old friend Dr. Walt Mueller.

You may recall a half a year ago I gushed over the serious and important Walt Mueller book, Engaging the Soul of Youth Culture (IVP; $17.) The great subtitle speaks volumes: "Bridging Teen Worldivews and Christian Truth." We stock oodles of youth group curriculum pieces, youth ministry guides, books about fun and games for teens, 'tweener Bible studies, and all the many (quite good) new books about kids and spiritual formation. We don't really view ourselves as the deep end of the youth ministry gene pool, but we are geeky enough to get excited about stuff like Chris Smith's Soul Searching and what's not to love about a semi-scholarly, secular book with a title like Murray Milner's Freaks, Geeks and Cool Kids: American Teenagers, Schools, and the Culture of Consumption. I wish we had more time and space to tell you about these kinds of books---for instance, our latest find, newly published by Pilgrim Press, is Branded: Adolescents Converting From Consumer Faith by Katherine Turpin ($24) and it deserves serious attention.

But Walt's IVP book, based on his extraordinary work at the Center for Parent & Youth Understanding (known as CPYU) stands out. It has solid theological meat, it takes God's call to steward culture seriously, and it is as up-to-date and current as anything on the market. Walt has earned a reputation for bringing together some of the best scholarship on youth culture and bringing it to us in entertaining, useful and faithful ways. Engaging the Soul of Youth Culture is a must-read!

Now, he has out his mini-mini-version. Standard Publishers approached him to do a lean version as part of a new pocket guide series, a batch of brief books with full-color photos and graphics and sidebars on every page. Walt's is called I Want to Talk With My Teen About Movies, Music & More. It sells for just $8.99 and it fits the nice pattern of the other quick-guides in this series. Dr. M here helps us recognze the importance of media, explores the power of music and movies to shape opinions and values, and offers his "assesment tool" to discover and discern what is going on in artifacts of popular culture.

I Want to Talk to My Teen About Movies, Music & More Dr. Walt Mueller (Standard Publishing) $8.99

Monday, October 16, 2006

new Sting Lute recording

Okay, how cool is this? We are watching our new favorite show, the fabulously interesting and well-written Aaron Sorkin drama Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and just sitting there with my jaw open (again) at how he has incorporated a character who is an evangelical Christian playing as one of the cast of the edgy SNL-like comedy that the show is about. She shares her very articulate testimony to a Vanity Fair reporter as she tells of her love of Christ, her Godly mother and her love of comedy. And then, on comes rock star Sting (the musical guest in the show within a show that week) doing a piece from his brand new lute album, which we were playing just an hour earlier here at the house.

Yep, Sting's new album---which we stock at Hearts & Minds---is called Songs From the Labyrinth (on the Deutsche Grammophon label) and it is music written by John Dowland(1563-1626.) Joining Sting on the lute and archlute (don't ask me) is Edin Karamozov. (The older Sting hit Fields of Gold, which he did on the show, is not on this recording.) A few readings from letters of the 16th-17th century composer Dowland are read over evocative lute solos, making this a "musical soundtrack to the composer's life." Read a nice review here.

For lute fans, by the way, I've been playing a new CD (on the Italian classic label, Stradivarius) called Concerti a liuto Solo which is comprised of solo lute compositions by Antonio Vivaldi. It is preformed by Paolo Cherici, who may not have the street cred of Sting but is highly regarded in early music circles. It is truly lovely.

Pop culture and our real life. What fun.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

a rural novel, a fight for a small town, and a love story called Truck

I mentioned in my last post---the one about the important, new David Wells paperback on hyper-modernism and the need for firmer, evangelical theology---that I was going to a Wee Kirk conference. That is, a "small church" retreat, for leaders and pastors in Presbyterian congregations that are small, often rural, and working to determine how to be faithful and missional in their small town settings. It is always a good event. I want to thank here the folks that hosted us, helped us lug boxes o books, and set up said books.
We appreciate the casual mood, the fun times, the Godly desire for true renewal.

One of the speakers, the brillant Matthew scholar, Dale Allison, gave a ponderous and heart-felt lament that we are increasingly in a culture that does not read. I think he was correct to affirm the role of fiction, and he encouraged us all to do what we can to support the old practices of reading real books.

Well, let me riff on that just a bit by noting a few books---novels and creative memoirs---about the importance of a sense of place, a commitment to one's region, people and land, books that might be of interest to anybody who laments the loss of the places we love. Or who celebrates the fight for the places we love.

I'd like to think this is fitting, since these stories portray in vivid ways, the social context for Wee Kirks. These are, fun as they are, really, really important. We are thrilled to commend them.

This Heavy Silence: A Novel Nicole Mazzarella (Paraclete) $14.95 We raved about this in a larger review over at the website a few months back, and it is now out in paperback (complete with a reader's group study guide for book clubs.) Set in Ohio farmland, this is a very moving and well-told story of a single woman farmer, fighting to keep her farm afloat for a young girl she has taken in...It won the presitigious first novelist award offered by Paraclete at the Calvin College Festival of Faith and Writing, was heralded in Publisher's Weekly, garnered a coveted starred review in Library Journal and was the winner of the 2006 Christy Award in the first novel catagory. Ms Massarella must know a lot about rural life and the vocation of farming for she realizes the necessary details with exquiste beauty and meaning.

Dispatches from the Muckdog Gazette: A Mostly Affectionate Account of a Small Town's Fight to Survive Bill Kauffman (Picador) $12.99 Kauffman was an inside-the-
Washington-beltway-mover-and-shaker who came to his senses and proved the old adage wrong. You can go home again, and you can learn to care about small places (including the Muckdogs, the local minor league baseball team) and you can wax elequant about saving old buildings, supporting a local economy, fighting Wal-Mart and other grimy aspects of industrialized uniformity, and learning to care about one's region's ecology, history, lives and deaths. Kauffman is really, really smart, is remarkable as a rural historian (see his brillant collection of pieces called Look Homeward America about which I will write more, soon.) I'd say he does for small towns what Wendell Berry does for rural Appalachia, but that isn't quite it. But close. Dispatches... was maybe my favorite book of the last hot summer, enjoyable, inspiring, learned and funny. God bless this "placeist" and his odd little Batavia, New York.

Truck: A Love Story Michael Perry (Harper) $24.95 I must warn that this is not out quite yet--due in a couple of weeks. I got an advanced copy, with a funny old note from the author, which made me really, really, happy. I read his popular Population 485: Meeting Your Neighbors One Siren at a Time about his small town Wisconson ambulance work, and raved, here, about his collection of thoughtful, fun, rural essays, Off Main Street.I love this Perry guy. This is heart-felt stuff, funny and real, and I want you to know about him if you don't. Pre-order it here and I will give you a big ol' whup-a** discount of 25% off and ship it the day it arrives. And you know, I don't say that every day!

Monday, October 09, 2006

Wells in paperback

I am literally heading out the door in moments to go sell books at one of our favorite three day events, a retreat for leaders in small churches (or, in our Presbyterian lingo, "Wee Kirks.") County folk, mostly, sharp and good pastors of small congregations---some quite rural, and some inner city. Some sad and struggling, but many vibrant and content with their quality of congregational life. They host us well and buy as many books as their budgets allow. Amazing Matthew scholar Dale Allison is one of the main speakers, and I may blog about his books we we get back.

But for now, as I am leaving, I get to shout---little drum roll, please: This just in! I've blogged just a bit about some emerging church type books (like the post on Exile) and how liberal congregations are finding practices to live authentic and faithfully in these times (like the post on Christianity for the Rest of Us), and, now, it is time to announce the paperback which will challange much of that. It is the fourth (and, he says, final) volume in the stellar series on contemporary culture by Gordon Conwell professor, Dr. David F. Wells. When he is not spending time in Africa volunteering in an AIDS clinic, or traveling the country preaching old-fashioned, mature and thoughtful Reformed doctrine, David has been working on these marvelously interesting surveys of ways in which evangelicalism, especially, has been eroded of its essential center by the forces of the modern world.

Above All Earthly Powers: Christ ina Postmodern World has just come out in paperback ($15) and at over 300 dense pages, it is one of the better bargains in the business these days. Of course he would be quick to critique the way consumerism has molded our very thinking about choice and change (yes, he seems to have been influenced by the sociological school of Peter Berger and Os Guiness) so my shout out to this cheap price may, in subtle ways, help bring down the Truth of the Gospel.

I only have my tongue half in cheek, since Dr. Wells wouldn't be so silly as to say an inexpensive book price is the demise of Western civilization. But, surely, this kind of analysis---how things as mundane as prices, mass markets, communications and suburbanization have effected our ways of thinking and being--is very, very important. I commend this hard-hitting study.

J.I. Packer says it has "masterful breadth and penetrating insight..." with "prophetic perception."

Mark Noll summarizes his survey by noting the plague of postmodernism as "hyper-
consumerism, functional nihilism, and meandering egotism"

Timothy George insists that it is "an important book for everyoe who cares about the integrity of the gospel and the missional future of the church."

Above All Earthy Pow'rs: Christ in a Postmodern World David F. Wells (Eerdmans) $15.00

Saturday, October 07, 2006

3 new edgy reads on church life

Since I was raving this week about the new Diana Butler Bass book, I thought I'd mention a few other new books about the church that I thought might be interesting. One is brand new and looks awesome, another came out a month ago and is unique as a voice of a 20-
something writer and nicely formatted. The third is, well, just listen...

First, there is the brand new Exiles: Living Missionally in a Post-Christian Culture by Michael Frost (Hendrickson; $19.95.) Frost was a co-author of the very, very significant The Shaping of Things To Come and the lovely and creative Seeing God in the Ordinary. This may be one of the most important new paperbacks to explore the disillusionment of those who've had it with disengaged, boring congregational life and who desire a faith that is edgy, faithful, transformational and attends to the pains of our lives and our world. Trust me, you will be hearing more of this book. Hard-hitting, to say the least.

Dear Church: Letters From a Disillusioned Generation Sarah Cunningham (Zondervan; $12.99) I will admit that these letters are not the finest of brillant literary gold. They are interesting, honest, packed with good stories and solid sociological stuff. Each "letter" is a candid heart-cry from this twenty-something, asking the church to be what it ought to be. What is really helpful are the take home points at the end of each chapter and the helpful discusion quesitons, making this useful for a twenty-something study group or an any-age book club who cares about the fact that most churches have simply lost most of this age group. Does anybody care? If so, at least consider reading this book. Or give it to your pastor.

The Dust off Their Feet: Lessons From the First Churh Chris Seay, Brian McLaren and friends (Nelson; $9.99) Perhaps you have heard that a gang of mostly emergent voices--- McLaren, Seay, Chuck Smith, Jr., Andrew Jones, and others writers like Phyllis Tickle, Lauren Winner and Bible scholars such as Darrel Bock and Peter Davids are doing a creative, multi-
faceted Bible translation called The Voice. This is their version of the Book of Acts. Along with the fresh translation there is some art, poetry and punchy commentary, even some case-studies of congregations trying to live out the narrative of Acts. Who thought that the First Church in Acts is actually the original Emerging Church? Ha! Dr. Luke gets powerfully updated here, and before the Greek language purists complain, I'm told that they do a good job. It sure looks cool. The first volume in The Voice project came out a while back and is a nicely produced hardback telling the story of the passion of Holy Week (called The Last Eyewitness.) This one is trim-sized paperback and well worth passin' around.

Please visit the great project website at www.hearthevoice.com

Have you heard about the alt-folk albums they are doing, too? The first one was selected Psalms and we've got it; the next----amazing!---will take the texts from Handel's Messiah and put them to new contemporary tunes. How great is that?! (I'll blog about that when it comes.) Performing artists such as Derek Webb, Waterdeep, Lori & Don Chafer, Jill Phillips, Jamie Smith, Sandra McCraken... Here is a good review of the first one.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Book of the Year?

Is Christianity for the Rest of Us: How the Neighborhood Church is Transforming the Faith by Diana Butler Bass (Harper SanFransico; $23.95) the book of the year? Some surely think so, and we are very excited about it, as I posted earlier this week. As always, Diana is a gracious writer, an astute observer, and a faithful Christian servant, helping us all along the journey of faith as she explains the best practices of those vibrant mainline churches that she visited. It is quite a road-trip, a pilgrimage, and it is so well-written. I've got a few qualms here and there, some beefs I may write more about later. But, know this: it is among the best books I've read all year, and very important, interesting, and helpful.

Here are the chapter titles from Part II, which she calls "Ten Signposts of Renewal." (Her description of why signposts, a playful comparison of driving by map and intuition and real-time looking around rather than MapQuest is clever and insightful.) So here they are, signposts for the journey:


Know any churches that embody some of these practices as they form a counter-cultural spirituality for the sake of the world? Are they modeled after mega-churches? Did they get that way from strategic planning sessions and church growth seminars? Do they have strictly conservative theology? I didn't think so. Ms Bass is on to something, here, debunking the myth that only evangelical churches are growing, and inviting us to serious reflection on what it means to come home to authentic community in a vibrant mainline church.

It really may be the book of the year...

See the last blog post for the 25% off BookNotes Blog Special discount deal. Call us soon.

For a great link to the research project site that Bass worked for, go here (The Project on Congregations of Intentional Practice.)

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Christianity for the Rest of Us

Before telling you about this thrilling and important new book by Diana Butler Bass, I should take this opportunity to publically thank my friends and hosts at Derry Presbyterian Church in Hershey, PA for offering such hospitality and interest during my lectures there this past weekend. As you may have seen from the previous blog posting, I gave a series of talks on contemporary culture, the art of Christian discernment, and how our Presbyterian and Reformed tradition can fund the project of a uniquely Christian discernment of the ethos of modern culture. This was me speaking in the broadest of terms about a wholistic, Biblical worldview, the call to think in ways which honor Christ's Lordship, the dangers of dualism and gnosticism and cultural accomodation, the excitement of church ministry that equips lay folk to live out their faith in robust and coherent ways in the various social spheres and aspects of their lives. I told stories about those who are transforming the culture; some frustrating ones of those who are not. From worldviewish books like Transforming Vision and Heaven Is Not My Home to daily spirituality like Practicing the Presence of God; from books on vocation like Os Guinness's The Call to guides to civility in the public square like Rich Mouw's wonderful Uncommon Decency; from books on work to books on the arts, books on urban & suburban ways of being to books on the spirituality of the ordinary, we recommended resources all weekend long to the gathered community of learners and at their Sunday morning Book Fair. Thanks to all that came (including old friends) and to those who helped with food and books and details. At least one participant blogged a bit about my teaching, and it is more generous than I deserve. Still, you can check it out, and see the other very good stuff there, too, penned by Brian Rice, a local pastor, good friend, long-time H&M customer and leader in mentoring young pastors in missional settings.

Derry seemed to take well my passionate call to be more intentionally Reformed and more seriously engaged in cultural criticism. Of course they were open because, well, they are involved in just this interface of reading the Word and reading the world. They are a theologically rich, if moderate, mainline church with tons of energy and class. With the good weekend with these folks in my heart, it is a perfect time to celebrate this long-awaited, well-written and thoughtful book, Christianity for the Rest of Us, a book that, like some at Derry (it seems) articulates an experience of the faith that is something other than the typical one in recent press reports. That it, it is neither politically conservative nor mega-church evangelical, yet is commited to serious thinking, mature theology, caring community, and devout discipleship. This tells the tale that many of us know to be true--the one that the typical media report rarely gets right, namely, that not all mainline churches are sloppy or dying.

Bass's description of the best practices of vibrant mainline congregations is fantastic and fascinating; Derry could even be one of the congregations that Ms Bass talks about here. I will blog and review this more later, but for now, know that her research has taken her to churches all over the theological and geographic spectrum and she is happy to announce that the much-reported death of the mainline church is, like Mark Twain's death, seriously exxagerated. In ...For the Rest of Us she describes those kind of things that she sees bringing renewal to fairly ordinary, often somewhat left-of-center, deeply spiritual mainline parishes. She does her "sociology of congregations" work in ways that are memoiristic and delightfully explained. It makes for a wonderfully engaging read.

You may know that I loved Diana's award-winning memoir, Strength for the Journey: A Pilgrimage of Faith in Community and raved about her powerful little book about undue patriotism in church in her Broken We Kneel: Reflections on Faith & Citizenship. Her more academic report of robust progressive churches, published by the Alban Institute, is called Practicing Congregations: Imagining a New Old Church. She then quickly edited a fabulous collection of stories about these churches called From Nomads to Pilgrims: Stories of Practicing Congregations. All of these are splendid, and this new one is no exception.

25% OFF
Please mention this offer by emailing or calling

Christianity for the Rest of Us: How the Neighborhood Church Is Transforming the Faith
Diana Butler Bass (Harper Collins) $23.95.