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, January 04, 2007

Guide to Great Books

Yesterday, I invited you to read the article I wrote about the joys and significance of reading, published in a special issue for college students, on-line at Comment. Not a bad suggestion for a bookseller, eh, to highlight an essay on reading? In case you missed it, scroll back to yesterday and read my little bookish cheerleading. You may note that the hard copy magazine which collects Comment's "Making the Most of College" series is available for sale, here.

Yes, yes, you may say, I want to be a better reader. I at least want to be familiar with the better books, the classic authors. I'd like to know my way around the discussions and debates about the canon, at least know which century in which great writings appeared, and have a reputabile guidebook to the very best. Where do I start?

There are a few great guides. I've often recommended the great little paperback by an old H&M acquintance, Terry Glaspey, The Book Lovers Guide to Great Reading: A Guided Tour of Classic and Contemporary Literature (IVP; $11.00.) It is still one of the greatest inspirations for book lovers in one typically-sized paperback. Well written, with lot's of opinions, and loaded with practical suggestions (even how to run a book discussion group) it is a sweet, helpful winner by a very well-read young man.

Today, though, I'd like to announce---heck, I'd like to shout and sing and tip my hat and spritz a confetti shooter or something---a truly wonderful resource which has recently been released in an inexpensive paperback edition. I refer to the magnificent Invitation to the Classics: A Guide to the Books You've Always Wanted To Read which was masterfully compiled a few years ago by Louise Cowen and Os Guinness. Baker Books has just released an affordable $24.95 edition, in paperback, which still has all the very rich illustrations, the quality, glossy paper, the full-color reproductions. It is fantastic! We've stocked the handsome hardback previously, but wished for one that we could promote that was more affordable. (We do have the hardback, which is sturdy, selling for $34.99.) Thank goodness, for your New Year's Resolutions or up-coming Ephiany gifts (who do give ephipany gifts, don't you?) it is now out in paperback!

An Invitation to the Classics is just that: an invitation. It gives nice summaries of great authors, overviews of important literary and historical writings, and places these great books in thoughtful context, with suggestions for further study or discussion. That Cowen and Guinness and their extraordinary team of colleagues are themselves so remarkably well-read, and can so naturally evaluate the Western heritiage through responsible Christian lenses, make this a treasure trove of deep insight. Some may want to read it cover-to-cover, others will use it as a lovely coffee table book for occasional edification. Still others will refer to it often as a reference tool and handbook.

Reading is a delight and joy. Knowing our literary heritage makes reading that much more fun, more fruitful. But, also, it helps shape who we are, our character, our ability to be effective and well-spoken, wise contributors to our society. It is no accident that Dr. Guinness developed the vision for this reader while working with The Trinity Forum in his efforts to mentor leaders in the public sector. Great literature can be an ally in efforts to bring Christian wisdom to the culture. Cowen & Guinness et al make that case here, and have enriched us with a fabulous guidebook. We are happy to commend it.

while supplies last
Invitation to the Classics
regularly $24.99

read@heartsandmindsbooks.com or 717.246.3333