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.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Books on the Arts & Church

As I sometimes do, here, I post a book list generated for a particular customer. Recently, a mail-order friend asked about some resources for her newly formed arts group at her church.

After some nicities and encouragement, I got down to business. Here is some of what I wrote to her:

I believe I might have suggested earlier that you start with our basic bibliography found at the website. This is found by clicking on "Books by Vocation" and then going to the section on the arts and creativity. These are still some of our favorite books for those starting out a God-honoring interest in the arts even if it hasn't been updated. One very, very simple one, an inexpensive and lovely essay, came out recently, and it should be on that "beginners" book list, as we are very fond of it. It is by Philip Ryken, and is entitled Art for God's Sake: The Call to Recover the Arts (Crossway; $5.99.)

And, we talked about this, didn't we?
It Was Good: Making Art to the Glory of God edited by Ned Bustard (Square Halo Press) $24.99 will be out in its glorious newly expanded and updated edition within a few weeks, for sure. Our good friends have published it...we are awaiting the full shipment coming from overseas where it was manufactured (using non-tree paper, in fact, which is pretty nifty for those who care about good stewardship and green creation-care!) We will be the first store to get it, and it is absolutely the most important one volume book you could get for serious artists or art students or those interested in the making of Christian art, or the study of faithful applications of normative aesthetics. What a lovely volume it will be, a "must-have." I will review it, I am sure, as soon as it arrives, in my book blog... (In fact, you may have noticed it on the year's end Best Books list, where I happily created a catagory just for it!) The newly expanded one (with much more color and reproductions in every chapter) will be an instant classic in the field and is due soon
Here are a few that are especially useful for those interested in using the arts in the local congregation, working especially to integrate art into worship; these are not listed in the more generic listing about faith and art, since this is more specific, a catagory about liturgical art or congregationally-based efforts to integrate artistic gifts in parish life.

Music and The Arts in Christian Worship vol 4, books 1 and 2 Robert Webber (Hendrickson) $49.95 each These are two volumes from the magisterial multi-volume set on worship, which are extraordinary, thorough, oversized hardbacks. The first one is on music and song, and the second is on the visual arts. Strong on historical development, ecumenical, theologically solid, clear and helpful. Really fabulous.

Enter His Courts With Praise: A Study on the Role of Music and the Arts in Worship Robert Webber (Hendrickson) $9.95 A small group resource or nice guide for anyone doing a Bible study on the topic...rather a discussion guide for the above, big volumes. Each chapter has a bit of teaching and then discussion questions, verses to look up, ideas to ponder and application points. Excellent.

The Arts in Your Church: A Practical Guide Fiona Bond (Piquant Press) $15.95 Rare, imported from England, this is a very nice guide, really useful and theologically mature. A great introduction by the extraordinary Jeremy Begbie shows it's integrity. Nothing quite like it, and we are proud to promote it.

Art in Service of the Sacred Catherine Kapikian/Kathy Black (Abingdon) $25.00 A bit pricey for a paperback, at first glance, perhaps, but this includes a great DVD that shows scores of photographs of the author's art, before and after shots of worship spaces, vestments, liturgical art designed for worship or conferences or retreats. Even shows stuff about her creative process and how she thinks through, prayerfully, how to do art for various parts of a church building (hallway, narthex, fellowship hall, etc.) Kapikian is the director of the innovative program on the arts at Wesley Theological Seminary (one of the few seminaries that requires courses in the arts from all pastoral candidates.) A must-have!

Spaces for Spirit: Adorning the Church Nancy Chinn (Liturgy Training Press) $26.00 This book is a one-of-a-kind study of using cloth, banners, textile art and large swirling flows of fabric in church decoration (not the liturgically proper word, probably, for such spirited, aesthetic richness.) The writing is excellent, the theology so thoughtful and clear, but this is mostly a study of her work, various installations and scenes and plans and guidelines. We ourselves have a worship space in a church basement with low ceilings--a fellowship hall, really--and these installations are mostly done in larger cathedrals, places with cool architecture and high ceilings. Still, we have found the ideas so generative and inspiring that we use it often, adapting and borrowing ideas....this, too, is nearly a modern classic in the field and highly, highly recommended. Splendid!

Art and Worship Christopher Irvine & Anne Dawtry (Pueblo) $12.95 British Catholics here offer great insight into how to commission works of art, place the, how to hold art exhibitions in church, and further explores the relationship between faith communities and the visual arts. Serious and thoughtful stuff, very useful.

All That We Are: An Arts and Worship Workbook Aimee Wallis Buhanan, et al (Bridge) $12.95 A little paperback that came out of the TEAM---Theological Expressions in Arts Ministry) of the Presbyterian Church (USA.) Nothing terribly profound, except it is clear, simple, practical---very helpful for organizing meetings, brainstorming towards what events to do, how to integrate various art forms into liturgical experiences. Perhaps this is what is most needed for your starting group, ideas, Bible studies, writing exercises, bibliographic resources for drama, dance, etc.

Arts, Theology and the Church: New Intersections Edited by Kimberly Vrudny & Wilson Yates (Pilgrim Press) $35.00 A thick, glorious paperback, full of serious-minded theological and aesthetic questions, inspirational essays and some artwork. Some of the chapters feel edgy and innovative, with a definite post-modern vibe. Some of the chapters are more for academics, I'm afraid or those with very specialized interests (a study of three different arts programs, for instance, or how the arts have changed Biblical interpretation, or one on eucharistic images in recent film. Good stuff, but fairly broad in scope, and only a few chapters that are immediately applicable in the local parish.

Thriving as an Artist in the Church: Hope and Help for You and Your Ministry Team Rory Noland (Zondervan) $16.99 Here is how the back cover puts it: "Whatever your passion---music, visual art, drama, technical arts---you can not only survive, but thrive. And the rewards far outweigh the pressures...where else could you consistently make a contribution of eternal significance, experience deep community with other artists and grow closer to God as a result?" This is a practical guide for keeping artists involved in your churches ministry, guiding them around obstacles (from the congregation and their own attitude) and how to sustain creative passion in a typical evangelical church. Good for personal or group study, it is in many ways a practical follow-up to her ground-breaking, personal accountability guide for worship leaders, The Heart of the Artist, which mostly explores the inner attitudes of the artist and their particular foibles and temptations...

Powerful Persuasion: Multi-Media Witness in Christian Worship Tex Sample (Abingdon) $22.00 A guide to how the church can faithfully understand and employ new technologies and art forms to communicate the gospel to generations formed by electronic culture. Sample is a radical and feisty United Methodist pastor, really, really a pioneer in interacting with new technologies and postmodern culture, [and older, oral cultures, too (blue-collar or rural folks in story-telling cultures, for instance, which is another passion of his.] Compelling and ground-breaking...very thoughtful. For another take, see also the brief and brilliant High-Tech Worship? Using Presentational Technologies Wisely Quentin Schultze (Baker) $10.95. To describe this as "balanced" doesn't do it's wisdom and Biblical brilliance justice. "Balanced" sounds boring and moderate, and this is so much better than just that! It is neither "pro" nor "con" in the so-called worship wars, but is a wise call for discernment and judicious thoughtfulness, attentive to the bigger issues, spiritual formation, aesthetics, and how to be appropriate in vibrant and faithful worship. Very good.

Again, I hope you have the foundational books listed in our basic bibliography in the "books by vocation" section. We always start with great stuff like Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art by L'Engle, Art & The Bible by Schaeffer, Imagine by Steve Turner, or the wonderful collection of introductory reflections by Image editor, Gregory Wolfe, collected in Intruding Upon the Timeless or the nice book on creativity by Michael Card, Scribbling in the Sand: Christ and Creativity. William Dryness' serious book is very good, Visual Faith: Art Theology and Worship in Dialogue, and important for serious thinkers in this field. The best one volume, mid-level book is Art & Soul by Adrian Chaplin and Hilary Brand. A must, espeically for students and those engaged in the contemporary art scene! And, as I say in the website bibliography, the patron saint of all contemporary Christians in the arts, is Calvin Seerveld, an eccentric and demanding author, whose work is among the most important written in our century. Rainbows for the Fallen World and Bearing Fresh Olive Leaves are among our personal favorites and are cited in or influential for most of the above titles. Very, very important with rich rewards for those willing to read along.

...we wish you all the best as you continue to pursue this exciting ministry. Let's stay in touch; it would be our pleasure to serve you further and to ship some titles soon.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

William Wilberforce and Amazing Grace

I am grateful for the York Sunday News for allowing me to be a guest columnist from time to time, and my first piece of the new year was on William Wilberforce. You may have seen my February 9th blog posting about the fine new book about him by Eric Metaxas. Check back to get the overview of that one, Amazing Grace and another very important book, Not for Sale by David Batstone about the contemporary abolition movement.

Here, though, you can read my essay about the need for heroes, William Wilberforce's tenacious campaign against slavery, singing Amazing Grace at Jubilee and the fabulous new film that we need to support this weekend. Enjoy.

See the film trailer, here.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Lenten Books

(A Lenten) time-gift allows us ample time each year to escape from the jerky, helter-skelter Saint Vitus's dance of instant gratification and mindless distraction that is piped 24 hours a day by the devil. It provides time-conditions sufficient to recover the deep rhythms of meditative prayer that can be assimilated into our daily work as unhurried melodic obedience and praise.
Eugene Peterson
from the forward to:
The Passionate Journey

Some good resources for your Lenten journey.

Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter (Orbis Press) $18.00 This handsome paperback has brief readings from some of the world's leading spiritual writers (from C.S. Lewis to Phil Yancey, from Frederick Buechner to Dorothy Day, from Wendell Berry to Watchman Nee.) As you can see, this is really diverse, delightful, thoughtful. A wonderful devotional, with each several page excerpt linked to a brief Biblical text.

Reflecting the Glory: Meditation for Living Christ's Life in the World N.T. Wright (Augsburg) $14.99 This is just brilliant, with NT doing his New Testament reflections. Solid and stimulating Biblical mediations, one for each day...

Power & Passion: Six Characters in Search of Resurrection Samuel Wells (Zondervan) $14.99 Every year the Archbishop of Canterbury suggests one book for Anglicans to read together during Lent. This is the one this year, and it is marvelous. Wells is a good writer, provocative and thoughtful, now serving as the Chaplain at Duke. This one is arranged for six weeks, with discussions questions after each week; each chapter focuses on a particular person who figures into the passion story.

Thank God It's Friday: Encountering the Seven Last Words from the Cross William Willimon (Abingdon) $12 This is obviously seven chapters (and an afterward) using the standard set of texts from Good Friday. I'd recommend reading everything Willimon writes, and I intend to use this myself. Marva Dawn writes a good introduction. (I wish there were study questions which there are not.)

Chocolate for Lent: A Creative Approach to Your Lenten Journey Hilary Brand (Daughters of St Paul) $11.95 You may know Ms Brand as the co-author of a book we often promote, Art & Soul, whose other author was Adrienne Chaplin. Here, she uses the film Chocolat as the springboard for reflecting on how not to "give up" something for Lent, but to enter in to a more mature Christian worldview. Fascinating and very insightful. And tasty. (Sorry.)

The Passionate Journey: Walking Into the Darkness Towards the Light of Easter Marty Bullis (Regal) $17.99 This nice hardback has a forward by Eugene Peterson; it is written by an acquintance, a Presbyterian pastor from here in Central PA. A strong reminder of the ultimate sacrifice made by Christ on our behalf. Very nicely arranged, with guided reflection, journaling, silence, Scripture and prayer.

Quantum Grace Judy Cannato (Ave Maria Press) $9.95 This one is just a bit different, written by a Roman Catholic, with all some very contemporary insights. I like this because it tries to reflect perhaps on the dangers of an overly ascetic view of Lent, and rejects a spirituality that is Gnostic, or anti-creational. I like it's emphasis on healthy relationships and the formation of our spirituality. It is tender and visionary, but always rooted to the lectionary texts of the day. So each section is, in fact, a Bible study, with space for reflection, journaling and such.

The Sacred Way: Spiritual Practices for Everyday Life Tony Jones (Zondervan) $12.99 This isn't a Lent study, but would sure serve this purpose. It really is a fabulous resource, offering a little on the theological and historical background of various spiritual practices----from contemplative prayer to using the rosary, from crossing oneself to prayerwalking---and offers brief excercises to help you encounter God by engaging in this practice. Fabulous.

10% off any Lenten book
read@heartsandmindsbooks.com 717.246.3333

Pictures from Jubilee

Books. Jubilee. Students. We talked about books for hours on end and had several opportunities to address the whole house. Standing in front of 2000 folks at what may be the most important event of their lives is daunting to say the least. Hanging out in the green room and being back stage with contemporary worship leaders like Charlie Hall or speakers like Shane Claiborne or having the privilege of introducing one of my best friends, Steve Garber, is very nice. But talking about books as resources to help young students on their faith journey, especially the journey of discerning vocation in a fallen world---that is the biggest privilege of all. Thanks to the CCO for allowing us to partner with them in this project of "transforming college students to transform the world." Thanks to all who believe that reading can be transformational, that ideas matter, that books make a difference, and that promoting the habits of literacy is an urgent obligation. (We sold a bunch of the very small paperback, Your Mind Matters by John Stott, who himself addressed the Jubilee conference back in the 70's, and were glad to have such a fine little book to give the overview of serving God by thinking well.)

There are always tensions at the big gig: we talk about the poor, but yet want to affirm every career and profession. We invite intellectual growth but want to bath it in prayer and nurture a deeper spirituality. We want to encourage authentic cultural engagement, but don't want to give the impression that Christ winks at worldly accomodation. We challange students to missional, civic involvement but insist that their academic careers matter to God. The CCO has this fairly specific (if broadly defined) theological agenda, yet that includes reading widely from diverse traditions. Choosing and promoting books is, well, more complicated and taxing than most realize, and doing it well at Jubilee may be the most tricky gig of all. Ahhh, how to be "in the world but not of it"? How to live wholistically in a centered, timely manner? How to live out in our 21st century context the Biblical call to reformation and renewal? How to celebrate the good we see and grieve the losses of our innocence and the horrors of our times? How do you do a conference aimed at the biggest questions a 20 year old can ask, and still insure a good time is had by all?

This year's Jubilee conference had some of the most poignant moments of the 30 years we've been there, including attorney Gary Haugen of International Justice Mission telling of his up close work against forced slavery and child prostitution (yes, 27 million, at least, now are enslaved, making the transatlantic slave trade of the 1700-1800's seem relatively small.) Gary's work---after his time at State Department doing Rhwanda investigations---is literally "setting the captives free." His books, The Good News About Injustice and Terrify No More were big sellers as students responded well to his very professional and animated talk.

Shane's book The Irresistible Revolution was the biggest seller. His impish call to just living, alternative community, and radical service reminded me of some post-modern St. Francis. (Check out his gang, The Simple Way, here.) His stories (mostly drawn from the book) helped us imagine that, indeed, "another world is possible." It did my heart well to hear Peter Maurin, an intellectual mentor to Dorothy Day, cited amongst we evangelicals.

Barbara Williams- Skinner's closing talk called students to excellence and passion to make a difference in all sorts of matters (from Darfur to racial reconciliation, from personal educational commitments to working for global economic justice) and ended with a rousing, old-school plea for commitment to Christ. The "altar call" had as much integrity and passion (and success) as any I've seen...I love talking about reformational philosophy and social action and academic discipleship and cultural engagement and all manner of things that emerge from the Kingdom vision of Christ's gospel. But there is nothing better than hearing the old fashioned gospel proclaimed with relevance and urgency, and seeing young people recieve Christ as Savior and bow to Him as King.

We could hardly be more exhausted or more exhilarated. Thanks to the gang that helped us pack up, and lug the boxes. Tyler Mummert, a young pastor from Gettysburg deserves special credit, and Liz, a theatre major from Pittsburgh, cheered us until the very end. Scott & Becky made it happen, for Hearts & Minds, and for everyone.

Check out the latest big batch of pictures here. Of course you'll see a few of me (how about that grungy hair in the one shot? Yikes!) Make sure you notice the miles of aisles of book tables, our work which many of you prayed for. But most of all, notice the faces of the students, the rapt attention, the goofy silliness, and passion of the speakers. Maybe next year you'll sign up to come!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Jubilee 2007

It was just one year ago that I posted a few entries about the Jubilee conference in Pittsburgh. Beth and I have been to every one of these annual events (save one when I was really, really sick) and have helped plan more than most of 'em. To say it is important to us is an understatement. Go here and browse through the February 21, 06 entry for a good overview.

We invited you to visit the Coalition for Christian Outreach's JUBILEE conference link and mess around, seeing how this faithful and relevant campus ministry does it's flagship event. Bringing in speakers to help students relate faith and their experience in higher education and serving it up in an experience that is life transforming---and with a giant-sized book table, wow. What an event! There will be mature and thoughtful followers of Jesus speaking about the difference their faith makes in the way they work in media, the arts, politics, health care, law, engineering, science, business, education. And there are workshops which are more generally about cultural engagement and whole-life discipleship, even if not exactly about career and calling (stuff on resisting pornography, for instance, or The theology of ethnic diversity, or, working on the third world debt crisis, and, of course, Biblical study----Gideon Strauss will talk about "creation-fall-redemption" (I think) by using Brueggeman's book on the Psalms, where he refers to Psalms of orientation, dis-orientation and re-orientation.) The band Anathello will perform this year, too, and we will have an advanced showing of Amazing Grace the William Wilberforce movie I blogged about the other day....you can see all of this for youself at the Juby website.

Can you guess how many different authors will be there? We've lost count, and it is our job to know!

The snow has wrecked havoc on our book pullin' and box packin'. Beth has been outside shoveling most of the day, and UPS is fouled up, boxes missing, maybe their brown trucks having slide off into some icy mix. Who knows? It has been a stressful couple of days, and the fun hasn't even started yet.

Why not take a look at how I described this event when I posted last year. And then pray for us, for the students, the speakers, the whole big gig. I know it can transform student's lives. It happened to me when I heard Tom Skinner there in the early 70's, whose Kingdom vision was vibrant, his justice commitments passionate, and his relationship with classic Christain faith solid. It is an honor that his wife, Barbara Williams-Skinner will be speaking at this year's event. Besides the many workshops, the keynote speakers include my very good friend Steve Garber (Fabric of Faithfulness), Gary Haugen (from International Justice Mission, author of The Good News About Injustice and Terrify No More) and the merry Shanester himself, Shane Claiborne, of Irresistible Revolution fame, a book written out of his voluntary poverty and justice ministry with The Simple Way community in inner city Philly. I reviewed his good book (with some gentle critique) last March at the website. We e-mail a bit, but have never met, so that will be a highlight of our time there. If we can get our rented truck heading West.

Monday, February 12, 2007

2006 Best Books Part Two

The long-awaited (am I fooling myself? It may be long-forgotten, except for the two or three guys who have been ever-hopeful in their inquiries about this) 2006 Book of the Year Awards Part Two are now up, posted as a January column over at the Hearts & Minds webpage.

Please, please, please check it out, reading my crazy categories and very astute picks. A-hem. Seriously, some truly great books have come out in the last year, and we are thrilled to plug a few here. If you didn't read Part One, I've actually tweaked that list just a bit (added two more in the always popular "Books I Loved To Hate" category.) So check the December Book Review article for that, and the new January article for Part Two. I wish our awards were known far and wide, not for our sake, really, but so that these good books could be more widely known, honored, considered. There are others, to be sure. What would you pick??

Thanks very much. Happy reading!

Friday, February 09, 2007

Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic and the Campaign to End Slavery...and the struggle today.

William Wilberforce has been a hero and role model for me for years; I am not sure when we first learned of his historic influence in stopping the slave trade in England. I know he was friends with everybody in those years---from Edmund Burke to Samuel Taylor Coleridge, from Ben Franklin to William Lloyd Garrison. He was roundly hated, stalked, beat and opposed, but seemed to carry on with joy amidst persecution, and saw victory just days before he died. Os Guinness wasn't the first to tell us about him, but those who admire Os, know that he often cites the British parlimentarian and social reformer and has shared his passion for Wilberforce's multi-faceted vision to bring about "a reformation of manners (morals)" driven on by his solid theology.

I wrote about Wilberforce briefly a few postings ago, and commended the new, very brief book by John Piper, Amazing Grace in the Life of William Wilberforce. The movie will be out soon, and I trust you know all about Amazing Grace film which tells of Wilberforce's call to stay in politics (discerned during a particularly important conversation with former slave ship captain and hymnwriter, John Newton, who advised him to fight for the abolition of slavery by staying in politics.)

Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery by Eric Metaxas (Harper SanFransico; $21.95) is now out, and we are thrilled. It is surely the biography of Wilberforce to first read. (We have been proud to promote Kevin Belmont's sturdy Hero for Humanity for several years, which is the most thorough and well-documented one yet done. Thank goodness it has just been re-issued in paperback by Zondervan for just $12.99!)

Metaxas is a hoot of a guy--he's been in our shop---and is one of those rare indivuals who is charming and smart, funny and serious, thoughtful and yet not overly academic. The guy has set up "Socrates in the City" in Manhattan, and has been a writer for VeggieTales. He has written children's books (and has been nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Children's Recording.) And his last book of apologetics is written with winsome vigor and an honest defense of classic Christianity. If you get my drift, I hope you realize that this book is interesting, well-written, classy, serious-minded yet deeply inspirational in the best sense of the word. It is not simplistic nor overly scholastic. It is just right. I think Dick Staub is correct when he notes that this is "an exquisite pairing of biographer and subject." And Dr. Guinness (who loaned Eric some very rare and antique books on Wilberforce for his research, which word has it he needs to return!) is perceptive when he says, "Writing with a spirited and sparkling style, Metaxas brings William Wilberforce alive. Here is a superb introduction to history's greatest and most surprising social reformer. It will jolt the cynical and inspire the visionary."

Jolt the cynical and inspire the visionary. This book can do that not just because it is nicely written and well-done, which it is, but because that is the sort of impact the mighty W had. A good family man, an elquant and compelling orator, a deep thinker, a man of deep compassion, sure piety and good humor, he is, indeed, a man for our times. Thank God for the movie coming out, for the various campaigns and efforts being mobilized around the film, and for the new batch of books. Metaxas's will be considered by many to be the best.

I will review a number of Wilberforce and Amazing Grace related titles over at the website for the February column, later this month. For now, we are pleased---we are joyously compelled---to annouce the arrive of this landmark, new work. We couldn't recommend it more surely.
And, to happily complicate matters, Harper has also released a companion book on contemporary slavery, a companion to the parallel Amazing Change campaign, called
Not For Sale by David Batstone ($14.95.) David has travelled the globe in recent years researching this horrific matter, much, much worse than in any time in history! Here is another link for those interested in working on the Not For Sale campaign. It, and the Amazing Change movement, are good introductions to the activism that will emerge around David's new book. As I noted, I will write more about this soon. For now, see our special Amazing Grace/Not for Sale package deal. This Blog Special will get you both of these for a great price.

Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery
Eric Metaxas (Harper SanFransico) $21.95
Not for Sale: The Return of the Global Slave Trade---and How We Can Fight It
David Batstone (Harper SanFranciso) $ 14.95


buy both
save almost $12
read@heartsandmindsbooks.com or 717.246.3333

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Who Are You People?

Hope you enjoyed our Best Books of the 2006 list (part one.) A larger entry, a fascinating Part Two, has been delayed due to something akin to technical difficulties. Sorry....it will appear soon, I'm told, over at the website in the January column. . And it will be fun. Do you have favs of the year?? Wanna share?? Anybody have any opinions about my first list?

I'll tell you, friends: I am pretty exhausted right now, and ought to be flying higher, with several really exciting book gigs coming up. In a few days I will sell the prestigious books of Dr. James Hoffmeier, a preeminent Egyptologist (what fun to even say that word!) Our friends at the Newton Center at Dickinson College will host a lecture on the archeological evidence for the historicity of the Biblical narratives of Exodus, and we will sell, among other things, his two books on Oxford University Press.

Want an autographed copy? Let me know asap, and we can get him to sign one, and we'll send it to you. His two works are the hardback Ancient Israel in Sinai: The Evidence for the Authenticity of the Wilderness Tradition ($47.50) and the paperback Israel in Egypt: The Evidence for the Authenticity of the Exodus Tradition ($29.95.)

Next, our friends at Wheatland Presbyterian (PCA) in Lancaster will host a debate on three views of faith and evolution: three active, sharp members will share their respective views (creationism, ID, and theistic evolution, roughly) and engage in some friendly banter. We will have all kinds of books on a uniquely Christian philosophy of science, how a Biblically-informed worldview shapes our views of science, and, of course, the need for a Christian engagement with the neo-Darwinist schools. Should be a good day.

Despite my joy in selling books at such events, my head aches. I'm preparing for the biggest thing we do each year, and the hardest to prepare for, the extraordinary Jubilee 2007, with dozens of speakers, workshops, authors and such, all about relating faith to college life, Christian cultural engagement and the development of a worldview worthy of the name Christian. More on that later, but it is wearing me out. You should be there--Pittsburgh is a good place to visit, by the way--- but the prep work done by the booksellers is painfully difficult. Pray for us, if you do that sort of thing.

And so: Beth and I needed a truly fun read, a good, funny diversion; we just finished Michael Perry's Truck: A Love Story, which we named on our Best Books list to be one of the best and funniest and most rewarding books of the year. What to follow that for sheer pleasure reading?

We've discovered Who Are You People? A Personal Journey Into the Heart of Fanatical Passion in America by Shari Coudron (Barridace Books; $14.95.) After the first paragraph I was hooked. After the first few pages, I was absorbed. It is like 2 am and Beth is reading even now. This thoughtful and empathetic journalist, noticing her own lack of any sustained interest in hobbies (she's dabbled in all kinds of stuff, which she describes delightfully) wondered where passion comes from. She sets off to find it. What a story, visiting Barbie Doll conventions, Trekkies, gameboarding play-offs, storm-chasers in Kansas; she goes ice-fishing in the Rockies and attends the annual reenactment celebration of the Andy Griffith Show (did you know they crown a Mayberry Trivia Queen each year?) Part armchair travel, the back cover tells us, part cultural study, part personal journey, this cross-country journey to learn about passionate fanatics has been a real joy. She's often looking at a wacky netherworld, to be sure, but is a joy nonetheless.

Read this quote from Thomas French, himself a Pulitzer-Prize winning author (South of Heaven):
With every encounter, Shari Caudron plunges us deeper into the heart of fanatical passion. Caudron, a terrific reporter, slips inside her subjects' lives and writes about all with grace, insight, and almost limitless empathy. She shows us what it means to be human and how far we'll travel to belong.
Or, this line or two from early in the book:
Now, I'll be the first to admit this was a peculiar approach to personal growth. People who feel as if they're missing something join churches, or go back to school, or volunteer. They don't get in touch with their inner Trekkie. But that's exactly why this idea was so appealing. Simply put, I'd reached a point in my life where I wanted to know what it would feel like to raise ferrets or collect rocks without a hint of shame or self-consciousness. Not that I would ever do these things, of course. But I wanted to know that I could, you know, should the need arise.

For days after making this decision, I opened the local newspaper and spotted an article about a Barbie Doll convention. I immediately decided to go. Then I immediately changed my mind. I mean, come on. Barbie? That grinning she-wolf in designer clothing whose sole purpose was to brainwash girls into believing the only requirements for success were killer clothes, good looks, and appropriate fat distributions? No. Yes. No! I waged a little war with myself and ultimately decided that if I was serious about understanding passion, a hotel full of doll collectors was as good a place as any to begin.
A nicely-written study of weirdo folks that maybe aren't so weird. Some she writes about are even deeply Christian folks, all enjoying something of our culture, all searching for something, all finding a sense of belonging. It is just the book I needed. Maybe that is one of our passions, being fanatical about the right book at the right time. I wonder if Caudron could write about us?

Click here for the author's great publicity webpage. Order it from us, though. Thanks!

Who Are You People? A Personal Journey into the Hearts of Fanatical Passion in America Shari Caudron (Barricade Books) $14.95

Friday, February 02, 2007

Hearts & Minds Books of the Year Awards part 1

Books of the Year. That would be last year, of course. And it is only Part One. You know I can't restrain myself. See the goofy catagories, the obscure listings, the pandering, the agonizing choices, the multiple ties and runner-ups and honorable mentions. All in it's sprawling glory. Yes, believe it or not, blog-fans, it can be found under the December "Review Articles" column. Click here to see our big 2006 Awards list. 2006 Best Books, Part Two will come soon, in the January spot. It is a fun list, too, believe you me.


Any complaints or accolades, bring 'em on! Thanks.