Mission & Ministry - Bishop's Institute Christmas Books List

Bishop's Institute Christmas Books List

The Rector's Dozen: Christmas Books for 2015

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Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People Nadia Bolz-Weber (Convergent Books, 2015).

Phyllis Tickle, the wonderful spiritual writer who has died in this last year, enthusiastically recommends Accidental Saints: "If Saint Augustine were to return to life and live among us, he would be Bolz-Weber; and if his Confessions were to be written in 21st century rhetoric and style, they would be this book.  Accidental Saints is what every Christian yearns to know is possible".

America's Pastor: Billy Graham and the Shaping of a Nation Grant Wacker (Belknap Press, 2014).

Here is a remarkable and well told account of one of the leading moral voices of the 20th century ( and see the Niebuhr pick below) that would make a nice gift for someone interested in both Billy Graham the man and evangelist and American social and intellectual history in the last century. While we are on a roll with great moral voices there is also this year God & Churchill: How the Great Leader's Sense of Divine Destiny Changed His Troubled World and Offers Hope for Ours Jonathan Sandys, Wallace Henley, James Baker (Tyndale Momentum, 2015).

Augustine: Conversions to Confessions Robin Lane Fox (Basic Books 2015)

This scholarly book is accessible and readable. As one reviewer aptly sums it up: "The book is not so much about Augustine himself as about Augustine's own autobiography the Confessions. It examines the events recollected in that book and the development of the thoughts that went into its composition".

Charles Williams: The Third Inkling Grevel Lindop (OUP 2015)

Williams is lesser known than the other Inklings C.S. Lewis and JRR Tolkien. Nevertheless he is a significant 20th century apologist for the Christian faith and it is a pleasure to see this revival of the author of The Descent of the Dove (1939) and The Figure of Beatrice (1944) that inspired Dorothy Sayres to undertake her translation of The Divine Comedy.

Cosmosapiens: Human Evolution from the Origin of the Universe John Hands (The Overlook Press; 1 edition February 16, 2016).

Two books on my list involve a risk I am going to take in buying them for myself. This is one of them. Hands has drawn praise from both arts and science reviewers for his encyclopedic enterprise that surveys the current state of everything across the fields of science that attempt to answer the most basic questions, e.g. how did the Universe originate? Why is the Earth well-placed for the development of life? Not since Victorian times, as one reviewer notes, has such a synoptic grasp of scientific knowledge been attempted. That makes me curious. But the risk: will I (the non-science schooled) read it and will it make all things scientific that countless of my students have tried to explain to me from string theory to Schrödinger's cat to dark energy and the selfish gene finally stick in my mind or will this be yet my latest science purchase door-stopper?

Everyday Saints and Other Stories Archimandrite Tikhon Shevkunon (author) and Julian Henry Lowenfield (translator) (Pokrov Publications 2012)

This is a remarkable collection of short biographies and stories of the 'living saints' of the Orthodox Church's Pskov Caves Monastery in NW Russia that stayed open throughout the Communist years. This book has so captured the Russian popular imagination that more than a million copies were sold in less than a year after it was published. Miroslav Volf drew our attention to it when he spoke to the Fall Clergy Conference in October.

Ferguson and Faith: Sparkling Leadership and Awakening Community Leah Gunning Francis (Chalice Press 2015)

Leah Gunning Francis is a seminary professor and an activist who here interviews some two dozen faith leaders involved in the new Civil Rights movement in the wake of the shooting death of Michael Brown and explores the spirituality at the heart of the movement.

In the Artist's Garden: A Wormingford Journal Ronald Blythe (Canterbury Press Norwich, 2015)

Ronald Blythe writes a weekly column on the back page of The Church Times (the national newspaper for the Church of England). Titled 'Word from Wormingford' the column's background is his three-acre garden and farmhouse, Wormingford. This is an excellent present for your gardener relative or friend who doesn't mind mixing soil and spirituality while observing their garden and the Christian Calendar unfold over the course of a year.

Reinhold Niebuhr: Major Works on Religion and Politics Reinhold Niebuhr and Elisabeth Sifton (Library of America, 1st edition, 2015)

Throughout the Depression, World War II and the Cold War Niebuhr was one of the most prominent and informative voices helping Americans to discern how to think morally through all the issues in public life that shaped the larger part of the 20th century. This comprehensive collection of his sermons, essays and books would make an excellent gift for someone engaged in trying to thoughtfully and prayerfully reflect on the issues that define and perplex our broken world today.

The Daily Reader for Contemplative Living: Excerpts from the Works of Father Thomas Keating Thomas Keating (author) and Sr Stephanie Iachetta (editor) (Bloomsbury Academic, 2009)

If you know of anyone who would appreciate a 'daily reader' to start 2016 off right you could do no better than give them this one so skillfully organized by Sr Stephanie Iachetta. Fr Keating guides you day by day through the Christian Year with profound spiritual and psychological insight. I have given this as a gift a dozen times.

The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing (Princeton, 2015)

This is the other risk factor on my list. Will this be the book on ecological crisis and capitalism run amuck that will engage my mind in the intersecting worlds of ecology, economics and politics? I am intrigued by the promise of the book found on the back cover: "Scientists and artists know that the way to handle an immense topic is often through close attention to a small aspect of it, revealing the whole through the part. In the shape of a finch's beak we can see all of evolution. So through close, indeed loving, attention to a certain fascinating mushroom, the matsutake, Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing discusses how the whole immense crisis of ecology came about and why it continues". I think I am ready to track this 'globalized' mushroom from the forests of Oregon's Cascade Mountains to Tokyo gourmet food markets.   

The Psalms of David James S Freemantle (HarperCollins Narnia 2004)

This would make an excellent gift and keepsake for anyone-- be their interest religious, artistic or literary. It is good to have this facsimile edition of Freemantle's beautiful illustrations of the Psalms back in print. Freemantle was born in India in 1852 and travelled extensively in the Middle East as a British army officer. His illustrated Psalter is a tribute of love to his wife Clara. It is filled with rich, splendid illustrations of the flora and fauna of India and of the Middle East. This is just a very beautiful little book.