New (and not so new) books from friends

One of the sweet things about being an author and a blogger is that I’m always learning about wonderful new (and just “new to me”) books, often from friends of mine, either folks I know in person or acquaintances that I have found through Facebook. So this morning I thought I’d highlight a few of these books, books which I think readers of this blog will enjoy. Actually, I myself have not yet read any of these books (!), but I have at least looked at them all, and they all look pretty juicy.

First, here are two books from folks here in the Atlanta area. In neither case is my friend the author, but with Planet of Grace my friend James Stephen Behrens provided the photographic illustrations to accompany Bernadette McCarver Snyder’s text; and this recently issued edition of The Cloud of Unknowing with the Book of Privy Counsel was translated by local scholar Carmen Acevedo Butcher. My connection to both of these persons comes from the Monastery of the Holy Spirit: Father James is one of the monks at the monastery, and Carmen I met when she came to the Abbey Store to buy some fudge! Planet of Grace is all about the spirituality of life embedded in the earth (“biosphere one”), with lovely photographs all taken on the monastery grounds. The Cloud needs no introduction to readers of this blog, as it is one of the towering masterpieces of English mysticism (and Christian mysticism in general).

Now for a few books from my online friends, only one of whom I have met face to face, and he only briefly. Theology of Wonder is the oldest book on this list, having been published in 1999, it is by the Orthodox Bishop, Seraphim Sigrist. It consists of a series of short meditations “where Arthurian legend, Russian iconography, Jewish wisdom and Eucharistic community come together in a stirring intimation of the world seen whole,” in the words of reviewer Michael Allison. The Orthodox Heretic is by the bad boy of emergence Christianity, Peter Rollins, in which he (according to the blurb on the back of the book) “presents a vision of faith that has little regard for the institutions of Christendom. His uncompromising critique of religion, while often unsettling, is infused with a deep and abiding love for what it means to genuinely follow Christ.” Hmmm — I don’t know, but based on how wonderful his first two books were, I’m willing to bet it will be a pretty sweet read; it also consists of a series of short parables and tales. Finally, Diana Butler Bass’ A People’s History of Christianity approaches church history with the same kind of iconoclastic “tell the story from the bottom up” methodology that Howard Zinn used in his classic A People’s History of the United States. Not surprisingly, Butler Bass gives far more air time to the mystics than most conventional church historians ever bother to do. Might be because she is interested in how ordinary Christians actually struggled to live out the gospel. What a radical idea!

So there you go. Happy reading…

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