Got three new books in the mail yesterday, and I’m going to share all of them with you. I actually have about 25 books that arrived while I was sick last month and I never did get a chance to catch up on them, so perhaps this week I will slip them into the blog and let you make up your own minds about whether they might be of interest to you, but this book, Bible Basics for Catholics: A New PIcture of Salvation HistoryI know I can highly recommend, because I read the galleys and loved it so much I “blurbed” it for the back cover, and this is what I wrote:
You’re a Catholic. You would like to study the Bible, but you’re not sure where to start. You’d love to take a class, but you’re busy. With the best of intentions and firm resolve, you purchased several “Bible study” books only to wake up with their imprints on your face, but almost none of it reaching into your mind or your heart. If that sounds like you, buy this book! Let award-winning teacher John Bergsma guide you thought a high-energy and entertaining walk through the Bible, illustrated with his own charming drawings. So fresh, engaging and truly instructive that you will find yourself smiling as you read it, and you’ll be amazed at what you retain.”
That’s all true. Bergsma teaches at Franciscan University in Steubenville, where he has been voted “Teacher of the Year” several times. This little book gets a big job done by seating you solidly with the notion of “covenant” that permeates scripture. Bergsma calls it “a whirlwind tour of the Bible.” It’s fast, it’s surprisingly comprehensive, and — because you start to feel really connected, in a new and personal way with the stories of our faith, and what is behind them — it leaves you wanting more.
You can pre-order Bergsma’s book. It comes out next month, just about the time we put the big books away and look for smaller, thinner, lighter books that we can slip into a tote and take to the beach or the park. This book is “small, thin and light” but you’ll find it a really worthwhile “summer read” that you may actually end up sharing with your teens, if you have them.
Mark Shea’s The Heart of Catholic Prayer; Rediscovering the Our Father and the Hail Mary is a typical Mark Shea project in that it is something deeply serious and reverent, wrapped in something fluffy. In his acknowledgments he thanks (among others) J.S. Bach, They Might Be Giants and Duke Ellington, but when he gets into his topic, he is all business as he takes you through the two most meaningful prayers of our faith in a scholarly yet very personal way.
I give you all of this boring autobiography because it is the interior life of millions of people around the world who likewise live in a pagan universe haunted by the unknown God. It is precisely to such minds that the stunning revelation that our Father is in heaven is addressed, with the incredible prospect that, so far from living in a horror movie where the hero wakes from the nightmare and finds that his waking reality is worse, faith teaches us that every fairy-tale hope that has ever stirred our hearts might actually be realized and that, quite literally, all our wishes may come true.
This hope, that there might really be, at the end of all things, what J.R.R. Tolkein called “Joy, Joy beyond the walls of the world, poignant as grief,” is what Jesus is getting at when he tells us our Father is a heavenly Father.
I also love the cover of the book. You know. Predominately flaming red. I do love red.
Mary Elizabeth Sperry’s Bible Top Tens: 40 Fun and Intriguing Lists to Inspire and Inform is exactly what it purports to be — a collection of top-ten lists — the top ten heroes; top-ten villains; top-ten animals; the top-ten Moms. It’s super kid-friendly and one of those fun books you give to your kids on a rainy afternoon when they’re mopey — they’ll love it.
Maybe it’s because I am getting older, or something, but more and more I find these thinner books to pack a hardier wallop for me than some of the more belabored tomes. Or perhaps it’s because they are direct, to-the-point and not stuffed with filler. I have all but stopped buying politically-themed books because it seems to me they have 40 pages of substance — all of which gets covered in reviews and interviews — and the rest is filler.
I never recommend books that are all-filler!
UPDATE: Tony Rossi has an interview up with Dr. Tim Gray about his new book, Walking With God: A Journey through the Bible , which also looks really good! Check out the interview, part 1 of which is up now!