A new book about Pope Francis has just been released.
Sometimes the bookmarks I find while sorting used books are reminders. They remind me of other times and viewpoints, or of books and authors I’ve not yet read.
This bookmark about The United Way reminds me that the charity organization once used a more overtly Christian religious appeal than it does presently. “Share your blessings,” it reminds us all in red at the bottom. The text reads:
Mark him much blessed who scorns no other,
to whom each stranger is a brother,
for he walks in the steps of Him above
and lives in the warmth of His great love.
And this bookmark featuring the author Maya Angelou reminds me that I’ve never read any of her books. So many books, so little time.
It was another stormy morning: dark and stormy. It was the kind of morning that makes you wish you could stay in bed. Alas, discount theological books will not sell themselves. Independent Christian book sellers are few and far between now-a-days and this one is worth the hassle of bare feet on a cold floor. I shuffled into work fighting the chill and the oppressive gloom. Wednesdays should be brighter than this. I got to the store later than usual. Something wasn’t right. There was activity within. A strange hum – not unlike a vacuum – indicated that just beyond the door some THING, some friend or foe, was up to something. After a quick (and whispered) pep talk I cautiously I turned the key in the door. My mind was racing. Would I catch the sweet patron of Crux who had restored our sign? Would it be a thief? A frat boy? A phantom? I slowly twisted the door handle. The door was opened just a crack. It was open just enough for me to discern the shape of a person. The person was vacuuming. What dastardly thief cleans up after themselves? Clearly this was no ordinary run of the mill biblio-napping! This was a mastermind! It must have been the infamous book bandit: Cynthia May Kasten. She’d finally found me! I knew she eventually would. She always did. Her insatiable appetite for sound theological writings means that we are never far apart. Just this past January she had had her way with the Anglican Book Centre. She showed up one night and the next day the whole store was gone. Such a tragedy! The loss is still felt among the small independent Christian Book Retailer community. If only her brilliance would be used for good! If only she had turned over a new leaf! What joy would fill my heart if it had been she who restored our sign! Bolstered by this new hope I threw open the door to Crux and switched on the light. Triumphantly, grinning from ear to ear, I turned to her only to find that it was not Cynthia May Kasten at all. It was Cindy Hayley. It was the owner. She had come in early to make sure her beloved store was in ship shape.
“Good Morning Cindy” I said, as I hung up my hat and trench coat. “gloomy day we’re having.”
“It’s just a rainy day, I wouldn’t call it gloomy! Without the rain there would be no flowers.” She was like a breath of the spring Toronto kept forgetting to have.
“Any news about the sign?” I asked.
“What do you mean?” She asked, visibly confused by my question.
“It’s mysterious reappearance” I offered as a means of clarification. “The sign that was missing – that we found in the maintenance office – it has been returned. I even think it got a fresh coat of paint! Who could have done this? What good Samaritan has restored our sign?”
“Oh? It was…”
“Was it Dr. Heather? Could it have been our very own do-gooding Bonnie and Clyde: The Mugfords? Was it Helen? Alain? Sheila? Or perhaps Trinity College is trying to convince us to move over into their space as part of the Wycliffe/Trinity rivalry? Was it Tom Power? His office is conveniently located for such activity! Was it Brian Walsh? He has always questioned the wording of our sign – discount theological books or discount theological books – double meanings abound! Could it have been the Professors Taylor? They seem capable of something that lovely! Or was it… Ed! Hi!”
Ed joined us carrying not one but two boxes of delicious girl guide cookies.
“A co-worker’s daughter is in Guides so I thought I would bring a couple boxes over. Have you seen the sign? What do you think?”
“Oh. It was you.”
When sorting the used books that come into Crux, I often find bookmarks advertising bookshops — most of these bookshops are now closed sadly. I want to visit them, but cannot. Here are two I’d like to see.
James Thin of Edinburgh specialized in religion and theology and claimed one of the largest stocks of books in Britain. Oh to be able to browse in this shop! A little digging produces the fact that the flagship bookshop is now Blackwell’s, Edinburgh. Apparently Muriel Sparks wrote her novels on notebooks from Thin’s. Who knew that a bookmark would have so much interesting history behind it?
I can’t find as much information about Diversity Antiques and Collectibles, Inc. of Halifax, N.S., though it appears that Mr. McGee is no longer in business. I’ve never been to Halifax, but I’d like to go — there seem to be a lot of interesting second-hand bookshops in the area. Why else would you want to go to Halifax?
It was a dark and stormy morning. Humidity clung to my skin like the condensation on an undergrad’s iced mocha frappucino. There was something in that dense air. Some thing hovered and scratched at the back of my mind. What could it be? Did I leave the toaster oven on? Did I lock the front door? Had I forgotten some little thing that would change the course of the rest of my life? Bravely, I put these collossally important thoughts out of mind and went to work. Crux Books always looks beautiful in the morning. Watching it come alive is magical. The lights, the music, the bubbling Crux Books Blend coffee saturating the air with its sharp yet comforting odour. I am sure you know the smell I am talking about — the distinctive scent of freshly ground and percolating coffee. Delicious.
That is when it happened. The knock on the door (it is admittedly strange that there was a knock seeing as the store was open for business and rain generally serves as a deterrant against standing outside any longer than is absolutely necessary). When I went to see who it was I was amazed to find that there was no one there. A curious turn of events indeed. Naturally my detective senses were tingling. Was there a fiend trying to coax me out of doors to crack the safe? Or worse! Was there a dastardly villain plotting to make off with our entire Brian Walsh collection?! I decided I had to risk it. Whatever the cost, whether it was a trap or an earnest cry for help, someone had knocked and it was my duty to look into it.
I stepped around the corner – holding my blazer closed – shivering against the wind and rain. Soldier’s tower was outlined against an angry, cloudy, petulant mass of sky. That tower stood there menacing looking down on me like an angry vestry/church council member. You know; defiantly, judgingly, full of strength, and with slightly gothic overtones.
When I was finally able to tear my eyes away from the glistening roman numerals on her clock face. I saw it. It made no sense. How did it get there? What brave soul ventured up a ladder on a day like that to restore her to her rightful place? What angel had returned her to her former glory?
The Crux Books Sign was back!
stay tuned to see who dun it
April 13 was the Annual Symposium of Romanian Orthodox Spirituality at Trinity College at the University of Toronto. This was quite an ecumenical event: hosted by an Anglican seminary it included both Catholic and Orthodox speakers on the topic of Constantine.
The site provided some challenges for space as you can see by the photos; we didn’t have much room for our laptop, printer, and other sales gear. Always up for a challenge we set-up with the space we had and provided a range of Orthodox and Patristic material, from Athanasius to Metropolitan Anthony.
We appreciate being invited to the event and appreciate all the kind comments received from customers, including some who crossed the street to browse the full selection at our store.
The other day I was lurking on the internet and found a post called “12 books we’re all meant to have read but probably haven’t.” I enjoyed reading the list and noting the books on it that I HAVE read, but, sadly, I’ve read fewer than half of the listed books. I’ve heard of them all, and mean to read most of them. Someday. Inspired by this general list, I asked some friends who’ve done seminary studies for thoughts on 10 Books Seminary Students and Graduates are Meant to Have Read — But Probably Haven’t. Here’s our list. Feel free to add titles in the comments.
1. The Bible. Lots of dipping in to the Bible happens, but how many have actually read the whole thing?
2. Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. This is one of the most famous apologetics books. We’ve all heard of it, and may even have it on our shelves, but have we read it?
3. The Confessions by Augustine of Hippo. Bits of this book are often assigned reading, and it is often referred to, but read it? All of it? True confessions time!
4. The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. This is the source of the phrase “cheap grace” but how many have put the phrase in context?
5. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. This is the Big Russian Novel most often referenced in seminary. Read it? Or is it on your to be read pile still?
6. City of God by Augustine of Hippo. Everyone expects seminarians to know the main point of City of God, but how many people have actually read this huge book?
7. Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan. Like Augustine’s City, the main thread of Bunyan’s classic allegory is often referenced, but seldom read. There are lots of children’s adaptations, so perhaps it is easier to fake not reading this book.
8. My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers. A devotional classic that lots of people talk about, but I don’t know very many people who’ve actually read it.
9. Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster. This is a more recent book, but it has never gone to paperback as the hardcover book sells so well. This is a book often referenced in spirituality classes. The title sounds good, but do we really celebrate discipline?
10. Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend. Often referenced in pastoral ministry classes, this book has an idea that people talk about a lot, but has that idea been read in context?
Previously in this space I discussed picking a Bible translation. Once you know which translation you prefer, you need to think about which Bible to choose. Any particular translation will probably have study editions, different bindings in different colours, and different sizes.
Let’s start with study editions. Lots of people have written notes on the Bible. Study Bibles are not new inventions. They’ve been around for a long time. The Geneva Bible (first published 1560) was an early study Bible. When choosing a study Bible here are some questions to consider:
- Who wrote the notes? Was only one person responsible, or was a group of people responsible? What are the qualifications of the person or people who wrote the notes?
- What is the purpose of the notes? Are they primarily devotional notes? Theological notes? Historical notes? Literary notes?
- Who is the intended audience of these note? Am I included in that audience?
- Are the notes easy to access and understand? Are the notes and biblical text laid out in a way that is easy to follow?
Study Bibles should not be your only source of information about what is going on in a Bible passage, but once you get one, the notes are often your first source of information. Make sure the notes are a reliable and helpful source for your reading.
Bibles come in different bindings with different colours and pictures on the cover. If you buy a paperback Bible because you want something cheap, remember that it may not last long. If you only need the Bible for a course for a semester, that might be fine. If you want to use the Bible for several years, you may want to think about a sturdier binding. Hardcover study Bibles are often worth the few extra dollars.
Bibles come in different sizes and shapes. Most study Bibles are fairly hefty. Larger print Bibles are larger in size. Some compact Bibles are very portable, but have very small print. Think about what is comfortable for you, and your use of the Bible. If you get an enormous study Bible, will its size deter you from carrying it anywhere? If you are going to use it mainly at your desk, do you need a tiny little portable Bible?