I’m not sure what the title is but…

At any bookshop customers have odd requests that we just cannot help with. They are looking for a green book, or a book with ‘Tree’ in the title. At this bookshop, a theological bookshop, the book descriptions that make us giggle come in slightly different flavours.

This month a customer who’d never been to our shop before came in and asked for our religion section. Not wanting to laugh at the poor man’s honest question we pointed out that the whole store was basically one big religion section. Did he have something more specific in mind? He looked confused as well. We suggested he give us the title of the book he wanted so we could tell him which of our sub-sections of religion it would be in.

Another customer came in. She didn’t remember the title of the book she was looking for, but assured my colleague that it had Jesus and God in it.

Today a student came in looking for a recommended book in his course. Again, he couldn’t remember the title, but it was about Roman Catholicism. He looked expectantly and trustingly at my colleague who had to tell him to go away and find the title on his syllabus as his description didn’t narrow it down sufficiently.

January Staff Picks

Now that January is more than 2/3 over, here are the staff picks for the month:

Ed – The ESV  Bible black leather with a zipper. Handy for travel!

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CindyMy Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers.

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Heather W: The Radical Disciple by John R. W. Stott, his last book, and one of HW’s picks of 2013

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Alain: The Church and the Market: A Catholic Defense of the Free Economy by Thomas E. Woods Jr.

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Sheila: Becoming Human by John Behr. Sheila says “It is a beautiful book, a meditation on what it is to be human with images and quotations woven throughout to give the reader much to ponder.  In lyrical prose, Father Behr invites us to look upon Christ, God and Man, and through Christ, to understand our calling to be human.  It is a lovely book to read especially ‘in the bleak midwinter’.”

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Conner: Simple and Direct: A Rhetoric for Writers by Jacques Barzun.

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Carolyn: A Secular Age by Charles Taylor. Carolyn thinks this is a book that everyone should have in their library.

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Andrew: Charity: The Place of the Poor in the Biblical Tradition by Gary A. Anderson.

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Heather L: A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis

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Monthly Staff Picks February, 2014

Books Everyone Should Have

Crux serves the theological colleges that make up the Toronto School of Theology. This means many of our customers are future priests and ministers. Part of the fun of being in seminary and close to a great bookstore is building a good personal theological library! Book collecting continues after graduation, of course, but the foundations are laid while in school. Here are some books that the Crux staff think that everyone should have in their library.

Alain: Jesus and the God of Israel by Richard Bauckham

Andrew: The book we should all read and own is Augustine’s Confessions. The Confessions is a beautiful example of what an exercise in patience looks like. In it, Augustine finds God’s own patience, so I would argue, to come to bear upon his own life. The God so encountered is not a “god” to re-assure us, but the God of Jesus Christ and, as a result, is the God who sanctifies us in the fire of God’s own love. Augustine, confessing such a God, can only find his own life (re)narrated according to God’s own love given to us in Christ.

Carolyn: A Secular Age by Charles Taylor. If you want a reading challenge, pick up a copy of renowned Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor’s masterful journey through Western history. Taylor looks at the pervasive secularity of the modern West and traces the historical trajectories of ideas and beliefs that have led us to this place—trajectories that lead to some surprising starting points. Ultimately Taylor hopes to open space for transcendence and religious life in the midst of our secular age. Admittedly the book could have used some editing, but no one can deny Taylor’s vast historical knowledge, the keenness of his insights, or the sympathetic respect with which he engages each viewpoint along the way. I can’t recommend this book highly enough. Bonus: at 896 pages, this book can help you out with any weightlifting goals you might have.

Cindy: A Bible Atlas of some kind. This helps you understand the importance of places in the biblical narratives. Geography is important in understanding what happened in different stories.

Connor: From Dawn to Decadence by Jacques Barzun. This work of cultural history, tracing the patterns of the last 500 years (the Modern Era), is both an excellent read and erudite account of the timespan. Written by Barzun in his later years, it shows the polish of writing that comes from a life spent discussing these topics.

Heather L: The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. This book speaks to the eternal human condition. It also makes you a more interesting person if you read it. (Especially if you teach yourself Elvish.)

Heather W: An Experiment in Criticism by C.S. Lewis. This small book is an extended essay on reading critically and what makes a book great. It will shift the way you look at literature. According to Lewis great writing supports, and even compels, re-reading. You should read this book. You should own your a copy to re-read it.

Sheila: The book everyone should have is the Oxford English Dictionary.   I know that many who read this are going to say that you can look up any word that you like on-line; you can even use the OED on-line resource.  And this is true. However, there is something to holding a dictionary in your hands and looking up a word. For one, the tactile sensation of looking up the word can help you remember the word better.  Another reason? Every time I look up a word, I put a little pencil dot beside the word (this works well for those of us studying foreign languages, too!); when I reach five dots, it is time to fill out a vocabulary card.  A third reason: the undiscovered word.  I cannot tell you the number of words which I have found on the way to looking a word (abligurition and waulked are too of the most recent ones).  My favourite definition for grace (“unmerited love; strengthening influence”) comes from the Oxford.  When you look up a word, you can start to see the story behind the word, its import.

Looking forward to 2014

Here are some books staff at Crux are looking forward to reading in 2014. Of course, all of us know that some of the best reading of the year is unplanned and serendipitous. We talk about books in the store and recommend things to each other. We talk about books with other people and get recommendations from them. Lots of times the best books are the ones we weren’t looking for.

Sheila: “At this point it would have to be Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev’s The Mystery of Faith, which examines the teaching of the Orthodox faith, looking at both ancient and modern texts to examine doctrines of, for example, the Trinity, the Church, and prayer.  It is the first time that this work has been made available in English.”

Alain: “Poetic Diction by Owen Barfield, which admitttedly was my staff pick for December. I’m going to read it. I promise.”

Andrew: “D. Stephen Long’s Saving Karl Barth: Hans Urs von Valthasar’s Preoccupation. Love or Loathe him, we must reckon with Barth. I fall on the love side and Balthasar encapsulates why with the soundest reason: Barth’s theology is beautiful. Long’s book seeks to understand why Balthasar thought this was so and why more recent Barth scholarship (critics and apologists) has too quickly overlooked why Balthasar thought this was so.”

Connor: “Getting Past No by W. Ury. Ah, a sequel. Getting to Yes intrigued me, and now I wonder if it might be worth considering the follow-up guide. these books seem to be quite basic, but for their concise organization and summary of more complex principles, this may well be one that I read in the near future.”

Carolyn: “The End of Apologetics by Myron Penner.”

Heather W.: “C.S. Lewis: A Life by Alister McGrath. I feel like I should have already read this for the Lewis Jubilee in November. This is just a way to extend the celebrations.”