June Staff Picks: Random Books for Random Travels

Our June staff picks don’t have a theme. It is kind of a random month in the store. We are getting ready for inventory, there’s construction next door that had been rattling our windows and bones, and the weather in Toronto has been pretty random as well. Those are the reasons for our randomness. Without further ado, here are the first two random selections:

Sheila’s Pick: Sheila is our resident classicist turned theologian. She’s really into Patristics, which should surprise no one. Sheila’s pick of the month is

HTSS

Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret by Dr. and Mrs. Howard Taylor

This is a classic biography of a missionary to China. Sheila reminds us that we need to read good Christian biographies to be challenged in our life of faith.

Carolyn’s Pick: Carolyn is our resident philosopher. She grew up in B.C. which may explain her affinity for bears. Carolyn’s June pick is:

9780802854070

Carolyn says “You don’t need to have small people in your life to find yourself completely entranced by this children’s story. Working from an obscure 12th century reference to a manuscript being eaten by a bear, the author creates a charming story about life in the world of medieval monastic libraries. This is a simple, beautifully illustrated tale for book-lovers of all ages.”

Happy reading!

 

Sheila’s Next Five

Sheila is our other resident classicist and customer service representative. She teaches dead languages and is writing a thesis about the resurrection; make of that what you will.

cyril

Lectures on the Christian Sacraments by St. Cyril of Jerusalem

Sheila is about to start this book on the sacraments. She reads extensively on sacraments as seen by this book, also near the top of her to-be-read pile:

thursday

Thank God it’s Thursday by William H. Willimon.

Remember that thesis on the resurrection? That might explain the next two books in Sheila’s pile of reading.

theodeath

The Theology of Suffering and Death by Natalie Kertes Weaver

dying

Theology, Death and Dying by Ray S. Anderson

Finally, to assist in Sheila’s reading of Karl Barth on creation (again for the thesis) this book:

karl

Saving Karl Barth by D. Stephen Long

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Alain’s Next Five

Alain is one of our classics scholars. He works in customer service at Crux, but will, sadly, be leaving us later this summer to start his Ph.D studies. These are the five books he might have time for before an advanced degree takes over his life:

came

Getting What you Came For: The Smart Student’s Guide to Earning a Master’s or PhD by Robert L. Peters. There’s no mystery around why Alain might make this book a priority in the next few months!

simple

Simple & Direct: A Rhetoric for Writers by Jacques Barzun

9780520280410

Augustine of Hippo: A Biography by Peter Brown. The definitive Augustine biography.

9780674165311

Constantine and Eusebius by Timothy D. Barnes.

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Faith, Science & Understanding by John Polkinghorne

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Cindy’s Next Five

Our fearless leader, Cindy, thinks she might get to some of these books this summer.

Rome

Rome & Jerusalem by Martin Goodman was recommended by Terry Donaldson for summer reading in 2013. Cindy has her eye on it for this summer’s reading.

bonhoeffer

Bonhoefer: Paster, Martyer, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas. Cindy plans to read this on the dock at the cottage some long weekend.

men

7 Men and the Secret of their Greatness by Eric Metaxas.

contemporary

The Contemporary Christian by John R.W. Stott.

seeds

Seeds of Hope: Wisdom and Wonder from the World of Plants by Jane Goodall. Cindy’s farm family roots are showing in this selection. She looks forward to reading the wisdom and wonder of the plant world, especially as Jane Goodall wrote the book.

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Carolyn’s Next Five

Carolyn is our local philosopher. She works in customer service and shipoing. These are the next five books she thinks she might read when she’s not writing her thesis this summer.

planet

Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis

dark

 

Learning to Walk in the Dark by Barbara Brown Taylor

brothersK

The Brothers Karamazov by Fydor Dostoyevsky

human

Becoming Human by Jean Vanier

bread

Take this Bread by Sara Miles

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The Next Five Books

Here at Crux, the staff members have put together lists of the next five books we might read. All of us have the habit of drifting off into what looks interesting at the moment, so these lists may not actually reflect what we read over the summer. They do reflect books that are on our current reading horizons and in our To Be Read piles.

Dr. Heather’s Next Five:

jesus

Jesus and the Victory of God by N.T. Wright

This is the one book on my list that I am confident that I will finish this book this summer. I’ve already started reading, and am into the second major section. I once had a discussion with a colleague about whether Wright’s big books are actually serious scholarship because they are readable. I argued that the readability factor makes them Very Serious Scholarship because more people may actually understand what Wright is saying, thus his ideas have a better chance of intelligent acceptance, or intelligent rebuttal.

reading

The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction by Alan Jacobs

This is my book about reading for this summer. The one I read last summer was a great disappointment, and it has taken a while for me to pick a book about books again. We’ll see how this one goes.

soldier

One Was a Soldier by Julia Spencer-Fleming

I need at least one mystery to read in the summer. I’ve enjoyed Spencer-Fleming’s series featuring the detecting duo of an Episcopal Priest and the local Police Chief, and this is the one I’ve not read yet.

faces

Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis

People keep telling me that this is the best novel Lewis wrote. I haven’t read it yet. I’ll let you know if I agree with my friends.

Lewis

C.S. Lewis, A Life by Alister McGrath

I’ve had this book on my to-be-read pile for too long. I hope to actually read it this summer. I’ve heard good things about it. I’ll let you know what I think after I’ve read it.

 

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April Staff Picks

Ed:

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The Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton

Cindy:

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Jesus of Nazareth by Benedict XVI

As we head towards Easter, this is a fantastic series to read. The first volume (of the three volume set) covers the time period from the baptism in the Jordan to the transfiguration, volume two concentrates on Holy Week, while volume three focuses on the infancy narratives. The books scour the gospels to find the true identity of Jesus and paint a compelling portrait of him. You cannot read these books without coming away with a richer and fuller knowledge and picture of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

Dr. Heather:

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The Courage To Teach by Parker J. Palmer

The Courage to Teach is an insightful, and at times very funny, look at teaching. Palmer presents teaching as he experienced it, and in so doing, gives courage to his readers who have similar experiences.

Sheila:

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Preaching from Memory to Hope by Thomas G. Long

In this book Long looks at the necessity of memory and remembering in the context of preaching. He reminds us of eschatological hope, so that we remember that God’s people, the Church, has a past, a present, and a future.

Conner:

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Enchiridion by Epictetus

The title is not the only strange characteristic of this work. Epictetus, influenced  heavily by Stoic thought, here gives us a prescription for living. It suggests (in broad strokes) ways of comprehending what we call “good’ and/or “bad” elements of our lives. It intrigued me, because it offered answers without supplying an easy way out. Yes, you could consult the work for advice in making many decisions; however, its advice will offer you a new way of conceptualizing the problem, rather than providing a solution. It is not an ancient equivalent of a modern self-help guide. The essential distinction Epictetus makes in the work is between that which is within the control of one’s will, and that which is not. We may rightly ask in some cases where that distinction lies. Epictetus would likely respond by saying it is for us to intuit. In that way, this small book only aims to offer pathways to answers. I wouldn’t follow all of the Enchriridion‘s suggestions to their logical conclusions, but as a thought experiment, the work is interesting because of its quirks.

Carolyn:

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The End of Apologetics by Myron Bradley Penner

Arguing that most examples of Christian apologetics on offer today have been shaped and oriented toward modernity’s obsession with reason as the final arbiter of truth, Penner calls for a new form of apologetics for a postmodern context—apologetics that is both loving in its delivery and faithful in its witness.

Andrew:

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Ethics in the Presence of Christ by Christopher J. Holmes

Chris Holmes is a TST graduate currently teaching theology at the University of Otago in New Zealand. This is his most recent book.

Rev. Heather:

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Tokens of Trust by Rowan Williams

Tokens of Trust is a little book that raises big questions. Whether you are looking for a solid introduction to the Christian Faith or working out how to explain your odd choice to spend Sunday mornings in church, this book is well worth the read. Written in Rowan Williams’s unmistakable voice it walks you through the Apostle and Nicene creeds addressing questions of Theodicy (explaining good in the face of evil), exploring the person and significance of Jesus Christ, and looking at where the church fits into not only scripture but the contemporary world. It really is a fabulous read.
March Monthly Staff Picks May (part 1)

7 tips for Difficult Reading

Sometimes it is difficult to read scholarly books. Language and concepts can both be dense and tangled, but only one of the two need be obscure for difficulties to arise. (See what I mean?)

We (Crux Staff) have read our share of difficult texts. Here are 7 strategies (see what we did there?) we use to wade through and find meaning when things get tangled and twisted.

  1. Fling the book in question across the room and against the wall. This releases the tension caused by obfuscation and may allow you to move on with reading. This also works when you find the argument vacuous or ridiculous. We have flung authors from Hegel to Harris across rooms. You can decide which of those is obtuse and which ridiculous.
  2. Use a dictionary or other reference tome that may shed light on the text. Regular English Dictionaries are very helpful, as are specialized dictionaries of theological or philosophical terms. Maps and diagrams can be helpful depending on the subject.
  3. Read slowly and in small sections. Sometimes summarizing a paragraph helps decode what happened in that block of text. Active reading includes taking notes and sitting at a desk or table, not sprawling on a couch or bed. Some difficult books must be read on hard chairs, no cushions allowed.
  4. While cushions are not allowed, breaks are allowed, and even recommended. Breaks help the brain digest the heavy rich food found in difficult books.
  5. Talking about a book with a study group can help untangle the threads of an author’s point. Of course, class discussions and professors can also make things plain, but the work of decoding a text yourself is far more rewarding in the long run. Really.
  6. A summary or précis can be helpful. Some authors realize this and produce their own summaries. Other times we resort to notes and summaries written by others. Be Selective in the summaries you use though!
  7. Speaking of selective, help yourself out by being choosy from the beginning. Pay attention to which English translation you use. Translators make a difference — are you reading the King James Version of a work or is it more like The Message?

Ask the Crux Staff — we sure do. We are here to help in any way we can, even when the reading gets tough.

Possible Gifts for Theologians for Valentine’s Day

Here comes V-Day, where V is for St. Valentine. Hearts and flowers might be traditional, but there are some books that also might fit for Valentine giving. Here are some slightly tongue-in-cheek possibilities, selected by the staff at Crux. (Yes, this is what we talk about in the store.)

barth

Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics 4.1: The Doctrine of Reconciliation. Reconciliation sounds good for relationships, plus there’s the pink cover. A winning gift for the Barth scholar.

lewis

C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce. Ok, maybe it isn’t very romantic, but it might be just the thing for the Lewis fan who is single? Maybe?

Sentilles

Sarah Sentilles, Breaking Up With God: A Love Story. Nothing more need be said.

Chapman

Gary Chapman’s The 5 Love Languages has so many different editions that there is sure to be one for someone you know for V-day. Nothing says love like a gift? Isn’t that a love language?

Sherwood

Yvonne Sherwood, The Prostitute and the Prophet. Because nothing says V-Day quite like Hosea and Gomer?

And finally, the book for all couples on Valentine’s day:

9782895075592

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.