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.

More thoughts on Christmas Music

Crux staff have had a few discussions about Christmas music in the store in the past couple of days. Connor and Carolyn don’t have any specific non-favourites, but they are both against versions of well-known songs that they deem to be “over the top.” The example that I suggested to both of them was “O Holy Night” — a beautiful carol if well done, but difficult to do well. Yes, they agreed, that is a good example.

Andrew wishes we could put together our own Christmas mix. He’d include “A Charlie Brown Christmas” and the two Christmas albums Sufjan Stevens has recorded. Sheila never wants to hear “I saw Mommy Kissing Santa Clause” again. Pam is happy to be at home with a new baby instead of in the store counting the number of times “The 12 days of Christmas” is played in one day. And I’ve had enough of “Santa Baby” for this year.

Textbook Season, part 1

Things staff at Crux like to hear during the textbook rush:

  • “Thanks for all your help.”
  • “I just read one of Crux’s recommended reads and I loved it. Thanks.”
  • “You’ll call me when that comes in? That’s great, thanks!”

Things staff at Crux are not fond of hearing (multiple times) during the textbook rush:

  • “I am going to call every day until my book arrives. Can you make it come any faster?” (No! We can’t control distributors and courier companies!)
  • “But the professor said you’d have that book!” (This is especially irritating when the prof didn’t place a class order for the book in question.)
  • “Don’t you order enough textbooks for everyone in the class?” (Drop/Adds give us all problems.)

Smile at your local bookseller and always remember to say Thank You.

What Does Summer Reading Mean to You?

Recently Crux staff discussed the idea of summer reading. For some people, summer is vacation time, a time to take a break from assigned books and catch up on all the things you really wanted to read when you were studying Greek. For others, summer is the perfect time to dive into a challenging read and learn about Greek verbal aspects. If you have a look at the Crux Staff “Next Five Reads” series you can see some books we hope to read in the next few months in all the sunshine and heat. Some of us are going for the challenging reads, others are hoping for a break from Greek.

What does summer reading mean to you?

The Case of the Returning Sign or Is it finally over?

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.”