James is one of our new boooksellers. He has been a bookseller for eighteen years. He enjoys writing poetry and short stories. He also enjoys live theater--especially Shakespeare. And his favorite authors include: Annie Dillard, C. S. Lewis, G. K. Chesterton, Frederick Buechner, Madeleine L'Engle, Amy-Jill Levine, and Barbara Brown Taylor.
I read this for a course on race and justice. And I found this to be an excellent book on an often difficult subject. Honest, forthright, thoughful, painful and hopeful--this book is exactly what I needed to read at this moment in our nation's history. Highly recommended.
This is the history book I wish that I had read when I was a student in school. Sadly, this is the history that, for many of us (most of us), was not taught in school. Well worth the time spent here, there is not a boring page in it.
This collection of Dr. King's sermons was foundational for shaping my own theological journey. I recently re-read them from cover to cover. And they still echo down the years with prophetic power and great wisdom.
Of the many resources that we now find available to us to help us as we struggle to understand and to listen to this urgent national conversation on race and justice, this book is written explicitly within a Christian context. As such, the format here provides the perfect context for why it is so essential for our faith and formation to take this journey now. This is our call and challenge.
This novel is a delightful journey back in time. There is plenty of heart and humor along the way. I loved it!
An unusual--no, an odd--love story. Who would do this? Really? What Lou does... well, it's nothing short of astounding. Nevertheless, this novel (only Annie's second work of fiction), is a stylistic triumph. For AD has pared down the verbage to the absolute bare minimum. The language and the story is all about essentials. For here is the keen and sharp life of the mind as it parces the language of love. What does it mean to love someone--especially when they fail you? What do you have in the end when everything extraneous is cut away? Turns out that there is quite a lot--a lot to live on. And think about. This novel is unforgettable. I loved it!
So, what happens when a renowned Episcopal preacher teaches a university World Religions 101 course and, along the way, learns herself some life-changing lessons on God and what it means to have faith? Like all of Barbara Brown Taylor's books (and sermons), this book is a please to read. Her writing is engaging, thoughtful, and challenging. And funny, too. (Not always, mind you. But, often enough). Another book that I thoroughly enjoyed!
My favorite New Testament scholar has written a magestic book on the parables of Jesus. (Some of these have also been adapted, with illustrations, into children's picture books.) Looking at the parables with attention to how they would have been heard by the original first century Jewish audience, Levine re-tells these stories (that have become so familiar to us that we now often miss what they are trying to tell us). AJL is always excellent and well-worth listening to and reading. (She is a professor, lecturer and writer). A must for students of the Bible (both professional and otherwise).
It is now a yearly tradition for me to re-read the Chronicles of Narnia in December. And I never grow tired of visiting Narnia. Of the seven volumes, my personal favorite is The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. (Who doesn't want to live on board a ship and sail for adventures!). Interesting side note: though these stories may seem a "grab bag" collection of genres, a fairly recent work of literary criticism by Oxford scholar, Michael Ward, has done (I think) a convincing job of demonstrating the authors "hidden" coherance of the novels. See his book, Planet Narnia, for the details. (It, too, is excellent.)
If there was a contest for writing a story that begins with the now cliche, "It was a dark and stormy night..." (remember Snoopy always begin to write this way, too), then this novel would be my choice for the top prize. The first book in a series (many of L'Engle's characters share a fictional family tree connection), A Wrinkle in Time is a fantasy / fable that speaks powerfully to each generation of what it means to be uniquely one's self--and not be conformed to the tyrany of "the same". Told from the perspective of the young and the vulnerable, this conflict of good verses evil is set in a sci-fi / fantasy world that is also very much grounded in the homely realities of family and friends. It's about loyalty and love. And, of course, it's about saving the world.
The story that started it all. The journey that started it all. J. R. R. Tolkien gives us not only an enchanting story, he creates for us an enchanting world--with a full-blown mythology and language and geography that is as rich and diverse, and strange--and strangely familiar-- as our own world. Of course you'll want to continue on to the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Then you'll want to return to these books again and again. There is so much to notice. So much to love.
You don't really run across very many epistolary novels these days. This one--well deserving the category of contemporary classic--is a novel of letters. Alice Walker weaves together a tapestry of characters whose lives come together and come undone, and are beautifully mended (somehow). This novel is heart-rending and lovely, and ultimately magical. Don't miss this one!
If you thought saints led holy and good and boring lives, then you haven't read Godric. This award-winning novel by the great Frederick Buechner is stark and rolicking, bawdy and heartfelt, and holy--but not holy in a holier-than-thou sense. This is a fast-paced adventure. A novel (based on some historical events and characters) that is divinely fleshed out in a thoroughly human way. Delightful!
Years ago, when I read this for class, I never dreamed that I would live in the Pacific Northwest (which is the setting for this now classic YA novel). Growing up in south Florida, the terrain (to say nothing of the villages) it describes was unfamilar to me. In many ways, it still is. But the sense of entering into a place and a way of life that is so different (from what one has always known) is part of what keeps this novel one that is still one that, in spite of some of the dated language, is haunting and beautiful, and sad. Now that I live in the Pacific Northwest, I feel an even greater kinship to this novel.
My favorite play in the Shakespeare cannon. LLL is a celebration (and parody) of language. The bantering back and forth, the upstaging and puncturing of egos, and the war of the sexes all combine to make this play feel more modern than its 16th century context would lead you to believe. This comedy is unorthodox in so many way, not least in the fact that the ending does not wrap itself up in a tidy bow (the proverbial happy ending wedding, so popular then as now). But, that is not a spoiler. The title gives that plot point away. The Folger Library editions are the best for reading Shakespeare (with the text on the right, the notes and illustrations on the left). This is great theater!
This Pulitzer Prize Winning book is the one that put Annie Dillard on the map, as they say. Nevertheless, it is Dillard herself who actually maps the territory here. A modern day Walden Pond (as it has been compared to), Pilgrim at Tinker Creek is an odd and wonderful mash up of metaphysics and science--all anchored in a very specific stretch of nature, with a very specific geographical context. Paradoxically, the particulars lend themselves to universals (and it's Aristotle and Plato in the School of Athens... only in New England this time). This is a magnificent book!
Annie Dilliard is my favorite--and, indeed--I would maintain--our greatest living American author. She lives up to all the hype. Though her body of work is not voluminous. When I want to encourage a reader to dive into her work, I usually recommend that they begin here--with this magnificent collection of essays. This is the perfect Annie Dillard sampler. This will give you an excellent introduction to the author.
This is my favorite anthology of poetry and plays. Yes, most of us studied the famous Four Quartets and Prufrock in English Lit. We may have seen Murder in the Cathedral on stage. We may even have been practical about Cats (from the musical's fame). But Eliot has so much more that is well worth exploring here. My personal favorite (and unknown to me prior to reading this volume) is his play, The Cocktail Party. It is simply brilliant!
So... long before there was Hogwarts and Harry Potter (and no need to disparage JKR's wonderful series), there was the wizard's school of Roke, and the novels of Earthsea. These are wonderful adventures! And now, having the novels together in one volume--beautifully illustrated!--is a real treat. If you've never immersed yourself in the world of Earthsea, then perhaps it is high time that you did. Highly recommended.
I know, I know. Moby Dick--the book that seems to be as big and scary as a whale! The one that, if you are like me, we were supposed to have read for our American Literature class. (But we never seemed to have actually got through... for a host of no doubt good reasons.) Nevertheless, like so many other classics that I have returned to in my adult life (when I was not under the gun of a deadline, or paper, or exam), this book did finally grab ahold of and keep my attention--all through that dark, wet, and chilly Seattle Autumn when I committed to the journey. (Autumn is, by the way, a perfect time to read this book.) Epic in scope and drenched in atomosphere, the novel takes some time to ground us in its larger-than-life setting and subject (Hawthorne's language, style, and attention to detail take some getting used to for modern readers: it may seem almost encyclopedic and overmuch at times. For example, there is an entire chapter on Chowder! Yet this is also its glory. For Melville is, in building this story, building a ship, a life on a ship, a life at sea, and it all culminates in an ultimate journey. I loved it! (In spite of Woody Allen's funny / snarky comment in Zellig about no one ever finishing Moby Dick). Go back. Read it. You'll be hooked. (Literally.)
Known now primarily for her series of mystery novels, Dorothy L. Sayers, considered her finest work to have been her translation of Dante's Divine Comedy. In this respect, I believe she was correct. Though the more modern verse translation by the Hollanders is very good, I prefer DLS's more classic translation--which she sets out (as in the original Italian) in terza rhyme. Her notes throughout are the best I've found anywhere (short of delving into the deeper waters of Charles Williams works on Dante). And, although many (if not most) readers nowadays never venture beyond the first of the three volumes (we tend to find Hell or The Inferno much more interesting), I would encourage making the whole three part journey through to the glorious finale! Futhermore, as Dante will remind you: pay attention to the stars.