New and Notable Books (April 2014)

One perk of being a book reviewer is that publishers regularly send emails, catalogs, and a steady stream of advanced review copies.

I try to review as many as I can, but I can't get to them all. So each month I highlight a few new and upcoming books that I'm particularly excited about.

(The descriptions below are either from the publisher or from Amazon.)


Something Other Than God: How I Passionately Sought Happiness and Accidentally Found It

by Jennifer Fulwiler

Ignatius Press, 256 pages, hardcover
Released on April 29, 2014

Something Other Than GodJennifer Fulwiler told herself she was happy. Why wouldn't she be? She made good money as a programmer at a hot tech start-up, had just married a guy with a stack of Ivy League degrees, and lived in a twenty-first-floor condo where she could sip sauvignon blanc while watching the sun set behind the hills of Austin.

Raised in a happy, atheist home, Jennifer had the freedom to think for herself and play by her own rules. Yet a creeping darkness followed her all of her life. Finally, one winter night, it drove her to the edge of her balcony, making her ask once and for all why anything mattered. At that moment everything she knew and believed was shattered.

Asking the unflinching questions about life and death, good and evil, led Jennifer to Christianity, the religion she had reviled since she was an awkward, skeptical child growing up in the Bible Belt. Mortified by this turn of events, she hid her quest from everyone except her husband, concealing religious books in opaque bags as if they were porn and locking herself in public bathroom stalls to read the Bible.

Just when Jennifer had a profound epiphany that gave her the courage to convert, she was diagnosed with a life-threatening medical condition-and the only treatment was directly at odds with the doctrines of her new-found faith. Something Other Than God is a poignant, profound and often funny tale of one woman who set out to find the meaning of life and discovered that true happiness sometimes requires losing it all.

(BONUS: When you pre-order the book before April 28, Jennifer will send you a free 100+ page eBook.)



The Church of Mercy

by Pope Francis

Loyola Press, 200 pages, paperback
Released on April 20, 2014

The Church of MercyIn the year since he was elected, Pope Francis’s simple message of mercy, service, and renewal has spread to every corner of the world. Through his gentle demeanor, selfless actions, and welcoming call for service to others, Pope Francis has captured the attention of a world longing for an authentic message of hope—we want to hear what he has to say.

Collected from Pope Francis’s speeches, homilies, and papers presented during the first year of his papacy, The Church of Mercyis the first Vatican-authorized book detailing his vision for the Catholic Church. From how to be citizens of the world to answering God’s call for evangelization, Pope Francis's deep wisdom reminds us that the Church must move beyond its own walls and joyfully bring God's mercy wherever suffering, division, or injustice exists.

Named TIME Magazine’s 2013 “Person of the Year,” Pope Francis is helping the Church continue toward an authentic Christianity that is faithful to the Gospel and resonant with the world’s greatest needs. The Church of Mercy encourages each of us to ignite the flame within to help share the light of Christ and revitalize the Church.



Angels and Saints: A Biblical Guide to Friendship with God's Holy Ones

by Scott Hahn

Image Books, 208 pages, hardcover
Released on May 27, 2014

Angels and SaintsAngels and saints. Catholics tend to think of them as different from the rest of us. They’re cast in plaster or simpering on a holy card, performing miracles with superhero strength, or playing a harp in highest heaven.

Yet they are very near to us in every way. In this lively book, Scott Hahn dispels the false notions and urban legends people use to keep the saints at a safe distance. The truth is that Jesus Christ has united heaven and earth in a close communion. Drawing deeply from Scripture, Dr. Hahn shows that the hosts of heaven surround the earthly Church as a "great cloud of witnesses." The martyrs cry out from heaven’s altar begging for justice on the earth. The prayers of the saints and angels rise to God, in the Book of Revelation, like the sweet aroma of incense.

Dr. Hahn tells the stories of several saints (and several angels too) in a way that’s fresh and new. The saints are spiritual giants but with flesh-and-blood reality. They have strong, holy ambitions—and powerful temptations and opposition that must be overcome. Their stories are amazing and yet familiar enough to motivate us to live more beautiful lives. In this telling of their story, the saints are neither otherworldly nor this-worldly. They exemplify the integrated life that every Christian is called to live.

Still, their lives are as different from one another as human lives can be. Dr. Hahn shows the heavenly Church in all its kaleidoscopic diversity—from Moses to Mary, Augustine to Therese, and the first century to the last century.

Only saints will live in heaven. We need to be more like the saints if we want to live in heaven someday. Dr. Hahn shows us that our heavenly life can begin now.



Made for Love, Loved by God

by Fr. Peter John Cameron O.P.

Servant Books, 160 pages, paperback
Released on May 6, 2014

Made for LoveA down-to-earth, practical reflection on the nature of God s love, eloquently written by Fr. Peter Cameron. Drawing heavily on Sacred Scripture and the transforming encounters with Jesus Christ recorded in the Gospels, Fr. Cameron seeks to make God s love as real, concrete, and accessible to his readers lives as possible. He emphasizes how God constantly searches for us and takes the initiative in loving us—how he woos us into happiness with him.

Made for Love, Loved by God will also address common misconceptions about God s love as well as the obstacles that prevent us from letting God love us. After reading this book, the reader will feel closer to God by being shown a way to be closer to God. It will imbue the reader with the certainty of the psalmist: “The Lord delights in those who wait for his love (Psalm 147:11).



Cybertheology: Thinking Christianity in the Era of the Internet

by Antonio Spadaro

Fordham University Press, 172 pages, paperback
Released on June 5, 2014

CybertheologyThis book, written by Antonio Spadaro, S.J., the Editor of La Civiltà Cattolica, has been translated by Maria Way, who specializes in topics relating to media and religion. The author suggests that since the Internet has changed, and is changing, the ways in which we think and act, it must also be changing the ways in which we think Christianity and its theology. To develop this theme, he uses the term 'Cybertheology'.

Through the theoretical works of a variety of authors, e.g., Marshall McLuhan, Peter Lévy and Teilhard de Chardin, he associates the concepts of theology with theories that have been expounded on the internet. His sources come from media studies and anthropology, as well as theology. Spadaro also considers the hacker ethic in relation to Cybertheology. How has the internet changed our notion of theology? Has the internet had similar effects on the thinking of Christianity that were experienced after the development of other media technologies?

The book aims to clarify just how thinking has changed or remained the same in an era which is often seen as one in which the media's changes have speeded up. It considers both the positives and negatives that may be associated with the internet in relation to Christianity and its theology.



Paul in the Summa Theologiae

by Matthew Levering

The Catholic University of America Press, 336 pages, hardcover
Released on April 25, 2014

Paul in the Summa TheologiaeAquinas’s commentaries on St. Paul are well known and have received significant attention in the past few years. It is widely known, too, that Aquinas quotes Paul often in the Summa theologiae. This aspect of the Summa, however, has not been studied in detail. This book seeks to fill that lacuna in scholarship.

The book’s brief introduction treats Aquinas as a biblically erudite theologian, and offers some basic statistical data regarding his use of Paul in the Summa theologiae. The book’s nine chapters track in detail Aquinas’s use of Pauline quotations in his theological argumentation. The first six chapters examine Paul in particular "treatises:" the triune God, grace, charity, the virtue of religion, the Passion of Christ, and baptism. The last three chapters investigate Pauline texts as they are used throughout the Summa: Romans 1:20, 1 Corinthians 13, and Philippians 2:5–11. Chapters 1–3 are organized by the order of the treatise; chapters 4–6 are organized by order of the Pauline letters.

This multi-faceted procedure provides a rich, detailed picture of Aquinas’s use of Paul in the Summa. The guiding question is whether, and if so how, we can describe Aquinas’s theology as Pauline or as deeply influenced by Paul. Aquinas does not seek to understand Paul’s theology in its Second Temple context, and Aquinas often uses Pauline texts in a way that takes them out of context or that uses them in response to a theological problem unknown to Paul. Levering argues that Aquinas’s theology is indeed deeply Pauline, offering ample evidence that Aquinas captures the central Pauline themes and gives them a central place in his own theology.



What new and notable books are you looking forward to?


New and Notable Books (February 2014)

One perk of being a book reviewer is that publishers regularly send emails, catalogs, and a steady stream of advanced review copies.

I try to review as many as I can, but I can't get to them all. So each month I highlight a few new and upcoming books that I'm particularly excited about.

(The descriptions below are either from the publisher or from Amazon.)


Jesus: A Pilgrimage

by James Martin, SJ

HarperOne, 528 pages, hardcover
Released on March 11, 2014

Jesus a PilgrimageJames Martin, SJ, gifted storyteller, editor at large of America magazine, popular media commentator, and New York Times bestselling author of The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything, brings the Gospels to life in Jesus: A Pilgrimage, and invites believers and seekers alike to experience Jesus through Scripture, prayer and travel.

Combining the fascinating insights of historical Jesus studies with profound spiritual insights about the Christ of faith, Father Martin recreates the world of first-century Galilee and Judea to usher you into Jesus's life and times and show readers how Jesus speaks to us today. Martin also brings together the most up-to-date Scripture scholarship, wise spiritual reflections, and lighthearted stories about traveling through the Holy Land with a fellow (and funny) Jesuit, visiting important sites in the life of Jesus of Nazareth.

The person at the heart of the Gospels can seem impossibly distant. Stories about his astonishing life and ministry—clever parables that upended everyone's expectations, incredible healings that convinced even skeptics, nature miracles that dazzled the dumbstruck disciples—can seem far removed from our own daily lives, hard to understand, and at times irrelevant. But in Jesus you will come to know him as Father Martin knows him: Messiah and Savior, as well as friend and brother.



Jesus the Bridegroom: The Greatest Love Story Ever Told

by Brant Pitre

Image, 208 pages, hardcover
Released on March 11, 2014

Jesus the BridegroomIn Jesus the Bridegroom, Brant Pitre once again taps into the wells of Jewish Scripture and tradition, and unlocks the secrets of what is arguably the most well-known symbol of the Christian faith: the cross of Christ. In this thrilling exploration, Pitre shows how the suffering and death of Jesus was far more than a tragic Roman execution. Instead, the Passion of Christ was the fulfillment of ancient Jewish prophecies of a wedding, when the God of the universe would wed himself to humankind in an everlasting nuptial covenant.

To be sure, most Christians are familiar with the apostle Paul’s teaching that Christ is the ‘Bridegroom’ and the Church is the ‘Bride’. But what does this really mean? And what would ever possess Paul to compare the death of Christ to the love of a husband for his wife? If you would have been at the Crucifixion, with Jesus hanging there dying, is that how you would have described it? How could a first-century Jew like Paul, who knew how brutal Roman crucifixions were, have ever compared the execution of Jesus to a wedding? And why does he refer to this as the “great mystery” (Ephesians 5:32)?

As Pitre shows, the key to unlocking this mystery can be found by going back to Jewish Scripture and tradition and seeing the entire history of salvation, from Mount Sinai to Mount Calvary, as a divine love story between Creator and creature, between God and Israel, between Christ and his bride—a story that comes to its climax on the wood of a Roman cross.

In the pages of Jesus the Bridegroom, dozens of familiar passages in the Bible—the Exodus, the Song of Songs, the Wedding at Cana, the Woman at the Well, the Last Supper, the Crucifixion, and even the Second Coming at the End of Time—are suddenly transformed before our eyes. Indeed, when seen in the light of Jewish Scripture and tradition, the life of Christ is nothing less than the greatest love story ever told.



Evangelizing Catholics: A Mission Manual for the New Evangelization

by Scott Hahn

Our Sunday Visitor, 192 pages, hardcover
Released on May 21, 2014

Evangelizing CatholicsYou can't keep the faith unless you give it away. That's a fact. To be a Christian is to be an evangelizer. When the Catholic Church calls us to a "New Evangelization," that's simply a reminder us of what has always been true.
The good news is: you can do it - you can evangelize - and Scott Hahn shows you how.

In this this very practical "mission manual" Dr. Hahn equips you with:

  • A guide to understanding what the New Evangelization is, and who it's really for
  • A roadmap that leads you to where it all happens (hint: it's closer than you think)
  • A simple, beautiful message to share - in words and actions

You don't need esoteric knowledge. You don't need to master a new set of skills. Evangelization, for Catholics, is simply friendship raised up to the highest level. Enter a deeper friendship with Christ, and you'll want to share his companionship more and more with a wider circle of friends.



Beauteous Truth: Faith, Reason, Literature & Culture

by Joseph Pearce

St. Augustines Press, 280 pages, hardcover
Released on March 20, 2014

Beauteous TruthBeauteous Truth explores the inextricable connection between the Good, the True and the Beautiful. It is a book that makes the necessary connections between faith and reason and between theology, philosophy, history and literature. It presents a panoramic overview of Western Civilization, from Homer to Tolkien, and highlights the importance of the great figures of the Catholic cultural revival, including Newman, Wilde, Chesterton, Belloc, and C.S. Lewis. Ranging from Shakespeare to Solzhenitsyn, Beauteous Truth celebrates the marriage of sanity and sanctity, which is the fruit of the indissoluble union of fides et ratio.

"What we have here is a glorious and compendious portmanteau of – well – of Everything, as it were. We have all long since discovered that Joseph Pearce is a polymath. But he has outdone himself with this volume. The subtitle is the cue: “Faith, Reason, Literature, and Culture.” And the text fulfills that promise. Readers are in for a bracing itinerary that will take them from Greek classicism through the Middle Ages, the Counter-Reformation, the Romantic Movement, and into modernity. The presiding factor in the whole thing is a robust Catholic orthodoxy. The author/guide speaks with both authority and brio. This book qualifies for the 'Highly recommended' slot." — Thomas Howard (St. John’s Seminary, Boston)



Reclaiming Francis: How the Saint and the Pope are Renewing the Church

by Charles M. Murphy

Ave Maria Press, 160 pages, paperback
Released on March 10, 2014

Reclaiming FrancisAs Pope Francis continues to call for the rebuilding of the Church, Msgr. Charles M. Murphy, author of The Spirituality of Fasting and Eucharistic Adoration, offers a timely look at what today's Church can learn from St. Francis of Assisi about evangelization and renewal.

When Archbishop Jorge Bergoglio chose the name Francis, a renewed sense of hope and energy swept through the Church. In this timely book, Msgr. Charles M. Murphy examines the correlations between the two Francises and shows why St. Francis is an ideal model for today. Just as in St. Francis's time, today's Church can only be rebuilt and reinforced by a spiritual renewal that comes from within itself, a vision that Pope Francis carries forward in the New Evangelization. Pope Paul VI, the first modern pope to focus on evangelization, once said, "People today listen more to witnesses than to teachers." Pope Francis knows that St. Francis is just such a witness and Murphy enlivens them both for his readers.



What new and notable books are you looking forward to?


Cheap C.S. Lewis eBooks

C.S. Lewis

Most people know C.S. Lewis through his fiction—the The Chronicles of Narnia, The Screwtape Letters, or the Ransom trilogy—or through his apologetical writings, like Mere Christianity or The Problem of Pain. Yet in the academic community, Lewis is best remembered for his literacy criticism and expertise in medieval English literature. In fact, he contributed a seminal volume titled "English Literature in the 16th Century, Excluding Drama" to the famed Oxford History of English Literature, which Lewis affectionately shortened to "OHEL."

If you haven't sampled Lewis' literary writings, I have some good news. For a limited time, HarperCollins is offering some of his best but underrated essay collections for just $3.99. They include:
The Discarded Image: An Introduction to Medieval and Renaissance Literature
In The Discarded Image, C.S. Lewis paints a lucid picture of the medieval world view, providing the historical and cultural background to the literature of the Middle Ages and Renaissance. It describes the "image" discarded by later years as "the medieval synthesis itself, the whole organization of their theology, science and history into a single, complex, harmonious mental model of the universe." This, Lewis’s last book, has been hailed as "the final memorial to the work of a great scholar and teacher and a wise and noble mind."

Image and Imagination
Image and Imagination presents some of C.S. Lewis's finest literary criticism and religious exposition. This selection gathers together forty book reviews—never before reprinted—as well as four major essays which have been unavailable for many decades, and a fifth essay, “Image and Imagination,” published for the first time. The essays and reviews substantiate Lewis's reputation as an eloquent and authoritative critic across a wide range of literature, and as a keen judge of contemporary scholarship, while his reviews of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings will be of additional interest to scholars and students of fantasy.

An Experiment in Criticism
Why do we read literature and how do we judge it? C. S. Lewis's classic An Experiment in Criticism springs from the conviction that literature exists for the joy of the reader and that books should be judged by the kind of reading they invite. He argues that "good reading," like moral action or religious experience, involves surrender to the work in hand and a process of entering fully into the opinions of others: "in reading great literature I become a thousand men and yet remain myself." Crucial to his notion of judging literature is a commitment to laying aside expectations and values extraneous to the work, in order to approach it with an open mind. Amid the complex welter of current critical theories, C. S. Lewis's wisdom is valuably down-to-earth, refreshing and stimulating in the questions it raises about the experience of reading.

Studies in Words
Language—in its communicative and playful functions, its literary formations and its shifting meanings—is a perennially fascinating topic. C. S. Lewis's Studies in Words explores this fascination by taking a series of words and teasing out their connotations using examples from a vast range of English literature, recovering lost meanings and analyzing their functions. It doubles as an absorbing and entertaining study of verbal communication, its pleasures and problems. The issues revealed are essential to all who read and communicate thoughtfully, and are handled here by a masterful exponent and analyst of the English language.

The Allegory of Love
The Allegory of Love is a study in medieval tradition—the rise of both the sentiment called "Courtly Love" and of the allegorical method—from eleventh-century Languedoc through sixteenth-century England. C. S. Lewis devotes considerable attention to The Romance of the Rose and The Faerie Queene, and to such poets as Geoffrey Chaucer, John Gower, and Thomas Usk.

Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Literature
This entertaining and learned volume contains book reviews, lectures, and hard to find articles from the late C. S. Lewis, whose constant aim was to show the twentieth–century reader how to read and understand old books and manuscripts. Highlighting works by Spenser, Dante, Malory, Tasso, and Milton, Lewis provides a refreshing update to medieval and Renaissance criticism, and equips modern readers to understand these works in a new way.

Selected Literary Essays
Selected Literary Essays includes over twenty of C. S. Lewis’s most important literary essays, written between 1932 and 1962. The topics discussed in this volume range from Chaucer to Kipling, from "The literary impact of the authorized version" to "Psycho-analysis and literary criticism," to Shakespeare and Bunyan, and Sir Walter Scott and William Morris. Common to each essay, however, are the lively wit, the distinctive forthrightness, and the discreet erudition which characterize Lewis's best critical writing.

MEGA Catholic Book Giveaway! – Over 100 Free Books

Mega Catholic Book Giveaway

I love books, which is no secret to anyone who knows me. I'm an admitted and unabashed bibliophile. Since starting this blog five years ago, I've encountered many people like me, people who like to read, review, recommend, and—most of all—receive good books.

That's why back in July 2010 I started giving away free books each week. It started slow with just one book per week, usually from my own personal library. But since then it's grown into an amazing stream of giveaways. Now, each week I giveaway several books, usually donated by gracious Catholic publishers, and they've become the most joyous part of blogging. Few things delight me more than connecting good books with good people.

After more than three years of giveaways, today marks an important milestone: I'm giving away my 500th book! And to celebrate, I've decided to host the largest Catholic book giveaway the Internet has ever seen.

This week I'm giving away over 100 free books to 13 different winners. One winner will receive the Mega Grand Prize Package, a collection of fifty Catholic books from my own personal library. Another twelve winners will each receive a prize pack including five books from a major Catholic publisher. All winners will receive the books free, no strings attached. (Scroll down to see all the books I'm giving out.)

I'm using Rafflecopter to help with the giveaway, which is great because it gives you multiple entries for commenting, posting on Facebook, sharing on Twitter, etc. Just click below to enter:

(If you're reading this through email or RSS and don't see the giveaway widget, click here.)

NOTE: By entering the giveaway, you agree to receive occasional emails from me in the future. I will never spam or sell your email address. I'll just alert you with exciting news about new books or projects.

Mega Catholic Book Giveaway

MEGA Grand Prize Package!

One grand prize winner will receive 50 (FIFTY!) new and popular Catholics books from my own personal library, including:

Mega Catholicism Book Giveaway

In addition to the Mega Grand Prize Winner, twelve other winners will each receive one of the book packages below:

Ave Maria Press Package

One winner will receive FIVE new books from Ave Maria Press, including:

Catholic Answers Package

One winner will receive FIVE new books from Catholic Answers, including:

Dynamic Catholic Package

One winner will receive FIVE new books from Dynamic Catholic, including:

Franciscan Media Package

One winner will receive FIVE new books from Franciscan Media, including:

Ignatius Press Package

One winner will receive FIVE new books from Ignatius Press, including:

Image Books Package

One winner will receive FIVE new books from Image Books, including:

Our Sunday Visitor Package

One winner will receive FIVE new books from Our Sunday Visitor, including:

Pauline Books and Media Package

One winner will receive FIVE new books from Pauline Books and Media, including:

Servant Books Package

One winner will receive FIVE new books from Servant Books, including:

Saint Benedict Press Package

One winner will receive FIVE new books from Saint Benedict Press, including:

The Word Among Us Package

One winner will receive FIVE new books from The Word Among Us, including:

Word on Fire Package

One winner will receive FIVE new books from Word on Fire, including:

Thanks to all the generous publishers for donating books and thank you for reading and supporting this blog over the years!

The winners will be randomly selected next Friday and the books will be sent out, free of charge, shortly thereafter.

In the future I'll be giving away more books and resources, sometimes multiple items per giveaway! So subscribe via feed reader or email to ensure you never miss your chance to win.

(Since I'm covering the shipping costs, only residents within the continental United States are eligible to win.)

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  • "There is only one tragedy in the end, not to have been a saint." - Léon Bloy