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.)
by James Martin, SJ
HarperOne, 528 pages, hardcover
Released on March 11, 2014
James 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.
by Brant Pitre
Image, 208 pages, hardcover
Released on March 11, 2014
In 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.
by Scott Hahn
Our Sunday Visitor, 192 pages, hardcover
Released on May 21, 2014
You 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.
by Joseph Pearce
St. Augustines Press, 280 pages, hardcover
Released on March 20, 2014
Beauteous 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)
by Charles M. Murphy
Ave Maria Press, 160 pages, paperback
Released on March 10, 2014
As 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?