New and Notable Books (November 2012)
One perk of being a book reviewer is that publishers constantly keep you in the loop. I get emails, newsletters, and catalogs promoting their newest titles, and there’s a constant flow of advanced review copies.
But I can’t write about all of them, so in the interest of highlighting new and upcoming books, every month or so I highlight some of the best.
(The descriptions below are either from the publisher or from Amazon.)
by Pope Benedict XVI
Image, 144 pages, hardcover
Released on November 21, 2012
In 2007, Joseph Ratzinger published his first book as Pope Benedict XVI in order “to make known the figure and message of Jesus.” Now, the Pope focuses exclusively on the Gospel accounts of Jesus’s life as a child in this momentous third and final book in the international best-selling Jesus of Nazareth series.
The root of these stories is the experience of hope found in the birth of Jesus, our Savior, and the affirmations of surrender and service embodied in his parents, Joseph and Mary.
This is a story of longing and seeking, as demonstrated by the Magi searching for the redemption offered by the birth of a new king. It is a story of sacrifice and trusting completely in the wisdom of God as seen in the faith of Simeon, the just and devout man of Jerusalem, when he is in the presence of the Christ child.
Ultimately, Jesus’ life and message is a story for today, one that speaks to the restlessness of the human heart searching for the sole truth which alone leads to profound joy.
by Jonathan Rogers
Thomas Nelson, 208 pages, paperback
Released on September 18, 2012
“Many of my ardent admirers would be roundly shocked and disturbed if they realized that everything I believe is thoroughly moral, thoroughly Catholic, and that it is these beliefs that give my work its chief characteristics.”
— Flannery O’Connor
Flannery O’Connor’s work has been described as “profane, blasphemous, and outrageous.” Her stories are peopled by a sordid caravan of murderers and thieves, prostitutes and bigots whose lives are punctuated by horror and sudden violence. But perhaps the most shocking thing about Flannery O’Connor’s fiction is the fact that it is shaped by a thoroughly Christian vision.
If the world she depicts is dark and terrifying, it is also the place where grace makes itself known. Her world—our world—is the stage whereon the divine comedy plays out; the freakishness and violence in O’Connor’s stories, so often mistaken for a kind of misanthropy or even nihilism, turn out to be a call to mercy.
In this biography, Jonathan Rogers gets at the heart of O’Connor’s work. He follows the roots of her fervent Catholicism and traces the outlines of a life marked by illness and suffering, but ultimately defined by an irrepressible joy and even hilarity. In her stories, and in her life story, Flannery O’Connor extends a hand in the dark, warning and reassuring us of the terrible speed of mercy.
by Brad Gregory
Harvard University Press, 592 pages, hardcover
Released on January 1, 2012
In a work that is as much about the present as the past, Brad Gregory identifies the unintended consequences of the Protestant Reformation and traces the way it shaped the modern condition over the course of the following five centuries.
A hyperpluralism of religious and secular beliefs, an absence of any substantive common good, the triumph of capitalism and its driver, consumerism—all these, Gregory argues, were long-term effects of a movement that marked the end of more than a millennium during which Christianity provided a framework for shared intellectual, social, and moral life in the West.
The Unintended Reformation asks what propelled the West into this trajectory of pluralism and polarization, and finds answers deep in our medieval Christian past.
by Fr. Dwight Longenecker
Crossroad, 192 pages, paperback
Released on November 16, 2012
Demonstrating a deep understanding of scripture, church history, doctrine, and pastoral work, this exploration takes a fresh look at a prayer many Catholics commonly zip past while saying the Rosary: the Apostle’s Creed.
The study brushes the centuries of dust off each of the elements in which churchgoers intone “we believe” without pausing to reflect on the prayer’s meaning, confronting this overlooked component of mass in a zingy, Chestertonian style that will appeal to discerning readers of popular theology and apologetics.
Delving into the startling statements that this creed makes about the nature of God, man, and the universe, this guide once again reminds Catholics how to be surprised and challenged by the paradoxical beauty that the Christian faith finds in everyday life.
What new or upcoming books are you excited about?