Friday's Guest Blogger
Stuart Wells covers book news and continuing education for the Office of News & Communications at Duke. He’s also in charge of news release production and distribution and the gathering of Duke-related news clips.
Zeroing in on good nonfiction can be a challenge, but I’m glad to report that help is on the way -- at least over the next two weeks -- in the form of year-end holiday gift guides.
One of my favorites appears in The Christian Century’s Dec. 16 issue. The magazine has a special Christmas section of books, DVDs and CDs as recommended by the magazine’s editors, film reviewers and music critics, as well as Mary Harris Russell, a specialist in children’s literature at Indiana University. As you would expect, the list begins with theology and Bible topics, but then quickly ranges farther afield, from current events to fiction, from classical music to popular holiday CDs (and Tony Bennett, at 82 years young, isn’t taking a backseat to anyone).
Books by two Duke authors are included among the nine theological picks. Divinity School professor J. Kameron Carter’s “Race: A Theological Account” (Oxford University Press, September 2008) is singled out as not only offering a sharp analysis of a racialized Christian theology, but constructing a way forward to a “new theological imagination for the 21st century.” The book is also getting good buzz at the popular readers’ site.
Just one book down on the magazine’s list is “Scripture, Culture and Agriculture: An Agrarian Reading of the Bible” (Cambridge University Press, 2008) by Carter’s Duke Divinity colleague Ellen F. Davis. Professor Davis argues persuasively that the Bible provides “vision and principle” for land use in our time. Read Davis’s lively essay in "The Green Bible" and you will begin to appreciate a new way of reading the good book, an Earthly perspective that elevates issues of stewardship, care and justice.
I would be interested in hearing from this blog's readers as to where they first hear of good nonfiction: The New York Times Book Review, perhaps, or even Publishers Weekly, which has been a great source for me over the years.
I scan PW’s full list of new nonfiction with an eye out for the big red star next to any of their mini-reviews. That’s exactly what appeared a few weeks back next to the title of Duke theologian Stanley Hauerwas’s exceptional new book, “Living Gently in a Violent World: The Prophetic Witness of Weakness” (November 2008, IVP Academic Books), written with Jean Vanier, founder of L'Arche, a network of homes where people with and without mental disabilities live together as family.
Publishers Weekly says Hauerwas’s discussion of the political implications of gentleness in the last chapter “is worth the entire book.” I would say the same thing about Hauerwas’s meditation earlier in the book on the significance of place and community and what we mean by “progress.” I took delight in his story about a thirty-six-inch snow at Notre Dame that spoke volumes about a loss of community.
The book is part of a new series edited by Emmanuel Katongole and Chris Rice, codirectors of the Duke Divinity School Center for Reconciliation, that pairs academics and practitioners to examine issues of Christian life and thought.
Read the starred review
Hauerwas, a professor of theological ethics, is also the subject of a nice Publishers Weekly profile that notes that he has been writing steadily for nearly 40 years and keeping Library of Congress cataloguers busy (48 books and counting).
Hauerwas tells interviewer LaVonne Neff that of all his books his favorite is “The Peaceable Kingdom” (Univ. of Notre Dame, 1991), an introduction to Christian ethics that stresses community and nonviolence.
For Hauerwas, peace “looks like Jean Vanier having his arm around an elderly woman at Mass, a woman who has been cared for—for years—by people simply being present to her. That's peace.”
Read the full profile.