Archives For *Conversations*

 

 

Write a Better Year End Letter

Rachel Marie Stone

*** This piece appeared as Rachel’s column in our 
Advent 2018 magazine issue (SUBSCRIBE NOW ),
but it was too good not to share online!

 

It’s a tradition to mock people who send the kind of holiday letters (and accompanying photograph, preferably snapped on a mountaintop or an exotic vacation spot) that seem designed to elicit envy. Their children have always achieved more than yours; they’re in better shape; they know more about food and wine than you do; and are more skilled at framing their own consumption as virtue than you are. They get a lot more done than you do—more books read, more trips taken, more hours worked, or, conversely (perversely?), they are keen to announce just how centered, non-striving, and so not as addicted to screen-time as you are. In recent years, they may have ‘purged’ most of their crap to make room for only the highest-quality things that spark the most joy for them; this coming year, they are likely to have been cultivating a Scandinavian brand of coziness, or style of parenting, or way of living in nature, so prepare yourself: it’s going to be all about quality time and quilts, socks and stews and fireplaces, or else wellness and meditation, or more time in the forest. They will have more of all of this than you will, and theirs will be better.

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This is a fascinating book on the future of Western culture:

No One at the Wheel:
Driverless Cars and the Road of the Future

Samuel Schwartz

Hardback: PublicAffairs, 2018
Buy Now:
Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]  [ Audible ]

 

Listen to a great interview with Samuel Schwartz 
from NPR’s Fresh Air:

 
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The Story of Carols

A Meditation for the Advent and Christmas seasons
 
By Tim Dowley,

Author of 

Christian Music:
A Global History

Tim Dowley

Paperback: SPCK, 2018
Buy Now:  [ Amazon ]

 

Christmas Music for Those
Who Don’t like Christmas Music

 

*** All The Holiday Music
You Will Ever Need!

Carols fall into that category of things that people either love or loathe. Many warm to their traditional imagery and annual memories of Christmases past; others do their utmost to avoid them, associating carols with sentimental words and mawkish music.

Carols are normally narrative, contemplative or celebratory in content, often with a simple, straightforward sentiment and in strophic form. Most of the surviving medieval carols were written for the professional cathedral singers of Europe. Among the oldest is ‘Puer natus in Bethlehem’ (‘A Boy is Born in Bethlehem’), dating from the thirteenth century. Though the majority of carols were for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, others were for Holy Innocents’ Day, Epiphany and Twelfth Night  – for instance, the ‘numeral’ carol ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’, which appears in England from the eighteenth century onwards. The carol ‘The Seven Joys of Mary’, which appears with many variants in the UK and the USA, grew out of pre-Reformation devotion to the Virgin and has survived for centuries in vernacular devotional verses in the folk tradition. The carol ‘I Saw Three Ships Come Sailing In’, for which the earliest known printed text dates from 1666, possibly derives from European folk memory of the supposed journeyings of relics of the Magi, the ‘Three Kings of Cologne’.

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For almost three decades now, The Innocence Mission has been one of my favorite bands.
 
I was delighted to learn that they were recently featured on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts, playing three songs from their new album:
 

Sun on the Square

Badman Recording Co, 2018
Buy Now:  [ Amazon ]

 

TEN Women Musicians You Should Know
Listen to their NPR Tiny Desk Concerts!

 

Give a listen to The Innocence Mission’s 
Tiny Desk Concert:

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In Our Advent 2018 magazine issue,
( shipping soon, are you a subscriber? )

we feature a review of this superb new biography:
 

Then They Came for Me:
Martin Niemöller, the Pastor Who Defied the Nazis
Matthew Hockenos

Hardback: Basic Books, 2018
Buy Now:  [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]

 
 
Since our reviewer for this book, Laura M. Fabrycky, lives in Berlin,
We asked her to take some photos of crucial landmarks from Martin Niemöller’s life…

 

First, a snippet of Laura’s review:

Encountering this man with “an imperfect moral compass” allows us to re-examine our own moral imaginations: how we fashion heroes for ourselves, and how easily we lose their human story—and arguably, aspects of our own—in our quest to make them heroes. The book’s subtitle trumpets Niemöller as “the pastor who defied the Nazis”—and he did, at least enough so to merit their persecution. But his defiance was not, nor could be, salvific. His triumphs were as humanly finite and morally tangled as he was—as we are. Our persistent hunger for glittering images prevents us from seeing how we, ordinary mortals with blind spots, with capacities for grave complicity and banal evil, must make our way in a complicated world. Like Niemöller, we also have no alibi.

 

St. Anne’s Church,
Berlin-Dahlem
(Photo 1 of 10 )

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This excellent book for younger readers released earlier this fall…
 

Louisiana’s Way Home:
A Novel 

Kate DiCamillo

 
Hardback: Candlewick, 2018.
Buy Now:
Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]  [ Audible ]

 

This book is a great gift idea for elementary readers!
Our Trending Bookcase
features this book and other gift ideas

 

Listen to a great NPR feature on this book,
from All Things Considered:

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Fleming Rutledge’s new book on Advent is extraordinary!
 

Advent:
The Once and Future Coming of Jesus Christ

Fleming Rutledge

Paperback: Eerdmans, 2018
Buy Now:  [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]
 
 

*** Watch for our review of this book
in our Advent 2018 magazine issue
[ SUBSCRIBE NOW
and be sure to get this issue ]

 
 

Watch this brief video of Fleming Rutledge
talking about the meaning of Advent…

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This biography is one of this year’s best nonfiction books:
 

Frederick Douglass:
Prophet of Freedom

David Blight

Hardback: Simon & Schuster, 2018
Buy Now:
Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]  [ Audible ]

 

Listen to an NPR interview with the author:

 
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Five New Must-Listen Podcast Episodes!!!
C. Christopher Smith, Patrice Gopo, David Fitch,
Ashley Hales, MORE

 

These podcasts can be downloaded from the iTunes store
or from the links below.

 

<<<<< The Previous Vital Conversations Post

 
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This collection of short stories has been nominated for a number of awards this year (long-listed for the National Book Award, Finalist for the Kirkus Prize):

Heads of the Colored People: Stories
Nafissa Thompson-Spires

Hardback: Atria, 2018
Buy Now:
Amazon ] [ Kindle ]  [ Audible ]

 

Listen to a great interview that Nafissa Thompson-Spires
did with NPR’s Audie Cornish:

 
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