Archives For Biography

 

The Notion of a Liveable City
 
A Review of

Eyes on the Street:
The Life of Jane Jacobs
 

Robert Kanigel

Hardback: Knopf, 2016.
Buy Now: [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]
 
 
Reviewed by Jeff Crosby
 
 
 
When she was choosing a school for her undergraduate studies a decade ago, New York University in lower Manhattan rose to the top of my daughter’s list of options. The vibrancy of a world-class city, the exposure to the arts and the melting pot of global cultures, and the imprimatur of a diploma from NYU, all lured her to New York.

The cost of her matriculating there for four years and the relative lack of financial aid (apart from the kind that has to be repaid!) prompted me, on the contrary, to suggest that a well-known southern school – a similarly well-endowed but financially generous university in Nashville – just might be the sensible way to go.

NYU and my daughter won.

Financially prudent dad lost.

But really, we both won in the end, for had my daughter not attended New York University I might never have explored Washington Square Park in all the seasons of the year, or partaken of the delightful galleries on Broome Street in SoHo, or the eateries and street music of the cobblestone walkways around Greenwich Village.

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Here are a few new book releases from this week that are worth checking out:

(Where possible, we have also tried to include a review/interview related to the book…)

   

Very Married: Field Notes on Love and Fidelity

Katherine Willis Pershey

 

Read a review from The Christian Century

NEXT BOOK >>>>>

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St. Catherine and
the Turmoil of the World

A Review of 

Setting the World on Fire:
The Brief, Astonishing Life of St. Catherine of Siena
Shelley Emling

Hardback: St. Martins, 2016
Buy now: [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]

Reviewed by Christiana N. Peterson

 

A few nights ago, before I turned off my lamp to go to sleep, my iPhone screen lit up to the news of another mass killing. In Nice, France, a man used his truck as a weapon to murder over 80 people who were celebrating Bastille Day. The next morning, there was news of a military coup in Turkey.

My heart dropped, my anxiety rose, the tears flowed. I turned to my husband and asked him, “Is this it? Is this the end?”

Many of us who are Christians, even if we aren’t apocalyptic leaning, find ourselves wondering–in the rising grief of the last few months of mass shootings, unarmed black men killed by police, the killing of policemen, and political strife–if the end is nigh. In our terror, we even seem to long for it, calling, “Come, Lord Jesus.”

Lately, when I am torn up with grief, when I wonder when God will make all things new, I have been reaching for the Christian mystics, who have been able to offer me a little humility, solace, and perspective.

Shelley Emling’s book Setting the World on Fire: the Brief, Astonishing Life of St. Catherine of Siena, is a highly readable introduction to the life and times of the saint and mystic, Catherine of Siena, whose Medieval world was as turbulent (if not more than) ours. Emling carefully weaves together a narrative of this complex patron saint of Italy along with details about the political and social contexts that shaped and moved her.

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One of this week’s best new book releases is:
 

Eyes on the Street:
The Life of Jane Jacobs

Robert Kanigel

Hardback: Knopf, 2016
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]  [  Kindle ]
 
The author recently was interviewed about the book on WYPR, an NPR affiliate in his hometown of Baltimore.
 

Listen to this interview now:

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Here are a few new book releases from this week that are worth checking out:

(Where possible, we have also tried to include a review/interview related to the book…)

 

Here I Am: A Novel

Jonathan Safran-Foer

 

Read the NY Times review of this book

NEXT BOOK >>>>>

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A Prophet in His Hometown

 
A Review of

Kierkegaard: A Christian Missionary to Christians
Mark Tietjen

Paperback: IVP Academic, 2016
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]

 

Reviewed by Michial Farmer

 

If it’s true that we become like what we worship, readers of Søren Kierkegaard must always keep in mind that his God was inscrutable, labyrinthine-minded, confounding, terrifying—but ultimately loving. So, too, is Kierkegaard’s jungle of writings. Producing two or three treatises simultaneously, under different (though equally ridiculous) pseudonyms, he was not afraid of self-contradiction and sought controversy more than agreement. If he could find no one else to disagree with him, he’d do it himself. It’s the rare reader indeed who can open the puzzle box of his thought without an instruction manual. And yet, as Mark Tietjen shows in his latest book, Kierkegaard: A Christian Missionary to Christians, Kierkegaard wrote what he wrote (and wrote it the way he wrote it) as an act of service.

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Whose biography is it anyway?

 
A Review of

The Enthusiast: How the Best Friend of Francis of Assisi Almost Destroyed What He Started
Jon M. Sweeney

Paperback: Ave Maria Press, 2016
Buy now: [ Amazon ]   [ Kindle ]

 
Reviewed by Scott E. Schul
 
 

It is ironic that a man who left behind so few written records has become the subject of an almost limitless degree of scholarship. Ever since the first “official” biography of Francis of Assisi by Thomas of Celano in 1229, scholars have been attempting to describe, interpret, and make sense of the man nicknamed the Poverello (or “Poor Little One”) and the Franciscan movement he birthed. Contemporary biographers recognize the extent to which Francis has already been analyzed and so they generally begin their books with a lengthy justification for the presence of yet one more book on the subject. Jon Sweeney is no exception. In his prologue to The Enthusiast, Sweeny acknowledges the existing breadth of information about Francis, but argues that each generation tends to understand and even form Francis in its own image. Accordingly, Sweeney justifies The Enthusiast by arguing that it tells the well-known story from a uniquely different perspective, namely, through the lens of one of the most difficult and complex relationships in the life not only of Francis but of the Franciscan movement.

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The Third Inkling

A Feature Review of 

Charles Williams: The Third Inkling
Grevel Lindop

Hardback: Oxford UP, 2016
Buy now: [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]

Reviewed by Mark Wendland

 

Listen to C.S. Lewis and Malcolm Guite
make the case for reading Williams.

 

Alice Mary (Smyth) Hadfield penned the earliest work about Charles Williams’ life. Because she had replaced Phyllis Jones as the librarian at the London branch of the Oxford University Press where Williams worked nearly his entire career, Alice was a beneficial source of information, but she was, arguably, too close to Williams to ever write a true biography. For some time this was all we had. Secondary literature, on the other hand, seemed ignorant of the facts that would begin to trickle out over the next decade. The introduction to Thomas Howard’s The Novels of Charles Williams (1983), for example, can confidently proclaim, “Charles Williams was not interested in the occult at all except during a brief period in his early life. One might be pardoned for forming the impression from his novels that he was quite caught up in the occult, but that would be a mistake.” We now know this to be false. Lindrop seconds previous research into this area. Williams was heavily involved in Jewish Kabbalism filtered through the modified Rosicrucian philosophy of A.E. Waite. There is also a hint that his parallel membership in the Lee-Nicholson group probably was not a casual preoccupation.

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Exceptional Humility, Class, and Endurance

A Feature Review of

For the Glory: Eric Liddell’s Journey from Olympic Champion to Modern Martyr
Duncan Hamilton

Hardback: Penguin Press, 2016
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]

 

Reviewed by Emma Sleeth Davis

 

When most people hear the name Eric Liddell, they think of the Scottish runner who refused to run on the Sabbath and won gold at the 1924 Olympics in Chariots of Fire.  The movie, of course, is only half of the story.

In For the Glory, Duncan Hamilton takes an in-depth look at the life of Eric Liddell, from his missionary childhood in China, through his schooldays in Scotland, and at the height of his fame at the Olympics.  But where Chariots of Fire closes to the triumphant strains of Vangelis, Hamilton uncovers the even more remarkable second half of Liddell’s life—as a missionary in China, devoted husband and father, and heroic internee during WWII.

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An excerpt from the excellent new book:
 

Setting the World on Fire: The Brief, Astonishing Life of St. Catherine of Siena
Shelley Emling

Hardback: St. Martins, 2016
Buy now: [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle  ]

 
*** Read a brief review
by ERB Editor Chris Smith

 
 

In the fourteenth century, Catherine’s public persona as a strong-willed woman   who never backed down was extraordinary to the point of being   freakish. At the time, women were so subservient to men that they   didn’t speak unless spoken to. And when they were spoken to, they   kept their eyes lowered. Legally, women were not allowed to appear in court. They weren’t allowed to hold any public, political or   professional office or to become a member of any of Italy’s influential guilds, such as the dyers’ guild Catherine’s father belonged to.   And they weren’t allowed to wear anything that was not of their   husband’s choosing. Women without brothers were able to inherit   land from their fathers, but they were forced to surrender it to   their husbands as soon as they married. Always, the law excluded   women as second-class citizens. “The good woman was invisible.   She wasn’t supposed to leave the house. She wasn’t even supposed   to be seen standing at the window of the house,” said Elizabeth   Petroff, a professor of comparative literature at the University of   Massachusetts, Amherst. “Yes, people looked askance [at Catherine], but she won them over, many times. She must have been just   what the times needed.”

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