Archives For Biography

 

A Love Beyond Religion
 
A Feature Review of
 

Rumi’s Secret: The Life of the Sufi Poet of Love
Brad Gooch.

Hardback: HarperCollins, 2017.
Buy Now: [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]
 
Reviewd by By Erin Ensinger
 
 

FIVE of our Favorite Poems by Rumi

 
Rumi has always been a miracle and a mystery to me. Like many other Americans, I first met Rumi in the dark days after 9/11, when this poet from the Muslim world made his unlikely ascent to the top of the best-seller charts. Raised in conservative circles, I ferreted his poems away from critical eyes, savoring them with all the relish of a guilty pleasure. His spiritual hunger, reckless love and tolerance of people no matter their faith or ethnicity spoke to me almost against my will.  In his new biography, Rumi’s Secret, Brad Gooch captures all of these elements that have caused some to place Rumi in Walt Whitman’s family tree. At the same time, Gooch remains true to his title, preserving an air of mystery around the divine secrets Rumi himself found expressible only through poetry, music and the whirling dance of sama.

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Excoriating Christendom
—and Suffering for it

 
A Feature Review of
 

Kierkegaard: A Single Life 
Stephen Backhouse

Hardback: Zondervan, 2016.
Buy Now: [ Amazon ]   [ Kindle ]
 
Reviewed by James Dekker
 
 

In an entry of less than 300 words, the then peerless Encylopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, calls young Søren Aaby[e] Kierkegaard “delicate, precocious and morbid in temperament” (vol. 15, 788). One hundred five years later, I am sure that Kiekegaard maven Stephen Backhouse would agree, probably extending Britannica’s estimation to the maverick philosopher’s entire life.

Dying after a series of seizures in 1855 at age 42, Søren—as Backhouse calls him throughout this concise, yet full biography—was not merely precocious, but enormously productive and often acerbic in in his writing. As well, he was beset with intractable paradoxes that both attracted and repelled friends, family and colleagues. During his life he reaped few accolades and much scorn for his relentless, often slashing criticism of leading Danish literati (among them Denmark’s hitherto untouchable Hans Christian Andersen) academics, political theorists and state church leaders. After being ignored by his family pastor and erstwhile mentor, Bishop Jakob Peter Mynster, Kierkegaard added him to his phalanxes of targets. Calling Mynster a “poisonous plant . . . a colossus,” he concluded, “Great strength was required to topple him, and the person who did it also had to pay for it” (148).

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Kate Hennessy.cred Gary Jones

We recently had the opportunity to interview Kate Hennessy…

the granddaughter of Dorothy Day, about her new biography of her grandmother’s life: Dorothy Day: The World Will Be Saved by Beauty(which releases next Tuesday, Jan 24).

The full interview will run in our Lent 2017 magazine issue, but we wanted to offer you a taste here in anticipation of the book’s release.

SUBSCRIBE NOW to our magazine
(in print or digital format) 
and don’t miss this interview!

 

Dorothy Day:
The World Will Be Saved by Beauty:
An Intimate Portrait of My Grandmother

Kate Hennessy

Hardback: Scribner, Jan. 24, 2017
Buy Now:  [ Amazon ]  [  Kindle ]
 
Interviewed by
Erin Wasinger

 
 

ERB: Why did you feel you needed to write this book? What was your vision?

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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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