Archives For Essays


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…)

A Small Porch: Sabbath Poems 2014 and 2015

Wendell Berry


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David Foster Wallace

Sunday (February 21) marks the birthday of David Foster Wallace, one of the most important American writers of the last quarter-century.

Although Wallace’s masterpieces are his novels, including Infinite Jest (1104 pages), these mammoth works can be intimidating for new readers, so we offer here a selection of his shorter works, for readers who want to immerse themselves slowly in Wallace’s work.

Also, for our readers who are fans of DFW’s work, there is an important new book that will be released next week:

The Gospel According to
David Foster Wallace:
Boredom and Addiction in an Age of Distraction
Adam S. Miller

Paperback: Bloomsbury, 2016
Buy now: [ Amazon ] [ Kindle ]

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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…)


> > > >
Next Book

On Such a Full Sea: A Novel

By Chang-Rae Lee

Read the New York Times review of this novel…

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Houghton Mifflin Harcourt is offering their C.S. Lewis ebooks for only $2.99 NOW $2.24 each for a limited time.

Here are the thirteen Kindle ebooks that are on sale:


Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold


Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life


A Mind Awake: An Anthology of C. S. Lewis

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Marilynne Robinson is one of the keynote speakers at next week’s Festival of Faith and Writing at Calvin College. We are very excited about her newest book, which was reviewed by David Johnson in our current print issue. We will be giving away a few copies of her book at our booth at the Festival, so if you are going to be there, stop by and enter to win a copy, or a number of other excellent new books. For those who are going to the festival (and those who are not), here is a taste of her excellent new book:

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The Humane Vision of Wendell BerryCreating a Humane Vision for Our Places.

A Review of

The Humane Vision of Wendell Berry

Mark T. Mitchell and Nathan Schleuter, eds.

Hardback: ISI Books, 2011.
Buy now:  [ Amazon ] [ Kindle ]

Reviewed by Scot F. Martin

What a wild ride it has been these past couple of years.  First, Wendell Berry was appointed as special counsel to Department of Agriculture Secretary, Tom Vilsack, and convinced him that soil conservation should be the number one U.S. agricultural goal.  Then following the advice contained in a white paper authored by Mr. Berry the State and Defense Departments have begun shuttering numerous U.S. military bases overseas and we are moving from a bellicose foreign policy to one more in line with George Washington’s non-interventionist stance toward most world events.  Lastly, nearly every state capital has created infrastructure to assist interdependence between urban and rural citizens.  Not only have farmer’s markets displaced many large regional and national grocery store chains, but there are multiple sustainable economies developing in rural areas and small towns across America.  This is due, in no small part to the stumping of Wendell Berry.  We still have problems in 2012, but thanks to this veritable Berry-palooza we are nurturing healthier communities along with cleaner ecosystems.

…And then I woke up.

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“Amateur Reading”

A review of

The Achievement of Wendell Berry:
The Hard History of Love

by Fritz Oehlschlaeger.

Review by Ragan Sutterfield.

The Achievement of Wendell BerryThe Achievement of Wendell Berry:
The Hard History of Love

Fritz Oehlschlaeger.
Hardback: UP of Kentucky, 2011.
Buy now:
[ Amazon – Hardback ]
[ Amazon – Kindle ]

I must admit, I haven’t yet finished Fritz Oehlschlaeger’s The Achievement of Wendell Berry: The Hard History of Love. Though I have been busy with a number of projects, I have had enough time in theory to read the book, so time hasn’t been the hold up. I can also say confidently that the other reason I haven’t finished the book isn’t the usual reason I abandon a volume midstream—it’s simply unreadable. Instead, I haven’t finished Oehlschlaeger’s book for two reasons—Wendell Berry has indeed achieved and written so much and second, Oehlschlaeger is such a wise and careful conversation partner with Berry’s work that I can’t help but constantly want to bring Berry more deeply into the conversation by going back, again and again to his work. So if you read this book, and you really should if you care for all things good and holy, set aside some time for it—a year or so perhaps.

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An excerpt from the lovely new book

In Earshot of Water:
Notes from the Columbia Plateau
Paul Lindholdt.
Paperback: U. of Iowa Press, 2011.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

[ Read our review above… ]


865069: Against the Tide: Love in a Time of Petty Dreams and Persisting Enmities A Brief Review of

Against the Tide:
Love in a Time of Petty Dreams
and Persisting Enmities

By Miroslav Volf.
Paperback: Eerdmans, 2010.

Buy now: [ ]

Reviewed by Stephen Lawson.

Since the publication of Exclusion and Embrace in 1996, Miroslav Volf has been one of the most influential theologians in America. Originally from Croatia, Volf is now professor of theology at Yale. His influence can be seen in both the academy (where After Our Likeness: The Church as the Image of the Trinity was hailed as one of the most rigorous theological defenses of “free church ecclesiology” to date) and the church (where his more accessible books such as The End of Memory and Free of Charge have received a wide readership). Despite the undeniable distinction between his work for the academy and his work for the wider church, there is a remarkable consistency in the themes he explores. He is committed to a theology that both speaks the truth and calls for total reconciliation between enemies.

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A Brief Review of

Hear No Evil:
My Story of Innocence, Music, and the Holy Ghost
Matthew Paul Turner.

Paperback: WaterBrook, 2010.
Buy now: [ ] [ Kindle ]

Reviewed by Jonathan Schindler.

Matthew Paul Turner - Hear No EvilHear No Evil chronicles former CCM editor Matthew Paul Turner’s life following the common thread of music. Raised in an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist family, Turner tells stories that are by turns laugh-out-loud funny, poignant, and scarier than a Jack Chick tract. Turner’s honest memoir does not offer easy answers or canned take-aways, but his winsome writing, sharp wit, and keen observations provide enough material to laugh and think about for days after the book is closed.

Hear No Evil is comprised of fifteen memoir-essays on faith and music. While they are all variations on the same theme and are in roughly chronological order, each essay serves as a snapshot rather than a continuation. There is little connection between one essay and another. (This is not a David Copperfield kind of memoir. Its closer kin is David Sedaris’s books.) Because of this, “the point” may be hard to find, and at times the essays close without resolution. This lack of closure may be a turn-off for some readers, but I found the open-endedness refreshing. Like Jesus’ parables, we are told what happened up to a point; the rest is left for the reader to decide how he or she will live.

I mentioned that “the point” may be hard to find—but I certainly am not referring to the sharpness of the writing. Turner uses humor to examine his life in music so far. He relates the crush he had on Sandi Patty (which he had to hide from the members of his church), the excitement at hearing George Michael’s “Faith” on the radio and wondering if it was a Christian song, the purchase/guilt cycle he experienced when he bought/threw away Amy Grant’s album Heart in Motion several times, and God’s calling on his life to be the Christian Michael Jackson.

Humor is double-edged, and the line between surgery and stabbing is sometimes hard to discern, but Turner does a surprisingly good job walking the fine line between destructive and constructive uses. Turner’s first essay of the book, “Overture,” is probably the most cynical and made me unsure of the contents of the rest of the book. (In the essay he describes what could be an almost typical occurrence at a Nashville coffee shop: He sees someone come in, ill at ease in his rock-star regalia, and immediately pegs him as a “Christian rocker.”) This essay caused unease at the beginning of the book, but by the end, I could understand much better where Turner was coming from.

Turner’s essays are laced with vivid nostalgia. There were several times while reading this book that I was taken back to my own childhood in the church, and while the names of the congregants are different, I could picture these people in my own life. And Turner treats them like people. They are not stark images or abstract ideas to make a point (“Jim is Greed, Sandy is Fame, Bill is Hypocrisy,” and so on); they are paradoxes wrapped in flesh, as all humans are. His sensitive treatment of his “subjects” is what makes Hear No Evil work. Instead of a rant (which a book like this could have easily become), it is a rehabilitation.

Turner clearly loves the church—spots, wrinkles, blemishes, and all—and while he laughs at its foibles, it’s the kind of laughter that comes from the inside, not the outside—laughing with, not laughing at. Hear No Evil may not resonate with everyone (it seems to be aimed at twenty/thirty-somethings), but I thoroughly enjoyed it for its honesty and wit and reveled through the therapy of all 225 pages.