The Common Good
December 2004

Recent Books Of Note

by Molly Marsh | December 2004

Here are a few we found compelling.

What is happiness and how do we find it?

What is happiness and how do we find it? Robert Ellsberg put this question to modern and historical saints, and - by combing through their writings - came up with The Saints’ Guide to Happiness: Everyday Wisdom from the Lives of the Saints. These souls lead us gently through many of life’s imponderables. North Point Press.

Breathing Space, by Heidi Neumark, defies genre, or at least mingles them. Part diary of a city priest, part Bible study, part theological reflection on years of urban ministry, part social analysis with patches of homily - yet always pure prayer and poetry. Beacon Press.

A Generous Orthodoxy, by Brian D. McLaren. In his intelligent, playful style, this pastor surveys the varieties of Christian faith and points us toward an orthodoxy of Jesus - and away from "who’s in/who’s out" thinking - that is generous, loving, and defined by missional intent. Zondervan.

A stubborn, brave doctor is the subject of Tracy Kidder’s inspiring Mountains Beyond Mountains. Dr. Paul Farmer’s calling is caring for the most impoverished, but also convincing others - including global health organizations - that it’s right to do so. Farmer wants to change the world; after reading Kidder’s book, you’ll want to join him. Random House.

William Sloane Coffin Jr.: A Holy Impatience, by Warren Goldstein. With his verbal eloquence and strong personality, Coffin was one of the pre-eminent activist religious leaders of his time - from his leadership in the anti-Vietnam War movement to the pulpit of New York City’s Riverside Church. Yale University Press.

Citizenship Papers, by Wendell Berry, is a collection of wise and clear essays about issues this writer and farmer holds dear—agriculture, (true) patriotism, war, civic engagement, fear, and the U.S. government’s response to Sept. 11. It’s easy to see why Berry is considered "the poet of responsibility." Shoemaker & Hoard.

Speaking My Mind, by Tony Campolo. This straight-talking evangelical professor aims a host of questions at evangelicals: Is the Iraq war a "just" war? Is evangelicalism sexist? Too militaristic? With refreshing candor, Campolo dives headfirst into painful issues confronting the church. W Publishing Group.

The Working Poor: Invisible in America, by David K. Shipler, is a compassionate, no-nonsense look into the lives of 35 million Americans who live in poverty. This book has the poetry and power to move us and to deepen our individual and national resolve to change the unjust conditions many of our neighbors endure. Knopf.

Leadership From Inside Out: Spirituality and Organizational Change, by Wes Granberg-Michaelson. An invaluable summary of books and ideas about leadership. The author, a church leader himself, discusses the skills of leadership and how to lead with moral and spiritual integrity. Crossroad.

In What’s the Matter With Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America, Thomas Frank looks at his home state and tries to figure out why so many Kansans vote Republican - against their own economic interests - and why cultural issues seem to have eclipsed economic issues on the importance scale. Metropolitan Books.

And, closer to home, The Woman Behind the Collar, by Joy Carroll Wallis (wife of Sojourners editor Jim Wallis), is a warm and funny account of her calling to ministry, her early work in inner-city churches, and - after years of hard work - the joyful day she and other women were ordained to the priesthood in the Church of England. Crossroad.

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