Books

Climbing Into Their Skin

© Mark Herreid / Shutterstock
Photo: Silhouette of teen shooting a basketball, © Mark Herreid / Shutterstock.com

In The Last Shot, Frey has written a compassionate book. It is truly a compass that guides us into the sneakers and the hearts of children growing up in the housing projects of Coney Island, New York — inner-city kids defying the law of nature by growing in a tough place like flowers growing through concrete.

It is truly passionate about basketball and life, basketball as it is loved by children, coaches, and communities ... life as it is felt through the hearts of people who know human beings are human beings and not commodities.

In the Stacks

Among my must reads are the Sunday New York Times Book Review and other book reviews I come across in various media outlets. There are too many books being published that I would love to read, but just don’t have the time. So, I rely on reading book reviews as one way of keeping in touch with what’s being written. Here are my picks from this week’s books.

‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ Moves Evangelicals Beyond Black-and-White Sexuality

RNS photo courtesy Random House UK
RNS photo courtesy Random House UK

Ask Kelley Taylor, a Southern Baptist college student, if she's opened the steamy pages of Fifty Shades of Grey, and she has a ready response.

"Some of my friends have read it but I decided not to because I just heard about the content and didn't think it was something I should be reading," said the North Carolina State University senior, who is majoring in wildlife biology. "I think that it's kind of contrary to what the Bible says about fleeing from sexual lust and temptation."

Taylor is not alone. Many evangelical women say they wouldn't touch the best-selling book, often described as "mommy porn" because of its escapist appeal to working mothers and suburban housewives. But evangelical leaders also realize that some members of their churches and Bible studies can't resist.

On 200th Birthday, There’s No ‘Bah Humbug’ for Charles Dickens

Photo: Christmas tree, © Jennifer Nickert / Shutterstock.com
Photo: Christmas tree, © Jennifer Nickert / Shutterstock.com

“I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me.” 
– Ebenezer Scrooge from
A Christmas Carol.

WILMINGTON, N.C. — ‘Tis the season for “Bah Humbug” and “God bless us every one,” especially as the world caps off a year of celebrations for the 200th anniversary of the birth of novelist Charles Dickens.

Starting this weekend as the Christmas season begins with Advent, cities will transform their streets to Victorian English landscapes with strolling carolers and stage different productions of Dickens' most famous yuletide work, A Christmas Carol.

New & Noteworthy

A VITAL WORD
In I Told My Soul to Sing: Finding God with Emily Dickinson, Kristin LeMay explores in detail 25 poems as "witnesses" to Dickinson's wrestling with God. LeMay elegantly combines accessible literary analysis with her own spiritual memoir of search, doubt, and faith. Paraclete Press

BLESSED ASSURANCE
South African native Jonathan Butler has earned praise in the R&B, contemporary jazz, and gospel music fields. His latest album, Grace and Mercy, offers gentle songs that proclaim faith and hope in the midst of troubled times. Rendezvous Music

NO EASY FREEDOM
Sharon Leslie Morgan and Thomas Norman DeWolf explore the continuing legacy of American slavery in Gather at the Table: The Healing Journey of a Daughter of Slavery and a Son of the Slave Trade. In alternating narratives they reflect on three years of travel, historical research, and mutual vulnerability. Beacon Press

ALIVE AND KICKING
We Are Not Ghosts, a film by Mark Dworkin and Melissa Young, is an inspiring, but not sugar-coated, portrait of how some people in Detroit are recreating life and community there in the wake of industrial collapse and suburban flight. Bullfrog Films

 

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The Borgias: New Book Aims to Dispel the “Black Legend” of the Papacy

Lucretzia Borgia.

VATICAN CITY -- Their lives steeped in intrigue, treason and lust, and set against a backdrop of luscious Italian landscapes and Renaissance masterpieces, the Borgias are probably the most famous -- or infamous -- family in the long history of the papacy.

Now, a new Italian book wants to dispel, at least in part, the “black legend” surrounding a dynasty that bore two popes as well as cardinals, poets, and warriors.

Journalist and historian Mario Dal Bello drew on documents from the Vatican Secret Archive to write his new book, I Borgia: La leggenda nera, or The Borgias: The Black Legend.

For five centuries, the Borgias have attracted writers, painters and playwrights. They have been the subject of hundreds of movies and TV productions, most recently Showtime's popular series, The Borgias.

“It's easy to understand why: sex, blood, poison, power,"" Dal Bello said. "This is already fiction material."

In the Stacks, November 20, 2012

Among my must reads are the Sunday New York Times Book Review and other book reviews I come across in various media outlets. There are too many books being published that I would love to read, but just don’t have the time. So, I rely on reading book reviews as one way of keeping in touch with what’s being written. Here are my picks from this week’s books.

In the Stacks, November 6, 2012

Photo by Tischenko Irina/Shutterstock.com
Photo by Tischenko Irina/Shutterstock.com

Among my must reads are the Sunday New York Times Book Review and other book reviews I come across in various media outlets. There are too many books being published that I would love to read, but just don’t have the time. So, I rely on reading book reviews as one way of keeping in touch with what’s being written.

Here are my picks from this week’s books.

New and Noteworthy

OUTRUNNING DESPAIR
In the novel Running the Rift, by Naomi Benaron, a young Tutsi runner in Rwanda dreams of competing in the Olympics even as political tensions erupt into unfathomable violence. A story that gives both horror and hope their due. Winner of the 2011 Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction. Algonquin

FINALLY, A “CHRISTMAS UNICORN”
Perpetually quirky indie artist Sufjan Stevens’ new 58-track, 5-EP Christmas collection Silver and Gold promises to offer “holly-jolly songs of hope and redemption.” Not your typical Christmas music, but who needs more of that anyway? Liner notes include essays by Stevens and Vito Aiuto of The Welcome Wagon. Asthmatic Kitty

ROYAL BEAUTY BRIGHT
The picture book Star of Wonder, written by Mary Lee Wile and illustrated by Sage Stossel, offers a charming retelling of the Nativity story. A companion website, www.starofwonderepiphany.com, includes crafts, activities, and music to include in family observations of Epiphany. Forward Movement

TASTE AND SEE
The Food and Feasts of Jesus: Inside the World of First-Century Fare, with Menus and Recipes, by Douglas E. Neel and Joel A. Pugh, tastily delivers on its title. Includes historical and cultural essays to entertain foodies and Bible buffs alike, plus more than 50 recipes. Rowman & Littlefield

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Pay Attention: An Afternoon with Billy Collins and Mary Oliver

Rachel Giese Brown
Mary Oliver has won a Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. Rachel Giese Brown

What’s the first thing you think of when you think poetry readings by a Poet Laureate and a Pullitzer Prize winner? Well, whatever it is, I’m sure you weren’t thinking dogs.

Nonetheless, pet dogs were brought up more than anything else during poetry readings by Billy Collins and Mary Oliver at the Strathmore in Bethesda, Md. on Sunday. They managed to bring up their dogs in a beautifully poetic way, of course.

But perhaps the most important take away from the evening came from Oliver during a question and answer time after the readings. She said something like this: “Pay attention. Be astonished. And tell about it. We’re soaked in distractions. The world didn’t have to be beautiful. We can and should think about that beauty and be grateful.”

Those are words I have tried to live by for the last year.

Both poets demonstrated that attention in their work — even in poems about dogs.  

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