‘Take and Read’: introducing our Spring 2018 Literary Review

(iStock)

A few months ago I received an unexpected gift in the mail. “Take a look at this quirky book,” read a note from an old friend, attached to Take & Read: Christian Writers Reflect on Life’s Most Influential Books. Edited by Michael Daley and Dianne Bergant and published by Apocryphile Press in 2017, it is a collection of 45 essays by figures well-known in the American theological community who were asked to pick one book that particularly inspired or influenced them.

The title made me a bit suspicious at first. “Is this just going to be 45 essays on Augustine’s Confessions?” I wondered. (Only two were on Augustine, I confess, and they were immediately followed by Gerard Mannion’s selection: The Communist Manifesto.) Instead, I found a broad range of books, from memoirs to novels to historical biographies, and the explanations offered for each provided intriguing insights, with the possible exception of the fellow who picked a book by Friedrich Schleiermacher. He, I thought, must be a real gas at parties. Yet, as Daley notes in his introduction, each of us treasures some books that could never grow boring to us, because “our lives are testaments to the power of a book.” Amen.

Advertisement

As Michael Daley notes, each of us treasures some books that could never grow boring to us, because “our lives are testaments to the power of a book.” Amen.

With this Spring Books literary issue, we present authors and books that our contributors recognized as such treasures (or not). It is an eclectic grouping. Readers who enjoy a review by William Woody, S.J., of two new books in French that he thinks might augur a Catholic intellectual renaissance for the “eldest daughter of the church” may be less interested in my review of four books about Bob Dylan. Then again, Dylan fans might find much to savor in Gregory Wolfe’s review of Denis Johnson’s final collection of short stories, The Largesse of the Sea Maiden (Johnson died in 2017), as Dylan and Johnson seem almost kindred spirits.

Cultural critics are well-represented in this issue, folks we would like to feature more of in the future. First we offer a profile by David Michael of the prolific Alan Jacobs, author of How to Think (among many other writings), and later a review by Christiana Zenner of the latest book from another public intellectual, Stanley Hauerwas: The Character of Virtue: Letters to a Godson. Politicians from two different eras also appear: Woodrow Wilson and Jimmy Carter. America’s Executive Editor Maurice Timothy Reidy reviews Patricia O’Toole’s hefty biography of Wilson, The Moralist, and Betsy Shirley of Sojourners reflects on Carter’s new memoir/apologia, Faith: A Journey for All.

Original poems by Meg Eden (“Ruins Ekphrasis”) and Kwame Dawes (“The Spindle & Yarn”) appear, and Nick Ripatrazone offers a longer appreciation of poetry in his review of Traci Brimhall’s latest book, Saudade. The work of a visual artist, the Rev. William Hart McNichols, is also featured in a review by Michael Tueth, S.J. of his new book of icons, Image to Insight, a reminder that icons are “read” at the same time they are viewed and venerated.

The first book review America ran in 1909 was of Mark Twain’s novel about Joan of Arc, so it is with special delight that we bring you Ted Gioia’s reflections on Twain’s interest in the French saint.

The very first book review America ran in its inaugural issue of April 17, 1909, was of Mark Twain’s novel Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc, so it is with special delight that we bring you Ted Gioia’s reflections on Twain’s interest in the French saint. Gioia’s reflections are joined here by two other looks back at important books and authors. Robert Hosmer remembers Muriel Spark’s classicThe Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, and Lisa Ampleman revisits a childhood favorite, Madeleine L'Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time (now a somewhat-bowdlerized major motion picture).

In addition, our frequent contributor Jon M. Sweeney offers a review of new books on Judaism that Christians would do well to read. Sweeney, who is married to a rabbi, argues that “every Christian needs a better understanding of the Jewish origins of his or her faith.”

Finally, Executive Editor Kerry Weber reports that reading with her young son can be a case of the wheels going ’round and ’round, but in a manner most illuminative.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.

Advertisement
More: Books

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

The news from Ireland and the United States reminds us of Herod, of Pharaoh. What culture betrays its children?
The EditorsMay 26, 2018
A woman religious casts her ballot May 25 in Dublin as Ireland holds a referendum on its law on abortion. Voters went to the polls May 25 to decide whether to liberalize the country's abortion laws. (CNS photo/Alex Fraser, Reuters)
The repeal of Ireland's Eighth Amendment, which guarantees the right to life of the unborn, is passing by a 2-1 margin with most of the votes counted.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos testifies at a House Committee on Education and the Workforce, Tuesday, May 22, 2018, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
The Secretary of Education stirred up controversy when she said it was up to schools to decide if an undocumented student should be reported to authorities.
J.D. Long-GarcíaMay 25, 2018
Thousands gathered in Dublin May 12 to say "Love Both" and "Vote No" to abortion on demand. They were protesting abortion on demand in the forthcoming referendum May 25. (CNS photo/John McElroy)
“Priests and bishops get verbal abuse by being told, ‘How can you speak for women? You don’t know what it’s like!’”
America StaffMay 25, 2018