Of Many Things

As you will notice, this is the second “Fall Books” issue this year. Unfortunately, there seem never to be enough pages in the book review section to allow coverage of the myriad titles published each year—in a wide range of categories—that merit the attention of America’s readers. In this issue you will hear about five.

The first is the latest work by the prolific and critically acclaimed David Lodge. A Man of Parts is a novelized biography of the writer, political thinker and womanizer H. G. Wells. Next on the list is Streams of Contentment, Robert Wicks’s stories and lessons in good living, based on the author’s experiences each summer visiting his uncle’s farm in the Catskills. Our third presentation is Guantánamo: An American History, by the Harvard historian Jonathan M. Hansen, chronicling the history of the bay area and the current human rights debate over the use of the U.S. naval base there as a prison. Mary I: England’s Catholic Queen is the subject of the British historian John Edwards’s critical new work on Bloody Mary’s battle for the soul of England.

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Last, but for my money perhaps the best, is The Grace of Everyday Saints, by the journalist Julian Guthrie, who recounts the dramatic true story of a group of activists from a San Francisco church that is threatened with closure. It seems that these parishioners have lost the battle for now, but in the course of their fight they have deepened their faith. The story is inspiring and riveting from irst page to last.

As we enjoy another fine November harvest of books, let us remember the month is also notable for several events and observances. Catholics, of course, mark the feast of All Saints and All Souls Day. Many of these holy men and women are authors too. They have left a legacy of now-classic writings in theology, spirituality and history that feed the intellects and spirits of Christians worldwide.

Besides being the month of the holy souls, November, I recently learned, is also National Novel Writing Month. This is an Internet-based creative writing project. The challenge: write a 50,000-word novel in one month’s time. Entrants may submit a work in the fictive genre of their choice. The project was begun in the summer of 1999, drawing fewer than two dozen writers. In 2010 over 200,000 people participated. According to the Web site NaNoWriMo.org, the word count of submissions is verified by special software. Make the count, and you are a “winner.” The aspiring, fame-seeking novelist, however, should be advised of a downer: there is no guarantee that a human being (other than the writer) will read a word of your manuscript.

While our readers are unlikely to find in this magazine reviews of books by any of the winners referred to above, we strive to inform our subscribers about recent and upcoming books in a variety of subject categories. And so, for instance, as a sneak preview, here is a sampling of what you will see covered in America’s pages in future issues. (And this is not even the tip of the iceberg.) The Sense of an Ending, by Julian Barnes, is this year’s winner of the prestigious Man Booker Prize for fiction. Also coming is The Anticipatory Corpse: Medicine, Power, and the Care of the Dying, by the health care ethicist Jeffrey P. Bishop. Look too for Dante in Love, by A. N. Wilson, a passionate portrait of the poet’s life and times. The award-winning novelist Don DeLillo is publishing this month his first collection of short stories, entitled The Angel Esmeralda. In addition, you will read about Prophetic Encounters: Religion and the American Radical Tradition, by Dan McKanan. And month’s end will greet Eamon Duffy’s Ten Popes Who Shook the World.

What a rich harvest, indeed.

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