Log In

Subscriber-Only Content; You must be a PW subscriber to access the Table-of-Contents Database.

Get a digital subscription to Publishers Weekly for only $19.95/month.

Your subscription gives you instant access exclusive feature articles on notable figures in the publishing industry, he latest industry news, interviews of up and coming authors and bestselling authors, and access over 200,000 book reviews.

PW "All Access" site license members have access to PW's subscriber-only website content. To find out more about PW's site license subscription options please email: pw@pubservice.com or call 1-800-278-2991 (U.S.) or 1-818-487-2069 (all other countries), Monday-Friday between 5am and 5pm Pacific time.

Buddha Takes the Mound: Enlightenment in 9 Innings

Donald Lopez Jr. St. Martin’s Essentials, $19.99 (192p) ISBN 978-1-250-23791-0

In this cheeky yet weighty work, Buddhist scholar Lopez (The Story of Buddhism) devises what he calls “the Baseball Sutra,” offering text and commentary on Buddhist insights into America’s classic game. In Lopez’s yarn, the Buddha, taking a posture on the “green mandala” of a baseball diamond, reveals to his audience of bodhisattva-baseball immortals and lifelong fans how he designed the game to teach the four noble truths and the three marks of existence: karma, nonself, and enlightenment. Lopez nicely connects the nature of baseball to Buddhism throughout: the rise and fall of a team’s popularity teaches nonself or emptiness, the recurring cycle of winning and losing seasons teaches the suffering of samsara, and unpredictable performances teach the relevance of karma. Lopez focuses on the simple love of the game: one needs only to play catch with one’s “father” (a metaphor for having “compassion for others”), because each being is one’s father, and therefore one is always playing catch with all beings. Lopez’s passion for baseball and Buddhism is palpable and contagious, resulting in an odd but earnest introduction to Buddhist teachings. (May)

Reviewed on 01/24/2020 | Details & Permalink

show more
Madame Clairevoyant’s Guide to the Stars: Astrology, Our Icons, and Our Selves

Claire Comstock-Gay. Harper, $26.99 (256p) ISBN 978-0-06-291333-3

Comstock-Gay, who writes as Madame Clairevoyant for New York magazine’s The Cut website, draws on her personal life and pop culture in this delightful exploration of ways to use astrology in day-to-day life. Once an astrology disbeliever, Comstock-Gay embraced it after learning that her rising sign of Cancer belied what she thought was her set Sagittarius personality—and described her startlingly well. After stating her book is not “a reference...or study guide,” she delves into the 12 zodiac signs, listing common traits and predilections, and offering advice. Using the sun signs of writers (Virgos such as David Wojnarowicz and Leslie Feinberg), film directors (among them Leos Sandi Tan and Richard Linklater), singers (Nicki Minaj and Miley Cyrus, both Sagittarius), politicians (Gemini Rob Ford), and actors (including a touching section on Pisces Fred Rogers), Comstock-Gay demonstrates how each person’s life can be read through the prism of their sun signs. She also touches on how other zodiac signs play a part in natal astrology, emphasizing that celestial placements at birth and in life can help one think about one’s sense of self. Comstock-Gay’s wide-ranging introduction will please fans of her horoscopes, as well as any amateur astrologist. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 01/24/2020 | Details & Permalink

show more
Becoming Sage: Cultivating Meaning, Purpose, and Spirituality in Midlife

Michelle Van Loon. Moody, $14.99 trade paper (192p) ISBN 978-0-8024-1944-6

Van Loon (Born to Wander), a spirituality blogger, explores in this evocative guide the “gifts and challenges” unique to midlife that can be used to deepen one’s spirituality. Van Loon provides advice on changing family dynamics, building friendships later in life, and accepting one’s body, as well as a six-step plan (including prayers) for reconnecting to one’s faith. She explains that older adults are leaving or cutting involvement in the church at high levels, often because churches provide primarily “family-centered programming.” To provide what she feels is more relevant information to older readers, she includes chapters on how to manage finances (as a counterpoint to “prosperity preaching”), advice on searching out mental health resources, and encouragement for rethinking one’s vocation later in life. A true sage, she says, is always growing in faith, hope, and love. “Maturity is forged from the beautiful and terrible and mundane stuff of our lives as we seek to crawl, stand, walk, and run with Jesus on our way to Real.” Questions for individual reflection and group conversation accompany each chapter, and a reading list provides additional resources. This will be a helpful resource for people in midlife and for churches eager to offer help and understanding to this growing demographic. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 01/24/2020 | Details & Permalink

show more
Natural: How Faith in Nature’s Goodness Leads to Harmful Fads, Unjust Laws, and Flawed Science

Alan Levinovitz. Beacon, $28.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-8070-1087-7

Levinovitz, professor of religion at James Madison University, makes a nuanced plea for a more informed relationship with the natural world in this evocative, convincing work. Arguing that “natural goodness” often serves as “a mercenary ethic that anyone can hire to fight for their cause,” he asks readers to stop idolizing what’s “natural,” so as to take better care of nature and society’s neediest. Levinovitz believes a balance needs to be struck between awe of the natural world and its preservation, and is critical of appeals that defend socioeconomic disparity (such as the virtue of “natural” products with exorbitant price tags), eschew modern medicine (as with vaccine refusal), or reduce wildness to human terms (hunters “giving animals ‘a sporting chance’ ”). Rich with interviews, anecdotes, and citations, Levinovitz’s work makes a strong case for the wisdom of compromise and humility. While Levinovitz is more articulate about what he’s against than what he’s for, he argues that “passionate activism is completely compatible with acknowledging complexity and ambiguity.” It may seem paradoxical indeed, but this argument for removing “natural” from the altar of absolute good will certainly start conversations, particularly among naturalists and environmentalists. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 01/24/2020 | Details & Permalink

show more
Where Is God? Christian Faith in the Time of Great Uncertainty

Julian Carron. McGill–Queen’s Univ., $27.95 (176p) ISBN 978-0-228-00096-9

In this thought-provoking exploration of how one lives a Christian faith in an increasingly secular age, Carron (Disarming Beauty), a Spanish Roman Catholic priest and leader of the ecclesial movement Communion and Liberation, engages in a scintillating theological conversation with Italian journalist Andrea Tornielli. Positing that the challenges facing contemporary Christians mirror those of the early church, Carron and Tornielli present their conversation as an attempt to rediscover the essence of Christianity and inquire how the faith can be testified to today. Carron decries the prevalent “reduction of Christianity to ethics and moralism” and emphasizes the need for a “lived Christianity” in which people experiencing Christ’s forgiving presence respond to others with mercy and face evil without despair. Regarding the question of how to share Christianity with others, Carron emphasizes that faith cannot be forced on anyone, and should be spread through attraction, not proselytization. While the bulk of the conversation applies to Christians broadly, the discussion also touches on the Catholic Church’s progressive changes since the Second Vatican Council, Pope Francis’s ability to communicate the heart of Christianity, and Carron’s leadership of and experience with Italy-based missionary movement Communion and Liberation. Catholics and Christians of many denominations will find both encouragement and wisdom in these challenging, insightful reflections. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 01/24/2020 | Details & Permalink

show more
The Shift: Surviving and Thriving After Moving from Conservative to Progressive Christianity

Colby Martin. Fortress, $24.99 (200p) ISBN 978-1-5064-5549-5

Martin (Unclobbered), podcaster and co-pastor of Sojourn Grace Collective in San Diego, Calif., articulates the “process of a person shifting from their conservative Christian communities” to a more progressive spirituality in this concise, revealing work. Martin explains much of what he felt upon his slow retreat from conservative Christianity after coming to the realization during a men’s church group getaway: the comments, sideways glances, vows to pray for him, and sometimes downright nastiness. He urges forgoing certainty and arguing scriptural interpretations, and offers values for “shifting,” including trust, openness, kindness, mercy, and love. Martin also addresses how those who undergo a shift toward progressivism may begin thinking about “the big four”: God, Jesus, the Bible, and Church, urging readers to “reject the impulse to hold on tight and try to control” and seek out more like-minded communities. Christians already on the path of change will find this a well-written, thoughtful road map. While Martin’s nontraditional message may stun evangelicals (such as his refusal to call God “he”), his generosity and empathy are evident throughout: “I’m finally learning what it means to be whole.” Martin’s welcoming words will be of comfort to any Christian looking for alternatives to conservative Christianity. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 01/17/2020 | Details & Permalink

show more
Stories of the Saints: Bold and Inspiring Tales of Adventure, Grace, and Courage

Carey Wallace, illus. by Nick Thornborrow. Workman, $24.95 (232p) ISBN 978-0-7611-9327-2

In this entertaining collection of profiles of saints, novelist Wallace (The Blind Contessa’s New Machine) introduces Christian martyrs, each with a spiritual idiosyncrasy that earns its particular patronage. While the vignettes reveal the brutality Christians suffered for their faith, Wallace’s prose is evocative and reverent. She opens with 2nd-century CE Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, and weaves chronologically to end with Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa). Each biographical sketch begins with the date, location where the saint lived or is known, emblem, patronage, and feast day, culminating in legends about the saints amplified by Thornborrow’s luminous ink illustrations. Wallace neatly highlights moments when the spiritual heroes, often at odds with Roman authority, are put to the test: Lawrence (the patron saint of comedians, chefs, and firefighters) said, while being roasted on an iron grill over hot coals, “This side is roasted. Turn me over”; Mud made from Christopher’s blood following his beheading miraculously repaired the eye of the king who sentenced him to death; Catherine of Siena debated philosophers while Francis of Assisi healed animals of every kind. Wallace’s accounts of the lives of saints will appeal any Christian, particularly those who read graphic novels. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 01/17/2020 | Details & Permalink

show more
The Laywoman Project: Remaking Catholic Womanhood in the Vatican II Era

Mary J. Henold. Univ. of North Carolina, $29.95 trade paper (248p) ISBN 978-1-4696-5449-2

In this thoughtful analysis, historian Henold (Catholic and Feminist) considers ways Catholic laywomen who did not identify as feminist approached and responded to the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965) and to rapidly changing gender norms in the United States during the 1960s and ’70s. Drawing on the documentary records of four organizations for Catholic laywomen, and the contents of the Catholic periodical Marriage, the author considers how laywomen spoke and wrote about themselves in relation to the church, about their identities as women, and how their ideas changed over time in response to the progressive reforms of Vatican II. Through church writings, Henold explores how some laywomen embraced Vatican II as an opportunity to shift toward increasingly bold self-advocacy; some laywomen chose a more moderate path of reforms; and some rejected both secular and religious liberalization in favor of resolute conservatism. For instance, the Theresians of America “chose to revive a much more ‘traditional’ definition of Catholic womanhood firmly rooted in essentialism.” And while the Theresians took a stark conservative stance to the opening up of the Catholic church, the National Council of Catholic Women underwent a “nascent feminism,” which proved problematic for some members. Henold provides a nuanced picture of a group of Catholics whose spiritual practices have often been overlooked. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 01/17/2020 | Details & Permalink

show more
And the Prophet Said: Kahlil Gibran’s Classic Text with Newly Discovered Writings

Kahlil Gibran, edited by Dalton Hilu Einhorn. Hampton Roads, $14.95 trade paper (176p) ISBN 978-1-64297-016-6

Einhorn, a scholar of Gibran (1883–1931), debuts with a captivating centennial edition of Lebanese philosopher Gibran’s The Prophet that’s packed with newly discovered material, including 150 of Gibran’s never before published prose poems, aphorisms, and passages from The Earth Gods not included in any other edition. In The Prophet, the full text of which is included here, a wise man shares knowledge with his followers—allowing Gibran to expand on ideas about the power of love and how to faithfully yield to it, how children are their own individuals, how work is a fulfillment of life, and how a criminal is the burden of the community. In the new material, composed at the end of his career, Gibran takes on a melancholy, cautionary tone as he warns nations and their citizens against division. and asking, “How many dig their graves with their tongues?” Peppered with Gibran’s haunting and sensual artwork, the book provides a complete collection of insightful verses that will be uplifting to those going through difficult times. Both devotees and those new to Gibran’s work will love this. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 01/17/2020 | Details & Permalink

show more
The Myth of the American Dream

D.L. Mayfield. IVP, $22 (192p) ISBN 978-0-8308-4598-9

Mayfield (Assimilate or Go Home) uses her own experiences and biblical stories in this incisive work to make the bold claim that Jesus’s commandment to love thy neighbor has been forgotten by Christians and has been turned on its head due to American values of personal prosperity. Mayfield describes her own life as a pastor’s daughter preaching the gospel to Muslim communities abroad. Over time, her work with Muslim refugees in the U.S. and other marginalized communities led her to question everything she stood for as she witnessed little acceptance or aid for recently arrived refugees. Mayfield argues that the American socioeconomic system has inherent and deliberate design flaws, such as a criminal justice system disproportionately concerned with immigrants and the children of immigrants. She urges readers to halt their traditional ways of helping others, such as charity, and work toward justice and reform that lift up everyone—even if it means taking a loss for oneself or one’s families—such as volunteering and voting for reform. This trenchant Christian critique of American exceptionalism provides an essential, passionate interpretation of the ideals of egalitarianism and will appeal to readers of Michelle Alexander. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 01/17/2020 | Details & Permalink

show more
X
Stay ahead with
Tip Sheet!
Free newsletter: the hottest new books, features and more
X
X
Email Address

Password

Log In Lost Password

Parts of this site are only available to paying PW subscribers. Subscribers: to set up your digital access click here.

To subscribe, click here.

PW “All Access” site license members have access to PW’s subscriber-only website content. Simply close and relaunch your preferred browser to log-in. To find out more about PW’s site license subscription options please email: pw@pubservice.com.

If you have questions or need assistance setting up your account please email pw@pubservice.com or call 1-800-278-2991 (U.S.) or 1-818-487-2069 (all other countries), Monday-Friday between 5am and 5pm Pacific time for assistance.

Not Registered? Click here.