Thursday, August 03, 2006

So you like books about God and matters similar...Here is a selection of my reviews on

There is no order to my list of book reviews on I am reviewer 48,000 on their list, which isn’t very high. I have reviewed 21 books in five years, not a lot. These are some (below) that I recommend. Most are religious or spiritual. Click on the link to see the whole review. Every one of the reviews is by me, Peter Menkin. Sometime I would like to see make a list of favored reviews

I am currently reading a book by The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams. I am told his works are a little academic, and also theological, which makes them hard to read—but I make my way through with learning. In a chapter titled, “The Act of God,” he makes a statement about the reality in our faith and hope. This gives you an idea of his writing style, albeit seemingly more difficult out of the context of the rest. But you will get the idea of his remark on Christianity. The book is titled, “On Christian Theology: Challenges in Contemporary Theology.”

The quote from the book: “The ‘shape’ of Christian faith is the anchoring of our confidence beyond what we do or possess, in the reality of a centre in our own innate resourcefulness or meaningfulness, and so a life equipped for question and provisionality in respect of all our moral or spiritual achievement: a life of repentance in hope.”

The first book I note as one of my reviews on is also by Rowan Williams. Start with it, and if it is the only of his books you read, I think you will be happy with it. This is an understandable book for most people.

A deeply religious man, Rowan Williams defines the work of theology this way. (I add this as a note in this place to let you know the meditation of his reviewed in the first review does reflect this statement.) The quote:

“So part of the theologian’s task in the Church may be to urge that we stand aside from some of the words we think we know, so that we may see better what our language is for –keeping open the door to the promises of God.”

The Dwelling of the Light: Praying With Icons of Christ (Hardcover)

This small, very pretty, and interesting book in the sense that it has a lot to say in a short period of text (as if text had time in it), is certainly something to meditate on and think about. Just about a few days reading, Rowan Williams has managed to meditate and so interpret in a theological way, these icons: The Transfiguration, The Resurrection, Christ as one of the eternal Trinity, Christ as judge of the world and ruler of all.

The Practice of the Presence of God (Christian Classic) (Paperback)

I first learned about this wonderful little book through another very useful book entitled "Great Books of the Christian Tradition" by Terry Glaspey. Glaspey is a Christian booklover who's well read in Christian literature and considers this book one of the top ten that every Christian ought to read. The value of Brother Lawrence's book is seen in the fact that it is one of the favorites of some of the other authors on Glaspey's top ten list: A.W. Tozer (author of "The Pursuit of God") and Richard Foster (author of "A Celebration of Discipline"). Another popular Christian author (who is a Quaker like Foster) that was influenced by Brother Lawrence is mentioned in the introduction by Hal Helms in Paraclete Press's edition of "The Practice of the Presence of God": Hannah Whitall Smith (author of "The Christian's Secret to a Happy Life").

The Workbook on the Ten Commandments (Paperback
Two summers ago I had a yearning to learn more about The Ten Commandments. But I did not know where to begin, and when I asked people I thought knew, they had no book recommendations. How I found this title, one of four I read that summer on The Ten Commandments, is through Upper Room Publications, who are publishers of "Weavings." "Weavings" is a journal of the Christian spiritual life. So I had a context for this workbook. And it is a workbook that takes on eight weeks to complete.

Teach Us to Pray (Cowley Cloister Books) (Paperback)

This is a lovely book on prayer and the heart. The copy I own is by a different publisher, and I purchased it used for what is probably a pretty good sum. Not like $50, but still for a used book this was a harder to find one. It was worth the money to me, and I sometimes go back to it from time to time. Usually, I don't quote from the very beginning of a book, but this from the introduction, right at the start, tells a lot about the title: "The purpose of this short book is to do just a little to appease the hunger for prayer; a hunger to be found here, there and everywhere in these days."

A Seven Day Journey With Thomas Merton (Paperback

Today, again, I asked myself during centering prayer, to let my heart be open to God. This is the Christocentric God of the Trinity about which I speak. The book, "A Seven Day Journey with Thomas Merton" by Esther de Waal is an excellent exercise for home retreat that helps one come to opening the heart to God. The book does so in words, and it has photographs by Thomas Merton.

Gratefulness, The Heart of Prayer: An Approach to Life in Fullness (Paperback)

One of the things I first noticed about this book on being grateful is that it has sold many thousands of copies. Mine says, on the cover, "65,000 in print." That's a kind of best seller on a subject by a monk, a contemplative, and promises along the way by its subtitle the inviting phrase, "An Approach to Life in Fullness." There is a demand for living a good life, and one way is living a life of being grateful to God and having a heart of prayer, the book's main theme.

Too Deep for Words: Rediscovering Lectio Divina (Paperback)

Lectio divina has a long history as a methodless method of study and prayer in the Christian tradition. It has enjoyed a recent revival among laity as they seek Scripture study and prayer for laity (as opposed to within religious orders). Thelma Hall provides an introduction that fits within the revival with several references to Thomas Merton and Thomas Keating, themselves each important in the contemplative tradition.
The strengths of this book include Hall's excellent selection of quotations to promote her views, her emphasis on a loving relationship as the model which prohibits a method, and her selection of potential texts for the initial practice of lectio divina.

Meditations for Lay Eucharistic Ministers (Faithful Servant Series) (Paperback)

It is a significant thing in ones life to be a Lay Eucharist Minister. This little book, looking so slight by Beth Maynard, is a guide to the ministry of the Lay Eucharist Minister. There are many sections worth meditation. Here is one that is a little lengthy as a quote, but worthwhile. It has to do with offering or in other words serving eucharist: "...the offering that had been taken, blessed, and broken--you, your ministry--is distributed to the people "What might happen if you were to make that action more explicit in your prayer life? You could ask God to take you and put you to use, to bless more profoundly and break more generously whatever you offer."

Give Us Grace: An Anthology of Anglican Prayers (Hardcover)

This is a book that I read, but more I use for prayer. I grant many of the prayers by the well known and should be known Anglicans in this book are old. And their language may be unusual to us moderns, at least to an extent, but they are useful and meaningful. I bought this hardback to have access to prayers. I had read a biography of Terry Waite, the Anglican held captive some years ago in Iran. He said of his captivity, that one thing that held him was staying with prayers he knew from his prayer book. Albeit I have The Book of Common Prayer, and I say those prayers from it as do many Episcopalians. I thought to myself that I needed more, and though I don't believe that Terry Waite, a devout man, only said those prayers from his prayer book, and none of his own, nonetheless it is a good idea to have a source of prayer like the Anthology as also starting point and inspiration. Those who wish to widen their scope will find this a useful book, one full of history of the Anglican Church.

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