Welcome once again to Eerdmans All Over, a Friday roundup of all the Eerdmans-related news, reviews, interviews, and other interesting online content we can gather in a given week.

New Releases

In Search of the Little Prince
Bimba Landmann

News from Eerdmans . . .

  • It’s been a quiet week at Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

. . . and Elsewhere

Have we missed any news, reviews, or other online miscellany dealing with Eerdmans or EBYR books or authors from the last week? Please let us know in the comments. You also can post items on our Facebook timeline, mention us on Twitter (@eerdmansbooks or @ebyrbooks), or write to us directly:webmaster@eerdmans.com.

Katherine Gibson

Katherine Gibson

Katherine Gibson serves as editorial assistant for Eerdmans Books for Young Readers. She also stars with Ahna Ziegler in EBYR’s weekly Coffee Break vlog. 

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My favorite part of the editing process is probably the first read-through: that brief, quiet time when you sit down and let the book introduce itself to you. You leave the red pen in the drawer, and you simply get acquainted with the story.

The first time I sat down to get acquainted with A Less Than Perfect Peace by Jacqueline Levering Sullivan, it was like running into an old friend whom I hadn’t seen in years — simultaneously surprising and familiar.

A Less Than Perfect Peace is set in 1950, when Americans were grappling with both the aftermath from World War II and the onset of the Cold War. But it’s not the setting of the novel that makes me feel nostalgic – what I love most about this book is that it reminds me of the books I loved to read as a kid. Those books weren’t flashy or popular; they didn’t feature dystopian worlds or sexy vampires. They were approachable. Reading one felt like making a new friend.

And Annie Howard, the protagonist of A Less Than Perfect Peace, would be a truly awesome friend to have. Annie is smart and funny and kind and capable. She selflessly helps other people with their problems, but she’s not afraid to throw out a sarcastic comment if the situation calls for it. In Annie, you have a heroine who is both complex and down to earth, both relatable and subtly empowering. It is a rare thing, and it is lovely.

A Less Than Perfect Peace

A Less Than Perfect Peace

I read a review of this book a while ago that said that, while the book was interesting, it had too many subplots. Maybe it’s just me, but I like it when realistic fiction has lots of subplots. Realistic fiction is supposed to be, as the name suggests, a portrayal of real life, and what is life if not a collection of subplots? I like that Annie describes all the different aspects of her life: her uncle’s budding romance with her art teacher, her own budding romance with a Dutch refugee, her father’s recent blindness, her mother’s new business and possible affair. There’s drama, but none of it is gratuitous, which keeps the story from feeling angsty. There are surprising plot twists, but they don’t feel fabricated. Personally, I think the subplots do okay for themselves.

Perhaps the only issue I do have with the subplots is that they’re so important to the story that they make it difficult to sum up the book succinctly. Every time I’ve tried to describe it to friends and family, I’ve suddenly become inarticulate: “It’s just, like, this great book about . . . life, you know?” I’ve found that an easier and more effective approach is to simply hand someone the book and let the book introduce itself. It makes a good first impression all on its own.

Click to order Jacqueline Levering Sullivan’s A Less Than Perfect Peace (which is the sequel to Annie’s War). 

Antonio López, F.S.C.B., is provost and associate professor of theology at the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family, Catholic University of America, and editor of the new volume Retrieving Origins and the Claim of Multiculturalism.

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Retrieving Origins and the Claim of Multiculturalism

Retrieving Origins and the Claim of Multiculturalism

“Multiculturalism” is often taken for granted as a desirable hallmark of liberal democracies. As the relatively peaceful coexistence of different cultures within a liberal society, multiculturalism seems to promise each culture the opportunity to be itself freely in the midst of others. Finding ourselves, however, constantly faced with the struggle for “fundamental,” yet often competing, human rights; the challenges of large-scale immigration; and violent conflict stemming from cultural and religious differences — just to sample the headlines — it is clear that multiculturalism merits further consideration. What is multiculturalism? Does it actually exist? How do we live in light of, and as subjects of, this phenomenon? Is tolerance and, finally, the acceptance of an ultimate incommensurability between peoples and individuals the most we can hope for? At stake in the question of multiculturalism, then, is each person’s capacity to transcend himself in a real relation to what is genuinely “other” to him; in other words, it concerns the identity of each person as part of a richly varied reality that, far too often, seems only to alienate man from others and even from himself.

It is this concern for the freedom to know and be oneself with others that makes multiculturalism within liberal societies attractive and, at the same time, compels us to call such societies’ fundamental claims into question. Liberalism is a complex reality and is thus difficult to define in a few words, but we can begin to approach it by asking whether the difference that liberalism claims to foster and protect really exists: do the fundamental presuppositions of a liberal society truly preserve the full reality of different cultures in peaceful, fruitful coexistence? The answer to this question hinges on liberalism’s conception of freedom; indeed, freedom as the path to self-realization is the fundamental promise of liberalism. Yet this freedom is conceived as the unrestricted exercise of choice, which purports to come before and determine what the individual is and all of the expressions of his or her identity (religion, family life, work, etc.). What is absolute, then, in a liberal society, is precisely this freedom that has no origin other than itself. In this sense, we could say that such a society and freedom are anarchic: an-arche, without origin. This particular understanding of freedom has vast consequences for difference: rather than being varied expressions of a common reality, the “different” cultural expressions we find in liberal societies are, regardless of their content, formally equivalent with regard to liberalism’s absolute — anarchic self-determination. In other words, what I am and what you are have nothing to do with one another, because our identities are not the expression of anything we have in common. Since freedom has no origin, there is no real ground for me to learn anything from you or you from me, so we remain mutually in-different.

In this light, multiculturalism, while inseparable from the liberal society, calls for reflection that goes beyond consideration of a specific form of government. In particular, the true coexistence of cultures requires that we depart from liberalism’s anarchic understanding of freedom, which confines us to our anonymous selves, in favor of a freedom that grounds identities in a common origin and only in this way sustains meaningful difference and mutual recognition. We are thus prompted to realize freedom as the capacity to embrace the truth, which guarantees difference by grounding it in unity.

Retrieving Origins and the Claim of Multiculturalism represents the effort of scholars from the philosophical, juridical, and theological sciences to reflect on these questions, going to the roots of difference and identity by first recognizing our common experience of human nature and its origin. Though coming from different Christian traditions and religions, the authors share the assumption that human original experience reveals a universal human nature and the meaning of being human in relation to others and to God. These contributors (including among others Card. A. Scola, J. Weiler, S. Hauerwas, D. L. Schindler, J. Milbank, and C. Esposito) also come from both sides of the Atlantic, granting the reader access to both European and North American liberalism and hence a richer grasp of multiculturalism.

The book’s interdisciplinary nature also helps us see how the absolute, eternal, and universal is manifested in the contingent, historical, and particular. This is in keeping with the book’s central claim that the Christian faith and the common metaphysical foundation revealed by original experience enable all people to see the other for what he is: an intersection of eternity and singularity, as well as a freedom oriented to and always already in search of the truth. The Christian faith, far from suppressing the discovery of truth, allows us to affirm each person as given to himself within a communion, and, precisely because he is a gift, as free. Instead of the formal understanding of freedom as self-determination on which liberalism is founded, from the Christian perspective we find that each person is given to himself with an identity and destiny, a unique content that he must discover in living relationships with others. Not insignificantly, it is precisely from such relationships that this book came into being. The authors’ friendship, and not an ideological agreement, is the lived ground that enables them to reflect on the encounter with other cultures in a concrete and poignant way. Diving beneath the assumptions of liberal culture, this book reconsiders multiculturalism from the roots of human experience, proposing anew the grounds for truly peaceful and fruitful encounters between cultures.

Contributors to this Volume:

Massimo Borghesi ♦ Francesco Botturi ♦ Marta Cartabia ♦ Carmine Di Martino ♦ Pierpaolo Donati ♦ Costantino Esposito ♦ Stanley Hauerwas ♦ Antonio López ♦ Francisco Javier Martínez Fernández ♦ John Milbank ♦ Javier Prades ♦ David L. Schindler ♦ Angelo Cardinal Scola ♦ Lorenza Violini ♦ Joseph H. H. Weiler

Click to order Antonio López’s Retrieving Origins and the Claim of Multiculturalism.

RachelinReview2

Hello, and welcome to my brand new column! In the days and weeks to come, I’ll be moseying in and around the intersection of real life and (primarily but not exclusively) Eerdmans books. I hope you’ll join me.

As I sat down this week to sally forth on my new life as an EerdWord columnist, I began by thinking long and hard about what the topic of my first post should be:

I hope you’re as fascinated as I am by all this stuff, because I hope to write on all of these topics in good time. Before I do, however, I think there’s something important — something serious — I need to get off my chest first:

I used to read more books than I do now.

Is it the same for you?

Can you remember — as I do — those hours upon endless hours of recreational reading, our noses buried deep until our eyes grew hot and blurry? Our hands cramping up from the strain of holding a paperback open for too long? Various other parts of our bodies going all numb and tingly from sustained lack of movement?

If you can remember, be honest, now: have those marathon reading sessions grown more frequent for you in the last five years, or less?

We like to talk in publishing about why our industry has struggled some of late. Is it that we’re not navigating the transition to ebooks well enough? Is it Amazon? (Everyone likes to blame Amazon.) Is it the fracturing of the reading public by partisan ideologies, widely varying niche markets, and a wave of affordable, low-quality, self-published titles?

It could be any or all of these things, but I suspect there may be something even deeper and yet much simpler at play here: like me, more and more people aren’t reading as many books as they once did.

In case you were wondering what my next post will be about.

In case you’re wondering what my next post will be about.

So, what happened to us?

I read more than ever now, of course. There are words, words, words everywhere I turn: road signs, cereal boxes, emails, texts, tweets, Facebook status updates (oh, the endless Facebook status updates), blog posts, Google Maps directions, Buzz Feed articles, Netflix synopses, Craigslist ads.

And then, yes, I do still read books, too — even though I often go through them ten at a time now, thanks to my Kindle app, tackling them in short bursts, paragraph by paragraph, as I kill time in waiting rooms and long lines.

Yet despite this constant, incessant exposure to written words, it’s true: those delicious, blurry-eyed, numb and tingly reading sessions aren’t such a regular part of my daily life as they used to be. I read all the time, but the deliberate consumption of an entire book in a somewhat continuous fashion — for pleasure — just doesn’t happen for me as often anymore.

What’s more, if I’m being painfully honest, I have to admit the hard truth that when I do read, I read very differently now than I did in the olden years before social media. My attention span is shorter, and I’m much more easily distracted.

(Hang on a sec, please. My phone just beeped at me. Right: I’m back.)

I read more shallowly, skimming the surface of the text for information, skipping the dull bits. I flip the pages more quickly, but it still somehow takes me ages to finish even a short book.

I did make it cover to cover last year through Nicholas Carr’s 2008 book The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, and I really got a lot out of it (despite the fact that, regrettably, it isn’t an Eerdmans book). In The Shallows, Carr argues that the Internet has been rewiring our brains and rapidly revolutionizing the way we process information, making us ever more adept at surfing and scanning — definitely useful skills in our current intellectual economy — but also critically endangering our ability to read and think deeply. His analysis made a lot sense to me. I see it playing out in my own life — and in my own brain.

Is it the same for you?

(Wait a minute . . . are you checking your phone right now? Again? Oh, well. No worries. I am, too.)

I’m not ready to give up, though, and I hope you aren’t either. Reading more books isn’t some Luddite pipe dream, after all. It’s an essential way for us as sentient human beings to cultivate deep thinking, prolonged focus, and measured reflection within ourselves.

So in lieu of a more conventional sign-off, I’ll close out this inaugural column with ten handy tips to help us all begin to read more books.

  1. Pay a visit to your local library or independent bookstore. You don’t even have to buy or check out a single book. (I bet you will, though.) The simple act of physically locating yourself someplace where there are both good books and enthusiastic readers will have a positive effect on your reading life. Insider tip: if you’re not sure how to find an independent bookstore near you, check out the Indie Store Finder on the IndieBound
  2. Join or start a book group, online or otherwise. Mine — The Divine Sisterhood of the Traveling Books — is on Facebook. (Sorry, but no, you can’t join. It’s private. Get your own book group.)
  3. If you must be on every social media site from here to the wild blue yonder, make sure you also take a moment to sign up for one of the many “Facebook for booklovers” sites out there. There’s GoodReads, of course, but there are also plenty of other alternatives, if you aren’t into the whole “owned by Amazon” thing.
  4. Buy books as Christmas and birthday gifts. (Insert obligatory “BUY EERDMANS BOOKS THEY ARE AWESOME” marketing fluff here.) It’s entirely possible — even likely — that you will soon get to be known as an eccentric weirdo within your circle of family and friends. Shrug it off. In twenty years, they won’t have kept the ugly sweater or that already-almost-obsolete gadget you would otherwise have given them, but they may well be reading that “stupid boring book” out loud to their own children. (I should also point out here that books are delightfully easy to wrap and cheap to mail.)
  5. Carve out a regular time every day to read. I like to sit and read while I wait for my ten-month-old baby to settle down and fall asleep in the evening. The book in front of my face tells her plainly, “I’m here, but I’m not here. Go to sleep.”
  6. Set aside 24 hours each week for a screen time Sabbath. If you let yourself get good and bored enough, books will eventually start to look like fun.
  7. Alternate reading something edifying (like From Here to Maturity) with something fun (like Way Below the Angels). Of course, if you’re lucky, you’ll find a book that’s both (like Vainglory).
  8. Never ever feel ashamed about reading books that you think are too easy, entertaining, or juvenile for your supposed station in life. Many of the best, most profound books I’ve read in recent years have technically been “YA.” (For the record: it’s quite possible that I haven’t been “YA” since before “YA” was a thing.) No one’s ever too old for a good fairy tale.
  9. When you finish a really good book, don’t shelve it. Don’t even loan it out. Pay it forward. Let your friends know you’d love them to return the favor. If you really want to keep the book for yourself/spouse/kids/etc., consider buying a second copy. Then pay it forward.
  10. Take a moment to share this post with your friends, fans, and followers online. Use it to start a conversation about how you would really like to read more books. Once you’ve done this, click the little “x” up in the right hand corner of your browser window, stand up, find a book, and get started.
Rachel Bomberger

Rachel Bomberger

About Rachel in Review:

Life for this pastor’s wife and working mother of four can be messy. Confusing. Painful. Funny. Breathtakingly beautiful.

Enter the Eerdmans books. So, so many of our books, whether written for board-book-munching babies or distinguished professors emeritus, seem to have a single uncannily common quality about them: they just fit. These wise, wonderful books somehow manage to tie into — and by so doing, help me sort out — the knotty complexities of life and faith as I actually experience them.

Come along with me as I read life, live books, and put the two together. Things around here may occasionally get a bit random, but with a little luck, they’ll never be boring.

Ever since it was released last month, we’ve been looking for way to introduce Karlfried Froehlich’s new book Sensing the Scriptures: Aminadab’s Chariot and the Predicament of Biblical Interpretation properly here on EerdWord. Somehow, though, we hadn’t yet found the right words with which to do it. 

Then, last week, a letter originally sent to Froehlich by Peter Brown (who is Philip and Beulah Rollins Professor of History Emeritus at Princeton University) popped into our inboxes, and we knew immediately that the right words had finally arrived. We share the letter here today with Brown’s blessing, who writes, “It is a book that deserves the widest possible circulation.”

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Department of History
Princeton, New Jersey

September 21, 2014

Dear Karlfried:

Eerdmans has just sent me a copy of your new book, Sensing the Scriptures. I have read it through — for the simple reason that once I had picked it up, I could not put it down. It is one of the very best books that I have read for a very long time. There is a richness and certainty of touch about it that truly delights and nourishes the reader. It is far more than an introduction to late antique and medieval exegesis. It is a true histoire du sentiment religieux of an entire millennium, as well as a breath of rich air in the somewhat stuffy atmosphere of modern Christianity. I particularly loved the care and zest with which you defined the nature of the physical senses which underlay the structuring of the exegetical programs that you describe — adding depth and intensity to each one in turn.

Altogether, Sensing the Scriptures is one of those books which one envies sincerely and without ill-will. It is a book which I had long thought needed to be written in modern conditions, and not only as a much-needed guide to historians of Patristic and medieval thought. It is , indeed, the sort of book that I had dreamed of so long that it almost became a book that I had wished to write myself. But thank goodness, it was written by you — with your superb training and with the background of scholarship (both German and English-speaking) which you display with such effect on these lectures: sicut odor agri pleni (Genesis 27:27).

It made me proud to be at least a neighbor of the PTS [Princeton Theological Seminary] where such scholarship and teaching can happen. I was, indeed, particularly touched by the constant presence in this book of my friends Paul and Kathy. Altogether, you all represent a very precious tradition of scholarship, of which I am aware (with gratitude) every time I enter the portals of Speer Library.

With warmest congratulations and many thanks,

Peter Brown

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Sensing the Scriptures

Sensing the Scriptures

About Sensing the Scriptures:

Sensing the Scriptures explores the ways that Christians, from the period of late antiquity through the Protestant Reformation, interpreted the Bible according to its several levels of meaning. Using the five bodily senses as an organizing principle, Karlfried Froehlich probes key theological developments, traditions, and approaches across this broad period, culminating in a consideration of the implications of this historical development for the contemporary church.

Distinguishing between “principles” and “rules” of interpretation, Froehlich offers a clear and useful way of discerning the fundamental difference between interpretive methods (rules) and the overarching spiritual goals (principles) that must guide biblical interpretation. As a study of roots and reasons as well as the role of imagination in the development of biblical interpretation, Sensing the Scriptures reminds us how intellectually and spiritually relevant the pursuit of a historical perspective is for Christian faith and life today.

Click to order Sensing the Scriptures: Aminadab’s Chariot and the Predicament of Biblical Interpretation.

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