Book Reviews

Unearthly beauty: Through Advent with the saints by Magdalen Smith

There is a wealth of Advent reading now available from the Abbey Shop in the Close, and the bookstall in the Abbey.

My personal favourite – because I like the autobiographical dimension and the anecdotes – is Unearthly beauty: Through Advent with the saints. It is by Magdalen Smith, who is Director of Ordinands in the Chester Diocese. She has a background in the visual arts and an obvious eye for spotting holiness in unexpected places. It is a delight, at the discounted price of £6.95.

Advent for Everyone: a journey through Matthew

There are three books all from the Anglican Evangelical tradition. The first by Tom Wright, former Bishop of Durham and now Professor of the New Testament at St Andrew’s University. Advent for Everyone: a journey through Matthew was published in 2016.   As Archbishop Rowan Williams writes, “Tom Wright is, as always, brilliant at distilling immense scholarship into vivid, clear and accessible form”. There is a passage and a meditation on it for every day in Advent, at the discounted price of £6.95.  Available from the Abbey Shop in the Close and the bookstall in the Abbey.

Advent for Everyone: a journey with the apostles by Tom Wright

The second book by Tom Wright, former Bishop of Durham and now Professor of the New Testament at St Andrew’s University. Advent for Everyone: a journey with the apostles is just out. As Archbishop Rowan Williams writes, “Tom Wright is, as always, brilliant at distilling immense scholarship into vivid, clear and accessible form”. There is a passage and a meditation on it for every day in Advent, at the discounted price of £6.95.  Available from the Abbey Shop and the bookstall in the Abbey.

In touch with God by Michael and Rosemary Green

There is the Archbishop of York’s Advent Book for 2017, In touch with God, by Michael and Rosemary Green. Michael Green has been a giant in the Anglican Evangelical firmament since I was nobbut a lad, and he and his wife have together written a series of 25 meditations, all but two from the Old Testament, on Advent themes. Highly recommended at the discounted price of £5.95, not least for those of you who would like to make a better connection with the Old Testament. Available from the Abbey Shop in the Close and the bookstall in the Abbey.

Daily Reflections for Advent & Christmas by Mary Poust

There is our regular little book of Daily Reflections for Advent & Christmas, written this year by Mary Poust. It offers a daily reading, reflection, meditation and prayer from Advent Sunday to 8 January, all for just £1.50. You can’t get better value than that!  Available from the Abbey Shop in the Close and the bookstall in the Abbey.

Hope in Action by Cardinal Vincent Nichols

I would like to recommend a new book written by the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster with a Foreword by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Hope in Action by Cardinal Vincent Nichols is about hope in a world which seems full of hopeless problems, by which we too often feel defeated. This is not a book for those who prefer to withdraw into an unreal, rose-tinted world. It is about sexual violence and abuse, human trafficking and slavery, religious extremism and the world’s victims. It is also about Christians as agents of mercy, mission and hope. Simply written but full of profound wisdom, it is a book which Christians of every denomination should read. It is available at the Abbey Shop at the discounted price of £6.95.

God with us by Rowan Williams

A year after I began my training for ordination at Westcott House, Cambridge – and reading for the Theology Tripos at Trinity College – a young man arrived at Westcott as our new Chaplain. And – shock horror – he was a layman! The Principal had appointed him because he recognised in the young Rowan Williams a profound theologian, a brilliant scholar and a man of deep faith and deep prayer. We arrogant young ordinands soon recognised all those gifts in Rowan, and many more.

Rowan was ordained Deacon in Westcott House Chapel at the end of my second year. I am proud to have been invited by him a year later to be the Deacon at his first celebration of the Eucharist in the same chapel, days after I had been ordained Deacon in Bristol Cathedral. I am also so pleased that he accepted my invitation to come to the Abbey as Archbishop of Canterbury to the great service we held in 2005 to mark our 13th centenary (not, as an eagle-eyed parishioner has noticed [thanks, Bob – no wonder you made Professor!], the service in 1998 which was the millennial celebration of the Abbey’s becoming a full Benedictine monastery in its own right. Rowan preached at that too, but was then “only” Bishop of Monmouth).

Over the years I have bought and read all of Rowan’s prodigious output of books, which continued throughout his time as ABC (as the Archbishop is always known in the trade!) and has increased in number since his “retirement” and appointment as Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge (the wrong Magdalen, from my point of view: you can take a man out of Oxford and plonk him in Cambridge, but you will never take Oxford out of the man).

Now I will share a secret with you. I struggle with some of Rowan’s bigger books. It’s not so much the depth of the thinking as the need to get a half-nelson on the grammar, the over-long sentences and all the consecutive clauses. But when he wants to write simply and accessibly for ordinary people like you and me, he can do it superbly well. That is why I have no hesitation in recommending his latest book as my Lent Book for 2017. It is entitled God with us: the meaning of the cross and resurrection – then and now. Its published price is £8.99, but because I want to get you all reading it, you can buy it at the Abbey Shop in the Close for £6.95.

Deepest Dorset edited by Fanny Charles & Gay Pirrie-Weir

Edited by journalists Fanny Charles and Gay Pirrie-Weir, this splendid book looks at what makes Dorset special, how it has developed, and how its combination of benign climate, beautiful scenery, stunning coastline, glorious buildings, vibrant creative arts and outstanding food continue to draw people. Beautifully produced, it includes a series of photographic essays by the Sherborne-based photographer, Katharine Davies, and contributions from a host of Dorset folk. What makes the book extra special is that it is raising funds for Dorset & Somerset Air Ambulance, Weldmar Hospicecare Trust, Dorset Community Foundation and Dorset RNLI. The cover price is £20. There are no production costs to pay as these have been covered by the Rothermere Foundation, and all the contributors have given their services for free.

A Good Year (SPCK) edited by Canon Mark Oakley

This book has a chapter on each of eight major seasons of the Church’s year, from Advent to Pentecost. A Good Year (SPCK) is edited by Canon Mark Oakley, Chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral. All the authors are Anglican bishops, including former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams (Christmas) and his successor Justin Welby (Lent). Other contributors include our own Karen Gorham, Bishop of Sherborne (Pentecost) and former Bishop of Ramsbury, Stephen Conway, now Bishop of Ely (Easter). Abbey Shop Manager Phil Prout is able to offer this splendid volume with a major discount: £6.95 instead of £9.95.