Saints, Shrines and Pilgrims by Roger Rosewell (Bloomsbury, £8.99). Saints were everywhere in medieval England. Their shrines determined pilgrimage routes, their festivals defined calendars and tales of their deeds permeated the culture. “Life,” as Rosewell puts it, “was unimaginable without them.” Rosewell crams an impressive amount into this handsomely illustrated book, from the processes of saint-making and the care lavished on shrines, to the chaos and destruction wrought by the Reformation. More detailed and analytical surveys are available, but this would be a useful volume to tuck into your glove compartment or backpack.
Radical and Free by Brian O’Leary SJ (Messenger Publications, £9.99). Describing his book as “Musings on the religious life”, the author, an Irish Jesuit, has distilled more than 30 years’ experience of teaching on this subject. Taking four main themes – the origins of religious life, poverty, chastity and obedience – O’Leary shows how they are rooted in Scripture and in tradition. His emphasis is on the values which underpin the vows of consecrated life. He points out that mature Religious surrender themselves into God’s hands and comments: “Such was and remains the goal of religious life.”
Someday by Corinna Turner (Unseen Books, £7.99). With an introduction by Ann Widdecombe and a foreword by Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jos, this book describes in fictionalised form the kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls by the extremist group Boko Haram on April 15, 2014. Proceeds from its sale will go to Aid to the Church in Need, which provides the Church in Nigeria with welcome and much-needed support. The author, who places the mass kidnap in Britain rather than Africa to increase its shock value, has written it as a prequel to her Yesterday & Tomorrow series. Especially recommended for Catholic teenagers.
How Shakespeare Put Politics on the Stage by Peter Lake (Yale University Press, £25). We’re often told that what Shakespeare wrote in his history plays was a direct response to, even an attempt to influence, contemporary events. Few advocates of such historicised readings have possessed both Peter Lake’s intimate knowledge of early modern English politics, religion and society and his imaginative approach to some of the Bard’s most complex works. Some of the parallels between characters and historical figures are a little stretched, but we are left in no doubt that Shakespeare was an astute propagandist as well as a literary genius.
Revolutionary Ride by Lois Pryce (Nicholas Brealey Publishing, £14.99). In 2011, freelance travel writer Lois Pryce received a note from a hitherto unknown Persian man calling himself “Habib” inviting her to visit his home city of Shiraz, in Iran. Impulsively, she did so – and this jaunty narrative records her adventures along the way. What she discovered was a country where ordinary hospitality, friendliness, kindness and generosity seemed completely at odds with the official regime of strict Islamic practice. The author fell in love with Iran, and has returned there twice since her momentous journey.
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