Gospel Values for Catholic Schools by Raymond Friel (Redemptorist, £12.99). Friel, a former headteacher in Catholic secondary schools, has written a thoughtful evaluation of the distinctive qualities and values that Catholic schools should possess. In his introduction, Francis Campbell, vice-chancellor of St Mary’s University, points out that St John Bosco “inspired hundreds of Salesians to embark upon the Catholic education project by means of his bright and joyful witness of what he proclaimed”. This is also clearly Friel’s inspiration. Each chapter concludes with a Scripture passage, reflections by Catholic educationalists and suggested resources.
Waiting on the Word by Lorraine Cavanagh (DLT, £12.99). The author, an Anglican priest, preaches “sermons that connect people with God”. Her book offers advice on how to deal with conflicting emotions and passive aggression, as well as how to become a confident preacher. Noting that the Anglican Church is “increasingly management-led, because it is driven by the need to survive”, the author offers a different, more spiritual and challenging view of what Christian faith is about, pointing out that it must connect with people’s deepest needs, fears and hopes – those “borderlands” of existence.
Beyond the Willing Suspension of Disbelief by Michael Tomko (Bloomsbury, £28.99). Named 2016 Book of the Year by the Conference on Christianity and Literature, this is a scholarly discussion of the art of reading. How and why should we immerse ourselves in fictional worlds and what ought we to do when imaginative empathy becomes morally dangerous? Writers, like wizards, cast spells on us, and Tomko ties his argument to various literary wizards (Prospero, Gandalf, Oz, et al) as he wittily and learnedly unfolds his case. Elegantly written, theologically informed, this is top-level critical theory.
The Owl at the Window by Carl Gorham (Coronet, £14.99). Television comedy writer Carl Gorham has written a funny, sad and affecting memoir about the early death of his wife from cancer and his struggle to rebuild his life without her, along with his six-year-old daughter. Beginning with memories of his happy childhood with two loving and supportive parents, he writes to his former self: “I think of the life ahead, its unexpected twists and turns, and the darkness that will gather. I think of him and how ill-equipped he is to face it all. And I want to warn him.”
Atom by Pierre Bizony (Icon Books,£8.99). Bizony tackles the increasingly strange and non-intuitive world of modern physics in this short, sharp book. The ancient Greeks knew about the atom but its existence was only proven in the last 100 years. Bizony is a great storyteller and the people involved – Einstein, Schrödinger and Heisenberg – make for fascinating reading. Taking in the race for the atomic bomb, quantum mechanics and relativity, this book is a delight from start to finish, making the exceedingly complex easy to understand. It’s one of the best popular science books in years.
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