Be Transformed by Bob Schuchts (Ave Maria Press, £14.99). The author has written a thoughtful book on “the healing power of the sacraments”. Schuchts, a marriage and family therapist for 35 years, brings his experience to the subject of grace and how it restores us within each of the seven sacraments. Recognising that we are all wounded, he argues, for example, that Confession is intended to heal the wounds of shame and the anointing of the sick is intended to heal the wounds of hopelessness. The book is meant “for every reader at every stage of his or her spiritual journey”.
The Christian Life by Karl Barth (Bloomsbury, £18.99). Barth, one of the most eminent Protestant theologians of the 20th century, was sufficiently impressive for Pope Pius XII to call him the most important theologian since Thomas Aquinas. This newly reissued volume concerns the Christian orientation towards ethical life, using especially the Doctrine of Reconciliation in its lucid argument. Important in these modern, atomised times, Barth’s vision sees mankind as one family under God, emphasising the importance of prayer and the struggle for righteousness.
99 Stories of God by Joy Williams (Profile Books, £10). This slim book is essential reading for all lovers of short stories. The 99 stories in this collection, written with skill and wit, are only a page – or less – long, yet they are packed with perception and a clear-eyed understanding of human nature. Almost like a form of haiku, they make the reader pause, ponder and generally retire feeling cheered and baffled in equal measure. Titles include The Brain, Hedgehog, Aubade and Sibling (about William and Henry James). They cannot be paraphrased – and God’s role is inevitably enigmatic.
The Traitors by Josh Ireland (John Murray, £20). Subtitled “A true story of blood, betrayal and deceit”, the book charts the lives of four men who betrayed their country in World War II: John Amery, Harold Cole, William Joyce and Eric Pleasants. Of these Joyce, known as “Lord Haw-Haw”, was the most brilliant and Amery the most tragic. The son of Leo Amery, a member of Churchill’s war cabinet, he showed sociopathic tendencies from early life, being dissolute, promiscuous, irresponsible and impulsive. Ireland chooses to write in the present tense. Somewhat overwritten, his book is nonetheless insightful, imaginative and fascinating to read.
Beyond the Balfour Declaration by Leslie Turnberg (Biteback Publishing, £20). After a distinguished career in medicine Turnberg, president of the Royal College of Physicians and a Labour peer, has written a thought-provoking study of the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian problem. Written to commemorate the 100 years since the Balfour Declaration supporting a Jewish homeland in Palestine, the book charts the history of the conflict, the failures in the search for a resolution and the long, faltering, as yet unsuccessful steps towards a peaceful settlement.
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