A Most Peculiar Book: The inherent strangeness of the Bible by K. Swenson (OUP, £18.99 (£17.09); 978-0-19-065173-2).
“In A Most Peculiar Book, Kristin Swenson addresses the dirty little secret of biblical studies — that the Bible is a weird book. It is full of surprises and contradictions, unexplained impossibilities, intriguing supernatural creatures, and heroes doing horrible deeds. It does not provide a simple worldview: what "the Bible says" on a given topic is multi-faceted, sometimes even contradictory. Yet, Swenson argues, we have a tendency to reduce the complexities of the Bible to aphorisms, bumper stickers, and slogans. Swenson helps readers look at the text with fresh eyes. A collection of ancient stories and poetry written by multiple authors, held together by the tenuous string of tradition, the Bible often undermines our modern assumptions. And is all the more marvellous and powerful for it. Rather than dismiss the Bible as an outlandish or irrelevant relic of antiquity, Swenson leans into the messiness full throttle. Making ample room for discomfort, wonder, and weirdness, A Most Peculiar Book guides readers through a Bible that will feel, to many, brand new.”
Pilgrimage: Journeys of meaning by Peter Stanford (Thames and Hudson, £25 (£22.50); 978-0-500-25241-3).
“Peter Stanford reflects on the reasons people have walked along the same sacred paths across the ages. How do the experiences of the first pilgrims to Jerusalem, Mecca and Santiago de Compostela compare to the millions of people who embark upon life-changing physical and spiritual journeys today? And why do we still feel compelled to walk, stop and think about our lives? Pilgrimage explores sacred landscapes across the world, the 88 temples on the island of Shikoku in Japan, to the monolithic rock-cut churches of Lalibela, Ethiopia and the riverbanks of the Kumbh Mela in India. These journeys are to places of healing and reflection, but also to sites of danger and even violence, at crossroads where different political and religious tensions meet. While pilgrimage is viewed as an escape from the everyday to refocus the mind and soul, struggles for power and social upheaval have always had an impact on the way pilgrims experience their own personal journey. Peter Stanford guides us through the history of pilgrimage, its meanings and experiences today, as a new generation seeking solace, clarity and wonder follow in the footsteps of travellers from the past.”
The Contemporary Woman: Can she really have it all? by Michele Guinness (Hodder & Stoughton, £14.99 (£13.59); 978-1-529-35831-5).
“At a time when the status of women is still being debated and challenged, how can women play a leading role in society, the workplace and the church? Michele Guinness has been there and done that — not without opposition and not without compromise. In this all-embracing, honest reflection on womanhood, Michele uses her own upbringing in the Jewish community to re-examine the views and counterviews on the role of women throughout the Christian tradition and culture, drawing inspiration from scripture, history, and personal experience. The Contemporary Woman celebrates a host of women through the ages — from the great biblical matriarchs to the modern-day trailblazers — who have inherited a passionate determination to pursue God’s radical call. Michele will encourage women everywhere, of every age, to follow their hearts, and inspire a new generation to discover what it means to be a woman.”
Selected by Aude Pasquier, of the Church House Bookshop, which operates the Church Times Bookshop.