On Monday, we promised you awe-inspiring books in this Holiday Shopping guide and, so far, we’ve delivered 6 dazzling choices …
Read Our Entire Series: Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. Part 4. Part 5.
TODAY, we have Best Bets 7 through 10. (Note: There’s no implication of
ranking within the list. All are great choices.)
No. 7: BOB DYLAN Like You’ve Never Seen Him Before …
“BOB DYLAN REVISITED”
IF YOU LOOK AT THE COVER of this book and your mind is flashing the phrase, “Don’t Look Back,” then there’s really no more I need to tell you. You’ll want a copy.
Like most Baby Boomers, I’ve gone from thinking Dylan was cool, to prophetic, to forgettable, to weird, to infuriating, to cool, to absolutely brilliant in articulating the bittersweet arc of American life in this era of turbulent change.
We’ve written a lot over the past two years about the spiritual revival of graphic novels. There’s no question that comics dominate global culture—just look at the all-time-top-grossing movies and you’ll find most of them leaping from the pages of comic books. So, it’s one more timely morphing for Dylan to allow 13 top comic artists from around the world to interpret 13 of his songs.
Unless you’re a serious devotee of comics’ cutting edge, you won’t recognize the artists’ names. Many are based in Europe. But their work? Well, you’ll keep popping your eyes as you walk through “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall,” “Desolation Row,” “Like a Rolling Stone,” “Hurricane,” and “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” among others.
This book is blossoming with a broad array of styles and genres—evidence of how much creative energy radiates from the nuclear power plant that is Dylan.
My personal favorite is Dave McKean’s “Desolation Row.” McKean is a multi-media artist known in comic circles for his edgy series in the 1990s, “Cages,” which was partly about cats and partly about artists’ creative passions. His version of Dylan’s song is almost wordless and moves from colorful sketches to collages and ultimately seems to explode from the pages of the book.
CLICK HERE to buy “Bob Dylan Revisited” from Amazon and help ReadTheSpirit along the way.
No. 8: WILLIS BARNSTONE’s massive …
“RESTORED NEW TESTAMENT”
WEIGHING IN AT NEARLY 1,500 PAGES, no one will mistake this gift for yet another shirt and tie.
Phrases like “life’s work” and “monumental” are appropriate in describing this effort to reawaken interest in the New Testament by expanding it and revising its translation in light of new scholarship. Barnstone, who has an impressive resume as a translator and scholar, realizes that this book is both audacious and extremely important. He disarmingly admits that he is only a “stumbling straggler” in this effort—but also lists other such stragglers as Walt Whitman and Picasso. Obviously, there’s an epic intention in this massive book.
Of course, any reader will argue with some of Barnstone’s choices and some of his passionate arguments in prefaces and annotations throughout the book—but then, that’s the whole point. I mean, I’ve never seen a Bible with a chapter in it called, “Bon Voyage.” When is the last time you had a good, passionate argument about the nature of the New Testament?
Among the very important revisions here, there are great overview articles about the problem of perceived anti-Semitism in the gospels, about the historical order of the texts, about the grouping of the various pieces—and about books that Barnstone feels should have been included. As examples, he adds the so-called “Gnostic Gospels” of Thomas, Mary Magdala and Judas to his New Testament.
I guarantee this is a pass-around book at any gathering. From
decades of religion writing, I know that there’s nothing that touches
nerves and sparks interest like a new version of the Bible.
No. 9: EDWARD LUCIE-SMITH Celebrates …
“THE GLORY OF ANGELS”
FOR AMERICANS OF A CERTAIN AGE, we might describe Edward Lucie-Smith as the Alistair Cook of fine arts—a British sophisticate who has turned himself into a full-time “host.” Lucie-Smith actually was born in Jamaica, but he’s lived in the UK since 1946. His name is associated with more than 100 books, nearly all of them about the arts or poetry.
More valuable than his expertise in a book like “The Glory of Angels” is his name and and associated tone as a host—signaling a popular appeal and a classy presentation. That’s relevant, because this really is a lavish coffee-table book that wows readers with its gorgeous, full-color images of angel art from around the world.
Earlier this week, in naming R. Crumb’s “Genesis” among these 10 Best Bets, I pointed out that we’d be dumb to ignore the huge popularity of Crumb’s graphic retelling of scriptures. The same thing is true here. There are few elements in spiritual iconography as popular as angels. I’ve even seen customers recently flipping open this particular angel book in a suburban Borders store—circled around the book in several easy chairs.
Yes, there are short chapters here about the variations of angels in religious traditions—along with some thoughts about artists’ depictions of these heavenly beings. But, really? This is just a great big beautiful book of angel pictures and, even on that level, it’s an awesome gift.
CLICK HERE to buy “The Glory of Angels” from Amazon.
No. 10: BARBARA BROWN TAYLOR—Little Book/Dramatic Impact
“AN ALTAR IN THE WORLD”
OF ALL THE WRITERS we’ve recommended to you this year, the single most popular author—based on your Web traffic in our online magazine–is Barbara Brown Taylor with her best-selling spiritual memoir, “An Altar in the World.”
The book actually is more than a memoir of her experiences and reflections. From your responses, since we recommended her book in February, this book is received as a kind of a manifesto or a call to arms by many readers. There’s confirmation here that our spiritual journeys outside the formal walls of organized religion can be valuable—as affirmed by a major Christian teacher.
We saw the importance of this book way back in January—naming Barbara one of the “10 Spiritual Sages to Watch in ’09.” Then, in February we published an in-depth interview with her about the book.
CLICK HERE to buy “An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith” from Amazon.
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(Originally published at https://readthespirit.com/)