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Archive for May, 2013

What N. T. Wright Didn’t Write

Breaking BeatifulIt’s been a long time since we had a story as interesting as this one to share, but this one has certainly been worth the wait. Wholesale distributors are listing a new title, Breaking Beautiful: The Promise of Truth in a Fractured World by N. T. Wright (with Tim Suttle) as a July 1st release from either Beacon Hill Press (as Send the Light lists it) or House Studios (as Ingram/Spring Arbor lists it) in both student workbook editions (at $12.99 US) and a leader edition (at $39.99) containing six videos (an inclusion lost in the annotation with both distributors).

But Christianity Today is reporting that N. T. Wright is distancing himself greatly from the project if not totally denying any association with it.

An Australian blogger, Micahel Bird is quoted — from a blog post now removed — as having this interaction with N. T. Wright

“He was mystified when I mentioned the book to him since he’s never heard of it before, nor does he recollect ever meeting a chap called Tim Suttle,” wrote Bird (in a post he has since taken down). “Hmm. Very strange indeed. The immediate word that comes to mind is ‘forgery.’ “

Tim Suttle, on the other hand delves into much greater detail in his regular Monday Morning Confessional series:

Months ago I was asked to write six chapters to accompany a video series – a work for hire thing. The House Studio packages these great small group resources consisting of a set of video talks by a well known scholar and a short chapter written by some unknown author interacting with the video, some of the theological issues at stake, and discussion questions for the group. They have produced several – Stanley Hauerwas, Walter Brueggemann, Shane Claiborne – all of which I highly recommend. They do a couple of things well, including printing the transcript of the video before the chapter, which seems to allow better discussion. Plus, if you only buy the book, you still get the transcripts of the talks (I’m guessing most groups buy 5-6 books and only one DVD). This is my second project for this series, the first is Public Jesus. The videos are mine for that one.

The videos for which I was asked to write were of N.T. Wright. They were produced by Travis Reed at The Work of the People, who sold the rights to the House. It was all done contractually and legally. N.T. Wright signed a contract with The House Studio authorizing the use of the video and the production of the associated materials that I wrote. For my part, it was a work for hire project – 2 grand for six chapters… roughly $14.25 an hour. I wasn’t set to get any of the royalties from the project – those were slated to go to Wright and Reed. The House has done everything legally and above board.

These series are not big sellers, and I doubt very much if The House makes any money on them – especially Breaking Beautiful because it was so expensive. The packages are meant to entice people who would typically not read something by Hauerwas, Brueggemann, or N.T. Wright, to get some exposure to these important thinkers. Video based curriculum help folks who aren’t tempted to read theology to get caught up in theological discussion. They are solid gold in my parish and serve the church well.

I woke up to an email this morning from Tom Wright saying he had only found out about the project from a friend, stating that he had not given permission for it… ugh. Meanwhile a pretty snarky blog post about and subsequent Facebook posts came out from a Pauline Scholar saying the whole project is a scam.

Nevertheless, on the internet today I’m being called a forger…

…I want to clarify that I have had no control over how this project was marketed. I think “N.T. Wright with Tim Suttle” does not reflect what really happened. In fact the moment I saw the cover I said so publicly. Two months ago I made sure to post something to mitigate any sense that I was somehow collaborating with N.T. Wright – you can see it here….

…I was really excited about a writing project that I put my heart and soul into doing. I thought it represented some of my best pastoral writing. Now it’s being completely slammed, and I’m being treated like a joke, and the whole thing may fall through…

continue reading here

For its part, House Studios has not made any statement about the project. Amazon has pulled the page the listing the title, though you can see it in this cached page

Note to Canadian Readers: Book Manager is showing this title as in stock at David C. Cook, but such is not the case, the title is on order.

An expanded consumer-friendly version of this story appears at Thinking Out Loud.

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A Must Add to Your Apologetics Section

Cold Case ChristianityEvery decade or so a great work of apologetics appears which breaks the boundaries of the discipline and reaches a wider audience. Josh McDowell did it years ago with Evidence That Demands a Verdict; Frank Morrison with Who Moved the Stone? and more recently Lee Strobel brought a large audience to the discussion with The Case for Christ series.

Enter former Los Angeles County homicide investigator J. Warner Wallace and his book Cold Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels. (2013, David C. Cook, paper). Like Strobel and Morrison, Wallace was a skeptic turned believer, and like McDowell, Wallace leaves no stone unturned in his study of the reliability of scripture, from obscure passages to those central to core doctrine.

The book is divided into two parts, the nature of cold case investigation — and this case is 2,000 + years old, and the particular evidence that the Bible offers. But first one other book comparison, and you won’t see it coming. Years ago Philip Keller wrote A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23. People loved that book because there were particular insights that only one who tended sheep could offer toward interpretation of the text that begins “The Lord is my shepherd.” In many respects, Cold Case Christianity offers the same type of intimacy with the subject matter that only an insider who has worked in this vocation can contribute. So if you someone feels they’ve read enough apologetics titles to last a lifetime, allow me to offer one more!

It’s important to note that Wallace approached this originally from the perspective of an atheist. While the evidence in this case is compelling, I found the first part of the book (which is more than half of the total) most interesting. Possible recipients of this book would include men (Father’s Day is coming) and anyone who reads mysteries or watches mystery or suspense on video or TV; as well as anyone who works in any part of the criminal justice system.

In a sense, in Cold Case Christianity readers are the jury. So the other possible recipients of this book would be anyone who is investigating Christianity; including people who might not read other books in the apologetics genre.

The second part of the book is the evidence itself. Here, Wallace brings in much from non-Biblical sources, satisfying the oft-voice complaint that some apologists are simply using the Bible to prove the Bible.

J. Warner Wallace is now part of the ministry of Stand To Reason, and posts articles and blogs at PleaseConvinceMe.com . I intend to keep my personal copy of this handbook within reach and will no doubt refer back to it many times.

Wanted: Christian Greeting Card Supplier

We needed more Bridal Shower cards, so I simply selected an item from a description without actually seeing the artwork. The problem is that you can’t see individual retail cards on the Dayspring consumer website because you can’t buy them online. However, in the space allocated to comments and special instructions, I put a note saying, “Please do not ship the Bridal Shower card if it is dorky.” Yes, I really wrote that.

It was more than dorky. The card featured this caption, “There Will Be Showers of Blessing.” The line is play on words related to a hymn, “There Shall Be Showers of Blessing,” but this card is being given to young brides, with an emphasis on young. I don’t what things are like in Elgin, Illinois — home to Dayspring Cards — but most of the brides getting married where I live have never sung “Showers of Blessing.”

I mentioned this to someone who is aware of my ongoing frustration with Dayspring and they replied, “They need to get out of the house more often.” We really need some supplier competition in this market to shake up and wake up the existing dominant supplier.

Seriously, do these greeting card designs not go through a vetting process, or does someone simply come up with what they believe to be a good idea, and then 100,000 or 250,000 (or whatever their press run is) cards are immediately printed and added as an update to the grids of stores across North America?  Which dealers sit on their advisory committee? How many hours per year does the creative team spend in retail stores?

Also in Elgin, Illinois is the home base for Harvest Bible Chapel. I’ll bet it is a very large church. Dayspring staff should visit sometime. They’ll discover they don’t sing “Showers of Blessing.”

BookNet Canada Survey Suggests E-Books Plateauing

Don’t count physical paperbacks and hardcovers dead just yet…

BookNet Canada president and CEO Noah Genner says early sales data from this year shows ebook sales are steady and no longer growing.

Digital sales peaked at an estimated 17.6 per cent of the book market in the first quarter of 2012 before sinking to 12.9 per cent in the last quarter of the year.

BookNet Canada suggests book sales are strongly tied to gift giving.

Consumers who received an e-reader over the holidays likely drove ebook sales higher at the beginning of 2012. But ebooks are not commonly given as gifts, so paperbacks and hardcovers did better at the end of 2012 leading up to the holiday season.

continue reading at Canadian Press

The full report at BookNet contains more details:

The report has also revealed that Canadians still prefer to buy their books in physical stores. 34% of book purchases were made in non-book retailers, 37% in bookstores and 25% online—print book purchases made online account for 19% of those online sales. The top reasons respondents said they chose brick-and-mortar bookstores were the convenience of the location, the selection available and ease of purchase. Non-book retailers, such as Costco and Walmart, were used for those same reasons, but pricing and the convenience of being able to shop for other items were cited more often.

“We’ve found that the dominant factor in selecting a retailer is convenience,” says Pamela Millar, Director of Customer Relations at BookNet Canada. “Great location, what’s in stock and the opportunity to complete more than one errand—they all come down to convenience. Pricing comparison isn’t as big a factor as we might have guessed.”

While pricing is a factor for some shoppers when selecting retailers, shoppers don’t often perform pricing comparisons. This suggests that showrooming, the practice of examining a product in a store and then buying it online for a lower price, may not be that widespread an issue for the book industry in Canada. 55% of respondents indicated they rarely or never compared book prices between stores.

Continue reading the full report summary at BookNet Canada

Canadian Blogger Praises Breadth of Publishers Releasing Quality Product

Canada’s top Christian blogger Tim Challies yesterday released a summary of the various books that have passed his litmus test and received full review treatment, noting the range of publishers represented. A postive review at challies.com is positive news for authors and agents.  While some on the list reflect the blog’s Reformed bias, the list (linked below) is actually quite diverse. He writes:

I don’t mean to say that I am the final arbiter of which books are good and which are not; rather, like everyone else, I read and form opinions and, at the end, either recommend or don’t recommend.

I went back through the book review archives, looked at the books I have reviewed positively over the past several months, and jotted down the publishers. I was surprised and encouraged to see just how many different publishers are represented here. It turns out that a lot of publishers are releasing lots of excellent books.

Click here to read the list. Want to know more? Each book title in the list is also a link to his review for that title.

Keep Books on Hell Prominent

This time it’s Dan Brown, not Rob Bell that might stir further interest in the topic of Hell.  Publisher’s Weekly reported that Brown’s Inferno could spark (pun intended) a sale of books on the topic and also noted some new titles you can add to the mix:

Houses with roots in evangelical Christianity, which considers hell a real, physical place, also have some new titles, including Harvest House’s What’s the Truth About Heaven and Hell? Sorting Out the Confusion About the Afterlife by Douglas A. Jacoby (April) and Bethany House’s Unseen: Angels, Satan, Heaven, Hell and Winning the Battle for Eternity by Jack Graham (Aug.). Andy McGuire, Bethany’s acquisitions editor, says the interest in titles about hell and heaven might be the result of a “backlash” against a more scientific worldview. “I think people are rebelling against a sort of pure scientism or naturalism and saying, ‘I want to believe in something more because I am something more.’” Aaron Dillon, publicist for Harvest House, also thinks interest in hell and heaven is driven by a reaction. “When you see things happen like Sandy Hook and the Boston Marathon bombing, that can prime people to look for resources like this,” he says. “It is a perennial topic, but there is a bit of a surge now.”

The article also mentioned the following book, but note the two underlined sections I’ve added:

“Surge” is a good word to describe the trajectory of Heaven is Real But So is Hell: An Eyewitness Account of What’s to Come by Vassula Ryden (Alexian, Mar.), which is so far the most successful of these hellish books. Ryden, a Greek Orthodox woman who describes herself as a mystic and seer, serves up a prophetic vision of the afterlife and current events. Her self-published book hit some heavenly milestones–#1 on BarnesandNoble.com for more than a week, #3 on USA Today’s religion bestsellers list, and #12 on PW’s hardcover nonfiction bestsellers list, among others.

The book is not available at CBD or Send the Light.

Read the whole article at Publisher’s Weekly

From time to time there are books that while you might get asked for them, you might not want to carry them in a Christian bookstore environment. If you hear of titles like that, let us know so we can share the info with others.

Rend Collective Tops UK Christian Sales Chart

As Christian Retailing noted this week, a new weekly Christian music chart has begun in the UK. Checking out the May 18th edition, we found Rend Collective Experiment in the #1 position this week.

Official Charts Company - Christian List - May 18 2013

Here’s a sample of their music.

Ordering Nuances – How to Buy Wisely

  • We all want younger customers to come to our stores. “Buy for the customers you’d like to see;” is how some people describe it. We also want to encourage next-generation authors. However, the target demographic is the very demographic that either buys online or has embraced eBooks. This is a situation that requires very cautious, finely tuned ordering.
  • I don’t care how well the initial product did, it doesn’t assure you that the spin-off products are going to succeed. Usually, it’s the first product that keeps on selling. Healthy skepticism is required. The general market is wiser at recognizing that everybody gets their “15 minutes of fame,” but usually it’s only 15 minutes.
  • If the item retails for $29.99 U.S. — I’m thinking of the Harbinger video — but an online vendor is selling it every day at 47% off there are two things at play here: (1) It’s possible that the list price is totally meaningless, and is artificially created knowing full well that the product would then be deeply discounted online; and (2) It’s crazy to carry items where your online competitor can do you the most damage. Just say no. Or wait for the price reduction.
  • Your greatest successes are going to occur when you find titles that are flying below the radar nationally, but for which you have seen demonstrated local interest, and are able to generate more local interest. We did this with Leona Choy’s Life Changing Power of the Holy Spirit (actually bringing the print edition back to press) and John Walton’s The Lost World of Genesis One. A few years back, we were the only Christian store in Canada to order The Kiwi Bible from Penguin and actually did a re-order on this several months later.
  • There was once an adage in Christian retail that while the general market was 80% frontlist and 20% backlist; the Christian market was only 20% frontlist and 80% backlist. That ship has long sailed — whoever coined it long gone — however, we need to recognize that one of the distinctives of Christian publishing is the longevity of our backlist and perennial titles. But publishers need to be more upfront about when a title is merely a repackaging, when it’s an updated edition, and when it’s an old book appearing with a new title.

Top Selling Children’s Bible Storybook Spins Off DVD Series

After at least seven years of reading and writing Christian blogs intensely, I’ve never seen so many book reviews for a Children’s product as greeted The Jesus Storybook Bible when it was first introduced. Now, Zonderkids introduces a series of four DVDs at $9.99 US. This little story excerpt makes a great inclusion on your store’s website or Facebook page.

The Little Way of Ruthie Leming

The Little Way of Ruthie Leming - Rod Dreher The above title is also the title of the book under consideration today, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming; which I learned about yesterday from Nathan Douglas, a graduate in film studies from Simon Fraser University now building a career as a writer, editor and director.  I asked him if he would fill us all in…

I’ve been reading Rod Dreher for at least 4 or 5 years, but I can’t remember how I first stumbled across his blog. He quickly became one of my favourite commentators on religious and cultural topics. I found his viewpoint – that of an independent, conservative, Orthodox Christian – to be refreshing in how he passionately and intelligently defended traditional Christian arguments in the various cultural debates of our time.

When his sister was diagnosed with cancer in 2010, he allowed his readers an intimate window into his family’s suffering. I have never read blog posts more heart rending than the ones he posted in the days immediately after her diagnosis. It was a man literally bleeding though the computer screen. After that, he went silent for over a year, returning to blogging at The American Conservative in September 2011,  just before his sister’s death. Once again, his posts reflecting on her suffering, her death, and the effect it had on him and his family – playing out in real time through those months for his readers as much as for himself – were astonishing in their intimacy.

This was the beginning of his new book The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, which released last month and details the story of his loving but tumultuous relationship with his sister, his parents, and his hometown, and the fruit that their collective love and suffering as a family, and as a community, bore in his life.

~ND

The 271-page book released on April 9th in hardcover from Grand Central Publishing. Here is their synopsis:

Dreher, a Philadelphia journalist, went back to his hometown of St. Francisville, Louisiana (pop. 1,700) in the wake of his sister’s death. He was moved by the way the community rallied around her. Dreher and his wife decided to move back and join the community.

I mentioned to Nathan that since the book landed on Grand Central, and not FaithWords, it was probably off the radar for many Christian bookstores. Ingram and CBD carry it, STL does not.  Apparently Dreher has noted this also, and Nathan sent me this comment from the author:

I know my mainstream publicist worked extremely hard on this book, but in retrospect, I wish I had hired a parallel publicist to work with the Evangelical market. I was considering a couple of weeks ago doing that, but did some research, and discovered that it was a lost cause at this point — any publicity work a Christian publicist could have done ought to have been done three months in advance of release. Live and learn.

Personally, I don’t think it’s ever too late for a book to gain traction. This is a title to keep your eye on. The book has endorsements from Eric Metaxas, Ann Voskamp, Wm. Paul Young and Russell D. Moore; but none of its ten Library of Congress categories include religion or Christianity which makes its marketing somewhat paradoxical.

For more, see the author’s post, Is Little Way Theologically Incorrect?

9781455521913

Chasing Francis: Is it Fiction, Church Growth, or Church History?

I don’t want to toss out cheap superlatives like, ‘Best book I ever read,’ but 24 hours after finishing Chasing Francis: A Pilgrim’s Tale by Ian Morgan Cron, I definitely feel that this is one of best written books I’ve ever read. With equal parts contemporary ecclesiology, church history, and Italy travelog, You can practically taste the Italian food. Chasing Francis is an excellent work of fiction that’s more about facts than fiction.

Chasing FrancisSome explanation is necessary. For me, this book fits in with the type of fiction that I’ve been attracted to over the past few years; what I call Socratic dialog. Think Paul Young in The Shack and Crossroads, Andy Andrews in The Noticer and other titles, David Gregory in the Perfect Stranger trilogy; books that use story as a motif for teaching.

But Zondervan, didn’t see it that way, identifying the advance copy I received in the Christian Living category and avoiding the category thing entirely on their website. Here’s their synopsis:

Pastor Chase Falson has lost his faith in God, the Bible, evangelical Christianity, and his super-sized megachurch. When he falls apart, the church elders tell him to go away: as far away as possible…

Falson crosses the Atlantic to Italy to visit his uncle, a Franciscan priest. There he is introduced to the revolutionary teachings of Saint Francis of Assisi and finds an old, but new way of following Jesus that heals and inspires.

Chase Falson’s spiritual discontent mirrors the feelings of a growing number of Christians who walk out of church asking, Is this all there is? They are weary of celebrity pastors, empty calorie teaching, and worship services where the emphasis is more on Lights, Camera, Action than on Father, Son, and Holy Spirit while the deepest questions of life remain unaddressed in a meaningful way.

Bestselling author Ian Morgan Cron masterfully weaves lessons from the life of Saint Francis into the story of Chase Falson to explore the life of a saint who 800 years ago breathed new life into disillusioned Christians and a Church on the brink of collapse.

Well that’s about right, though the weight of the book rests more in its thoroughly researched study of Assisi’s Francis than today’s Chase, but without ignoring the connection to the modern church in North America.

In an afterword the author of My Father, The CIA and Me: A Memoir,  says he struggled with committing his picture of the classic saint to something in the modern fiction genre. His struggle does not evidence itself. There are characters here to identify with and, unlike the way you might think Socratic dialog works, a surprising number of plot turns. (For the record, Cron prefers the term wisdom literature.)

Who should read Chasing Francis? Anyone who wants more meat in their Christian fiction. Pastors and church leaders for whom it should be required reading. Local church adherents and members concerned with the direction of the contemporary Church and/or evangelism. People with a passion for social justice who would benefit from a refresher course on St. Francis’ approach to poverty and injustice.

I mentioned The Shack earlier. While this book doesn’t have the same general market crossover potential, I believe that in the right hands it does have the potential to make a major impact on the capital C Church; but first both brick and mortar bookstore and online vendors need to settle whether it goes in the church history section or church growth section or the fiction section. Books that land between categories often languish in either or fall between the cracks altogether.

So I’ve got a section for Chasing Francis: Recommended Reading.

Remainders

Over the next few months, we’ll be using this space to promote package sales of the inventory from our Brockville store.  Until then…

If you’re a small store in Eastern or Central Ontario — to save costs by doing a pickup — looking to get into remainders for the first time, we have a package available of hand-picked titles that allows you to not have to meet large minimum order requirements.  You’re not just getting remainders, you’re getting a collection of the best of remainders.

Click the comments section for details.

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