Glimpses of Glory by David Bryant (Bloomsbury, £9.99). In this Mowbray Lent Book for 2017 the author, who died of cancer last year, offers 40 daily reflections that draw on poetry, literature, art, music and his own experience, to share his abiding sense of the supernatural. Among other topics, he draws out a Christian message of hope and solace in chapters which include themes of suicide, chaos and brutality. He concludes with a powerful reflection on Gerard Manley Hopkins’s poem The Wreck of the Deutschland, commenting that the poem points towards Easter, “the starting point for an inner transformation of our being”.
Talking About Dying by Philip Giddings et al (Wilberforce Publications, £8). The four contributors to this collection bring their Christian witness as well as personal experience to this sensitive subject. Suicide, children’s deaths and still-births are covered, as are sudden death and life-threatening illness. Practical advice is given on advanced directives, as well as useful websites and a select bibliography. The authors want their book to be “both an encouragement and a source of hope … from our Christian faith that God does not want death to be the end … but the gateway to everlasting life”.
Children of God in the World by Paul O’Callaghan (Catholic University of America Press, £32). Postmodernity signals fragmentation and a suspicion of anything that vaguely resembles coherence in the ethical domain. Catholic culture, by contrast, places great trust in concepts such as integrity and unity, because all aspects of human life derive from a single divine origin. Shall the twain ever meet? It seems unlikely, so O’Callaghan’s impressive book dwells unapologetically on the transformative role of faith on human identity and spends most of its time exploring the operation of grace: very much a staple of theological anthropology.
Lenin the Dictator by Victor Sebestyen (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, £25). With a title that gives no quarter, Sebestyen paints perhaps the fullest portrait we have in English of Lenin. While many biographies focus on his rise and consolidation of power, Sebestyen looks at Lenin the man. It’s no surprise to find that Lenin was loose with women, even looser with the truth and would often fly into apoplectic rages. There are great sections on the seizure of power and the early days of Bolshevik rule but also diversions into Lenin’s love life. Using newly unearthed documents, this is a skilful and enlightening biography.
Eat Me by Bill Schutt (Wellcome Collection, £14.99). Subtitled “A Natural and Unnatural History of Cannibalism”, Schutt’s short, shocking book regales us with the fact that man’s last great taboo has been in effect in all places and at all times. Schutt is a biologist and he begins by looking at cannibalism in the animal world. His survey of humans takes us from the eating habits of Neanderthals, through myths of Caribs, Papuans and other “cannibalistic societies” to looking at how the CJD crisis has been a consequence of such behaviour. A strange but compelling book.
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