For most readers Marilynne Robinson is the beloved novelist of Housekeeping and the Gilead trilogy; she’s also a formidable essayist, and in her inspiring fifth collection of nonfiction, The Givenness of Things (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $26), she identifies herself not as a writer but first and foremost as a Christian and a Calvinist. Spanning subjects from neuroscience to Shakespeare, civil rights to quantum physics, Robinson doesn’t just showcase her wide reading interests, she practices the deep-seated humanism she preaches. While the received impression of Puritanism is one of dour, narrow-minded self-righteousness, Robinson, after extensive study of Calvin’s texts, shows that he was a humanist and that, properly understood, Christianity itself is founded in a humanist reverence for everything available to human experience. Breathing life into topics that often seem unapproachable, Robinson explains the Reformation, for instance, as a popular movement that made classical texts available to general readers in the vernacular. Similarly, she believes that Christianity has a wider mission than “merely personal salvation,” and urges today’s churches to look past the so-called “sins Jesus never mentioned”—abortion, marriage equality, liberalism—and focus on “the great sin’”—social injustice. As she did so movingly in Gilead and Home, Robinson critiques and celebrates American history and culture from a rigorously theistic perspective, marveling at “the most complex” thing in the universe, the human brain, with its limitless imagination.

The Givenness of Things: Essays Cover Image
$26.00
ISBN: 9780374298470
Availability: Not On Our Shelves—Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Farrar, Straus and Giroux - October 27th, 2015

The Givenness of Things: Essays Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9781250097316
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Picador - October 25th, 2016

Introducing this anthology of essays on the Bible, The New Yorker’s Adam Gopnik identifies the four main ways of reading The Good Book (Simon & Schuster, $27) as aesthetic, accommodationist, anthropological, and antagonistic. All these commentators follow the first way, though this involves a combination of skepticism, admiration, befuddlement, and consolation. In it for the language, Lydia Davis gives a close reading of the King James Version of Psalm 23, one translator appreciating the decisions of another. Charles McGrath tries to understand his attraction to “the sublime bleakness” of Genesis, and in a wild reading/retelling of the story of Jonah and the whale, Daniel Menaker combines Biblical cadences with postmodern interrogation for a performance worthy of a poetry slam. Most read for the stories, and whether looking for drama, for characters to identify with, or for the sheer intellectual pleasure of texts open to endless interpretations, writers as diverse as Paul Elie, Pico Iyer, Edwidge Danticat, Lois Lowry, and twenty-eight others find it in the Bible, and are moved to tell stories of their own. These range from reverent to funny, from poem to parody, from family memoirs to accounts of social and political activism; all are personal, and, charting the Bible’s impact on their lives, all show how this ancient book is in fact forever new—not “the holy knick-knack” poet Thomas Lynch grew up with, but, as the Reverend Al Sharpton says of the Psalms, something “for real people. Living with real problems.”

The Good Book: Writers Reflect on Favorite Bible Passages Cover Image
By Andrew Blauner (Editor)
ISBN: 9781476789965
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Simon & Schuster - November 10th, 2015

The Good Book: Writers Reflect on Favorite Bible Passages Cover Image
By Andrew Blauner (Editor)
$16.00
ISBN: 9781476789972
Availability: Not On Our Shelves—Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Simon & Schuster - March 28th, 2017