Books Uncommon and Offbeat
Funeral for a Stranger
This slim book—the length perfectly judged for its purpose—was occasioned by a funeral that Becca Stevens, an Episcopal priest, was asked to conduct for a woman outside her congregation. The narrative shifts back and forth between that event and Stevens's reflections and memories, culminating in the funeral itself and our shared hope for resurrection. Seemingly artless, Stevens writes with a hard-won discipline that makes you forget you are even reading. My wife and I will be stocking up copies of this one. A good companion volume, in a different register, is Thomas Long's Accompany Them with Singing: The Christian Funeral, coming in October.
No subject in recent memory has generated as much nonsense as the weird realm of quantum mechanics, ranging from The Dancing Wu Li Masters to What the Bleep Do We Know? (not to mention well-meaning but misguided Christian efforts to ground free will in quantum indeterminacy). The great science-writer Jeremy Bernstein provides a wonderful antidote in this lucid, witty book, which draws on his firsthand acquaintance with many of the principal players in the development of quantum theory. Special bonus for theologically and poetically inclined readers: Bernstein's first chapter, "Bishops," on W. H. Auden and the Gifford Lectures of Ernest William Barnes.
The season is heading for its World Series climax. Fall is in the air. Time to look back at the baseball equivalent of the church fathers. Our guide is Peter Morris, and here he recounts the changing role of the catcher, from the barehanded era into the early 20th century. Along the way, with no huffing and puffing, he gives us a sense of how changes on the baseball field reflected changes in America. Question: Who was the greatest 19th-century player? Morris says it was Jim "Deacon" White (yes, a catcher).
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John Wilson is editor of Books & Culture, a Christianity Today sister publication.
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