It's that retrospective time of year again. As noted last week, my full-dress report on the books of 2005 appears in the December issue of First Things, which I can heartily recommend on other grounds. But there are far too many books to coveramong those worth coveringfor any single summary. They come thick and fast all year round, but especially in certain seasons, and they pile up so quickly, it's easy to be buried alive.
To survive, you need to keep your wits about you. You mustn't allow yourself to be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of words surrounding you. Pick out a nearby book that catches your eye, that genuinely captures your interest, and begin reading. If you enter the book properly (a la Tuesday Next), everything else will fade away.
Here, for instance, is a compact paperback from Yale University Press, The Crusades: A History, by Jonathan Riley-Smith, first published in 1987 and now issued in a second edition. If you have been looking for a one-volume survey, you won't find a better one than this.
And here, fresh from the printer, is Laurel Gasque's Art and the Christian Mind: The Life and Work of H. R. Rookmaaker (Crossway). If you are intrigued by William Edgar's profile of the art historian Rookmaaker (who worked closely with Francis Schaeffer) in the soon-to-be-mailed January/February issue of Books & Culture, and if you want a companion as you plunge into the six volumes of Rookmaaker's Complete Works (Piquant), Gasque will be an excellent guide. And maybe you will read Riley-Smith and Rookmaaker and Gasque side-by-side, and think about contrasting understandings of visual art in the Christian and Islamic traditions (contrasting not only between traditions but also within traditions).
Right now ...1
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