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Land (3 vols.) by Pak Kyung-Ni and translated with Introduction and glossary by Agnita Tennant (Global Oriental: Brill) Acclaimed as the most powerful and important piece of Modern Korean writing, the epic sweep of Land is breathtaking in its conception and execution. Set against the background of the struggle between conservative and modernizing forces at the turn of the twentieth century, it follows the fortunes of several generations of Korean villagers during a time of unsurpassed turbulence and change. To Korean readers, upon whose imagination Land has an unparalleled hold, and for whom the characters and village have a palpable reality, it is the great national novel — the work that embodies—the many elements that make up Korea and the Koreans of today.
Beginning with the village's celebration of the Harvest Moon Festival in 1897, the plot takes place over a ten-year period and revolves around the household of Ch'oe Chisu, a rich landowner, who, though envied by many for his wealth, is embittered by the fact that his wife has not borne him a son. Characters emerge upon whom the rest of the story devolves — including the Lady Yun with her prophetic wisdom; the wilful Sohui, daughter of Ch'oe Chisu; and the tender-hearted Wolson, accepting as her due the ignominy of life as a shaman's daughter.
An enthralling saga and panorama of Korean village life in the early 20th century (roughly 1895-1925) by that country's most highly acclaimed living novelist. The story, which possesses both the formal dimensions and the high seriousness of epic, is set in a period during which Japan held strong sway over Korea, regulating its business and industry and making arbitrary land grants to Japanese settlers. At the heart of the novel is a series of conflicts between Korean conservatives too enervated to oppose Japan's acquisitive energies and radical native insurgents. Their resistance culminated in the Dong Hak rebellion, a watershed historical event that casts long shadows over the intricately interwoven fates of Kyong-Ni's vividly drawn characters--most especially Choi Chisoo, an arrogant, wealthy landowner, hated and envied by his neighbors and servants, and at continual odds with his embittered wife, whose ``failure'' to bear him a son provokes Choi's bitter displeasure and sets in motion a chain of events leading to his downfall. The author employs a kind of Upstairs, Downstairs structure, in which nondescript villagers and assorted second-class citizens observe, comment on, and in some ways parallel the lives of their ``betters.'' Among the most memorable are Pyongsan, an impoverished landowner waiting patiently through half a lifetime to be revenged on the avaricious Choi; the handsome villager Yongi; and the scheming Guinyo, the ambitious housemaid whose plan to rise above her station precipitates chaos, losses, and death, and drives the story to its stunning, tragic conclusion. The energy of melodrama surges through this big novel, yet as a portrait of a culture and a knowing psychological tale of the social and personal consequences of rigidly enforced class differences, it's a work of high literary distinction as well. A much-beloved work in Korea (where it was made into an equally popular television series) that should find many grateful admirers in America as well. More

Do It Gorgeously: How to Make Less Toxic, Less Expensive, and More Beautiful Products by Sophie Uliano (Voice Hyperion) It's official: In these tough times, clueless is out--and crafty is in. For both financial and environmental reasons, life is all about doing well with what you have. But that doesn't mean you can't still be fabulous. Do It Gorgeously shows you how to make nearly everything you would otherwise purchase: From the kitchen to the nursery, from your medicine cabinet to your makeup drawer, you'll be astounded by how easy and inexpensive it is to make safe and eco-friendly products for your family. You deserve to have it all--and now you can do it yourself! More

Read Me: A Century of Classic American Book Advertisements by Dwight Garner (Ecco)

This witty and heavily illustrated volume features more than 300 vintage book advertisements—startling and strange, beautiful and funny—that together reveal a kind of secret history of American literature over the last century.

"Publishers have to find a way to get books into the hands of those who want and need them. This book by Dwight Garner presents some of the most innovative ways they've done so, some of the most original, most desperate, most passionate, and even misguided.... Books are personal and intimate things, so it follows that the ads promoting them would be personal, eccentric; that the ads would be full of passion and innovation and even hyperbole. The makers of the ads have been engaged in nothing less than the preservation of the written word and salvation from the mole-men who would like nothing better than, in a bookless world, to feast on our flesh. So consider this a book about the most essential undertaking ever by humankind—the creation of ads promoting books—and that, by extension, this book, the one you're holding, which collects all the best book ads ever, is the most essential of all books yet created by humans."

-FROM THE FOREWORD BY DAVE EGGERS

New York Times book critic Dwight Garner brings together original ads for some of the most acclaimed and best-selling books of the twentieth century, including The Great Gatsby, Ulysses, On the Road, Invisible Man, Lolita, Silent Spring, The Joy of Sex, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72, White Noise, and dozens of other classics. These ads show us famous books when they were simply new volumes jostling for attention on bookstore shelves, not yet icons of our literary culture. And the ads capture many beloved authors—Toni Morrison, Cormac McCarthy, Susan Sontag, and Kurt Vonnegut among a great many others—at moments before their careers were assured, before their personas had hardened into those of "famous writers."

In his introduction, Garner explains the changing styles of book advertising; explores the cross-pollination between literature and the world of advertising, in which many writers—including Don DeLillo, Salman Rushdie, and James Patterson—worked before publishing their first books; and makes a convincing case that these vintage ads are important and lasting literary documents.

Read Me is a fascinating and unusual romp through literary history, and an ideal gift for any reader.

The Dreaded Feast: Writers on Enduring the Holidays edited by Michael Clarke (Abrams Image) may well act as a balm for the millions of people who face Christmastime with a mixture of dread and obligation. Whether it's the last-minute shopping, the unappealing office party, or the prospect of more than 24 hours with family, it's never easy. The anthology, which includes fiction, nonfiction, and poetry on these and many more related subjects, deflates the notion of the "perfect" holiday season, and allows the reader to commiserate and bask in the glow of a little dark, neurotic, and unflinchingly honest humor.

 The star roster of contributors includes Jonathan Ames, Dave Barry, Robert Benchley, Charles Bukowski, Augusten Burroughs, Billy Collins, Greg Kotis, Lewis Lapham, Jay McInerney, Fiona Maazel, George Plimpton, David Rakoff, David Sedaris, Charles Simic, Hunter S. Thompson, James Thurber, Calvin Trillin, and John Waters.

Transform Your Life Through Handwriting by Vimala Rodgers (Sounds True) Can you change your life just by changing your handwriting? Graphologists have long known that the psyche expresses its deepest truths through the pen. Yet Vimala Rodgers has discovered that line of communication works both ways—meaning you can "reprogram" your subconscious by making purposeful shifts in your handwriting. With Transform Your Life through Handwriting, Rodgers presents a complete course for igniting practical, lasting changes in your life with nothing more than a pen and paper.

This is not a course in penmanship—the first of Vimala's "Five Noble Truths of Handwriting" is that there is no such thing as good or bad script. Instead, you will learn to recognize the encoded messages from your soul in every stroke of the pen. Is there a self-sabotaging loop in your "f"? Is a counterclockwise "o" stifling your inner truth? You'll learn the hidden meanings in each letter, allowing you to clear away blockages, heal old wounds, and express your full creativity.

Writing a single page a day for 40 days is all it takes to alter even the most ingrained handwriting patterns—and invite profound changes to unfold in your life. Vimala Rodgers has helped thousands of people experience personal empowerment, spiritual growth, and spontaneous healing. Does handwriting really make such a difference? "If your life is working the way you want it to," she says, "don't change your handwriting—because once you do, your life will open up in the most extraordinary ways." Here is a unique, easy-to-use kit with everything you need to begin your own transformative journey. A Comprehensive Course in Self-Empowerment Through Handwriting.

Featuring:

  • Two audio sessions with master teacher Vimala Rodgers, including guidelines for your writing practice, explorations of the deeper meaning in every letter, and inspiring success stories
  • A 97-page illustrated guidebook with step-by-step instructions and exercises for self-exploration through handwriting, the meaning behind different writing styles, the spiritual forces aligned with each letter, and much more
  • 84-page blank journal
  • 26 quick reference cards for working with each letter in a 40-day cycle, including the "soul quality" of each written letter.

Leonard Maltin's 2010 Movie Guide by Leonard Maltin (Plume) If you can't find it in here it's likely not worth watching. Leonard Maltin has been issuing this yearly movie reference guide for many years. Some years ago, Maltin decided to split up the movies in pre-and after 1960 movies. Because of space limitations, that has now been changed with this edition to 1965. The pre-1965 movies now have their own book ("Leonard Maltin's Classic Movie Guide").

"Leonard Maltin's 2010 Movie Guide" (a whopping 1,662 pages, this book should be sold "by the pound") brings the alphabetical listing of more than 17,000 movies and captures their essence in a single paragraph. The editions change little from year to year, bringing a batch of new movies. It's not exactly clear where the chronological cut-off point is, probably late May or early June: "Angels and Demons", "X-Men Origins: Wolverine", Star Trek", The Soloist" and "Terminator Salvation" are all in here, "Transformers 2", "Drag Me To Hell" and "Moon", just to name a few, are not. But it matters not.

The beauty of this book is that it remains the essential "hard copy" reference tool for us movie lovers. Yes, the minute this book is issued it becomes out-dated (see the "Transformers 2" reference), and I'm sure there are on-line reference sites that are more up to date, but if you, like me, like to have an actual book, this reference guide is for you. At that level, this book remains the best and essential.

The Philosophical Baby: What Children's Minds Tell Us About Truth, Love, and the Meaning of Life by Alison Gopnik (Farrar Straus Giroux) How do babies think? What is it like to be a baby? How much do our experiences as children shape our adult lives? In the last decade there has been a revolution in our understanding of the minds of infants and young children. We used to believe that babies were irrational, and that their thinking and experience were limited. Now Alison Gopnik—a leading psychologist and philosopher, as well as a mother—explains the cutting-edge scientific and psychological research that has revealed that babies learn more, create more, care more, and experience more than we could ever have imagined. And there is good reason to believe that babies are actually smarter, more thoughtful, and more conscious than adults.

This new science holds answers to some of the deepest and oldest questions about what it means to be human. A new baby’s captivated gaze at her mother’s face lays the foundations for love and morality. A toddler’s unstoppable explorations of his playpen hold the key to scientific discovery. A three-year-old’s wild make-believe explains how we can imagine the future, write novels, and invent new technologies. Alison Gopnik - a leading psychologist and philosopher, as well as a mother - explains the groundbreaking new psychological, neuroscientific, and philosophical developments in our understanding of very young children, transforming our understanding of how babies see the world, and in turn promoting a deeper appreciation for the role of parents.

Human beings don’t live in the real world. The real world is what actually happened in the past, is happening now, and will happen in the future. But we don’t just live in this single world. Instead, we live in a universe of many possible worlds, all the ways the world could be in the future and also all the ways the world could have been in the past, or might be in the present. These possible worlds are what we call dreams and plans, fictions and hypotheses. They are the products of hope and imagination. Philosophers, more drily, call them "counterfactuals."

Counterfactuals are the woulda-coulda-shouldas of life, all the things that might happen in the future, but haven’t yet, or that could have happened in the past, but didn’t quite. Human beings care deeply about those possible worlds—as deeply as they care about the real actual world. On the surface counterfactual thinking seems like a very sophisticated and philosophically puzzling ability. How can we think about things that aren’t there? And why should we think this way instead of restricting ourselves to the actual world? It seems obvious that understanding the real world would give us an evolutionary edge, but what good do we get from imaginary worlds?

We can start to answer these questions by looking at young children. Is counterfactual thought present only in sophisticated grown-ups? Or can young children think about possibilities too? The conventional wisdom, echoed in the theories of both Sig-mund Freud and Jean Piaget, is that babies and young children are limited to the here and now—their immediate sensations and perceptions and experience. Even when young children pretend or imagine they can’t distinguish between reality and fantasy: their fantasies, in this view, are just another kind of immediate experience. Counterfactual thought requires a more demanding ability to understand the relation between reality and all the alternatives to that reality.

Cognitive scientists have discovered that this conventional picture is wrong. We’ve found out that even very young children can already consider possibilities, distinguish them from reality, and even use them to change the world. They can imagine different ways the world might be in the future and use them to create plans. They can imagine different ways the world might have been in the past, and reflect on past possibilities. And, most dramatically, they can create completely imaginary worlds, wild fictions, and striking pretenses. These crazy imaginary worlds are a familiar part of childhood—every parent of a three-year-old has exclaimed, "What an imagination!" But the new research profoundly changes the way we think about those worlds.

In the past ten years we’ve not only discovered that children have these imaginative powers—we’ve actually begun to understand how these powers are possible. We are developing a science of the imagination. How could children’s minds and brains be constructed to allow them to imagine this dazzling array of alternate universes?

The answer is surprising. Conventional wisdom suggests that knowledge and imagination, science and fantasy, are deeply different from one another—even opposites. But the new ideas I’ll outline show that exactly the same abilities that let children learn so much about the world also allow them to change the world—to bring new worlds into existence—and to imagine alternative worlds that may never exist at all. Children’s brains create causal theories of the world, maps of how the world works. And these theories allow children to envisage new possibilities, and to imagine and pretend that the world is different.

THE POWER OF COUNTERFACTUALS

Psychologists have found that counterfactual thinking is absolutely pervasive in our everyday life and deeply affects our judgments, our decisions, and our emotions. You would think that what really matters is what actually happens, not what you imagine might have happened in the past or could happen in the future. This is particularly true of counterfactuals about the past—what might have happened but didn’t—the woulda-coulda-shouldas of life. Yet the woulda-coulda-shouldas have a deep impact on experience.

In one experiment, the Nobel Prize–winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman and his colleagues asked people to imagine the following sort of scenario. Mr. Tees and Mr. Crane are both in a taxi to the airport, desperate to catch their respective planes, which are both scheduled to take off at 6:00. But traffic is impossibly snarled and the minutes tick by. Finally, at 6:30 they arrive at the airport. It turns out that Mr. Tees’s flight left at 6:00 as planned but Mr. Crane’s flight was delayed till 6:25 and Mr. Crane sees it take off as he arrives. Who is more upset?

Just about everyone agrees that Mr. Crane, who just missed his flight, will be much more unhappy. But why? They both missed their flights. It seems that what is making Mr. Crane unhappy is not the actual world but the counterfactual worlds, the ones in which the taxi arrived just that much earlier or the plane was delayed just a few minutes more.

You needn’t turn to artificial scenarios like this one to see the effects of counterfactuals. Consider the medalists in the Olympics. Who is happier, the bronze medalist or the silver? You’d think that objectively the silver medalist, who, after all, has actually done better, would be happier. But the relevant counterfactuals are very different for the two. For the bronze medalist the relevant alternative was to finish out of the medals altogether—a fate she has just escaped. For the silver medalist, the relevant alternative was to get the gold medal—a fate she has just missed. And, in fact, when psychologists took clips of the medals ceremonies and analyzed the facial expressions of the athletes, it turned out that the bronze medalists really do look happier than the silver medalists. The difference in what might have been outweighs the difference in what is.

Like Mr. Crane at the airport, or the silver medalist, people are most unhappy when a desirable outcome seems to be just out of reach, or to have just been missed. As Neil Young adapted John Greenleaf Whittier: "The saddest words of tongue and pen are these four words, ‘it might have been.’"

Why do we humans worry so much about counterfactuals, when, by definition, they are things that didn’t actually happen? Why are these imaginary worlds just as important to us as the real ones? Surely "it is, and it’s awful" should be sadder words than "it might have been."

The evolutionary answer is that counterfactuals let us change the future. Because we can consider alternative ways the world might be, we can actually act on the world and intervene to turn it into one or the other of these possibilities. Whenever we act, even in a small way, we are changing the course of history, nudging the world down one path rather than another. Of course, making one possibility come true means that all the other alternative possibilities we considered won’t come true—they become counterfactuals. But being able to think about those possibilities is crucial to our evolutionary success. Counterfactual thinking lets us make new plans, invent new tools, and create new environments. Human beings are constantly imagining what would happen if they cracked nuts or wove baskets or made political decisions in a new way, and the sum total of all those visions is a different world.

Counterfactuals about the past, and the characteristically human emotions that go with them, seem to be the price we pay for counterfactuals about the future. Because we are responsible for the future, we can feel guilty about the past; because we can hope, we can also regret; because we can make plans, we can be disappointed. The other side of being able to consider all the possible futures, all the things that could go differently, is that you can’t escape considering all the possible pasts, all the things that could have gone differently.

COUNTERFACTUALS IN CHILDREN: PLANNING THE FUTURE

Can children think counterfactually? The most evolutionarily fundamental kind of counterfactual thinking comes when we make plans for the future—when we consider alternative possibilities and pick the one we think will be most desirable. How can we tell if a very young baby can do this? In my lab, we showed the baby the sort of post with stacking rings that is a standard baby toy. But I had taped over the hole in one of the rings. How would the baby respond to this apparently similar but actually recalcitrant ring? When we brought a fifteen-month-old into the lab he would use a kind of trial-and-error method to solve the problem. He would stack some of the rings, look carefully at the taped-over one—and then try it on the post. And then try it on the post again, harder. And try it on the post one more time. Then he would look up puzzled, try one of the other rings again—and then again try the taped-over one. Basically, young babies would keep at this until they gave up.

But as they got older and learned more about how the world worked, babies would behave entirely differently. An eighteen-month-old would stack all the other rings and then hold up the trick ring with a "Who do you think you’re kidding?" look and refuse even to try it. Or she would immediately pick the trick ring up and dramatically throw it across the room, and then calmly stack the rest. Or, equally dramatically, she would hold it up to the post and shout "No!" or "Uh-oh!" These babies didn’t have to actually see what the ring would do—they could imagine what would happen if you put it on the post, and act accordingly.

Gandhian Way: Peace, Non-violence and Empowerment (Indian National Congress) edited by Anand Sharma (Academic Foundation) Mahatma Gandhi's humane philosophy and inherent spirituality had a profound influence not only on the people of India but the freedom loving people worldwide. 11th of September 2006

marked the centenary of the Satyagraha movement launched by Mahatma Gandhi in South Africa for peaceful resistance against discriminatory and unjust laws. "Satyagraha—the firmness of the force Truth" became a powerful mass movement of peaceful resistance and civil disobedience. Over the years, it evolved into a dynamic mass movement of effective action.

Commemorating 100 years of 'Satyagraha' in a befitting manner, the Indian National Congress convened a two day international conference: "Peace, Non-violence and Empowerment: Gandhian Philosophy in the 21st Century". Over 300 international delegates from 91 countries comprising world leaders, Nobel laureates, leading peace and human rights activists and Gandhian scholars reflected on the essence and the enduring relevance of Mahatma Gandhi's philosophy. The Conference deliberated on subjects and issues which represent the core of Gandhian thought. The discussion touched upon a wide range of Gandhian principles and values including Mahatma Gandhi's concern for the poor and his abiding commitment to non-violence and people's empowerment. Emerging from the discussions amongst the luminaries was the collective affirmation to renew people's commitment to Mahatma's noble mission of building a world that is in peace and harmony with itself.

Based on the deliberations of this conference, together with precious archival material, this volume—a book for the future—endeavours to reach out and connect the people, especially the younger generation, to the 'Gandhian way' and to carry forward his legacy into the 21st century.

Weekends at Bellevue by Julie Holland (Bantam Books) No one is immune from mental illness. After working at New York City’s Bellevue Hospital for nine years, as the psychiatrist in charge of admissions at the psych E.R. on Saturday and Sunday nights, I came away knowing this for sure. Over the years, I admitted heiresses and art dealers, altar boys and college students, homecoming queens, studio executives, bankers, lawyers, correction officers, and the list goes on. No matter who you are, what you do for a living, how much money you have in the bank, or how often you go to church, circumstances can transpire that will bring you to Bellevue. This is one of the hardest lessons for our patients to learn.

My years at Bellevue taught me many things, life lessons I could never have hoped to receive elsewhere, but the main take-home message was this: cherish your sanity, for it can be lost in the blink of an eye. Sometimes I saw the same patients repeatedly, alcoholics and addicts who were hitting bottom in regular cycles, showing up when their funds ran out. Other times, however, I met patients with no psychiatric history, who ended up at Bellevue when a bad break-up led to a suicide attempt, or a shared cigarette at a bar led to a PCP-induced psychosis. There are so many ways in which a life can suddenly unravel, and many of my patients could specify just when that started to happen for them--whether it was joining the army, leaving home for college, or living through the death of their child.

Many of the people I encountered at Bellevue tried strenuously to convince me that they did not belong there. Or vice versa. A big part of my job was learning how to separate the genuinely disturbed from the fakers (some people actually wanted to be admitted to Bellevue, if only for the promise of a clean bed and three meals a day), and to identify the people who had been misunderstood, misdiagnosed, who weren’t mentally ill at all. After a few years of Bellevue experiences under my belt, I developed a sixth sense for what real crazy looked like, sounded like, and yes, smelled like. One night a young man was brought in to the E.R. because he was found on a street corner preaching to passersby to give up their worldly possessions. I knew enough to listen and wait, and not rush to judgment, even though it might have seemed a no-brainer to admit him. Once I was able to draw him out, I learned that he had taken psychedelic mushrooms and then spent time in a Chelsea art gallery known as COSM, which I myself had been to and knew to be an intense, inspirational and potentially overwhelming experience, something that might well unhinge a person on mind-altering drugs. I spoke with him gently as his trip slowly ebbed, helping him to navigate his re-entry in the city hospital where he had landed with no money or identification. He stayed in touch with me for months afterwards, grateful that I was there to protect him when he soared--however briefly--beyond the boundaries of normal behavior.

There is a diaphanous membrane between sane and insane. It is the flimsiest of barriers, and because any one of us can break through at any time, it terrifies us, causing us to turn our backs on those who remind us of this painful reality. But spending so much time with people who marched out of the lockstep of sanity has made me less forgiving of the way the mentally ill are ostracized and shunned. We owe them something better. And we should remember that the barrier separating "them" from "us" is not nearly as secure as we might think.--Julie Holland

Excerpt: There was a particularly dramatic nine-year period in my life when I was working in the psychiatric emergency room at Bellevue Hospital, surrounded by other doctors, nurses, hospital personnel—and insanity.

Though I have done my best to portray this time in writing, it is im-possible to do Bellevue justice, and I knew that from the start. Everything you will read in this book actually happened, but the Bellevue experience is unique and cannot adequately be captured by any one person's interpretation. My mind's eye's version of the events will of course differ from someone else's.

Due to the sensitive nature of the circumstances, I have changed some of the identifying details to protect people's privacy, and I have changed the names of all of my colleagues and patients, except for those who have appeared in the news. Also, the chronology of some events may have been condensed, dragged out, or rearranged, but if I make a point of saying how busy it was on a given night, then I have not inflated the numbers, and if I mention what a coincidence it was that two things happened simultaneously, then they did.

The dialogue in Weekends at Bellevue was often transcribed virtually word for word, from notes I wrote when I got home, which I did to help exorcise the demons of the previous two days at work. When I didn't have the benefit of working from detailed notes, I tried to pre-serve the gist of what was said, but cannot claim to have reconstructed every conversation verbatim.

I want to thank each patient, doctor, nurse, social worker, hospital police officer, New York City cop, ambulance driver, and federal agent with whom I ever came into contact during my nine years at Bellevue. If you have ended up in this book, please do not take offense. I never meant to betray your confidences, only to enlighten others with educational or entertaining stories. And we had some laughs, didn't we?

I have learned so much from my patients over the years. The purpose of this book, above all, is to share what I have learned, in the hopes that it may help people to understand some of what I feel is the "human condition" in psychiatric medicine. I am deeply grateful to all whose lives were shared with me, and who will now help in the process of educating others.

One thing needs to be explicitly clear: This is a skewed sampling of patients. Inevitably, the people whom I've chosen to write about were more colorful, dramatic, provocative, or violent than the average Bellevue patient. The vast majority of people living with psychiatric symptoms are scattered among us, are us, the walking wounded, and do not tend toward violence or addiction. But when I came home Monday morning and wrote down my recollections of the events of the preceding weekend, it was not to tell the tales of the garden-variety depressed or anxious patients. They, like the more seriously ill patients, deserve our tender ministrations, but I knew they wouldn't be as compelling to write or read about.

Bellevue is a great hospital that does great work, and I am proud to have been a part of this noble institution.

Good Without God: What a Billion Nonreligious People Do Believe by Greg Epstein (William Morrow) With the current state of the economy, the ongoing wars that rage across the globe, and the unsettling changes to the earth's climate, questions about the role of God and religion in world affairs have never been more relevant or felt more powerfully. Many of us are searching for a place where we can find not only facts and scientific reason but also hope and the moral courage needed to overcome such challenges. For some, answers to the most challenging questions are found in the divine. For others, including the New Atheists, religion has no place in the world and is, in fact, an "enemy."

But in Good Without God, Greg Epstein presents another, more balanced and inclusive response: Humanism. With a focus on the positive, he highlights humanity's potential for goodness and the ways in which Humanists lead lives of purpose and compassion. Humanism can offer the sense of community we want and often need in good times and bad, as we celebrate marriages and the birth of our children, and as we care for those who are elderly or sick. In short, Humanism teaches us that we can lead good and moral lives without supernaturalism, without higher powers . . . without God.

In this constructive response not only to his fellow atheists Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris but also to contemporary religious leaders such as Rick Warren and Jim Wallis, Epstein makes a bold claim for what nonbelievers do share and believe. At a time when the debate about morality rages more fiercely than ever—and when millions are searching for something they can put their faith in—Humanism offers a comfort and hope that affirms our ability to live ethical lives of personal fulfillment, aspiring together for the greater good of all.

 Excerpt: Can You Be Good Without God?

This is a book about Humanism. If you're not familiar with the word Humanism, it is, in short, goodness without God. This is a book about the values, the history, and the future of the world's hundreds of millions of atheists, agnostics, and nonreligious people.

This is not a book about whether one can be good without God, because that question does not need to be answered—it needs to be rejected out-right. To suggest that one can't be good without belief in God is not just an opinion, a mere curious musing—it is a prejudice. It may even be discrimination. After all, would you ever ask: Is it possible to be a good person if you're Muslim? Or Buddhist? Or Jewish? Or Christian? Would you feel comfortable working for an employer who implied that all gays and lesbians were immoral? Or all Democrats? Or all Republicans? How would you feel if your daughter were planning to marry someone who claimed that all Catholics were lousy, unethical human beings? Or all Protestants? This is the sort of all-or-nothing condemnation of a huge population one is making if one sug-gests that goodness and morality require belief in a deity.

And it's hardly a hypothetical suggestion: over decades of polling, a majority of Americans have consistently indicated a negative opinion of atheists and nonbelievers. Even in this enlightened twenty-first century, where we've proved ourselves ready for a black president and welcomed elected officials representing every group, approximately half of all Americans say they would refuse to vote for a well-qualified atheist candidate for public office. In other words, one out of every two Americans admits to being prejudiced against fellow citizens who don't believe in God. No other minority group in this country is rejected by such large numbers.'

This prejudice ought to concern us all. Because prejudice anywhere endangers not only its targets, but all who believe that we should be judged not by the color of our skin, or our gender, or sexuality, or by our religious preference or lack thereof, but by the content of our character. If we can convince ourselves today that one entire group comprising millions of people might be incapable of goodness, might be "no good," then we harbor inside us the ability to turn against and hate any other group as well, and no one should feel safe.

It is not easy to live a good life or be a good person—with or without a god. The fact is that life is hard. Living well and being a good person are difficult to do. But that doesn't mean we should give ourselves permission to judge an entire group of people as incapable of goodness unless they're being good the majority's way.

Tolerant, fair-minded people of all religions or none do not dwell on the question of whether we can be good without God. The answer is yes. Period. Millions and millions of people are, every day. However, the question why we can be good without God is much more relevant and interesting. And the question of how we can be good without God is absolutely crucial. Those are the questions in this book—the essential questions asked and answered by Humanism. I invite you to explore these questions, and Humanism's answers, with me.

Are You Religious?

I f you're not religious—if you don't believe in God, you're not sure you believe in God, or if you think you believe in some kind of higher power but you

know you don't fit into any organized religion—you're not alone. Here's the good news: over a billion people around the world today are like you. All the major studies of world religious demographics, despite different methodologies, indicate that there are somewhere around one billion people on earth who define themselves as atheist, agnostic, or nonreligious. Even if we exclude the approximately half of nonreligious people who say they believe in some form of "spirit"—though I think it makes sense to include many of them—there are still more than half a billion people in the world who live without belief in God. And even in the United States of America, which we're told is the most religious of all the world's developed nations, the nonreligious now represent approximately 15 percent of the population, or approximately 40 million Americans. "Nonreligious" is the fastest grow-ing "religious preference" in the United States, and the only one to have increased its percentage of the population in every one of the fifty states over the past generation. Almost one in four American young adults today has no religion, which suggests not only a growing trend but also that an even larger percentage of the United States as a whole may be secular in another generation. Granted, when pollsters ask Americans to identify themselves as atheists or agnostics, only a few million answer affirmatively. But those terms are attached to a stigma. When poll questions ask in a more round-about way, such as "Do you believe in God?" the number who say "no" or "not sure" is much higher. And the number of Americans who don't expect to have a religious funeral is in the stratosphere—nearly a quarter of us.'

What's more, there's plenty of evidence to suggest that nonreligious people are being good en masse. It has long been known that Humanists and nonreligious people have made extraordinary contributions to science and philosophy as well as to philanthropy and social justice. But sociologists have recently begun to pay more attention to the fact that some of the world's most secular countries, such as those in Scandinavia, are among the least violent, best educated, and most likely to care for the poor.' And as scientists are now beginning to document, though religion may have benefits for the brain, so may secularism and Humanism. Atheists meditating on positive secular images can gain the same benefits that religious people do from prayer. Strongly convinced nonbelievers may be among the least depressed people—along with strongly convinced believers. Nonreligious

Americans have even been shown to be far more likely than regular church-going believers to oppose U.S. government–sponsored torture or "advanced interrogation techniques."

Some say that all these people have nothing in common beyond their nonbelief—or that, because they don't call themselves by the same names or join the same organizations, we should not count or study them. This is nonsense. After all, Christianity is an incredibly diverse tradition as well, encompassing beliefs, customs, and organizations that range widely, from archliberal Unitarian Universalists in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to African American Baptists in Montgomery, Alabama, to Mormons in Salt Lake City, and far beyond. If we study Christianity as a big-tent tradition, or Hinduism (with its thousands of gods and traditions, which many of its followers have trouble agreeing upon), we have to study the nonreligious together as well. We may be a diverse group, but no more so than others.

Still, up to now, only a small percentage of so-called nonbelievers have seen themselves as part of a bigger group of like-minded people, let alone a movement capable of improving people's perceptions of them or making the world a better place.

Are You a Humanist?

I f you identify as an atheist, agnostic, freethinker, rationalist, skeptic, cynic, secular humanist, naturalist, or deist; as spiritual, apathetic, nonreligious, {{nothing"; or any other irreligious descriptive, you could probably count yourself what I call a Humanist. Feel free to use whatever terminology you prefer—that's not important. We don't believe a god created perfect religions or sacred texts, so why would we believe he or she created one perfect, sacred name that all doubters were required to adopt? And as we've seen in recent years with the success of the GLBT movement—or is it LGBT? Or gay? Or queer?—it's not necessary to reach universal agreement about nomenclature in order to bring a massive group together to gain influence and recognition. The point is that as a Humanist, you'd be in distinguished company, along with Thomas Jefferson, John Lennon, Winston Churchill, Margaret Sanger, Jean-Paul Sartre, Voltaire, David Hume, Salman Rushdie, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Confucius, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Wole Soyinka, Kurt Vonnegut, Zora Neale Hurston, Mark Twain, Margaret Meade, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Einstein, Darwin, and more than a billion people worldwide.

All this makes you and me adherents of one of the four largest life-stances on earth, along with Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism. But if we are adherents, what is it that we adhere to? What, if anything, do we have in common? Do the diverse and often disparate multitudes so often dis-missed as mere "nonbelievers" share any beliefs in common? Now that we are beginning to gain recognition—such as a positive mention in President Obama's inaugural address or a story about us on the front page of the New York Times—it's time to recognize that nonbelievers are believers too: we believe in Humanism.

What Is Humanism?

Humanism is a bold, resolute response to the fact that being a human being is lonely and frightening. We Humanists take one look at a world in which the lives of thousands of innocent children are ripped away every year by hurricanes, earthquakes, and other "acts of God," not to mention the thousand other fundamental injustices of life, and we conclude that if the universe we live in does not have competent moral management, then so be it: we must become the superintendents of our own lives. Humanism means taking charge of the often lousy world around us and working to shape it into a better place, though we know we cannot ever finish the task.

In short, Humanism is being good without God. It is above all an affirmation of the greatest common value we human beings have: the desire to live with dignity, to be "good." But Humanism is also a warning that we can-not afford to wait until tomorrow or until the next life to be good, because today—the short journey we get from birth to death, womb to tomb—is all we have. Humanism rejects dependence on faith, the supernatural, divine texts, resurrection, reincarnation, or anything else for which we have no evidence. To put it another way, Humanists believe in life before death.

More formally, the American Humanist Association defines Humanism as a progressive lifestance that, without supernaturalism, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment, aspiring to the greater good of humanity. This approach, though affirmed by most of the world's hundreds of millions of atheists and agnostics, is not particularly organized. And yet it can be, and it already is in many places, though some secularists bristle at the thought that this is too much like an "organized religion." As we'll see, Humanism is a cohesive world movement based on the creation of good lives and communities, without God.

Nonreligious people often wonder why on earth, with all the abuses and scandals and illogical ideas religion is responsible for, is religion still so powerful? The answer is that for most, religion is not about belief in an all-seeing deity with a baritone voice and a flowing beard. It is about group identification—the community and the connections we need to live. It is about family, tradition, consolation, ethics, memories, music, art, architecture, and much more. These things are all good, and no one wants to or should be asked to give them up because of lack of belief in a god.

The truth is that at the present time, the above list of social goods—family, tradition, memories, music, etc.—is difficult to find communally out-side traditional forms of religious affiliation or custom. And in truth, being a good person in a vacuum is not a very satisfying experience. Those of us who don't want to worship an invisible being or spend our days fretting about punishment in Hades do want to be able to share what we hold dear with our families and the broader world, and we want to be understood and appreciated for who we are. To do so we need community.

At the most important times of our lives—when we or our loved ones are sick and dying; when a new baby is born; when we want to affirm our love in marriage; when we want to educate our children not only about facts and dates, but also important values—we need to be part of a group. We need what, at least potentially, can be found or created in a Humanist com-munity: a place where family, memory, ethical values, and the uplifting of the human spirit can come together with intellectual honesty, and without a god.

Is Humanism a Faith?

I'm often asked whether Humanism is a religion. Practically speaking, Humanism is not a religion, because most of us associate the word religion with a system that includes divinities and the supernatural. Humanists have no popes and no perfect people—as the intentionally silly T-shirts say, we are a "nonprophet organization." Sociologically speaking, however, Humanism is similar to a religion in the way that it involves shared values with efforts to organize a community and is essentially a way of life. So I prefer the European term lifestance, meaning more than a philosophy but not a divine or revealed religion. In any case, asking whether Humanism is a religion or not is little more than a semantic "gotcha" game. Some ask because they're religious and are trying to knock Humanists down a peg; others are angry at religious hypocrisy and are afraid to be associated with anything that even faintly smells of belief, a word laden with baggage and unhappiness.

But the point is not whether you believe in something, it's what you believe in. Not believing in anything is a belief too—in nihilism. As TV and film writer/director Joss Whedon said, "The enemy of Humanism is not faith—the enemy of Humanism is hate, it is fear, it is ignorance, it is the darker part of man that is in every Humanist, and every person in the world . . . But faith is something we have to embrace. Faith in God means believing absolutely in something, with no proof whatsoever. Faith in humanity means believing absolutely in something with a huge amount of proof to the contrary. We are the true believers."

How Is Humanism Different from the New Atheism?

So much has been written about the religious people and traditions of the world. Thousands of anthropologists and sociologists have devoted their lives to studying religious traditions and their adherents. Millions and millions of pages have been written about theology—about what religious people believe. But try to go to your local bookstore or library and ask for a book about nonreligious people or what we believe. The choices have always been scant indeed. So it's no wonder the recent spate of best-selling books by atheists attacking religion has caused such a stir.

Today, those who believe that the good life ought to be defined as obedience to God and tradition feel under siege by the forces of modernity. In their minds, certain outward signs of this modernity—whether gay pride paraders all done up in leather and fuchsia, a woman rearing a child on her own, or simply people like me who can publicly deny a belief in God and live respectable lives—are all declarations of war against the old ways. And so both fundamentalist Islam and fundamentalist Christianity, among other religious forces, have declared war on secularism and Humanism. In turn, a group of bold new atheist intellectuals and leaders has arisen to declare war right back, proclaiming "God is not great!" "God is a delusion!" and "This is the end of faith!"

I admire today's "new atheists" because they seek to right the very real and very many religious wrongs of our time. And I especially appreciate Messrs. Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens when they liberate young people to feel good and be open about their lack of belief in God at a time when many still live in communities that shun those who will not produce at least an outward display of allegiance to the old values. But atheism goes astray when it adopts a certain posture, one best captured by a cover story in Wired magazine in November 2006: "The New Atheism: No Heaven. No Hell. Just Science."

It is true and important that Humanists don't adhere to the idea of a heaven or a hell, and it is also true that we value science as the best tool humans have for understanding the world around us. But "Just Science"? Such language raises concern that the new atheism is cut off from emotion, from intuition, and from a spirit of generosity toward those who see the world differently. While nonreligious people often value science highly, many deeply religious people value and study it as well. So surely valuing science cannot be a way to distinguish religious people from nonreligious people. Besides, books on science, though often containing much useful information about the world around us, can less often say important things about what we ought to value most in life, or why. Science can teach us a great deal, like what medicine to give to patients in a hospital. But science won't come and visit us in the hospital.

This may seem like just a cute play on words, but when I was a young boy in a nonreligious family, I had to spend a fair amount of time in hospitals, and they were often lonely places for me and my family. When I was eighteen and my father finally died after battling lung cancer for years, I knew he missed the religious communities he had left behind earlier in life. Though he was not exactly the greatest at communicating his feelings of isolation, you could tell he longed for community because when the Jehovah's Witnesses would knock on our door to try to convert him, he would always drag himself out of his sickbed, a little of his gloom lifting at the opportunity for companionship and serious conversation with new people. Still, the young men did not come often, and in any case, given their wildly different worldview from his own, they were not ideal companions. So my father died feeling quite alone, never having heard of the idea of Humanist community.

I myself, despite having majored in religion in college, only learned of Humanism after graduation, because of a chance run-in with a great Humanist leader, the late Sherwin Wine. Sherwin, to whom this book is dedicated, was a Humanist rabbi (more on what that is later) who visited thousands of congregants over his long career as a clergyman who believed—openly—in good, not God. It was Sherwin who first answered many of my early questions about Humanism—the basic questions that are the subject of the first chapter of this book, "Can We Be Good Without God?"

The history of goodness without God as a world tradition has roots in the ancient East and West. Humanism traces its story back not only to the European Enlightenment and to ancient Greece, as many assume, but also touches cultures from India, China, and the Middle East. It is a belief held by American Revolutionary patriots like Thomas Jefferson, leading women's suffragists of the nineteenth century, civil rights leaders of the twentieth, and on to the original new atheists—not only Dawkins, Hitchens, Dennett, and Harris but Freud, Marx, Nietzsche, and Darwin.

Chapter three is an exploration of the question why are we good without a god? Religion is a profound source of meaning and purpose for many People—even for those who, despite more than a little bit of skepticism about its supernatural claims, fear that without religion there is simply no reason to live, or at least no reason to live morally and ethically. But a Humanistic approach to life can provide nonreligious people with a profound and sustaining sense that, though there is no single, overarching purpose given to us from on high, we can and must live our lives for a purpose well beyond ourselves.

But it's not enough to just "discover" the meaning of life. What really matters is whether we live according to our values, and that takes hard world and a hundred hard choices every day. What is good without God? From learning how to put the golden rule and human compassion into action more often, to exploring innovative and sustainable answers to new human problems such as climate change and other bioethical dilemmas, Humanism is concerned with one of the most important ethical questions—what we do once we've found purpose in life.

It's also important to acknowledge people who consider themselves religious. Welcome. I hope Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, Baha'is, and many others are reading, and will read on-:-not to be converted, or deconverted, but to gain understanding of loved ones and neighbors who may be Humanists. I want to offer an affirmative response to the question can you be good with God? I urge atheists and agnostics to strive for what Steven Prothero calls religious literacy, and I implore religious people and Humanists to enter into deeper dialogue and cooperation—because we live in a world that is flat, interconnected, interdependent, not to mention armed to the teeth with weapons of mass destruction—a world where we can no longer afford to misunderstand one another or to be ignorant about what makes each other tick.

I believe that community is the heart of Humanism. In the past century, God was supposed to be dead, but too often it has seemed that Humanism died instead. What will it take for a new Humanism to arise—one that is diverse, inclusive, inspiring, and a transformative force in the world today?

If this book accomplishes one thing for or on behalf of the billion non- religious people, let it not be that we learn how better to convince others that there is no God, or that religion is evil. May we encourage more hospital visits by the nonreligious, both literally and metaphorically. May we do more good work together and build something positive in this world—the only world we will ever have. May we focus more on the "good" than on the "without God."

Imagining Science: Art, Science, and Social Change edited by Sean Caulfield, Timothy Caulfield (University of Alberta Press) brings together internationally recognized artists, scientists, and social commentators to feature a body of original artwork and essays which explores the complex legal, ethical, and social concerns about advances in biotechnology, such as stem cell research, cloning, and genetic testing. Many important questions and themes emerge from this exchange, highlighting the linkages between scientific and creative research. This collaboration also stresses the vital role art can play in critiquing these biomedical technologies, particularly as advancements in science begin to challenge our ethical boundaries.

Compiled and co-edited by Sean and Timothy Caulfield, "Imagining Science" is a distinctive collection of informative essays and memorable original artwork by artists, scientists, and social commentators "Imagining Science" is a unique series of collaborations highlighting the functional role art plays in accessibly assessing biomedical technologies and challenging ethical, religious and philosophical boundaries. Thoughtful and thought-provoking, "Imagining Science" is highly recommended for personal, professional, academic, and community library reference collections and supplemental reading lists.

Pebbles of Wisdom From Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz: Collected and with Notes by Arthur Kurzweil by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, Arthur Kurzweil (Jossy-Bass)

The Thirteen Petalled Rose by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz (Basic)

Excerpt: When I meet a person who learns that I am a serious student of the teachings of Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz of Jerusalem, I am usually asked to say something about him.

Sometimes I say, "Rabbi Steinsaltz was brought up in a secular home. His parents were secular leftists, and he says that he read Marx and Lenin before he read the Bible. His parents were skeptics and raised him to be a skeptic. Rabbi Steinsaltz once said, 'I'm such a skeptic that I became skeptical of skepticism.'"

Or I say, "Rabbi Steinsaltz is a brilliant and renowned Orthodox rabbi, destined to be one of the most important Jewish scholars in history. In one of his books, Rabbi Steinsaltz writes, 'If you think you've arrived, you're lost."

And at other times I say, "Rabbi Steinsaltz has done something that has not been done in one thousand years. It is not since the great biblical and Talmudic commentator Rashi that any one single individual has written and published a comprehensive commentary on the entire Talmud. And it is considered a masterpiece and a work of genius by people who are experts. His motto is 'Let my people know."

The first time I heard Rabbi Steinsaltz address an audience, in the early 1980s, I recorded it. During that talk, Rabbi Steinsaltz said, among other things, "Although I am a rabbi, I have avoided official positions like the plague. My only official position for many years was that I was on the board of the local zoo in Jerusalem."

And he said, "Many people come to me to talk privately, and many of these conversations are confessions of sins. So I have heard lots of confessions. I have to tell you that people haven't invented a new sin in the last three thousand years. Sometimes you wish to hear some new combination, some new idea.

But you never find it."

He also said, "I grew up in a family where neither my mother nor my father went to synagogue. Not even on Yom Kippur. My father said that he did not go because he had too much respect for the place. He said—and I completely agree with him—that the synagogue is not a theater. Either you are a participant, or you don't go there. Because he could not be a participant, he would not go to watch."

And then he said, "My father was not particular about eating kosher when he was in Israel. But whenever he was abroad, he always ate kosher just for everyone to see. He was proud of being a Jew and of Jewish knowledge. When I was ten years old, my father hired a tutor to teach me Talmud. My father said, 'I don't mind if you're an atheist, but I don't want any member of my family to be an ignoramus. It is a shame for a Jew to be an ignoramus. Perhaps it is the lowest of the low that a Jew can reach. It means he lacks some essential knowledge about himself. Imagine that a person does not know that he has a head until he is sixty-five and that he discovered it accidentally. That is the kind of feeling that results from a Jew being ignorant."

A number of times over the years I have mentioned to Rabbi Steinsaltz that in his lectures, interviews, and writings, there are always such wonderful "gems" embedded within the transcripts and essays, and I find myself repeating these "gems" to people.

"Perhaps not 'gems,'" he responds. "Maybe pebbles."

So for nearly thirty years, I have been collecting pebbles from Rabbi Steinsaltz.

The metaphor works. A pebble can contain a gem. A pebble might be tiny but can be of great value. A pebble, used properly, can be quite effective. David killed Goliath with a pebble. The Zohar says that David had originally put five pebbles into his bag but that they miraculously became one.

The pebbles in Parts I through VI of this book are all from unpublished sources. In the Notes section, I have collected additional pebbles from published sources that relate to the unpublished ones. I have done this for two reasons: (1) to offer more pebbles to the reader and (2) to send the reader to Rabbi Steinsaltz's published works to see how the ideas in the pebbles are expanded—and then to discover even more pebbles, as well as lengthier pieces and more fully developed ideas.

The Notes section draws heavily on Rabbi Steinsaltz's book The Thirteen Petalled Rose. I predict that in addition to Rabbi Steinsaltz's Talmud translation and commentary, The Thirteen Petalled Rose will live forever by taking its place among the most important books of Jewish thought and theology ever published. Already a classic, The Thirteen Petalled Rose is one of those books that people report has changed their lives.

The pebbles in this book were found in the following places:

• Conversations. Over the years, I estimate that I have had over one hundred conversations with Rabbi Steinsaltz. Sometimes I recorded the conversations and transcribed them, but most of the time I made it my business, as soon as I left a conversation, to call one or more of my children and tell them every detail. The habit of repeating the stories and ideas that Rabbi Steinsaltz has told me over and over, combined with an excellent, sometimes photographic memory that God has given me, has allowed me to retain a large amount of Rabbi Steinsaltz's best pebbles. I have also sat in on some conversations Rabbi Steinsaltz had with others, and these conversations also became a part of the material available for this book.

• Rabbi Steve Shaw. Steve was-instrumental in helping Rabb Steinsaltz launch his publishing and teaching activities in the United States more than thirty years ago. In fact, Steve arranged my first meeting with Rabbi Steinsaltz in 1982. Steve told me that for a number of years when he hosted Rabbi Steinsaltz and arranged for his lectures, he recorded them. He also taped lengthy conversations between himself and Rabbi Steinsaltz as well as between the Rabbi and other people. To my delight, Steve saved those tapes and promised me he would locate the box they were in. He did, and he gave me the tapes, most of which I listened to several times and transcribed. A year later, Steve called and told me he had located a second box of tapes. I went to Steve's office and was given them as well. I promptly had those tapes transcribed. God bless you, Steve.

• Yehuda Hanegbi. Yehuda, of blessed memory, was a gifted writer and translator who was responsible for translating and editing several of Rabbi Steinsaltz's books, including The Thirteen Petalled Rose. Yehuda was a special and delightful man who is deeply missed. During the years we were in contact, he gave me copies of raw translated transcripts of a number of Rabbi Steinsaltz's classes. Some of these transcripts, in edited form, made their way into a few of Rabbi Steinsaltz's published books.

• Yehudit Shabta. For many years, Yehudit worked with Rabbi Steinsaltz as his personal secretary, assistant, translator, and general supporter. A few times over the years, Yehudit, having great compassion for my thirst for Rabbi Steinsaltz's teachings, has sent me unpublished essays as well as essays published in obscure, now out-of-print publications.

• Journalist interviews. A number of times, I have had the responsibility of escorting Rabbi Steinsaltz to be interviewed by a journalist or group of journalists. During the period when the first volumes of the English translation of the Steinsaltz Talmud were published, Rabbi Steinsaltz was particularly busy with journalists from all over, including People magazine, the Washington Post, National Public Radio, and Good Morning, America, to name a few. I took my own notes during those interviews, knowing from personal experience that a journalist can speak to you for an hour but the resulting article usually captures a mere fraction of what was said.

• The cutting room floor. In 1989, the filmmaker David Rosenberg produced and directed a documentary about Rabbi Steinsaltz called The Talmud and the Scholar, a fifty-eight-minute video giving us a behind-the-scenes look at Rabbi Steinsaltz and his work. I am grateful to have several hours of the material left out of the video, generously given to me by David.

• Special events. In September 1993, Rabbi Steinsaltz and I conducted a program for several hundred Jewish educators from Hadassah International. The entire day was recorded, and I transcribed it. I also have several other videos and audiotapes of lectures that I attended. These, too, became part of the collection of sources from which I gathered pebbles.

• Meyer Weitz. Over the years, my friend and cousin, Meyer Weitz, attended a number of gatherings in Israel that were organized by Rabbi Emanuel Quint. Rabbi Quint wrote an important series of books titled A Restatement of Rabbinic Civil Law, which explains, in layman's language, the civil law of the Shulkhan Arukh, the Code of Jewish Law. Rabbi Quint and Rabbi Steinsaltz met during Passover and Sukkot over several years and offered public lectures. Meyer Weitz recorded these programs and sent me the tapes.

• Newspaper and magazine articles. I may have the best collection of clippings about Rabbi Steinsaltz in the United States. Many of these articles include interviews with the Rabbi. In addition, I've written a number of articles about Rabbi Steinsaltz over the years, based on my own interviews and conversations.

• Simple Words. Rabbi Steinsaltz's book Simple Words: Thinking About What Really Matters in Life was based on a series of lectures the Rabbi gave to a small group in various apartments in New York City over a number of years. I attended all of those lectures, recorded some of them, and took notes. Much of the material, especially the question-and-answer periods, never made it into the book. But this omitted material supplied me with some great pebbles.

This collection of pebbles is not the "quintessential Rabbi Steinsaltz." As a serious student of illusions, optical and otherwise, I know that we can easily be blind to something right in front of our eyes. These pebbles are my selections; they are only what I have picked up. I have no doubt that along the trail, I missed a great many extraordinary pebbles that I wasn't prepared for or able to see.

As I finish this collection of pebbles, I want to offer one more that is particularly on my mind. In an introductory essay on the Tanya, Rabbi Steinsaltz writes:

The earliest Hasidic masters were very sensitive about the need to keep the essential message pure by transmitting it directly from soul to soul. There is an emphasis in Hasidism on direct communications with one's Rebbe or teacher. It was felt that writing only creates a barrier.

There was something dead about a book, and quite different from the direct communication between master and disciple, or between a teacher and pupil. There was an assumption that not only are the true problems of the soul left unresolved with books, but that the very essence of the message is somehow lost.

Rabbi Steinsaltz then tells a story about the founder of Hasidism, the Baal Shem Tov:

During his lifetime, when a volume of sayings of the Baal Shem Toy, the founder of the Hasidic movement, came out, he dreamed that he saw a devil walking around with a book under his arm. When the Baal Shem Tov asked him what it was, the devil replied, with a smile of satisfaction, "It is a book by you, yourself"

The next day, the Baal Shem Tov called his disciples together and demanded to know who dared to write books in his name. When he was shown the volume of his sayings, he read it and said, "There isn't a single word here that I actually spoke."

The Future That Brought Her Here, Memoir of a Call to Awaken by Deborah DeNicola (Ibis) A dynamic blend of history, science, psychology, dreams, and visions, Deborah DeNicola’s memoir is a compelling account of self-discovery that is provocative and humble. A poet, dream analyst, and college professor DeNicola writes about her struggle to live in the ordinary world of academia while honoring the competing call of the creative and the spiritual. DeNicola’s memoir shows her range of intellectual pursuits and spiritual experiences as she battles an inner war between depressive cynicism and faith and shares her lifelong search to heal the trauma of her father’s tragic death when she was a teenager. Struggles between cynicism and faith, depression and hope, independence and attachment, creativity and financial security in the midst of spiritual searching, motherhood, teaching and writing are inextricably woven into the fabric of her story. Sharing the process of her awakening and how dreams and visions guide her, DeNicola stirs readers to listen courageously to their own inner voices. Her visionary quest takes her to the American West, Israel, and Southern France. Along the way she weaves together references from the Bible and the Gnostic Gospels, the story of Mary Magdalene, medieval history, the Templar Knights, the Black Madonnas, String Theory and quantum physics to find the repeated linkage between divinity and humanity.

Excerpt: As a poet, I have always nurtured an inner life. I was raised and educated a Catholic and had an innate belief in numinous events, although I had little proof that they occurred in the modern world of 20th-century American life. Most of my life, unconsciously, I searched for a deeper meaning behind what appeared to be the random events of the world.

I cherished the stories of saints and miracles. My favorite was always the story of three children in Fatima, Portugal who saw an apparition of Mother Mary in a grotto in 1917. For several months, Mary appeared on the 13th day and told the children that the world needed more prayers, warning of more wars. I wrote a poem in the voice of the eldest child, twelve-year-old Lucia, whose own mother did not believe her. This always struck me as tragic—that one could witness a "miracle" and be called a liar. Perhaps that is the reason I've taken many years to write this book. Although communities of spirituality and miraculous healing have grown throughout the world, in 2007, the intellectual cynics and non-believers of the secular world continue to dominate politics, allowing business-as-usual to create and perpetuate inequities in the global population.

In mid-life, I suffered a broken heart. Out of desperation, I began consciously seeking "wholeness." My quest began with Jungian psychotherapy and archetypal dreams. As I wavered on the verge of dysfunction and longed for emotional relief from hopelessness and an agitated depression, I began to ask for help from invisible forces. And in spite of the news media and the despairing attitude of many that the world is barely holding on to a functional reality, I became sentiently aware of the evolutionary process our planet is undergoing. For forty-seven years, I had experienced the world, like most, through my five senses. Quite unexpectedly, however, I developed clairsentience and an aspect of clairvoyance. I found that I, like many other people on this planet at this time in history, could gradually see and feel other dimensions.

I had been practicing transcendental meditation for over twenty-one years when unexpectedly, through my "third eye" (the "anja" chakra in Indian tradition), I began to see into alternative worlds, where figures I call "spirits" and what appear to be angels made physical contact with me. I had also become interested in the tales of Mary Magdalen as a result of my study of The Nag Hammadi Library, the hidden third-century Gnostic gospels found buried in a jar in Egypt in 1945. These experiences took many forms and this book is an account of the development of my visions and awakening consciousness. I will also tell you of newer experiences I went through dur-ing three meaningful and rewarding journeys—to Israel in 1997, to Colorado in 1998, and to France in 2000.

This last voyage, taken with five other women, was led by Deborah Rose, an acupuncturist from Somerville, Massachusetts, who had been researching and following the Black Madonna legends for two decades. In the winter of 2000, I had a call from my friend Joanie Sullivan, who had been in a dream group I facilitated a few years before. Joanie called to tell me her acupunctur-ist was putting together a small group of women to travel through France to view and meditate with some of France's 200 Black Madonnas. Joanie also mentioned that Deborah's intention was to experience the journey as a pilgrimage to regain a lost feminine heritage. Through my own independent study, I had been making connections between the heretical legends of Mary Magdalen and the mystery of the Black Madonna. At the time, I knew of only one Black Madonna, Our Lady of Czestochowa, whose poster-size framed image hung in my Polish grandmother's farmhouse until she died in the mid Sixties. My mother inherited the image and has had it hanging over her bed for thirty years,

As soon as I hung up with Joanie, I remembered a dream I had worked on in 1988 in a dream group with my mentor, Robert Bosnak. We met weekly in a small room above the barn next to his house in Sudbury, Massachusetts. During this period of my life, I was recovering from the loss of my lover. My dream placed me in an underground tunnel with mud walls. As the group moved me imaginatively, taking the dream further, someone suggested I examine the walls of the passage, I began to see the outline of a woman covered in mud. With our eyes closed, the group followed me deeper into the cave. The feeling was overwhelmingly claustrophobic, but I crept along the mud floor until I knew instinctively a spot in the wall where I must begin digging. To my surprise—for this was long before my interest in the Black Madonnas—my active imagination uncovered a black African woman, very proud and strong. She was an object, yet she felt alive. Though she seemed thoroughly other, my emotional attachment to her was immediate. I remember ending the session with the statement that I knew she had been walled in for a very, very long time.

At that time, I had been teaching a short story from the turn of the century—"The Yellow Wallpaper" by Margaret Perkins Gilman, a "found" feminist, or feminist before her time. She was a writer who suffered a break-down as part of a post-partum depression. A Freudian doctor prescribed bedrest and inactivity, but, like the woman in her short story, she kept a diary despite the prescription to quiet her mind. In the story, the woman furtively writes an account of her breakdown and how she was subsequently silenced by her physician husband. Slowly, by staring at the ugly wallpaper of the room where she is isolated, she begins to see a woman trapped beneath the pattern. By the end of the story, the woman has gone mad, crawling and ripping the wallpaper off to free the woman inside.

While I hadn't had a breakdown, I did suffer a post-partum depression in the early years of my marriage. As for the dream, the only association I could identify was to that short story. Yet I couldn't understand why, in my unconscious imagination, the woman was black. Now, all these years later, I can finally put this dream into a larger context. Despite the fact that it came years before I developed an interest in Mary Magdalen and the heresies of the 12th and 13th centuries in France, I know that it presaged my fascination with the mysteries of the Black Madonnas.

I've discovered over the years that there is no "time" in the unconscious. I have had a number of dreams and experiences whose significance only revealed itself later beyond any possibilities of my conscious knowledge. You could say these dreams were prescient, and that my inner Black Madonna was unearthed and would transform through the alchemical process of dream work.

My personal memoir of France is but one piece in a longer spiritual journey—one that I will especially treasure, however, because of my friendship with Deborah Rose, who passed on from breast cancer six years after our trip. I will always remember her as a vibrant being and a beautiful guide who stimulated me to make more effort to live in harmony with a conscious universe and the multidimensional aspects of myself.

This book is a personal account of my literal travels, as well as travels through dreams, synchronicities, and visions that connected me to a larger view of my own particular soul and its speculative parallel and past lives, I have seen, and I am still seeing, various images through my third eye during my regular twenty-minute meditations. These visions became clearer and more focused after I took a workshop in psychologist Stansislav Grof's holotropic breath work, which uses music and specific breathing techniques to reach an altered state of consciousness similar to that induced by taking the drug LSD. Because the visions are integral to my story, I begin with my initial conscious awareness of invisible presences. Although I was not previously interested in paranormal phenomena, my studies of the 13th-century Sufi poet, Rumi, awakened my awareness of their power. Many years of archetypal dream work and Jungian therapy contributed to and deepened my changing beliefs about the unconscious mind and the spiritual world.

Then I discovered Gnosticism, a loose blend of early Christian and Jewish sects that includes influences from Neoplatonism and ancient mystery schools. Gnosticism proposed beliefs in direct conflict with both religious and secular life as we know it on this planet, its most revolutionary implication being that human beings themselves are part of the Godhead that creates our reality.

The Gnostic texts were condemned as heresy by churchmen struggling to establish an institutionalized dogma.' The Dead Sea Scrolls, discovered only two years later, have some affinity with the Gnostic texts. They too tell mythological tales of apocryphal war between powers of darkness and light, They have been associated with the Essene Jews, whose community was wiped out by the Romans in the great raid of 70 A.D,, an event that Christ foresaw; his vision is recorded in the traditional gospels.

One basic tenet of all these belief systems is that our world is a perfect world of light, corrupted only by ignorance and darkness. This is the equivalent of a belief in sin and evil. The authors of these texts believed that, by transcending humanity's misinterpretation of the world, the original unfallen state of creation could be restored. The Essenes and both Jewish and Christian Gnostics found that they could only practice their beliefs by withdrawing from the secular world. In his introduction to The Nag Hammadi Library, James Robinson surmises.

Thus Gnosticism seems not to have been in its essence just an alternate form of Christianity. Rather it was a radical trend of release from the dominion of evil or of inner transcendence that swept through late antiquity and emerged within Christianity, Judaism, Neoplatonism, the mystery religions, and the like.2

These same beliefs have withstood the test of time, and have arisen again periodically throughout history. They exemplify truths alluded to by both ancient and modern mystic poets, and they are found in a wide range of traditions as far back as the Egyptian mystery schools, You could even say they have led to what we now call the "New Age," an often misunderstood term that denotes, ironically, a return to esoteric knowledge. Mayan prophecies mark the official date for the beginning of this Age of Return as 2012.

Harvard scholar Elaine Page identifies a mystery tradition in some Gnostic manuscripts as knowledge passed "from Jesus through James and through Mary Magdalen:" Concepts found in The Nag Hammadi Library have only recently moved into mass consciousness and the question of Mary Magdalen's relationship to Jesus Christ and his apostles is under exploration by many scholars. Dan Brown's best-selling novel and mystery "thriller," The Da Vinci Code has brought the medieval French mysteries and the question of ancient texts and secrets into the mainstream.

In sharing my images, I speak only for myself. I have little doubt, however, that the spiritual paradigm is changing on this Earth, transforming more quickly every day as we integrate the new energies available to us. Regardless of how the shift affects each of us, all of us have the opportunity to make some deliberate choices in how we live our lives for the greatest benefit of everyone. Like many others, I now believe the planet herself is conscious and evolving with us (or without us!). As we are forced through the Earth changes and tapped to awaken, we can choose to move with her into a higher dimension. We have free will either to resist or to help with this huge transition. Depending on the level of resistance we offer, we may be in for a bumpy ride. We entered the Aquarian Age at the millennium, and Aquarian energy is concerned with new systems, technology, community, and the higher mind. The Piscean Age of duality has ended, as we witness its last battles between "good" and "evil" being played out in the confusing wars scattered about the planet. Each of us will take our own route into the understanding of this new era.

I believe that the hour has come to restore feminine power and wisdom, The mystery of the Black Madonnas provides a different understanding of the figure of Mary Magdalen as an apostle of Christ's original teachings, many of which were compromised, edited, and misunderstood by the insti-tution of the Catholic Church. The feminine way of knowing is one of many direct routes into wholeness. With its emphasis on faith, intuition, and inner vision, it is now gaining respect over the dominating rational mind and patriarchal logos we have experienced and expanded for five millennia.

Our ancient birthright, or esoteric potential, has atrophied through lack of use, although it has remained alive through the occult traditions, As humanity is reintroduced to these talents, the integration of mind and heart will provide all who choose it with greater psychic abilities, greater compassion for one another, greater advancements in physical healing, and an absolute understanding that we are all interrelated as One.

In the present transition to a new aeon, and as a consequence of our growing understanding of our powers, a new Earth is manifesting within the old and dying one. My personal story is interwoven within the collective story. The story of Mary Magdalen and her association with the mysteri-ous Black Madonnas is also interwoven with the symbolic woman in Saint John's Revelation. The grave state of the world in our new century is none other than her labor to birth the imagined world many have dreamed of and prayed for—a world for which most people have long given up hope. A world without polarization or victimization. A world without separation, without rival religions, without economic hardships. A conscious, consensus-minded and resource-rich world. The difficult birth of this divine child represents all of humanity reclaiming its divine heritage. The symbolic power of the Black Madonnas continues its synchronistic significance in different areas of my life. My journey is but one glimpse into this universal pilgrimage, one example of the alchemical, human shift whose time has come.

Heresy: A History of Defending the Truth by Alister McGrath (HarperOne) In recent years the distinction between heresy and orthodoxy has come under fire by those eager to reject the formal boundaries of sanctioned beliefs about God, Jesus, and the church. In a timely corrective to this trend, renowned church historian Alister McGrath argues that the categories of heresy and orthodoxy must be preserved.

Remaining faithful to Jesus's mission and message is still the mandate of the church despite increasingly popular cries that traditional dogma is outdated and restricts individual freedom. Overturning misconceptions throughout the book, McGrath exposes:

  • how many of the heretical beliefs and practices rejected by the church were actually more stringent and oppressive than rival orthodox claims.
  • that many theological alternatives were rejected when the church had no power to enforce one view over another, long before Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire.

In Heresy, McGrath explains why no heresy has ever been eradicated—rival beliefs only go underground and resurface in different forms. McGrath presents a powerful, compassionate, and deeply attractive orthodoxy that will equip the church to meet the challenge from renewed forms of heresy today.

Excerpt:

Never has there been such interest in the idea of heresy. Ancient heresies, seen by earlier generations as obscure and dangerous ideas, have now been sprinkled with stardust. The lure of the religious forbidden never seems to have been so strong. As Geoffrey Chaucer shrewdly observed back in the fourteenth century: "Forbid us something, and that thing we desire.' For many religiously alienated individuals, heresies are now to be seen as bold and brave statements of spiritual freedom, to be valued rather than avoided.' Heresies are the plucky losers in past battles for orthodoxy, defeated by the brute power of the religious establishment. And since history is written by the winners, heresies have unfairly lost out, their spiritual and intellectual virtues stifled by their enemies. The rehabilitation of heretical ideas is now seen as a necessary correction of past injustices, allowing the rebirth of suppressed versions of Christianity more attuned to contemporary culture than traditional orthodoxy. Heresy has become fashionable.

It is clear there has been a shift in the cultural mood, leading to a new way of seeing and valuing heresy. The Yale cultural historian Peter Gay has recently written of the "lure of heresy," an intriguing catchphrase that points to an overwhelming and enticing longing to subvert—or at the very least to challenge—conventional cultural expectations.' Modern art, he argues, is thus characterized by a desire to offend tradition. The badges of honor of the movement were thus the persecution, prosecution, and outrage that it evoked. All revolutions require an enemy. In this case, the enemy is an orthodoxy that is both dull and dulling, suppressing the vital sparks of human originality and creativity.

Attitudes like these have become deeply embedded in contemporary Western culture. Heresy is radical and innovative, whereas orthodoxy is pedestrian and reactionary. As the Jewish writer Will Herberg (1901-77) astutely noted at the height of the American revolt against God in the 1960s, whereas religious orthodoxy seemed to be dry and desiccated, heresy seemed to exude intellectual energy and cultural creativity: "Today, people eagerly vaunt themselves as heretics, hoping that they will thereby prove interesting; for what does a heretic mean today but an original mind, a man who thinks for himself and spurns creeds and dogmas?"

The force of Herberg's point cannot be overlooked. Where religious orthodoxy is seen to be moribund or oppressive, the appeal of religious alternatives—including the wholesale rejection of religion—grows in intensity. The surge of interest in atheism in Western culture, especially during the nineteenth century, is a further measure of cultural disillusionment and disenchantment with religious orthodoxy. The recent surge in interest in the "new atheism" suggests that this reading of things remains important in the West in the early twenty-first century.'

Yet the appeal of heresy in contemporary Western culture goes far beyond any popular perception, however unreliable, of the irretrievable dreariness or moral inadequacies of religious orthodoxies. The deep-seated postmodern suspicion of the corrupting influence of power permeates, often subliminally, contemporary discussions of heresy. Everyone knows that history is written by the winners. "Orthodoxy" is nothing more than a heresy that happened to win out—and promptly tried to suppress its rivals and silence their voices. This was the thesis developed by the German scholar Walter Bauer (1877-1960), who argued that the earliest and most authentic form of Christian belief was probably heretical rather than ortho-dox. Orthodoxy was a later development, he suggested, which tried to suppress types of Christianity that had earlier been accepted as authentic.6 Bauer's work was originally published in German in 1934 and attracted relatively little attention. It was finally translated into English in 1971, by which time the cultural mood had shifted decisively away from the modernism of the 1930s and toward the postmodernism of the late 1960s. Bauer's ideas now resonated with the suspicions and values of an increasingly antiauthoritarian culture. The book rapidly became a talisman for postmodern critics of orthodoxy.

Bauer's thesis suggests that heresy is essentially an orthodoxy that was suppressed by those with power and influence in the Christian world—above all, the dominant church of Rome. We must there-fore recognize the existence of a group of "lost or suppressed Christianities," which were repressed and silenced by those who wished their own ideas to be acclaimed as orthodoxy.' In this view, the distinction between heresy and orthodoxy is arbitrary, a matter of historical accident. Orthodoxy designates the ideas that won, heresy those that lost. The cultural authority of this viewpoint is such that it needs detailed examination, especially in relation to the connections between orthodoxy, heresy, and power. We shall explore these issues thoroughly in the course of this work.

Others, however, went still further. For them, orthodoxy was not just about one set of ideas gaining the ascendancy through dubious means. It was about those ideas' deliberate invention, to secure the religious power base of the Christian church in the Roman Empire. This is one of the controlling themes of Dan Brown's blockbuster The Da Vinci Code, published in 2003, which topped bestseller lists throughout the West for a year.' Its plotline was influenced by a highly speculative theory advanced in 1982 by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln. In their Holy Blood, Holy Grail, these writers suggested, on the basis of what can be described only as the flimsiest of historical evidence, that Jesus of Nazareth had married Mary Magdalene, and that they had a child. Their book documented the alleged attempts of the Catholic Church to suppress the bloodline ever since. Brown's book fictionalizes that theory, even including a character named '"Sir Leigh Teabing," alluding to both Leigh and Baigent ("Teabing" is an anagram of "Baigent").

The relevance of Brown's novel to popular perceptions of the origins and significance of heresy can be seen in his character Teabing's confident assertion that "almost everything our fathers taught about Christ is false." Jesus of Nazareth was never thought to be divine by Christians, Teabing declares, until the Council of Nicaea in 325, when the matter was put to the vote. It only just scraped through. Brown's cryptologist character Sophie Neveu is shocked by these words: "I don't follow. His divinity?"

"My dear," Teabing declared, "until that moment in history, Jesus was viewed by His followers as a mortal prophet. . . A great and powerful man, but a man nonetheless. A mortal."

"Not the Son of God?" [said Sophie].

"Right," Teabing said. "Jesus' establishment as 'the Son of God' was officially proposed and voted on by the Council of Nicaea."

"Hold on. You're saying Jesus' divinity was the result of a vote?"

"A relatively close vote at that," Teabing added.

The risible inaccuracy of this dialogue (it was a landslide vote, for example) is not the point!' A perception has become the reality, given plausibility by its resonance with the cultural mood.

The Da Vinci Code declares that the divinity of Christ was a fabrication, a deliberate ploy on the part of a corrupt church deter-mined to secure its social status by any means and at any cost. Teabing goes on to argue that this was all a cynical and shrewd move on the part of the emperor Constantine (274-337), the date of whose conversion to Christianity is uncertain. Constantine had de-creed that Christianity should become the official faith of his empire. What could be more natural, Teabing suggests, than that Constantine should upgrade Jesus from a mere mortal to the eternal Son of God?

"To rewrite the history books, Constantine knew that he would need a bold stroke. From this sprang the most profound moment in Christian history. Constantine commissioned and financed a new Bible, which omitted those gospels which spoke of Christ's human traits and embellished those gospels that made him godlike. The earlier gospels were outlawed, gathered up and burned. But fortunately, some of these gospels survived and were found in 1945 at Nag Hammadi, Egypt."

Happily for historians, Teabing declares, Constantine failed to eradicate all the rival Gospels. We now know, he tells us, that the modern Bible was "compiled and edited by men who possessed a political agenda—to promote the divinity of the man Jesus Christ and use his influence to solidify their own power base."

Brown's narrative is an illuminating example of how fiction shapes perceptions of reality. Its equation of "power" and "orthodoxy" has become so influential that it has become the default option for many today. Yet as we shall see, it is open to serious challenge, not least because the idea of orthodoxy began to emerge within Christian communities while they were still marginal groups on the fringes of Roman imperial culture. The reality is much more complex than Brown's stereotypical account of Christian history—just as it is also more interesting and intellectually satisfying.

Brown's brilliant work of fiction plays up to the postmodern suspicion of power, and especially its privileging of certain favored ideas. Like the television series The X Files, which came to an end in 2002, The Da Vinci Code, with its ingenious historical fabrications, coincided with that era's widespread mistrust of governments, interest in conspiracy theories, and spirituality (as opposed to religion). Yet in many ways it also sets the context for contemporary discussions of heresy.

For many, heresy is now seen as a theological victim, a set of noble ideas that have been brutally crushed and improperly sup-pressed by dominant orthodoxies and then presented as if they were devious, dishonest, or diabolical. In this romanticized account of things, heresy is portrayed as an island of freethinking in the midst of a torpid ocean of unthinking orthodoxy enforced more by naked ecclesiastical power than by robust intellectual foundations. This is certainly the account of heresy that is firmly embedded in Brown's Da Vinci Code. Brown's plot centers on the post-Constantinian church's perennial attempts to guard, frequently violently, its gospel proclamation by hiding the truth that would subvert it. The discovery of this suppressed truth is thus held out as the postmodern equivalent of the classic quest for the Holy Grail. The possessor of this truth could destroy the perpetrator of one of the great institutional deceptions of all time—the Catholic Church. It is, of course, a fantasy—yet it is a fantasy that commands much popular support and attention, and is in itself an important indicator of recent cultural concerns and agendas.

Heresy now has a new appeal, through its emerging associations with the lure of secret knowledge, the transgressing of sacred boundaries, and the eating of forbidden fruit." The Christian Bible opens with two accounts of transgression—the eating of the forbid-den fruit (Genesis 3), and the building of the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11). Significantly, both represent challenges to the limits fixed for humanity by God. Boundaries, we are now told, are constructed by those with vested interests in preserving them; by transgressing them, we establish our own identity and authority, and confront and contest an illiberal establishment. Like Prometheus stealing the fire of the gods, transgression is about challenging power and bringing freedom. The forbidden has now become ennobled and made the legitimate object of desire. Heresy is a Promethean liberator of humanity from theocratic bondage. The outcome of this significant shift in cultural mood is obvious. Heresy cannot now simply be seen as an academic historical or theological problem. It has become a cultural issue.

Why? A major factor here is the growing emphasis upon choice as a defining characteristic of authentic human existence. As we shall see presently, the Greek term hairesis, which gave rise to our term "heresy," has strong associations with "choosing" or "choice." To choose is to express our freedom, to assert our capacity to create and control our own worlds.

This development is directly linked with the availability of religious alternatives. It is no accident that the appeal of heresy increased significantly in the rapidly developing society of twelfth-century Europe. People were becoming increasingly conscious of the choice available in material goods and education, and these wider horizons were reflected in their attitudes to religion. The monopoly of medieval Catholicism was eroded as the laity turned to explore alternative religious options such as those offered by the Cathars and Waldensians.' Here as elsewhere, the institutional church's response to this threat took the form of the enforcement of uniformity, thus denying individuals the critical element of choice. Yet the modern period has seen both the rise of religious diversity in much of the West and the erosion of the church's legal capacity to enforce uniformity.

The sociologist Peter Berger drew out the implications of this development in his landmark Heretical Imperative (1979). Berger here argues that in traditional primitive cultures, individuals are exposed to only a single set of fundamental assumptions. Each culture is based on, and to some extent defined by, a "myth"—that is, a foundational and legitimizing narrative or set of assumptions. To challenge this foundational mythology amounts to heresy, and traditionally would lead to death or banishment. Yet now we are confronted with a plethora of religions, philosophies, and paradigms. There is no single, fundamental, controlling metanarrative. We are free to choose, to pick and mix—which, for Berger, is the essence of heresy.

In the matter of religion, as indeed in other areas of human life and thought, this means that the modern individual is faced not just with the opportunity but with the necessity to make choices as to his beliefs. This fact constitutes the heretical imperative in the contemporary situation. Thus heresy, once the occupation of marginal and eccentric types, has become a much more general condition; indeed heresy has become universalized.

We are not required to accept a prepackaged worldview but are able to create one that resonates with our own perceptions of how things ought to be. Heresy is about being master of our own universe, choosing the ways things are—or at least the way we would like them to be.

Yet perhaps the ultimate appeal of heresy in our times lies in its challenge to authority.' Religious orthodoxy is equated with claims to absolute authority, which are to be resisted and subverted in the name of freedom. Heresy is thus to be seen as the subversion of authoritarianism, offering liberation to its followers. It is virtually impossible to take this account seriously from a historical perspective, especially as some heresies were at least as authoritarian as their orthodox rivals. The belief that heresy is intellectually and morally liberating tells us far more about today's cultural climate in the West than about the realities of the first centuries of Christian existence. Yet, as any account of the cultural reception of ideas con-cedes, the present-day relevance of any ancient idea has at least as much to do with what contemporary human beings are looking for as with what ancient ideas have to offer. The significance of heresy is thus not inherent within the heresy itself, but is rather constructed within the relationship between the original heresy and its contem-porary interpreteri8

This suspicion of authority can easily be transferred from orthodoxy itself to its biblical foundations. For some writers, the New Testament canon is to be seen as the authoritarian endorsement of those early Christian writings that were acceptable to the establishment. The New Testament documents are regarded as if they were unconvincing press releases from some official source, designed to conceal the truth about the origins of Christianity. Anything that looks like an official version is automatically suspect. In this view, potentially subversive texts—above all, those associated with Gnosticism—were repressed and marginalized. The theologian and cultural observer Garrett Green has brought out the importance of this point: "Under the suspicious eye of (post)modern critique, every faith in scriptural authority appears as a form of false consciousness, every sacred text as a surreptitious rhetoric of power."' To subvert ecclesiastical authoritarianism, it is necessary to undermine the authenticity of the texts on which it is based.

The recent media excitement about the Gospel of Judas in 2006 illustrates this trend. Here, we were told, was an alternative to the traditional Christian Gospels, suppressed by the early church be-cause of the threat it posed to its authority. This document seemed to be a perfect fit for the postmodern template of heresy—a forbid-den account of the origins of Christianity, deliberately concealed by anxious church leaders, which was uncovered by bold journalists determined to unearth the truth. A leading British newspaper de-clared it to be the "greatest archaeological discovery of all time," which posed a "threat to 2000 years of Christian teaching.'

The reality seems to have been rather more banal. The Gospel of Judas is a relatively late document, almost certainly originating within a marginalized sect within Christianity that was convinced that everyone else had got Jesus of Nazareth seriously wrong There was no documentary evidence within the body of literature accepted as authoritative by Christians at this time (including some works that never made it into the New Testament canon) that supported the case they wished to make. They remedied this situation by writ-ing their own gospel. Only Judas really understood Jesus, we are told; the other disciples got him wrong and passed on hopelessly muddled accounts of his significance. .

The Gospel of Judas represents Jesus as inviting Judas to intimate personal dialogues, from which the other disciples are excluded, in which secret knowledge is imparted to the disciple. This rhetoric of exclusion shapes the ensuing discussion: only Judas was included in the magic circle of the initiated to which the true secrets of the kingdom were entrusted. The Gospel of Judas portrays Jesus of Nazareth as a spiritual guru similar to the Gnostic teachers of the second and third centuries yet bearing little relation to the portrait of Jesus found in the synoptic Gospels. Christianity becomes a kind of mystery cult based on an immense bureaucracy that runs the cosmos, which Jesus is portrayed as explaining in exquisite and disquieting detail to Judas. It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that Jesus of Nazareth has been reinvented as a Gnostic teacher with Gnostic ideas. The Gospel of Judas has indeed the potential to illuminate our understanding of Gnosticism in the mid—second century and beyond, especially its often-noted parasitic relationship to existing worldviews.22 But it seems to have nothing historically credible to tell us of the origins of Christianity or the identity of Jesus of Nazareth." And it certainly poses no significant "threat" to traditional Christianity.

Nor is the Gospel of Judas even a radical document. The British New Testament scholar N. T. Wright dismisses the widespread belief that Gnosticism was innovative, providing a surge of creative intellectual energy that threatened to sweep away traditional ideas." If anything, Wright argues, it is the Gnostics who are better seen as the cultural conservatives, echoing many of the themes of the mystery religions of the age. In contrast, the orthodox Christians "were breaking new ground," and encountering opposition for doing so.

Where some suggest that the Gnostic Gospels represent radical alternatives to the "conservative" canonical Gospels, Wright argues that quite the opposite is true. It is the message of the New Testament that is truly radical. Yet centuries of cultural familiarity with Christianity, together with the relative novelty of a rediscovered Gnosticism, have created a somewhat different cultural perception. Religious orthodoxy has become the victim of a familiarity fatigue, which creates a yearning for novelty."

This book is a work of synthesis that tries to weave together important recent studies in the field and explore their contemporary relevance for our understanding of the idea of heresy. It does not set out to break new ground in our understanding of the concept of heresy in general, or of any specific heresy in particular. Nor is it a detailed, comprehensive account of the many heresies that have arisen within Christianity. Certain heresies are singled out for de-tailed discussion, partly because they are of particular importance in their own right, and partly in that they illustrate some more general principles that seem to underlie the origins and development of heretical movements.

The growing body of academic literature casting new light on how heresies originally emerged and developed down the centuries challenges many stereotypes of heresy. The picture that is emerging from this intense scholarly examination of early Christianity endorses neither the view of some Christian writers that heresy is a fundamentally malignant attack on orthodoxy, nor that of those who see it as a principled alternative to orthodoxy that was suppressed by the institutional church. I shall attempt to offer an ac-count of heresy that takes full account of the best modern scholarship. At the same time I shall try to understand why so many important early Christian writers regarded it as dangerous, and to do so without demonizing those who explored avenues of thought that eventually turned out to be heretical."

So what is heresy? Heresy is best seen as a form of Christian belief that, more by accident than design, ultimately ends up subverting, destabilizing, or even destroying the core of Christian faith. Both this process of destabilization and the identification of its threat may be spread out over an extended period of time. A way of making sense of one aspect of the Christian faith, such as the identity of Jesus of Nazareth—an aspect that may initially be welcomed and find general acceptance—may later have to be discontinued on account of the potential damage it is subsequently realized to be capable of causing.

An analogy may help make this difficult idea clearer. The Parthenon is widely regarded as one of the architectural wonders of the ancient world. By 1885, this once-glorious classic Greek building was in an advanced state of decay and was in need of restoration. Iron clamps and rods were used to hold together the building's great slabs of white marble, originally quarried from nearby Mount Pentelicus. Yet the restorers failed to realize that iron expands and contracts with changes in temperature, thus placing the stonework under pressure. More important, they also failed to rustproof the ironwork. As the iron began to corrode, it expanded, cracking the stones it was intended to preserve. A measure that was aimed at saving the building thus actually ended up accelerating its decay, requiring future generations to undertake even more radical restoration work than was originally needed. The correction of critical mistakes is often a costly and time-consuming business; nevertheless, it needs to be done. Heresy represents certain ways of formulating the core themes of the Christian faith—ways that are sooner or later recognized by the church to be dangerously inadequate or even destructive. What one generation welcomes as orthodoxy an-other may eventually discover to be heretical.

While all attempts to put the realities of God into human words will fall short of what they try to represent, some are much more reliable and trustworthy than others. "Orthodoxy" and "heresy" (or "heterodoxy"; the terms are often seen as interchangeable) are best seen as marking the extremes of a theological spectrum. In between these extremities lies a penumbra of views, which range from ad- equate without being definitive to questionable without being destructive. Heresy lies in the shadow lands of faith, a failed attempt at orthodoxy whose intentions are likely to have been honorable but whose outcomes were eventually discovered to be as corrosive as Nikolaos Balanos's iron clamps.

Although I shall focus on Christianity, it is important to appreciate that the concept of heresy has wide applicability outside Christianity. Functionally equivalent concepts can be found across the religious spectrum, even in Eastern religions." It has also found growing acceptance in secular contexts to refer to potentially dangerous or destabilizing ideas and approaches that pose a threat to dominant orthodoxies.

Yet heresy extends beyond the realm of ideas. For reasons we shall explore in this volume, the debate between heresy and orthodoxy is all too easily transposed to the social and political realms. As a result, any discussion of heresy must acknowledge the darker side of this discussion—the enforcement of ideas by force, the suppression of liberty, and the violation of rights. This theme is of major importance in western Europe during the Middle Ages, and is of growing importance in the Islamic world today.

Even this brief account of the nature of heresy raises huge questions. Two obvious examples may be noted. Who decides what is definitive and what is dangerous? And how are such decisions made? These questions lie at the heart of this book, and we shall begin to explore them immediately. A good point from which to set out on this journey of exploration is the nature of the Christian faith itself—to which we now turn.

The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown (Doubleday) Excerpt: The secret is how to die.

Since the beginning of time, the secret had always been how to die.

The thirty-four-year-old initiate gazed down at the human skull cradled in his palms. The skull was hollow, like a bowl, filled with bloodred wine.

Drink it, he told himself. You have nothing to fear.
 
As was tradition, he had begun this journey adorned in the ritualistic garb of a medieval heretic being led to the gallows, his loose-fitting shirt gaping open to reveal his pale chest, his left pant leg rolled up to the knee, and his right sleeve rolled up to the elbow. Around his neck hung a heavy rope noose—a "cable-tow" as the brethren called it. Tonight, however, like the brethren bearing witness, he was dressed as a master.

The assembly of brothers encircling him all were adorned in their full regalia of lambskin aprons, sashes, and white gloves. Around their necks hung ceremonial jewels that glistened like ghostly eyes in the muted light. Many of these men held powerful stations in life, and yet the initiate knew their worldly ranks meant nothing within these walls. Here all men were equals, sworn brothers sharing a mystical bond.

As he surveyed the daunting assembly, the initiate wondered who on the outside would ever believe that this collection of men would assemble in one place . . . much less this place. The room looked like a holy sanctuary from the ancient world.

The truth, however, was stranger still.

I am just blocks away from the White House.

This colossal edifice, located at 1733 Sixteenth Street NW in Washington, D.C., was a replica of a pre-Christian temple—the temple of King Mausolus, the original mausoleum . . . a place to be taken after death. Outside the main entrance, two seventeen-ton sphinxes guarded the bronze doors. The interior was an ornate labyrinth of ritualistic chambers, halls, sealed vaults, libraries, and even a hollow wall that held the remains of two human bodies. The initiate had been told every room in this building held a secret, and yet he knew no room held deeper secrets than the gigantic chamber in which he was currently kneeling with a skull cradled in his palms.

The Temple Room.

This room was a perfect square. And cavernous. The ceiling soared an astonishing one hundred feet overhead, supported by monolithic columns of green granite. A tiered gallery of dark Russian walnut seats with hand-tooled pigskin encircled the room. A thirty-three-foot-tall throne dominated the western wall, with a concealed pipe organ opposite it. The walls were a kaleidoscope of ancient symbols . . . Egyptian, Hebraic, astronomical, alchemical, and others yet unknown.

Tonight, the Temple Room was lit by a series of precisely arranged candles. Their dim glow was aided only by a pale shaft of moonlight that filtered down through the expansive oculus in the ceiling and illuminated the room's most startling feature—an enormous altar hewn from a solid block of polished Belgian black marble, situated dead center of the square chamber.

The secret is how to die, the initiate reminded himself.

"It is time," a voice whispered.

The initiate let his gaze climb the distinguished white-robed figure standing before him. The Supreme Worshipful Master. The man, in his late fifties, was an American icon, well loved, robust, and incalculably wealthy. His once-dark hair was turning silver, and his famous visage reflected a lifetime of power and a vigorous intellect.

"Take the oath," the Worshipful Master said, his voice soft like falling snow. "Complete your journey."

The initiate's journey, like all such journeys, had begun at the first degree. On that night, in a ritual similar to this one, the Worshipful Master had blindfolded him with a velvet hoodwink and pressed a ceremonial dagger to his bare chest, demanding: "Do you seriously declare on your honor, uninfluenced by mercenary or any other unworthy motive, that you freely and voluntarily offer yourself as a candidate for the mysteries and privileges of this brotherhood?"

"I do," the initiate had lied.

"Then let this be a sting to your consciousness," the master had warned him, "as well as instant death should you ever betray the secrets to be imparted to you."

At the time, the initiate had felt no fear. They will never know my true purpose here.

Tonight, however, he sensed a foreboding solemnity in the Temple Room, and his mind began replaying all the dire warnings he had been given on his journey, threats of terrible consequences if he ever shared the ancient secrets he was about to learn: Throat cut from ear to ear . . . tongue torn out by its roots . . . bowels taken out and burned . . . scattered to the four winds of heaven . . . heart plucked out and given to the beasts of the field—

"Brother," the gray-eyed master said, placing his left hand on the initiate's shoulder. "Take the final oath."

Steeling himself for the last step of his journey, the initiate shifted his muscular frame and turned his attention back to the skull cradled in his palms. The crimson wine looked almost black in the dim candlelight. The chamber had fallen deathly silent, and he could feel all of the witnesses watching him, waiting for him to take his final oath and join their elite ranks.

Tonight, he thought, something is taking place within these walls that has never before occurred in the history of this brotherhood. Not once, in centuries.

He knew it would be the spark . . . and it would give him unfathomable power. Energized, he drew a breath and spoke aloud the same words that countless men had spoken before him in countries all over the world.

"May this wine I now drink become a deadly poison to me . . . should I ever knowingly or willfully violate my oath."

His words echoed in the hollow space.

Then all was quiet.

Steadying his hands, the initiate raised the skull to his mouth and felt his lips touch the dry bone. He closed his eyes and tipped the skull toward his mouth, drinking the wine in long, deep swallows. When the last drop was gone, he lowered the skull.

For an instant, he thought he felt his lungs growing tight, and his heart began to pound wildly. My God, they know! Then, as quickly as it came, the feeling passed.

A pleasant warmth began to stream through his body. The initiate exhaled, smiling inwardly as he gazed up at the unsuspecting gray-eyed man who had foolishly admitted him into this brotherhood's most secretive ranks.

Soon you will lose everything you hold most dear.

This book will take you on a ride through Masonic rituals, secret organizations, organizations not so secret, sciences that seem so farfetched they belong in science fiction and a look at America's forefathers that seems as farfetched as that science fiction science, but it's all real. Every symbol, every ritual, every society, all of it, even the corridors and tunnels below Washington, DC, it's all real.

The story, that's not real nor beleivable, but you should suspend even the possibility of disbelief or rational plotting, still the background has the augur occult symbols glore .

Robert Langdon is up to his neck in symbols again. This time though he's not running though the streets of Europe. He's back in America and it turns out we have our own share of secret symbols that lead to ancient secrets right here. No need to go to Europe to be steeped in the occult.

Half a decade since his last thriller, Dan Brown doesn't disappoint with this one, though I wish he could craft his books a little faster, because it I surely do enjoy a day off and what better excuse for one of those than a terrific story. And this is a terrific story, suspense up the ying yang, a walloping good ride though tunnels and hidden places that put you right smack dab in the middle of a Stephen King fright, only these places didn't come out of the mind of the world's scariest writer. These places are real.

Chase scenes too, they're here. Robert Ludlum would have loved this book. Secret societies, men in black. Shooting, helicopters in the night. Detecting, that's here too, enough to keep you on your toes, if you're into Michael Connelly or John Connolly or John Sandford, you're going to love this story.

Robert Langdon is no Jason Borne, no Jack Reacher either. Langdon makes mistakes, gets caught, gets away, gets caught again. Langdon knows fear, has to overcome it.

The villain or anti-hero here is deliciously nuts, deliciously deceptive and deliciously evil. He's just a joy to read about. But aside from Langdon, my favorite character is Inoue Sato. She is the head of the CIA's Office of Security, sort of like IA for the CIA. They Spy on America's spies. She is a tough as nails woman, short, thin, with thinning hair, a mannish mustache, tobacco stained teeth, a scar sliced horizontally across her neck (throat cancer which makes her sound like a man). She is quick on the draw, quick to judge and a force to be reckoned with. She is also chasing after Langdon through most of the book as Langdon is chasing after symbols that will lead to a knowledge that has been guarded though the ages. Our bad guy wants that knowledge and if Langdon doesn't help him get it, he's going to kill someone Langdon cares about.


I've read all of Dan Brown's books, and while I'm not a huge fan, I do enjoy his stories and the fantastical idea that there could be some huge conspiracy or esoterica out there that only a few people know about. Dan Brown's writing could use some work, and he's not crafting great literature here, but the content of his stories usually makes up for that, and his latest novel, The Lost Symbol, is no exception. This is the third book to follow Robert Langdon, a Harvard Symbologist who previously showed up in Angels & Demons: A Novel (Robert Langdon), and The Da Vinci Code.

The Lost Symbol is very similar to his previous books, in that it has the same formulaic plot, structure, and theme, only this time it takes place in Washington, D.C. and involves the Freemasons instead of the Knights Templar. Just like in the Da Vinci Code, Langdon is called to Washington at a friend's request, only to find him missing, and spends the rest of the book chasing clues throughout the city and trying to outwit a new villain who is seemingly as smart as he is.

As mentioned above, the formula in The Lost Symbol is almost exactly the same. After only a few chapters into the book, I started drawing immediate comparisons to National Treasure (Widescreen Edition), and I could see some readers making that claim if it weren't for a few exceptions: Langdon is more likable than Ben Gates, the mysteries are much more involved and well-researched, and there is noticeably more action and suspense. This time, rather than trying to ignore some rather large plot holes, as contained in the Da Vinci Code, you will have to suspend your disbelief that a Harvard professor is physically capable of so many close calls. It almost reads more like an Ian Fleming novel than a book about a mid-50s professor trying to solve a centuries-old scavenger hunt. That works out well because a lot of books of this genre can get weighed down by the scientific or historical aspects and bore you to death.

That's not to say that The Lost Symbol doesn't have it's faults. The first is most notably the writing. While it has certainly improved since The Da Vinci Code, it still seems rather sophomoric, and not on par with someone who is one of the biggest-selling authors in the last twenty years. Even though it's fiction, some of the characters' actions really made me wonder if Brown has had much human contact while writing the book. There are other annoyances that he continually repeats in the book, but I won't bring them up for fear that mentioning them may cause future readers to have their attention constantly drawn to them. Overall though, the writing is not terrible and the plot is suspenseful enough that I can overlook it. Another theme that Brown plays around with is the concept of "mind over matter." He provides a great deal of research on the subject (too much in some chapters), but I still found it a little too out there, and wish he had chosen a different angle.

I think this book will appeal not only to Dan Brown fans, but to fans of Douglas Preston and Lee Child (Langdon is almost a clone of the Agent Pendergast character), James Rollins, Michael Crichton (there are certainly a lot of influences here as far as research into a book goes), and with this book, Clive Cussler (the action is on par with anything Dirk Pitt would see).

Decoding The Lost Symbol: The Unauthorized Expert Guide to the Facts Behind the Fiction by Simon Cox (Touchstone)  Based on extensive research, this A-to-Z guide lists the real people, organizations, and themes featured in Dan Brown's latest novel, explains their histories and their meanings, reproduces and analyzes the symbols themselves, and provides insider knowledge gleaned from years of exhaustive study. From the monuments of Washington, D.C., to the secrets of Salt Lake City and the hidden enclaves in Langley, Virginia, Cox knows where the facts are hidden about the Freemasons, Albert Pike, the Rosicrucians, the Founding Fathers, and more.

With Walker Percy at the Tupperware Party: in Company with Flannery O'Connor, T.S. Eliot, and Others/a> by Marion Montgomery (St. Augustine's Press) Montgomery makes a retrospective journey with Walker Percy, as Percy comes to an accommodation with the modern world in company with other companionable journeymen. Percy him-self enjoyed a large company of pilgrims who prove amenable to his vision of the human condition — in Percy's words, man is "in a predicament and on the move in a real world of real things, a world which is a sacrament and a mystery," words celebratively spoken of as "the holiness of the ordinary," as opposed to what he called the "losangelization" of the popular spirit, a spirit which increasingly takes refuge in enclaves of "selves" in the relapse into tribalism celebrated as our "New Age."

Percy's long journey from and then back to the South, his acceptance of what his Uncle Will exhibited as "Southern stoicism," had a reorientation that proved to be a "fortunate fall" very personal to him, occurring in a world far removed from the Southern Delta culture. As medical intern in the North, he undergoes a "training" that prepared him (in his subtitle to "Physician as Novelist") "for diagnosing T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land," which led to his contracting tuberculosis — a devastating arrest he would later conclude more an act of grace than an accidental misfortune as science might have it.

Recovering, he begins to read and read: Gabriel Marcel, Kierkegaard, St. Thomas Aquinas, Camus and Sartre and Eliot and others. And he begins distinguishing between valid science and scientism as knowing of reality, recognized as limited by the finiteness of the intellectual soul. Percy left the field of medicine to doctor to man in a different way.

Unlike, say, Eliot, whose irony was sardonic and self-lacerating, leading to a nervous break-down, Percy's speaks recognition of, and acceptance of, himself as "in a predicament," requiring of him "a searching and a finding." It is with a humor suspending radical judgment, then, that he will write Lost in the Cosmos, subtitled The Last Self-Help Book. His starting point: Carl Sagan's Cosmos, in which Sagan exhibits an intellectual naiveté in Percy's view. Sagan's Cosmos is a species of "the standard bull session of high school and college — up to but not past the sophomore year."

When Percy, recuperating with TB, understands the "holiness of the ordinary," he discovers that this world "is a sacrament," and so requires of him through his gifts a deportment to existence itself in celebration of that sacredness.

Thus Percy speaks a manner, not presuming himself the agent of grace through presumption of autonomous intellect, amused and as well regretful that so many about him appear lost in the cosmos. He puts that point to a sympathetic audience, down in Louisiana not far from his comforting "place" in Covington: "Catholic or Protestant, the believing writer is usually unhappy. He feels like Lancelot in search of the Holy Grail who finds himself at the end of his quest at a Tupperware party."

But not really unhappy — rather sympathetically regretful that his usual hosts at that party (his possible audience) have lost recognition of . the holiness of things that requires the pilgrim intellectual soul a deportment to things in "a sacrament" of consent, before the "mystery" larger than the pretenses of scientism. The world, that is, is not a desert to be plundered to self-comfort as justified by a positivistic apotheosis of the "Self" as a sovereign autonomy desert-bound. The "making" of sacramental piety, whether as novelist or Delta planter, requires the stewardship of love to things in themselves.

Bird by Andrew Zuckerman (Chronicle Books) Turning his camera to the world of birds, Andrew Zuckerman has a created a new body of work showcasing more than 200 stunning photographs of nearly 75 different species. See here for views of photos. These winged creatures from exotic parrots to everyday sparrows, and endangered penguins to woody owls are captured with Zuckerman's painstaking perspective against a stark white background to reveal the vivid colors, textures, and personalities of each subject in extraordinary and exquisite detail. The ultimate art book for ornithologists and nature enthusiasts alike, Bird is a volume of sublime beauty.

Andrew Zuckerman was born in Washington, DC in 1977. After an internship at The International Center of Photography in New York, he attended the School of Visual Arts to study photography and film, where he graduated in 1999. His work has been commissioned extensively for many leading international brands and has received many awards, including D&AD, One Show, BDA, and multiple annuals. His first film, High Falls, premiered at The Sundance Film Festival in 2007 before going on to win for best short narrative at the Woodstock Film Festival. He has published three photography books. CREATURE, a portrait series of animals, was released worldwide in November 2007 to critical acclaim and is now in its fourth printing. WISDOM, a book, film, and traveling exhibition released in October 2008, is an ongoing project made with the support of Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Andrew traveled the globe to photograph and interview the world's most eminent elders, from Judi Dench to Nelson Mandela, creating a comprehensive account of their perspectives on life. His latest book, Bird, is a visual study of birds from the rarest to the most common and will be available in October 2009. In 2006 Andrew co-founded Late Night and Weekends, a company that produces advertising, films, books, and online content.

Festiveness in the Kitchen

The Dumpling: A Seasonal Guide by Wai Hon Chu and Connie Lovatt (William Morrow)

In The Dumpling: A Seasonal Guide, Wai Hon Chu and Connie Lovatt have compiled the most comprehensive and wide-ranging anthology of dumpling recipes available, designed to teach anyone how to be a capable and intuitive dumpling maker.

The Dumpling includes not only American chicken and dumplings, German potato dumplings, and Chinese dim sum dumplings, but steamed puddings from England, leaf-wrapped dumplings from Asia and South America, layered tapioca dumplings from Thailand, corn-husk-wrapped tamales from Mexico and Central America, lavishly topped rice dumplings from Vietnam, simple and mouthwatering Caribbean dumplings, Middle Eastern dumplings smothered in rich sauces, steamed breads from East Asia, and oil-slicked chickpea dumplings from India.

Dumplings come in all shapes, sizes, and styles, including:

  • Dropped
    Butter-Tossed Spaetzle, Peach and Berry Grunt, Chicken Paprika with Dumplings
  • Rolled
    Cockles with Rice Dumplings in a Spicy Coconut Sauce, Lemony Lentil-Chard Soup with Bulgur Dumplings, Pounded Rice Dumplings Stuffed with Strawberries
  • Stuffed
    Cheddar Cheese and Potato Pierogi, Dumplings Stuffed with Pears, Figs, and Chocolate
  • Wrapped
    Leaf-Wrapped Rice Bundles Stuffed with Chicken and Peanuts, Pineapple-Pecan Tamales

Arranged by month, The Dumpling enables you to make a variety of dumplings all year long. With clear and instructive illustrations and photographs, Chu and Lovatt walk you through all the essentials of dumpling making, including extensive ingredient, equipment, and tip glossaries and helpful indexes: Dumplings by Region and Country, Dumplings by Type (Stuffed, Dropped, Wrapped, and more), and Vegetarian Dumplings. This encyclopedic book brings an exciting new dimension to one of our most beloved foods.

Earth to Table: Seasonal Recipes from an Organic Farm by Jeff Crump and Bettina Schormann (Ecco)

There is nothing more delightful than a tomato still warm from the sun, or a strawberry so perfectly ripe that it stains your fingers.

Why not eat this way all the time? The healthiest and most delicious food comes from farmers and artisans just down the road—though it is often easy to forget when we are surrounded by food shipped to our supermarkets from around the world and by highly processed products from distant factories.

Jeff Crump learned of the pleasures of using local cuisine by working in world-famous restaurants like Alice Waters's Chez Panisse, and he set about to develop a network of farmers to keep his own restaurant's kitchen humming all year round. It was not long before he was out in the fields himself, alongside pastry chef and collaborator Bettina Schormann, planting and harvesting crops that would form the backbone of their menus, breads, and desserts.

Eating locally means eating seasonally, and Jeff and Bettina offer up the most delicious of what each season provides. It could be something as unexpected as Gnudi with Ramps and Morels picked from the woods across the road; as simple and as refreshing as Dandelion Salad; or when it is cold outside, as hearty as Bread and Butter Pudding.

Earth to Table lets nature write the menu. Tender, green things in spring. Ripe, juicy dishes in summer. The bounty of the harvest in autumn. Rich braises and tart preserves in winter. The result is a year of discovery of new ingredients and dishes, and a rediscovery of classics that suddenly taste the way they were meant to.

Bringing together stories of the passage of seasons on the farm; profiles of some of the world's most innovative chefs—like Heston Blumenthal and Thomas Keller—and the farmers they count on; how-to sections that help readers make the most of the season and what their gardens and farmers' markets have to offer; stunning photographs; and, of course, creative and delicious recipes that make anyone wonder why they ever considered eating a tomato in February, Earth to Table explores what's best about food.

All Cakes Considered by Melissa Gray (Chronicle Books) Melissa Gray is National Public Radio's Cake Lady. Every Monday she brings a cake to the office for her colleagues at NPR to enjoy. Hundreds of Mondays (and cakes) later, Melissa has lots of cake-making tips to share. With more than 50 recipes for the cakes that have been dreamed of and drooled over for a lifetime including Brown Sugar Pound Cake, Peppermint and Chocolate Rum Marble Cake, Lord and Lady Baltimore Cakes, Dark-Chocolate Red Velvet Cake, and Honey Buttercream and Apricot Jam Cake All Cakes Considered is an essential addition to every baker's library.

 

Special Contents

Read Me: A Century of Classic American Book Advertisements by Dwight Garner (Ecco)

The Dreaded Feast: Writers on Enduring the Holidays edited by Michael Clarke (Abrams Image)

The Philosophical Baby: What Children's Minds Tell Us About Truth, Love, and the Meaning of Life by Alison Gopnik (Farrar Straus Giroux)

Leonard Maltin's 2010 Movie Guide by Leonard Maltin (Plume)

Festive Foods

The Dumpling: A Seasonal Guide by Wai Hon Chu and Connie Lovatt (William Morrow)

Earth to Table: Seasonal Recipes from an Organic Farm by Jeff Crump and Bettina Schormann (Ecco)

All Cakes Considered by Melissa Gray (Chronicle Books)


The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown (Doubleday)  

Weekends at Bellevue by Julie Holland (Bantam Books) 

Imagining Science: Art, Science, and Social Change edited by Sean Caulfield, Timothy Caulfield (University of Alberta Press)

Bird by Andrew Zuckerman (Chronicle Books)

Pebbles of Wisdom From Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz: Collected and with Notes by Arthur Kurzweil by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz (Author), Arthur Kurzweil (Jossy-Bass)

Gandhian Way: Peace, Non-violence and Empowerment (Indian National Congress) edited by Anand Sharma (Academic Foundation)

The Future That Brought Her Here,  Memoir of a Call to Awaken by Deborah DeNicola (Ibis)

Heresy: A History of Defending the Truth by Alister McGrath (HarperOne)

With Walker Percy at the Tupperware Party: in Company with Flannery O'Connor, T.S. Eliot, and Others by Marion Montgomery (St. Augustine's Press)

Good Without God: What a Billion Nonreligious People Do Believe by Greg Epstein (William Morrow)

Transform Your Life Through Handwriting