Culture

Literary microbrews

Culture | Small presses have some of the best books

Issue: "Larry Woiwode: By the book," July 4, 1998

According to media seer Marshall McLuhan, the late 20th century has featured a "smothering diminution of literary creativity, excellence, and variety by the monolithic concerns of leviathan publishing combines." Despite that "desultory state of affairs," he said, there was "no cause for alarm or despair." Instead, he predicted, the great books in the future could be "ferreted out of the odd lots of small publishers' reprints, new ventures, and media alternatives." Not surprisingly, it appears he was right. Works most deserving of our attention today are rarely found in trade bookstores, all too often are not listed in Books in Print, and are almost never found in the catalogs of the major corporate publishers. Instead, they are produced by small entrepreneurial enterprises far outside the traditional publishing mainstream. They may be hard to find, but these literary microbrews are revolutionizing the industry because they are robust and flavorful, when everything else is flat and predictable. Preston-Speed is a mom-and-pop business that has made a tremendous contribution to juvenile literature by republishing all of the remarkable historical novels of G.A. Henty. Thus far it has released vivid tales recounting the exploits of Wallace and Bruce in Scotland, Cortez in Mexico, Hannibal across the Alps, Drake on the high seas, Lee in Virginia, and Alfred in primordial Britain. Other books tell the gallant stories of the fall of Jerusalem, the launching of the Crusades, the creation of Canada, and the rise of the Dutch Republic. My favorite of the newer releases is St. Bartholomew's Eve (ISBN 1-887159-08-8), a rip-roaring yarn about the Huguenot Wars during the Reformation in France. Although originally intended as adventure stories for young boys, these are suitable for every member of the family. Reel to Real is a small innovative media ministry in British Columbia. Its magnificent coffeetable book, Canada: Portraits of Faith (ISBN 0-9681835-0-6), is one of the most beautiful and substantive books produced this year. Profiling 52 heroes of Canadian history-from the days of the earliest pioneers to the present-the book details the lives of those who had an impact on their nation and the world with both stalwart faith and patriotic deeds. The Plymouth Rock Foundation, which has produced some of the finest Christian worldview literature available anywhere, re-released two classics this past year. The Roots of the American Republic (ISBN 0-942516-23-0) by E.C. Wines demonstrates that the American founding fathers relied heavily on the form and organization of the Hebrew government-revealed in the Bible-as the primary inspiration for their great experiment in liberty. Originally written in 1853, the work is a delightful and thoughtful application of an all too often neglected aspect of Scripture. Christianity: A Total World and Life System (ISBN 0-942516-24-9) is a new edition of Abraham Kuyper's famous lectures on Calvinism and culture delivered in 1898 at Princeton. American Vision is a little ministry making a big impact with its new junior-high and high-school textbook series, To Pledge Allegiance, written by Gary DeMar and Fred Young. The second volume of this beautifully illustrated, carefully researched, and thoughtfully designed set of books, Reformation to Colonization (ISBN 0-915815-29-X), is the best single volume on that great epoch I have ever seen. The Vision Forum is yet another alternative media company. Its republication of The Sinking of the Titanic (ISBN 0-9665233-0-X) is a bracing dose of historical verity and Christian heroism at a time when the Titanic frenzy seems to have lost all touch with reality. Profusely illustrated, this engaging and inspirational book was originally published the year the great ship sank. This new edition, redesigned, reformatted, and edited by Douglas Phillips, is a delight to read. Canon Press produces books of substance, beauty, and wisdom that have helped to jump-start the classical education movement, reignited a passion for belles lettres, and restored literary integrity to biblical orthodoxy. Canon's most recent release, The Fruit of Her Hands (ISBN 1-885767-34-X) by Nancy Wilson, is one of the most thought-provoking books on marriage, homemaking, calling, and fulfillment I have ever read. Straightforward, common sense, scriptural counsel-gently and beautifully presented-is tough to come by these days. Despair not! Good books are still being produced. You may have to hunt a bit to find them-but then, that is actually half the fun, isn't it?

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