When 16-year-old Gabby Douglas won the all-around gold medal in women’s gymnastics at the 2012 Olympics, she tweeted, “I give all the glory to God.” Now she has teamed up with Michelle Burford— founder of Oprah’s Magazine, O—to share more of her story. From her early days as a sickly infant to her adolescence with fellow gymnasts who joked she was their “slave,” Douglas’ resilience is compelling and inspiring. Her family’s Word of Faith beliefs are a big part of the story. As such, her declarative prayers are occasionally more about personal fulfillment than glorifying God: “I will stick each landing because I have the God-given talent and the intense desire to do it.” Approached with discernment, it’s still a rich read.
In his new treatise on work, Keller explores a perennial subject in his intellectual yet pastoral way. First, he explains “God’s Plan for Work,” outlining the God-created dignity and design of our labor. From there he moves to“Our Problems with Work,” where he explores why people often experience frustration and discouragement in their callings. In his final section, “The Gospel and Work,” Keller shows how Christ’s work transforms His people so that “every good endeavor ... pursued in response to God’s calling, can matter forever.” The narrative loses some momentum as he delves into specific disciplines, but the book overall is a good endeavor. With quotations from artists like John Coltrane and theologians like John Calvin, Keller unites some of our culture’s deepest longings with sound biblical answers.
When outspoken atheist Christopher Hitchens discovered he had esophageal cancer in June 2010, he declared it wouldn’t change his mind about God. His admirers hoping for a deathbed conversion will find this slim volume on his last days disappointing. Those looking for an incisive—even humorous—description of his passage through “Tumortown” will find plenty to appreciate, including his take on the medical establishment, tactless fans for whom he prescribes a cancer etiquette book, and so-called Christians who wager on his eternal destiny. As he loses his voice and ability to write, his idolatry is both haunting and cautionary: “I often grandly say that writing is not just my living … but my very life … I feel my personality and identity dissolving.”
Margie Haack’s memoir of growing up in northern Minnesota during the 1950s is a fast but nourishing read, filled with unpretentious wisdom and kindness rare in the publishing world. Haack’s studies with Francis and Edith Schaeffer, and her own ministry of “cultural engagement” through Ransom Fellowship evidently taught her to tell a good yarn in the course of edifying her readers. From laugh-out-loud childhood antics to her father’s brutal temper, the storytelling is realistic but not immodest, as Haack runs her fingers over the memories of people and events that formed her, and finds, “No matter how far into the wilderness we wander ... it will be a place God can touch us.”
This year marks the 200th anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen’s most popular book, Pride and Prejudice. Publishers rejected the first draft of the novel, which she called First Impressions. She sat on it for 15 years before rewriting and getting it published as Pride and Prejudice in 1813. Not until after her death in 1817 did Austen receive credit for her novels. That’s when her brother Henry wrote a biographical note to an edition of Persuasion and Northanger Abbey identifying her as the author of six novels which had been published anonymously.
The Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA) holds an annual essay contest, open to high school—including homeschool—college, and graduate students. The topic for 2013: “Though Pride and Prejudice may be regarded as timeless, nevertheless within the novel Austen plots her time very carefully. Timing is everything for important relationships and events. And the characters are deeply connected to the time in which they live, which is both like and unlike our times. What do we discover about time, times, or timeliness from reading Pride and Prejudice?” Deadline is May 15: More information is available at the organization’s website jasna.org.