"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Sunday, December 22, 2013

For the Bibliophile on Your Christmas List

Though Amazon's recent musings about same-day delivery via drones has not of course come to pass, there is still time for you to order books for the Eastern Christian bibliophile in your family or among your friends--especially if you celebrate on the "old" calendar! I take the liberty of reposting from last month my look back at some notable publications of 2013.

Twice in as many years I've put together a list of books that interested readers may peruse when trying to find something to buy for the Eastern Christian bibliophile on their Christmas list, or otherwise seeking to enrich their own libraries. The 2011 list is here, and the 2012 list is here.

I've done that again for 2013, focusing for the most part on books published just this year--which, as you'll soon see, is a formidable list but even this list is just a sampling of what has emerged this year. I expect that 2014 will be at least as prolific in publications if not more so. Though most of the books noted below presuppose some intellectual formation and academic background on the part of readers--that is, they are for adults--I did note here some recent, vibrant publications for children that I commend to your attention.

One of the most fascinating large and hefty collections of academic articles on icons, Icons in Time, Persons in Eternity: Orthodox Theology and the Aesthetics of the Christian Imagewas noted here. Ashgate also brought out another scholarly collection on icons, which was noted here.

This new book, which I have read and continue to think about, and of which I hope to have a review posted in the coming weeks, also deserves attention by those interested not just in iconography, but especially in politically motivated forms of iconoclasm: The Politics of Iconoclasm: Religion, Violence and the Culture of Image-Breaking in Christianity and Islam. 

Also on the topic of iconoclasm is a new book by the leading scholar of it today in its Byzantine context, Leslie Brubaker, Inventing Byzantine Iconoclasm, some details of which are here, where I also note other recent books on the topic by Brubaker.

Finally, this past summer I discovered a new (to me) book on Romanian iconography, which I discussed here.


2013 was itself an anniversary year--the 1700th anniversary of the legalization of Christianity under Constantine, whose legacy, as I noted here, continues to be vigorously debated.

2013 is also, of course, the lead-up to the centenary of the Great War, about which we have already seen a steady stream of books in anticipation of the anniversary next year. I discussed a number of those books here and more recently here. That war, of course, brought down many empires, and one study of their collapse was noted here


The papacy was also, of course, the object of much comment this year, a good deal of it, however ironically, from me. See here, e.g. Or for a vastly more authoritative treatment, perhaps even bordering on infallible, see here.

From Orthodox scholars, see this very important book by an Orthodox theologian, of which I have a review forthcoming next year for the British journal, Reviews in Religion and Theology: George Demacopoulos, The Invention of Peter: Apostolic Discourse and Papal Authority in Late AntiquityAs I noted in my review, this book shows--as other recent studies have--that the history of the papacy, and of East-West relations, is considerably more complicated than either Western apologists for the papacy, or Eastern critics of it, have usually allowed.

Much discussion in the last six weeks or so has focused on Pope Francis and his plans for reforms in the structure of the Catholic Church and his calling of a so-called synod of bishops in Rome. That misnamed institution was recently studied here.

The Ethiopian Church, the largest Orthodox church in Africa, is starting to garner more scholarly attention. One recent study of Ethiopian ecclesiology was noted here.

Finally, papal primacy is treated in a new book by an Orthodox theologian which I read in mss. form and am happy to see in print. It deserves careful reading from Catholic and Orthodox Christians alike.


Just recently Eerdmans published an English translation of a book written a number of years ago in German by Thomas Bremer:
Cross and Kremlin: A Brief History of the Orthodox Church in Russiasome details here.

The role of the YMCA in 20th-century Russian Christianity, and Russian relations with Western Christians, was treated in a fascinating new book which our reviewer praised. That book was was noted here.

A new book on post-Soviet religious life, which has been treated in at least a dozen books in English alone in the last decade, was noted here. The rise and role of "secularism" in Russia and Ukraine was discussed here.

A big new book, which I'm told is in the mail to me this week, treats one of the most important Russian theological journals of the past century: Antoine Arjakovsky (whom I will interview in the new year about his book),  The Way: Religious Thinkers of the Russian Emigration in Paris and Their Journal, 1925-1940. Details about the book are here.

Russia has long been a "front" for action by, and conflicts with and between, her native Orthodox Church and various Western churches and para-church institutions. One recent book treats a fascinating episode of that: Russian Bible Wars: Modern Scriptural Translation and Cultural Authority, which was noted here.


As we know, over the last quarter-century or so, there have been considerable numbers of Christians raised in a Western tradition who have headed East. (Some of them, alas, then begin ranting about the "pan-heresy" of ecumenism, an absurd notion discussed here.) Several recent books treat their stories, including converts to Orthodoxy who are philosophers of one sort or another (for more on philosophy in a Byzantine context, see here.) At the beginning of the year I noted a book on converts in general here. Then at the end of the year we had, as I noted a few weeks ago, what promises to be a fascinating and serious scholarly study whose author I hope to interview in the new year. That book, by the Orthodox priest and historian Oliver Herbel, was noted here.

Social Issues: 

I've followed a number of on-line discussions this year about the problems of "bourgeois Christianity." The entanglements of economics, class, and faith in North America remains a question I hope to write more about in the coming year.

At the beginning of this year I interviewed an author about her fascinating new book, They Who Give from Evil: The Response of the Eastern Church to Moneylending in the Early Christian Era

Western Phantasmagoria:

I've spent more time than I liked this year on the uses and abuses of history, not least by Orthodox Christians against the West. Most happily indeed, we had two first-rate studies this year from Orthodox theologians and historians taking on some of the grossest and most absurd of the caricatures. The first of these was from Marcus Plested on Orthodox Readings of Aquinas. I interviewed Plested here. His book was reviewed this year in Logos: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies, and the review was entirely laudatory.  

The other collection that was supposed to be out in the summer was just released last month under the editorial direction of Fordham's two outstanding Orthodox theologians: Orthodox Constructions of the West. This highly welcome and overdue collection was noted in some detail here. I will continue to discuss it in the weeks ahead. If you could only buy one book this year, I'd give this one the most serious consideration.

Middle East:
For more than a decade now we have watched a steady stampede of Eastern Christians out of the Middle East. For the last three years, those who remained, especially in places like Egypt and Syria, were said by some early and hopeful commentators to be living through a so-called Arab "spring" but today we more correctly speak of the lack thereof, as noted here.

But the Arab world is not dead intellectually, and so I noted a new book on Trinitarian theology in an Arabic context here. And it was a very welcome event in May to have published The Bible in Arabic: The Scriptures of the 'People of the Book' in the Language of Islam, authored by one of the world's leading scholars on the encounter between Islam and Eastern Christians.

The role of Coptic Christians in the ongoing political struggles of Egypt came in for scrutiny in a new book noted here

One of the great Byzantinists of our time treated the world on the eve of Islamic conquest in her new collection, Late Antiquity on the Eve of Islam.

Muslim-Christian Relations:

Continuing the theme of Muslim-Christian relations more widely, I noted a new Routledge Reader on this topic here.

Ayse Ozil's fascinating new book, which I hope to read over the Christmas break, was released only in late October: Orthodox Christians in the Late Ottoman Empire: A Study of Communal Relations in Anatolia.

Here I noted another book on the endlessly debated Crusaders and Ottomans. 

Finally, I spent some time commenting on this very careful and deeply fascinating study from Nicholas Doumanis: Before the Nation: Muslim-Christian Coexistence and its Destruction in Late-Ottoman Anatolia, which I discussed here. It is a very welcome study and deserves a place on every bibliography devoted to Muslim-Christian relations. Similar studies include one on Jews and Christians under Islam, noted here, and a recent study on, surprisingly, dhimmis in the West, noted here.


A short little introductory handbook to the Byzantine liturgy was noted here, while here I noted the reprinting of one of the standard scholarly works in the field, Hugh Wybrew's The Orthodox Liturgy: The Development of the Eucharistic Liturgy in the Byzantine Rite.

For the specialists among us, this collection of Byzantine liturgical manuscripts may be of interest.

Finally, for sacred architecture in Byzantium, see here

The death, just two weeks ago, of the well known and Orthodox composer John Tavener put me in mind of several of his beautiful and deeply haunting pieces. For those see these two CDs (inter alia): Tavener: Sacred Music and Best of John Tavener.

Developments in Byzantine chant were noted in this new book.


In teaching a new class this year, I turned to one of the classics in the field, The Way of a Pilgrim: The Jesus Prayer Journey— Annotated & Explained, which was discussed here.

Holy Trinity Jordanville recently published a series of small little book on the spiritual life, several of which I noted here.

The role of asceticism was discussed here, where I noted a welcome new book, that draws extensively on the East, by David Fagerberg: On Liturgical Asceticism

The Rule of St. Basil the Great was again available in English after a long hiatus as I noted here.


In addition, of course, to Aristotle Papanikolaou's new book (which actually came out at the end of last year), The Mystical as Political: Democracy and Non-Radical OrthodoxyI also noted a new book on Orthodoxy and human rights here.

Author Interviews:

The lovely Edith Humphrey, Orthodox biblical scholar and theologian and author of Scripture and Tradition: What the Bible Really Says, was interviewed here. (My 2011 interview with her is here.)

My dear friend Bill Mills was interviewed here about the Festschrift he recently published about our mutual friend Michael Plekon, Church and World: Essays in Honor of Michael Plekon.

The blogger Rod Dreher was interviewed here about his book The Little Way of Ruthie Leming: A Southern Girl, a Small Town, and the Secret of a Good Life..

As noted above, Brenda  Llwellyn I hssen was intereviewed here about  They Who Give from Evil: The Response of the Eastern Church to Moneylending in the Early Christian Era.

Augustine Casiday was interviewed here about his big new collection The Orthodox Christian World. In 2014, I hope to interview him about his even more recent book on Evagrius.

Finally, just last weekend I interviewed Sarah Hinlicky Wilson about her book on Elisabeth Behr-Sigel.

Finally, though it has been out for several years, I only got around to seeing Ostrov (The Island), this year with my students. My thoughts on it are here. If you've not seen it, do yourself a favor over Christmas and watch it.

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