Books for Today – April 2023

The book I would most wish to recommend is Lydia (Hodder & Stoughton, London 2022. 324pp: £16.99) by Paula Gooder, Canon Chancellor at St Paul’s Cathedral. It tells the story of the first recorded Christian convert in Europe. Similar in style to her previous biography of Phoebe, it is a work of fiction, albeit based on Biblical scholarship. I dare not say too much, for were I to tell how the story develops, I would spoil it for future readers. It is a fascinating read and worth every penny. I wonder who the hero will be in her next biography?

Women Remember: Jesus’ Female Disciples (Hodder, London 2023. 203pp: £12.99) by Helen Bond & Joan Taylor, is based on an earlier Channel 4 TV programme, Jesus’ Female Disciples: The New Evidence. The book contains minimal new evidence. Its 11 chapters, however, underline the importance women played in the early church. This could be a good resource for a sermon series.

I confess that I am not really qualified to review The Contemporary Woman: Can she really have it all (Hodder, London 2023. 310pp: £10.99) by Michele Guinness, so all I am doing is to make readers aware of what appears to be an honest and powerful reflection on womanhood.

Failure: What Jesus said about Sin and Mistakes and Messing Stuff Up (SPCK, London 2023.  227pp: £10.99) by Emma Ineson, a former principal of Trinity College Bristol, and currently Bishop to the Archbishops of Canterbury & York, is a thought-provoking guide to the topic of failure. “The question”, she wrote, “is not ‘Will there be failure?’ but, rather, ‘When there is failure, what will we do about it and what will we do with it?” I particularly appreciated her final chapter in which we she suggests ways on ‘how to fail really well’: e.g. make friends with the ordinary, learn to make different kinds of mistakes, know your besetting sins, allow others to fail, and remember that failure is never final. Each of the 6 chapters ends with 4 questions for discussion. Written with Lent in mind, it is a good book to read at any time.

Broken by Love: Transforming the Lives of Women on the Streets of Bristol (Authentic, Milton Keynes 2023. 238pp: £10.99) by Val Jeal with Jude Simpson, tells the remarkable story of Val Jeal, a very ordinary person and yet a person whom God enabled to change the lives of many sex workers and drug addicts. Now 70, she tells her story of how she had “twenty raucous, extraordinary years with God, breaking and healing as he showed me how to get alongside men and women who needed to see his love and to see their value in his eyes”.

World Turned Upside Down: The Psalms and the Spirituality of Pain. Finding a Way Through (BRF, Abingdon 2023) by Alison Morgan, an Anglican minister who oversees a discipleship programme for Africa, contains 7 chapters in which she reflects upon how we cope when our lives are marked by pain. A thoughtful but challenging read.

Tell me Good Things: On Love, Death and Marriage (Bloomsbury, London 2022. 209pp: £12.99 hardback) by James Runcie, filmmaker & playwright, who is the son of a former Archbishop of Canterbury, tells the devastating story of Marilyn, his wife of 35 years, who died of motor neurone disease on 21 August 2020. When diagnosed, Marilyn said: “I know I’m at the gate. The best we can hope for is that flight’s delayed”. In the end it was just under 6 months from diagnosis to death. Not surprisingly, James Runcie rages against the unfairness of it all. Sadly, in spite of being the son of a former Archbishop of Canterbury, neither James or his wife were sustained by “the sure and certain hope” of Christian believers. Instead in the penultimate paragraph James wrote: “My task is now to live for her, to try to continue a love that is both real and imaginary; to incorporate her velocity of character, and all that was best in her, celebrating the fact that we knew and loved each other for as long as we did”. This deeply moving book made me wonder how Christians – and not least Christian ministers – can engage with those who have turned their back on the Christian faith, and convince them there is more to life than this life. It is a real challenge.

Loving Disagreement: The Problem is the Solution (Kingsway, Deeside 2022. 209pp: £12.99) by Christopher Landau, a former BBC journalist, now an Anglican vicar and director of Re-Source, is an important albeit simple message: where there is theological or ethical disagreement, we need to treat our Christian opponents with the dignity of a brother or sister in Christ. Not to do so is to do major damage to the Church of Christ. Here is a message which Evangelical leaders need to hear. I warmly recommend this highly readable and challenging book.

After God’s Heart: Life Lessons from King David (Authentic, Milton Keynes 2023. 218pp: £10.99) by Martin Percey, minister of Manvers Street Baptist Church, Bristol, is a popular exposition of the life of David. Each chapter  is followed by questions for reflection.

Come With Me to Kathmandu: 12 Powerful Stories of Women’s Courageous Faith in Nepal (Authentic, Milton Keynes 2023. 225pp: £10.99) by Anna Townsend, the wife of a British army officer who served with the Ghurkas, is a collection of very varied but also very moving stories of Christian Nepali women. Their stories are told by an English woman with her own biases and perceptions, but as she says, it would be great if further stories were to be published written by Nepali women.

Recent booklets from Grove of Cambridge, all 28pp & £3.95 each, include How to Engage Emerging Adults in Church (Youth 68, 2022) by Rebecca Glover, Digital Communications Communicator at Youth for Christ, is a guide which ministers need to read! Dealing with Disappointment: Learning from Failure & Being Failed in Christian Ministry (Youth 69, 2023) by Nigel Roberts, an experienced youth worker, is well-written and well-thought through booklet, which every youth worker needs to read. 12 Prophetic Virtues: The Minor Prophets & Some Passages with Ethical Significance (Ethics 207, 2022) and 12 Prophetic Emphases: The Minor Prophets & Some Passages with Ethical Significance 2023),, both by OT scholar John Goldingay, make for interesting reading but feel like old lecture courses. Forgiveness (Bible 105, 2022) by Baptist minister Tim Carter, ends with a challenge: “In our fractured and broken families, Jesus calls us to find ways of saying the Lord’s Prayer together, with integrity, repentance, grace and love”. Teaching 2 Peter: Growing in Grace and Knowledge (Bible 106, 2023) by NT scholar Thomas J. Parker of Chesterfield Community Church, is a helpful study of the structure and themes of the letter. Following Jesus in the Great Outdoors: Learning about Discipleship from the Mountains (Discipleship 7, 2022) by Richard Tiplady, Director of Mixed Mode Training of the Scottish Episcopal Institute, is niche guide to ministerial formation. Deep-rooted Discipleship: How to Increase Our Dependency Upon God (Discipleship 8, 2023) by Andrew Harding, Executive Pastor of  Central Church, Edinburgh, in which he reflects on practical lessons he has learnt when life has been challenging. How to Do Theological Reflection: Thinking, Writing & Living Theologically (Pastoral 171, 2022) by Andrew Dunlop of Ridley Hall, Cambridge, ends with the reminder that we need to be willing to change if we are to be effective ministers of Christ. Developing Reflective Practice for Preachers (Worship 252, 2022) by Charles Chadwick & Philip Tovey is based on an earlier guide by Philip Tovey, and has Anglican preachers in view. Understanding the Eucharistic Prayer (Worship 253, 2023) by Charles Read, who is a trainer in the Norwich diocese, is a fairly basic guide for people preparing for ministry. Starting a Community Choir: Using Music in Outreach and Mission (Mission & Evangelism 139, 2022) by Dwayne Engh, the Ordained Ministries Development Officer for the Derby Diocese, has a focus on creating community for people living in social isolation. Using a Missional Framework: How to Discern a Missional Approach in Different Contexts (Mission & Evangelism 140, 2023)- by Colin Smith, the mission learning manager of the Church Mission Society, is a tool for churches “to help discover a shared sense of where they are, and discern together where they could be heading in the complexity of a changing landscape”. The Practice of Evangelical Spirituality (Spirituality 162, 2022) by Ian Paul is a basic introduction, but perhaps necessary for those not brought up in the Evangelical tradition. Another booklet by Ian Paul is The NT’s Vision of Mission (Mission & Evangelism 138, 2022) which is a collection of articles previously published elsewhere and reads like a student textbook: the short conclusion was of most worth, which encourages readers to speak “with confidence and clarity about the person of Jesus, but leaving people wanting more and intrigued, rather than giving them a taster inoculation which they think is enough on its own”.


  1. Some really interesting books about women there- I felt especially attracted to your specially recommended book ,Lydia. I have just read what I felt was a very inspiring book, ” I Julian” by Claire Gilbert about the anchorite Julian of Norwich – a very human take on her life and her doubts and her struggle to accept fully that God’s love is for all, and that all will be well.

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