A Season for Reading and Gratitude

A good book review tells the reader what the subject is, and whether one might want to read it. A better review invites the reader in as a participant in exploring the importance of a work and its success in achieving what it sets out to do. The very best kind of review will raise the reader’s eyebrow, or quicken her pulse, or elicit a grimace of dismay or a burst of chuckles. In the expanded Special Books Section, we offer you in this issue, I think you will be pleased to peruse many reviews of the very best kind.

It’s not lost on us that Friends Journal readers like to read, so the Books Section is an important part of our ministry to Friends. To write a book with Quakers in mind as the target audience is a sacrificial act—no one would possibly do it for the money! We are proud to be one of a very few outlets willing—even eager—to connect worthy Quaker authors with you, dear reader. I hope you find these reviews useful and enriching. And by all means, do ask for the books we feature in your local independent bookshop or Quaker bookstore.

I would like to acknowledge Catherine Wald, who joined us in 2008 as a volunteer book review editor and concluded her service in June. She excelled: under Cathy’s editorship the Friends Journal reviews section was honored as one of the finest among American religious periodicals. The thoughtful consideration and craft Cathy brought to the position served our readership very well indeed. We are grateful for her service in this ministry. Succeeding Cathy is Karie Firoozmand, an academic administrator in Maryland by day, who began work on our Books section in July. They both had a hand in this month’s column! Eileen Redden continues as editor for children’s book reviews.

How does one neatly tie up a 19-year tenure as general secretary of Friends General Conference? In his last public address as general secretary, Bruce Birchard would have been forgiven for offering to his audience, at the FGC Gathering, a feel-good kumbaya of a speech. Friend Birchard did not choose that route. In a chapel on the Grinnell College campus, he offered a challenging triptych of a plenary address on reconciliation and forgiveness that drew together his personal and family history, moments of extraordinary spiritual vulnerability, and developments in peacemaking after genocide. It’s significant that his final call as the servant leader of FGC was for Friends to consider a future for Quakerism where liberal, pastoral, and evangelical Friends hew closer together rather than pull further apart. The excerpt we present to you on page 6 is roughly the middle third of the address, which can be obtained in its entirety as an audio download from quakerbooks.org.

Finally, in the spirit of thankfulness that the transition of the leaves evokes each year in my corner of the world, I would like to thank you, reader, for being an important part of this ministry of the written word. Thank you for being a part of our community as we seek to strengthen it. As we bid a fond farewell to Susan Corson-Finnerty, who retired at the end of September as Publisher and Executive Editor after 12 years, we hold her in the Light as she has time to breathe (a rarity sometimes in the hectic world of magazine publishing) and turn her talents to (among other things) addressing global climate change at the local level. Please hold us in the Light as we forge forward. As the magazine evolves in the months and years to come, please share your thoughts with us about how you use Friends Journal in your life, and how we might make this ministry of even more use to you.

Yours in peace,