Books books books

Although Totally Devoted has now hit the streets – it seems that a few people have had trouble with their Amazon orders – this seems to have been caused either by Amazon not registering the book properly on their system, or else its because they didnt order enough, and they have sold out already. I’d like to believe it is the latter, but its probably the former.

I’m now gagging to write another book, have been for ages, there’s a few ideas which I’ve put out there which I think would make great books. Trouble is I’m now waiting for the publishers to gauge reaction to this one – if the general consensus is that it’s flipping hopeless, then I’m not likely to get another contract, if on the other hand it wins a nobel prize, I probably shall write again.

Anyhow, I’ll let you know how and if things move along… in the meantime I hope those of you with unfulfilled Amazon orders don’t have to wait too long!

It’s a good news/bad news day

Today is a good news/bad news day – on the good news front it seems like my book is likely to arrive today, I got an email from the warehouse yesterday claiming my order has been despatched, which is exciting!

On the bad news front yet another house we were hoping to be able to rent is not going to be available to us, this has happened a number of times, and it gets more frustrating and upsetting each time. It’s getting harder to live in our flat, and also annoying is that our car seems to be getting broken into or damaged most weekends. That is not too demoralising, as its part and parcel of living here – it is just a bit annoying really, but it encourages us to think that we need to find a more permanent/settled base on the estate. Trouble is, each time we think we’ve found one, it turns to dust! At the moment the bad news appears to outweigh the good, although hopefully when the book arrives it should spin the other direction.

Plus it’s raining. Bah humbug.

Review: The Alternative Kitchen Garden, an A – Z

The Alternative Kitchen Garden, an A – Z by Emma Cooper.

I have a lot of gardening books, and I have looked at lot of other gardening books – but I have never seen one quite like this.

Most gardening books are basically either manuals, scientific text books, or encyclopaedias, but despite a title which might lead one to think that Emma Cooper’s book falls into the latter category – in fact it needs a separate category altogether.

This charming and easy to read book is in reality a manifesto – or perhaps its a kind of love-letter. Emma has used the conceit of an A-Z as a handy way of organising some of her thoughts, taking us through a series of plants and horticultural terminology according to their rank in the alphabet.  Now if you are looking for a book which works as a kind of exhaustive garden dictionary, then this is the wrong book – it isnt intended for that purpose. Rather it pulls together an almost random group of plants or ideas under a letter heading; P for instance is for Parsley; Peas; Peat; Peppers; Permaculture; PH; Phosphorus and Potatoes, while N is for Nasturtiums; Native; Nectarine;  Nettles and Nitrogen.  It then provides a short essay on each subject, and each one is delivered in Emma’s trademark accessible and knowledgeable style. She is a very ‘friendly’ writer, her work is easy to engage with and despite her wealth of knowledge you dont ever feel as if she is talking down to you.

I really like the book, as I say, it’s easy to read and it’s interesting, but that isnt really waht sets it apare. Most importantly Emma manages to exude a love for the subject – and this is what I mean by calling it a manifesto. Really this is a book which tells us to love our gardens, our window boxes or allotments – whatever we have to grow things in.It is a book which has mud under its fingernails.

Emma is a kind of garden evangelist, spreading the good news of growing things.

I think you can spot that I really like this book – but that’s not to say I dont have any criticisms, I was not sure about at least one piece of her advice, that Comfrey can be taken internally. Everything I have ever read before warns against it, and I’m not inclined to take her advice on that (sorry!)

The other negative aspect I think is the design, I think the wrong fonts have been used, which is a shame because it detracts slightly from the appeal of the book – however this is a very subjective thing, and I am a bit nerdy about fonts and suchlike. In any case, that side of things is down to the publisher not the author, I just dont think they’ve called it quite right.

The pictures throughout the book are great, and I love the fact that this is not a coffee table book, rather its the kind of book which can go with you out into the garden or wherever you go to think about growing things.

So in sum then – buy this book if you love gardens. Buy this book for people who need to love gardens. Dont buy this book if you want a full A-Z of plants and whatnot, there are plenty of other books out there for that purpose, this is a much more interesting and unusual text. This is a delightful and inspirational manifesto of gardening lore, with lots of good ideas and helpful information, and I’m looking forward to more from Emma.

The Alternative Kitchen Garden, an A-Z by Emma Cooper is published by Permanent Publications. RRP £14.95 ISBN: 9781856230469

Emma Cooper’s blog and podcast are available here.

Review: Christian Anarchism, by Alexandre Christoyanopoulos

Christian Anarchism

by Alexandre Christoyannopoulos.

Published by Imprint Academic.

In this well researched and thoughtful book, Dr Christoyannopoulos spells out the basis of a profoundly Christian form of anarchism, explains how it can be applied in practical terms, and then introduces the reader to a number of key individuals and communities which have tried to do just that.

The depth of research into the writings of key thinkers such as Tolstoy, Ellul, Yoder, Andrew and others brings alive a subject which has provided, and will yet provide plenty of fuel for many contentious discussions.

One of the key principles of Christian anarchism is pacifism, and the author spends a good deal of time outlining the reasoning and theology behind this concept and other important ideas. He looks in depth at the Sermon on the Mount, which he describes as a manifesto for a ‘Christian anarchist society’.

But rather than base his discussion solely upon the Sermon on the Mount, Dr Christoyannopoulos doesn’t shrink from other parts of the Bible – including considering the Old Testament, particularly in the light of 1 Samuel 8, and proffering the Mosaic system as ‘a form of anarchy’.

The thrust of the whole of the first part of the book, is to present Christianity as an alternative way of thinking/living to the way of the state, which ‘derives its power and authority from Satan’. It presents Jesus as a critic of the state, and understands aspects of his life such as the ‘Clearing of the Temple’, as forms of direct action against the state.

Throughout the author draws heavily on the writings of Tolstoy, who is certainly the most influential of the avowedly Christian anarchist writers, and is in some ways the spiritual father of many of its later advocates. Much of the book is spent outlining Tolstoy’s thinking, including his incisive and witty critique of democracy.

The second part of the book moves on from the principles which under gird the Christian anarchist philosophy, and goes on to consider ways in which we can live as Christian anarchists, particularly given that we are obliged to live in a world governed by earthly authorities. We are asked to reconsider Romans 13, often thought of as a bar to anarchism, as an application of the Sermon on the Mount, rather than a reproof. And we’re reminded in practical ways of the necessity of love as the demonstration of Christian spirituality.

In its final chapters the book summarises a number of examples of people who have made Christian anarchism into a way of life, rather than a philosophy. From the Early Christians, to the Anabaptists, Monastics (or more accurately Religious) and more contemporary Christian groups including the incredibly important, if unusual, example of the Catholic Workers.

The book, the author suggests can provide a basis for a dialogue between Christian and secular anarchists. I would suggest it can be much more than that.

This book details with great clarity the concepts which make anarchism a crucial part of the Christian story. For those considering their own participation in the forthcoming election, it presents a strong argument for a reasoned and loving rejection of democracy.

It also presents many challenging ideas in an attitude of loving humility, suggesting for instance the seemingly contradictory idea of voluntary poverty as the way to eradicate poverty, as well as rehearsing in great depth the arguments against the use of, or passive condoning of, any form of violence.

It’s a good read, inspiring and inspired. What little it lacks in terms of a broader range of contemporary examples of groups living according to Christian anarchist principles can easily be forgiven in the light of the scholarly research which has gone into the presentation of the basis of Christian anarchism.

While Tolstoy features heavily, there are no shortage or references to and quotes from other philosophers and activists, from the likes of Peter Maurin and GK Chesterton, to the numerous contributors to the hugely influential ‘A Pinch of Salt’.

I would recommend this as a very good read for anyone seriously interested in Christianity and/or anarchism, indeed for any Christian who takes politics seriously, this is a book which has a great deal to offer.