Recent books in brief

Tidings of Comfort and Joy: A Christmas Feast of Faith and Fun

by Pam Rhodes

(Hodder & Stoughton, £14.99)

Pam Rhodes will be familiar to many as the presenter of that ever popular BBC offering Songs of Praise. This selection of hymns, poems and thoughts was intended for Christmas, but then Christmas is not just for 12 days and nights but for all the year round, so there is something to be enjoyed, laughed at, and in the end thought about among these pages, drawn down from all periods. This is the sort of book that will provide cheerful words for the whole year. It also reminds us that faith and fortitude and everyday life are always mixed up in each other and that is the way it ought to be.


My Rock; My Refuge

by Timothy Keller with Kathy Keller 

(Hodder & Stoughton, £12.99)

Subtitled “a year of daily devotions in the Psalms”, Timothy Keller’s book is not an anthology, but a guide. The reader is directed to read the psalms, which the author then discusses, pointing up the major themes of longing, love, thanks, and as appropriate, each choice is followed by a prayer. 

The Psalms have always been more important in Protestant tradition than in popular Catholic culture, which is a great pity. Here is a daily devotional book which will undoubtedly widen the horizons and the hopes of readers, through some the finest religious poetry (which is what the Psalms are) ever written, a pinnacle of Jewish worship which all Christians can share. Once thought of as being composed by King David himself, we realise now that they arise from the religious genius of a whole people.


God Sense or Nonsense

by Fr Con McGillicuddy 

(Choice Publishing, Barlow House, Narrow West Street, Drogheda, €6.00) 

This little pamphlet is a selection of thoughts by a retired priest which after a life time – some 55 years he says – of pastoral work in Dublin, especially among the young, he would like to pass along in an informal way. But don’t be deceived: he attempts to deal with difficult questions and to argue against such people as our old friend Professor Dawkins, but in a way which is open to ordinary readers. His epigraph “Books are made by fools like me, but only God can make a tree” nearly says it all. A very personal – rather than a professional – book, but readers will warm to it for all that. 


A Sunny Saturday Kicks Off

Poems by Louis Hemmings, photos by Dora Kazmierak 

(Samovar Books, €12.00 + €1.70pp; Samovar Books, Avonbeg, Newtownpark Ave, Blackrock, Dublin) 

Charming and quizzical poems from an established poet, illustrated with some very human photos.  A sense of troubled faith haunts these poems and images, epitomised in the lines:

‘I’m a pussy footing Protestant:

what do my bishops believe? 

I pray this crucial question - 

should I stay or should I leave?’