Friday, March 23, 2012

Review: Bible Top Tens

Pope Benedict XVI, in the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini, expressed his hope for "the flowering of a new season of greater love for sacred Scripture on the part of every member of the People of God, so that their prayerful and faith-filled reading of the Bible will, with time, deepen their personal relationship with Jesus (72).” Many of us who are involved in the promotion of the Bible in the Church wholeheartedly respond to that statement with a loud: "AMEN!"

One of those people, is our friend Mary Sperry, Associate Director for the Utilization of the NAB at the USCCB, who has just written a book, published by OSV, entitled Bible Top Tens: 40 Fun and Intriguing Lists to Inspire and Inform. This fun book is "intended to open Scripture in a brand new way. By organizing important people, places, and events into lists, we can reframe our experience and understanding of God's Word, while serving as a memory aid or providing ideas for further reading and study." It certainly accomplishes this goal. I could easily see this book becoming popular with youth and young adult groups, not to mention being a great gift for Confirmation, RCIA, or Easter.

After the brief introduction and three introductory top-ten lists about reading the Bible, this book goes on and consists of three distinct parts. The first deals with people, and includes lists of the top-ten sibling rivalries, unsung heroes, villains, among others. Part two covers both important places and events, for example battles and miracles. Finally, part three looks at the top ten "sayings and such" which consists of famous sayings, parables, promises, etc... Mary leaves the fortieth list blank and encourages the reader to "think back on the Bible stories you have read or heard throughout your life" and list which ones have been most meaningful and why. I found this to be a nice touch and wonderful conclusion to the book.

Probably the most enjoyable thing about this book is seeing where I agree or disagree with Mary's selections and orderings. For example, in her list of top ten friends, she puts "Jesus and the Beloved Disciple" at #1, while "David and Jonathan" are #2. No way! Nothing in all of Sacred Scripture can compare to David's lament for Jonathan in 2 Samuel 1:25-26. At times, I have found myself while reading saying things like "yes, I totally agree" or "now why did she forget to leave that event of the list?" But that is what makes this book so fun to read. Of course, Mary is certainly aware that some people would order these lists differently, so she encourages the reader to "write in their own selections and rankings (10)." She has even provided an email address, bibletoptens (at) gmail (dot) come, for people to submit their own lists. Do I smell a sequel in the future?

Again, if you are looking for a highly enjoyable book about the Bible that you can just pick up and read in short settings, this book will definitely meet your needs. Bible Top Tens is a fun and informative read that will entertain the everyday person who is already reading the Bible, as well as the person who is looking for a good place to start. We need more books like this! (To view a few sample pages, go here.)

Stay tuned, since I plan on having a contest in the next week or so for a free copy of this fun new book.

A quick thanks to OSV for providing me a review copy.


Daniel Norman McNamara said...

Dear Timothy,
The few parts of Ms. Sperry's book that I have seen are quite inviting. We should not be surprised that she has "packed" a lot of carefully selected thoughts and reflections into a format that will appeal to a wide range of readers. We are always looking for books that will motivate Catholics young and old to proceed more deeply into the Scriptures. Ms. Sperry's new work is one that any of us could use to introduce other Catholics to the riches that we have found. Frankly, most of us tend to make "Bible Study" seem quite abstract and uninteresting to others. We often fail to find that "common ground" that invites others into what we have found to be so rewarding and enriching. Not so, however, in this new book! There are a hundred places here to capture the attention of Catholics, and to suggest new questions and ideas about our Scriptures; questions that occur to them "where they are". This is really rare! We would do well to buy ourselves a copy of this new text and recommend it to others. I hope she does well with this new book and that OSV allow her to proceed with a sequel soon. To have this type of resource for Catholics now is a positive step forward. I hope that people at the diocesan and parish levels will recognize its uniqueness and "spread the word".
Daniel Norman McNamara, former editor Catholic Resource Newsletter, Rockledge, FL

Timothy said...

Amen Daniel!