Bill on Books: June 2022

Bill on Books: June 2022

Come read Bill Reimer latest reviews!

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The Gates of Europe: A History of Ukraine
The Gates of Europe: A History of Ukraine
Serhii Plokhy
Basic Books
Revised 2021

The current Russo-Ukrainian conflict, while a surprise, is deeply rooted in history. The territory that we know of as Ukraine is situated historically between empires and in recent centuries was ruled variously by the Habsburgs, a Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth, and an expanding Russia. Its people are ethnically diverse with origins that echo the cultural and regional realities of the past and include the Crimean Tatars as well as Cossacks that lived in the Zaporizhzhian region. In centuries past Crimea was the centre of a major slave trade while in the 19th and early 20th centuries Ukraine was marked by horrific pogroms against the Jews. It lies within that part of Eastern and Central Europe labelled “Bloodlands” by the historian Tim Snyder to describe, first, Stalin’s requisition of food and mass starvation of millions in the 1920s and 1930s and, second, the invasion by Hitler’s Germany that saw the murder of 1 million Jews in Ukraine alone and the deaths of a total of 7 million Ukrainians. The 20th century did see a more sharply defined Ukrainian identity, most obviously with independence in 1991, even if the country remains diverse. The Russian claim that its (Russia’s) origins are grounded in Kyiv is a myth.

The eve of the recent Russian invasion ominously saw the publication of Blood Ruins: The Last Imperial War, 1931-1945 by the British historian Richard Ovary. While the scope of the present conflict does not rival the scale of WW II, not since then has Europe seen such a pattern of destruction and loss of life. We are living in dangerous times and are in desperate need of the presence of our Lord.     

Available for in-store purchase only.


From Strength to Strength:  Finding Success, Happiness, and Deep Purpose in the Second Half of Life
From Strength to Strength: Finding Success, Happiness, and Deep Purpose in the Second Half of Life
Arthur Brooks
Portfolio/Penguin
2022

The bad news is that your professional decline is coming much sooner than you think! For entrepreneurs and inventors decline on average is already in play by age forty. For those who choose “being special” over “being happy,” addictions can take over and accompany the constant work that is part of “success.” The others in one’s life become objectified. The agony of one’s decline is linked directly to the level of one’s previous prestige. But the good news is that change is possible—the human person is remarkably resilient, often even in the face of trauma. Like the Aspen grove, with age one can grow a vast network of friends and colleagues that provide strength for the second half of life. While a “fluid intelligence” marks the younger years, the mature years bring a “crystallized intelligence” that can lead to wisdom. And often religious yearnings increase with age. Going from strength to strength requires a new set of life skills during the recognition of one’s decline; we are to bless others and continue to serve even as we show that we are vulnerable and human. If this all sounds rather Christian this is because Brooks is a committed Christian and following Paul the Apostle, he expounds strength in weakness. We are challenged to ponder death, to choose purpose versus enjoyment, and to experience and share our decline with others. What is important is summarized in seven words.

                                                 Use things.

                                                Love people.

                                              Worship the divine.

Written for a general audience, why not take and read and pass on this remarkable book?

Available for in-store purchase only.


A Factotum in the Book Trade: A Memoir
A Factotum in the Book Trade: A Memoir
Marius Kociejowski
Biblioasis
2022

Hailing from rural Ontario, the author made his way to London in 1973 and became a lifelong antiquarian bookseller as well as poet and travel writer (hence a factotum: one with diverse activities or responsibilities). One becomes a bookseller almost always by accident and such was the case with Kociejowski. Along the way he worked in a series of legendary London shops: Bertram Rota Booksellers, Maggs Brothers, for the poet and bookseller Peter Jolliffe, owner of the Ulysses Bookstore in the heart of Bloomsbury, and lastly for Peter Ellis, bookseller, now consigned to the internet. We are introduced to some of the famous such as the writer Geoffrey Hill but more often to beloved and eccentric book-loving customers as well as “collectors” who are not necessarily book readers. Factotum is a requiem for an increasingly lost world as one by one the shops of London close: “A city drained of life.” The quotes are evocative and haunting: “[W]e are about to be robbed [by the internet] of the mystery and serendipity of the old bookshop…how the cornbread crumbles.” He recalls all the fine and valuable books that he handled over the course of a long career but above all the remarkable people that he met and worked with along the way.    

Available for in-store purchase only.


The Hiding Place: An Engaging Visual Journey
The Hiding Place: An Engaging Visual Journey
Corrie Ten Boom with Elizabeth and John Sherrill
Tyndale
2021

This 50th-anniversary edition takes one back to the original publication in 1971 and a time when the book and film captured the heart of North American evangelicalism and then beyond. It is named after the small and secret wall space in the author’s home and watchmaker shop in Haarlem, Netherlands where the author and her family succeeded in rescuing an estimated 800 Jews. Looking at the many photos of the family I was once again struck by the heroism of this rather ordinary-looking family. The fearless 84-year-old patriarch, Casper Ten Boom, who died in police custody in 1944, is surely a saint along with his four children. This is a classic Christian biography that needs to be introduced to a new generation.   

 

Available for in-store purchase only.