Into Extra Time by Michael Paul Gallagher (DLT, £9.99). The author, a Jesuit priest and theology professor, died in November 2015. This book, subtitled “Living Through the Final Stages of Cancer and Jottings Along the Way”, records his fears and hopes as he experienced several cycles of chemotherapy. He finally decided to discontinue treatment and opt for palliative care. “Once I learned that my life was in danger, there came an unexpected sense of peace,” he writes. This journal of his last year is honest, humorous and full of a quiet faith. A memorable account that will inspire other readers.
Seven Brief Lessons in Physics by Carlo Rovelli (Penguin, £6.99). This short book by an Italian theoretical physicist was a runaway bestseller across Europe when it first appeared last year. Now it has been translated into English, it is easy to see why. Rovelli tackles seven of the biggest changes in modern physics in pithy, witty and informative chapters. There’s Einstein and special relativity, the nature of time, particles and quanta, and quarks. But don’t be put off: Rovelli introduces the subject to beginners and creates a yearning for deeper immersion into what is the mapping of our physical world.
The Irish Enlightenment by Michael Brown (Harvard University Press, £25). The Irish Enlightenment has always been seen as something of a poor relation to its English and Scottish siblings. Michael Brown’s groundbreaking book explodes the caricature, revealing how Irish thinkers and writers had a passionate “commitment to a life of the mind” that matched anything elsewhere in Europe or the Americas. Bold engagement with social, religious and political issues revealed an Ireland that was most certainly not “in a moribund, catatonic state”.
Friedrich Max Müller and the Scared Books of the East by Arie L Molendijk (Oxford University Press, £65). The German philologist and religious scholar Friedrich Max Müller embarked on an extraordinary intellectual journey in 1879: overseeing a massive translation project of ancient Asian texts. Such was the scale of the enterprise that Müller had to give up his chair at Oxford. Imperialist attitudes were not absent, but the endeavour ought to be remembered as one of the founding monuments of comparative religious studies. Instead, Molendijk laments, it has been virtually forgotten by all but a few specialists in the field.
The Confessions of X by Suzanne M Wolfe (Thomas Nelson, £7.99). This historical novel offers an imaginative reconstruction of the life of the concubine with whom St Augustine of Hippo lived in an irregular union for many years, before his celebrated conversion. This anonymous woman, who bore Augustine a son and from whom he parted in great sorrow, as he relates in his Confessions, has had a long fascination for the author. Wolfe uses Augustine’s letters and sermons to give weight to his “voice”. “There is no saint without a past,” as Augustine remarked.
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