Pope John: Blessed John XXIII by Meriol Trevor, Gracewing £12.99. "The idea that I should write a life of Pope John was not my own," says Meriol Trevor, "but once it had been suggested I could not put it aside". This biography, first published in 1967 and reissued to mark John's beatification, is coloured by "the optimistic and radical atmosphere of the years immediately succeeding Pope John's death". It shows how his background ' and character, pastoral and • ecclesiastical experience, developed into the charism which gave rise to the Second Vatican Council. The foreword is by Archbishop Vincent Nichols of
Birmingham, who writes: • "Good Pope John was a shepherd who called the Church to embrace humanity and the modem world." • The book's publication is also a tribute to Trevor, perhaps best known as a prolific children's writer, who died this January.
The Bible in History: How Writers Create a Past by • Thomas L. Thompson, ' Pimlico £12.50. Here is a book to alarm traditionalists, and also perhaps to educate them. "it is generally accepted today that there is very little archaeological or historical evidence that confirms the stories of the Bible," says the publisher. But Thompson "shows that we misunderstand the Bible if we read it as history, a modern concept completely incompatible with the world-view of antiquity". The chief purpose of the Bible, he says, was to reflect the philosophical and moral views of its authors. The book is endorsed, perhaps predictably, by Don Cupitt, AN Wilson and Karen Armstrong, but also by the Catholic writer William Dalrymple, who describes it as "a book of the greatest importance, written with passion and verve".
Be Mindful of Us: Prayers to the Saints by Anthony F. Chiffolo, Redemptorist Publications (1:01420 88222) £7. A collection of prayers covering the entire Christian , era, with a special emphasis on the men and women canonised and beatified by Pope John Paul H (including the founder of Opus Dei — but don't let that put you off). There is one prayer for every day of the year, and a brief biography of each person. The book is quite substantial (300 pages) and elegantly laid out. Strongly recommended.