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Library Books

Book reviews.

Keighley meeting keeps a small library.

See Ken for more information about the library.
Any book reviews are most welcome, please do send them in.


Selected stories

By Tove Jansson £8.99

Reviewed By: Friends House

Following the widely acclaimed and bestselling The Summer Book, here is a Winter Book collection of some of Tove Jansson’s best loved and most famous stories. Drawn from youth and older age, and spanning most of the twentieth century, this newly translated selection provides a thrilling showcase of the great Finnish writer’s prose, scattered with insights and home truths. It has been selected and is introduced by Ali Smith.
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Costing not less than everything:

Sustainability and spirituality in challenging times

By Pam Lunn

Reviewed By Ken Smith

It is no longer possible to ignore that this planet is a finite resource. In our future as a human species we are bound together, worldwide, with each other and with the 'real global economy' of a fragile natural environment. With quiet urgency and deep honesty Pam Lunn addresses the unsustainability of the way we all live in the industrialised West, but this is not a counsel of despair or guilt. Realistic and well informed about the evolutionary basis of cooperation as well as the spiritual dimension, she puts forward and unsentimental argument for the possibility as well as the necessity of community. Pam Lunn has worked at Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre for over 20 years. She was originally a mathematician, and her working life has included teaching, personal development training, peace work and adult education. She started work at Woodbrooke in 1989, teaching peace studies and women's studies and after several role changes she now leads the project 'Good Lives - for a sustainable human future'.

For further information about the library, contact Ken.

Etched in Silence

a Pilgrimage through the poetry of R S Thomas

By R S Thomas

Reviewed By: Book Depository

This collection of poems by Wales' most famous poet-priest, R S Thomas, is interspersed with short reflections and questions for exploration that connect the timeless poetry to the landscape that inspired it. Originally produced locally for visitors to the North Wales village and church where R S Thomas was the parish priest, its appeal extends to all who know and love the raw honesty and sparse, striking style of the poetry, and whose own faith and questions are mirrored in it. Aberdaron still welcomes streams of visitors, R S Thomas aficionados and pilgrims en route to the nearby holy island of Bardsey. This book brings the poetry alive in a fresh way and provides a pilgrim guide to the locality, along with reflections that enable armchair readers everywhere to enter more deeply into the world of the poems. All royalties will continue to go to maintaining the church at Aberdaron.


We all live under the same blue sky

By Not known

Reviewed By

Drone warfare is controversial. The UK and the USA say drone strikes are legal, but many disagree. They raise questions about execution without trial, civilian deaths and endless war. Children, like adults, will have a range of opinions about it as they learn about these issues. The aim of this resource is to help young people safely explore their own questions, thoughts and feelings. Through the activities included, young people can learn about human rights and practise a range of key skills, but we also hope that, through the creative act of making and flying a kite, they will gain an insight into the lives of their peers 3,500 miles away.

God Just Is

Approaches to Silent Worship

By Curt Gardner

Reviewed By: Richard Summers in "Quaker News" Summer 2012, page 5

Advices & queries 3 asks us: “Do you try to set aside times of quiet for openness to the Holy Spirit? All of us need to find a way into silence which allows us to deepen our awareness of the divine and to find the inward source of our strength.” Silent worship is not always easy. Environmental conditions can make it a challenge; the pressures of life can be distracting; perhaps we are not yet comfortable in our relationship with God. At Quaker Life Representative Council we will launch a new book, God just is: Approaches to silent worship by Curt Gardner, of Durham Local Meeting. Curt draws on nearly 60 years’ experience of silent worship and a deep knowledge of the Quaker tradition to help us focus on what we are doing during worship; to help us move into a state where we don’t question the ‘who’ or ‘what’ of God, but accept that God just is.

Click the link below to go to a PDF file of this edition of "Quaker News"


The surprising power of the physical environment

By Sian Beilock £12.99

Reviewed By Friends House

If you’ve ever gestured wildly with your hands in order to coax a word from your memory, or if you’ve sat up straighter in a meeting to feel more confident and alert, then you already know some of the ways the body can make an impact on the mind. But what if that’s just the tip of the iceberg? Recent research shows that the brain is not the master control centre we had always assumed, and the extent to which the body affects the brain is greater than we’d ever imagined. The way we move influences our thoughts, our decisions and our preferences, and children absorb more when they use their bodies as a learning tool. This new science of ‘embodied cognition’ illuminates the power of our bodies and our physical surroundings to shape how we think, feel and behave.
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By Yasmeen Ismail £6.99

Reviewed By: Friends House

The girl in this book likes to win, she likes to be spontaneous, fast and strong, and because she also likes to dress in t-shirts and shorts, she is forever getting mistaken for a boy – and when she meets a boy who likes wearing princess dresses and playing dolls, they both quickly discover that they share interests that are wide and varied. I’m a Girl! is a wonderful celebration of being who we are and not being pigeon-holed or restricted by gender stereotypes. Most of all it is full of energy and laugh-out-loud funny. Who says that pink is for girls and blue is for boys?
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John Woolmans Path To The Peaceable Kingdom

By Geoffrey Plank

Reviewed By Ken R Smith

Readers who enjoyed Geoffrey Plank's earlier articles on John Woolman will welcome this important study. Plank's particular angle of interest is solidly rooting Woolman's ideas in the region of Mt. Holly, New Jersey, and amid the secular currents of the eighteenth century. His focus is on Woolman's "detailed and sweeping critique of the material culture and economy of the British Empire." The book's greatest strength is its thorough anchoring of John Woolman's Journal and essays in historical context, making productive use of many kinds of resources: Samuel Smith's 1765 History of Nova Caesarea, Abner Woolman's unpublished journal, Uriah Woolman's bills of lading, census reports, meeting minutes, epistles and letters of John Woolman and his contemporaries, and much more. What emerges is a densely textured narrative that is an aesthetically delightful interweaving of these various sources.
Plank's portrait of the relationship between John Woolman and Henry Paxson may serve as an example. In matters of business, the two served as co-executors of the estate of wealthy slave-holding Quaker Thomas Shinn. Shinn's will stipulated that one of these enslaved persons was to be freed nine years later than the typical indentured servant, an injustice for which Woolman later sought to make reparations and, according to Plank, to shame Paxson into doing the same. In the non-commercial sphere, Paxson and Woolman served together on committees to enforce religious discipline. More personally, their close friendship is reflected in Paxson's sitting at Woolman's bedside during his near-terminal case of pleurisy of 1770. Only a study of multiple sources could reveal all the dimensions of this relationship. Juxtaposing other materials, Plank suggests links between the iron works in Mt. Holly, which used free and enslaved labor, and Woolman's evolving response to slavery, and between Woolman's withdrawal from his successful venture in the pork trade and the fact that so much of New Jersey pork was exported to the Caribbeans, where slaveholding was so prevalent.
One layer of the text is the presentation of John Woolman as an inhabitant of the British Empire. Frederick Tolles spoke of Quakers as an Atlantic community; to this legacy Plank adds a contemporary understanding of empire and explores how Woolman was a complex ethical thinker who both benefited from some features of that empire, even shared some of its assumptions, and yet offered a thoroughly alternative vision of the ethical life. Plank explores the development of Woolman's thinking on slavery, on economics, and on methods of protest and social change and then links these ethical concerns to political ideals and realities of the eighteenth century.
Particularly compelling is Plank's account of Lenape spiritual leader Papun-hank whom he notes as a much more renowned figure at the time than Wool-man. The Moravian-Quaker competition to claim him as one of their own is well reported, though direct use of David Zeisberger's Diarium might have led to even more insight.
Plank can also spin a good yarn, as when he recounts the tale of New Jersey Quaker Samuel Busby who enlisted as a privateer, retiring from the life of a pirate of the Caribbean only after being wounded in a failed attempt to loot and pillage the harbor of Saint Vincent. Woolman and Paxson were assigned to discipline the unrepentant Busby, seeking to persuade him to see the error of his ways. After some unfruitful labors, Woolman was willing to continue the process, but Burlington Monthly Meeting disowned Busby while Woolman was away visiting Rhode Island in his antislavery ministry.
One risk of making as many creative connections as Plank suggests is that not all of them are equally persuasive. Not all readers may agree that Woolman's adolescent trials can be reduced largely to boredom with husbandry, or that Woolman's admonition to the women of Nantucket to curb their coveting of superfluities or his citation of Isaiah's criticism of the "daughters of Sion" (Isa. 3:16) for their tinkling ornaments indicates tension between John Woolman and his daughter Mary. On the other hand, his confident insistence that the anonymous dreamer whose "night vision" Woolman recounts just...

Joseph Rowntree

By Chris Titley


BY the time Joseph Rowntree reached the age of 68, writes Chris Titley in his new biography of the great man, he might well have been forgiven for sitting back and basking in the success of an already extraordinary life.

“He had, after all, transformed a tiny cocoa works into an international household name. He had created enormous wealth for himself and his home city of York. As a Quaker and a politician, his influence had been felt far and wide on topics close to his heart, including the welfare of workers, adult education and the temperance movement.” >br/>
But Joseph Rowntree wasn’t one for sitting back. So, in December 1904, he drafted a document that was to become known to historians as the Founder’s Memorandum. It established the three charitable trusts which were to bear his name: and it helped to change the way we think about how best to tackle poverty and social disadvantage.

In the introduction to his brief (just 60 pages long) but admirably thorough and well-written biography, Chris quotes from that memorandum.

Rowntree advocated a different approach to tackling poverty and disadvantage. Instead of simply dealing with the consequences of such evils – by setting up soup kitchens to feed the hungry, for instance – what was needed was an inquiry into their roots, he argued. “I feel that much of the current philanthropic effort is directed to remedying the more superficial manifestations of weakness or evil, while little thought or effort is directed to search out their underlying causes.”

It was an approach such as that advocated by Rowntree at the start of the 1900s that arguably, a few decades later, led to the foundation of institutions such as the NHS and the welfare state. And it is an approach we might do well to heed today, in a new era of food banks, home repossessions and fuel poverty. ..

But what about the private life of a man who did so much to change the way we think and who – through his own philanthropic efforts – improved the lives of so many people, including those of his own workers?

As Chris – a former features editor with the Yorkshire Evening Press – points out, there have been surprisingly few published biographies of this great man of York.

The basic outlines of his life are well known. He was the son of a grocer who grew up above his father’s Pavement shop, turned a tiny chocolate factory into a global brand, and used the wealth it generated to improve the lives of his workers, built a model village at New Earswick designed to set the standard for decent housing, and set up his charitable trusts to look into the causes of poverty.

Chris, however, has done a splendid job of rummaging through the Rowntree family archives to unearth some more personal details about his life.

He quotes from Rowntree’s own writings – his letters, the copybook he kept as a boy, his Founder’s Memorandum – to shed light on the character of the man and the world in which he grew up.

Thus, in the copybook he kept as a boy, the young Joseph wrote: “Beware of imitating expensive persons. Civility is an indispensable qualification. Do nothing that may injure any person. Endeavour to avoid temptations to vice.”

In a line fans of The X Factor might like to take to heart, he added: “Fame stimulates ambitious disposition.”

A letter written in 1857, meanwhile, shortly after he completed his six-year apprenticeship in his father’s grocery store and moved to London to get more business experience working for a large wholesale grocers, he described his working day. “During the morning brokers are frequently bringing in samples of tea… I roast, grind, liquor and taste the samples of coffee. The roasting, to do it perfectly, is a very delicate operation, and I am glad to take every opportunity of increasing my skill “I frequently accompany one of the clerks to the Customs and to the Docks and also to the Banks… [and] I also intend to look over the places of business we deal with, where there is likely to be anything new to learn.”

Natural businessman he may have been; yet his genuine anger about poverty and inequality shines through in an essay, Pauperism In England And Wales, that he wrote at the age of 30.

“It is a monstrous thing,” he wrote, “that in this land, rich in natural wealth and now rich beyond all precedent, millions of its inhabitants, made in the image of the Creator, should spend their days in a struggle for existence so severe as to blight (where it does not destroy) the higher parts of their nature.”

Chris puts this Rowntree radicalism at the heart of his book. At the close of his introductory chapter, he writes: “Questions are now re-emerging about philanthropy, about the social responsibilities of our global corporations, about how we can achieve a fair and compassionate society. Can lessons relevant to our own age be drawn from the binding principles and achievements of Joseph Rowntree?”

The answer to that must surely be a resounding yes.



By Mary M Talbot, Kate Charlesworth & Bryan Talbot £16.99

Reviewed By Friends House

Sally Heathcote: Suffragette is a gripping inside story of the campaign for the vote for women. A tale of loyalty, love and courage, set against a vividly realised backdrop of Edwardian Britain, it follows the fortunes of a maid-of-all-work swept up in the feminist militancy of the era.
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An Autobiographical Study of the Years 1900-1925

By Vera Brittain £14

Reviewed By: Friends House

In 1914 Vera Brittain was twenty, and as war was declared she was preparing to study at Oxford. Four years later her life – and the lives of a whole generation – had changed in a way that was unimaginable in the tranquil pre-war era. Testament of Youth, one of the most famous autobiographies of the First World War, is Brittain’s account of how she survived those agonising years; how she lost the man she loved; how she nursed the wounded; and how she emerged into an altered world. A passionate record of a lost generation, it made Vera Brittain one of the best-loved writers of her time.
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The Commitment of the Lark:

Poems for Looking Deeply

By Pete Armstrong

Reviewed By

Written from a space of meditation, these poems are an invitation to look more deeply. How do we grow and transform? How can we love more fully? What is meditation? How come I know what to do but don't do it? What more might I do with this gift of life? Buddhist, Christian and other wisdom traditions East and West can offer us guidance, but we still have to put it into practice ourselves through our own lives, our own bodies, minds, and relationships. Sometimes we glimpse partial answers along the way that can make us smile at our own folly and our own wisdom. Sometimes these glimpses can help us to become more deeply appreciative of what we are offered in this moment, and this, and this...


Vegetarian Cookbook

By Charlotte Pike £8.99

Reviewed By: Friends House

Cook your way from freshers’ week to graduation with simple and yummy ideas for vegetarian lunches, dinners, snacks, party food, morning-after breakfasts, sweet treats and fun desserts – all designed for busy students on a budget. The Hungry Student – Vegetarian Cookbook is full of useful hints and tips, plus advice on which supplies and equipment you really need – especially in a tiny shared kitchen.
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Vocal ministry and Quaker worship

By Rex Ambler, Alec Davison, Janet Scott & Michael Wright

Reviewed By

All Quakers are equal in sharing responsibility for their meetings and worship, whether the ministry is in silence or through the spoken word. It makes for a telling spontaneity. Through us, not from us recounts the talks of four experienced Friends from a conference on Vocal Ministry, examining the context in which it began and how it is now practised and nurtured. They explore the source of the prompting to speak and the power it can release in Quaker worship to inspire a witness for peace and social change.
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