October 1, 2007

A leading religious journalist who is a columnist and editor at the Toronto Star has written a sort of handbook for thinking about Islam historically, theologically and politically. Siddiqui, a Muslim from India, writes with clarity, wit and balance, though not without moral passion. He insists that Muslims are often unfairly impugned in Europe and North America and that Muslims are themselves the chief victims both of extremist attacks and of the war on terror. An excellent place to start thinking about Islam and the Arab world today.

RAGBRAI (Des Moines Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa) is one of the most famous bike tours in the world, attracting 10,000 riders and thousands more who support the bikers as they pedal the full length of Iowa in seven days in late July. Molsberry, a United Church of Christ pastor and seminary administrator, has been riding the RAGBRAI almost from its beginning in 1973. An accident on a training ride in 1997 left him a paraplegic—an experience he wrote about in. Ever since he’s had to take this tour using a handcycle. In a folksy, humorous manner, Molsberry weaves together tales from RAGBRAI with reflections on life and community, politics and faith, all with a progressive Protestant spin. “Cyclists crossing Iowa would never leave an injured bicyclist behind on the side of the road,” he says, “but that’s the way our healthcare system operates.”

The subtitle is somewhat misleading, as this is a collection of delightfully evocative prose poems, some of which do read like stories, often written in a stream-of-consciousness manner. Fans and friends of Henri Nouwen will be drawn to the poem written in honor of the priest—“a bubbling childish brilliant genius holy joy / Which was pretty much the point of Henri, / And what we miss most.” Two of the poems appeared originally in the Christian Century. Doyle is the editor of Portland Magazine, a widely acclaimed quarterly published by the University of Portland.