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Wayfaring: Essays Pleasant and Unpleasant Paperback – June 28, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Long-form book reviews preponderate in Jacobs' new collection, sharing with the nonreviews the character of the essay established, Jacobs says, by the form's virtual inventor, Montaigne. They ramble or, as Jacobs more sensitively puts it, “acknowledge and accept the vagaries of the mind.” Not that they're diffuse; rather, they're pleasantly expansive, now ringing a relevant personal note, here citing an interesting parallel, there pursuing a rewarding tangent. Jacobs disposes them in two parts, one of articles on writing and works of fiction, poetry, and translation, the other of pieces about extraliterary nonfiction. Particular subjects in the first section include the once-thriving practice of keeping commonplace books, the once-current understanding of what invention in literature and philosophy is, Robert Alter's contemporary Bible translations, Samuel Johnson's great English dictionary, and Harry Potter (whom Jacobs loves). Half of the second section focuses on gardening, trees, and the green movement; the other, on church signboards, the nature of friendship, and trends in the Evangelical Christian community, of which Jacobs is one of the most perspicacious and engaging members. --Ray Olson


“Alan Jacobs’s essays offer a rich feast of intellectual pleasure and ethical nourishment. He combines an alert, sympathetic eye for the novelties of today’s technological and artistic culture with a shrewd and solid sense of their moral and psychological effects. This book is bracing, salutary, witty, and profound — and it’s often all of these things on a single page.”
— Edward Mendelson
Columbia University
author of The Things That Matter

“A good volume of essays is a collection of aesthetically delightful and prismatically informative prose pieces, each short enough to be read at a sitting. There aren’t many such volumes these days, which is a pity. Jacobs’s Wayfaring is one: it exhibits wit, learning, and an ear for the language, and it will give you new loves while deepening those you already have. Do yourself a favor: buy and read.”
— Paul J. Griffiths
Duke Divinity School
author of Intellectual Appetite

“These essays enthrall, enlighten, ennoble, and entertain. There is nothing unpleasant here, so never mind the title. All of these essays are gems, nothing but delight for mind and soul — and body, too, if one takes into account the therapeutic value of laughter and sheer delight.”
— Carlos Eire
Yale University
author of A Very Brief History of Eternity and Waiting for Snow in Havana
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 168 pages
  • Publisher: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. (June 28, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802865682
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802865687
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.5 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,559,549 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I grew up in Alabama, attended the University of Alabama, then got my PhD at the University of Virginia. From 1984 until last spring I taught at Wheaton College in Illinois. This summer my family and I moved to Waco, Texas, where I am now Distinguished Professor of the Humanities in the Honors Program. My dear wife Teri and I have been married for thirty-two years. Our son Wes is a rising junior at Wheaton.

My work is hard to describe, at least for me, because it revolves around multiple interests, primary among them being literature, theology, and technology. I also watch soccer and write about it, but that's purely recreational.

You can find out a lot more about me online: Twitter, Tumblr, my blog, my home page. Google is the friend of inquiring minds.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Alan Jacobs is in my estimation one of the foremost Christian men of letters around today. I discovered his writing in First Things, and immediately bought and read The Narnian: The Life and Imagination of C. S. Lewis (Plus) and Original Sin: A Cultural History. Both are tremendously interesting books as well.

The essays in this collection are primarily from "Books and Culture" and "First Things," both outstanding publications.

I ordered this book as soon as it came out and read through it in a few sittings. Jacobs and the editors and Eerdmans did a tremendous job selecting the essays. Together they form a sort of mind map of the author, and one easily grasps how interconnected the themes addressed really are. Environmental stewardship, the importance of story, the craft of writing, the beauty of language--these topics and many others are woven throughout the collection.

Perhaps what really made the collection for me was Jacob's dry wit. The calmly devastating prose of "Do-It-Yourself Tradition," "Blessed are the Green of Heart," "A Relgion for Atheists," and "On the Recent Publication of Kahlil Gibran's Collected Works" is worth the price of admission.

But Jacobs is a multifaceted writer, and the essays like "The Youngest Brother's Tale" and "The End of Friendship" are beautiful and insightful reflections, in their different ways, on what it is to be human.

So buy the book already.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A collection of essays that cover a variety of topics -- some serious, others quite humorous, but all very thoughtful. The subtitle is taken from George Bernard Shaw's "Plays Pleasant and Unpleasant" but rest assured there is nothing unpleasant in this volume. Regular readers of "First Things" or "Books & Culture" will recognize some essays which first appeared in those publications. Jacobs, a professor of English at Wheaton College for many years, will begin teaching in the Honors Program at Baylor University in fall of 2013.
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Format: Paperback
This is a volume of essays about topics as widely varied as Harry Potter, trees, book reviews, blogging, ethics in art and culture, landscaping and The Green Bible. Jacobs is flat out my favourite living essayist. He is witty, perceptive, generous yet uncompromising, wise, winsome yet pointed, biblically grounded, and just so reasonable. His review of the compiled works of Kahlil Gibran, which he writes in the same pseudo-Scriptural cadence employed by Gibran himself, had me laughing out loud the whole way through (at one point, whatever I was drinking nearly exited through my nose - sorry for the detail but it was that funny). Every essay is thoughtful, penetrating, perceptive and so well said. The prose is artful but in a straightforward, unadorned way that makes one think, "he used just the right words and just the right number of words in just the right order to say exactly what needed to be said". The sense one gets is that talking with Jacobs over coffee about any interesting topic, perhaps on a back porch in the shade of a big silver maple, would be one of the most enlightening and enjoyable ways to spend an afternoon (or many afternoons). I really liked this book.
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