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Venice: Lion City

by Garry Wills

Garry Wills's Venice: Lion City is a tour de force -- a rich, colorful, and provocative history of the world's most fascinating city in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, when it was at the peak of its glory. This was not the city of decadence, carnival, and nostalgia familiar to us from later centuries. It was a ruthless imperial city, with a shrewd commercial base, like ancient Athens, which it resembled in its combination of art and sea empire.Venice: Lion City presents a new way of relating the history of the city through its art and, in turn, illuminates the art through the city's history. It is illustrated with more than 130 works of art, 30 in full color. Garry Wills gives us a unique view of Venice's rulers, merchants, clerics, laborers, its Jews, and its women as they created a city that is the greatest art museum in the world, a city whose allure remains undiminished after centuries. Like Simon Schama's The Embarrassment of Riches, on the Dutch culture in the Golden Age, Venice: Lion City will take its place as a classic work of history and criticism.

What Jesus Meant

by Garry Wills

As the religious rhetoric of the culture wars escalates, "New York Times" bestselling author and eminent scholar Garry Wills explores the meaning of Jesus's teachings In what are billed as culture wars, people on the political right and the political left cite Jesus as endorsing their views. Garry Wills argues that Jesus subscribed to no political program. He was far more radical than that. In a fresh reading of the gospels, Wills explores the meaning of the reign of heaven Jesus not only promised for the future but brought with him into this life. It is only by dodges and evasions that people misrepresent what Jesus plainly had to say against power, the wealthy, and religion itself. Jesus came from the lower class, the working class, and he spoke to and for that class. This is a book that will challenge the assumptions of almost everyone who brings religion into politics Christian socialists as well as biblical theocrats. But Wills is just as critical of those who would make Jesus a mere ethical teacher, ignoring or playing down his divinity. Jesus without the Resurrection is simply not the Jesus of the gospels. Wills calls his book a profession of faith in the risen Lord, the Son of the Father, who leads us to the Father. He argues that this does not make people embrace an otherworldliness that ignores the poor or the problems of our time. "What Jesus Meant" will no doubt spark debate about our understanding of Jesus and the Scriptures, especially as we head into midterm elections that will certainly prompt many heated discussions on the role of religion in our society.

What Paul Meant

by Garry Wills

From Publishers Weekly: This slender volume is a sequel to Wills's blockbuster What Jesus Meant; here, Wills defends Paul from detractors who insist that the apostle corrupted Jesus' radical message.

What the Gospels Meant

by Garry Wills

Garry Wills interprets the four Gospels. Garry Wills's recent New York Times bestselling books, What Jesus Meant and What Paul Meant, were tour-de-force interpretations of the teachings of Jesus and the Apostle Paul. Now Wills turns his remarkable gift for biblical analysis to the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Wills brilliantly examines the goals, methods, and styles of the evangelists and how these shaped the gospels' messages. The earliest book, Mark, emphasizes Jesus the sufferer; in Matthew, Jesus the teacher; in Luke, Jesus the reconciler; and in John, Jesus the mystic. Hailed as "one of the most intellectually interesting and doctrinally heterodox Christians writing today" (The New York Times Book Review), Wills guides readers through the maze of meanings that have accrued around these foundational texts, revealing their essential Christian truths. What the Gospels Meant will prove to be a valuable source of wisdom and inspiration for all.

Why I Am a Catholic

by Garry Wills

In this provocative work, which could not be timelier, Garry Wills, one of our country's most noted writers and historians, offers a powerful statement of his Catholic faith. Beginning with a reflection on his early experience of that faith as a child and later as a Jesuit seminarian, Wills reveals the importance of Catholicism in his own life. He goes on to challenge, in clear and forceful terms, the claim that criticism or reform of the papacy is an assault on the faith itself. For Wills, a Catholic can be both loyal and critical, a loving child who stays with his father even if the parent is wrong. Wills turns outward from his personal experiences to present a sweeping narrative covering two thousand years of church history, revealing that the papacy, far from being an unchanging institution, has been transformed dramatically over the millennia -- and can be reimagined in the future. At a time when the church faces one of its most difficult crises, Garry Wills offers an important and compelling entrée into the discussion of the church's past -- and its future. Intellectually brisk and spiritually moving, Why I Am a Catholic poses urgent questions for Catholic and non-Catholic readers alike.

Witches and Jesuits: Shakespeare's Macbeth

by Garry Wills

In Witches and Jesuits, Wills focuses on a single document to open up a window on an entire society. He begins with a simple question: If Macbeth is such a great tragedy, why do performances of it so often fail? After all, the stage history of Macbeth is so riddled with disasters that it has created a legendary curse on the drama. Superstitious actors try to evade the curse by referring to Macbeth only as "the Scottish play," but production after production continues to soar in its opening scenes, only to sputter towards anticlimax in the later acts. By critical consensus there seems to have been only one entirely successful modern performance of the play, Laurence Olivier's in 1955, and even Olivier twisted his ankle on opening night. But Olivier's ankle notwithstanding, Wills maintains that the fault lies not in Shakespeare's play, but in our selves. Drawing on his intimate knowledge of the vivid intrigue and drama of Jacobean England, Wills restores Macbeth's suspenseful tension by returning it to the context of its own time, recreating the burning theological and political crises of Shakespeare's era. He reveals how deeply Macbeth's original 1606 audiences would have been affected by the notorious Gunpowder Plot of 1605, when a small cell of Jesuits came within a hairbreadth of successfully blowing up not only the King, but the Prince his heir, and all members of the court and Parliament. Wills likens their shock to that endured by Americans following Pearl Harbor or the Kennedy assassination. Furthermore, Wills documents, the Jesuits were widely believed to be acting in the service of the Devil, and so pervasive was the fear of witches that just two years before Macbeth's first performance, King James I added to the witchcraft laws a decree of death for those who procured "the skin, bone, or any other part of any dead person--to be employed or used in any manner of witchcraft, sorcery, charm, or enchantment." We see that the treason and necromancy in Macbeth were more than the imaginings of a gifted playwright--they were dramatizations of very real and potent threats to the realm. In this new light, Macbeth is transformed. Wills presents a drama that is more than a well-scripted story of a murderer getting his just penalty, it is the struggle for the soul of a nation. The death of a King becomes a truly apocalyptic event, and Malcolm, the slain King's son, attains the status of a man defying cosmic evil. The guilt of Lady Macbeth takes on the Faustian aspect of one who has singed her hands in hell. The witches on the heath, shrugged off as mere symbols of Macbeth's inner guilt and ambition by twentieth century interpreters, emerge as independent agents of the occult with their own (or their Master's) terrifying agendas. Restoring the theological politics and supernatural elements that modern directors have shied away from, Wills points the way towards a Macbeth that will finally escape the theatrical curse on "the Scottish play." Rich in insight and a joy to read, Witches and Jesuits is a tour de force of scholarship and imagination by one of our foremost writers, essential reading for anyone who loves the language.

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