This book gives “the inspiring stories behind 175 of the most-loved hymns”, and what an amazing it job it does!
Regular readers of my blog will know that I have long appreciated books that have the “loose leaf” look to them, with the edges of the pages being kind of “rough”. Somehow, even with a brand new book, it makes the book “feel” like it’s older… and gives it personality. This is a book with a whole lot of personality!
Having grown up in a church that sangs from hymnals each Sunday, I loved seeing the music for each song – not just the words, but the full music that you would use if you were playing the piano to accompany the singing. This was much like reading through a hymnal that included notes about each song on the page next to it. I have always appreciated hymns, but really enjoyed learning about how these 175 hymns came to be. The lives of the authors, their experiences, the life event that made that hymn come to life – each of those things make the hymns so much more real for us today. The wording may be in older English than we typically use in conversation today, but Christians have been singing the same hymns for hundreds of years, and there are times when that can bring many of us a great deal of comfort.
In addition to having stories about so many of the well-loved hymns that we know (and even some that we might not know!), the book also includes longer biographies of twelve hymn writers/composers/singers. I expected some of the names that were in there (Ira Sankey, for example), but was somewhat surprised to see that the composer Bach (Yohann Sebastian Bach) was included. That biography said that he may not have been someone who was a true “hymn writer”, but what he’s known for is the fact that “He set a standard: God deserves our best work”. These stories added to the joy of reading this book. It’s very easy to read – each hymn takes up a page, and the accompanying information about the hymn/author is one page. It’s not a book that you have to spend hours on, but it can easily be split up into a daily hymn. Not that you couldn’t read through it all at once… I just think you get so much more from it when you really take the time to read, and consider the words of the hymn and what the composer/author was really trying to convey when they wrote it.
This is a beautiful book – both from the outside, and from the inside. It’s well worth the read!
I did notice a couple typos (I can’t help it, they literally jump off the page at me while I’m reading). For example, the end of the first first sentence on page 315 has a quotation mark, as though there was something quoted in the sentence, but there was no other quotation mark anywhere else in that sentence. I could make a guess where the quote started, but it just wasn’t clear. Pretty sure that was unintentional, but it still jumped out at me.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review. I was in no way required to write anything position – the thoughts and opinions expressed here are completely my own.