When most think of Tolstoy, they think of the great author. For his last 30 years, however, Tolstoy walked a different track. In Conversations with Leo Tolstoy, Simon Parke grants us the honour of sitting with the great man, towards the end of his life, and gives us the chance to chat with him. The conversation is imagined, but not Tolstoy’s answers. This is Tolstoy is his own words, drawn from his extensive books, essays, and letters.
Conversations with Meister Eckhart is an imagined conversation with this 13th-century mystic, around such themes as detachment, which he famously placed above love; spirituality; God; the soul; and suffering. But while the conversation is imagined, Eckhart's words are not; they are authentically his own.
"Great performance with an even greater message"
Vincent van Gogh is best known for two things – his sunflowers and his ear-cutting. But there are many other ways of knowing this remarkable son of a Dutch pastor, who left his chill homeland for the sunshine of Arles in the South of France; and left us over a thousand frank letters of struggle and joy, to help us glimpse his inner world. Vincent came late to painting after spending time in London trying to be a Christian missionary.
"An Imaginary Premise..."
Who was Jesus of Nazareth? Many admire his spiritual teachings; some go further and claim him as the messiah, while a few deny he ever existed at all. But everyone has an opinion about this obscure preacher who lived his brief life in one of the less significant regions of the Roman Empire; and who, in being crucified, died the traditional death for criminals and trouble-makers. Jesus lived in turbulent times. Under Roman rule, Judea was a hotbed of nationalist, political and religious interests, all vying for power.
The idea for the book came to Simon Parke whilst on a train from Edinburgh to London. He had been leading a weekend on the Old Testament's Ten Commandments, and felt uneasy. What had struck him, was the fact that while the commandments demand that we be good, they don't tell us how to be good. 'They tell us what to do,' says Parke, 'but not how to be - and how to be is the more important of the two, as all our doing arises from our being.
Abbot Peter has recently swapped leadership of a remote monastery in the Sinai desert for retirement in the bleak and stormy English seaside town of Stormhaven. When the local vicar is discovered crucified naked, in the vestry, the Abbot is invited to act as a Special Witness investigator. He partners the attractive and ambitious Detective Inspector Tamsin Shah - and discovers a surprising connection along the way. Shocked by such cruel death, the church community adjusts to the knowledge that the murderer is one of them.
"If you're looking for something really unusual..."
At the end of the 19th century, perhaps every man wanted to be Arthur Conan Doyle. He had written historical novels, short stories of horror and the supernatural; and displayed huge energy and talent in a variety of fields. He was a fine cricketer (he once took the wicket of the great WC Grace); played football, rugby and golf. He had trained and practiced as a doctor; campaigned for underdogs, like the falsely accused George Edalji; he liked fast cars and the new and dangerous invention of the aeroplane.
'Need a break from the mayhem of the modern world; or maybe from the mayhem of your inner life? Then why not give yourself permission to pause?' Such is the invitation at the heart of this book, which arises from Simon Parke's popular weekly columns of the same name in the Daily Mail, which calls them 'meditations to wake up your mind and your soul'.
"A Moment Can Mean So Much"
The day I was appointed Chair of the shop union was the same day the Pope was elected. There the similarities end, however. For while his elevation took place beneath the fine art of the Sistine Chapel, with the mysterious white smoke rising, mine took place in the cold store, with nothing more mysterious than the bacon delivery and yesterday's waste...A vicar for twenty years, Simon Parke trades in his dog collar for a job on the tills in his local supermarket.