The Best Christian Bookstore in America

borger at store

Byron Borger, doing what he does best

I had some last minute Christmas shopping to do on December 24, 2018 so I drove down to Dallastown, Pennsylvania (about a 40-minute drive) to visit Byron and Beth Borger at Hearts & Minds Bookstore.  Beth was not around on this day, but Byron quickly emerged from the back of the store sporting a festive green dress shirt and a red flannel tie.  After exchanging pleasantries, we got down to work.

  • I wanted a thoughtful and liturgical devotional for my wife, Joy.  Byron introduced me to Frederick Schumacher’s For All the Saints: A Prayer Book for and By the Church.  I bought it.
  • I wanted a book on vocation and calling for my youngest daughter.  When I asked Byron for the best book on the subject he pulled a copy of Os Guinness’s The Call off the shelf.  I bought it.
  • This same daughter is thinking seriously about pursuing environmental studies in college and I wanted a nice Christian primer on creation care.  Byron recommended Matthew Sleeth’s Serving God, Saving the Planet: A Call for Creation and Your Soul.  I bought it.
  • I wanted to buy a Wendell Berry novel for my older daughter.  Byron has an entire section on Berry’s fiction and non-fiction.  I bought her a copy of Hannah Coulter.

By the way, you can buy all these books from Beth and Byron at Hearts & Minds.  Just send him an e-mail and he will get them into your hands as soon as possible.

After I was done with my gift-shopping, I did some shopping for myself and spent a few hundred bucks on new hardbacks.  Byron coached me through every selection.  He recommended philosopher Nicholas Wolterstorff’s memoir.  I finished it last week and it did not disappoint.  He tentatively suggested literary scholar Anthony Esolen’s Nostalgia, but warned me that it was very conservative.  He was right.  I liked about a third of it.  Byron provided a narrative for every book I bought that day (and some that I didn’t buy). I left encouraged, inspired, and intellectually satisfied.

A couple of weeks ago I got a call from Elizabeth Eisenstadt Evans, a freelance religion reporter who I have worked with in the past.  She told me that Hearts & Minds was not doing very well financially and that she was working on a story about it.  I talked to her for about thirty minutes.  Her piece appeared at Religion News Service today.  Here is a taste:

The first book that Byron and Beth Borger sold at the Hearts & Minds bookstore was a copy of Victor Hugo’s “Les Miserables.”

For the Borgers, it was a perfect fit.

But their customer was a bit perplexed since the book isn’t standard fare at Christian bookshops.

“The first customer asked, ‘What kind of bookstore carries Les Mis?’” said Byron Borger. “We said, ‘What kind of bookstore doesn’t?’”

Hearts & Minds has long been an anomaly in the world of Christian retail.

The Borgers, who previously worked for a Christian campus ministry group, launched their Dallastown store during the faith-based-bookstore boom times of the 1980s. They bucked evangelical conventions by including Catholic writers such as Thomas Merton, tackling topics like racial justice and featuring books by spiritual formation proponent Richard Foster, whose take on the Christian life was considered radical.

Back in the day, they faced boycotts, pickets and even death threats from the Ku Klux Klan over a display of books from Martin Luther King Jr., said Byron Borger. The store survived them all — and thrived for years, attracting fans among customers and authors.

Contemporary challenges are different — and perhaps more threatening.

With ongoing demise of Christian retail stores, consolidation in the Christian publishing industry and the continued dominance of online sellers such as Amazon, the future of this idiosyncratic venture is uncertain.

In recent years, the Borgers have cut back on staff and dipped into their savings to keep the story going.

“I’m not embarrassed to say that we have not been doing well,” said Borger. “We have not been self-sustaining.”

Despite the struggles, Hearts & Minds has a loyal following, readers who appreciate the couple’s wide-ranging knowledge of the Christian book scene.

The store appeals to mainline Protestants and what Beth Borger refers to as “thinking evangelicals” — Christians with traditional beliefs about theology whose faith prompts them to care about injustice. There are more than a few in the mid-Atlantic and Midwest regions, where Hearts & Minds draws most of its support, said Beth Borger.

Read the rest here.  And then start buying some books from Hearts & Minds.

Here are some pics:

hearts and minds book haul

I bought these books for my library on December 24, 2018

 

heartd and minds 2017

 I bought these books at Hearts & Minds back in 2015

fea-at-hearts-and-minds

Last summer I did a book talk on *Believe Me* at Hearts Minds

fea borger

Beth and Byron have most of my books in stock

Happy New Year!

We are back after an extended holiday break!  I hope all our readers were able to spend some quality time with friends and family over the holidays.  I always look forward to the holidays as a time of relaxation, worship, family-time, and getting caught-up on reading.  Here are a few things that happened over break:

On Christmas Eve I visited Byron Borger at Hearts and Minds Bookstore in Dallastown, PA.  I bought some books for members of my family and I bought some books for myself:

Hearts and Minds Book Haul

I am almost done with Wolterstorff’s memoir.  It is excellent.

On December 26, 2018, I was quoted in Carol Kuruvilla’s piece at the Huffington Post: “Americans Trust Clergy Less Than Ever, Gallup Poll Finds.”

On December 30, 2018, I published a piece at History News Network: “Trump’s White Evangelicals are Nostalgic for an American Past that Never Existed for Blacks and Others.”  Most of the piece comes from my Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.

I learned that my piece “Why is Christian America Supporting Donald Trump?” was one of History News Network’s most popular posts for 2018.

I was thrilled to learn Believe Me inspired two of Jared Burkholder’s “Top Ten posts of 2018” at The Hermeneutic Circle.

On January 2, 2019, I was quoted in Greg Sargent’s Washington Post op-ed, “The walls around Trump are crumbling.  Evangelicals may be his last resort.”

On January 2, 2019, I contributed to Jerome Socolovsky’s National Public Radio story: “Evangelicals Seek Detente With Mideast Muslim Leaders As Critics Doubt Motives.”

And don’t forget our coverage of the annual meeting of the American Historical Association.  We have a great team of correspondents and will begin posting on January 3, 2019.  Stay tuned!

The *Believe Me* Book Tour Comes to Dallastown, Pennsylvania

Fea at Hearts and Minds

And what a night it was!

I walked into Hearts & Minds Bookstore in Dallastown around 6:50pm last night and there were already nearly 100 people milling around the store awaiting the book talk and signing.  The place was packed!  Folks were shopping for books, drinking red and blue-colored punch, and angling for seats on chairs set up in every corner of the store.  Byron and Beth Borger, the owners of Hearts & Minds, certainly know how to throw a party!  Even this guy was there!

I spoke for about 30 minutes or so, answered questions for another 30-45 minutes, and then signed some books.  Following the signing, about thirty folks stayed for more conversation about evangelicals, politics, and Donald Trump.  We had Trump supporters, Trump voters, anti-Trumpers, Hillary voters, and everyone in between.  The conversation continued to about 11:00pm and I left energized (which is rare for an introvert like me) and encouraged by the civil nature of the dialogue.  American democracy and the Christian church need more conversations like the one that took place last night.  I did a lot of talking, but I also did a lot of listening.

Thanks so much to Byron and Beth and the staff of Hearts & Minds for hosting me and publicizing the event.  And thanks to everyone who came out.

The Believe Me book tour will be on break until the end of September.  We will enter the next leg of the tour on September 24, 2018 at the University of Chicago Seminary Co-Op Bookstore.  I hope to see you there!

The *Believe Me* Book Tour is Coming to Hearts & Minds Bookstore in Dallastown (York County), PA

Believe Me 3d

On August 10, 2018, I will be at Byron Borger’s shop.  Here is Byron’s press release:

Dr. John Fea, Chair of the History Department at Messiah College, will discuss his new book Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trumpon Friday night, August 10, at Hearts & Minds, an independent bookstore at 234 East Main Street, Dallastown. The program begins at 7:00 pm.

Byron Borger, co-owner of Hearts & Minds explains the significance of the book, saying, “Believe Me offers a historians look at the rise of the religious right, particularly why it is that many white, conservative Protestants supported a candidate who was admittedly irreligious, vulgar, and known for power and greed, not to mention cavorting with Playboy Bunnies and porn stars. This wide-spread support from religious conservatives for such an incongruous candidate is one of the most fascinating – and for many of us, troubling – trends in American religion and American politics. Dr. Fea helps us explore this curious situation.”

Believe Me was released a few weeks ago to critical acclaim and Fea has appeared on many national venues, including NPR and C-Span.  The book has been reviewed in dozens of publications and is considered one of the most important public affairs book of the year.

“John is a jovial person and great teacher,” says Beth Borger, co-owner of Hearts & Minds, “and we are looking forward to hosting him here at the shop.  Any time he visits we have wonderful conversations and we learn new things. It’s a delight to sponsor a public program where others can hear this central Pennsylvania treasure.”

Dr. Fea is an accomplished author, having garnered significant awards for Was American Founded as a Christian Nation?, Why Study History?, and a co-authored academic volume, Confessing History: Explorations in Christian Faith and the Historian’s Vocation, among others.

Fea will speak about his book, discuss the latest revelations about President Trump’s religious associates, and participate in civil discussion about the relationship of faith and political life.   All are welcome, light refreshments will be served, and books will be available for purchase and autographing.

Best-Selling Evangelical Book Makes an Appearance on CBS’s “Madame Secretary”

Tia

Byron Borger, the proprietor of Hearts and Minds Books in Dallastown, Pennsylvania, got a screen shot of Tea Leoni’s character, the Secretary of State in the CBS show “Madame Secretary,” placing a copy of David Platt’s Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream in her briefcase.

Here is Byron’s post at Facebook:

SCREEN SHOT FROM CBS SHOW MADAME SECRETARY We were getting caught up on one of our favorite shows, Madame Secretary, and there was a scene where, as parents, the Secretary of State and her husband were discussing donating books to the high school book fair. One title was grabbed out of a bag and Madame Secretary said “Oh, I was going to read that.” It was only a second, but, booksellers that we are, it looked familiar. We scrolled back and in that fraction of a section saw what book the show’s producers used. We stock it here at Hearts & Minds, a pop-evangelical best-seller, “Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream” by David Platt, published by Multnomah. One might wish a Secretary of State would read such stuff. What fun to catch it. Wow.

 

Get 10% Off on “The Bible Cause” at Hearts & Minds Books

Bible Cause CoverGet a copy of The Bible Cause: A History of the American Bible Society at 10% off and support an independent brick and mortar bookstore in Dallastown, Pennsylvania. (You may recall that I visited Hearts & Minds Bookstore last month).

Here is a review from  Byron Borger, one the most thoughtful and enthusiastic booksellers I know.  I don’t know if I can live up to what Byron says about me here, but I do appreciate it.

I don’t know how many working historians you know, or even how many serious history professors, but Fea is a gem, a local treasure, a fun and whimsical guy who does remarkably serious scholarship.  Amidst his other award winning writing, teaching, and philosophizing — not to mention being a cool  local fellow and husband and dad — John was recruited by the American Bible Society to document their 200 anniversary. The Bible Society, it is interesting to note, is the nation’s oldest philanthropy, and it is, to put it politely, storied.

Fea was given complete and open access to the legendary ABS records — imagine the joy of finding documents of support from the likes of Francis Scott Key or Theodore Roosevelt — and refused any sense that he was to write a puff piece or in-house congratulatory document for their own bi-centennial celebration.  No, this is the real, deal, worthy of such an important, historic organization and worthy of such a prestigious, scholarly publishing house.  Dr. Fea turned his skills towards telling this story well, with accuracy and insight, with charming anecdote and revealing stories.   

The ABS has aligned itself, often, with gatekeepers of American culture, and their single-minded passion to promote Bible distribution has been inspiring, and, admittedly, a bit perplexing, if not troubling.  With endorsements from major historians such as Mark Noll or Margaret Bendroth (the Executive Director of the Congregational Library and Archives) The Bible Cause is going to be an enduring and important bit of American history research.

In the words of Laurie Maffly-Kipp (who wrote Setting Down the Sacred Past: African American Race Histories) “Fea leads us through Bible distribution in ever-widening circles. His expansive sweep highlights dissemination on the US frontier, within war-ravaged communities of the postbellum American South, and around the globe. He shows how the Good Book both followed and accompanied US imperial aspirations, and also how its influence motivated believers to see American as a Christian nation united by reverence for the Word.”

Well, so there’s that.  And John Fea brings it all, in fascinating detail.  As Mark Noll says, The Bible Cause  “is full of unusually perceptive insights… it is a splendid book to mark a noteworthy anniversary.”

Order a copy at Hearts & Minds

"Why Study History?" is Voted One of the Best Books of 2013 by Hearts & Minds Books

I am honored that Why Study History?: Reflecting on the Importance of the Past has been chosen as the “Best Book About History” for 2013 by Byron Borger, proprietor of the best independent religious bookstore in the country: Hearts & Minds Books.  Here is Byron’s write-up:
BEST BOOK ABOUT HISTORY
Why Study  History: Reflecting on the Importance of the Past  John Fea (Baker) $19.99  This deserves an award – it seems that nearly every book he writes deserves an award – although this one is simple, short, clear, and yet (as he explains) very important. There are more scholarly works (indeed, one that he co-edited a few years ago is called Confessing History) that explore a sophisticated philosophy of history from a Christian perspective, but for a quick read, succinct and compelling and helpful, this simply can’t be beat. Eric Miller notes that his “love of his craft is infectious and his knowledge of it inspiring.” Thomas Albert Howard calls it “a splendid, engaging book at once erudite and accessible.”  I wish that every academic discipline had such an introductory level book of such fine insight so admirably written.  Kudos, John.  You have gotten more significant awards than this, but we are happy to tip our (tricorn) hats, as well.  Hip hip hooray.