|A roaring 40 years
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Date: 7 November, 2011
Charlotte Haines Lyon celebrates Christian book publisher Lion Hudson's 40th anniversary.
So it’s a big “Hip Hip Hooray” for Lion Hudson. Happy 40th Birthday!
This is no mean feat when many publishers are feeling the squeeze from pressure to discount, e-books and the recession.
Not to mention they are a Christian-based publisher in world more pluralistic and secular than ever.
So it is no small achievement to reach 40 in a very healthy shape indeed; they have just announced a record turnover.
Forty years ago, Lion published their first book, “The Photoguide to the New Testament” by David and Pat Alexander in 1971. This was a taster of the beautifully illustrated reference books to appear over the years.
Indeed The Lion Handbook to the Bible was published the following year and is still in print, in 35 languages, with over 3 million copies sold! In the wake of colour gardening and cook books, Lion decided to radically change the look of books on the Bible.
Not having access to our contemporary images banks, David and Pat Alexander set off on a road trip to photograph the Holy Land and biblical artefacts.
Their success lies in willingness to update and include new views and discoveries. For example in a major rewrite for the millennium, much more attention was paid to the role of women in the Bible.
Never patronising or abstruse, Lion has created reference classics that inform non specialists but are also found on the shelves of theologians and biblical scholars.
Another stalwart is Jonathan Hill’s The New Lion Handbook to the History of Christianity first published in 1977.
With the help of 40 experts from around the world including Japan, Africa and America, it explores a panoramic view of Christianity over the last 2000 years.
They have a breadth of theology, unusual in Christian publishing, where else do you find the likes of Keith Ward rubbing shoulders with Norman Warren?
I remember Warren’s What's the Point? being handed out aplenty to persuade people to convert to Christianity. It has had the widest geographical reach of Lion’s products being translated into over 70 languages.
Ward is altogether more liberal but extraordinarily persuasive for those who want a more academically rigorous approach to faith. His latest, Is Religion Irrational? is a weighty rebuttal to the likes of Richard Dawkins.
It is a gift to anyone affronted by the assumption that intellect is incompatible with faith.
Lion have also kept up to the minute on issues of the day. Whether it is Stop the Traffik, a challenge to the sale of people internationally, Mugabe and the White African, The Sixty Minute Family or the inspirational Living with the Planet.
This year they have captured the mood of the media and parents with the publication of Where has my Little Girl Gone? If you have daughters, you will share the concerns of many about the sexualisation of girls.
Tanith Carey’s book, though terrifying, provides very pragmatic advice in how to protect and nurture healthy girls.
In keeping with their motto “Christian Information and Inspiration for General Readers”, Lion also has also developed a strong line of devotional material.
The latter is a year’s worth of devotional readings from John’s Gospel. Mark Stibbe continues to encourage readers to explore the Father Heart of God, a passion that runs through many of his books.
You can probably tell that I am a fan of Lion. This is partly because my bookshelves always seem to have some of their books on them. Whatever state my faith has been in, there has been an appropriate book to read.
As I child I had the ubiquitous The Lion Children's Bible, which has since been translated into 56 languages, and has 4 million copies in print.
I remember whiling away hours in the local library reading various volumes of the Lion Story Bible. Somehow it never felt like I was reading the bible but numerous adventure stories.
Though sadly these books are no longer in print, Lion has continued to keep the Bible interesting and accessible for children.
Our family has enjoyed the playful Lion Storyteller Bible, and The Christmas Cat. (The latter has a cat on a piece of ribbon who witnesses the Christmas Story.) There is also the fantastic Graphic Bible.
It is not just Christian books though, as their mission for children’s books is, “Bringing Good Values to Life”. Oops, a picture book on making mistakes, has been demanded so many times at bedtime I have been tempted to burn it.
Having grown out of this, they are moving onto Aesops Fables and the beautiful Lion Book of Wisdom Stories from around the World. To complete the range Lion has also received acclaim for The Little White Horse aimed at older children.
And whilst you are singing Happy Birthday, you might like to add an extra verse for Songs of Praise as it reaches 50. Lion has published many books for Songs of Praise, including the new, Songs of Praise; Celebrating 50 years. This colourful volume revisits presenters, interviews, places and also explores the importance of hymns.
Happy Birthday Lion and may you keep us informed and inspired for many years to come.
Lion are working hard to make us much of their catalogue available as possible for the Kindle and other e readers. Please follow these links if you wish to purchase them for the Kindle.
Is Religion Irrational? Keith Ward