William Vande Kopple '72 - English professor • David Livermore '89
James Gritter
'72 David I. Smith - German professor, and director, Kuyers Institute

Release book coverThe Release: More Tales of Families, Fishing, and Faith
by William Vande Kopple '72, Calvin English professor, Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans Publishing, 256 pp., $16.

One thing that William Vande Kopple learned from writing his first book of fish tales: “People want these stories to be true.”

While actual fishing and family memories inspired The Catch: Families, Fishing, and Faith (Eerdmans, 2004) [The Catch was also featured in the Winter 2004 issue of Spark ], Vande Kopple prefaced them by saying, “The pieces collected here are fiction inspired by but only loosely related to fact.”

Upon reflecting on his first volume though, Vande Kopple determined that there was actually more fact than fiction to his accounts. Thus, in his new book, The Release: More Tales of Families, Fishing, and Faith, Vande Kopple precedes the narratives by explaining that though his memory is not perfect, “the arcs of connected actions in these stories are true to the nature of individual members of my family, to the ways we generally relate to friends and one another, to the way we interact with the natural world, and to the memories we have carried away from outdoor experiences.”

More Online
Calvin Campus Store
Purchase these titles online or call 1-800-748-0122

The Alumni Collection
Books and CDs published by the Calvin Alumni Association

Festival of Faith and Writing 2010

Each of the nine stories remains vivid to Vande Kopple for several reasons. “I think it’s because they’re connected to people and fishing and the natural world,” he said.

But none of them is merely a fish story. “The book is a marketing challenge,” admitted Vande Kopple. “Most people who write about fishing write a ‘how to’ book. I don’t know enough about ‘how to’ to write that kind of book. This book is not just a devotional; it’s not just fish stories; it’s not just family meditations. I always wonder myself when I walk into a store that is selling the book where they are going to put it.”

Yet it’s the convergence of fishing and life that brings vitality to the stories. From the initial piece of Vande Kopple’s memory as a youngster of his mostly absent father—too busy working to spend time with the family—to the final piece about his mother-in-law’s failing memory and his son’s ability to reassure her all wrapped around a fish tale or two, Vande Kopple is able to naturally communicate life lessons.

“I’ve been in boats with friends and family members all over the Midwest,” he said. “Things come up in terms of fishing. Part of it is the mystery of this whole other universe that you’re sitting above when you’re in a boat. It makes you think about other realms.”

And it helps you reflect on your beliefs, Vande Kopple added: “If you’ve been fishing for any amount of time, you’re going to hear the expression, ‘You should have been here yesterday.’ That provides me with a strong view of providence: I wasn’t here yesterday; God has me here today. Why?”

Vande Kopple’s insights in his narratives begin to provide some answers to that question. Hopefully not just for himself, but for readers who can relate to the circumstances.

As for a volume three? Vande Kopple believes he has a few more fish stories to tell and maybe even a few more to experience. “I’m going to need some help on what to call it though,” he said. “We already have ‘catch’ and ‘release.’”

Recent titles

Leading with Cultural Intelligence book coverLeading with Cultural Intelligence: The New Secret to Success by David Livermore ’89, Saranac Lake, N.Y.: Amacom, 2009, $24.95.

The global economy has become a reality in today’s business world, with a growing number of Americans called upon to work beyond their country’s borders. This book offers today’s global workforce a specific plan on becoming more adept at managing across cultures. The author, a veteran of numerous international assignments, examines what it takes to flourish in unfamiliar surroundings.


Hospitious book coverHospitious Adoption: How Hospitality Empowers Children and Transforms Adoption by James Gritter ’72, Arlington, Va.: Child Welfare League of America, 2009, $19.95.

Jim Gritter’s third book for the Child Welfare League of America studies the next step after open adoption. Building on his previous books, which promote the inclusion of birth parents, Gritter suggests that practicing goodwill, respect and courage within the realm of adoption makes the process move smoother and enriches children’s lives.


Learning from the StrangerLearning from the Stranger: Christian Faith and Cultural Diversity by David I. Smith, German professor and director of Calvin’s Kuyers Institute for Christian Teaching and Learning, Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009, $20.

In this book, David Smith articulates what “culture” is, discusses how cultural difference affects our perceptions and behavior, and explores how Jesus’ call to love our neighbor involves learning from cultural strangers. Smith demonstrates how actually learning from strangers, not just imparting our own ideas to them, is an integral part of Christian discipleship.