There have been a gradual increase in the number of books about new monasticism, keeping pace with the growth of the movement. Simon Cross's 2010 contribution is an important addition to this growing canon. Important not because it is unique (overlap is inevitable in some respect) but because it is so accessible.
Simply written with feeling the book is really one of two halves. The first an introduction to the history of monasticism which is, of necessity, brief but provides the context from within which the exploration of new monastic movements which will be described in the later half of the book. Cross aknowledges and deals well with the fact that many of the groups he visited in the UK and described, are not directly comperable being of a diverse nature. He suceeds, however, in identifying sufficient traits in common to justify groups inclusion in the book and indeed in the "movement". He also does not shy away from difficult catagorisations and discussions. Some of the groups included have been seen as cultic rather than monastic but he gives an impassioned if rather too brief rational for their inclusion; Reader consider would seem the approach he favours here and readers should indeed consider carefully.
The new monastic "movement" is still defining itself and inevitably this leads to inclusions and exclusions in this book which readers may well quible with. This is no fault of the author but rather a difficulty of the nature of the "movement" itself. Intentional community is certainly a criteria (whether lived or dispersed) chosen by the author for inclusion. I was dissapointed to see that this did not include the more eremitcal new monastics (Christian solitaries etc) who are, admitedly, difficult to access but who do have dispersed communal contacts and are in my opionion an important if quiet (as they should be) part of this ground swell of God's people. The author finishes his book with end notes and glossary, both of which are helpful. The real joy however is the list of websites of interest. These cover all the groups described in the book and allows a sort of "live" cross referencing with the text via the web which is excellent. Readers and website visitors should however be prepared to analyse and judge the veracity of how various groups portray themselves. I am not implying deliberate misleading is going on but all groups portray themselves as they wish to be portrayed and uncrtical acceptance is not recommended.
I loved this book as it deals with a movement and phenomena which fascinates me. If you are new to these ideas and groups this text would be an excellent introduction.