About December 2011

This page contains all entries posted to Hearts & Minds Books in December 2011. They are listed from oldest to newest.

November 2011 is the previous archive.

January 2012 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

December 2011 Archives

December 1, 2011

Tim Keller books on sale -- one week only!

We have been really grateful for the many ways so many Hearts & Minds friends and fans have been supportive of our book displays and sales out on the road.  How many good friends we have, hither and yon.  Of course our store staff work hard here in D-town every day, but this fall has seen Beth and I out and about more than usual.  It seemed ages ago that we were in Chicago with the Christian Legal Society or selling books for David Kinnaman or Philip Jenkins or Miroslov Volf, or setting up at a Mennonite camp for our "small church" gathering.  Just the other day we had a provocative few days with Diana Butler Bass and our Episcopal clergy friends from the Diocese of Pennsylvania.  They, and our hosts at a Franciscan retreat center, were so nice to us, bought a lot of  books, served chilled wine as Episcopalians will, while we engaged in serious conversations about the future of faith in these changing times.  Diana has a book coming out in February 2012 which will be called Christianity After Religion (HarperOne; $25.99) and as a historian she has a lot to offer as she looks for a new spiritual awakening breaking in among us. (She did her own academic work, by the way, under the esteemed historian, George Marsden.)  Let us know if you want to pre-order it at our typical BookNotes 20% off.  You'll be hearing more about it this Winter, I'm sure.

One of the most stimulating and striking experiences of our fall season, though, was the opportunity to sell books at "The Gospel and Culture" conference sponsored by Redeemer Presbyterian Center for Faith and Work, which explored how ordinary folks can relate their faith to their daily callings, professions and jobs.  We sold books like Work Matters: Connecting Sunday Worship to Monday Work by Tom Nelson (Crossway; $15.99) and was pleasantly inspired by Richard Mouw as he reminded us of a "map of the universe" that has Christ enthroned as King.  I did a BookNotes rumination about that conference, here.  You can watch Mouw's opening keynote, here.  Thanks be to God for churches like Redeemer who care enough about the role of the laity that they have found ways to expertly equip folks to think seriously about faith in the marketplace.

Of course, since the Reverend Timothy Keller was speaking at this event, we took tons of his books.  And---duh---since most of the participants at this event were active at Redeemer week by week, they most likely had his books.  Which is to say, it is sale time again, friends.  We'd rather sell these extra copies that we have here inexpensively, now.  We need the cash, you need the savings---it's a good deal for one and all. 

I suspect you know that even as we enjoy selling all manner of books in all manner of settings, this is an author and perspective that we indubitably identify with.  Keller is intelligent and reasonable, altogether orthodox, and deeply concerned about proclaiming ancient truths in fresh ways, for the sake of the glory of God and benefit of neighbor.  His people's work across the city of New York--in the business world, the fashion industry, on Wall Street, in the social service sector, in the art scene and the worlds of medicine, law, politics, education, and such---bears great fruit, making that city a bit more livable, and God a bit more known.  We are glad to sell this wise and effective pastor's books and to earnestly commend them to you. 


reason for god ipage.gifReason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism  (Riverhead) regularly $16.00 sale price $11.89  This landmark book was released a few years ago on a prestigious publisher, now a handsome paperback, smart, intelligent, an argument for the cogency of faith. Invites skeptics to "doubt their doubts" to see if the criticisms of faith hold up---some compare him to the significance of the lucid C.S. Lewis.  Excellent reviews from the likes of The Library Journal and The Washington Post. Designed for seekers, skeptics, or those needing a rational basis for the reasonableness of faith.   

prodigal god ipage.gifThe Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith  (Dutton) regularly $14.00 sale price $9.80 This slim paperback is one of the finest expositions of the famous parable I've ever read.  You should know that (following Ken Bailey's serious work) Keller insists that the parable (which was told to the Pharisees, obviously) is mostly, therefore, about the older brother.  That it, it is most useful for those who are nominal church folk thinking they are fine because they've kept the rules and seem religious, a disposition itself that may indicate that they do not yet know the gospel.  God is the One who offers extravagant grace, and knowing our deep need is the first step towards authentic faith.  Wonderful.  I bet you know somebody to whom you could give it!

counterfeit gods ipage.gifCounterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope That Matters (Dutton) $15.00 sale price $10.50  This is doubtlessly the best book I've ever read on this trilogy of idols, an excellent introduction to a chief topic of the BIble: idolatry.  I cannot imagine anyone who wouldn't benefit from a good study like this, and nearly every modern person reading this post is enmeshed in the distortions of good things in our broken culture.  Very, very highly recommended.  Just out in paperback, making this a real bargain!  We have some of the hardbacks on sale, too, if you want those at the 30% off price.

generous justice ipage.gifGenerous Justice: How God's Grace Makes Us Just  (Dutton) regularly $19.95 sale price $13.95  I've said before this is one of our favorite books among the many recent resources on social justice and why Biblical faith demands a concern for the poor, social change, and institutional reform.  Helpfully, Keller grounds the call for justice in the very justice of God, and links the gracious redemption offered through Christ with our work for social transformation.  This shows how the deepest truths of orthodox faith are also the most relevant and radical.  Three cheers for this kind of balanced, passionate, clear, Biblical view that affirms evangelical faith and social changed, piety and politics, justification and justice.  Please know how much I respect this book and how I hope many buy and read it. 

kings cross ipage.gifKing's Cross: The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus  (Dutton) regularly $25.95 sale price $18.00  As with the other Keller books, we reviewed this at BookNotes when it first came out (earlier this year) and raved.  As the subtitle suggests, Keller implies that the deepest story of the whole world, and the deepest truths of the universe, are found in the incarnation and life and death and resurrection of this Rabbi Jesus. This is, actually, a clear-headed study of the gospel according to Mark, in Keller's own urbane and thoughtful style.  Lovely stuff, serious, helpful.  Mark is the gospel for this just starting Revised Common Lectionary year B, so this is a great resource.

Keller has two other books that we happily carry, but which aren't included in this deep discounted inventory clearance sale.  We could offer them at 20% off, though, as we usually do here at BookNotes.  While we're talking about his good products, those two are his first book ever, written when he was doing urban ministry in Philadelphia,  Ministries of Mercy (P&R; $13.99) and his brand new one, The Meaning of Marriage (Dutton; $25.95.)  We also stock his excellent DVD curriculum pieces, The Prodigal God, The Gospel of Life, and Reason for God, each which sell for $24.95, or, for $31.99 shrink-wrapped with a useful participants guide.  I cannot tell you how classy these are and how ideal they are for thoughtful home study groups, serious adult ed classes, college groups and personal viewing.  Having been with him again this fall, we are renewed in our commitments to offer his resources.  We trust our friends and fans will appreciate it and use them well.     


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December 5, 2011

NEW ADVENT RESOURCES: Illuminate, Behold, I Light My Candle, A Thrill of Hope, The Journey, and so much more

I hope you have personal and family customs and traditions around this holiday time of year.  The psychologists, social scientists and theologians all say it is helpful.  Ritual and symbol, habit and tradition, all shape us in very important ways. 

One of my traditions is entering Advent late.  The liturgical season still hasn't fully shaped my sensibilities and our work schedule---doing a few out of the store events at the end of November and coping with retail land the weekend of Thanksgiving---seems to keep me from entering the new Christian year with much gusto until mid-December.

I was so glad, and a bit chagrined, when my Sunday school teacher this week (my own 29 year old, Stephanie) quoted from the stunning forward by Lauren Winner in Bobby Gross' very nice book Living the Christian Year: Time to Inhabit the Story of God (IVP; $17.00.)  It is a passage I've commended before, and strikes me deeply every time I've read it.  Gross' introduction to and devotional guide through the Christian seasons is a gem of a resource and we continue to be glad for the time he spent with us last year when the book first came out.

So, here's my odd-ball tradition: offering a list of books for fellow slackers, late-to-the-game, well-intended, "spirit is willing but the flesh is weak," slow-poke, Advent lovers.  Better late than never.


We will answer any questions you have, or fill your order promptly,  humming "Come Thou Long Expected Advent Book and Resource List" as we do.

expecting.jpgExpecting: Devotions for Advent  Scott Hoezee  (Faith Alive) $4.29  These wonderfully written, short devotions (coupled with a prayer or journalling idea) were first published by the Christian Reformed Church's Homelink program.  Hoezee is the director of the Center for Excellence in Preaching at Calvin Theological Seminary and is as fine a wordsmith as you'll find in any pulpit anywhere.  Lovely, insightful, offering a robust Biblical vision, offered nicely in short readings.

illuminate.gifIlluminate: An Advent Experience  Paul Sheneman (Beacon Hill) $9.99  I have been so impressed with the recent small group resources coming from the edgy Nazarenes at Beacon Hill and Barefoot.  This is a great devotional to use daily--complete with prayers and a Psalm and verses to look up and quotes from ancient hymns--but it is ideally used with a candle lighting experience.  Yup, this is nearly a postmodern, family, Advent-wreath guide, with suggestions for service projects and justice work, ideas for storytelling, creative ways to let your light shine as you are illuminated by the light of Christ.  There is a link to the the cyberhymnal website for each old hymn or carol, too, so you can sing along. This is a handsome little book, well-designed with superb, solid content.  Highly recommended.  Get your candles out!  Here is a beautifully done short video clip reciting part of John 1 (and note how they also use a child's voice) over a match lighting a candle which serves as a trailer for the book.  Neat.

Behold: Cultivating Attentiveness in the Season of Advent  Pamela C. Hawkins
(Upper Behold!.jpg Room) $14.00  Any book that starts with a quote from Quaker mystic Douglas Steere has my attention.  Certainly attentiveness is central to the spiritual life, and the very title of this book---behold!---evokes (if you hear it well) images of contemplative spirituality, inviting us to a slower, deeper pace of life.  Here, in this invitation to a prayerful Advent, we are offered daily meditations as well as a weekly prayer practice such as praying with images, silent prayer, using prayer beads, compline and such.  There is a good communal conversation about the book going on at www.upperroom.org/adventstudy, too, if that would be helpful.  Recommended for personal devotions or group use.  (A guide for leaders is included, adapting the materiel for small groups.)  Be attentive to your expectancy, preparation, faith, and God's promises.  As always, Upper Room offers exquisite, good stuff for pondering. 

the-journey-2011.jpgThe Journey: Walking the Road to Bethlehem  Adam Hamilton (Abingdon) $18.00  You may know Hamilton's popular 24 Hours That Changed the World, a great study of the death and resurrection of Jesus that is used during Lent and Easter.  Like that good resource, this Advent/Christmas study is available as a hardback book, has an accompanying DVD (filmed in the Holy Land, and very well done, in about 13 minute sessions), a youth study, and a child's booklet.  There is a small  28-day devotional guide (The Journey: A Season of Reflection) too, to read along with the chapters of the book which is popular.  We are really impressed with this whole program, and with endorsements from the likes of John Ortberg and Bill Hybels, you can guess it is missional, visionary, exciting and altogether useful and solid.  Hamilton is the senior pastor of the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood Kansas.  Check out this youtube trailer of the DVD so you can get a flavor of Hamilton's clarity and helpful style.  Very nicely done.  (By the way, there is a piece at the end of the DVD where there is some illuminating reflection on the current state of Arab-Israeli relations, set in Palestine.  Kudos to Hamilton for offering a desire to see the land of Jesus' birth be a place of justice, grace and shalom.  It offers a provocative ending to a good study. Thanks be to God.) 

The Journey  hardback book $18.00
The Journey  DVD  $39.00
The Journey  devotional paperback $10.00
The Journey  youth study $8.00
The Journey  children's study $16.00

Swanson_Peaceable-Kingdom_P.jpga thrill of hope.jpgDVD A Thrill of Hope:  The Christmas Story in Word and Art  (Church Publishing -  Morehouse) $29.95 //Discussion Guide; $4.95  This is a splendid, visually striking DVD study produced by Candler School of Theology (at Emory University in Atlanta.)  The nearly hour-long video explores (in six sessions) the standard Biblical narratives for the Christmas season but opens them up to new insights by experiencing great contemporary art pieces by John August Swanson made to illuminate these texts.  This is ideal for a group study, for personal enjoyment, as a gift given to art lovers or for anyone wanting a fresh take on the old familiar passages. Discussion on the artwork and Biblical texts are from premier mainline scholars (such as Rev. Dr. Tom Long, Dr. Carol Newsom and others.)  Why the package designers they didn't show off the colorful art of Swanson or explain the marvelous array of contributors to this wonderful resource is beyond me.  Bet your humming O Holy Night, aren't you? 

Christmas.jpgChristmas: Light Splits the Night infuse bible studies (Faith Alive) $6.99  This is a fine example of good study resources coming from this creative, solid publisher.  These lessons are designed for those who don't have much time to prepare, who join together for lively discussion and learning...including a celebration at the end of the group.  The approach to Bible study in this series emphasizes discovery (the reader discovers what the Bible has to say by asking questions and seeking answers from the passage.)  Additional insights from history and other sources help to fill in details that connect this story to the larger story of God's love and care for us all.

Celebrating Christmas With Jesus
  Max Lucado (Nelson) $2.99  Sometimes, I must admit,celebrating Christmas with Jesus.jpg when lamenting the cheesy side of mass marketed evangelical publishing, the name of the ever-popular Max Lucado comes up, icon that he is-- a symbol of sorts.  But you know, I have always loved Max's writing (yes, we call him by first name, even though we never met) and his Advent materials in the past (not to mention his full-length book God Came Near) have been excellent.  These are evocative, moving, well-written, and honest, easily accessible for all.  This little 30-day pocket book is very nicely done and we are happy to promote it. And here is the uniqueness of this: it isn't a study only of the birth narratives, but looks at 30 key moments in the life of Jesus.  This truly is a (very brief) introduction to the man whose birthday we celebrate at Christmastime.  Not a bad idea, eh?

preparing-for-christmas-with-richard-rohr-daily-reflections-paperback-cover-art.jpgPreparing for Christmas with Richard Rohr: Daily Reflections for Advent  Richard Rohr (St. Anthony Messenger's Press) $1.95  Speaking of long-standing icons in religious publishing offering nice small books---I hope you know this Franciscan author---this miniature devotional book offers daily reflections and prayers along with each day's Scripture from the lectionary. Fr. Rohr has deep concerns about authentic spirituality, genuine human-ness, and an outward focus on peace and justice.  These are very short writings based on a popular recorded lecture. 


I will Hold My Candle.jpgI Will Hold My Candle and Other Stories for Christmas  Dave Carver (Lulu) $15.00  This is one of my favorite new holiday resources and I hope you will consider picking this up--I really do.  Carver is, I'll admit, an old friend, and former campus minister with the CCO, so I hope many come to know this little book.  He's a good, good guy.  For years, now, Dave has labored as an ordinary Presbyterian pastor in a fairly ordinary (is any church ordinary?) urban neighborhood church in Pittsburgh.  Each year he writes a short story for Christmas eve services and this is a fabulous collection of his well-crafted pieces.  These could be read as sermons or devotionals, I suppose, but they are, in fact, stories.  (He explores this is a fantastic opening forward called "Why Stories, Anyway?" which is instructive for any pulpit preacher or classroom teacher.)  All of Pastor Dave's stories are rooted in The Story, and his conjuring short plot and narrative, characters and surprises, allow us to be open to the Christmas message in fresh, arresting ways.  A few of these are truly great, and all are very well worth reading.  Preachers may borrow them, you could use them in your own family or small group, and of course writers may be inspired to create their own similar short fiction pieces.  As a pastor, he does not want these to be obscure or artsy, so even though they have good literary styling---Carver is a smarter and more eloquent man than I, and quotes from very good poems, too---I'd say they are down to Earth, clear, useful. Dare I say "incarnational"?  As it says on the back cover, "listen for the ways in which God's promises ring true in our world and allow Dave's imagination to spur your own.  Perhaps you will be able to see your life, or your neighbor, in a whole new light."  Great holiday reading!

christmas-is-not-your-birthday-sm[1].jpgChristmas is Not Your Birthday: Experience the Joy of Living and Giving Like Jesus  Mike Slaughter (Abingdon) $12.00  Perhaps you saw our enthusiastic promotion of the Advent Conspiracy DVD and books the last few years.  Maybe you know the Alternatives simple living movement, and their slogan about Christmas not being your birthday.  Energetic leader and author and edgy mega-church pastor Mike Slaughter here gives us the short version of all that, inviting us to reject consumerism, gain a global vision, give and serve more, rooted in a missional, Kingdom-coming, socially-engaged reading of the Christmas story.  As he reminds us, "every year many of us say we are going to cut back, simplify, and have a family Christmas that focuses on the real reason for the season, but every year the advertisements beckon, the children plead, and it seems easier just to indulge our wants and whims.  Overspending, overeating, materialism, and busyness robs us of our peace and joy and rob Jesus of His rightful role as the center of our celebration."

This Christmas, cut through the hype that leaves you exhausted and broke.  Here are the five well-written, short chapters: "Expect a Miracle", "Giving Up on the Perfect", "Scandalous Love", "Jesus' Wish List", "By a Different Road."  We all need this sort of reminder and Slaughter is living out some remarkable stuff in his own good congregation of world-changers.  Highly recommended.

Other years at BookNotes we have raved about a few key resources and we'd invite you to see the BookNotes Advent list from last year as well. Or the great 2009 Advent list, here.

Note, please, how we previously lauded God With Us (Paraclete Press; $29.95) the god with us.jpg  extraordinary and quite handsome hardback edited by Greg Pennoyer and Image journal's Greg Wolfe, both who are wise and deep thinkers engaged in the arts and literature for the sake of cultural renewal.  You can tell there is nothing smarmy or inappropriately sentimental with rich contributions by Scott Cairns, Emilie Griffin, Richard John Neuhaus, Kathleen Norris, Eugene Peterson, Luci Shaw.  The glossy paper and good art reproductions make this truly a great keepsake. It would make a great, great gift for thoughtful friends, don't you think?  I'm sure you know somebody you'd like to remind that the Christian faith is mature and profound and artful---maybe this would help.  This is truly one of the nicest resources we've seen in all of our 29 seasons of Advent book-selling.


journey to christmas DVD.jpgDVD Journey to Christmas (Windborne)  $19.99  This entertaining, very moving, double disc, expertly-produced video may be the best bargain of the year, and for some, the most important Christmas product this year.  Join five diverse people---from a young First Nation's woman to an agnostic lawyer, a poet, a Messianic Jew, and a burned out radio personality---as they travel the holy land, work with local guide Nizar Shaheed, and attempt to discover the true meaning of Christmas.  The movie's tag-line gives us a hint: "For Five Strangers, The Nativity is Now Reality."  Featuring commentary from Biblical and historical experts like Paul Maier, Craig Evans, and Claire Pfann, this exotic and compelling documentary is like a TV reality show where the stakes are the very meaning of history itself.  Please (please) watch this trailer (shown below) and see the quality of this excellent, interesting resource that could be enjoyed as we share the meaning of the holiday with our family, friends, and neighbors.  We are thrilled to get to sell this sort of thing.  Thanks for caring.

any book or DVD mentioned above 
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December 7, 2011

GREAT CHILDREN'S PICTURE BOOKS (for young and old alike) 20% off


song of the stars.jpgSong of the Stars: A Christmas Story Sally Lloyd-Jones, illustrated by Alison Jay (Zonderkidz) $15.99 We have easily declared this to be the best holiday children's picture book of the year!  The illustrations are amazing---done in a crackly kind of painting that makes it seem old, like Grandma Moses or some European fresco. The scenes are oddly stylized, with all manner of cool animals, but not so much as to seem weird.  The fabulous illustrations are mostly of animals and creation, all on tip toe awaiting the great thing about to happen. The writing is good, the theology wonderful as Lloyd-Jones captures the sense that Jesus' birth is not just for humans, but for a whole creation that awaits rebirth and renewal. Christ is declared the Rescuer and Prince of Peace.  Of course, Sally is the beloved author of a bunch of kids books, most significantly, our favorite young children's Bible, The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name (Zondervan; $16.99) The exalted view of Christ is clear even in the last line of this new Christmas story as it sings "Heaven's Son/sleeping under the stars/ that he made." We are so grateful for this simple text, these moving paintings, this vital and worldview- shaping vision: Christmas is indeed, for the whole cosmos; it is a song of the stars!  Highly recommended.
                                                                                                                   sally lloyd jones photo.jpg
From 6 pm-7 pm, EST, Thursday, December 8th, visitors will be able to tune in at http://www.livestream.com/Zonderkidz for Lloyd-Jones' live reading of Song of the Stars. The festivities will continue with a Q&A with the author, exciting prize giveaways, and special musical guest appearances from Ellie Holcomb, Arthur Alligood, Eric Peters, Jason Gray, Ben Shive, and more!

Here is a youtube video inviting you to the party.
 Here is a video trailer for the book

Of course, if you can't join in, you can still get the book from us.  We're eager to sell a bunch of these and shape the young hearts and minds of children near and far---God owns this whole wide world, even the critters anticipated His humble coming once, and, as we know in this season of Advent longing, it awaits its final release from bondage (Romans 8:19) at another great coming.  Can a delightful kids books help us learn this?  We think so.

mouse tales.jpgMouse Tales: Things Hoped For: Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany  Ruth L. Boling, illustrated by Tracey Dahle Carrier (WJK) $16.95  We announce this every year and are sad that it is no longer printed.  (We still have some and can sell them while supplies last.)  This brings to life the church mice from the lovely little A Children's Guide to Worship and the colorful big book on the liturgical seasons, Come Worship With Me: A Journey Through the Church Year (WJK) which simply a must-have resource for mainline churches or others who want to pay even scant attention to the church year.  Here, the mice are introduced in full color to Advent, Christmas and Epiphany.  Come on, don't you want your family and children to have more than the shopping days before Christmas?  Live the full story, joining with Christians from every place and time.  Wonderful!

mary.gifMary's First Christmas  Walter Wangerin, illustrated by Timothy Ladwig (Zonderkidz) $19.99  You may know Ladwig for the extraordinary work he has done illustrating an urban view of the 23rd Psalm or his brightly rendered story about a black family and a lost medallion that opens up The Lord's Prayer for children.  Here, he offers lush close ups and moving portraits coupled with novelist and storyteller Walt Wangerin's moving rendition of the role and viewpoint of Mary the mother of Jesus. The story includes up to the youthful Jesus learning some skills in his father's carpenter shop.  Wangerin's artful use of words, his cadence and rhetoric and storytelling power is clear in this tender, good telling, perfect for any family who wants to hear the story afresh.  By the way, I hope you also know the companion volume Peter's First Easter.

lion storyteller c-mas.jpgThe Lion Storyteller Christmas Book  Bob Hartman, illustrated by Krisztina Kallai Nagy (Lion) $19.99  The British press Lion has long been one of our favorite British publishers, especially since they produce high quality, thoughtful books and Bible storybooks for children. This includes Christmas tale and legends and is well suited for reading aloud (although there are great illustrations throughout.)  What a great custom to read aloud over the holiday.  Using this will allow you to dip in to Bible stories of the Old and New Testament, Christmas legends from around the  (mostly) European world such as "Old Befana" from Italy, "Kind Bishop Nicholas" from Turkey, "The First Tinsel" from the Ukraine, "The Little Fir Tree" from Denmark, "The Little Lambs" from Arabia, and so forth. 

DVD Buck Denver Asks...Why Do We Call It Christmas? (JellyFish) $14.99  You may notbuck-denver-asked-why-do-we-call-it-christmas-dvd-what-s-in-the-bible-series-9850-p.jpg know it, but I'm a true-blue fan of the wacky post-Veggie Tale Phil Vischer production "What's in the Bible." (There are five volumes so far, which takes the project up to 1 & 2 Samuel. Get 'em from us!)  These do excellent, provocative, campy, mile-a-minute Bible teaching, led (?) by the intrepid newsman Buck Denver. This new one tries to answer the big question---what does cutting down trees and hanging stockings and Santa have to do with Jesus' birthday?  This is a whimsical (to put it mildly) "Christmas party to end all Christmas parties."  Beyond cute.  


smackdab_thumb[3].jpgSmack-Dab in the Middle of God's Love  Brennan Manning & John Blase, illustrated by Nichole Tedgell (Tommy Nelson) $14.99  This sweet book is ideal for anybody that wants to see God's love in action, especially as care is shown for poor children, as it tells the story of Willie and Ana Juan;  and one needn't know much more than that.  There are colorful pictures, tons of happy children, and this sense that we are always "smack dab" in the great love of God.   The back story is this: the parable of Willie Juan was one of the first published works of mystic-servant-saint-ragamuffin Brennan Manning, based on a story he used to tell.  It was later republished as The Boy Who Cried Abba: A Parable of Trust and Acceptance (Page Mill; this is selling for like $79 at other online places: we've got some for $10.00) and this is the colorful children's picture book edition of that beloved tale.  Willie Juan and Ana's home is always full of neighborhood children, laughter, and love, and he teaches them about how deep and wide and endless is the love of God.  Three cheers for Brennan Manning for children!

716877.gifGoodnight Angels  Melody Carlson, illustrated by Sophie Allsopp (Zonderkidz) $15.99 I adore the lovely, crisp illustrations from this seasoned Brit artist and the realistic custom and cadence of a child saying goodnight to everything the child cares about.  Okay, it is really derivative.  Perhaps the author should have thanked MWB.  Still, this is a very nice book, and makes a huge point: as the child says goodnight to the things he likes, he remembers to thank "Father-God."  And then to the angels "watching over me."  Awww.

Meena.jpgMeena  Sine van Mol, illustrated by Carianne Wijffels (Eerdmans) $17.00  Eerdmans Books for Young Readers has one of the most eccentric listing of children's books we've seen, and this is a shout out to the odd and wonderful, by a great Belgium author and a clever (well, maybe unusual, too) Dutch artist.  This is an entertaining story, a farce about misunderstandings, through the believable views of a child.  The neighborhood kids think the old woman Meena is a witch, that she eats toads and, well, you can imagine the antic plans... Moral: you can find friends in unlikely places and things are not always as they seem.  Yay.

barber who wante to pray.jpgThe Barber Who Wanted To Pray  R.C. Sproul,  illustrated by T. Lively Fluharty (Crossway) $17.99  This is a rich, serious book, with lavish, thick oil paintings, capturing with some intensity the drama of the Reformation-era struggles and the passion of the great Martin Luther.  I don't know when I first heard of Luther's famous letter to his barber, but this tells the story of how it came to be, and a bit about it-- a children's tale about Martin teaching his friend how to pray.  It's like a three-fold strand, you know... good for older children, even. By the way, Sproul did a few other good kids books which we like, offering substantial theology in nice story form.

I-m-Like-You-You-re-Like-Me-Gainer-Cindy-9781575423838.jpgI'm Like You, You're Like Me: A Book About Understanding and Appreciating Each Other  Cindy Gainer, illustrated by Miki Sakamoto (Free Spirit Publishing) $14.99  Free Spirit has been a leader in books about kid's life issues, an early press for gifted students, and helpful, playful, guides to getting along and forming character. Simple words and goofy illustrations invite children to notice, accept, and affirm individual differences and similarities. Conservative critics may mock this as PC but we think it is not only charming, but hugely important.  Includes an activity guide for adults.

library lilly.jpgLibrary Lilly  Gillian Shields, illustrated by Francesca Chessa  (Eerdmans) $16.00  All right, let me just say this (please!)  There is going to come a time, because of the perfect storm of some of our neighbors not caring about reading, and others of our neighbors going utterly digital, that books are simply not going to be as known, as used, as given, as they once were.  Now is the time to celebrate the book, to give books to immerse our little ones in stories about books.  And then there is this: some of our neighbors are also agitating for greater budget cuts by the government and, sadly, libraries will be among the institutions hurt.  Lovely library Lily is today's unsung super-woman, a gal who loves books and finds 'em in the library.  You want a better story than that? Well, read what Ms Shield does this with fun tale!  Lily meets a friend (Milly) who doesn't like to read much, but shows the bookish Lily that life an be lived in the outdoors, outside of the pages of a book. Oh yes, this is true.  But wait, there's more.  Yay for Lily and Milly, for readers, players, and writers, too.  Maybe their book will end up in a library some day!

gospel.jpgI See the Rhythm of the Gospel (w/bonus CD) Toyomi Igus, illustrated by Michele Wood (Zonderkidz) $16.99  We raved about this last year and named it one of the best books of the year, a colorful study of the history and development of African American spiritual music.  Okay, so it isn't exactly new, but it hasn't caught the attention it deserves, so we're announcing it again.  Do see our BookNotes rave review here. What a blend of poetry, contemporary art, historic music. What a provocative title, even!  Highly recommended for any music lover and all of us who care about African American history.

dragon slayers.jpgDragon Slayers: The Essential Training Guide for Young Dragon Fighters, Based Wholly on the Practice of the Great Dragon Slayers of Old and the Wisdom of Their Ancient Manuel  Sir Wyvern Pugilist //aka Joyce Denham (Paraclete Press) $23.99  This is one hard book to describe, but once you see it, feel it's texture and heft, see the full color maps and spooky pictures--the illustrator must have been studying old Tolkien editions---you'll see the bookish glory of this creative work.  Although it sneaks up on you, this artfully told tale is, in fact, a serious guide to what the Bible calls "spiritual warfare" and it is rooted in mature, contemplative spiritual formation.  There is the fiction piece, here, first rate fantasy writing, the tale of the aforementioned Sir Wyvern. (Yes, the Pugilist name is good one, eh?)  But then there are some helpful, if playful, nonfiction sections, explaining great saints from church history---Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant.  Want your kids to fight gossip and greed, anger and laziness.  This spiritual warfare guide will help, in a way they'll find fascinating.  (For this last issue, see the character "Slackbottom."  'nuff said.)  Good for ages 9 or 10 and up.

ambrosecathedraldream.jpgAmbrose and the Cathedral Dream  Margo Sorenson, illustrated by Katalin Szegedi (Liturgical Press) $16.95  The Liturgical Press, an academic Roman Catholic publisher, is located at St. John's Abbey, and this gives them an angle into the visual arts, but they still don't do many children's books. When they do one, it is usually beautiful, interesting, rooted, as this one is, in a medieval Catholic sensibility.  This little mouse longs to follow in the tradition of his mouse family and help build a cathedral.  Good for helping inspire children to hope in their own dreams.  By the way, this is the second one in which little Ambrose appeared, and the second collaboration of Sorenson/Szegedi.  An earlier one was a Christmas title, Ambrose and the Princess, also published by Liturgical Press.

shoebox.jpgShoebox Sam  Mary Brigid Barrett, illustrated by Frank Morrison (Zonderkidz) $15.99  I can't tell you how cool and moving this grand story is.  Kudos to Zonderkidz for doing such wonderful picture books with healthy, nuanced stories.  I'll quote from the book flap: "Down at the corner of Magnolia and Vine, you'll find the shop of Shoebox Sam---where old shoes become like new again and anyone in need finds a friend.  Delia and Jesse spend Saturdays with Shoebox Sam, helping him with customers, rich and poor.  They learn about giving and caring, loving and sharing. Then one day, when a customer notices a prized pair of shoes, they uncover the greater lesson of all."  Ms Barrett is an award-winning author is president of the National Children's Book and Literacy Alliance.  The illustrator, who does a fabulous, rowdy, colorful job here, has won a Coretta Scott King Award for his artwork for Jazzy Miz Mozetta.

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December 8, 2011

It's Time to Sleep, My Love (Eric Metaxas and Nancy Tillman) ON SALE

When I was describing some nice children's books yesterday I wanted to also tell you about the truly luscious and very tender picture books that we had the opportunity to feature this fall when we worked with Eric Metaxas at a Presbyterian church in Erie---yes, the brainy Bonhoeffer guy, the Wilberforce biographer, the author of the great anthology of brilliant lectures called Socrates in the City which we've raved about here. They are not holiday-themed but my-oh-my would they make lovely presents for any family with young children! An excellently-produced children's picture book and a chunky board book version--both are truly wonderful. 

So, here are two more children's books, offered at the best price anywhere, since we have some left over from our exciting event in Erie with Eric.  (Geesh, it's starting to sound like a Dr. Seuss rhyme.  Excellent!) 

Its Time To Sleep My Love.jpgIt's Time to Sleep, My Love is written by Eric Metaxas and illustrated by Nancy Tillman (Feiwel & Freinds.)  This lovely book has won numerous awards and can honestly be called beloved. It is obviously a lullaby, wooing a child to sleep.  The rich hues of the very moving watercolor artwork catches your eyes first, and then the wonderful cadence, the sweet (and very interesting) little story unfolds.  Eric is a smart guy, and a funny guy.  Who knew we could craft such romantic, poignant lines?  (Nancy Tillman, you may know, illustrated the beautiful On The Night You Were Born, which also has won much acclaim. She is a master at her craft and Eric is perfectly paired with her here.)

Parenting magazine has called Mr. Metaxas a "children's author non-pareil" which I guess is pretty darn sweet, don't you think?  Another reviewer said that It's Time To Sleep My Love is "the Goodnight Moon for the 21st century."  Maybe you should tell grandma or grandpa to buy it for the grandchildren--it is just so nicely done. 


There are two editions, the regular hardback picture book, and a somewhat smaller board book edition. 

it's time to sleep board book.jpgThe hardback regularly sells for $16.95 
 It has a swan on the cover.

The board board regularly sells for $7.99.
It has a panda on the cover.

I'm thinking you might need one of each.  Am I right?

expires December 13th.

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December 11, 2011

On the short list for Book of the Year: Small Things With Great Love: Adventures in Loving Your Neighbor by Margot Starbuck

girl in the o.gifI have been a fan of Margot Starbuck since her stunning memoir, Girl in the Orange Dress: Searching for the Father Who Does Not Fail (IVP; $16.00) which I raved about in a June 2009 BookNotes review.  Her next book, Unsqueezed: Springing Free From Skinny Jeans, Nose Jobs, Highlights and Stilettos (IVP; $16.00) is the best book of its kind, and an important resource for anyone who works with younger adults, especially. Although these days, bombarded, as the truism goes, by oversexed media images, we all should pay attention to these sorts of conversations about body images.  I named it one of the Best Books of 2010, even though I dumbly called it Squeezed.  As you might guess from the tone of the subtitle of Unsqueezed, Ms Starbuck is a pretty clever writer.  Shane Claiborne calls her "sassy" which sort of fits. She isn't unsqeezed m.s..gifexactly snarky, as that may imply a cynical or mean tone, and she certainly doesn't write like that.  She's playful, punchy, upbeat, and really fun to read.

And, she has a lot to say---in this case about caring for those who most need God's love, those who are friendless, poor, outcast, alone.  We saw it coming in the poignant memoir, and in some of the serious social analysis about gender, justice, and ethnic stereotypes that found their good way into the Unsqueezed book.  But I still wasn't quite prepared for how darn radical this Small Things With Great Love: Adventures in Loving Your Neighbor (IVP; $15.00) was going to be.  Holy smokes, Batman, this is sizzling.

And  yet, it isn't.  Sizzling, I mean.  Margot is friendly, encouraging, honest.  She calls us tostarbuck.jpg care for the poor, for the unnoticed or needy, no matter if that is an tough urban kid who needs a tutor, or a nearby lonely neighbor who needs a shoulder to cry on.  Yes, she's got an endorsement on the back from uber-radicals like the Shanester and her new monastic Durham pal, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, but she is, well, pretty normal.  She talks about her kids, car payments and school loans, ordinary work-a-day jobs and middle class churches and buying outfits to wear on special occasions.  I can't imagine Shane Claiborn mentioning T.J. Maxx.  She cites her share of visionary social thinkers, and tells of her inner city work (as a college student) with the amazing Camden NJ ministry of Bruce Mains and Urban Promise.  Heck, she even briefly tells of going to a trip to South Africa ("while Nelson Mandela was still imprisoned on Robbins Island") but at the end of the day, she's a middle class mom with a heart the size of, well, the size of some pretty big state.  Texas?  "Let's not overstate that," she might say.  The point of this book is to do, as Mother Teresa famously said, small things with great love." Or, as Margot might say, even a little bit of love.  We aren't the saviors, here, people--I can almost hear her saying--so lighten up a bit.  We can make a big difference wherever we find ourselves, but we just have to take baby steps.

Small Things with Great Love.jpgAnd she knows about that.  She tells good stories from her not-so-dramatic life, and mocks her own ordinariness.  It is disarming.  I can do this, you might think.  I should do this.  I was all enthusiastic, telling Beth about this, how funny it was, how interesting, how she has this gift of really stretching folks, inviting us to be more kind and caring, without laying a guilt trip on anyone, how she is, is..."Convicting you?"  Beth inserted.

Yup.  Yeah, there's that.  This book spoke to me, seriously, and while I don't know what baby steps this middle-aged guy might take, I have to think that it will speak to others, too.

And here is the thing: she has something here for everyone.

I'm not just saying that, either; she really does.  She has a short chapter each (all of which I read and do not recommend skipping) for the young, for the middle aged, for older readers.  She has a chapter specifically for women and one for men.  There is an excellent chapter for introverts and a good one for extroverts.  There is a chapter for those who live in rural areas and small towns, one about urban life, and a great one for those living in the 'burbs.  There are stories about serving God in school, at work, as a caregiver and as a parent.  I'm not kidding, there are little charts at the end of each chapter if you are right brained and impatient and wanna skip around to the best stuff suited just for you.  Again, I don't recommend this---I'd say it was a cute device, but a dumb idea, because, really, you aren't going to want to miss any of this!  There are wise and goofy and serious lines on each page; there are fabulous stories and tender illustrations to which you will relate in each and every section.  This may be a "choose your own adventure" sort of format, but I'm begging you: buy it and read it straight through and don't skip a page.  All of it is really, really good.

I like how it lightens my own spirit, even as I am burdened by the sad stuff she writes about---the way that some less than pleasant persons are ignored in church, the way office workers don't even know the names of their cleaning staff, the way we don't remember people in nursing homes or prisons, even if we say we are going to visit somebody we know.  How we are all too busy to give ourselves to things that we think are important. She is good to point out to us our lack of love for those around us, but, again, she does so in a way that is generous, realistic, and (I hate to use the over-used word) empowering.  Okay, there, I said it.  This book can empower you, set you free, push you forward, get  you going.  I think it really can.

Small Things With Great Love is hopeful and helpful and practical.  Here is what another great writer, Tracey Bianchi (pastor, activist, and author of the wonderful Green Mama) says, cleverly, but accurately, "I highly recommend this book to anyone who ever comes in contact with another human being."

So there.

Here is an example of how she writes, and how she delightfully sets up a good bit of punchy Bible study:

My sons are losers.  They are.  Specifically they are losers of stuff.  They don't lose Legos or remote-control vehicles or action figures; somehow those stay permanently affixed to the floors of our home.  Put a sweatshirt on one of my boys, however, and that garment is as good as gone.

I've tried all the things parents try.  I wrote names and phone numbers with fat black pens. I nagged my boys.  I reminded others to nag them. I threatened.  Because none of these proved effective, we eventually ended up layering long-sleeved T-shirts and any sweater we could find.  Now the sweaters are missing.

On a particularly bad week, my youngest son lost three sweatshirts.  Three.  One had been a hand-me-down, one had been a gift and one my husband foolishly purchased at an actual store. Each time I fly, I scour the Sky Mall catalog for some sweatshirt-locator device. I want there to be a discrete safety pin with a locator chip, like they put in dogs, so that we can track down these sweatshirts.  Inevitably, the locator costs more than the sweatshirt.

Clearly, I'm pretty driven to hold onto stuff.  I'd rather keep my stuff than lose it.  I'd rather keep my life than lose it. Unless you're an eight-year-old boy being okay with losing stuff can feel pretty counter-intuitive. Jesus, though, has been pretty clear--both in word and deed---that losing your life, for the sake of others, is the way to go.

Okay, that's a good way in to the topic, and she then seriously explores "rational and irrational" fears.  She wonders if there are sometimes good reasons to hold on to things, to be protective, to use prudence and care.  She's wise and right, but never allows "responsible" concerns to allow us to wiggle out of the big commands of Jesus.  I rarely am around people who respect legitimate concerns and fears but who also push, gently and joyfully, for us to more intentionally wear our hearts on our sleeves, to reach out to others, to be agents of God's own love to the loveless. Are you?

And---and she is really good at this, in explaining it, pondering it, and telling stories about it---this way of life, this loving well, even in small ways, often ends up being a "win-win" scenario for everybody involved. Coming to know those who have few friends may be a drain and a bit of a hardship, but doing it with great love is meaningful and good for your own soul.  And you know what? Maybe those new folks you've enfolded into your lives are, in fact, not only "needy" but have gifts, stories, families, resources, which can enhance and bless your life.  Starbuck is relentless about not pushing us towards condescension, but inviting us to share in amiable actions of real grace. She is about mutuality, the sorts of expressions of love that are profoundly respectful.She knows that even "the poor" have gifts and assets to share. She draws a bit on the best book on this matter, in fact, the excellent Friendship at the Margins: Discovering Mutuality in Service and Mission by Christopher Heuertz and Christian Pohl (IVP; $15.00.)  It isn't as funny as hers but it is a very, very good book about these exact themes.

I could quote STwGL for pages and pages.  Here is part of one nice story that sort of illustrates Starbuck's conviction that involving ourselves in the lives of those in need may take some sacrifice, but it isn't always that bad and may yield blessings all around.

The section is the chapter for parents of young children and is entitled, with her typical sense of stating the obvious, "When You're Decidedly Not Fluent in Arabic."

A few year ago my friend Erin was working from home, caring for a baby. Many desperate mothers, in this same position, have felt as though the only influence they have on the world is the diligent prevention of diaper rash. When that falls through, which it inevitably does, it can feel as though a stay-at-home mom isn't making even a fraction of the impact of Mother Teresa or Father Romero.  Been there, felt that.

One day Erin was reading the worship bulletin from her church detailing the needs of the local World Relief agency. Noticing that another young mother needed a ride to the doctor, Eric figured, "If I strap my offspring into car seats, I can drive a car from point A to point B and back to point A.  I can do that."  A few days later, Erin took Amira, a recent refugee from Iraq, and her own toddler to the public health clinic.  If you've ever experienced one of these places, you know this is no two-hour affair.

Early in the morning, approaching a desk at the public health clinic Erin explained, "Amira doesn't speak English."

Looking over a stack of her paperwork, the desk attendant asked, "So, you'll be translating for her?"

Without an Arabic word to her personal lexicon, Erin replied, "No."

Unfazed by the receptionist's look of disgust, Erin returned to wait with Amira...

The rest of the story continues and it ends up that Amira is quite a good Middle Eastern cook, her husband speaks English, and there are now a couple of families who are friends, whose kids play together at a nearby playground, with all enriched beautifully.

And then Starbuck observes this:

I doubt that Erin's tiny charges have yet been inspired toward service.  What I do think, though, is that they have a mom who is more whole because she bravely living into the vision that Jesus has for his followers. If you think the best thing out there for parents is free childcare so you can sculpt a nice butt by taking five spin classes every week --- well that is not the good life at all.  Rather it's this thing about loving the ones who need to experience God's loving touch through human hands.

Yes, she said sculpting your butt.  I love this book.  

Here is another example of her clever sentences:  in the beginning of the chapter for older readers called "Old (Goodbye La-Z-Boy, Hello World)" she writes, "If you're old--and yes, I am too weak-spined to define old--then, uh, you've lived a little.  Fair?"   Ha.

Or, in a good chapter about extroverts (she is a serious introvert, by the way) she ends, after some fine illustrations of using the gift of schmooze to do Kingdom work in energizing relationships, by writing this: "I'm not even going to belabor this, because the bazillion ways that you can positively affect a world in need are so stinkin' obvious.  I simply remind you to go do your friendly thing among the unlikely folks God loves."  Nice.

But don't let me lead you into thinking it is a radical Christian version of Chicken Soup for the Soul with a bunch of hip one-liners. It is inspiring, but it offers more than just inspiration.  It ends up with some very, very provocative notions about grace and goodness, offers genuine insight about the power of love and the truth of the gospel, incarnated.  Starbuck is a bit of a comedienne, but she also studied at Princeton Theological Seminary (now there's a head-spinning vision.) She writes with some postmodern irony, perhaps, and she crafts interesting sentences, ("without an Arab word in her personal lexicon"), even zany ones, (she defines influences as "roping others into Kingdom shenanigans") but importantly, she is inviting us to something very, very real.  She calls it "holy friendship with a stranger" and invites us to be carriers. Holy friendship with the poor?  Almost sounds like Dorothy Day. 

There are two very good discussion guides in the back of the book, one for those who are reading it solo, another for small groups or classes.  There are websites to visit and a few other books to consult.  She's got enough good suggestions here to provide even the least intrepid follower of Jesus some next steps.  I'm tickled to have read this, challenged, (as Beth noted) convicted, even.  Let's see where it goes.

I do know this much: it is my calling to recommend books to those who trust my voice, whosmall things small cover.jpg like our shop, who are part of our family of friends and fans. Most of you who are reading this seem to appreciate our blend of titles and authors, our world-and-life perspective, if you will.  I think you should get this book.

If you are of the tribe that really values good (Reformed?) theology and rigorous Christian thinking, I beg of you to give this a chance.  It'll do your heart good, and help you apply the truths we make much of in a real, broken world. It is intellectually stimulating, but it isn't systematic theology or all that ponderous. Those drawn to that kind of reading may benefit from it a lot, learning to really love in the real world about which we formulate proper doctrines.  Dare I cite Matthew 23:23 and suggest that our Lord himself might want you to consider this?

If you are a justice-seeker, an emerging activist, one who cares about the worlds of racial injustice and fistula and Palestine and climate change and political pluralism and fair trade economics, come on down: this will remind you to actually show the love of Christ to real people, not just agreeing with progressive political causes or blogging about Important Ideas. We can hold all kinds of convictions about causes and issues and structural reforms, but how kind are we to the person next door or at work or at the bus stop?  There are ways to engage with people in need that are entry points for real involvement beyond signing on-line petitions for the cause of the week.

And the rest of us?  This is ideal for ordinary folks, wanting to put flesh on their gospel living, taking more steps, learning to love.  Who doesn't need some help with that?

Small Things With Great Love is a great line, isn't it?  Perhaps it isn't all that discipleship is, but it is a good part of it.  

The subtitle of this book, too, is clear but precious, and the stories Starbuck tells show us how it's done.  This great book is an adventure itself, a fun ride exploring "adventures in loving your neighbor."  I think she is a reliable guide, and if even half of the many stories she tells are true, she has been looking at the right stuff, paying attention to God's quiet revolution, noticing the needy and the neighbor and gathering examples of great good efforts in ways that most of us have not.

Tony Campolo writes of her,

If you want to experience the glory of love for yourself, then this is your lucky book. If you have been looking for a wise, understanding, thoughtful, encouraging, experienced and very funny people-lover to talk you through the process of getting into people-loving yourself, then Margot Starbuck is your lucky friend. Here is a real woman of God who doesn't pretend to have all the answers or to be especially holy or to be unbelievably sacrificial, but how has a unique and very helpful angle on getting better at the stuff that matters most....Her insights make what is often ordinary living into something extraordinary, if the values of Jesus are implemented in the home and in the workplace."

Here is a great youtube video that shows Margot talking about the book.  Many thanks to the good folks running the likewise imprint of InterVarsity Press for doing this kind of thing.   

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December 14, 2011

Kicking at the Darkness: Bruce Cockburn and the Christian Imagination by Brian J. Walsh

Between waiting on customers, mailing out great books, and ranting on facebook about the latest strong-arm policies of A-zon, I haven't had time to write as much as I need to.  Or post that which I'm working on.  Lord willing, I'll start a stampede of suggestions soon.  It's certainly not too late to order books for holiday giving.  Do recall, we are still in Advent: the Christmas season and the historic 12 Days of Christmas only starts December 25th and takes us to the day of celebrating light (and the gift giving of the wise men from the far East, Epiphany.)  So don't fret, there's lots of gift giving occasions over the next few weeks.  And we are shipping packages out quite promptly.

I have a pretty long review, a two-parter, coming up eventually, on a book I've been waiting for, well, for maybe two decades.  I'm not kidding; long-awaited hardly touches this.  It is by an author I respect and read eagerly and carefully, about a topic that is almost as close as anything other than the Really Big Stuff (God's Kingdom known in Jesus, my family, the world's great needs, my own inner life, you know.)  And yet, this thing so close to my heart has helped me grow in my Christian living, in my commitments to my family, has illumined the world, etc. etc. etc.  In other words, it is one of the Big Things.  I'm talking about the music of Bruce Cockburn. (Here, Here, Here, Here.)

Now is not the time to explain all that.  If you know Cockburn, you most likely know what I'mbruce_cockburn_Arcata_3.jpg talking about. If you don't, you'll learn soon enough as I tell all about why the brand new Kicking at the Darkness: Bruce Cockburn and the Christian Imagination by Brian J. Walsh (Brazos; $18.99) is a work I've been so eager to see published.  I hope to get this serious review up soon, but for now, please know three simple things:

1.  It's not too important, but I'll say it: I did an early read through of this, have read most of it very carefully before publication (Brian is a good friend and he humors me allowing me to make some suggestions which I suspect he mostly ignores) and I have a glowing blurb on the back.  I can't tell you how proud I am, and all I did was say how much I liked it.  Still, this means a lot to me.  I trust you are at least a little amused to know that.

2.  If you want to give a present to anybody who is seriously interested in pop music, the best rock and roll, thoughtful lyrics, and the nuanced and sometimes allusive integration of faith and culture, spirituality and sexuality, pop and politics, Walsh's exploration of the often amazing lyrics of Bruce Cockburn is a great gift. I mean that literally: it would make a great gift for you to give to somebody who is interested in music.  Cockburn is truly esteemed---heck, he's quoted in a song by Bono and U2 (on Rattle and Hum)---and is playing (and being interviewed by Walsh) at the Calvin College Festival of Faith and Writing this April, a prestigious invite that doesn't go to just any rock star.   Brian has studied Bruce's lyrics carefully and brings the Bible into conversation with lyrics from many of his 30-some albums.  It is a great example of taking seriously the art of being a singer-songwriter and rock performer. (Please realize, this is not "contemporary Christian music.") As I'll explain later, Bruce Cockburn is one musician that cries out to be taken seriously, even though he himself has a sly sense of humor and has that occasional introverted streak.  Want to get the rockers on your list thinking deeply about all that the art-form can do and say?  Get 'em this book.

3.  Walsh has a fairly unique take on the unfolding drama of the Bible---the whole creation-fall-redemption-restoration Story that N. T. Wright developed in part out of discussions with Walsh years ago, and he has the whole worldview thing going on: the key questions of who we are and where we are and what is wrong and what is the answer which were explored in Transforming Vision, deepened in Truth Is Stranger Than It Used to Be, and floating all over his co-authored anti-Empire commentary, Colossians Remixed as well as his parts of the extraordinary study of cultural displacement, Beyond Homelessness.  I think I see some readers nodding in dawning acknowledgement---oh, that guy.  Brian Walsh, campus minister at University of Toronto, writer for the Empire Remixed blog, farmer at Russet House.  And  Bruce Cockburn, that Canadian folkie turned Christian, turned activist, turned liberation singer, turned mystic. He played on SNL once, that big hit about wondering about the lions?  Oh yeah, Walsh has always quoted him.  Good stuff.  He has a whole book of that kind of exploration of Cockburn songs?  Right.  So Kicking at the Darkness is basically a look at Bruce Cockburn in light of Brian Walsh's take on the Bible.  Or is it Brian Walsh's take on the Bible in light of Bruce Cockburn?  Or, mostly, the Bible's take on Walsh and Cockburn?  Whatever, this is amazing stuff, good cultural hermeneutics and amazingly rich Scriptural studies, done with a hope that readers will allow themselves to be touched by God's grace and start following King Jesus with prophetic imagination.  Want a fresh take on the Bible and the life of the commonwealth of God in a broken, postmodern world that still is "a world of wonder" and where there are "rumors of glory"?  Order this book and hold on tight.

Here is something I wrote about it that was published the other day in the on-line newsletter of the faith-based Center for Public Justice, Capitol Commentary.  It was written for an audience of readers interested in politics and civic life, and had to be brief.  I hope it will do for now to whet your appetite. 

kicking at the darknes.jpgKicking at the Darkness: Bruce Cockburn and the Christian Imagination  Brian J. Walsh (Brazos; 2011) $18.99  I've never agreed with those who say that Bruce Cockburn, the award-winning, internationally-known, Canadian pop star, went through a "Christian phase" and then entered his "political phase" but eventually left that to write in a romantic period.  Brian Walsh's breathtakingly thorough and very rigorous, close reading of the body of Cockburn's work shows us that faith and spirituality, politics and cultural change, sexuality, the search for meaning and the demand for justice in the face of global inequities, have always been interwoven artfully in all of Cockburn's 40-year's worth of recordings.  True, Cockburn cited C.S. Lewis and seemed more overtly Christ-centered in a few albums in the late 70s, and, after working in refugee camps and seeing gross injustices in Central America in the 1980s he wrote some fiery songs of liberation theology, including a lovely, if romanticized hope for the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua.  And who else has written a blazing rock song about the International Monetary Fund?  Agree with Cockburn's social analysis or not, he is informed by his charitable work on nearly every continent and a deep longing for a world made new.  Walsh--no stranger to the CPJ community for his earlier works on worldview, Christian scholarship, and how the Bible can lead us to subvert the unjust empires of this world---knows as much about Cockburn's music as anyone, and his effort to have Cockburn's lyrics in conversation with the Bible is a gift for anyone who loves thoughtful poetry, contemporary politics and Biblical studies.  Very highly recommended.

And here's my little blurb on the back.  The phrase "joy will find a way" is the title of a popular early Cockburn song, by the way.  Experiment in criticism is a sly reference to a book by C.S. Lewis.  Okay, I'm showin' off. The last line is most important. 

I've been listening to Cockburn for three decades and reading Walsh almost that long, and I can hardly imagine surviving these times, let alone believing that joy will find a way, without the artistry and insight of both.  This is an extraordinarily ambitious project, years in the making, and there is profound insight on every page.  Whether you are a seasoned Cockburn fan or not, this is a rewarding, provocative, experiment in criticism.  I recommend it with great enthusiasm and with immense gratitude.

Kicking at the Darkness:
Bruce Cockburn and the Christian Imagination

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December 16, 2011

Hard to buy-for people on your list? This is what you need right now: a list of books as gifts for one who... PART ONE

Some of us love giving gifts, but don't want to give something pointless or mundane.  And achristmas-presents.jpg few people that we'd like to share some love with are, well, tricky, if not prickly, about what they might like.  Ergo, you need some help on the book front.  We can ship promptly, gift wrap if you'd like, tuck little notes in saying that the package is from you.  Call us if you want to chat.  Some of these described below are brand new, most are new this season, but a few are not.   This is Part One.  Part Two (including some fiction, youth books, and other great categories) will come in a day or so.

So, say you've got this friend...

For a person in need of setting boundaries, learning some helpful social skills or making changes:

beyond b.gifBeyond Boundaries: Learning to Trust Again in Relationships  Dr. John Townsend (Zondervan) $24.99  His best-seller Boundaries has been a staple, wisely offering insightful ways to say no, protect oneself, use prudence and savvy to take control of your life.  This new book is about moving forward, next steps, learning to trust after painful relationships.  Stephen Arterburn of the New Life Live! radio talk show says "...a must for everyone who read Boundaries. This is his best book yet."

The Lost Art of Listening: How Learning to Listen Can Improve Relationships  Michael Nichols (Guildford) $16.95  This is not new and not particularly religious, but a fine and important book written with good human or practical illustrations and helpful exercises.  Good for leaders, coaches, mentors, or anyone who wants to buck the trend of modern life and slow down, pay attention, and care about others and what they say.

Made to Crave Devotional: 60 Days to Craving God, Not Food  Lysa Terkeurst (Zondervan) $12.99 Made to Crave has been one of the best-selling self-help books in religious publishing in recent memory and has helped many with a new way of thinking about eating.  Here are sixty brand new devotionals to encourage you in your weight loss journey. These are witty and helpful, a companion to the book.

hap.gifHappiness  Joan Chittister (Eerdmans) $20.00  How to describe an elegant and thoughtful extended rumination on the meaning of happiness written by one of the most esteemed religious writers of our time?  Sister Joan has been writing for years and some suggest this is her very best. She explores sociology, biology, neurology, psychology, philosophy and world religions to excavate what she calls the archeology of happiness.  A universal concern, explored by a Benedictine contemplative and social activist.  Very nice.

For someone who is a Christian and interested in politics:

Through the Year with Jimmy Carter 366 Daily Meditations from the 39th President (Zondervan) $24.99 Just out, this is a lovely collection of lessons Jimmy taught in his many years as a Baptist Sunday school teacher.  I've listened to some of these on tape and they are rich and solid, faithful and applicable.  A very handsome gift from a former President.  Not too shabby.

BC_LeftRightChrist_Shadow.pngLeft, Right & Christ: Evangelical Faith in Politics  Lisa Sharon Harper & D.C. Innes (Russell Media) $22.99  I reviewed this here  celebrating this good conversation between two fine Christians on different sides of the isle.  A great option to give, for those in either camp, or those who are non-partisan, presuming they are interested in a Biblically-based but civil disucssion.  If you have any politicos on your list, this is one you could consider giving.

A Public Life: How Followers of Christ Should Serve the Common Good Miroslof Volf (Baker) $21.99  On the short list for the book of the year, I've reviewed this at BookNotes and other places, so very glad for his wise and thoughtful counsel about navigating Christian claims in a pluralistic society.  Highly recommended, about human flourishing and public justice.

branding .gifBranding Obamessiah: The Rise of An American Idol  Mark Edward Taylor (Edenridge) $17.99  We got these on a bit on sale allowing us mark them down lower than other on-line dealers.  We are eager to let folks know that this is a fascinating study of how faith-like impulses and inspirational stories were knowingly used by Obama's marketing team.  This is a helpful and very well documented study of how media works, how candidates are promoted, how stories are told that frame a candidate in nearly sacred terms.  I think you could safely give this to two sorts of people: those that don't like Obama and want information about his back-story, his candidacy, his image that was pretty creatively created.  Or those who do like much about his Presidency but are eager to see the background of his campaign, who he hired to create what sort of perceptions.  This drifts into critical mode at times but it isn't really a book for or against the policies of the current administration, but a helpful look at the role of media, how political mass marketing happens these days and ways that image and symbols and values are influential in telling the story of a candidate or a movement. Interesting.

For a pastor in a  liturgical church who appreciates the importance of serious worship or a worship leader in a non-liturgical church who might need to go deeper:

grand e.gifGrand Entrance: Worship on Earth as in Heaven Edith Humphrey (Baker) $22.99  Dr. H. is a stellar prof at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary who moved from the Anglican communion (she's Canadian, a graduate of the prestigious McGill) to become Orthodox.  She gets worship. This is a serious book, but beautifully written---deep and wise and good. 

In God's Presence: Encountering, Experiencing and Embracing the Holy in Worship N. Graham Standish (Alban Institute) $18.00  Graham is a Presbyterian (USA) pastor of a growing church that does this ancient-future worship planning, and offers a mature and practical guide to both deepening and playing with notions of holy presence.  Nice.

For a preacher, probably in a mainline congregation, that uses the common lectionary:

The Seasons of Creation: A Preaching Commentary  Norman C. Habel, David Rhoads, and H. Paul Santmire, editors (Fortress) $29.00  This was created (mostly) by Australian Lutherans and is a splendid guide to preaching about creation, environmental stewardship and Earth-keeping. Very useful for preachers and worship planners wanting to hear the cry of the Earth and the concerns of the poor in the texts. If your preacher cares about the looming environmental crisis, get her or him this. If he or she doesn't, this might help.

collected sermons of w b.gifThe Collected Sermons of Walter Brueggemann  (WJK) $30.00  This big hardback is a treasure chest of some of Walt's best sermons.  It is a sturdy hardback and includes 67 sermons, in nearly 360 pages.  (There is a useful Scripture index, too.)  A few of these are old--one from 1972, and a few from the 1980s.  A few of the concluding ones are very recent.  An introduction to theme highlights some of the themes of Brueggemann's preaching, and a small forward that he wrote is eloquent and itself quite inspiring.  This collection is in the series of other uniform hardbacks that includes sermons of William Sloan Coffin, William Willimon, Fred Craddock....a wonderful gift.

daily f.gifDaily Feast: Meditations from Feasting on the Word Year B  edited by Kathleen Bostrom & Lib Caldwell (WJK) $25.00  This oh-so-soft, brown, leather-like devotional makes a great gift for any pastor or preacher (or anybody who cares about the lectionary readings for each Sunday.)  These good editors adeptly choose sections of the highly acclaimed lectionary preaching commentaries (Feasting on the Word) and arranged some of the more pithy portions to read for each daily reflection.  Contributors are a who's who of mainline denominational traditions, such as Barbara Brown Taylor, Ruth Boling, Kathleen O'Conner, Lee Barrett, Martin Copenhaver, Michael Lindvall, Cynthia Rigby.  Contributors are from a variety of perspectives, there is good multi-ethnic representation, and each day's readings are faithful to explore the lectionary reading, with a helpful response and prayer.  

For a minister who loves literature or a lover of literature who cares about ministers:

Pastors in the Classics: Timeless Lessons on Life and Ministry from World Literature
Leland Ryken, Philip Ryken & Todd Wilson (Baker) $16.99  The first half of this includes great overviews, studies of, and discussion questions for twelve different novels about clergy (from Canterbury Tales to Gilead) and the long second half includes helpful overviews from oodles of novels where pastors are mentioned, described or are part of the plot.  Learn about characters from Death Comes for the Archbishop, Godric, Poisonwood BIble and so many more; books by Flannery O'Connor, George MacDonald, Susan Howatch, and many more.

For a person wanting to think about faith in the workplace:

taking your soul.gifTaking Your Soul To Work: Overcoming the Nine Deadly Sins of the Workplace Paul Stevens & Alvin Ung (Eerdmans) $15.00 We have many books, many good, good books, on a basic Christian philosophy of work.  It is a topic that too few buy books about, so giving a gift of this sort might be very special. There are many that we admire, many that an interested person would enjoy---call if you'd like.  I list this one because it may be that you've had conversations with someone lately about their struggles, about character formation, about the hardship and joys of being faithful in what for some is a hard place.  This book not only looks at the seven deadly sins, but also at matching virtues, all explore in the context of modern jobs.  Very useful; sure to be appreciated.

For someone wanting a thoughtful guide to Jesus, informed by good scholarship, but not too heady and still quite orthodox:

simply j.gifSimply Jesus: A New Vision of Who he Was, What he Did, and Why He Matters N.T. Wright (HarperOne) $24.99  As Lauren Winner writes about it, it is "erudite (and yet also entertaining) and decidedly thoughtful-provoking...Somewhat to my surprise, I felt that, in reading Simply Jesus, I was really coming to know Jesus better; I actually felt Him near."  Excellent.  Can't say enough about this, although we have literally dozens of other serious books about Christ.  Have anybody on your list who is going on about "keeping Christ in Christmas"?  Help 'em out and let them study up.

The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited
Scot McNight (Zondervan) $19.99  I love this book, and it is strong in its own right.  One of its strengths is it offers the insights of Wright (and others) about Christ as Kingdom-bringer, Messianic healer of the cosmos, Climax of the unfolding Story of God, in a way that is even more lively and upbeat than Wright.  It is no insult to say with a wink that it is "N.T. Wright for Dummies."  Highly recommended.

For someone unsure about Christianity and whether it is true:

What Good Is God: In Search of a Faith That Matters Philip Yancey (FaithWords) $23.99  I suggest this because it is a collection of well written stories, examples of people who have found God to be alive and meaningful even amidst great suffering.  In Yancey's hands, these testimonies come alive, and their poignant power makes them riveting.  This isn't typical "apologetics" (arguments about God) but a beautiful collection of accounts of those who have found by God and whose faith has been substantial.

Not the Religious Type: Confessions of a Turncoat Atheist  Dave Schmelzer (Saltriver) $16.99  There are oodles of books from excellent authors such as Tim Keller (Reason for God) and Alister McGrath, and a dozen other intellectual Christian response to the "new atheists."  This one is a lovely gift idea because it is so fun, interesting, honest, and well written.  Blurbs on the back are by novelist Andre Dubus and Sue Brown, resident dean of freshman at Harvard.  Brian McLaren suggests it evokes the work of Anne Lamott and Donald Miller.  A small hardback, it isn't pushy and is very interesting. Very nicely done.

rage.gifThe Rage Against God: How Atheism Led Me To Faith  Peter Hitchens (Zondervan) $22.99 hardback or $14.99 paperback  In light of the very recent death of raging atheist Christopher Hitchens, I had to include this fabulous work by his less famous brother.  A year ago the British Education Secretary wrote "The two best written books this year were Christopher Hitchen's memoir Hitch-22 and his brother Peter's The Rage Against God."   Peter writes, "On this my brother and I agree: that independence of mind is immensely precious, and that we should try to tell the truth in clear English even if we are disliked for doing so."  Here, he tells the truth.  Impressive.

For someone who is agnostic and content about that:

Spiritual Envy: An Agnostic's Quest  Michael Krasny (One World) $22.95  This book developed quite a buzz this year, a word-of-mouth following because it reflected keenly on spiritual questions without any proselytizing and was written by an excellent and witty writer.  Endorsements range from Dave Eggers (McSweeney's) and novelists like Isabel Allende and Joyce Carol Oates.  Bill McKibben writes "If you feel a little bludgeoned by the Dawkins/Hitchens approach to God, this is the book for you, generous instead of pinched, and honestly engaged with actual religious people and ideas, not a series of straw men."  He calls the author "open and curious."  Dan Shapiro notes that this memoir of seeking and questioning is "a beautifully written book, and reading it is a spiritual adventure."

For classic literature lovers:

jane a devo.gifcharles d dev.gifA Jane Austen Devotional  and A Charles Dickens Devotional (Jack Countryman) $15.99 each. These just arrived, handsome hardbacks with textured fabric covers, each one offering excerpts of the historic writings of these enduring authors. On the facing page after the excerpt there is a devotional meditation, drawing Christian insights from the passage offered.  Very, very nice.

The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction  Alan Jacobs (Oxford University Press) $19.95  Jacobs is surely a national treasure, a suburb wordsmith and a serious, dedicated thinker.  This was one of the best books I've read all year, a bit demanding, but well worth the careful study.  He asks why reading still matters, how to read well even in the age of on-line shallowness and short attention spans.  One of the chief benefits of reading well and widely, Jacobs insists, is that it is pleasurable. Sure there are other reasons we ought to read more, but this surely is one of them.  Any reader of literature, and any lover of literary culture will adore this.  You will be there friend for life if you introduce them to this lucid, faithful writer.

For those who love memoir, but with a spiritual lesson:

praying for stangers.gifPraying for Strangers: An Adventure of the Human Spirit River Jordon (Berkley) $24.95  Earlier in the year I linked at BookNotes to a fabulous "trailer" for this where the novelist Ms Jordon tells of the funk she was in when her grown son was in Afghanistan and the other in Iraq.  She concluded she needed to focus on others, learning to pray for the needs of other people.  She takes up the task of praying daily for someone, and then this true life tory unfolds, complete with amazing connections, serendipitous meetings, divine appointments and mysterious coincidences.  What a story--learning to trust, learning to pray, learning to care, in a well-crafted memoir.

Shirt of Flame: A Year with Saint Therese of Lisieux Heather King (Paraclete) $16.99  Heather King has been one of my favorite writers and I have in other years raved about her memoir of alcoholism and recovery (Parched) and her slow conversion to Roman Catholicism (Redeemed.)  She is smart, insightful, raw, and inspiring.  Here, she spends a year studying the "little flower" and gives to us what one reviewer called "the grit of sanctity."  Another priest said it is "a moving book, written with so much humility, confidence, and love. The true meaning of the Little Way shines through Heather King's grace-filled witness. The author's original prayers are some of the most beautiful I have read." This is a fine story, as bit about Heather and a bit about Therese and a bit about the reader, learning and growing from this spiritual classic.

flunking s.gifFlunking Sainthood: A Year of Breaking the Sabbath, Forgetting to Pray, and Still Loving My Neighbor  Jana Riess (Paraclete) $16.99  I've raved about this all fall and laughed myself silly through much of it.  Each chapter is her telling of a tale of woe as she tries, and usually fails,  to read a spiritual classic each month (and, man, don't get her started on the aforementioned St Therese who she calls a drama queen!)  She has a spiritual practice to do each month, so in a manner something like The Year of Living Biblically by the humorist A.J. Jacobs, this experiment ends up being a time of goofiness and Godliness, failure and insight, writing about the very real ups and downs of the intentional spiritual life.  Ya gotta love a smart gal (she went to Princeton Seminary) who knows how to admit she doesn't have it all together, and can tell you about it with so much gusto.  There is more I could tell you, but I suppose I should say that this isn't for everybody on your list.  Only those with some interest in spiritual formation and silly reporting about an oh-so-ordinary life and an open-minded sense of humor.  It's that good.

raised right.gifRaised Right: How I Untangled My Faith from Politics  Alisa Harris  (Waterbrook) $14.99  I reviewed this as soon as I finished it, a fine memoir by a good writer who was raised in an exceptionally far-right-wing family, strictly fundamentalist and active in conservative political activism.  Long story shot, she becomes a journalist and drifts from her parent's ideology, shifts a bit in her understanding of faith, becomes a progressive voice for social change and is still on a journey, trying to figure it all out.  This tale moves from truly upbeat, fascinating, to troubling, to perplexing.  What a story.  What a book.  For anyone who has lived through some of the rise of the religious right and has moved away from the it (or for anyone who wants to understand that world) this memoir is a treat. 

For anyone who loves the movies:

ethical vision of clint.gifThe Ethical Vision of Clint Eastwood  Sara Anson Vaux (Eerdmans) $24.00  This brand new release reminds us that when Eerdmans does a book about popular culture it is weighty, impressive, insightful, and well-researched.  This is magisterial, a "lavish and articulate hymn of praise to one of Hollywood's greatest film directors."  Jolyon Mitchell (Media Violence and Christian Ethics) says it is "engaging, fluent, and original, this book is a "must read" for film scholars, movie enthusiasts, and anyone interested in Clint Eastwood's films."  

Of Pilgrims and Fire: When God Shows Up at the Movies  Roy M. Anker (Eerdmans) $18.00  I wasn't kidding about Eerdmans film studies books.  Roy Anker has come to be known as one of the faith community's leading film critics and his many serious reviews (in Books & Culture, for instance) have been gathered together here making it a truly wonderful anthology for anyone who likes film.  If you know anybody who likes talking about the movies they've seen, this is a thoughtful, engaging gift that they will be grateful for, I'm sure...Highly recommended.

For pop music fans:

broken h.gifBroken Hallelujahs: Why Popular Music Matters to Those Seeking God  Christian Scharen (Brazos) $17.99  Scharen has written other good books; one about how pastors can equip folks for living integrated lives in public and another is a study of the band U2. This new one is a thoughtful study of why even the less-than-happy songs of broken people matter--it is well written and will appeal to anyone who is interested in the interface of pop culture and Christian faith, or anybody interested in thoughtful rock music.  There is an amazing chapter on Leonard Cohen, too, by the way.  And my friend Ken Heffner of Calvin College is mentioned for the good work he does bringing in interesting artists to young adults, for those of you who have followed his ministry there.  Excellent.

sects love.gifSects, Love and Rock & Roll: My Life on Record  Joel Heng Hartse (Cascade Books) $23.00  Remember that guy in the movie (or novel) High Fidelity who made lists of albums, top tens of this style or that, obsessed with documenting his life according to rock music?  This author is sort of like that, telling the story of the evolution of his musical tastes from cheesy contemporary Christian (Carman!  DeGarmo & Key!) to the louder, artsy end of that movement (he names rare stuff like Blenderhead,  Noisy Little Sunbeams, Starflyer ,Wish for Eden, Pedro the Lion, and Zao.)  His coming of age stories are spot on and I wish I knew this guy, now.  He listens to Radiohead and Daneilson, Iron & Wine and Animal Collective.  If  you're musical reference points include everything from Larry Norman to the C + C Music Factory, if you have stories to tell when you think of early Jars of Clay or Ben Folds Five, if you wonder how a Christian kid can move from PFR to mewithoutyou, from Twila Paris to Mates of State, all the while reading Wendell Berry, this this book is for you.  Or someone you love.  Wow.

For any Christian seeking self-awareness and gentle guidance:

winter light.gifWinter Light: A Christian's Search for Humility  Bruce Ray Smith (Kalos Press) $12.95  This is a gorgeously designed little paperback, handsome to hold, touching to read, helpful to ponder.  It includes free verse and stream of consciousness meditations as the author invites us into his inner life.  In what are short journal entries, he ruminates on his desire for humility and all that that entails as he seeks God's promise to shape and sanctify him.  My, my, this is sweet, precious stuff, candid, nicely written, and very inspiring, rooted in a very solid understand of God's work in our lives.  He draws on Scripture and authors as diverse as Shakespeare and Sartre as well as many spiritual classics, including some of the British Puritans.  Lovely, edifying, written by a sincere, struggling Christian who happens to have a PhD in English lit.  I think you should by this for someone who likes quality spiritual writing.

close enuff.gifClose Enough to Hear God Breath: The Great Story of Divine Intimacy  Greg Paul (Nelson) $15.99 I raved about this previously, as I have his first two passionate books (about urban ministry and his holy friendships with the poor.)  Here he walks us through the many ways the Bible can come alive, pointing us to a God who comes close to us, and how God reveals God's own love through the unfolding drama of the story.  From Genesis through the fall, through promises and incarnation, especially, we know that God wants to be in relationship with us.  This fine writer helps us embrace that.  Len Sweet (who reads a lot more than most) has said that this book has a heart that "beats louder than most any book you'll ever read."


abundant simplicity.gifAbundant Simplicity: Rediscovering the Unhurried Rhythms of Grace Jan Johnson (formatio/IVP) $15.00  I think the beautiful cover itself will draw oohs and ahhhs when this is unwrapped.  When they start reading it, they will be drawn in--who doesn't want the virtues of simple living, less-draining days, character formed around trusting God for enough.  This is an amazing book of small experiments, and will be appreciated by somebody you give it to.

For Christians needing a challenging call to serious discipleship:

I am a follower.gifI Am a Follower: The Way, Truth, and Life of Following Jesus  Leonard Sweet (Nelson) $15.99  I like that this brand new books suggests that Sweet gives us "a colorful melange of practical applications, imaginative metaphors, and probing biblical expositions."  That's putting it mildly.  Sweet is a master of storytelling, of the off-hand quip, of schemes and dreams of making a difference as we live into the ways of God's Kingdom. What an author!  Here he deconstructs notions of leadership and points us vividly to followership.   The summons of Jesus isn't to imitation but to incarnation. We must move from a leadership cult to a followership culture.  Whewie!  If you have any Leonard Sweet fans in your circle of friends, this brand new book would be a surprise to them, I bet.  His last book, by the way, was a novel, The Seraph Seal.  That is pretty darn cool, too...

Jesus-+-Nothing-Everything-Cover-196x300.jpgJesus + Nothing = Everything Tullian Tchividjian (Crossway) $18.99  This is written by the amazingly thoughtful grandson of Billy Graham who is now the pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian in FL.  He is a great writer, meaty and solid and engaging.  This, as you may guess, is about the gospel, what it means to be "gospel centered" and to realize that all of life is a response to God's grace and Christ's goodness.  We don't add works or techniques or programs and anything else.  And once we are clear about God's saving grace, and the centrality of Jesus (plus nothing!) then you really do have a whole new life  You get "everything" and that changes everything.  This is really, really good, a bit thoughtful, but exciting and clear on the full magnitude of God's grace in the midst of turmoil.  It is based on a study of Colossians.

836345.gifPracticing the Way of Jesus: Life Together in the Kingdom of Love Mark Scandrette (IVP) $15.00  Looking for a challenging Christian book to give a somewhat edgy young person, somebody in need of a fresh take, a powerful call, a whimsical yet fully serious invitation to whole-life discipleship. This has endorsements by some hipster leaders (Debbie Blue, Shane Claiborne, Michael Frost) but is also remarkably solid. Called a "beatnik Tolstoy" Scandrette runs ReImagine, a center for spiritual formation, and the Jesus Dojo.  Told you.  This is very good on daily living in the way of Jesus, resisting temptation, living in community, exploring creative discipleship.  This may be too cool for some on your list, but for somebody, it may be just the thing.

For a young philosopher, not looking for anything Christian:

Breakfast with Socrates: An Extraordinary (Philosophical) Journey Through Your Ordinary Day  Robert Rowland Smith (The Free Press) $12.99 Wired magazine says that "Smith takes the reader into a worm hole of psychology, sociology, and theology to show us the hidden meanings of our daily lives."  This is entertaining, interesting, and truly walks you through your day (a bagel with Hegel, Eggs with Bacon?) applying the principles of philosophy to daily living.  As they say on the back, neither breakfast, lunch or dinner will ever be the same.

Driving With Plato: The Meaning of Life's Milestones  Robert Rowland Smith (The Free Press) $19.99  Smith is back, this time walking us through various ages and stages of life.  A. J.. Jacobs writes "I'll never drive the same way again. Or have a midlife crisis the same way again, for that matter. This book is elegant proof that philosophy doesn't have to be fusty or musty."

Or for one who is looking for Christian encouragement in philosophy:

Philosophers Who Believe: The Spiritual Journey's of 11 Leading Thinkers edited by Kelly James Clark (IVP) $22.00 If someone is is wondering how to "think Christianly" about this field, or wonders if there are serious philosophers who are also serious Christians, this is a fine overview, with introductions to the work of these important witnesses in the academy.  Very helpful.

For a student or teacher who is a doing more serious philosophy:

loving to know.gifLoving To Know: Covenant Epistemology Esther Lightcap Meeks (Wipf & Stock) $49.00  The heavy title and salt price might be the first clue that this is, in fact, real philosophy, done by a working scholar.  Esther is a friend and this book is a gem, an in-depth follow up to her lovely introduction to the work of Michael Polanyi for ordinary folks entitled Longing to Know: The Philosophy of Knowledge for Ordinary People. This new one is well worth working through, and broaching an essential topic for Christian thinkers: if we reject as unsound the Enlightenment ideal of secular facts known rationally in the brain, how do we know, Biblically speaking?  If "to know" something in the Bible is yada--intimate, personal, relationship with something--then we need a "covenantal epistemology."  My friend Steve Garber has a beautiful blurb on the back, alongside a rave from Yale scholar Nicholas Wolterstorff, and another from James K.A. Smith.  Highly recommended.

Secularism and Freedom of Conscience  Jocelyn Maclure & Charles Taylor (Harvard University Press) $26.95  Those who didn't wade through the massive, and massively important The Secular Age, may find this recently translated short piece of interest.  At least if you present it to someone who is aware of contemporary social analysis, they will be very, very impressed with your very astute gift-giving.

For one who is interested in the arts and creativity, but not overtly religious:

common as air.gifCommon As Air: Revolution, Art, and Ownership Lewis Hyde (Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux) $26.00  I suppose this solid hardback could be called "cultural history" and Hyde could be seen as the Pied Piper of a new vision of art as gift, given to the community for the common good. (I hope you know his amazing paperback, reissued in an anniversary edition, The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World.  That, too, would make a great gift, but those who read in this field may have it.) Here in this more recent work, he has written what one astute observer called a "stunning book" which draws on science art, politics and all sorts of thinking about who owns art and ideas.  Brilliant, if a bit heavy.

Photography and the Art of Seeing: A Visual Perception Workshop for Film and Digital Photograph
y Freeman Patterson (Firefly) $24.95  This is the newest edition of a classic, showcasing superb color shots, offering lucid explanations of how to get the best photo by seeing well, all with a hope to help you capture and produce an effective expression.  This is a fully re-done version, beautifully designed, on the glories of the craft of photography and how to combine technical excellence with passion and art.  Very useful.

rumors of w.gifRumors of Water: Thoughts on Creativity and Writing L.L. Barkat (T.S. Poetry Press)15.00  Barkat, the founder of this poetry publisher and a curator of poems and writing at several internet locations, is one of our favorite memoirists (Stone Crossings.)  Here she offers a "page a day" sort of approach, with clear stories and examples of her own creative process.  Gordon Atkinson writes "A few brave writers pull back the curtain to show us their creative process. Annie Dillard did this.  So did Hemingway.  Now L.L. Barkat has give us a thoroughly modern analysis of writing. Practical, yes, but also a gentle uncovering of the art of being a writer."  Or, better, as Leslie Leyland Fields puts it, "This is not just a book about writing well, it's a book about living well."

For one who likes good art books, even if they have they religious themes:

cover-for-guy-chase-book-300x297.jpgThe Art of Guy Chase edited by James Romaine  (Square Halo Books) $19.99  Guy Chase was an evangelical leader in the modern art world and an active friend of groups like CIVA (Christians in the Visual Arts) and IAM (International Arts Movement.)  As he was dying last year a group of very thoughtful artists, patrons, critics, and scholars wrote about his edgy, minimalist work and Square Halo published this tribute to his art.  Full of colorful reproductions, laden with squares and boxes and graphs and re-done photos, this odd stuff may be (to the uninitiated) reminiscent of the best of Warhol.  Chase was a genius, and these articles, alongside so much of his fresh work, is a wonderful gift for anyone who appreciates the latest sorts of contemporary art.

Rouault/Fujimura: Soliloquies  Thomas Hibbs (Square Halo Press) $19.99  We lauded the release of this amazing little book as a "publishing event" when it came out a year or so ago.  Makoto Fujimura produced some evocative abstract paintings inspired by some previously unreleased Rouault works that the family of the famous French artist invited him to see.  Serious critic compares and contrasts these two artists in an amazingly rich essay, and many great paintings are beautifully reproduced here.  Anybody who is interested in the art world should have this small volume---what a gift it would be, rare, interesting, a witness to the imaginative vision of the Square Halo publishers.  Fujimura has a final essay explaining more about his Christian perspective on his creative work.

For science lovers:

indescribable.gifIndescribable: Encountering the Glory of God in the Beauty of the Universe   Louie Giglio & Matt Redman (Cook) $14.99 paperback or $24.99 deluxe hardback  This coffee table book is one of our favorites of the season, laden with color photos from the Hubbell telescope, offering amazing views of the grandness of the cosmos, the smallness of us all, here.  The text is a bit of science and a lot of inspiration, reminding us to join in the creational song, declaring God's glory and realizing that the God who made this amazing beauty loves us so.  The paperback itself is splendid, a call to worship (based on the popular talks Giglio gave at the Passion conferences and on the best-selling DVD Indescribable.) What a great book, and what a great coffee-table edition.

birds our.gifThe Birds Our Teachers: Collector's Edition: Biblical Lessons from a Lifelong Birth-Watcher John Stott (Hendrickson) $24.95  We've reviewed this before, loved selling it several years ago until it went out of print.  A year ago it was re-issued and we are so glad---the thoughtful, late, evangelical statesman was not only astute theologically, a spiritual leader and cultural activist, he spent a life-time learning from the birds he so loved to observe.  There is a DVD here with amazing footage of Stott traipsing around looking at snowy owls, migrating storks, even Penguins in the Falkland Islands.  A very nice and rather rare gift for backyard birders, ornithologists or John Stott fans.

bee.gifA Bee in a Cathedral And 99 Other Scientific Analogies  Joel Levy (Firefly) $29.95  This big hardback includes nifty analogies and cool graphics to explore scientific stuff you simply ought to know.  Or at least will enjoy knowing.  This demonstrates basic scientific truths and principles using metaphors and similies to "describe the unbelievably massive, the inconceivably tiny, and the unfathomably complex in intuitive terms that we can all understand.  This is "info-graphics" at its finest, with good stuff about physics chemistry, biology, astronomy, the human body and more.  By the way, don't you have somebody on your list that would want to know that "if galaxies were the size of peas, there would be enough to fill a large sports arena."  Or, the human heart's capacity to pump blood is such that i would take less than 18 days to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool."  What a gift for that geeky loved one or anybody with a natural curiosity!

For a college student just home for the holidays who you want to challenge to think as a Christian, even in the classroom:

outrageous i.gifThe Outrageous Idea of Academic Faithfulness: A Guide for Students Donald Opitz & Derek Melleby (Brazos) $14.99  You surely have read my raves about this in the past, extolling it as one of the most important books any young student can read.  If your freshman has already read the primer, Making College Count, then this is the next step, altogether interesting, fun, funny, and very wise, this invites students to this "outrageous" idea that God wants you to learn much, study well, think in Biblical categories, see life through the lens of the gospel and discern ways to relate faith and learning, making college-life an act of worship and discipleship. These guys are very good friends and this is a Hearts & Minds favorite.  Give it to your collegiate and if they don't like it, I'll find them a better book for them.  A great little gift idea to fill that freshly laundered, home from college stocking.

For a kid who is really into video games:

Virtuous Worlds: The Video Gamer's Guide to Spiritual Truth John Stanifer (Winged Lion Press) $14.99  I'm telling ya: get some high energy drink and wade through this guide to gaming, offering simple Christian insights along the way of each game's story.  From The Legend of Zelda to Star Fox and Mario and beyond, Halo and and Second Life and Sims and Metroid and more -- this covers the waterfront.  The theological insight is not so much the grand scope of thinking philosophically about gaming, but using the games to springboard into discussion of the Bible and faith.  Some deep thinkers might find this a bit simplistic, but most younger gamers will be tickled to see a book which calls its table of contents a "title screen" and the afterward is "game over."  From the ethics and wisdom of cheating codes to insight gleaned from some of the legends and mythic fantasies behind the games, this is a one-of-a-kind book, a great effort to enhance the spiritual lives of kids who do computer and video games.  You've spent that money for the kid's system and some pretty pricey games, why not spring for a book about relating virtual and spiritual growth to the quest?

For those wanting to grow in historic Christian spiritual formation and knowledge of great books:

25 Books.gif25 Books Every Christian Should Read: A Guide to the Essential Spiritual Classics selected by Renovare (HarperOne) $18.99  A team of wonderful leaders such as Richard Foster, Dallas Willard, Phyllis Tickle, and Richard Rohr (and others) give explanations and overviews of 25 great classics. There are selections from these chosen classics, discussion questions, and helpful testimonies by the editors as to why these books remain vital.  Along the way there are sidebars of the favs of other authors, of various theological persuasions, and these fun lists are a great part of the resource this grand book is.  A closing portion lists excellent contemporary authors whose body of work you should know, from Wendell Berry to Eugene Peterson, from John Stott to Anne Lamott, from Walter Wangerin to N.T Wright.  This will warm the heart of any Christian book-lover on your list, and will be a friend and ally for years to come for any pilgrim walking along Christ's way.  Highly recommended.

besides.gifBesides the Bible: 100 Books That Have, Should, or Will Create a Christian Culture  edited by Dan Gibson, Jordan Green, John Pattison (Biblica) $14.99  I've named dropped this before, suggested it as a general gift when folks don't know what other book to give, and highlighted it as a great guide to over 100 different short book reviews that these authors (and a batch of guests) want to suggest "besides the Bible."  Did I tell ya that I've got a chapter in there, saying what my one most-recommend book is?  Come on, don't you know somebody to whom you'd like to introduce a wild and wooly collection of favorite titles?  This is a rare find, and will bring a huge smile to the face of anybody who is committed to life-long Christian reading. 

For the person who likes to read but you just have no idea:

Well maybe tomorrow's list will offer some ideas, but...

A Hearts & Minds gift certificate will do the trick.  Send us at the order form page the name ofgift cert.jpg your friend or loved one---that is, to whom you want it made out, and the amount you prefer.  We can send it to them on your behalf (if so, just be sure to tell us how to write your name--first or last name or nickname or whatever, their address,and if it for Christmas or some other occasion.)  Of course, if time permits, we can send it to you directly.  Give us the details, we'll take care of the rest.

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December 17, 2011

Hearts & Minds gift giving guide PART TWO: This will help you find a gift to give somebody like...

As we were saying in the last post, we all know (don't we, or am I in some minority group ofwhat_do_you_mean_im_hard_to_shop_for_tshirt-p235351004964925942z7tqq_400.jpg losers?) that feeling of being just stumped.  Social convention or genuine desire to give a gift to another has us thinkin' and browsin' and frettin' as the hour grows neigh.  Some people are just hard to buy for, as the saying goes.

Suppose you want to give a helpful, meaningful gift to a loved one or friend. Not socks.  Not booze. Not a blender.  Certainly not a fruitcake.  A book?  Yes, a book!  

Say that gift is for a person who is,  is....well, here goes:

For someone wanting a new prayer book, with some extra features:

common p.gifCommon Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals  Shane Claiborne, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, Enuma Okoro (Zondervan) $24.99  I raved about this when it came out, just one year ago and are pleased to be in touch with some of the communities that gave rise to this wonderful book of prayers, Scripture readings, collects, and songs.  From the well-worded ecumenical prayers, the hints of social justice, the artfully enhancements of engravings and woodcuts, the ribbon marker---this is the real deal, a useful resource that has a tone and Biblical basis that is just right.  Highly recommended.

For a brainy reader, eager to be well read in the most thoughtful voices of public faith:

socrates in.gifSocrates in the City: Conversations on "Life, God, and Other Small Topics"  edited by Eric Metaxas (Dutton) $27.95  In what is surely one of the finest books of the year, Mr. Metaxas collects lectures that have been given in his wonderful New York lecture series from which he draws the title.  (And he introduces each speaker with verve and joy.) In fact, Eric asks "Who said that the exploration of the Big Questions and fun can't go together?  It was probably La Rocherfoucauld, but who cares what he thinks. Seriously, I think that the fun we have is vital to what we do.  We know that no matter how serious the subject (suffering, evil and death, for example) we will enjoy ourselves. We hope we've captured something of that juxtaposition between the covers of this book."  He certainly did.  Find here excellent pieces by Os Guinness, Sir John Polkinghorne, N.T. Wright, Jean Bethke Elshtain, Francis Collins and others. Eric's chapter on Bonhoeffer is a brilliant summary of his massive book on the German martyr.  This is a very great, handsome gift for the educated reader of excellent taste.  THIS WEEK ONLY WE HAVE THIS AT AN EXTRA DISCOUNT, 30% OFF THIS ONE.

JC and the LoM.gifJesus Christ and the Life of the Mind  Mark Noll (Eerdmans) $25.00  Our store was a huge promoter of Noll's very important Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, published a decade ago.  This is more than a sequel to that significant work but it is at least that.  If your gift recipient has followed any of the discussions around the integration of faith and learning, or the lack of serious intellectual contributions by evangelicals, especially, this Trinitarian, Christological perspective on thinking well will be much appreciated.  If you aren't aware if they have followed all that, no problem; this is a fantastic way to inspire new thinking about the life of the mind, the role of the scholar, the task of thinking or writing or teaching or learning.  Highly recommended. THIS WEEK ONLY WE HAVE THIS AT AN EXTRA DISCOUNT, 30% OFF THIS ONE.

For a brainy reader who is a scholar, perhaps working in the academy:

Taking Everything Thought Captive: 40 Years of the Christian Scholars Review  Don King, editor (Abilene Christian University Press) $25.00  I have tried hard to sell this since it came out earlier this year as it is truly extraordinary---a fabulous example of the very best of intregal Christian scholarship, including important essays in the arts, humanities, sciences and social sciences.  A few are particularly about higher education, a few are a bit more specific than most readers may care about but most will be enjoyed by your scholarly friend, whether they have their post-doc cap on or not.  Contributors to this "greatest hits" of what I call the best least known journal I know of include Carl Henry, Mark Noll, Nicholas Wolterstorff, Stanley Hauerwas, Alvin Plantinga, Dallas Willard, Elizabeth Newman, Brian Walsh, Art Holmes, Ronald Sider, Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen, Jonathan Chapline, Jenell William Paris, Nancy Ammerman, Roger Lundin and many more.  If your egghead friend doesn't know these names, he will be glad you introduced them.  Brilliant!  Brilliant! Brilliant!

For an open-minded, goodhearted spiritual quilter:

with sacred threads.gifWith Sacred Threads: Quilting and the Spiritual Life  Susan Towner-Larsen & Barbara Brewer Davis (Pilgrim Press) $25.00  Bet you didn't know about this, didja?  As it is put by Rev. Dr. Howard Friend---himself a radical writer about the integration of contemplative spirituality and social action---"a quilt will no longer be merely a collage of color or a tasteful arrangement of fabric  once you have read With Sacred Threads..."  Much like scripture, a quilt tells a story and echoes of voices far beyond what a mere hasty glance reveals."  Know a quilter who is also a "meaning-seeker"?  Or, as one UCC leader writes, it may help those who "doubt the proximity of play and prayer."  Pretty to look at, too, on glossy paper, with lovely reproductions and a good design.

For a global citizen who likes biography:

tutu.gifTutu Authorized  Alister Sparks & Mpho Tutu (HarperOne) $29.99  You know, I heard a number of people at our book displays at events this fall tell us that they hoped somebody would get them this for Christmas.  It is just that kind of a book, a lovely cover, a hefty feel, an enormously important figure, and a light touch in telling the tale. Nelson Mandela once said about Tutu, "Sometimes strident, often tender, never afraid, and seldom without humor, (his) voice will always be the voice of the voiceless."  The forward is by Bono, who calls Tutu his boss.   Where does Tutu get this compassion and humor and hope?  What a story!

For a Civil War buff who knows it all:

ccw.gifCuriosities of the Civil War: Strange Stories, Infamous Characters, and Bizarre Events Webb Garrison  (Nelson) $19.99  This is a 550-page hardback and this quirky study of odd backstories will give your friend a deepened understanding of the war and the real people that engaged in it.  For instance, readers will discover the first sitting president to be exposed to enemy fire. What badgers, pigeons, and bear cubs had in common during the war.  Which of Stonewall Jackson's limbs received its own proper burial. The turtle-shaped ship designed to douse its opponents with boiling water. Which Confederate general was responsible for introducing camels to the Southwest. You can't  make this stuff up.

For a Wendell Berry fan who (thinks he or she) has 'em all:

travelling.gifTraveling at Home  Wendell Berry, wood engravings by John DePol (Counterpoint) $22.00 This was an older poetry book of Mr. Berry now gloriously reissued in a gorgeous, thin hardback with great woodcuts.  Fifteen poems and one essay (previously published) was issued as a limited edition in 1988.  Cheers!

Farming: A Handbook  Wendell Berry (Counterpoint)$15.95  It is nice to see this early but justly famous volume in a fine-looking new paperback after being out of print for decades.  Berry says in the forward that he worked a bit on one poem, but most remain untouched since their first publication.  

For a mom or dad who would love a family devotional resource that isn't from Focus on the Family:

at home with God.gifAt Home With God: A Complete Liturgical Guide for the Christian Home  Gavin Long (Paraclete Press) $26.99  Endorsed by the likes of Michael Card and Scot McKnight, you can be assured this isn't anything odd or off-base.  Phyllis Tickle notes "Too many of us have been removed for too long from the discipline of family prayers and the grace of domestic worship. May this life-giving manual be the first of many that herald the re-introduction of those ancient ways into our future."   If Phyllis Tickle's words will appeal to the people your thinking of, buy them this and give it before the New Year.

bible story hb.gifThe Bible Story Handbook: A Resource for Teaching 175 Stories from the Bible  John Walton & Kim Walton (Crossway) $24.99  This isn't about parenting, or even home life, really, but any parent wanting to do Bible study at home could use this educators guide to how to faithfully explore key Bible stories.  Home schoolers or others who want a bit more than a typical inspiration meditation will appreciate the seven elements examined in each story.   Happily, as Starr Meade writes, it goes beyond thinking of Bible stories as "stand alone episodes that provide moral instruction based on imitating human characters in the stories."  No, God is the key actor here, and the plot pushes us to see the history of redemption unfolding to it's climax in Christ.  Very useful.

H&V.gifHeroes & Villains of the Bible: Real Stories (Tommy Nelson) $14.99  I suppose many families have those hard-to-sit still boys (usually boys, I guess) who light up most when something gross or weird happens.  They love daring and adventure, treachery and heroism.  The Bible can be misused along these lines, so parents should be careful but there is a sense in which these adventure tales do teach us important insights.  The graphic novel type artwork and the conversation starters at the end of each story makes this a possible gift for a kid who just might not pick up any other sort of Bible story book. The Biblical text is the easy to read CEV.

By the way, call us if you'd like to hear about other such Bibles, The Action Bible (all cartoons) or the Manga one.  Fascinating.

For someone with a heart for the poor, or who loves to pray for the world:

place at the table.gifA Place at the Table: 40 Days of Solidarity with the Poor  Chris Seay (Baker) $13.99  On the heals of the Advent Conspiracy, Seay went deeper into the journey of caring for the poorest of the poor.  This takes readers on a journey of self-examination (drawing on the Biblical themes of wilderness and temptation and the practice of fasting) inviting us to use these Scriptures to eat less, serve more, and prayerfully read through this guide to the needy around the world, country by country.  There will be a DVD curriculum that some will be hearing about, no doubt, but you can bless your friend that has a broken heart for the poor and honor the refugee Babe whose birth we celebrate.  What an appropriate, challenging gift.  I hope you know somebody who cares about this and that you are able to share this new resource as a way to affirm their passion or interest.

For a thoughtfully mature Christian college teacher:

teaching and christian practices.gifTeaching and Christian Practices: Reshaping Faith & Learning  David Smith and James K. A. Smith, editors  (Eerdmans) $22.00  Several years ago social researchers and theologians Craig Dykstra and Dorothy Bass placed the word "practices" on the table of Christian conversation and in recent years there has been much consideration about what Christians habitually do as we practice our faith.  Then, James K.A. Smith wrote one of the most talked about religious books in years, Desiring the Kingdom, wondering how liturgies (secular or faithful) shape our habitual practices as we embody our worldviews.  Here, beloved Calvin College educator and foreign language professor David I. Smith and philosophy prof James K.A. Smith lead a gang of a dozen philosophically minded Christian college professors to reflect on how Christian practices of embodied discipleship actually influence how they teach.  Dykstra & Bass join with a forward, noting how their work on practices has been received and advanced in this remarkable symposium on teaching practices to college students, and how spiritual practices effect the art of teaching well.   A rave blurb on the back is from Perry Glanzer, the well known educational academic from Baylor.  

For a farmer or foodie:

Folks-this-aint-normal-149x226.jpgFolks, This Ain't Normal: A Farmer's Advice for Happier Hens, Healthier People, and a Better World  Joel Salatin (Center Street) $25.99 Salatin is a star to some (he has featured in Food Inc and The Omnivore's Dilemma, I think) and is radical, insistent, but also upbeat and funny.  Bill McKibben calls it a "wonderfully cranky book."  Chef Dan Barber says it is "as practical as it is reflective; as necessary as it is radical."  The New York Times called him "Virginia's most multi-faceted agrarian since Thomas Jefferson."  Your friend will enjoy this whether they actually raise anything or not...

Food, Farming, and Faith  Gary Fick (SUNY) $21.95  This is an academic study by an evangelical Christian professor of agriculture at Cornell.  Nothing quite like it, a serious, good, helpful bit of research on the relationship of faith and farming, the Bible and agriculture.  If you know anybody studying farming or is a Christian, that a book like this exists from such a reputable academic press will surely surprise them. You will be their hero for turning them on to the work of Dr. Fick.

food rebs.gifFood Rebels, Guerrilla Gardeners, and Smart-Cookin' Mamas: Fighting Back in an Age of Industrial Agriculture Mark Winne (Beacon) $24.95 hardcover, $16.00  paperback. Okay, not everybody wants to take on the system, work for social change, or analyze every aspect of their daily shopping, eating, consuming.  But a lot of people do, as this amazing book attests.  This is fun, feisty, revolutionary, a manifesto for ordinary folks who are both foodies and perhaps also interested in making a difference in sustainable ways.  Yeah!  You have to know somebody like this, don't you?  Google Mark Winne and watch his youtube videos about the book and you'll want one for yourself, too.

time to plant.gifA Time to Plant: Life Lessons in Work, Prayer, and Dirt  Kyle Kramer (Sorin) $15.95  Rooted in the Benedictine traditions of physical labor, this farmer shares his stories of prayer, hospitality, and, as the title says, dirt.  This is humble, graceful writing, the sort that leads writer Scott Russell Sanders to say "one comes away feeling it was love that set Kramer's words flowing---love for a place, for his wife, and their young children, for good work, and for the mysterious ground from which everything rises."  Catholic spirituality about making a living off the land.

Food & Faith: A Theology of Eating
  Norman Wirzba (Cambridge University Press) $24.99 I don't know if you have anybody on your shopping list that does serious theology but if you do, I bet he or she eats.  So if you know anyone who wants to bring together in-depth reflection on a Christian view of food, this is the creme de la creme.  Or maybe I should say it is meaty. Wirzba is Research Professor of Theology, Ecology, and Rural Life at Duke Divinity School.  

food rules.gifFood Rules: An Eater's Manual  Michael Pollan, illustrations by Maira Kalman (The Penguin Press) $23.95  You may know this charming and very helpful pocket guide that Pollan did after his mega-selling Omnivore's Dilemma.  This new enhanced hardback version has illustrations, heavier paper stock, and a new introduction.  Makes a really nice little gift.

For a lawyer, law student, or graduating pre-law student:

Redeeming Law: Christian Calling and the Legal Profession  (IVP) $24.00  Every profession should be so fortunate as to have a book just like this.  Thoughtful, seriously rooted in an coherent, Biblical worldview but equally engaged with the best modern scholarship, helping believers honor Christ in their lawyering by considering legal work as a Christian vocation.

For a nurse or nursing student or other health care practitioner:

Called to Care: A Christian Worldview for Nursing  Judith Allen Shelly & Arlene Miller (IVP) $25.00 We have a handful of excellent books for nurses, but we most often recommend this as the most important, foundational book for anyone in health care.  Love it.  If you know anybody in the healing arts---physical therapists, doctors, nurses, dentists--this is a must-read.  They and their patients will thank you.

For someone who likes to write or keep a journal.

#22.jpgBanaras Sari Quilt Journal (C & T Publishing) $19.95 These are elegant, 8 1/2 x 11 journals, crafted beautifully, collaged with silk brocades from recycled saris in the ancient city of Banaras, India. These are made from sari's, which themselves were once made on handlooms in the region) and each one is different. They are vividly bright, sparkly, even--stunning.  This is a wonderful example of fairly traded items and job creation. The sturdy journal includes good paper, 160 pages, about 2/3 unlined, about a 1/3 small graph paper.  Very cool.

For a lover of the Bible:

and god spoke to.gifAnd God Spoke to Abraham: Preaching from the Old Testament  Fleming Rutledge (Eerdmans) $30.00  This ought to be called "sermons from the Old Testament" as it isn't really about how to preach, just a huge collection of great messages on the Older Testament.  Rutledge is respected Bible scholar, Episcopal priest and elegant communicator.  No one who loves the Bible will fail to find great insight here and hours of study and enjoyment.  A new collection of sermons or essays by Rutledge is nearly a publishing event and this just-released 420 page paperback would make a fantastic gift.

#3.gifOld Testament Wisdom Literature: A Theological Introduction  Craig Bartholomew & Ryan O'Dowd (Baker Academic) $30.00  I raved about this when it first came out and it is certainly the most interesting, illuminating--dare I say wise?--study of the important wisdom literature I have yet read.  The first over section is just brilliant and I've read it more than once...very useful for anyone interested in Proverbs and Psalms and such.  A helpful blend of scholarly research and some practical application, with a good sense, too, of how these portions of the Older Testament fit in with the rest of the redemptive narrative of Scripture.

paul through med eyes.gifPaul Through Mediterranean Eyes: Cultural Studies in 1 Corinthians Kenneth E. Bailey (IVP Academic) $30.00  This is a bit too thick to fit in anyone's fireside Christmas stocking, but wrapped up it will be one impressive gift.  At nearly 550 pages, it is one of the most astute New Testament commentaries of the year.  Bailey is a dear man, a friend of the shop, who has lived much of his adult life in the rural villages of the Middle East.  He brings Middle Eastern eyes to Bible study in ways that have been generative to a whole generation of New Testament scholars.  Here, he offers cultural insight about the Greco-Roman world and the culture of first century Judaism in Corinth.  Amazing! It looks great on the shelf, too, next to the equally large and attractive (and wise!) 2010 release, Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes: Cultural Studies in the Gospels (IVP Academic; $26.00.)

#222222.gifA New Testament Biblical Theology: The Unfolding of the Old Testament in the New G. K. Beale (Baker Academic) $54.99 Okay this isn't for any simple Bible reader and won't fit in most normal stockings, either.  But under the tree, this tome will be the highlight of somebody's day--of somebody's year--if they are serious about this sort of top-notch, heavy-duty, intellectually rigorous evangelical scholarship.  Greg Beale is a genius, no doubt about it, and this is a long-await resource that was just recently release. A very important subject, too, about which not enough is written.  Excellent. 

For a person who is theological conservative and you wished they had a greater social vision or for a person who is not theologically conservative and you wished they appreciated evangelical thinkers more.

bloodlines smaller.gifBloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian  John Piper (Crossway) $22.99  This is one of the most moving, thoughtful, and important books of the year.  John Piper is one of the most important voices of the seriously Biblical, evangelical movement and a well respected Baptist pastor, author, and speaker.  Here he names racism as a sin, reflects on ways to bring Godly reformation to society, and shows that the gospel of Christ is the only answer to the quandaries of racism and other social ills.  He hits this hard, repents of this horrific sin, and calls his readers to be agents of gospel-centered reconciliation.

gj.gifGenerous Justice: How God's Grace Makes Us Just Timothy Keller (Dutton) $19.95  Readers of BookNotes know of our respect and appreciation for Tim Keller and his fruitful work in New York.  Surely one of the finest evangelical writers of our time, this little hardback makes a great gift, perfect to show that those who make most of the cross of Christ should also be those who live out the gracious doctrine of justification by being agents of justice.  Solid, orthodox, reasonable, but a very compelling call to social engagement, civic service, cultural renewal and concern and action for the poor and oppressed.  Excellent.

If you want to give a gift to somebody that loved Rob Bell's Love Wins or hated Love Wins or hasn't yet formed an opinion of Love Wins:

lwc.gifThe Love Wins Companion  Rob Bell & David Vanderveen (HarperOne) $13.99  Rob worked with his friend David to pull together this remarkable study guide, a companion volume that has extra bonus material for each chapter of Love Wins, a good reflection by Vanderveen (basically, this is what Rob was getting at in this chapter and here's some ways to think about it) and a good article by another person that ties in to the theme of that chapter.  (Having these great pieces in one place is worth the price if the book and includes articles or excerpts by Pope Benedict XVI, Cathleen Falsani, Donald Miller, RIchard Mouw, Frederick Buechner, Oswald Chambers, N.T Wright, Anne Lamott and more.) There is a Bible study for each chapter, and then helpful group exercises and lots of discussion questions.  This is not a simple little discussion booklet, but a major resource, helping you understand Bells' main claims and other teachings, work through his argument in the book, and talk through (civilly) the contentious theological stuff that has caused such a furor.  There is a little interview with Bell, an appendix of quotes from church history, and everything you need for a more fruitful study of the book. This could be volatile, so choose carefully.  Maybe add some Christmas candy to sweeten the deal.  

For someone you know who loves Reformed theology:

life in god.gifLife in God: John Calvin, Practical Formation, and the Future of Protestant Theology  Matthew Myer Boulton (Eerdmans) $28.00  This brand new books overturns the common assumption that Calvin was austere, strictly intellectual, arguing that for Calvin, theology is properly conceived and articulated primarily for the sake of everyday spiritual formation.  He opposed the monasteries in order to "democratize the spiritual disciplines."  This is a strong and weighty book, making a case that worship, prayer, delight, and spiritual formation are at the heart of the best theology.  

For someone you know who may love Reformed theology a bit too much:

ltayc.gifLetters to a Young Calvinist: An Invitation to the Reformed Tradition  James K.A. Smith (Brazos) $14.99  This pocket paperback is a wonderful stocking stuffer for someone (perhaps a student) who has become enamored of a strident sort of Reformed thinking, and who defines that only in doctrinal terms about predestination and such.  Smith has been there, too, a rather belligerent convert to Calvinism, but he slowly grew more aware of the broader tradition, how to be more ecumenical, and, particularly how to plumb the depths of generous Reformed thinking to equip folks to live well, serving God graciously in all of life.  Very, very nice, written as a series of pastoral letters. Well, mostly pastoral emails.  Somebody will thank you if you offer this gentle guide to greater depth.

For someone who likes church history and theology but also really likes to laugh:

between heaven and mirth.gifBetween Heaven and Mirth: Why Joy, Humor, and Laughter Are at the Heart of the Spiritual Life James Martin (HarperOne) $25.99  Yup, this is a winner. And, it is the first book I've seen in decades of book-selling about a theology of humor that is, in fact, really funny.  This guy is an esteemed teacher about spirituality, a beloved author about the Jesuits, a solid thinker and---who knew?---a real stitch.  As he was researching earlier books he kept finding really funny stuff about the saints he was studying and finally felt free to go for it, writing this clever and witty study of the goodness of laughter.  Somebody you know would get a real kick out of this, no?  Do it. They'll be happy to see this, believe me!

For outdoor lovers:

Christian Outdoor Leadership: Theology, Theory, and Practice  Ashley Denton (SmoothStone Publishing) $24.99  There is no other book like this, a study of using outdoor trips and camping as methods of evangelism and disciple-making.  There is less in here about creation care and nature appreciation then there could be, but it is strong on doing ministry in the great outdoors.  Want to help our wilderness guy or gal to become Christian leaders as well.  This is a rare find which will surely get their attention.

nature as s p.gifNature as Spiritual Practice  Steven Chase (Abingdon) $18.00 The close up photo on the cover shows a flower and it draws you to attention.  Which is as it should be as this is a thick, rich account of paying attention to nature, to being in creation as a way to grow in faith and maturity.  This includes quotes from nature writings and classic spiritual writers.  Beldan Lane (the genius behind the impressive book on deserts and wilderness, in his hiking and in the Bible, The Solace of Fierce Landscapes) writes that these great lines are "full of riches both thoughtful and practical."  SPECIAL SALE DEAL, THIS WEEK ONLY: Chase has a companion volume, A Field Guide to Nature as Spiritual Practices which is thinner but includes a very nice set of devotional experiences.  WE WILL GIVE YOU ONE OF THESE FREE WITH A PURCHASE OF Nature as Spiritual Practice. An $8.00 VALUE.

Wisdom of Wilderness: Experiencing the Healing Power of Nature Gerald
May (HarperOne) $13.99   Who knew that this contemplative psychotherapist was such an outdoorsman, and sought to find God in the wilderness, learning from the austere beauty of creation.  Parker Palmer wrote the lovely forward.  Wonderfully written, including a grand story about a wild bear.

wwef.gifWater, Wind, Earth, & Fire: The Christian Practice of Praying with the Elements Christine Valters Painter (Sorin) $14.95  Organized around the "Canticle of the Creatures" by St. Francis of Assisi this Benedictine Oblate offers very concrete ways to explore the symbols of creation, the mystery that holds it all together.  Very nicely done, reflecting on nature in a deeply Christian way.  

Holy the Firm  Annie Dillard (HarperOne) $13.00  Just wanted to remind you of this literary gem, a small book that is philosophical and beautiful. Listen to Buechner who reviewed in in The New York Times Book Review  "This book is a book of great richness, beauty of power and thus very difficult to do justice in a brief review...The violence is sometimes unbearable, the language rarely less than superb. Dillard's description of the moth's death makes Virginia Woolf's go dim and Edwardian. One thinks of Gerard Manley Hopkins, among others---nature seen so clear and hard that the eyes tear...A rare and precious book."

For someone interested in the relationship of faith and science:

The Language of Science and Faith: Straight Answers to Genuine Questions Karl Giberson & Francis Collins (IVP) $20.00  You may know Collins, formerly of the Human Genome Project, and now Director of the National Institutes of Health, who has written carefully about finding God through his work in the sciences.(The Language of God.) Giberson has written boldly about how he as an evangelical scientists embraces evolutionary theory.  This book, in a thoughtful question and answer format, lays out an evangelical evolutionary perspective, and, more generally, offers a Christian perspective on science.  It nearly serves as a manifesto for their new organization,  BioLogos Foundation.  Dr. Tim Johnson, Senior medical contributor for ABC News says "This book is destined to become a classic..."

testing scr.gifTesting Scripture: A Scientists Explores the Bible  John Polkinghorne (Brazos) $17.99  Sir John is surely one of the major thinkers of our time, with degrees in physics and theology.  As an Anglican priest he has written much about the faith-science conversation (and won the Templeton Prize in 2002.)  Here, as the title suggests, we have Polkinghorne's view of the Bible, its themes, ambiguities and truths. Brand new.

The Mind and the Machine: What It Means to be Human  Matthew DIckerson (Brazos) $19.99 This is a wonderfully written book, making a great gift for anyone who wonders about faith, science, biochemistry, neurology, or a Christian view of anthropology.  Dickerson is a professor of computer science and environmental studies at Middlebury College so has a very keen eye for good writing and serious cultural analysis.  Progress? This complex but fascinating book asks whether progress is reducing our ability to be fully human.  Amazingly rich, very diverse, a thoughtful gift for all kinds of readers.

For a fan of C.S. Lewis who has it all:

Phantastes- A Faerie Romance for Men and Women.gifPhantastes: A Faerie Romance for Men and Women  George MacDonald (Hendrickson) $19.95  There has been a paperback or two of this vivid, poetic novel from the late 1800s---it enthralled many, most notably G. K. Chesteron and C. S. Lewis, but this is a very handsome, approximating, it seems, the look and feel of an original illustrated hardback of this sort.  The text is in colophon, the 33 historic illustrations by Arthur Hughes, newly colorized in a gentle pastel. The back covers suggests this will "transport readersinto a world between dreams and reality where splendor andhorror battle for the human heart."  Very impressive.

For a kid (or adult) who has gone (or wants to go) to the movie:

#222.gifThe Invention of Hugo Cabret  Brian Selznic (Scholastic) $24.99  This is the highly acclaimed, much-loved, respected, Newbery award-winning novel (complete with drawings) that led the extraordinary director Martin Scorcese to do his first family film, out now.  Throw in some movie tickets with this book and you'll have kids saying you gave them the coolest gift yet.  We have his brand new one, too, Wonderstruck (Scholastic; $29.99) that came out earlier in the fall.

For a young person who would like a well-done overtly Christian YA novel; mostly for girls:

#1.gifSketchy Behavior  Erynn Mangum (Zondervan) $9.99  It asks on the back if this character is "drawing conclusions or drafting disaster?"  Ha--this story is about a 16 year old gal with two notable talents: art and sarcasm.   Her excellent drawing helps police find a murderer and she goes from local hero to possible nexxt target.  This is a snarky drama, a bit of a crime story with some typical teen shenenagins along the way.  Fun.

#11111.gifThere You'll Find Me  Jenny B. Jones (Nelson) $12.99  This is considered juvenile fiction but the themes are fairly heavy.  There is grief, a journey to Ireland, love.  A character who is a teen heart-throb is (yes) filming a vampire movie. The main character is not impressed.  There is a reading group to help readers explore the story and message.

#11.gifBlack, White, Other: In Search of Nina Armstrong  Joan Steinau Lester (Zondervan) $15.99 This is a very good novel, seriously written in a way that allows readers to really understand the feelings of the main character.  Her name is Nina and she is bi-racial, which causes serious confusing and perplexities in her idenity, even as racial tensions swirl around her.  She discovers the story of a great, great, grandmother who was a runaway slave which helps her find her own "true North."  Ms  Lester is herself a consultant on ethnic diversity, is often heard on NPR and was a finalist for Barbara Kingsolver's Bellweather Prize.  Very, very impressive.

#111.gifA Girl Named Mister Nikki Grimes (Zodervan) $7.99  This just came out in paperback and we are glad to offer it---Grimes is quite prolific (she has written over 50 books) and has been a winner of the coveted Coretta Scott King Award and has been cited as a Notable Book author by the American Library Association.  This story unfolds as a set of poems --- it is ingeniously done.  It is the story of an African American teen who gets pregnant and, in her crisis, discovers the story of the Biblical Mary, who is also young and oddly pregnant.  Feeling abandoned, Mister (whose real name is Mary) is drawn to Mary's story  As it says on the back "together both young women discover the depth of God's love and the mysteries of his divine plan."  This would appeal to those who may like the form of poetry to tell a cohesive story, or about how a teen in a very contemporary situation can find comfort in an ancient, Biblical story. Kind of a Christmas book too. 

#1111.gifCliques, Hicks, and Ugly Sticks: Confessions of April Grace  K.D. McCrite (Nelson) $9.99  Readers loved April's earlier book (The Confessions of April Grace: In Front of God and Everybody) and this will be a similiar winner.  Light-hearted, well written with an interesting plot (a grandma stuck in a love triangle, a church pageant run by a dictator, and a mom who is acting very mysterious) and very funny, junior high April mostly has to cope with a clique of mean girls and doing algebra homework

For a person to whom you want to give Pilgrim's Progress, but you're not sure which edition:

#111111.gifPilgrim's Progress John Bunyan Retold  Gary Schmidt, illustrations by Barry Moser (Eerdmans) $16.50  Which this was a large sized picture book it received so much acclaim for it's contemporary retelling and striking art. Now it has been reissued as a smaller, hand-sized hardback.  Stunning, full of verve and energy and mature insight, this is truly a re-telling (not just an adaptation) and the pictures are sometimes a bit strange.  Love it!

The Pilgrim's Progress  John Bunyan, edited by C.J. Lovik, illustrations by Mike Wimmer (Crossway) $24.99  This nice-sized edition is more faithful to the text but is still nicely re-worked for modern readers and hearers.  The pictures are quite handsome, if fairly traditional, and they almost remind one of the vivid, realistic portraits done by N.C. Wyeth for Treasure Island and the like.)  Rave reviews from Joni Eareckson Tada, Elyse Fitzpatrick, Starr Meade, Kevin Belmont.

For a YA reader who doesn't want a religious story, hopefully with a boy character:

#11111111.gifOkay for Now  Gary D. Schmidt (Clarion Books) $16.99  What a great gift this would be for anyone who loves good writing and a good story, but it is especially good for young fellas.  Doug Swietech calls his new place "The Dump" and he isn't happy that he moved to upstate New York.  Some readers will remember Doug as a minor character in Schmidt's award-winning The Wednesday Wars (which is fantastic, by the way!)  It is now the summer of 1968 and Doug discovers something very special in a local library, which unlocks a whole new world and leads to a handful of fabulous adventures.  (Hint, it isn't just a book, but a special part of a historic book: he sees the plates to John James Audubon's Birds of America.)  What a wild and wacky and profoundly good story.  Three cheers for this national treasure (and professor of literature at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI.) Schmidt's Newbery Award winning Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy, by the way, is now available in a very sharp mass-market paperback. ($6.99) that would fit in any stocking.  And should -- it is wonderful.

For a young reader who doesn't want a religious story, hopefully with a girl character:

#111111111.gifThe Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic  Jennifer Trafton, illustrated by Brett Helquist (Dial) $16.99  We love it when thoughtful, young Christian friends make their way into the mainstream world of art and letters.  In this case, Jennifer has gifted us all with a splendid, uproarious first novel, a fantasy story which is about "a mousy-haired girl with a Big Imagination."  She has to make an entire island believe the impossible...before it's too late.  When a Newbery Award Honor writer (Ingrid Law) loves your work, this is good.  She writes that the language "trips and dips and twirls and swirls off the tongue, and zings merrily through the mind and heart alike."  This book is full of wonder, just fabulous. It is just out in paperback, but the hardcovers have deckled pages, nice green endpapers and would make a swell gift to an older elementary student or up...

For a sophisticated reader of edgy YA fiction:

#1111111111.gifStraw House, Wood House, Brick House, Blow  Daniel Nayeri (Candlewick Press) $19.99  Daniel is a friend of the store and he has gotten some serious acclaim for his hip updates of classics, Another Faust and Another Pan .  In this thick book he offer four eccentrically written stories, glorious in their playing with four different genres -- a sizzling Western, a wild sci-fi, piece, a hard-boiled detective drama, and a grimly humorous Shakespearean an love story who has to cope with Death. It has a few instances of some spicy language, and it clearly not for very young readers.  Yet, this odd work is compelling and exceptional.  Newbery medalist Linda Sue Park writes "I'm so impressed by the ingenuity of the project as a whole...sheer genius.  I can't remember the last time I've read such a clever and successful plotline."  Gary Schmidt, two-time Newbery honoree uses the word virtuosity.  Is Nayeri a modern day Lewis Carroll?  You will want to give this as a gift to somebody who is up for the challenge given by Schmidt: "Dare to read this." Then be prepared for some conversation.

For that rather conservative, politically-aware, lover of serious literature:

#22222.gifApricot Jam and other Stories  Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (Counterpoint) $28.00  After years of living in exile, Solzhenitsyn returned to Russia in 1994 and published a serious of eight powerfully paired stories.  These inter-connecting works were called ground-breaking, shifting in setting between pre and post Soviet Russia.  Available this fall for the first time in English.  

For someone who wants a very, very special work of fiction:

Blind Contessa's New M.gifThe Blind Contessa's New Machine Carey Wallace (Pamela Dorman Books) $23.95  This is a smallish-sized hardback from a prestigious imprint, but the story has a big, big heart.  It is "vibrant, aching" and "magical, rich, and daring."  Ms Wallace is a fan of Hearts & Minds and we respect her work (and her band that plays songs about books, but that is another story) and the faith of her family (her mom has written a book about coping with pain when one has chronic illness, like Lyme Disease.) The "new machine" of this luminous story is the first typewriter.  So it is a historical work, a romance,  and a book about an artist.  One critic wrote "This is a novel that, like the contessa's dreams, casts a spell of ethereal beauty."  You might know someone looking for that artfully told tale that will carry the away in wonderful prose.  This is it.

For someone who likes fantasy, intrigue, maybe something like Dan Brown:

ss.gifThe Seraph Seal  Leonard Sweet & Lori Wagner (Nelson) $15.99  This book is a bit hard to explain, making it a natural choice for any eccentric fiction readers you know. It is fantasy, it is.   Yet it is about an ancient prophecy that is unfolding (in 2012!) as the world accelerates its descent into massive chaos. Apocolyptic? Sure.  Yet there is a journey of love and discover that I can only say blurs the line between fact and fiction.  There are some sidebars and teaching parts scattered through as clues are uncovered and next pieces of the puzzle are put together.  You may know Sweet as a postmodern evangelist, a Biblical storyteller and student of the times.  Wagner is a poet and novelist who has a scholarly interest in (amongst other things) science and culture.  Soooo, this is one heckuva ride.  Give it to somebody that likes a page-turner, who likes to think, and who will appreciate the cryptic codes and deeply Christian insights.  If they have a weak heart, though, go back to the previous novel.  This one could be dangerous.

For that person for whom you really want to splurge with something artistic:

#2.jpgThe Saint John's Bible (Liturgical Press) see below for prices  A lavish, special gift that will be remembered for a lifetime?  I trust you know that the St. John's Bible team of artisans has been calligraphing the entire Scriptures for years, now, using tools and materials employed by scribes for thousands of years, issuing large coffee table books year by year.  We have just a few of most of them, and can offer just a few on sale, giving you a chance to present a loved one with a breath-taking gift of art and a new way to experience the Holy Word of God.  

Here's what we have on sale, while supplies last, offered at $20.00 OFF.

Wisdom Books   $64.00       SALE PRICE  $44.00
Prophets             $69.00        SALE PRICE  $49.00
Pentatuch           $69.00        SALE PRICE  $49.00

any book mentioned above
this week only 
2O% off
order here
takes you to the secure Hearts & Minds order form page
just tell us what you want

inquire here
if you have questions or need more information
just ask us what you need to know

Hearts & Minds 234 East Main Street  Dallastown, PA  17313     717-246-333




December 20, 2011

Hearts & Minds BookNotes offer: FREE book by James Sire on Vaclav Havel

I hope that most Hearts & Minds fans have heard about the death of Vaclav Havel.  If you've read one of our favorite books of the last decade or so, Steve Garber's Fabric of Faithfulness: Weaving Together Belief and Behavior (IVP; $16.00) you at least knew a bit about him since Steve cited him.  He was a counter-cultural poet and playwright who was imprisoned under the stupid communist regime in the old Czechoslovakia.  As providence had it, after the Velvet Revolution he was released from prison and ended up their president.  As in his dissident years of the 70s, he wrote about freedom, culture, the importance of words and literature and gave moving, intellectual speeches the world over.  His early plays and journals and civic speeches made it clear that humans are called to be responsible.  We are called to be morally serious, as Steve sometimes puts it. He was an inspiration to many, across the political and ideological divides.  Of course, we stocked his books.  Many reports are being filed and some good articles are being written about him now. If you happen to be facebook friends with me, I've posted a piece Steve Garber wrote which will only take a few minutes to read. I commend it. Havel was 75 when he died.  May he rest in peace.

Another author who admired Havel is James Sire, a mentor to me in some ways, through his manyHavel.jpg books. Through Jim's help we have some of the excellent book he wrote on Havel in 2001, Vaclav Havel: The Intellectual Conscience of International Politics: An Introduction, Appreciation & Critique.

It is not only an excellent book about Havel but a great example of Christian engagement; as the subtitle puts in, there is "appreciation and critique."  We should all learn to be gracious and critical, civil but discerning.  This is the best introduction to Havel of which I know, and it is by this thoughtful evangelical thinker.    

As you may guess (and this is a story itself, a parable of sorts) it didn't sell well.  InterVarsity Press deserves applause for trying; no other press that I knew of did a thoughtful Christian engagement with the great Czech public intellectual. The ones we have are long out of print and in beautifully perfect shape.

We would like to give them away to anyone who has an interest in Mr. Havel and his legacy.  While supplies last, they are yours as our gift to you.

Here is the only small catch. When we send out books to our customers we do not add on any "handling" charges.  The cost of tape and time (not to mention the credit card fees) are just cost of doing business.  We do not inflate shipping costs.  In this case, though, since we're not making anything at all, we figure that with the credit card usage fee, and the credit card percentage they take, and our supplies and the salary of our mail-out staff, we need to add a nominal handling service charge.

So here's the deal: we will charge a "handling charge" of $1.25 each.  The USPS priority mail shipping is $4.75 so it comes to $6 total.   Unless you want it to go "media mail" which is slow and a bit unreliable this time of year.  That costs a dollar or so less, depending on where it goes, with a total of about $5.00.

OR, if you order any other item from Hearts & Minds and you ask for it, we'll throw it in absolutely free. 
Simple as that

This is our little way to pay tribute to the playwright politician and to perhaps contribute to our civic insight.  Hats off to Havel, thanks to Sire. 

Here are four great articles about Havel.

From The Washington Post,  Michael Gerson's  "Havel's Revolution of Truth."
From the Acton Institute, Edward E. Ericson's  "Living Responsibly: Vaclav Havel's View" 
From Huff Post, Lucas Kavner's  "Tracking Havel: From Orwell to Vermont to Prague"
From Rolling Stone, about the Czech rock band that inspired Havel to write Charter 77...


free book offer
Vaclav Havel:
 The Intellectual Conscience of International Politics

James Sire
while supplies last
order here
takes you to the secure Hearts & Minds order form page
just tell us what you want

inquire here
if you have questions or need more information
just ask us what you need to know

Hearts & Minds 234 East Main Street  Dallastown, PA  17313     717-246-333

December 21, 2011

When you've got to WOW em. Last minute gifts that are good, beautiful, true.

surprise.jpgOkay, I know we are not supposed to overdo the gift giving thing.  We needn't fixate and certainly shouldn't spend more than we can afford.  Yet, the opportunity for giving meaningful gifts--books and items that can truly help people live their lives or bring them literary pleasure to enlarge their heart and mind---is upon us and it seems like a shame not to (in an unfortunate turn of phrase) exploit it.  What I mean to say is that it isn't just every day you get to give away stuff to people, even faith-based books and helpful resources, without seeming a bit pushy or pesky.  So go for it.  Use this cultural window of opportunity to talk about carols and tell about Jesus and offer gifts that point people to the Way.   Give gifts during the 12 Days and certainly on the gift-givers holy day, Epiphany (when the whole Christmas gift-giving thing got starter, after all, what with those Wise Men splurging so...)

There are those folks that you just want to wow.  Call it pride or something, but you need asurprised-little-boy1.jpg really great gift and you need it now.  Enter our last Advent list, the "when you really gotta wow 'em" list of pretty cool suggestions.  Of course, we think nearly anything we've listed the past few months would do, but there are some books that have particular whimsy, rarity or a certain kind of glory.  Enjoy browsing.  Give something like this and I betcha somebody out there is gonna thank you.

Okay, first on the list: give a donation on behalf of your loved one to a cause or charity they might appreciate.  If you want to call us, we could most likely find a book to go along with that---something about global poverty if you donate to Heifer Project or from Gary Haugen about global human rights if you are donating to IJM or Kent Annan on Haiti or a creation care resource if you want to plant a tree in honor of someone.   We could send the new Jars of Clay if you want to donate to Blood:Water Mission.  You get the idea.

Or, how 'bout these ideas:

start something.gifStart Something That Matters Blake Mycoskie (Spiegl & Grau) $22.00  I sure hope you know the story of Toms Shoes.  He gives a pair to kids in poverty with every pair sold.  His story of getting this project going is nothing if not inspiring, and he invites us all to do something important with our lives. With every book you purchase, a new book will be provided to a child in need, too, through their One to One program.  Better yet, give them the book and order a pair of Tom Shoe's.  Cool idea, eh?


Art That Tells the Story
  Christopher Brewer, Michael Wittmer, foreword by Makoto Fujimura (Gospel Through Shared Experience) $24.99  I should be sheepish but I'm not: we were among the first to review this, raved about it anywhere we went and, in fact, have our store's name in the back showing that we were an early supporter. Much more importantly, this splendid books shows the contours of the large Biblical story---good creation, radical fall, gracious redemption, cosmic restoration--through dozens of stunning and provocative art pieces.  Bible guy Mike Wittmer (who wrote a book I often recommend, Heaven Is a Place on Earth) does a brief essay set off handsomely before each of the four main sections.  The artworks have quotations or epigrams or Bible texts next to them, all designed expertly by the creative wonderkid Chris Brewer.  Nobody has ever done anything like this and as a classy indie project it is, therefore, a bit rare.  Give it as a gift and folks will say: where did you find something like this?  Yes they will.  You can thank us later.

The-Four-Holy-Gospels.jpgThe Four Holy Gospels illuminated and illustrated by Makoto Fujimura CEV (Crossway) $149.99  We have written about our respect and appreciation for the luminous, glittering abstract art of New York modern artist and thoughtful Christian art critic Mako Fujimura.  This is the first time a Bible has been seriously illustrated with abstract paintings, all prayerfully created for this glorious work.  We've joined with reviewers world wide to acclaim this one-of-a-kind edition of the gospels.  What a gift this would make for someone with exquisite, contemporary tastes.  Finely printed on heavy stock paper, by the way, The Four Holy Gospels come slip-cased in a sturdy cloth box. A truly exquisite artifact, the sort of thing that you purchase for those most rare occasions.

1A.jpgIndescribable book and DVD  Louie Giglio & Matt Redman (Cook and 268generation) Deluxe hardback coffee table book ($24.99), paperback book ($14.99) and DVD ($7.99)  You may know the popular Passion conference talk that Giglio did; the DVD shows him live, while showing the amazing slides from the Hubbell spacecraft and beyond as he preaches about the grandness of eternity, the awesomeness of God and the great grace that would extend love to the little speck that we are.  That DVD became the 1AA.jpgbook (deluxe hardcover or cheaper paperback) with fabulous pictures and they've changed the packaging of the DVD to match the book covers.  So, you could get the hardback + DVD or the paperback + DVD, depending on your budget.  Awesome.  Hey, I ought to be in marketing to think of this nifty combo.  The re-packaging of the DVD is what makes it!  Let us know what you want.  Some sciency wanna be astronomer is going to be dazzled.  More importantly, they will be drawn to God. 

The Swans Are Not Silent
series  John Piper (Crossway) $14.99 each  This phrase comes from Luther, who insisted that the ancient voices of the church will not be silenced, that they will endure, continuing to challenge and bless us.  Each of these five books has three very informative, passionate, Christ-exalting mini-biographies of a person from church history who illustrates a particularly poignant characteristic of radical trust and serious discipleship. They are meaty enough to be very educational but they are pastoral, too, flowing out of Piper's pastoral heart.  Get all five and wrap 'em up.  Or a couple...

SWA01P_200x1000.jpgThe Legacy of Sovereign Joy: God's Triumphant Grace in the Lives of Augustine, Luther & Calvin .

The Hidden Smile of God:  The Fruit of Affliction in the Lives of John Bunyan, William Cowper & David Brainerd

The Roots of Endurance: Invincible Perseverance in the Lives of John Newton, Charles Simeon & William Wilberforce

Contending for Our All: Defending Truth and Treasuring Christ in the Lives of Athanasius, John Owen, and J. Gresham Machen

Filling Up the Afflictions of Christ: The Cost of Bringing the Gospel to the Nations in the Lives of William Tyndale, Adoniram Judson & John Paton

ilaymystitchesdown.gifI Lay My Stitches Down: Poems of American Slavery  Cynthia Grady, illustrated by Michele Wood (Eerdmans) $17.00 Some children's picture books are so very breathtaking and rich in content that they are doubtlessly a wonderful to gift to an adult.  This collection of poetry is serious, harsh, and beautiful. The book is done as a series of quilts, and includes poems from around the country.  There are informative descriptions in lovely sidebars that explain allusions or lines (for instance if a poem quotes an old black spiritual or if a quilt shows a particular symbol.)  I don't know if I agree with Dostoyesvsky's quip that beauty will save the world but this book and the beauty to which it alludes, certainly points to redemption. The colors are vibrant, the large hardback fabulously designed. Highly recommended.

NIV Pure.gifThe NIV Audio Bible  (Zondervan) $79.99  You may know that after years of wrangling with various schools of thought and translation options (remember the TNIV?) the most popular Bible translation in America has been re-done, finely edited with care and relevance. There are all sorts of new editions of the re-edited NIV (including the newly enhanced NIV Study Bible, done with full color...call us for prices and colors!)  This, however, is the very first audio edition of the "new" NIV.  This complete set is done with a single voice recording (George W. Sarris) and includes 66 CDs in a black carrying case.  There are track breaks at every chapter making it easy to find and keep your place.  This is a great idea!

esv-study-bible-leather.jpgESV Study Bible  (Crossway) $74.99  There is little doubt that the English Standard Version is one of, if not the most accurate Bible translation on the market.  It was modeled somewhat on the old RSV so retains some classic rhetoric and rhythms.  It is contemporary but not trendy or simplistic. The poetry reads like poetry, the tone is reverent.  Besides the conservative translation itself, the ESV study notes are thoughtful, evangelically orthodox, helpful, often with a Reformed tendency. There are more than 20,000 notes making this a tremendous resource for serious Bible students.  The 200 full-color maps are very useful, the concordance excellent, there are 80,000 cross-references. The construction of these durable leather editions are the best in the industry, setting high standards of craftsmanship and elegance.  You should take a look at the cover design options here (and watch a few of the twenty videos there that explain the strengths of this study edition) and then come back and order from us, please.  There are hardbacks and compact sized editions as well.

11AA.jpgNLT Parallel Study Bible (Tyndale) $74.99 This is the world's first parallel study Bible with two study Bibles side by side!  That's a whole lot of notes!  The New Living Translation is a personal favorite,  upbeat and contemporary and informed by excellent ecumenical scholarship. (A hero of mine, who knows 14 languages and has an academic book on the Dead Sea Scrolls--in Italian!-- Al Wolters, led the team that translated Job on this; Marianne Meye Thompson, Raymond Van Leeuwen, Tremper Longman, D.A. Carson, F.F. Bruce, and other amazingly smart folks worked on it as well. It is not related to the old Living Bible paraphrase so don't let anyone suggest it isn't a serious translation from the Hebrew and Greek.) The two study editions in this dual-core edition are the Life Application Study Bible (with its practical, useful insight) and the somewhat more scholarly NLT Study Bible.  The NLT Study Bible notes are, like most study Bibles, strong on good data, explanatory facts, background meanings, including cultural and literary insights. The Life Application notes, as I've suggested, are all about the daily living applications.  I love the timelines and inspirational overviews of each book of the Bible, making the practical Life App  a personal fav for study.  Combining it with the more studious NLT Study makes this big ol baby a spectacular resource.  Give this and they'll say "didn't see that coming!"  Why didn't somebody think of this sooner? Go here (look to the list on the left) to see the cover options and give us a call.

2A.jpgThe Spirituality of Bread and The
 Spirituality of Wine Boxed Se
Donna Sinclair & Tom Harpur (Northstone) $62.00  We have promoted this handsome series before, and customers enjoy admiring these warm, close-up pictures of wheat and grapes, of bread and wine; either one alone makes a lovely gift.  With the "spirituality of the ordinary" meditations ruminating on the glories of God's good gifts from the Earth, these are extraordinary volumes.  Put these two together in a boxed set and you not only have a gift that would make any foodie's eyeballs pop but you have an insinuation of Eucharist that witnesses to ultimate things.

sp of n.jpgThe Spirituality of Nature  Jim Kalnin (Northstone) $37.00  Already have the Bread or Wine ones in this voluptuous series? There is one on grandparents, one on pets, one on art, and this one, for instance, on the wonders of God's good creation. It is evocative and glorious (not terribly avant garde, just very, very nice photographs.)  These are not heavy-handed with pushy religion so wouldn't be off-putting to anyone, except maybe to those who don't believe that what the Bible itself declares: that the creation itself declares the glory of God.  How 'bout those Northern Lights on the cover? Soli Deo Gloria.

Awaken Your Senses.jpgAwaken Your Senses: Exercises for Exploring the Wonder of God  J. Brent Bill & Beth Booram (IVP) $15.00  I had a very early version of this and was so taken with it I told a few folks this summer that it will be one of the books of the year.  Alas, it arrived yesterday!  These two Quakers  walk us through an array of wonder-full meditations and experiences that combine a sensuous engagement with creational givens---taste, hearing, touch, smell, seeing---and ways these activities can help us know God.  There are two things going on here, it seems---helping us be attentive to the world around us, practicing a sensuous worldview and embodied sort of discipleship, and the ways in which this sort of attentiveness can facilitate a deeper relationship with God.  Beautiful! I'll bet you know somebody for whom this will be a godsend.  It'll wow 'em, for sure.  You might even couple it with one of the aforementioned Spirituality of... gift books.  By the way, I have read books by both of these authors, and both are wonderful writers, good souls, fine Christian leaders.  And that cover---you have to see it "for real."  Splendid.  Kudos, again, to InterVarsity Press.

FBTE.jpgFrom Beginning to End: Creation, The Ten Commandments, The Apostle's Creed, The Apocalypse  Anneke Kaai (Piquant Editions) $29.99  This hard-to-find art book is imported from Holland (and the cover doesn't do justice for the allusive, moody art that captures in color and tone so very, very much.)  The forward by Calvin Institute on Worship director John Witvliet notes how historic truths come alive through these large abstract paintings and can enhance our worship.

 Some may recall that Ms Kaai did a hardback edition of abstract paintings inspired by the text of the Psalms with Eugene Peterson. It was called The Psalms: An Artist's Impression (Piquant) We have some of those that are just a bit dinged up and slightly hurt---we will give one of those fabulous hardbacks of her abstract paintings coupled with Peterson's paraphrases with a purchase of From Beginning to End.  A great deal, and if you give them both, you'll really wow 'em.  Or keep one for yourself...
IoG.jpgImages of God for Young Children Marie-Helene Delval, illustrated by Barbara Nascimbeni (Eerdmans) $16.50  One of the more playfully artful children's books about God that we've seen in several years.  Each colorful scene explores a metaphor or image for God, all from the Bible.  I like the bold statement on the back cover: "It is impossible to know what God looks like.  But the Bible describes many other ways that God is revealed to us. God is joy and wisdom. God is light, and bread, and breath. We have seen God's face in Jesus Christ. This book uses simple language to hep young children discover these images of God in their world."

bssm.jpgBrother Sun, Sister Moon: Saint Francis of Assisi's Canticle of the Creatures  re-imagined by Katherine Paterson, illustrated by Pamela Dalton (Handprint Books/Chronicle Books) $17.99  You know of course the prayer of Saint Francis. And you know Saint Katherine, kid's author extraordinaire. You may not know Dalton, but she has decorated other books with her truly stunning Pennsylvania Dutch paper-cutting art of scherenschnitte which is a 16th century German/Swiss paper-cutting art.  On a striking black background she offers her intricate art with much to look at, much to notice, much to gush over.  Paterson's retelling of the classic celebration of creation is lovely.  What a gift this would be, new, unexpected, beautiful, true, and good.

on the I.jpgOn the Incarnation  Athanasius (St. Vladamir's Seminary Press) $15.00  You know somebody that wants to keep Christ in Christmas? This Greek dude said as much in the 3rd century. Okay, not really, but you get my point.  C.S. Lewis wrote the forward to this small classic, known as De Incarnatione Verbi Dei if you like your Latin.

I've wanted to give a shout out to a few Christmas and Advent albums we like, or that are new, or that may be a bit uncommon, that we still have in stock.  They can't unwrap a download under that tree or mistletoe, now can they?  We have plenty more, from the sexy Over the Rhine to the soothing oboe/guitar duo Tingstad & Rumble to the terminally cute new She & Him. I really like the new David Crowder (Oh the Joy), and a great duo called Martha's Trouble from a few years back.  Carolyn Arends Irrational Season is very special for a lot of reasons.  We've got choirs (including the new John Rutter), classical, jazz, bluegrass, black gospel, kids. Call if you want to ask about others.
CD My Favorite Gifts  various (Ramseur Records) $11.99 Organized by the bassist for the Avett Brothers, this holiday benefit album features The Wood Brothers, Jessica Lea Mayfield,  Overmountain Men, Jim Avett, David Mayfield, and more. Pretty rowdy and rural. One guy does a cover of Jackson Browne's The Rebel Jesus.

CelticChristmas_375.jpgCD  Celtic Christmas various (Putumayo) $14.98  Okay, our local customers know we often are playing celtic fiddle tunes or moody Irish anthems here in the shop.  We have lots of Celtic Christmas stuff, from Irish labels, from Windham Hill, etc.  This one is brand new and includes a dozen really fine players.  A few are renowned (Aine Minogue, Lasairfhiona Ni Chonaola) and a few I've not heard before.  And Dougie MacLean doing Auld Lang Syne? It reminds you why green is one of the Christmas colors.

CD Christmas Bruce Cockburn (Rounder) $18.99  I hope you saw my initial review of the amazing new book by Brian Walsh about Bruce Cockburn (Kicking at the Darkness: Bruce Cockburn and the Christian Imagination) which noted how fond I am of Cockburn's work.  I am so, so, so glad Cockburn's Christmas album is available again after a few mysterious years out of print. It is spared down, slow at times, joyfully rowdy at times, a truly enjoyable acoustic profoundly Christmas album.  Every season, year by year, I hear people say this is one of their all time favorite Christmas recordings. He sings one song in a rare Native language (The Huron Carol), another in French, a couple are Appalachian and a few are sweet instrumentals on his clear finger-picked guitar. Produced by T-Bone Burnett. 

CD Carole King: A Holiday Carole (Hear Music) $18.97  Pair it with the James Taylor Christmas and give it to your mom.  It's Carole King for crying out loud!

CD Christmastime: The Day a Child Appeared Larry Norman (Solid Rock) $14.95  If you don't know this Dylan-esque, thin-voiced Jesus rocker, or the old Randy Stonehill song Christmastime that leads off this album, skip it.  Although I'm saying that the Neil Young-ish version of The First Noel made me cry the first time I heard it.  The grandaddy of Christian rock. A pretty rare find.
CD The Dawn of Grace  Sixpence None the Richer (Nettwerk) $9.98  I loved Leigh Nash's lovely alt-acoustic remake of hymns that came out last month (I posted one on facebook over Thanksgiving) and that reminded me how cool she really is.  Then Pandora started playing this album and I realized we have it in stock.  Come on people, this is a great collection of original and traditional Christmas songs by the band that took their odd name from a C.S. Lewis line. Their rendition of Silent Night includes some very cool harmonies with Dan Haseltine of Jars of Clay.

CD Your King Has Come various (Detuned Radio) $16.00  This is collection by artists who have been known to play with Indelible Grace.  Derek Webb, Sandra McCracken Jill Philips, Andrew Osenga, Matthew Smith, Kathy Bowser, Matthew Perryman Jones, and more.  Acoustic guitars, accordians, violins, country-alt, singer-songwriter, authentic passion.  They care about these songs and bring them to new life without messing with them much.  Sweet.

CD Songs of Joy & Peace Yo-Yo Ma & Friends (Sony Classical) $13.99  You may know that world-famous cellist Yo-Yo has been slumming around, doing non-classical albums with all sorts of folks, CDs we like and stock. This one came out last year, with 25 tracks, cool collaborations with everybody from James Taylor doing Here Comes the Sun to mandolin master Chris Thile doing Improvisations on Dona Nobis Pacem, to jazz man Dave Brubeck (Concordia) and a number of international players, including some innovative classical Asian musicians. Very, very nice, good all winter long.
51LlBx1beRL._SL500_AA300_.jpgCD Fragile Incarnation Bill Carter and the Presbybop Quartet (Presbybop Music) $15.95 You aren't going to find this in many stores, but it is genuine jazz, very well done, a bit of mellow stuff, but mostly the real big deal.  Be-bop and more.  There are twelve smokin' instrumental jazz versions of standard carols/hymns and two originals, including Welcome Home, a song that I heard made Walt Brueggemann get all choked up.  This would make a great gift for jazz music lovers.  Combine it with his double disc set inspired by the Psalms and a trip to Iona, Psalms Psalms Without Words (Presbybop Music; $20.00) and you'll have good stuff to talk about for months. 
CD  Welcome Inn: A Phil Keaggy Christmas (Kingsway) $9.99  Some people will recall Keaggy as an early voice in contemporary Christian music, known by many as one of the best guitar players on the planet.  Here is a gentle, pop, holiday album, most originals with a few wonderfully-realized carols. A rare treat for old fans.

CD Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree various (Tooth & Mail/Solid State Records/SEC Recordings) $9.99  Head-banging, hard Christian rock from the premier label in that genre.  They do a Christmas anthology every year.  This year includes Christmas songs ramped up by Sent By Ravens, Anberlin, and Ivoryline and recent stand-by rockers August Burns Red, Thousand Foot Krutch, Demon Hunters and more. Some kid is gonna love you if you put this in his skateboarding sneaker.  Or a lovely little Christmas stocking, if he'll let you put on up.

CD Songs for Christmas Sufjan Stevens (Asthmatic Kitty ) $15.99 Words can't express how weirdly wonderful this hipster-approved boxed set of 5 CDs is.  Low fi, banjo band doing goofy Xmas songs and beautiful Advent pieces and hymns, some with horns. Listen to a few on Pandora and you'll want to own it. To give it will make you look either very weird or very cool.
CD What If Mozart Wrote "White Christmas"  The Northern Lights Orchestra (Perfect Sound) $18.97  Yep this is just what it sounds like, a collection of standard holiday songs done in a Mozartian style.  This is very, very fun.

                                                                How about this: give a hand-made voucher for any      forthcoming, not yet released title that we'll send 'em theStill.jpg week it releases?  You just make a little card, maybe cutting out a picture of the cover.

For instance, may we recommend Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis by Lauren Winner (HarperOne; $24.99) which releases the end of January.  For fans of one of our finest writers, this will be a moving look into Lauren's inner landscape, the themes of doubt and the absence of God, dealing with depression and a quest for a center still-point as she faced some painful losses.  She is a wonderfully talented writer that I will drop everything for, and many others will too.  Somebody will be grateful if you promise to get this for them.  If they are her fans--Girl Meets God, Mudhouse Sabbath, Real Sex-- they'd want you to get it from an indie store, too, so why not pre-order it from us, and make them a crafty little IOU.

Or, how about that hand made, personalized Hearts & Minds gift certificate that we invitedgift noel.jpg readers to enjoy giving last year.  Basically, you make your own tonight and give it to your loved one tomorrow.  Send us their name and the amount for which you'd like it be. Send us your cc at our secure website order form page and we'll record their gift certificate here as credit for their use at their convenience.  You do the design any way you want.  If it is really cool, you should send us a picture for fun.
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December 27, 2011

Peace on Earth. A handful of Biblical resources for living the Christmas story.

candle holding.jpg
It is always moving to me to hear at our Christmas eve services, the Isaiah prophecies, comeN9.Isaiah9.6.jpg true in Jesus.  We hear it in Handel's Messiah and we hear it in the other ancient texts we read as we prepare to hear the nativity story from the gospels.  Yes, indeed, Jesus is the One who brings peace.  Swords into plowshares.  Every army boot used in battle shall be burned up in the Lord's zeal. "No one will hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain."  And the angels, who we have reason to suspect were in on the cosmic implications of the unfolding story, sang "peace on Earth."  Good will to all.  Jesus is, indeed, the Prince of Peace.

We like this stuff, surely, unless we are filled with unbelief and scoff at the Lord's Holy Word.  But yet, some of us need to cry "Lord, I believe.  Help thou my unbelief."  I'm sure I'm not the only one who sometimes wonders: can the implications of this be lived out? Can we even imagine a faith that calls for not destroying our enemies, but our own implements of destruction?  Can we wish "good will" to everybody, including enemies?  Will we even pray for them, as Jesus commanded?  Can we do this in our personal lives, in family conflicts, at work, and at church?  An acquaintance of ours, Jeff Rosenau, wrote a very clear-headed and Bible-based book on "speaking the truth in love" and resolving conflicts in the precise manner the Bible teaches which we highly recommend. It's called When Christians Act Like Christians: God's Call to Christlike Civility (Accountability Ministries; $12.95) and carries a forward by conflict mediator trainer Ken Sande.

But the Isaiah passages and the angels song certainly imply more than just getting along with people who irritate you.  This is a big story, audacious promises of something that can only be called political, that effects the nations.   

I have long struggled with the Biblical teaching on war and peace, and the historic debates between those who think that some war is perhaps sadly necessary, and those who think that the gospel calls us to a posture and practice of nonviolence.  I've been glad that some on both sides of that discussion agree that---just like we heard from Isaiah, and from the Christmas angels (and in many of our best carols)---God is bringing peace, and we are called to be agents of reconciliation.  We are happiest when we are God's peacemakers; blessed Matthew calls it.  Catholic social teaching says we should give a preferential option for the poor.  Some of us think that, also, we should lean into a preferential option for peace.

So, in light of the Advent hopes, the Christmas readings, and those carols ringing still in our ears (I hope as you transitioned from Advent to Christmas you didn't put away those Christmas CDs as now is the time to ponder them deeply) here are just a few of our huge selection of books about God's shalom, peacemaking, violence and non-violence.  If these Scriptures that I trust you heard in the last few days are worming their way into your heart, start with one or two of these.  Or call us for others.  We have every imaginable perspective on the bigger topic, but for now, here are a few about the Biblical texts.  Tolle legge. Pax vobiscum.

story of god sou.gifStory of God, The Story of Us: Getting Lost and Found in the Bible Sean Gladding (IVP) $17.00   When studying any specific topic it is always wise to see it in its broadest Biblical framework and this creative book shows--with very colorful writing (and a pretty edgy little six session DVD curriculum)--reminds us that the whole Bible is an unfolding narrative including creation-covenant-freedom-descent-reconciliation and the like. God is bringing Christ's Kingship to bear, reconciling all things.  We get to play a part.  Being a blessed peacemaker is only one part of our calling, but if we don't know the big picture of the Bible, we won't take up our callings as we point to His redemptive work in the world.  Nice.  I'm hearing strains of Silent Night--that line that Christ brings "the dawn of redeeming grace."

sal means.gifSalvation Means Creation Healed: The Ecology of Sin and Grace Howard Synder & Joel Scandrett (Wipt & Stock) $31.00  I've promoted this handsome, over-sized book before, but think it a fine place to start to get at this topic of peacemaking.  Snyder & Scandrett insist that God created the world and has no intentions of destroying the works of his hands, that which God spoke into being.  No, in Christ, creation is healed, restored, regained, sin is defeated, not the goodness of God's realm.  Snyder is a Wesley scholar and offers serious explanation why we still find it hard to imagine this "new creation" vision. As many have explained, ideas that aren't consistent with the major teaching of the Bible (about heaven, for instance, or total destruction of the cosmos or a rapture) were introduced early to the church and we've mis-read the Bible on this hugely important cornerstone of a Christian worldview ever since.  If we don't think God is going to heal the planet, how will we ever get to think he could heal the enmity between tribes or nations?  Here is a PDF file of an article he wrote which gives you a quick sense of his approach in this important work.   Let heaven and nature sing, indeed!

rec all things.gifReconciling All Things: A Christian Vision for Justice, Peace and Healing  Emmanuel Katongole & Chris Rice (IVP) $15.00  The whole set of six books from the Center for Reconciliation at Duke Divinity School are all worth reading (they pair a scholar and practitioner on a variety of aspects of reconciliation.)  This is the first one in the series, setting up and providing Biblical warrant for their grand project that followers of Christ are to be busy reconciling folk in all sorts of ways.  This is such a solid, sweet, clear, good book, I wish every church had a study group on it.resources-reconciliation.jpg  (The others, include a study of weakness (including what we can learn from those with disabilities) called Living Gently in a Violent World by Stanley Hauerwas & Jean Vanier, a great book on forgiveness (with some stunning stories about gang violence and urban reconciliation) a book on racial justice by John Perkins and Charles Marsh, and a must-read on hospitality, friendship, and mutuality called Friendship in Mission.)  If Christ's incarnation begins a new era where sinners are redeemed and the divided are brought near (Ephesians 2:13-18) and a new people are formed, then these are the practices we must learn.

OT Ethics.gifOld Testament Ethics for the People of God  Christopher J.H. Wright (IVP) $30.00  I a glad this big tome was just released in paperback.  At over 500 pages it is, as one Cambridge reviewer said "truly a magnum opus."  John Goldingay notes that Wright "has been one of the most significant writers on Old Testament ethics in recent decades."  This opens up the ethical principles embedded in the Older Testament narratives by using a three-fold framework (theological, social, and economic.)  There is a broad spectrum of relevant texts (and contrasting opinions of their relevance and/or application) and Wright does a spectacular job navigating the rough wars.  Again, it seems to me that exploring peacemaking in the Bible must, by necessity, be seen as part of a broader social ethic, related to the whole counsel of God.  There is good stuff in here on politics and peace, justice and human rights and such, but it's strength is the big picture, the methodology, the helpful way it points us towards living faithfully as the people of God in a broken world.  "The chains shall he break for the slave is our brother, and in his name all oppression will cease."

neglected.gifNeglected Voices: Peace in the Old Testament  David Leiter (Herald Press) $16.99  Thank goodness for this kind of illuminating Biblical research on peace in the Hebrew Scriptures.  Too often we say that the Old Testament has wrath and war, but the New Testament is full of peace and love.  Not true (on either simplistic account.)  Yet, it is true that many simply haven't plumbed the depths of the seeds of peace in the Older Testament.  In this splendid work, Leiter shows four different sorts of peacemaking texts in the Old Testament, introducing us to several "ideologies" of peace.   As Sister Patricia McDonald (author of God and Violence, a book I reviewed years ago) writes, "Leiter opens up the Old Testament as a significant resource for those committed to making peace. (He) demonstrates that the theme of peace cuts across the literary genres of narrative, prophecy, legal texts, proverbs, and psalms, and offers an unexpected range of strategies for raising consciousness and posing questions about social justice." 

peace Bruegge.gifPeace (Understanding Biblical Themes) Walter Brueggemann (Chalice Press) $24.99  Published decades ago under the title Living Towards a Vision, this book is a collection of 16 chapters, grouped in four sections.  Part One is "A Vision of Shalom" followed by "A Vision of Freedom", "A Vision of Order" and "The Shalom Church."  Fascinating, evocative, beautiful, this is vintage preaching and Biblical exposition from one of the most interesting and generative Bible scholars of our generation.  He has a way with handling texts, relating them creatively, doing serious cultural background work, and saying it in evocative ways that simply is not matched.   It isn't a Christmas study, of course, but we know that hymn, don't we, that reminds us that  "His law is love and His gospel is peace."  Maybe this is a good study for after Christmas. 

laying dts.gifLaying Down the Sword: Why We Can't Ignore the Bible's Violent Verses Philip Jenkins (HarperOne) $26.99 This is a very new study, a careful analysis by a thoughtful, popular Episcopalian, who thinks it isn't finally helpful to ignore the violent texts of the Bible (or the Quran.)  But how do we deal with them?  I've reviewed this earlier and promoted it all around this fall.  It's good even if I may not have said everything the way he did.  This is not the final word, but it is an important contribution, by a very impressive scholar and churchman who is mostly known for his academic work on the multi-ethnic growth of the global church.  He's a historian, too, and knows that relative peace and proximate justice can be achieved. In his recent work Jenkins has traveled widely and seen all manner of goodness and all manner of gross mayhem all over the world, so he knows what is at stake.  Endorsed by a range of thinkers, from Islamic peacemaker Eboo Patel to mainline church scholar and social historian Diana Butler Bass to esteemed evangelical Bible scholar Ben Witherington.   

god bb.gifGod Behaving Badly: Is the God of the Old Testament Angry, Sexist and Racist?  David T. Lamb (IVP) $15.00  I gave this a big thumbs up when it first came out---folks I deeply respect (like Scot McKnight, John Goldingay, Alan Hirsch) raved about it and a number of young adults I know have told me that Lamb is the real deal.  He had a scholarly book on Oxford University Press, but here he takes his erudite thinking and offers pastoral wisdom and good insight, walking those with struggles through these very tough passages.  This is obviously very important, close to the concerns that Jenkins raises, and answered with evangelical thoughtfulness. Very nicely done.

c & v.gifChrist and Violence  Ronald J. Sider (Wipf & Stock) $15.00  When Herald Press first published this in the mid-70s, I reviewed it for Sojourners, and they paid me thirty bucks, I think.  I was hooked on reviewing, but the money and byline was only icing on the cake.  This thin volume is, to this day, one of my all-time favorite books, with Ron at his finest, making a clear case for an evangelical, cross-centered, Christ-glorifying, Biblically-wise, perspective on wholistic peacemaking.  He uses a bit from Romans 8 in one important chapter, and I simply cannot escape the implications of his vital apologetic for Biblical nonviolence.  Agree with Biblical pacifism or not, this is a book you should read.  How can you not if you sang that song - "Hail the Heaven-born Prince of Peace!"  To  "hail" is to exalt; to exalt Jesus is to learn all His ways--I hope you regular read a book about some aspect of the person and teaching and work and Kingdom of Jesus.

***KE.jpgKilling Enmity: Violence and the New Testament  Thomas R. Yoder Neufeld (Baker Academic) $22.99  For anyone studying peacemaking in the Bible, the quandaries are not only how to understand and interpret the violence of the Older Testament, but also in the Newer.  This new book is truly amazing, very learned, theologically rich and altogether rewarding.  You may not agree with all Neufeld writes but, as Andrew Lincoln (himself a renowned New Testament scholar) says, "Readers will find it an insightful and indispensable guide."  (I've read another important book of his, too, Recovering Jesus, and have browsed his commentary on Ephesians and assure you he is serious, provocative, compelling, and informed.  A good writer for this sort of thing, too.  Very highly recommended.) The cover art may not be clear enough here but it is a Christ-like crucifixion sculpture made by a Paraguayan artist who fashioned it out of real "shivs" given to Pastor Jonathan Beachy by the prisoners of a notorious prison upon their conversion to Christ and their being "conquered by divine love."

peace reader.gifA Peace Reader  edited by E. Morris Sider & Luke Keefer, Jr. (Evangel Publishing House) $14.95  Since I wanted this post to be mostly resources for Bible study, I wasn't sure if I should list this as the last half is mostly application stuff, good articles on everything from a consistently pro-life view of abortion (Ronald Sider) to how a reconciling peace witness would address racism (Spencer Perkins & Chris Rice) to working for peace in Northern Ireland (Ronald Wells.)  There are chapters about offering a peace witness in criminal justice, immigration issues, in the Middle East, amongst conflicted congregations, in how we deal with children's play.  But the whole first half is a strong set of various articles on an Anabaptist view of Bible texts (with several of the chapters written by professors at Messiah College, a Brethren in Christ college near here.) One need not be Brethren or Mennonite to appreciate this good insight about specific passages and Biblical themes.  Highly recommended, for clarity, insight, and multi-faceted application, and a ton of good stories, from international Christians as diverse as Miroslov Volf, E. Stanley Jones, and Mitsua Fuchida. This is a very accessible book and a good look at the call to Godly peacemaking.

Christian-Peace-and-Nonviolence.jpgChristian Peace and Nonviolence: A Documentary History Michael Long (Orbis) $40.00  This is nearly magisterial in scope, offering a reader a collection of primary sources on the topic unlike any I've seen.  This collects excerpts of peacemaking exegesis, sermons, speeches, letters, and essays by folks throughout all of church history.  We've got other anthologies about nonviolence, and some are quite interesting, but this one is extraordinary.  Here is what the publisher says: "From the Sermon on the Mount to the twenty-first century, this comprehensive reader recounts the Christian message of peace and nonviolence."

Author Mike Long is a professor at Elizabethtown College and deserves many thanks for finding and annotating all these ancient sources (and for keeping the text clean and concise.)  Christian Peace and Nonviolence has excerpts of testimonies by the confessors and martyrs of the early church --you know some of these names like Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Cyprian, Basil of Ceasaria, and Benedict of Nursia, tomartin of t.jpg name just a few.  It offers pieces by medieval figures like St. Benedict and St. Francis, and Erasmus, and offers some of the famous "Truce of God" documents from the 9th and 10th centuries, which are more significant than many people realize.  It naturally offers writings of several Anabaptists (for instance, Conrad Grebel's letter to Muntzer, and Menno Simon's defense of the false charges made against him.)  As the book moves into the modern period, starting with the 1600's, there are letters from George Fox and the under-appreciated William Penn, and other Quaker abolitionists.  And you will be moved to read Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth.

It is fascinating (and important for many BookNote readers, I'd guess) to see the writings of revivalists and early evangelicals like Alexander Campbell, D. L. Moody, Joshua Blanchard, Charles Spurgeon (yes!) and other early twentieth century witnesses.  It records the little known early anti-war documents of the Assembly of God (whose earliest days were pacifist!) The diversity of writers in the middle of the 20th century go from the likes of African American contemplative Howard Thurman to Ammon Hennacy (Dorothy Day's mentor) to Andre Trocme (do you know the book Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed which is about him and his German congregation who sheltered Jews from Nazis persecution?) and so many more, most of which are thrilling to read and quite eloquent. (Some are important pieces often anthologized such as A. J. Muste's letter to Reinhold Niebuhr.)  Many of those who are more contemporary provide a litany of tmany who have been important voices in my life, from Shelly Douglas, Jim Forest, Phil Berrigan, Richard McSorley and Oscar Romero, and those who influenced them, like William Stringfellow and Thomas Merton and Jacques Ellul. There are other anti-war Catholics like John Dear and Eileen Egan. Happily there are pieces by evangelical friends like Ron Sider, Don Kraybill, and Glen Stassen.  There are some quirky pieces, like former fundamentalist like Mel White's passionate letter to his old friend Jerry Falwell about gay rights, and some recent theological radicals like Carter Hayward.  There are historic 20th century leaders like Martin Luther King and Pope John Paul XXIII. 

The hope in Christian Peace and Nonviolence, is to show a coherent story in which the peace message of Jesus is restored to a central place, documenting that this is not a minor concern in church history or only the fetish of the few. This is an amazing resource, showing the weird and diverse voices from many corners of the Christian community, who, in one way or another agree: to follow Jesus to to be an agent of His love, which puts us at odds with violence of all sorts, including the machinations of the war-making state and empires that threaten to the the shalom of the common good.  Something like "the hopes and fears of all the years..."

Dear readers friends, sisters and brothers, I don't know how the songs of peace, including some specific anti-war notes, can be missed in nearly any church that reads the classic Christmas texts or sings the carols.  There are other texts and other Biblical stories, I know.  But over the last days and nights, we have heard these.  Do we hear them as true, as good news?  As authoritative?  Did they capture your imagination, stimulate your mind, break your heart?  If so, maybe these books might help.
jesus hammering.jpg

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December 30, 2011

Favorite Book Covers in Christian publishing: kudos for good design

I've enjoyed several fun lists of the best book covers of the year. (Go ahead and Google it and you'll see lots of quirky lists and cool covers.  Of course the biography of Jobs. A few artfully designed book jackets for important novels. What's with that Tina Fey cover, eh?)

Most of us who sell books know that a good--or mediocre, or bad--cover can make or break a book's success.  And, of course, there are those of us who believe that God cares about good design (see, oh, for instance, Rainbows for the Fallen World by Calvin Seerveld [Toronto Tuppence; $25.00], or any of the dozens of other books we have about aesthetics and creativity and beauty and such.)  Nice covers--and the design of pages, spine, heft and texture-- can enhance the reading experience but a book doesn't get a chance to charm if it isn't picked up.  A nice cover may lure the hapless bookshelf browser to select a title in the first place. If you like this kind of stuff, we stock a book from a few years ago that looks at a few book covers, church brochures, bulletin covers, ministry publications, choir music folios, church signs, para-church flyers, religious magazines, and all kinds of really great graphic design work.  Our friend, Square Halo honcho, Ned Bustard, had a piece chosen to be shown in it. See Graphic Design and Religion: A Call for Renewal by Daniel Kantor (GIA Publication; $39.95.)

It's hard for those of us not schooled in design to even know what to look for when offering acclaim about attractive, artful bookcovers.  So these choices are just my guess, and not at all comprehensive.  Not "the" best, just a bunch that I thought did the job well.

By the way, I don't think the norms or principles for a book jacket design are the same as for any painting or picture.  That is, a good art piece may be fabulous, but not work as a book cover. Some of the prizes for best cover go to pieces that seem like very good art, but not so good as book jackets.  And don't even get me started about typography and fonts, a topic about which there are some very cool books. 

It is complicated for me to think about cover art and back jacket design apart from the context of whether or not I like the book.  But, for now, the book's content or writing quality isn't quite pertinent (except insofar as the design of the book must allude to or evoke something of the substance of the book, right?)  I do not, though, show here any books we despise or disapprove of and most are actually pretty great.  A great cover, finally, can't redeem a bad book.

Lastly, I've chosen non-fiction books mostly from religious publishers; some faith-based publishers are still way behind their general market counterparts and some are down-right scholocky.  (At least they aren't as bad as the notoriously goofy new age and metaphysical marketplace which are often just laughable!)  I am sure others have given honors to books in the Christian market, but I've not seen any such lists.  So here are a few from mostly Christian publishers in no particular order, taken from our Dallastown shop shelves.  What do you think?

Of course, if you want to decorate your loft with cool looking books, give us a holler. We appreciate your support.

!1.gifA Kingdom Called Desire: Confronted by the Love of a Risen King  Rick McKinley (Zondervan) $14.99  cover design by Aaron James, The Math Department.  I wish you could see the back cover where the black magic mark underlines and crosses out stuff in stark scribble.   Is there some hipster modern artist doing this kind of stuff?  Very cool, although not everyone seems to think so.

sects love.gifSects, Love, and Rock & Roll: My Life on Record (Cascade) $23.00 cover design by Jim Tedrick  If you've ever held black vinyl, you know how great this is.

!!1.gifYour Neighbor's Hymnal  Jeffrey F. Keuss (Cascade) $17.00 cover design by M Stock Another music themed book from the same publisher, the plain but expansive red of the sleek couch, the hardwood floor, the lower case font, the extension of his arm.  The back cover is a bit busy, but the front, well, it rocks.

surprised by laughter.gifSurprised By Laughter: The Comic World of C.S. Lewis  Terry Lindvall (Nelson) $16.99 cover design by Charles Brock, Faceout Studio I think the scribbled title might be a bit too bold, but the muzzy and goatee on old C.S. is just perfect.  No, it does not make him look like Salvador Dali, but it is good of you to wonder.  There was an earlier edition of this out years ago (and they lose points for not noting that anywhere!) and that cover wasn't funny at all.  Yippee.

Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help
Robert Lupton (HarperOne) $22.95
Theirs is the Kingdom: Celebrating the Gospel in Urban America  Robert Lupton (HarperOne) $13.99 covers designed by Gia Giasullo.

 I love it when publishers re-issue an older book with a new cover that somehow matches the newer one. The yellow and the strips tie these together, and I love them both.  The unique vantage point of the camera capturing the drum circle on the older one relays energy and urban movement.  The b/w piciture of the cross hanging from the dashboard on the hardback cover of the new Toxic Charity is somehow ominous.  If this doesn't win awards, I don't know what should.

!!!.gifIr-rev-rend: Christianity Without the Pretense. Faith Without the Facade  Greg Surratt (FaithWords) $19.99 cover designed by Gearbox   If you don't know these old wooden boards in traditional churches you may not get it, but I thought it was pretty clever...

!!!!.gifAwaken Your Sense: Exercises for Exploring the Wonder of God  J. Brent Bill & Beth A. Booram (IVP) $15.00 cover design by Cindy Kiple  I am a sucker for warm Earth tones, but the extra touches in this--showing the thorn, the bite out of the pear--make it extra interesting.  Nice touches on the back, too, making it a delight to view.  As it should be.

!!!!!!.gifAbundant Simplicity: Discovering the Unhurried Rhythms of Grace Jan Johnson (IVP) $15.00 cover design by CIndy Kiple  A perfect use of a clean font and two gentle hues on the print.  And that exquisite swan, so naturally centered.  This wonderful design matches the book so well.  

flunking sainthood small.gifFlunking Sainthood: A Year of Breaking the Sabbath, Forgetting to Pray, and Still Loving My Neighbor (Paraclete Press) $16.99  cover design by IHS Designs  One of my favorite books this year and you get the idea perfectly from the cover (at least if you've know what a typewriter is and how old-school corrections worked, ink hand-scribbled over the typing paper.)  The hilarity continues a bit on the back, too.  Love it.

work matters small.gifWork Matters: Connecting Sunday Worship to Monday Work  Tom Nelson (Crossway) $15.99 cover design by Tobias' Outerwear for Books  Well, this effort could have flopped but I think they pulled it off.  Clean, intriguing, making the point. The light green of the authors name pulls it together, too... Do you like?

!!!!!!!.gifThe Cross and the Lynching Tree James Cone (Orbis) $28.00 cover design by Valentin Concha-Nunez  The designer also did the actual art that shows the cross in the shadow of the tree, making a stark and notable statement about the book's claim.  The dust-jacket's flaps are adorned with elegant quotes and there is a classic photo of Dr. Cone on the back, offering a traditional look that works wells for this esteemed if provocative scholar.  

!!!!!!!!.gifA Place at the Table: 40 Days of Solidarity with the Poor  Chris Seay (Baker) $13.99 cover design by Jay Smith-Juicebox Designs  The hand-lettering by Kristi Smith is brilliant.  The soft beige and blue hues, the hand-lettered font continued a bit on the back, it all works for a very contemporary feel.  The DVD cover art matches, too. 

!!!!!!!!!.gifA Year of Plenty: One Suburban Family, Four Rules, and 365 Days of Homegrown Adventure in Pursuit of Christian Living  Craig L. Goodwin  (Sparkhouse) $12.95  cover design by Alisha Lofgren The best use of color of any book about basic Christian growth we've seen in years.  I guess it isn't hard when you have a close up of a rooster, vibrant wildflowers, and a sweet kid holding giant vegetables.  Spectacular. 

!!!!!!!!!!.gifI Am Second: Real Stories. Changing Lives Doug Bender & Dave Sterrett (Thomas Nelson) $19.99 cover design by Thomas Nelson Inc.  White on white is a bit risky, but it worked.  The inside of the hardback covers show bunches of quite striking photo portraits, and there are some interestingly posed photos throughout, making this a very handsome package, just the right weight and feel and look.  The honest and raw stories needed extra visuals; well-done.

wisdom and wonder small.gifWisdom & Wonder: Common Grace in Science and Art Abraham Kuyper (Christian's Library Press) $14.99  cover design by Brandon Hill  Most heavy theology books (especially from a hundred years ago)  aren't that artfully designed and I've noted in each of my reviews of this historic release that it is, indeed, an allusive delight.  You have to look closely, but the dirt under the tree has an (upside down) urban skyline.  Are the potentialities that have allowed us to create culture grounded (in seed form) in the goodness of the very creation God made?  A beautiful, suggestive image of a key Bible doctrine opened up by the Dutch neo-Calvinist.   The image continues on the back, the font is clean--I love the fluid ampersand between the crisp words.  And why are the leaves blowing from the tree?  Kudos to everyone involved in making this obscure but important work available in such a pleasant, aesthetically-pleasing way.  I've heard they've done a hardback edition as well, which I haven't seen.

!!!!!!!!!!!!.gifMud & Poetry: Love, Sex, and the Sacred Tyler Blanski (Fresh Air Books) $16.95 cover design by Left Coast Design  Okay, the coffee spills and rings have been done before, but this messy cover works so well; it would have been too obvious to use mud.  Good mix of upper case/lower case lettering. The visual tone is a bit bohemian and moody, which, of course, is as it must be.  Very cool.  The skyscape is Minneapolis, by the way.

!!!!!!!!!!!!!.gifNaked Surrender: Coming Home To Our True Sexuality Andrew Comiskey (IVP) $16.00 cover design by Cindy Kiple  Comiskey works for Desert Stream Ministries and offers a Biblically-grounded, conservative vision of healing sexual brokenness and pain.  Some may find this a bit too stark, but the type design and white space and b/w photo make this very striking. Strong and artistic b/w photos on the back, too, tie this together as an excellent cover. I wonder if they worried that it was too sensual?

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!.gifThe Grace Effect: How the Power of One Life Can Reverse the Corruption of Unbelief Larry Alex Taunton (Nelson) $16.99 cover designed by Thomas Nelson Inc.  This is a fairly traditional design but the upward sweep and shadows and the perfect contrast of the deep orange creates a mature, classic look. 

tutu small.gifTutu Authorized Alister Sparks & Hpho Tutu (HarperOne) $29.99 cover design by Cameron Gibb  We all know that the estimable, smiling Archbishop is famously photogenic, but this shot knocks me out.  There is a picture of him dancing on the spine, and one of him in prayer with a Bible on the back, but this close up is so striking.  Glad they kept the text sparse.

winter light.gifWinter Light: A Christians Search for Humility  Bruce Ray Smith (Kalos Press) $12.95 David Bedsole  This under-stated, warm, cover uses light calligraphy in a way that really works---not every calligraphed cover works so well!  Even their logo on the back enhances the cover.  This paperback was made with that slightly waxy stock, thick ink, making it so nice to hold.  Is the top half a very close up of ice crystals?  I think.  Kudos to a new, indie press, committed to excellence.

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!.gifShaped By God: Twelve Essentials for Nurturing Faith in Children, Youth and Adults edited by Robert J. Keeley   Note the collage of words (as if from newsprint, or Sunday School worksheets or Bible pages) that form the watering can and sprinkle out.  In lesser hands it could have been cheesy, but I think this is artful without being didactic or clumsy.  I wish you could see it up close. Very creative.

!11.gifHell Is Real (But I Hate to Admit It) Brian Jones (Cook) $14.99 cover design by JWH Graphic Arts  It's been done on album covers and ads and I'm sure bunches of horror books, which works, here, eh? Not too many words and nothing else, but... that red arrow sets it off, I think, and the red comes in to play on the back. Is it the devil's tail? 

words made fresh small.gifWords Made Fresh: Essays on Literature & Culture  Larry Woiwode (Crossway) $24.99 cover design by Gearbox Studio  When I gave this a rave review in an September BookNotes I hinted that it seemed almost too good for a Mid-Western religious publisher as it could have easily worked on any of the top-shelf literary houses from New York.  The cover design, also, stand head and shoulders above typical evangelical books and Crossway obviously went the extra mile with some whimsy and yet small touches of collage.  The dust-jacket is on a high quality, heavy, textured stock; if only it had deckle edged pages.  Double kudos.

bloodlines small.gifBloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian  John Piper (Crossway) $22.99 cover design by Josh Dennis  I think this is  one of the most striking covers in years!  The smooth texture, the red line, extended around the back.  The nearly painful gravitas of the topic demanded a serious look, and this excels.


make college count small.gifMake College Count: A Faithful Guide to Life & Learning  Derek Melleby (Baker) $12.99 cover design by Lookout Design  You know that we've promoted this widely, our store and BookNotes gets a shout out, and we think it is the best graduation gift to any college-bound senior.  We had read the manuscript and knew it we'd be pressing it into the hands of many, so it had to look sharp.  This little hardback, sans dust jacket, succeeds wonderfully, with odd little plus signs and a rich fall color scheme that invites you right on campus.  The typography uses slightly different colors (and that plus sign is used as an ampersand.)  These nice touches  and the bright spine shows off a very intentionally created cover.  Good design inside, too.  Just great!

Jesus My Father small.gifJesus, My Father, the CIA and Me: A Memoir... of Sorts  Ian Cron (Nelson) $15.99 cover design by Christopher Tobias  It is risky to use a photo by the author of a book, but here it is essential: the wonderfully-written prelude is a moody and somewhat mysterious meditation on the old Polaroid.  This is one of the years best books and after reading the first few pages you won't imagine the book with any other cover.  The red is nice little touch that makes it pop, as they say.  Top notch.

Falling.gifFalling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life Richard Rohr (Jossy Bass) $19.95 cover design by Rule 29  The clean lines of the simple chairs and table, placed interestingly, the earth tones, the smaller chunky size for a hardback make this one of the most handsome books of the year. Look how the subtitle is positioned between the two words of the title.  I love the look, the feel, the way it invites you to the gentle spirituality this Franciscan author offers.  Very nicely done.

!!!111.gifFaith and Culture: A Guide to a Culture Shaped by Faith edited by Kelly Monroe Kulllberg & Lael Arrington (Zondervan) $14.99 cover design by Extra Credit Projects  I raved about this when it was out in hardcover, with a slightly different title (they pitched it as a devotional -- God bless 'em for trying) and a less splashy look. Sorry about the pun.  Just look at that cover!  A fabulous young design, fun and alluring (The splashing paint seems thick and liquid up close, the title situated vertically is a great call.)  If the previous "devotional" sub-title didn't bring in the right readers, let us pray that this does.  A great effort at repackaging a great book.

math.gifMathematics Through the Eyes of Faith  James Bradley and Russell Howell (Harper) $19.99  cover design by Stefan Gutermuth   A profound, readable book on how religious commitments effect the ways we consider math, the philosophy of science, knowing, numbers and such---how in the world to you design a cover that isn't blandly plain or overtly obvious (a page of numbers and equations?) An abacus!  Give these guys a medal of honor: it's the best shot of an abacus I've ever seen, making this fresh, and yet tied in to the design format of the other Through the Eyes of Faith series. 


Public faith small.gifA Public Faith: How Followers of Christ Should Serve the Common Good  Miroslav Volf (Brazos) $21.99  I wished the good folks at Brazos would have credited the designer;  the use of the stunning photo of a sea of candles (FrancePhotos--Homer Sykes/Alamy) fits so well, and coupled with the large type font, creates a very fine cover.  Granted, this is fairly standard design and was reluctant to show it here, but I keep enjoying it, happy to display it, not only because it may be the book of the year, but because of this great, appealing cover design.  Am I just a sucker for candles, or is this really a very beautiful jacket?  (By the way, this on-line copy doesn't do it justice...sorry. It really is stunning.)

!!!11111.gifRed Like Blood: Confrontations with Grace Joe Coffey & Bob Bevington (Shepherd Press) $13.95   I love the choice of font, the crisp typography, but different weight, over the slightly swirly red. I've seen the swirly, diffused color thing done before, but rarely to such good effect.  A brighter shade blood, of course, would have been needlessly gruesome...well done.

1 life.jpgOne.Life: Jesus Calls We Follow Scot McKnight (Zondervan) $14.99 cover design by Curt Diepenhorst  The moment I saw this I was struck; it feels so sleek and modern, with that period there and the terse subtitles.  Very hip.  And the book is pretty darn great, too.  Makes a perfect gift for any younger Christian concerned about vocation, discipleship, the integration of faith and life.  One-Life.  Get it?  The dot is just a little bit of extra awesomeness.

!!11.jpgPlowing in Hope: Toward a Biblical Theology of Culture  David Bruce Hegeman (Canon Press) $12.00 cover design by David Dalbey  This second edition of a long-time fav is a bit whimsical (on the back there is a Brussels sprout on a Greco-Roman pedestal) and the close up of a picture frame and a shovel is nicely suggestive.  The white space inside the frame was a risk, and is very cool.

!!111.gifSurprised By Oxford: A Memoir  Carolyn Weber (Nelson) $16.99 cover design by Christopher Tobias This story of Weber's important time at Oxford could be have imaged in up close cheesiness of a professors stern look or they could have gone big with the building, all turret and spires and wrought iron. The expansive use of sky strikes me as a classy design (although the early version didn't have the endorsing blurb up there.  Shoulda put it the back) and the french folds give the paperback an elegant feel.

contemplative-vision-guide-christian-art-prayer-juliet-benner-paperback-cover-art.jpgContemplative Vision: A Guide to Christian Art & Prayer Juliet Benner (IVP) $17.00 cover design by Cindy Kiple I told myself that using art books isn't quite fair but then I noticed how many that use wonderful, classic art still somehow fall short.  The font, the color, the design or angle of text and how it is placed near or over  the visual all matters so much.  This just works.  A lovely book, with full color inside, to match the luminous gentle writing.  A treat to behold.

464658.gifRecovering the Real Lost Gospel: Reclaiming the Gospel as Good News  Darrell L. Bock (Broadman Academic) $16.99  cover design uncredited This publisher has some real doozies, and, like most academic publishers, lots of bland stuff. But several are great. This is one of the most striking ones in their catalog.  The lime green books could have been lined up evenly, all the same size.  The Bible could have been too worn. They all could have had antiquarian leather covers.  What could have been a cliche is serious, classy, and just a bit surprising.  Well done.


It is hard to beat the very sleek and modern design (and the very well done staging and filming and the extraordinarily important content) of The Prodigal God DVD by TIm Keller, which should have been given awards galore last year.

This package, though, is creative and allusive and very well designed, I think, don't you?
!!111111.gifDVD Stuck  Jennie Allen (Zondervan) box set $39.99
DVD Stuck Participants Guide (Zondervan)  $9.99


Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City used to be one of the most fuddy-duddy-looking, old school publishers around, reflecting their pietistic, Nazarene tradition. They have kept their Wesleyan heritage but have entered the 21st century with such pizazz that nearly every new release in the last few years has had a keen look.  Their catalog that shows forthcoming titles is itself a work of art.  Their radical youth division, Bare Foot (who publish the journal immerse) and their House Studio have done edgy, provocative pieces too. Their DVD packages of Shane Claiborne (The Economy of Love), Stanley Hauerwas (Sunday Asylum) and Walter Brueggemann (The Psalmist's Cry) are stylistically postmodern and!!1111111.gif nearly disorienting to many viewers over 50.  Their participants guides are full color and graphically over-the-top. For attention to contemporary design, they deserve some attention from somebody more important than we.  I hope you don't mind me using my friend Steve Lutz's book on campus ministry as an example of a recent title.  What's with the scribble you say?  If you have to ask, you may need the book more than you know.


We.jpgThis is a hard category to discuss as there are so many pieces created every season by many companies.  Most are pretty extravagant, a few quite cool.  I love, though, this corrugated cardboard look with red ink and the clean logo and thematic approach throughout this big boxed set, the workbook, posters and DVD cases (even a hand stamp.)  They invite you to "gather the whole church around the whole story" as they introduce a faith nurturing experience for the entire church family.

We (Faith Alive) $149.00  Sorry, I couldn't on short notice determine who designed this; some of the Christian Reformed Church stuff is very classy, and I apologize for not offering due credit to artists and graphic designers behind this kit.  Check it all out at wecurriculum.org.  Do let us know if we can help you understand it further -- the content is very good, but for now, I'm wishing I could show you the cool cardboard look of the whole project.

I was taken by one of these strong, creative designs when I ordered it;  the other had a different design, and I ordered it, too.  Both are great authors.  When they both arrived from the same publisher, the very same day, I had to scratch my head. They have different designers, but one of them had a cover design change from what was initially shown.  Somebody ought to get spanked, I'd say.  But here's the thing: these are both tremendously written, great, great, (unrelated) books and you should own them.  Give one away if it freaks you out.@@@@.gif Or is it just me? 



I called the publisher to complain about the cover of Erasing Hell, a quickly released book against Rob Bell, in what I took as a blatant, cheesy allusion to an earlier Rob Bell book, Jesus Wants to Save Christians.  I really trust the well-respected editor who pleaded ignorance, but I suspect the design team knew exactly what they were doing.  Hmmm. Homage? Mean-spirited? Clever? Dumb? Freudian slip?  Who knows?


I love the fashion-plate colors, the TULIP joke (the acronym for the so-called "five points of Calvinism") and the clean, uniform (but slightly different) companion editions thing that's going on. Very fresh (especially given the dense content.)  What's wrong with a great concept? I think that the drooped tulips on Against... just aren't eye catching and more than one person thought it seemed somehow biased.  What do you think?

A cool photo, a nifty idea and a heckuva good bit of writing, but somehow this fell flat.  Maybe!!!2.gif if the sign had a hand-scrawled  look---hasn't the designer ever been to a real protest before?   That the placard seems photo-shopped in doesn't help, either.  Sigh.  This book means a lot to me, though; we really recommended it when it first came out.  And the cover is a clever idea...anyway, still highly recommended.


!!!1111.gifTweet If You "Heart" Jesus: Practicing Church in the Digital Reformation  Elizabeth Drescher (Morehouse Publications) $20.00
Really?  They couldn't even use the image of a real smart phone?  And they had to use the "heart" emoticon, as if it were a 11 year old girl on myspace?  They deserve credit for trying, messing with the standard format of a cover, but look: this is a remarkably serious book (and I'm glad they didn't want it to look boring, since it is not.) But is anybody with an ipad who is half-way serious about blogging or using the twitter platform going to take this seriously? I've been mocked all fall taking it to gigs where even old people rolled their eyes.  (If you are under 30, I'd bet you wouldn't even pick it up, presuming it is goofy.)  Yet, this is very thoughtful book, believe it or not, by a serious, good writer, who, I would guess, wouldn't "heart" Jesus for a hundred bucks. She might pray the hours on line and study semiotic theory as it relates to virtual community... let's hope they repackage this, and soon.

Well, I do believe there are norms and principles for aesthetics so beauty is not "in the eye of the beholder."  But, let's face it, this is pretty subjective stuff, and I share these choices--I could have shown others that struck our fancy-- as a bookseller, not an design expert or artist.  I do have opinions, though, as others do as well.  Here are the winners the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association award, and I am unconvinced about one, think another is terrible, and the third, Joel Salatin's award-winning funny one with a chicken and giant egg, sorta creeps me out which maybe is as it should be.  Folks, This Ain't Normal is one of the best books of the year, no matter if you like the cover or not.  Go figure.

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Hearts & Minds 234 East Main Street  Dallastown, PA  17313     717-246-3333