Yep, here is the annual better late than never last minute shopping guide where we suggest unique books for that person who has everything. Or has very specialized tastes. See, I am in true solidarity with all you last minute shoppers. I've wanted to get this list up for a week, but all manner of nutty scheduling stuff just... well, enough excuses. You understand.
We can ship these out (while in store supplies last) right away. Shipping to the mid-Atlantic takes maybe 2 days. Other parts of the country can pay for expedited delivery (sorry, that is rather expensive, but we can do even next day air if you'd like.) Just let us know how we can help. We've got all hands on deck here, eager to serve.
By the way, we can send things directly to your loved on, gift wrapped (for free.) Of course we do this all year 'round, but we can tuck in a little card saying the gift is from you. Just let us know what to say on your behalf. (Putting that in the "shipping instructions" is fine... or after you list the books at our order form page. We'll see it for sure -- we've got humans involved here, not automated gizmos.)
Let's do this.
FOR THE WENDELL BERRY FAN
CD Celebrating Wendell Berry in Music Andrew Maxfield, Eric Bibb, and Wendell Berry (Yalecrest) $30.00 I could go on and on about this, but here's the skinny: this lovely boxed set includes one CD which is a choral piece inspired by Berry's lyrics. The next CD is of the young African American acoustic blues guy, from Kentucky, doing songs inspired by Berry and his writing. And the third CD is Mr. Wendell Berry, reading his own poems. Go to www.wendleberrymusic.org to learn a bit more. Get 'em ordered right away -- this will make an awesome gift that will surprise and delight. It is, in many ways, the coolest thing we've discovered all year. And hardly anybody knows about it. What a great gift idea!
(By the way, I am assuming you have given Berry books before, that you have Berry fans, and that you've exhausted the poetry, essays, short stories, and novels of this great man of American letters. If not, give us a holler and we'll tell you where to begin.)
FOR EVERY PASTOR YOU KNOW (THAT YOU HAVE ANY REASON WHATSOEVER TO GIVE THEM A GIFT)
Reading for Preaching: The Preacher in Conversation with Storytellers, Biographers, Poets and Journalists Cornelius Plantinga, Jr. (Eerdmans) $14.00 I hope you you saw my rave review of this a week ago -- I couldn't be more sincere to say this is one of the best books I've read for clergy in ages and ages. It is eloquent, insightful, funny, and will rekindle a spark by inviting them to do good work (especially in the pulpit) by reading good books. If you love books, if you long for more literate, thoughtful, wise and powerfully-crafted Sunday messages, I am sure this book will help. And they will love it -- it is very new, but getting some nice press. Did I say I raved about it in a previous BookNotes? You know what to do. If you are a real book lover and like thinking about how literature impacts us, get one for yourself. I'm not exaggerating, this splendid for pastors, but good for any of use book geeks. You know some don't you? Come on, make their season bright!
FOR THE PHOTOGRAPHY FAN or DIE-HARD NEW YORKER
Humans of New York Brandon Stanton (St. Martin's Press) $29.99 Again, the backstory here is thrilling and the reviews have been rave, but the short version is simply that this cool photographer has been taking impromptu portraits of New Yorkers on an amazing blog he created that has already touched millions around the world. I said this is good for die-hard New Yorkers. I think it might be a nice gift for any die-hard lover of the human race. It features exclusive new portraits and stories and I promise you will have hours and hours of delight (and perhaps concern and empathy and joy) beholding these vivid, amazing shots.
Go here to see how wonderful this is, and imagine who might appreciate getting this nice book under their tree.
FOR THE INQUISITIVE WORLDVIEW THINKER, CULTURAL CRITIC, SAVVY APOLOGIST
Is Reality Secular? Testing the Assumptions of Four Global Worldviews Mary Poplin (Veritas Books/IVP) $18.00 With a foreword by the late Christian philosopher and spiritual formation guide, Dallas Willard, you know this will be substantive and important. Veritas does the most thoughtful books offering evangelical thinking to the modern academy (and anyone who appreciates clear, intellectually mature, compelling books about the intellectual basis of Christianity.) You hopefully know Ms Poplin's amazing memoir Finding Calcutta in which Mother Teresa recommends that she not stay serving the poor in India but rather that she go back to her work in higher education, finding the lost and hurting there. Poplin is passionate about making a credible witness among her secularized peers in the university and is also passionate about helping students navigate life's thorny questions. This is the amazing, thorough, nuanced and richly detailed account of how naturalism secular humanism, pantheism and Judeo-Christian theism compare. She is convinced that "at the root of our deepest political and cultural divisions are conflicting principles of four global worldviews..." This is brand new, and you'll be hearing more about it in the new year, I'm sure.
FOR ANYONE WHO LIKES TO TRAVEL (OR THINKS ABOUT CHRISTIAN SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY IN THE GLOBAL CONTEXT)
Wild and Wonderful: Tourism, Faith and Communities Stan L. LeQuire and Chantelle du Plessis (Resource Publication) $19.00 Now this will be a surprise gift -- who knew there even was a book like this, let alone one that is so well done?? Stan LeQuire is an old pal, a guy who has worked admirably for years on sustainable development issues, creation care, and evangelical environmental networking. He is now at Eastern University and in this book he explores ecologically-influenced, wise tourism, what we mean by ethical travel, and how we can help the poor of the third world by culturally-sensitive, environmentally sustainable economic development. Some sort of joke about eco-tourism as if it is some quirky fad, but reading this moving book you will see that getting to really know indigenous peoples and their lifestyle practices is an amazing way to learn. Blurbs on the back of this new book are from the Executive Director of A Rocha, Tony Campolo (who is renowned for his educational work in Haiti), Nancy Sleeth, and Ron Sider. Sider writes, "This delightful, carefully researched book tells encouraging stories and offers helpful analysis on how to expand and improve this exciting, important development." Ron is right, this almost sounds "too good to be true." What a great idea, and what a fantastic little book, telling all about it. It will make a very special gift for anyone who travels, leads mission trips, or is interested in global justice. Stan's co-author, by the way, is a South African who lives in Bogota Columbia. With Andres Umana, she owns and operates the tourism business Andres Ecotours.
FOR THOSE INTERESTED IN (OR WANTING TO GIVE A GIFT TO) HOSPICE WORKERS OR THOSE WHO WORK IN END OF LIFE ISSUES
Hospice Voices: Lessons for Living at the End of Life Eric Lindner (Rowman & Littlefield) $22.95 This new hardback has gotten exceptional reviews and we are glad to suggest it. The author is a part-time hospice volunteer so he provides companion care to dying strangers. In each chapter he reveals the lessons he learned of lives explored in their final days. He says he's "just a volunteer lending a hand" but he is one great storyteller. Another who knows or loves someone working through end of life issue will find interesting episodes with helpful insights in this fine book.
The Good Funeral: Death, Grief, and the Community of Care Thomas G. Long and Thomas Lynch (Westminster/John Knox) $25.00 It is a standard cliche to say that the foreword alone is worth the price of the book, but fans of Barbara Brown Taylor will understand when I say that, again, here. What an introduction she gives to why this splendid book by two of our most thoughtful writers about funerals and grief-- one a pastor and theologian, one a poet and undertaker -- is so very, very good. Stunningly good. Give it to anyone you know who has to go to funerals.
FOR ANYONE WHO IS A BIT SNARKY AND WILLING TO HAVE "COFFEE WITH JESUS"
Coffee with Jesus David Wilkie + Radio Free Babylon (IVP) $16.00 I am sure you know somebody who is a zealous fan of RFB and these sardonic, off-beat and often brilliant little cartoons. Poor Jesus has to put up with all kinds of stupidity and when he isn't putting these too devout Christians in their place with a well-honed barb, he is showing immense grace and patience, sometimes with real tenderness, and sometimes with a bit of a skewering kindness. I loved seeing these retro-looking, snarky cartoons as they came across the internets -- and forwarded my share of them, I guess. But seeing them in a book, page by page, is not only a heck of a hoot, it is actually pretty inspiring. Jesus comes through, time and again, and the spiritual wisdom here is greater than you may at first realize. Susan Isaacs -- herself pretty darn funny -- says that "Wilkie's characters demonstrate our worst flaws, and Coffee With Jesus skewers them with a wry balance of humor, solid theology, and love." I understand why she wrote "The day I discovered Coffee with Jesus, I felt a little less alone in Christendom." I also like that one the back, next to her blurb, Jesus says "Hyperbole much, Susan?" Ha. You should give these out, you really should. Christmas dinner won't be the same.
FOR A NEIGHBORHOOD ADVOCATE, PASSIONATE ABOUT KNOWING YOUR NEIGHBORS
In the Neighborhood: The Search for Community on an American Street, One Sleepover at a Time Peter Loveheim (Perigree) $13.95 This is not brand new, but I sense it isn't well known -- and it ought to be! What a fun gift for anyone who likes modern memoir, the longing for a good life, stories about the quandaries of the suburbs and the breakdown of our social fabric. But it is upbeat and fun because -- as you can tell from the subtitle - it is one families' quirky, heartfelt quest to meet the neighbors and to rediscover what it means to live as more than strangers. His is witty and generous and he takes us inside the homes, minds, and hearts of his neighbors. As one reviewer suggests, "this book, so gentle and unassuming on the surface, is in fact deeply radical. If we all took its lessons to heart, our world would be a different, better place." Cool.
FOR ANY SERIOUS FILM BUFF
Cinematic States: Stories We Tell, the American Dreamlife, and How to Understand Everything* Gareth Higgins (Burnside Books) $16.99 We have a pretty large and diverse film studies section and we have our favorites on this or that. But this one is brand new, from a very cool indie press a Christian friend of ours manages. The author had a previous book on film that was very good (published by the now defunct Relevant Books.) In this one, the colorful Irishman brings it to the good ol USA by doing a state-by-state survey of movies that are set in and seem to be about each and every state. Wonder what movies he describes from you state? Ha -- you gotta buy the book! In the chapters about most states he brings in more than one movie, and often it is an older classic and a more recent one. Occasionally he soars with great insight and always his passion for film is evident. Sometimes he reviews movies that aren't exactly known as high-points of cinematic excellence, and I'm still trying to figure out why he chose a few he did when other options might have worked (but he still finds something meaningful to tell about them and what they offer.) But that is half the fun, reading this theologically aware study of film art that comes to us as "common grace for the common good" -- and a geography lesson as well. Man, this is soooooo cool. You know that your film buff friend will be blown away.
FOR A FAN OF CALVIN SEERVELD (OR ANY ART LOVER)
On Being Human: Imaging God in the Modern World Calvin Seerveld (Welch) $8.99 I bring this chestnut out every now and then and remind folks that, although it is not new, it is hardly known at all. Seerveld is renowned for two of the most significant books on faith, the arts, and Christian thinking about aesthetics (Rainbows for the Fallen World and Bearing Fresh Olive Leaves) but this short collection of meaningful devotional reflections is every bit as good, and lovely to read. Each of the seven chapters has artwork shown and Biblical texts upon which he offers his passionate, reformational sermons of grace and cultural responsibility. Each of these moving artworks, as he explains, reveals something about being human.
FOR THE BOHEMIAN, MODERN ARTIST OR SOCIAL HISTORY BUFF
Inside the Dream Palace: The Life and Times of New York's Legendary Chelsea Hotel Sherill Tippins (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) $30.00 This is a thick and handsomely constructed hardback full of the stories of this legendary hang-out for writers, bohemians rock and rollers and punkers, poets and theater people. Here you will learn about Thomas Wolfe and Dylan Thomas, Allen Ginsberg and Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and Patti Smith, Andy Warhol and Sid Vicious. As one reviewer noted, Tippins "captures the mad magic of this storied building. She has written a history, not just of a hotel, but of a dream: the dream that art can change the world. Tippins is an indispensable urban historian and Inside the Dream Palace is an unforgettable read."
FOR ONE SERIOUSLY INTRIGUED BY THE MONASTIC LIFE OF NUNS OR OTHER MONASTICS
Dedicated to God: An Oral History of Cloistered Nuns Abbie Reese (Oxford University Press) $34.95 Yes, this is a beautifully researched, amazing contribution published by one of the most prestigious publishers in the world. There are some stunning photographs includes and the author's work as a storyteller "has the ability to peer into people's lives...not as a voyeur, as is often the case with photographers wanting to be 'in vogue', but one who cares about people and desires to bring others to a broader understanding of the human condition. Reese focuses on the Poor Clare sisters in a way that is evocative and insightful. A wonderful glimpse into another world of spirituality and vital service. A very classy gift, and quite powerful.
How to Be a Monastic and Not Leave Your Day Job Brother Benet Tvedten (Paraclete Press) $14.99 This book is a bit less academic than the previously listed one as it is designed, as the subtitle suggests, to help ordinary people learn form the monastic experience in ways that are plausible and helpful. It is written by a Benedictine Brother, initially as a guide for oblates. There are many books out on the monastic life, books about contemplative spirituality as learned from the monks, and a ton of recent books about Benedictine spirituality, and this is one that is sure to please those who are interested in learning about this alternative way of being in the world. Very, very nice. This is a brand new edition of this book which was out years ago with a different cover.
FOR ONE WHO GETS TEARY THINKING ABOUT PEACE ON EARTH AT CHRISTMAS
Evangelical Peacemakers: Gospel Engagement in a War-Torn World edited by David P. Gushee (Cascade Books) $19.00 You can see my slightly longer review at my "Politics and Prose" column in the CPJ Capitol Commentary newsletter. These are wonderful, wonderful papers presented at the 2012 Evangelicals for Peace Summit organized by Peace Catalyst, an evangelical ministry founded by former missionary Rick Love. This brand new book includes good scholarship, compelling calls to deepen our Biblically-based, Christ-centered work of peacemaking, and some extraordinary stories of those who have reached out (even to terrorists!) in evangelical reconciliation ministries. From significant diplomats who are aware of the role of religion in statecraft to peace activists and Middle Eastern missionaries, these voices must be heard! A great collection for those who are interested in the gospel call to peacemaking, and perhaps for those who need to be invited into the conversation.
FOR AGING (HAPPY) BABY BOOMER TV FANS
What's So Funny? My Hilarious Life Tim Conway (Howard) $25.99 Yes, we've got the new Billy Crystal book that everyone is talking about, and we are happy to sell it. But this Tim Conway book is a sleeper, getting less glitzy press, but will be a great gift for anybody who recalls those classic antics from what some call the golden age of US television. Not only does Conway talk about his work with Bob Newhart and Don Rickles and Steve Lawrence (and his work in McHales Navy and, of course the Carol Burnett Show) but he tells of his own faith and inner life. Mel Brooks says it is funny on almost every page, and Publishers Weekly said it is "heartfelt and sweetly revealing." Nice.
FOR ANY COOKBOOK COLLECTOR (OR ANYONE CONCERNED ABOUT THE LIVES OF WOMEN WORLDWIDE)
Share: The Cookbook That Celebrates our Common Humanity Woman for Woman International (Kyle Books) $40.00 What a beautiful, wonderfully designed, colorful, coffee-table-sized cookbook this is. It is worth giving to anyone who loves third world cultures, or who value striking photo essays of the lives of folks in other parts of the world. Yet, this is more -- much more - than a visual gift about international women. It is, in fact, a cookbook gleaned from recipes and cooking styles from poor women in developing countries all over. The only book in print to which I can compare it is the wonderful Extending the Table published by Mennonite Central Committee, in their series that includes the More With less Cookbook.)
Perhaps you have seen Meryl Streep on TV talking about this (she has been somewhat of a spokesperson for the Woman for Woman project.) This deserves so much more acclaim. Here is what it says on the back: "There are contributions here such as authentic Afghani bichak pastries and Congolese sticky doughnuts, to spicy cashew and tomato soup, beef rendang and orange-scented almond cake. The recipes range from everyday dishes to meals for special occasions. Interspersed throughout are inspiring stories of women who, with the help of WfW, have gone from being victims to active citizens."
In this glorious celebration of our shared humanity there are not only stories of women whose lives are being restored to dignity, but also international celebrities and activists. There are contributions from writers and actresses, church leaders and chefs such as Aung San Suu Kyi, Nelson Madela, Desmond Tutu, Alice Waters Emma Thompson, Dame Judi Dench, Annie Lennox, Peter Gabriel, Alhley Judd and more. (Even Ben and Jerry show up.) 100% of the publishers profits go to Women for Women International.
FOR SERIOUS FICTION READERS
A Land Without Sin Paul Huston (Slant) $27.00 This is a solid hardback, the second in the much-discussed recent imprint edited by the impeccable Gregory Wolfe of Image Journal. As I explained when it first came out, it is a serious, but not dense bit of literary art, with a provocative story set amidst liberation theologians and the struggle for justice in southern Mexico. Ron Hansen linked it to Graham Green's The Power and the Glory, and a recommendation doesn't get much better than that! It is a moving book, "tragic and tender" as one reviewer observed. You should give this book to anyone who likes good fiction about things that matter.
FOR HIP FOLK MUSIC FANS (WHO LIKE NOVELS)
Revival: A Folk Music Novel Scott Alarik (Songsmith) $22.00 This would make a great gift for the folk music aficionado. Sure they'd like you to buy them a Martin guitar or a signed Kingston Trio LP, but that isn't going to happen. And you don't want to give up your own old PP&M records, now do you? This is an amazingly cool novel, set in the subterranean world of modern folk music. Alarik covered music for the Boston Globe for over 20 years (and Pete Seeger called him "one of the best writers in America.") This is set in the very urban world of modern folk circuit, the struggle for good art within the tradition, and is "highly entertaining and informative glimpse into the inner workers of the business of folk music." Endorsements are from the founder of Compass Records, a few record company executives and agents, club owners and contemporary troubadours such as Dar Williams. Cool, eh?
FOR HISTORY LOVERS
Heretics and Heroes: How Renaissance Artists and Reformation Priests Created Our World Thomas Cahill (NanTalese/Doubleday) $29.99 I am sure you know the first award winning and much-loved book in this "hinges of history" series (How the Irish Saved Civilization.) Cahill has gone on to write brilliantly assessable books that capture the genius of the Jews, the Greeks, the Romans, and the Middle Ages. This is apparently the second to last book in his series, and it the biggest, and perhaps most glorious. (How the Irish is a must-read, in my view, and the Middle Ages one is truly beautiful.) It could be considerably more expensive, and it a wonderful addition to anyone's library.
Why Study History? Reflecting on the Importance of the Past John Fea (Baker Academic) $19.99 This is a small book, a great stocking stuffer for any history buff that is very well done. You may recall that Fea is a friend, a great prof at nearby Messiah College, and a nominee for more than one exquisitely important literary awards. He's a top-notch scholar, a good teacher, and, in this case, offers an excellent overview of a Christian view of of the study of history, and why it matters to us all. I hope this volume becomes very well known. Buy a few to give away today!
The Spiritual Practice of Remembering Margaret Bendroth (Eerdmans) $16.00 This is an odd book to describe as it, too, is written by a faith-based historian. This is a different sort of book than Fea's though -- it is a beautifully-written contemplation, a spiritual rumination on remembering (not quite a philosophy of history.) What is the value of recollecting our lives, of recalling? What does it mean to honor the past? This is an lucid and luminous reflection, profound and evocative, reminding Christians of the implications of the "communion of the saints."
FOR A SKEPTICAL, INTELLECTUAL PERSON WILLING TO CONSIDER THE VALUE OF THE CHRISTIAN FAITH
Unapologetic: Why, Despite Everything, Christianity Can Still Make Surprising Emotional Sense Francis Spufford (HarperOne) $25.99 This book came out in England over a year ago and when the reviews started zipping around the internet, with great accolades, we had a bunch of folks express interest in this. Alas, it wasn't available in the states then, but now it is. Christianity Today has named it a book of the year. Blurbs on the back are from the likes of novelist Nick Hornby (who says, "Unapologetic is exactly what those who've followed Spufford's career might have suspected it would be: an incredibly smart, challenging, and beautiful book, humming with ideas and arguments." The man writes like a dream, is exceptionally articulate, and has been called "effortlessly brilliant" and "a rare gem." The Times Literary Supplement says Spufford "succeeds to an exceptional degree." Just saying.
FOR ANYONE INTERESTED IN CIVIC LIFE AND PUBLIC JUSTICE
We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For:The Promise of Civil Renewal in America Peter Levine (Oxford University Press) $29.95 Again, this is a book that would make a wonderful gift for a serious thinker (it is Oxford, after all) who cares about life in these modern times. Peter Levine is "a scholar whose research is rigorous and unflinching but whose passion for democracy brims with optimism and engagement" and who can bring into focus how change happens, what organizing and education for cultural renewal looks like. He is eloquent and passionate and can energize those who deeply desire to reinvigorate democracy from the grass roots up. A prestigious author, an important book that will revitalize the interests and inform the skills of nearly anyone who wants to be involved. The author clearly tilts to the grass-roots left, but should be read by any and all who care about citizenship and social reform.
FOR THOSE WHO LOVE READING ABOUT READING AND THE VALUE OF BOOKS
My Dyslexia Philip Schultz (Norton) $21.95 I ran an excerpt of this a year ago (maybe at facebook) and still recall how thrilled I was to share this guy's story of learning to read, despite his neurological handicap. He was a "lonely embattled boy" who couldn't read -- but grows up to win the Pulitzer Prize. This is a fabulously written, gentle, moving memoir, not brand new, but not known widely. It would make a lovely gift to anyone who cares about reading, or learning disabilities. Sweet.
FOR ANYONE WHO CARES ABOUT HUMAN RIGHTS -- OR A TESTIMONY OF CHRISTIAN CONVERSION
Good God, Lousy World & Me: The Improbable Journey of a Humans Rights Activist from Unbelief to Faith Holly Burkhalter (Convergent) $22.99 Just a month old, this new book is one that is finding readers, and their lives are being touched by this remarkable story. The subtitle says the journey is "improbable" because many people, it seems, think that immersing oneself in the ugly stuff of life (in this case, sexual abuse and human trafficking) makes one turn from God. In this case -- I cannot summarize the moving narrative or the intellectual journey simply -- the story is more or less the opposite. With such evil present, only a fool would think there is no clear right or wrong. And such a realization of the need for God drives this activist to faith. Andy Crouch (who explores themes of the abuse of power in his book-of-the-year Playing God) writes, "Holly's story, from a distance, is absolutely fascinating -- one of the world's top experts in human rights turns out to be a person of deep Christian commitments. But her story up close is even better: by turns laugh-out-loud funny, poignant, wrenching, and hopeful. I think this is a voice the wider world needs to hear." You should buy one for yourself, and give one to somebody you know.
FOR SOMEONE WHO WOULD APPRECIATE A PHILOSOPHICALLY-DRIVEN SUSPENSE NOVEL
In the Absence of God: A Novel Richard Cleary (Xulon) $24.99 I know I promoted this last year, but I suspect that since this as released on a very indie press, your friends or family members do not know of it, and unless they heard about it from us last year, it would make a great surprise gift here at the end of the year. Dick is one of my best friends and near-neighbors here in Dallastown. I so admire his desire to have people see that what we think about ethics and how to make wise judgements about right and wrong is all wrapped up in our search for and construal of meaning -- and our beliefs about God. This is a gripping novel, set on a college campus, with stretches of dialogue about philosophy and truth, God and morals, politics and political correctness, science and the philosophy of science. In the Absence of God is a football story, a young-lovers romance, and, at times, a pretty intense crime novel, filled with the suspense of danger and the drama of pursuit. It is a good story but it is more -- Cleary wants people to consider how if there is no God who reveals what is truly so, there can be no intellectually sustainable basis for determining right or wrong. What happens or is justified "in the absence of God"? You'll have to read this to find out. Give it to young college men, especially, Dick thinks. As a former high school football coach and current college philosophy prof, he should know.
FOR ANYONE INTERESTED IN GLOBAL CHRISTIANITY OR WORLD MISSIONS
From Times Square to Timbuktu: The Post-Christian West Meets the Non-Western Church Wesley Granberg Michaelson (Eerdmans) $20.00 I will be explaining why I'm choosing this as one of the best books of 2013 later in our end-of-the-year awards columns, but for now, allow me just to simply note that this book carries a foreword by the prestigious James Billington, the head of the Library of Congress! And that alone is pretty telling. Also, anyone who is anyone in the academic study of the rising Christian faith in the global south -- Andrew Wall, Philip Jenkins, Lamin Sanneh -- all rave about it. The title may not be clear, as this book is actually about how, through patterns of migration and immigration, Christian brothers and sisters from the global south and far East are increasingly coming to North America. is very interesting, well written and informative, but it is more; Granberg-Michael reminds us that as folks from other countries make their way to our towns and cities, and into our own churches in North America, the nature and texture (and theology and practices?) of our own congregations will be forever changed. We are in a hinge of history, as they say, and the religious make-up of the global church has been duly noted. Now, in this important book, we see where it is going. From Timbuktu to your town and mine. What a great book.
FOR ANYONE WHO LIKES MUSIC
And It Was Good: Making Music to the Glory of God edited by Ned Bustard (Square Halo Books) $ You know I've raved about this before, having done a chapter by chapter summary in a long review earlier this fall. There are over thirty chapters reflecting on a uniquely Christian sort of appreciation for the art of music making. There are pieces on jazz, on blues, on classical. There are ruminations on listening to music, rehearsing music, writing music. There are chapters by church organists and rock stars, fascinating pieces on hosting concerts and on hymn writing, on music in grief, and music in worship. This is nothing short of spectacular, something for everyone, whether you can carry a tune or are, like some of these authors, seasoned musicians. Give this to anyone you know who cares about music, and they might even break out in song to thank you!
FOR THOSE WHO BUY CURRENT EVENTS BOOKS
Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, The Damascus Accident and the Illusion of Safety Eric Scholosser (The Penguin Press) $36.00 You know the award winning muck-racking journalist, Eric Scholosser (who gave us the brilliant Fast Food Nation.) Here is studies one of the scariest features of modern life, the dangerous mess of high-tech gods known as nukes. Do you know of "the Damascus Accident"? Do you like reading about cover-ups and conspiracies? I read an early excerpt of this and knew it would make my hair stand on end, as that one chapter had, so we figured we should promote it. It isn't a sweet "Merry Christmas, Darling" sort of gift. But it will intrigue some soon-to-be whistle blower, and I think it is very, very important. A helluva book.
FOR THOSE WHO YEARN FOR WELL-WRITTEN, REAL-WORLD SPIRITUALITY
Holy Is the Day: Living in the Gift of the Present Carolyn Weber (IVP Cresendo) $15.00 Do you know the wonderfully-written, intriguing, stimulating story of Carolyn Weber going off to Oxford (Surprised by Oxford)? What a great book that was! This is even better written, staring with a riveting tale of a problem pregnancy, and on through her daily life as a college professor who was writing her first book (yes, that one) while parenting three children under the age of 3. Her struggled and spiritual insights are narrated beautifully and realistically. These pages reflect on "eternal beauty that lurks within the present." One of my favorite colleagues in the Christian book-selling industry, Dave Lewis of the Logos Bookstore in Dallas writes, "Read this one carefully as it is a gift from a heart that has grown in wisdom." Wouldn't you love to give a gift like that? You would! Just figure out who should get it -- it's highly recommended.
FOR A CHRISTIAN THINKER TIRED OF FALSE DICHOTOMIES (OR WHO CAN'T MAKE UP THEIR MIND ABOUT THEOLOGICAL EMPHASES)
Both-And: Living the Christ Centered Life in an Either-Or World Rich Nathan & Insoo Kim (IVP) $16.00 I have read several books by Rich Nathan and respect him a lot. Here, he rejects the culture-war rhetoric that has hijacked faith, and refuses to buy into one side or the other. He shows that we need more than one voice, and more than one tradition, bringing a "both/and" approach rather than an either-or. I suppose you can imagine how we here at the bookstore feel this way, and how our heads spins some weeks as we work with this group and that, these sort os Christians and those sorts of churches and yet again those ministries and organizations over there. Yep, I'm convinced. And I think there are others like us -- maybe you know them, and maybe you can give them this nice book. Thoughtful spiritual leaders such as RIchard Foster and Richard Stearns have endorsed this which transcends polarization in the church.
Nathan and Kim (both who are pastors at Vineyard Columbus) explore questions like "What is our Identity?" and want to hold together being evangelical and charismatic. In the chapter on community they look at unity and diversity. In the chapter about their concerns, they insist on mercy and justice. Nicely, in the question about methods, they call for proclamation and demonstration. I like the way in which their ethic is both personal and social. One great chapter is on the "already and no yet." Throughout the book naturally comes up the big question of needing to have relevant practice and orthodox doctrine. This is not a mushy drift towards an ambiguous middle, but a robust invitation to hold various solid streams together. It would make a nice gift for any thoughtful Christian leader.
FOR A HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT WHO JUST SENT OFF COLLEGE APPLICATIONS (OR JUST GOT ACCEPTED)
Make College Count: A Faithful Guide to Life + Learning Derek Melleby (Baker) $12.99 You may not have been paying attention to this if you didn't have the need before, but this little hardback is the absolutely best book to give to a youngster soon to go off to college (or even a college first year student, just come home for Christmas break.) It winsomely asks them who they will be in college, helping them think about why they feel called to the vocation of being a student, and what these years will be about. Derek is a specialist on the "college transition" and knows how to speak into the lives of those young folks facing this big matter. He has also co- written a somewhat more extensive reflection on the call to being a Christian student (The Outrageous Idea of Academic Faithfulness) which you should give to every college kid you know. Our bookstore is even mentioned in it, which I hope you think is an indication of something good. But if they are just starting out this journey, Make College Count will help them do just that, help it make sense, help make it count, and help them think about the integration of faith and life. A perfect little stocking stuffer that just could change their lives at this critical time. Please? Tell em Santa wanted them to read it if you've got to.
FOR ANYONE INTERESTED IN INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS, HUMAN RIGHTS, AND RELIGIOUS LIBERTY
The Global Public Square: Religious Freedom and the Making of a World Safe for Diversity
Os Guinness (IVP) $16.00 You know that we routinely say that Guinness is one of the finest authors of our lifetime, a brilliant Christian leader, thoughtful, learned, articulate and most often right about the many causes and concerns for which he has become known. Here he offers a multi-faceted, thorough-going, lively call to insist that religious liberty is a first freedom, and offers an audacious plan to underscore and develop the religious freedom clause of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights. In light of the trends of some religious nearly taking over (think Sharia Law and blasphemy codes) or the "naked public square" of the secularists, this project is more than timely, it is urgent. A splendidly informative and truly inspiring book about a burning, global issue.
FOR ANYONE INTRIGUED BY THE NEW ROMAN CATHOLIC POPE, POPE FRANCIS
Pray for Me: The Life and Spiritual Vision of Pope Francis, First Pope from the Americas Robert Moynihan (Image) $19.99 There are oodles of biographies out now about the rise of this amazing, third world Pope. I think this is a very good one, reputable and well written. The author is the founder of Inside the Vatican magazine, so is a respected journalist and expert on the papacy.
FOR ANYONE WHO IS A FAN OF PHYLLIS TICKLE (OR A CHURCH HISTORY GEEK)
The Age of the Spirit: How the Ghost of An Ancient Controversy is Shaping the Church Phyllis Tickle with Jon Sweeney (Baker) $19.99 We got an early shipment of these forthcoming books since we were selling books with Phyllis at a recent clergy confab. It is an amazing example of her broad, sweeping insights about tends within church history, and she deftly relates the great schism of the 4th century-- about the Trinity, the Holy Spirit and who gets to determine if the foundational creeds should be reformed -- to the issues of the emergent churches and the shifts within congregational life today. She says, as the title proposes, that we are in the era of determining the role of the Spirit. As Tony Jones puts it, in this book "the ancient and the postmodern world walk down the aisle, wedded, once and for all."
FOR ANY THOUGHTFUL CHRISTIAN WHO LOVES VIDEO GAMES
Of Games and God: A Christian Exploration of Video Games Kevin Schut (Brazos Press) $16.99 I have talked about this before, and I often say this is without a doubt the best (just about the only) book on the subject. There is a very good one that came out a few years ago, but it was very academic. And, there are a few really cheesy ones that are hardly worth reading. This one gets it just right. Hooray. What a book! I am sure that if you know any gamers, they will be impressed to see a thoughtful integration of their passion with the Christian faith. Give it away, and have fun.
The Essential Scratch and Sniff Guide to Becoming a Wine Expert by Richard Betts (Houghton Mifflin) 19.99 Okay, I'm not kidding. This is not a joke. It is like a little kids "board book" with thick pages, and really good scratch and sniff patches. It is illustrated in a cool cartoony style, and is the clearest, best, most helpful wine book I've ever seen with this very nifty olfactory touch. Some will like that one the front it says "wine is a grocery, not a luxury." Of course, it also exclaims "Take a whiff of that!"
FOR SOMEONE WITH HIGHBROW TASTES ABOUT CHURCH HISTORY AND LITURGICAL FORMATION
Journey into the Heart of God: Living the Liturgical Year Philip Pfatteicher (Oxford University Press) $35.00 This is a very sturdy, handsome hardback, an exquisite book of scholarly, warm prose about the rise of the liturgical calendar. The raves on the back are strong by serious professors of religion (such as Canon Paul Bradshaw, Professor of Liturgy at University of Notre Dame, or Karen Westerfield Tucker, Professor of Worship at Boston University.) Interestingly, the author is an Episcopal priest who is also a literature professor so there is a lot in here from Rudyard Kipling to John Bunyan. This is a rich account of his own journey on being shaped by the church year and leads to an affirmation of wonder and joy. This is a truly amazing book and any clergy person or church leader from liturgical traditions would surely be glad to receive it.
FOR A PRECOCIOUS MIDDLE SCHOOL GIRL WANTING A GHOST STORY SET IN THE 1920s (OR ANYONE WITH A TASTE FOR EXQUISITE YOUNG ADULT FICTION)
The Ghost in the Glass House Carey Wallace (Clarion House)$16.99 This book has so much going for it -- Wallace is a very, very good writer, a mature woman of faith herself, and the meandering ruminations of the youngsters in the novel are thoughtful and intelligent. The whole romance with a ghost thing is approached with appropriate moderation, not overly dramatized at all. Some may think there isn't enough adventure or zany capers in the plot of a girl that may not want to grow up into womanhood but if one likes thoughtful conversations about recalling one's earlier life (grief, regrets, fears), and how relationships can be healthy or not, this story could be very appealing.
FOR A FARMER (OR FRIEND OF THE FARMER'S MARKET)
Gaining Ground: A Story of Farmer's Markets, Local Food, and Saving the Family Farm Forrest Pritchard (Lyons Press) $18.95 We have always stocked books on farming and agriculture (and have some lovely books about food and eating and cooking well.) This is a recent one, and it is quite wonderful. Not every farmer also has a degree in literature and geography from William & Mary. And not every localist or new agrarian gets Joel Salatin to write a forward. Even a founder of Newman's Own Organics writes, "Beautiful and nourishing...the truth of organic farming is so much more challenging and fantastic than I could have imagined." You will love this book, and if you give it to somebody who cares about sustainable food systems, they will too.
FOR A HIP YOUNG MAN NEEDING SOME MANLY GUIDANCE
Mansfield's Book of Manly Men Stephen Mansfield (Nelson) $ 19.99 As one who doesn't place much stock in traditional gender assumptions -- gasp! -- this is as much a tongue in cheek as a serious Christian view about masculinity. But the cover is so retro cool (with that oh so hip retro mustache!) I just wanted to show it off. I respect Stephen Mansfield as an author (he did the great book God and Guinness about the beer family) and here he tries to sift through what one reviewer (Jonathan Jackson of the ABC Show Nashville) refers to as the "myriad counterfeits and stereotypes" and rather, offers a "vision of manhood that is refreshing and challenging ideal." The back cover, in cool 19th century type, declares this is witty, compelling and shew. It is about virtues and habits, disciplines and duties. You get the picture. And you may want to gift somebody with it.
FOR A THEOLOGY GEEK
Theologian Trading Cards developed by Norman Jeune III (Zondervan) $26.99
I raved about these last year, and have to reprise our recommendation and say it again. Who knew such things existed? Anybody who likes theology will be amazed by these spectacular trading cards. And they will learn a lot, too. I'm not kidding. These are well made, come in a cool box, and are grouped in all sorts of categories. If you have a geeky loved on, this is something that they will thank you for for years to come. Or at last mock you at the New Year's Eve party. Wrap this box of these fellas up, and surprise your most-loved local theologian.
FOR A POETRY LOVER (OR FAN OF EUGENE PETERSON)
Holy Luck: Poems Eugene Peterson (Eerdmans) $12.00 I have read a few of these out loud already among groups and it is fascinating to see how folks respond. This is the power of poetry, of course, and you could call us for others that we have in stock these days -- from Mary Oliver to Aaron Belz to Wendell Berry to some you've maybe never heard of. This is a nice little gift book, square sized and smallish, and would make a great stocking stuff, thank you gift, or a nice token of appreciation for anyone in your life (not to mention your pastor.) Peterson is respected by almost all normal Christian folk these days, and this would be a truly nice gift.
FOR ANYONE TAKEN UP WITH THE PROJECT OF CULTURE-MAKING, SOCIAL RENEWAL, TRANSFORMING THE INSTITUTIONS OF THE WORLD
Playing God: Redeeming the Gift of Power Andy Crouch (IVP) $25.00 I've hinted more than once that this is what I deem to be the most important book of the year. I cannot say enough about it, and almost everyone who starts it is enthralled, drawn in by the good stories, and challenged to think carefully about power, servanthood, influence, leadership, and how to engage institutions reformingly in ways that are substantial and lasting. Ideologues on the far left or religious right may think he's too calm and reasonable, but most of us -- I am confident -- need this voice, and will come away agreeing it is a truly wonderful book. Give it to anybody who is serious about their vocation in the world. Unless you know they are super Hearts & Minds fans, as they may have already bought it from us. We have mentioned it often. If you want to give a really wonderful gift, and bless your friend or loved one, why not to a combo pack: wrap up two books in one nice ribbon: give 'em Andy's previous seminal Culture Making and Playing God both. Ho. Ho. Ho.
And speaking of great gifts, you know the BookNotes blog has been recommending some great, great books here of late. Do review those reviews; we are serious about promoting those books, you know, and think they are great.
Call us at the shop (717.246.3333) right away if you have any need for suggestions for anyone on your last minute Christmas list. An athlete? A middle aged boy? A scientist? Youth pastor? New parents? Bee-keeper? Business leader? Public school teacher? A Bible scholar? Come on, there's still time to bless somebody with a custom-selected book, just for their taste, need, or interest. We're at your service.
I even have a white beard, and it is cold enough to feel like the North Pole here, so I'm thinking we can help you during these wintry days.
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