About December 2016

This page contains all entries posted to Hearts & Minds Books in December 2016. They are listed from oldest to newest.

November 2016 is the previous archive.

January 2017 is the next archive.

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

December 2016 Archives

December 2, 2016

The Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life by Tish Harrison Warren ON SALE -- and a list of similar "spirituality of the ordinary" books -- sale priced at HALF OFF (one week only.)

I remember once years ago doing a workshop at Jubilee, the CCO's college student conference, helping students learn to think Christianly about their studies; it is a hallmark theme of Jubilee that God calls learning for the love of god.jpgall of us to serve the Kingdom of Christ and the common good by being agents of God's goodness and light in the work-world.  I proclaimed to the students that they can take their faith into the classroom and learn to relate their deepest convictions about God's principles to their academic work as they study for jobs that can become vocations. (Derek Melleby & Donald Optiz's Learning for the Love of God: A Student's Guide to Academic Faithfulness hadn't been published yet but I was talking about that sort of stuff. And, wow, do they ever do it well!)

It all sounds rather heady, I suppose -- developing the Christian mind, thinking Biblically, relating faith to learning, doing the work of being a Christian student -- but here's the thing: I tried to help them see that not only do they discover stuff about God's world and ways as they explore God's creation in their studies, and what they should be doing as agents of change within their professions or careers, but also that in so doing they can come to know God better. 

They can actually find God right there in the lab, in the lecture hall, in the gym, in the library, while writing papers, doing projects, running experiments, planning presentations, taking tests. Learning to live seamlessly with a sense of being in God's world becomes a formative opportunity, an invitation to actually walk with God.  With this approach, Barbara Brown Taylor's book title - An Altar in the World - is literally true.  All of life is holy ground and all of life's moments becomes doorways into deeper spirituality. 


There is a whole genre of books about what I call the "spirituality of the ordinary." (See a list of a few of them below, which we have for a limited time at 50% off.) We have them on a shelf within our section of books about spirituality but make no mistake: these are not books about meditation and mystical spirituality, not about deep reflection on Scripture or learning to fast or journal or walk a labyrinth.  We have those kinds of books that are familiar to those who read about inner formation by way of practicing classic spiritual disciplines. These "spirituality of the ordinary" books invite us to not just "practice the presence of God" throughout the day, seeking spiritual awareness layered on top of ordinary stuff but to actually experience God's gracious presence in the doing of the ordinary stuff.  The best "spirituality of the ordinary" resources are luminous, lovely, telling of epiphanies and encounters of God in the mundane. 

Like anything, learning to practice the presence of God (Brother Lawrence's famous book by that name tells of his learning to pray while doing the dishes) and learning to encounter God in the daily takes practice. It takes some training to do well.

The Listening Life- Embracing Attentiveness.jpgA Spirituality of Listening- Living What.jpgWe have seen a number of good books recently about listening to God, about attentiveness, about being sensitive to the prodding and prompting of the Holy Spirit as she shows up moment by moment. Just for instance, consider The Listening Life: Embracing Attentiveness in a World of Distraction by Adam McHugh (IVP; $16.00) or A Spirituality of Listening: Living What We Hear by Keith Anderson (IVP; $16.00) two recent books that are wonderfully helpful. This is an important practice in its own right, to slow down, be attentive, and notice stuff, but it also shapes us, forms us, trains us, to see God in surprising places.


I've wanted to share a list of books about finding God in the mundane, about the spirituality of the ordinary but I have been hesitant, in part because although I am a passionate preacher about this theme, I'm a novice at doing it myself.  I am a bit ashamed about this, but there it is: walking with God moment-by-moment in a way that allows us to attend to God's Word and world and ways in the most ordinary of episodes of ordinary days is harder than is seems. I love the promise of Zechariah 14: 20 - 21 about the sacramental holiness of mundane things, but it isn't always clear how to live into that. And when things go sideways, as they do most days, well, don't get me started...

For some, though, it is hardly even imaginable, to walk with God in the so-called secular arenas of politics or science or art or entertainment, using technology or shopping or working or playing.

Perhaps it is still true, as the poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote in "Aurora Leigh",

And every common bush afire with God;

But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,

The rest sit around and pluck blackberries.

And daub their natural faces unaware.

"The rest pluck blackberries."

Not that there is anything wrong with picking blackberries (that's the point, after all!) It is the word unaware that captures the problem.

We are invited to see all of life as worship, see all of life as a burning bush, experience God's presence in the most ordinary of moments, but we often move through our days unaware as a secularist or even atheist might. Or, we suppose God exists and maybe cares about our lives, out there somewhere, true enough, but distant. More likely we assert that God is close, but we forget. It may be part of our mind's ideas, a matter of theological truth to which we give assent, but it hasn't worked down to our heart, our skin and bones. 


You Are What You Love- The Spiritual Power of Habit.jpgThis, of course, is a major theme of the Hearts & Minds Book of the Year James K.A. Smith's You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit (Brazos; $24.99.) We've been promoting this great book (and the more scholarly predecessors, Imagining the Kingdom and Desiring the Kingdom) since it came out last Spring and at conferences lately have nearly insisted that folks buy it.  Smith reminds us that we are not what we think we are. (The rationalist philosopher "I think therefore I am" Rene Descartes was just wrong about that.) Rather, as Saint Augustine said, we are what we love, we are restless, perhaps, if we love the wrong things. But we can learn to want the right things in the right way, leading to what David Naugle says in his must-read reflection on all of this, Reordered Love, Reordered Lives: Learning the Deep Meaning of Happiness (Eerdmans; $20.00.) Our daily habits reordered love big.jpgwork on our hearts, nearly subconsciously,  "re-ordering" us, forming us to desire certain things, certain ways of life, based on visions of what we construe to be good and true. It follows that we can desire and imagine and live into God's ways if we realize that daily habits either pull us into the Divine orbit or push us into another way of being.  We can learn to want God's presence (perhaps the first step of practicing the presence) through habit, through ritual, through worship, through practice.  But, as the last third of Smith's remarkable book shows us, we embody the Kingdom in the world, living out, all the live-long day, the ways of God, because we've been shaped to do so.  Or, perhaps, we don't, because we haven't been shaped to desire that. For better or ill, our habits and cultural liturgies have formed us.

As Smith puts it, "the things we do, do things to us."

And so, we are predisposed to be open and attentive to God in the daily grind, or, maybe, we are acculturated to not be so aware of such things.  It's no wonder we don't find God in the classrooms or workplaces or even the living rooms of our lives if we are subconsciously already shaped to think God isn't really present or active or in relationship with us in those seemingly secular places.


liturgy of the ordinary bigger.jpgThe very best book I've found to explore all of this quite practically - finding God in the ordinary, the spirituality of the mundane, learned by habits and rituals and ways of living life in what can only be called sacramental - is the brand new Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life by Tish Harrison Warren (IVP; $16.00.)  It is, I am convinced, one of the best resources you will find to help you live faithfully throughout your ordinary days and it is one of the best resources to help you thereby come to know God better. I've been waiting for a book this good about these things for years, it seems, and this is it!  


Jen Pollock Michel (whose marvelously rich memoir about desire and ambition, Teach Us to Want is utterly germane to this topic) is spot on when she says: 

Liturgy of the Ordinary is a baptism of vision. Tish Harrison Warren warmly and wisely helps us find God in the strangest of places: standing at the sink, sitting in traffic, stooping to make a bed. As it turns out, our everyday habits are imbued with the holy possibility of becoming new people in Christ.

The many rave reviews of this beautiful book are stunning. The book has quite a buzz already, even though it has only been out a week or so.   Consider these:

This beautiful book will brush the dust from your dingy days and reveal the extraordinary that is to be found in the ordinary. No mundane daily task will be the same once these pages open your eyes to how the work of your hands reflects the ways of the Creator and the rhythms of eternity. 

              Karen Swallow Prior, author of Booked and Fierce Convictions 

If Christianity is to retain its witness in our frenetic and fragmented age, it must take root not only in the thoughts and emotions but also in the daily lives and even bodies of those who call Christ Lord. Tish Harrison Warren has beautifully 'enfleshed' the concepts and doctrines of our faith into quotidian moments, showing how every hour of each day can become an occasion of grace and renewal. If you want to know how faith matters amid messy kitchens, unfinished manuscripts, marital spats, and unmade beds, Liturgy of the Ordinary will train your eyes to see holy beauty all around. 

    Katelyn Beaty, author of A Woman's Calling

Sometimes the difference between drudgery and epiphany is just seeing things from the right angle, a frame that reframes everything, even the mundane. This marvelous little book is that certain slant of light that illuminates the everyday as an arena of sanctification, where the Spirit makes us holy in ways we might miss. You don't need more to do in a day, Warren shows. Instead, reframe the everyday as an extension of worship, and folding the laundry, washing dishes, and even commuting become habitations of the Spirit.

       James K. A. Smith, author of Desiring the Kingdom and You Are What You Love


Andy Crouch begins his fantastic foreword by saying that "the structure of this book is simple, with a touch of genius."  He continues,

It encompasses one day, from our very first moments of waking in the morning on the first page to our drifting off into sleep on the last. No more and no less. But in between, with the writer's (and indeed the poet's) gift of slowing down and paying the best kind of attention, Tish Harrison Warren connects the moments of an ordinary day with the extraordinary pattern of classical Christian worship.


Andy's foreword reminds us that this book "dismantles that most stubborn of Christian heresies: the idea that there is any part of our lives that is secular, untouched by and disconnected from the real sacred work of worship and prayer."  He unpacks that a bit in a very clear and compelling few paragraphs and then observes,

As someone who is both ordained to priestly service and who has invested her life in radical ways to serve the materially and spiritually poor, Tish is the perfect person to help us discover just how wrongheaded these sacred-secular distinctions are. Like all heresies, this one can only be conquered by the beauty of orthodoxy, and the beautiful orthodoxy that undermines all foolish secularizing is that endlessly surprising Christian doctrine, the incarnation.

And, so, Liturgy of the Ordinary is not only great to read to widen your understanding of the scope of spirituality and to help you learn to find God's holy presence in what Kathleen Norris has called "the quotidian mysteries" but it will help you, in an allusive way, to move through Advent and prepare to celebrate Christmas. Christmas is the high holy day when we party it up to remember that God took on human flesh and "moved into the neighborhood." Glory the angels sang, as holiness came to Earth.  The implications are endless, but starting with the common place makes a lot of sense, eh?  Yep, this book, which is so incarnational, helps us appreciate Christmas.

So, we want to happily and eagerly invite you to buy from us some copies of this beautiful, inspiring, insightful little volume. I am sure it will help you learn about the spirituality of the ordinary, it will help you encounter God in the real world, and it will underscore what Smith explained in We Are What We Love, namely (as Crouch puts it in that forward) that as plain as daily life may be (and as plain as worship sacraments are, too - bread, water), "All of this is far from ordinary."

Crouch continues, exquisitely,

Our bodies, our pleasures, our fears, our fatigues, our friendships, our fights - these are in fact the stuff of our formation and transformation into the frail but infinitely dignified creatures we are meant to be and shall become. Our moments of exaltation and stifled yawns - somehow they go together, part of the whole life that we are meant to offer to God day by day, as well as Sunday by Sunday, the life that God has taken into his own life. It is the life Christ himself assumed, and thus rescued and redeemed.

Well, that's just the prelude - you might imagine why this book is so very good, when this kind of precious insight sets it up.  The foreword is good and the book itself is good, really good.


As Andy said, The Liturgy of the Ordinary is, in fact, a set of reflections that walk through one day in the author's life.  She writes about waking up and making beds and cooking and emailing friends, commuting and more. I think the best thing to do is to just show the Table of Contents.  

Please note not only the chapter titles but also the evocative subtitles.  It will show you what Warren is up to.  And she is up to a lot.

liturgy of the ordinary bigger.jpg1. Waking Up: Baptism and Learning to be Beloved

2. Making the Bed: Liturgy, Ritual, and What Forms a Life 

3. Brushing Teeth: Standing, Kneeling, Bowing, and Living in a Body 

4. Losing Keys: Confession and the Truth about Ourselves 

5. Eating Leftovers: Word, Sacrament, and Overlooked Nourishment 

6. Fighting with My Husband: Passing the Peace and the Everyday Work of Shalom

7. Checking Email: Blessing and Sending 

8. Sitting in Traffic: Liturgical Time and an Unhurried God 

9. Calling a Friend: Congregation and Community

10. Drinking Tea: Sanctuary and Savoring 

11. Sleeping: Sabbath, Rest, and the Work of God

Tish.pngThat she is an ordained Anglican priest (and a wisely well read one at that) helps her appreciate the role of ritual, and gives her the liturgical and sacramental theology to frame these daily moments with the richest sort of spirituality.  Others can help us unpack this kind of stuff, I'm sure, but this author is certainly well-prepared for just this project, making it the best book I've seen on finding God in the ordinary stuff of a daily life.

Ms Warren is an honest writer, living the kind of life that most of us live, fretting over stuff that demoralizes us all, offering insight on the good, the bad, and the ugly. (Losing keys? Fighting with her spouse?  Waiting (impatiently) in traffic?  Check, check, check.


And in her grand search for down-to-Earth spirituality and deep meaning, she's honest about all of it, with a smile, it seems:

In my mind I have an ideal for my table - friends and family gathered around a homegrown, local, organic feast with candles and laughter and well-behaved kids. A lot of beauty and butter.

But much of the time, my meals aren't like that.

And today I have left-overs.

Taco soup. Not homegrown. Not local. Corn and beans dumped from cans into a crockpot. It's a go-to meal for us, what we make when people are coming over because it is cheap and easy. It is adequate and a little boring. Now it is warmed over again on my stove for lunch.

tish warren quote food pic.jpg                                        I love this photo, but wished it had shown the less attractive left-overs...

Or, consider this -- nothing terribly special, but true for many of us:

Our sleep habits both reveal and shape our loves.... I love my kids, so I sacrifice sleep for them (often) - I nurse our baby or comfort our eldest after a nightmare. I love my husband and my close friends so I stay up late to keep a good conversation going a bit longer. Or we rise early to pray or take a friend to the airport.

But my willingness to sacrifice sleep also reveals less noble loves. I stay up later than I should, drowsy, collapsed on the couch, vaguely surfing the Internet, watching cute puppy videos. Or I stay up trying to squeeze more activity into the day, to pack it with as much productivity as possible. My disordered sleep reveals a disordered love, idols of entertainment or productivity.

And then she mentions Parks and Recreation.  Ha.

tish and her husband.jpgTish Warren is the kind of writer I like, moving easily from sociological research  -- vividly brought to us from, say, wonderful quotes from This American Life with Ira Glass or an op-ed piece by Rod Dreher or a lively, contemporary documentary -- to personal stories from her own interesting life. Her theological bias is elegant, too - lines from The Book of Common Prayer merge with citations from Dorothy Bass and Steve Garber, Madeleine L'Engle and Tim Keller, ancient saints and modern poets. It is a very informative and yet delightfully enjoyable book to read.

And yeah, despite that tussle in chapter 6, here she is with her husband, also a priest, who is still smiling.  Nice, eh?

liturgy of the ordinary bigger.jpgThe Liturgy of the Ordinary is, quite simply, a great, great book. From the delightful cover to the poetic chapter titles to the fine writing to the mature but accessible theology that shapes it, it is a book that will have a very wide appeal. I'm sure many will find it transformational.

There is a marvelous study guide in the back as well, designed for your own processing of this interesting content or for small group use.  It would be perfect for a small group to read together, fantastic for an adult education class, great for a couple to do together. There are thoughtful discussion questions and specific practices suggested for each of the 11 chapters.   It will help you, as she puts it, "learn how grand, sweeping truths - doctrine, theology, ecclesiology, Christology - rub against the texture of an average day."  


ON SALE - HALF OFF                                                                                                                                          WITH PURCHASE OF LITURGY OF THE ORDINARY: SACRED PRACTICES IN EVERYDAY LIFE


The Pleasures of God- Finding Grace in the Ordinary.gifThe Pleasures of God: Finding Grace in the Ordinary J. Ellsworth Kalas (Abingdon) $15.00  A lovely little book with down to earth stories by a popular United Methodist pastor. Don't let this fool you -- he shows how "God touches every fiber of our being and every facet of our lives." One reviewer says he "gives us the gift of seeing the everyday with fresh eyes, until the ordinary shines with the extraordinary."  The Dean of the Chapel at Asbury Seminary  says this inspired her to  "pay closer attention to the boring moments in life to see if they really would bear the weight..."

The Play of Light- Observations and Epiphanies.gifThe Play of Light: Observations and Epiphanies in the Everyday World Louis J. Masson (Cowley) $14.95 A mature and very thoughtful set of memoiristic essays, beautifully told, allusive and thoughtful about nature and place and time and memory.

There are some marvelous endorsements by writerly types, including this from Brian Doyle, who says it is "dry witted, sharp-eyed, large-hearted... a poet of the miracle of the moment, an essayist of startling lyricism, grace, and mercy."  How 'bout that?

White China- Finding the Divine .jpgWhite China: Finding the Divine in the Everyday Molly Wolf (Jossey Bass) $16.95 With close observations of the natural world, a fine degree of wit and charm, this Canadian author brings passion and insight. Don't miss the powerful forward by  the late Phyllis Tickle; there is a blurb on the back by Nora Gallagher. What a beautiful book for this kind of tender spirituality. Wolf has another book called Sabbath Blessings and is known for this sort of work.

Sacred in the City- Seeing the Spiritual .gifSacred in the City: Seeing the Spiritual in the Everyday Margaret Silf (Lion Press) $16.95 I really, really like this handsome book designed with full color photos, presented on glossy paper, about finding God in the daily life of an urban-dweller, with meditations on the workplace and home, on the marketplace and the city streets themselves. Colorfully, thoughtfully, Silf "uncovers the shimmer of the sacred in the familiar places of everyday city living"

Eyes Wide Open- Enjoying God in Everything.jpgEyes Wide Open: Enjoying God in Everything Steve DeWitt (Credo House) $14.99 DeWitt is an evangelical pastor who admitted that as a Christian he still "walked beaches, viewed sunsets, enjoyed music, ate desserts, and stared at the stars pretty much as an atheist." This is winsome, practical, and pleasant in helping us see the deep purposes of God in displaying beauty in the world. Very thoughtful, connected to a richly Reformed worldview.

Seeing God in the Ordinary- A Theology of the Everyday.gifSeeing God in the Ordinary: A Theology of the Everyday  Michael Frost (Hendrickson) $12.95 This is a lesser known, early book by the passionate leader of the "missional church" movement -- and what a book it is! Clear, thoughtful, worldviewish, culturally engaged, it offers keys to do just what it says: find God in the ordinary by developing a theology of the everyday. I wish we'd have sold a bunch of these, and have promoted it for years, so maybe at half price, folks will see just how vital this is. Yes!

Your Daily Life Is Your Temple.jpgYour Daily Life Is Your Temple Anne Rowthorn (Seabury Books) $16.00 This author has traveled widely writing on many subjects, with a keen sense of social justice and solidarity with the marginalized. Here, she shares stories, looking for "traces of the holy" in her midst, challenging our notions of what spirituality is. Published by the classic Episcopalian publisher 10 years ago, the title is drawn from a line by Kahlil Gibran.

Spotting the Sacred- Noticing God.jpgSpotting the Sacred: Noticing God in the Most Unlikely Places Bruce Main (Baker) $15.99 Main is a hero to many, an urban activist and evangelical advocate for justice and racial reconciliation.  Perhaps the garbage can on the cover gives a hint: we can find God everywhere, and not just in the beautiful sunsets and glorious moments. There are lively stories here but good Bible study and Kingdom preaching, too. Nice blurbs on the back from Tony Campolo and from Richard Mouw.

Doors of the Sacred- Everyday Events as Hints.jpgDoors of the Sacred: Everyday Events as Hints of the Holy Bridget Haase (Paraclete) $14.99 Sister Bridget is a nun in the order of the Ursuline Sisters and has served in mission all over the world; she has seen suffering, served the sick, and yet is happy to find grace almost anywhere. She's a born storyteller and her stories draw you into spiritual realities found in the commonplace. Written like a devotional there are a nice set of "owning the story" reflection questions at the end of each reading. Paraclete always does classy books, and we have a few of these left.

Earthy Mysticism- Spirituality for Unspiritual People.jpgEarthy Mysticism: Spirituality for Unspiritual People Tex Sample (Abingdon) $15.00 If you've ever heard Tex Sample speak you know he is a Texan, a lefty justice activist, and a church consultant helping congregations reach rural, poor, working-class folk. His southern storytelling just shines in this fun set of ruminations on God's presence in real world living.  Blurbs are from Will Campbell and Stanley Hauerwas, if that gives you a sense of the sort of spirituality he brings.

Sparks of the Divine- Finding Inspiration in our Everyday World.jpgSparks of the Divine: Finding Inspiration in our Everyday World  Dr. Drew Leder (Sorin Books) $14.95 There are soft black & white photos, calligraphied pull quotes, and nice little ideas for exercises here, giving this a feel that would be lovely for readers who are not young or overly edgy. As it says on the back "The notion that the world is filled with holy sparks is shared by religious traditions around the world. Learn to uncover this sacred dimension and you will begin to hallow the world and be healed by its powers..." The author is both a medical doctor and teaches philosophy; he has written widely about the role of the body in spirituality and has thought about health, wholeness and spirituality.

Waking Up to This Day- Seeing the Beauty Right Before Us.jpgWaking Up to This Day: Seeing the Beauty Right Before Us Paula D'Arcy (Orbis) $17.00  D'Arcy came to great fame decades ago as an author and retreat leader when she wrote about grief in the international best-seller The Gift of the Red Bird. In this slim book she brings inspiring insights about being awake and aware.  A rave blurb on the back is by Fr. Richard Rohr. 

Soul Moments- Times When Heaven Touches Earth.jpgSoul Moments: Times When Heaven Touches Earth Isabel Anders (Cowley) $14.95 This author describes "soul moments" as times when heaven touches earth -- in the "here and now, in the thick of things, sometimes occurring as we are most aware of our human limitations and confusion. They encircle us, and, for their moment, name us: beloved, cherished, chosen. The experience passes, but the soul bears its indelible mark."  The great Madeleine L'Engle wrote, "Soul Moments is, I believe, the loveliest book Anders has written so far, in content, expression, and depth.... it is a beautiful, encourageing, hopeful book. I loved reading it."

Simply Open- A Guide to Experiencing God in the Everyday.jpgSimply Open: A Guide to Experiencing God in the Everyday Greg Paul (Thomas Nelson) $16.99 I have reviewed this before -- Greg Paul is known for gritty narratives of his work with the poor and homeless in inner city Toronto, and man, can he write. This book is, as it says, about being open to God's presence, experience God day by day, in any circumstance. This is wise and mature spiritual guidance, written with a lot of raw stories and good illustrations.  Chapter titles are "open my... mouth, ears, nostrils, eyes, mind, heart, and more... Wow.

The Sacred Ordinary- Embracing .jpgThe Sacred Ordinary: Embracing the Holy in the Everyday: 112 Daily Meditations  Leigh McLeroy (Revell) $12.99 Leigh McLeroy is a fine writer -- I was moved by her previous book The Beautiful Ache. She helps us expereince God with these short devotional-like storires. The sections are arranged under the headings of Ordinary Places, People, Things, Moments, and Words. She's artistic and attentive to God.  Each entry includes a brief Scripture with questions.  Very nicely done.



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December 8, 2016


In a perplexing gift-giving jam?  We can help.

You're going to love giving gifts like these.

A fun part of our job is when folks ask us to find a book for them to give as a gift for an eccentric aunt, their young adult kid who has very certain hip tastes, a sciency scholar, a lonely grandma with limited mental capacities, or their co-worker who is frustrated with church but curious about Christian truth claims.  If you want to give a gift to a friend - and who doesn't this time of year when it is natural to do so - we can help. 

Send us an email and describe the person a bit (especially whether they read a lot, or not, are pretty sharp, or maybe not super sophisticated, if they would want something from a certain theological orientation or not.) We can make some suggestions for you, described each, and explain why it might be a nice selection to bless your friend.  I'm sure I don't have to tell you that books make better gifts than the proverbial ugly sweater. 

Here are some suggestions, just some random topics and some good ideas. We love getting to show off the breadth of our inventory.  We can send these out promptly, to you or to your recipient. We gift-wrap for free, too.  


Reading for the Common Good.jpgReading for the Common Good: How Books Can Help Transform Your Church and Neighborhood C. Christopher Smith (IVP) $16.00 One of my very favorite books of the year, if you want to inspire anyone who loves books (or maybe those that don't) to realize the joy and significance of reading widely, this book is a sure-fire win. They will love it.

Word By Word- A Daily Spiritual Practice .jpgWord by Word: A Daily Spiritual Practice Marilyn McEntyre (Eerdmans) $17.99 This is something like a devotional - a set of reflections to be read and pondered - about the meaning of phrases in our English language. You may know our fondness of Marilyn's must-read Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies or her lovely little set of Bible ruminations What's in a Phrase that showcase her poetic sensibilities and fine writing and profound insights. This new book is a true gem.


Dimestore- A Writer's Life.jpgDimestore: A Writer's Life Lee Smith (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill) $24.95 Beth and I would both say this is one of the most delightful, enjoyable books we've read all year. I'm sure it would make a tremendous gift to those, at least, who like Lee Smith's popular Southern novel.  This is somewhat of a memoir (including much about her girlhood and the small town in which she grew up and her father's beloved dime store.)   One reviewer said it is "a pitch-perfect mining of the memories, desires, and imaginations fueling one of the South's -- no, one of America's -- master storytellers."  Perhaps akin to Euodoras Welty's One Writer's Beginnings, it is fun, fresh, upbeat, sentimental, wise, and so very enjoyable to read. Annie Dillars says "her brilliance shines. Her wide warmth blesses everything funny about life and -- here especially -- everything moving and deep."


The Finest Traditions of My Calling -- One Physician's Search.jpgThe Finest Traditions of My Calling: One Physician's Search for the Renewal of Medicine Abraham M. Nussbaum, M.D. (Yale University Press) $28.50 This is a truly beautiful book, a wonderfully written memoir about a doc in Denver and his own struggle to see his work as a vocation. The reviews have been extraordinary, noting both how nicely it is written and how thoughtful his insights are about the work of the doctor in these days. One surprising blurb on the back comes from edgy Lutheran pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber, who writes, " Reading The Finest Traditions of My Calling, I couldn't help but see Nassbaum as a Martin Luther of healthcare and this book as his 95 theses. May true reform ensue." A substantial, good gift.

Attending Others- A Doctor's Education  in Bodies and Words.jpgAttending Others: A Doctor's Education in Bodies and Words Brian Volck (Cascade) $25.00 This is one of the most beautifully books we've encountered all year, one I wish I had the space to write about more. Dr. Volck is a pediatrician and a poet, and his book shows how he learned to be a better doctor by paying attention - attending, as they say - to his patients (mostly women and children) and to the printed page (yes, reading poetry and fiction.)  Volck is the co-author of Reclaiming the Body: Christians and the Faithful Use of Modern Medicine and has practiced medicine among the poor in Central America and has travelled throughout the world; some of his insights gleaned from these unique settings are described wonderfully in this book. Attending Others would make a perfect gift for nearly anyone who is thoughtfully working in health care but also for anyone who has had experiences with medical providers and who long for better encounters. Endorsing blurbs come from Wendell Berry, Marilyn McEntyre, Paul Farmer, Leslie Leyland Fields and other H&M favorites. He has published in The Christian Century, Image, Health Affairs, America, and more.

Pursuing Health in an Anxious Age.jpgPursuing Health in an Anxious Age Bob Cutillo, MD (Crossway) $17.99  I wish I could press this book into the hands of so many folks as I am sure it would be a fascinating and helpful reading experience for them. This is for doctors or health-care workers of any sort, but, also, for any of us who seek better health, who wonder about medicine and nutrition and exercise and healing and wholeness and what it all means and looks like. This is not a "self improvement" type book, but a mature pondering of life and health in our secular age.  Yes, it draws on the magisterial work of philosopher Charles Taylor (The Secular Age) and does some provocative cultural analysis as we attempt to situate our longings for wellness within a life well lived. One person who cares a lot about faith-based views of integrating faith and work said this might be the sort of book Tim Keller would write if he were in the field of medicine. The always-astute Andy Crouch wrote the foreword in which he situates the book well, and explains why he is so impressed with its wisdom.  Don't worry about the bland cover this is a very, very thoughtful book.

Listen to the always thoughtful Ken Myers, of Mars Hill Audio Journal:

Reflection on the moral meaning of medicine sometimes results in the contriving of collections of guidelines or flowcharts to guide the making of difficult medical decisions. In a refreshing alternative, Dr. Cutillo has woven a wise and engaging meditation with the power to transform how we imagine the meaning of health and of community. By situating the practice of medicine in the context of modernity's preoccupations, obsessions, and blind spots, he reminds us that health is neither an entitlement nor a reductionist solution to an engineering problem. It is, rather, a gift--given by one who took on human form himself--to be received and cherished with wonder and love.


Shaping a Digital World- Faith, .jpgShaping a Digital World: Faith, Culture and Computer Technology Derek Schuurman (IVP) $18.00 I think this remains the best book yet about computer science, about thinking in a deeply Christian way about the world of digital culture, programming, technology and more. It is vital for nearly all of us, I'd say, but certainly for anyone working in the field. Derek is a very thoughtful guy and cites many of our favorite books and authors. If you like our general perspective here at Hearts & Minds you will surely appreciate this thoughtful, readable book.

Networked Theology- Negotiating Faith in Digital Culture .jpgNetworked Theology: Negotiating Faith in Digital Culture Heidi Campbell, Stephen Garner (Baker Academic) $22.99 Baker Academic has, as a publisher, been remarkably committed for over a decade of doing books about "cultural exegesis" showing us how to engage culture seriously, faithfully, thoughtfully, intentionally "in but not of." The books they've released in this series are not simplistic (and are, in fact, sometimes a bit demanding, seemingly arcane to non-specialists in cultural apologetics.) This is a brand new one in this "Engaging Culture" series and it is simply a must for anyone who reads about communications and media or how our social and religious lives are shaped by digital culture. Very impressive.

iGods.jpgiGods: How Technology Shapes Our Spiritual and Social Lives Craig Detweiler (Brazos Press) $17.99  Detweiler is a smart and productive author, working  well in this whole arena of entertainment and pop culture (having previously done books on film and video gaming.)  This is a fairly serious and deeply Christian assessment of digital culture and the forces and venues that shape us, not merely about how church folks can simply use new technology for church growth (we have those kind, too.) With chapters on Amazon, Google, Facebook, and YouTube, Instagram and Twitter, iGods explores aesthetics and technology and audience participation and more. What in informed, interesting study of the impact of all of this on us, our worldviews, our practices, our habits, and how we can live redemptively within this hot-wired, entertaining, ever-connected world.


to the table mcminn.jpgTo the Table: A Spirituality of Food, Farming and Community Lisa Graham McMinn (Brazos Press) $19.99 What a lovely book, by a fine, fine writer, doing good work relating these topics.  There is good theology, here, reflecting, out of a Christian worldview, upon how to consider land and farming and food.  The author has told some of this story in a previous memoir nicely entitled Dirt and the Good Life (Barclay Press; $17.99) so she has been at this a while. There is fabulous stuff here about food - about food production, cooking and blessing and serving, about meals, about feasting, about hospitality, and all the goodness that comes with the table.  And, yes, there is some fine writing about localism, agrarianism, farming, community gardening, sustainability, animal welfare, and the like. This book is itself a feast, the author a delight, the stories told are inspiring and a joy.  There are wonderfully compelling blurbs on the back from Joel Salatin (The Marvelous Pigness of Pigs), Norman Wirzba (Food and Faith: A Theology of Food), Rachel Marie Stone (Eat with Joy), and Jenell Paris who says "If this book were a table, it would bow under the weight of its abundance."  

The Spirituality of Wine  - amazon.jpgThe Spirituality of Wine Gisela Kreglinger (Eerdmans) $24.00 We have promoted this previously but want to suggest it again. For anyone interested in a theology of food and farming, or certainly for anyone interested in wine this is doubtlessly the best book yet done on the topic. The author was raised in an old family vineyard and still works in this tremendously interesting world of farming, wine, delight and danger. (Yes, she has a chapter about the abuse of alcohol.) Gisela Kreglinger is not only an esteemed vintner but has a degree in theology; she nicely covers Bible teaching about wine, about celebration, and tells of her own professional work in the fields and winery, explaining the whole winemaking process. A really great book. Maybe give it with a good vintage?


Small Talk- Learning From My Children About What Matters Most.jpgSmall Talk: Learning From My Children About What Matters Most Amy Julia Becker (Zondervan) $15.99  I hope you know this very fine writer (whose earlier book was called A Good and Perfect Gift: Faith, Expectations, and A Little Girl Named Penny which was very highly acclaimed, published by WJK.) Here, Ms Becker offers stories and testimony of how God uses the smallest voices to teach us the greatest truths. That is, this book is about the very big questions little kids ask, and how that "small talk" might shape us. It is profound, beautiful, written somewhat as a memoir. It's sweet and very smart.

For instance, read this from Jen Pollock Michel, author of Teach Us To Want,who reviewed it in the Englewood Review of Books:

Becker's Small Talk offers spiritual lessons without being simplistic. In fact, what I might like best about the book is the insistent need to defend the holy beauty of materiality and the idea that we can find God in the kitchen as well as the cloister. Becker does this, not by waxing eloquent for pages about ethereal ideas, but by embedding theological truth in the sights and sounds of the everyday.

I like the blurb by Gabe & Rebekah Lyons, who write:

Amy Julia Becker gets to the heart of our most valuable moments with our children -- the ones in which we laugh, cry, and marvel at the unexpected revelation of truth and joy in our every day lives. Small Talk reveals how talking without children about the most important things in life actually ends up growing us up...

Parenting- Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family.jpgParenting: Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family  Paul David Tripp (Crossway) $22.99 This is a handsome hardback, clear, solid, Reformed, offering gospel-centered freedom to raise kids in the way of Jesus. It may seem a bit overly theolgoical or even heavy-handed to some, but for those that follow Tripp (he has written widely, although it was his brother, Ted, who wrote Shepherding a Child's Heart.)  Rave, rave endorsements on the back are from Francis Chan, Tobymac, Gloria Furman. Ann Voskamp says "Simply put, I read everything that Paul Tripp writes. I can't afford to miss one word."  If yo know parents wondering about their calling as parents, this could offer solid, Biblical confidence.

Give Your Child the World- Raising Globally Minded Kids One Book at a Time .jpgGive Your Child the World: Raising Globally Minded Kids One Book at at Time Jamie C. Martin (Zondervan) $16.99 I hope you recall our rave review of this earlier -- come on, even LeVar Burten (of "Reading Rainbow" fame) says this is "an invaluable resource." And that it is -- it is something like a globally-aware Honey for a Child's Heart or a mission-minded, Christ supplement to The Read Aloud Handbook. I thikn Jamie Martin is my new patron saint, hero, and book-lover pal, even though I've not met her. I hope you know a parent you can give this to. We'll wrap it for you if you want. This guide to reading well, helping kids learn about the world "one book at a time" is just fabulous. Who will you give it to?


It's not too late.jpgIt's Not Too Late: The Essential Part You Play in Shaping Your Teen's Faith Dan Dupee (Baker) $15.99 There is, as I said in my own review of this (and my blurb on the inside) nothing like this in print. Dupee is a very good friend, parent of two sets of twins who are now thriving young adults, and the CEO of a Pittsburgh-based, interdenominational campus ministry organization. I say this to remind you that Dupee knows young adults well, and wrote this book in part inspired by conversations he had with college age students, older teens, and focus groups with parents of teens. He is convinced -and explains wonderfully in this book -that it "is not too late" to be influential in the life of your child who is emerging into young adulthood.  This book is funny, interesting, and very, very helpful. Highly recommended.


The Grand Canyon- Monument to an Ancient Earth edited.jpgThe Grand Canyon: Monument to an Ancient Earth edited by Carol Hill (Kregel) $26.99 This book has a bit of a back-story and it is certainly one-of-a-kind (and certainly a beauty to behold, laden as it is with gorgeous shots of the Grand Canyon and other wonders of nature.)  The back-story is this: well-intentioned Christian scholars who believe in a "young Earth" and dismiss evolution have created many books about how things like the Grand Canyon "prove" the Bible, particularly the accounts of the flood in early Genesis. They have published handsome volumes with this odd, minority viewpoint, and have gotten them, surprisingly, into many of the gift shops of the National Parks.

We should be glad that inspirational books aren't blacklisted by the Park gift shops but it is, shall we say, unfortunate, that this less than mainstream Christian viewpoint seems to have a monopoly in this niche market of gift books about nature.  And so, a group of evangelical scholars who reject "young Earth creationism" and favor a more balanced sort of scholarship vis a vie the age of the Earth, the role of fossils, the way to do Bible-shaped science, and such, have released this extraordinary book with hopes that it might be a more responsible public face of faith and science; it debunks some of the creationist Christian views and affirms the beauty, oldness, and, yes, creation, of the Earth.  This well-designed book is presented in a grand coffee table style and it seems a great example of classy, thoughtful, artful, book-making. Kudos to all involved - including the professors of geology, biology, paleontology, hydrology, who labored together, and the photographers (there are more than 250 photos and 17 reproductions of artwork) and designers - there are over 100 diagrams and sketches) who put it all together.  It would be a great gift just for the pictures and the glory of such a handsome volume. It is the only book of its kind, bringing together these thoughtful Christians who work in these related fields and who wanted to give testimony to God's faithfulness, the goodness of the creation, and a valid exploration of the age and formation of Arizona's grand Grand Canyon. 


The Church as Movement- Starting and Sustaining .jpgThe Church as Movement: Starting and Sustaining Missional-Incarnational Communities J.R. Woodward & Dan White (IVP) $20.00 Okay, I'll admit, most readers don't have church planters on their list but if you do, this is the one to get. It combines mature and thoughtful theology, a deep vibrant missional vision, and tons of stories from years of experience of training, supervising, and assisting those who are starting new churches.  Many books call themselves "field manuals" but this really is; it is interactive, explains eight key competencies, and guides users towards starting up flourishing and impactful faith communities. 

You know what? I think this guidebook could help any sort of team doing ministry, seeking church revitalization, or starting a new mission or project. There is an exciting foreword by Alan Hirsch, a rave blurb by Fuller President Mark Labberton, a nice recommendation from Linda Bergquist, and an lively endorsement on the back by Efram Smith, we should all listen to. Wow. 

Loving the CIty- Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centerd Ministry in Your City .jpgLoving the CIty: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centerd Ministry in Your City Timothy Keller (Zondervan) $16.99  Several years ago, Keller released a big hardback (Center Church) which his "Redeemer City to City" ministry recently re-issued in three separate (expanded) paperbacks. The first portion of Center Church is now called  Shaped by the Gospel and the third portion is now called Serving a Movement.  They each have some updated content, and input by new authors, with Keller responding to them.  In this pivotal, central section of Center Church the issue is largely about contextualization, embodying the gospel into the local setting. There's good stuff about that principle and some specific teaching about loving the place where God sends you.  Daniel Strange, Gabriel Salguero and Andy Crouch each contribute to Loving the City and Keller's response is helpful. This is a fine book for any church leader, certainly a must for anyone doing ministry afresh in a new city. But we are pleased to suggest it to any pastor who wants to think about Kingdom outreach and church ministry in a given place and want to engage the culture around us, even with nonbelievers and unchurched folk. Which is to say,  nearly anyone, eh? It would make a good gift.


Broken Hallelujahs- Learning to Grieve the Big and Small Losses of Life.jpgBroken Hallelujahs: Learning to Grieve the Big and Small Losses of Life Beth Allen Slevcove (IVP) $16.00 I've written about this before, and there has been a nice response from folks who have appreciated it. I like what the publisher explains:

The losses in our lives are both big and small. We leave home. We experience physical illness. We struggle with vocation. We may long for a spouse or child. We lose people we love to addiction or death. Spiritual director Beth Slevcove offers stories of loss from her own life along with distinctive spiritual practices that can guide us back to God.

gift of hard things.jpgThe Gift of Hard Things: Finding Grace in Unexpected Places Mark Yaconelli (IVP) $16.00 Surely one of the most moving books of the season, this is written by a master storyteller, a respected youth minister, retreat leader, and Director of a nonprofit helping explore community activism and compassion.  This powerful endorsement by Kenda Creasy Dean (author of Almost Christian) captures much:

I am undone. Maybe it's because Mark Yaconelli is the best storyteller of his generation, or because these pages are so achingly honest, or because somehow this guy just has my number -- but whatever the reason, this book made me 'softer, more open, more human.' The Gift of Hard Things is a book of dazzling grace, a slice of holy ground, as life-giving as water in the desert. Take your shoes off and drink up.

When Breath Becomes Air.jpgWhen Breath Becomes Air Paul Kalanithi (Random House) $25.00  I suppose you've heard of this -- it is one of the most acclaimed books of the year! It has garnered the most exquisite positive reviews in places such as The New York Times  and from fellow authors such as Ann Patchett who says "This is one of a handful of books I consider to be a universal donor -- I would recommend to anyone, everyone." As Atul Gawande says, it is "rattling, heartbreaking, and ultimately beautiful, the too-young Dr. Kalanithi's memoir is proof that the dying are the ones who have the most to teach us about life." 


Into the Silent Land.jpgInto the Silent Land: A Guide to the Christian Practice of Contemplation Marin Laird (Oxford University Press) $18.95 We have so many books on this topic and in their field that it is difficult to suggest just one. I like a compact hardback as a gift, though -- something handy and yet classy, nice. This feels right. It has become better known in some circles (I know folks reading it together) and we are glad;  yet, my sense is it isn't widely known. Laird has written some very good books, including a companion to this one curiously called A Sunlit Absence. Into the Silent Land was called "beautiful and deeply consoling" by one reviewer; others endorsements are from Rowan Williams, Desmond Tutu, Stephanie Paulsell and Merton scholar Lawrence Cunningham. Mature, clear, solid.


As For Me and My House- Crafting Your Marriage to Last.jpgAs For Me and My House: Crafting Your Marriage to Last Walter Wangerin (Nelson) $15.99 This is a bit older, but still works really well for those that enjoy good reading. It has great writing, great stories, and is a candid look at communication and forgiveness, especially. He's a highly respected novelist and poet (and used to be an urban Lutheran pastor) so is rather artful and not culturally "conservative" or sexist in his approach.  Beth and I both have said it is among our top few choices...

TThe Mystery of Marriage- Meditations on the Miracle .jpghe Mystery of Marriage: Meditations on the Miracle Mike Mason (Multnomah) $15.99 Contemplative, rich, thoughtful, deeply spiritual, quite lovely.  Eloquent and elegant, a bit literary, and at times almost mystical -- so probably not for everyone.  A favorite of many, though; we have a few customers who buy it repeatedly to give away. I often think that this sort of "spirituality of..." is the way to go rather than the popular books that offer more practical skills of communication and such. Interestingly, Mason was a bit reluctant to get married, in part because he's sort of an introvert who had spent time developing his own interior life; he had been single for quite a while and didn't feel terribly emotional about the whole thing. This is a very Christ centered approach, but gentle and reflective.  Later, by the way, he wrote the lovely The Mystery of Children.


Sacred Marriage- What If God Designed Marriage.jpgSacred Marriage: What If God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy? Gary Thomas (Zondervan) $15.99 Another of our all-time favs!  Highly recommended. This, too, attempts to offer more the "reason for" and "meaning of" but not as deep or contemplative as Mason's. Still, this is a wonderful look at the deeper theological and spiritual nature of marriage.  His tag line is "what if marriage wasn't to make us happy, but make us holy" -- which maybe reminds us a bit of Dallas Willard (but a more breezy writing style) with that message of inner transformation, being shaped into Christ-likeness. Gary Thomas is not a heavy writer, tells nice stories, writes with a light touch and even with humor at times. There is a companion called Devotions for the Sacred Marriage ($14.99) too, which is a nice companion volume if you like those short daily readings. 


The Meaning of Marriage- Facing .jpgThe Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God Tim & Kathy Keller (Dutton) $16.00 I guess I don't have to explain the features of a Tim Keller book -- smart, nicely written, intellectual without being too abstract, honest, Biblical, Reformed. He's a highly regarded PCA pastor and public intellectual in New York City and even the New York Times suggested he was the closest thing to a CS Lewis we have these days. His wife Kathy co-wrote some of this. They share a bit more intimately in this then perhaps in some of his other books, and it is nice to see them working together to bring such a thoughtful and engaging theological foundation for the meaning of a good marriage. Beth and I don't agree with their "complimentarian" (the phrase in contrast with egalitarian) view, but, to be honest, even though they say they believe the Bible teaches male "headship" they work it out in egalitarian ways and admit so in the book, telling stories of who does what based on gifts and abilities and seasons of life. It is a very impressive book and we recommend it.


Becoming a Pastor Theologian- New Possibilities for Church Leadership.jpgBecoming a Pastor Theologian: New Possibilities for Church Leadership edited by Todd Wilson & Gerald Hiestand (IVP Academic) $25.00 I have explained this before and wanted to suggest it here, now, as a fine gift for your pastor, for nearly any church leader who appreciates being taken seriously as an intellectual leader. (Not every church honors their pastor as such so it is no wonder some recoil for that part of their calling.) Last year we named two books on this theme as key new books and this collection of papers is a perfect follow up. Chapters are by James K.A. Smith, Peter Leithart, Kevin Vanhoozer, Lauri Norris, and others.

Douglas Sweeney writes

This passionate set of essays comes at a crucial time for the church. Wilson and Hiestand call pastors to lead their people once again, not so much as CEOs, therapists or entertainers, but as those who want to help them know the Lord.

Preaching the Luminous Word- Biblical Sermons and Homiletical Essays.jpgPreaching the Luminous Word: Biblical Sermons and Homiletical Essays Ellen F. Davis (Eerdmans) $30.00 We have dozens and dozens of books on preaching and any number would be great gifts to those who preach regularly; this new one is outstanding, a fine example of both good thinking about homiletics and rigorous Biblical reflection. Davis is the Distinguished Professor of Bible and Practical Theology at Duke Divinity School.  Austin McIver Dennis helped with this, a senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Asheville NC. Stanley Hauerwas wrote the foreword.

As Krista Tippett (host of the radio show "On Being") says:

Ellen Davis is the rare academic - a brilliant academic - who takes seriously the art, craft, and calling of preaching. I am grateful that this book is in the world, in a moment in which the world so urgently needs the discerning, luminous word.


Ministry Mantras- Language for Cultivating Kingdom Culture.jpgMinistry Mantras: Language for Cultivating Kingdom Culture J.R. Briggs & Bob Hyatt (IVP) $17.00 JR is an energetic young pastor and consultant and author and yet he is sobered by real world failure (see his outstanding, much-acclaimed book Fail.) Here, he reminds us that "we become what we say" and that to create a fresh culture in our congregations, leaders must cast vision, help folks rethink how we think and talk and do our life together. These numerous chapters on "mantras" are arranged in two sections, mantras for leaders and mantras for the community. This may be one of the most interesting books on church life this year.  A.J. Swaboda notes that "Jesus did pithy - so well that people remembered so much of what he said."  Skye Jethanie says that Briggs and Hyatt "satisfy our cultural desire for the simple without succumbing to the simplistic."

Mandy Smith (whose marvelous The Vulnerable Pastor was one of picks of best books last year) says: 


Ministry rarely allows the space needed to shape words that describe reality well - which is why we need a resource like Ministry Mantras, whose simple yet deeply scriptural and practical probers help us describe - and shape - reality for our communities. These are not random, pithy sayings, but a holistic health vision of ministry expressed in succinct, everyday language, ready to be shared and repeated. And lived.

Faithful Presence- Seven Disciplines That Shape the Church for Mission.jpgFaithful Presence: Seven Disciplines That Shape the Church for Mission David Fitch (IVP) $17.00 It may not mean much to everyone but this is co-published by Missio Alliance, a fine church revitalization movement and stands firmly in the Praxis line of IVP, offering books that equip leaders for better ministry.  This is a powerful, wonderfully realized invitation to see the church anew, in light of these seven transformative practices that help us all embody the Kingdom of God, even now. This is somewhat of a response - Anthony Bradley calls it a "corrective" - to the much-discussed views of James Davison Hunter and his best-selling Oxford University Press book, To Change the World. Fitch has been interested in and has written widely in the shape of the church, responding to God's own faithful presence, while propels us into the world.  This is an extraordinary, important book. 


At This Time and In This Place- Vocation and Higher Education .jpgAt This Time and In This Place: Vocation and Higher Education Edited by David S. Cunningham (Oxford University Press) $35.00 This is a scholarly collection of essays compiled by Hope College Professor of Religion and the Director of the CrossRoads Project there. It is almost axiomatic these days that we need visions of vocation, that talk about careers needs to be related to callings. This one-of-kind professional text explores why this is and how to do it well.  Blurbs on the back are from important voices in the philosophy of higher education, Christian Smith, Tim Clydesdale and Jennifer Lindholm, who calls it "essential reading."  


The Lost Carving- A Journey to the Heart of Making.jpgThe Lost Carving: A Journey to the Heart of Making David Easterly (Penguin) $16.00 I have told folks about this before and it is one of those very special books - the author tells of falling in love with wood carving while visiting as a youngster a famous Cathedral with famous wood carvings. As he grows into his vocation, he is given the chance of a life-time - to repair the very wood carvings, damaged in a fire, that inspired him decades before. So begins a "journey into the heart of making." Beautifully rendered, this is a vital book for anyone who enjoys memoir, stories of creativity, or who is interested in woodworking.


a-womans-place-.jpgA Woman's Place: A Christian Vision for Your Calling in the Office, the Home, and the World Katelyn Beaty (Howard Books) $22.99 I know I told you about this often, having done a major review of it when it first released late last summer.  It is one of the best books of 2016 but yet, I'm afraid, isn't terribly well known. Beaty is sharp, thoughtful, offers a fine overview of the conversations about work and calling, vocation and career, and applies these insights to the lives and stories of women. This isn't Lean In for Christian women, really, but it is a fine, thoughtful, and engaging book that is simply a must for any Christian serious about the work-world ministry of God's scattered people, male or female. Highly recommended.



caring for creation 2.jpgCaring for Creation: The Evangelical's Guide to Climate Change and a Healthy Environment Mitch Hescox and Paul Douglas (Bethany House) $14.99 Perhaps you will recall the big review I did of this winsome, marvelous book.  Perhaps you could give it to someone you know - it is inviting, pleasant, important, inspiring. It is a fair-minded approach, I'd say, and good for "climate change skeptics" or especially for those who lean to the right politically. (Both authors are free-market guys, Republicans, pro-life, well churched.) I love this surprisingly passionate, moving call to care for the beauty of God's good world and wake up to what is surely one of the great moral crises of our time. Highly recommended.

Great Tide Rising- Towards Clarity and Moral Courage in a Time of Planetary Change .jpgGreat Tide Rising: Towards Clarity and Moral Courage in a Time of Planetary Change Kathleen Dean Moore (Counterpoint) $26.00 I have said often that I will read any new book by Kathleen Moore, such a fine and moving writer she is. I suppose I'd say this was one of the most moving books I experienced this year, with it's remarkable prose, its coherent vision, its passion for justice and goodness and living a life of meaning in the face of the harms perpetrated upon the Earth.  Some may find it a bit overwrought and others might want a Biblical or theological perspective and this does not offer that. But it is a sturdy, morally serious and, most often, beautiful book of nature writing, solace, family, and the search for meaningful action in a time of climate change. 


vegangelical.jpgVegangelical: How Caring for Animals Can Shape Your Faith Sarah Withrow King (Zondervan) $16.99 Sarah is a feisty friend, a wonderful writer, a fun person who is "all in" in her discipleship, following Jesus, hopefully bringing others into His Kingdom of peace and justice. and restoration of a groaning creation. Years ago she came to believe that it is Biblically and theologically responsible to consider animal welfare as part of her faith; she tells that story with some degree of academic depth and radicalism in the important Animals Are Not Ours (No, Really, They're Not): An Evangelical Animal Liberation Theology (Cascade; $25.00.) Here, in the clever, recently written Vegangelical, she offers a somewhat less heady, more inviting, overtly evangelical call to animal care and vegetarianism. Agree or not, this is a very interesting book, a very good effort at grounding animal concern within Biblically-based, gospel-centered discipleship.  There are plenty of practical tips, too, although it isn't a book of recipes or primarily about diet. 


The Lawyer's Calling- Christian Faith and Legal Practice.jpgThe Lawyer's Calling: Christian Faith and Legal Practice Joseph Allegretti (Paulist Press) $12.95 This slim book is the finest introduction to being a Christian in the field of law of which we know. He uses thoughtful categories and invites attorneys to consider how their vocation can assist others and how they can serve the cause of justice.  Nicely done.

redeeming law.jpgRedeeming Law: Christian Calling and the Legal Profession Michael Schutt (IVP) $27.00 This big paperback is ambitious but surely the very best book in this field. We have a few others that are "must reads" - some which are more philosophical about jurisprudence or the history of legal thought. This has some of that but also invites deep consideration about the role of "thinking Christianly" about the vocation of lawyering and what it means to serve God within the legal profession. Highly recommended.


The great Dutch scholar, pastor, journalist, and eventually Prime Minister of Holland is renowned for so much - including the famous line about Christ claiming "every square inch" of creation. We are glad for this recent translation project offering very handsome, oversized editions of important Kuyper books that haven't been translated into English before. (They have some very helpful introductory essays and annotations, making them that much more helpful.)  Here are the four that have been released in the last year or so, published by Lexham Press. $49.99 each.

Kuyper_Header.pngCommon Grace: God's Gifts for a Fallen World (volume 1) Abraham Kuyper

Pro Rege: Living Under Christ the King (volume 1) Abraham Kuyper

Our Program: A Christian Political Manifesto Abraham Kuyper

On the Church Abraham Kuyper


Courage to Soar- A Body in Motion, a Life in Balance .jpgCourage to Soar: A Body in Motion, a Life in Balance Simone Biles (Zondervan) $24.99 This is surely one of the most eagerly anticipated books this season, the lovely story about this lovely young woman.  She says, "My journey to the 2016 Olympics started on a daycare field trip." And so she tells us her story, sometimes what seems nearly miraculous. Her faith is clear, her family helped her wildest dreams come true, and, well, you know the rest... The blurbs on the back make one smile - Nastia Liukin, Dominique Moceanu, Martha Karolhyi.  There is even a fabulous foreword by Mary Lou Retton. 


Upstream- Selected Essays.jpgUpstream: Selected Essays Mary Oliver (Penguin Press) $26.00 We have touted this happily, a grand collection of various essays by this, one of the era's most beloved and respected poets.  Some of these finely crafted pieces are about nature, as the cover suggests, but, of course, many are about what is too coldly called literary criticism. That she writes with warmth and color and passion about writing and books and words, well, that's it.  If you know anybody who likes her poems, this will be a great, luminous gift.  


The Magnolia Story.jpgThe Magnolia Story Chip and Joanna Gaines (Thomas Nelson) $26.99 I don't watch that much TV, let alone those fix up your home shows. But this is nice, mostly because this couple work well together. They are, well, cute together, and, I think, offer a good witness to the world. They are graduates of Baylor University and it shows; they are thoughtful, kind, fun.  We appreciate their renovation projects (and think it is cool that Joanna buys her custom wall coverings from the respected York Wall Paper Company.  Hey, Mr. and Mrs. Gaines, next time you're in York, look us up!!!)  We have a nifty little gift card package that we'll send along with any order.  Cool stuff.


The Wired Soul- Finding Spiritual Balance in a Hyperconencted Age.jpgThe Wired Soul: Finding Spiritual Balance in a Hyperconnected Age Tricia McCary Rhodes (NavPress)$14.99   We don't know whether to shelve this book in our "digital/media" section or in our spirituality section. It really is about our interior lives, about spiritual formation, but sets it in the context of our involvement in digital practices, high-tech stuff. A decade ago I swore by the brilliant, prescient Habits of the High-Tech Heart by Q Schultze. This is an ultra-up-to-date version of that, asking out we can find deeper spirituality in our net-surfing, hot-wired, always connected world. Rhodes has written other books about spirituality amidst the chaos of our busy days, and in this one she hones in on teaching spiritual disciplines for digital natives. Can we "be still" and know? Wonderfully-done.


Prophetic Lament- Call for Justice in Troubled Times.jpgProphetic Lament: A Call for Justice in Troubled Times Soong-Chan Rah (IVP) $17.00 I know, I know, I've mentioned this often. There is simply nothing like it, a study of the sad Biblical book of Lamentations, applied to issues of racial injustice, urban violence, "Black Lives Matters" and more. If you need to share a book with someone in lament these days, this is a Biblical study by a passionate professor, evangelical and justice-minded. Very useful, sure to be appreciated.

forgive us.jpgForgive Us: Confessions of a Compromised Faith Mae Cannon, Lisa Sharon Harper, Soong-Chan Rah, Troy Jackson (Zondervan) $22.99 I suppose you know people who are upset about the recent election, about the violence of the police exhibited at Standing Rock, about the frustrating verdicts (over and over) at seemingly race-related and violent police incidents. This book reminds us as the church of our complicity in past injustices and invites us to confess, lament, ask forgiveness, and move on towards greater reconciliation.  You know and I do, too, that there are those who are nearly exiled from conventional Christian faith because they don't hear this kind of admission. There are those who really need to hear that these kinds of books (published by conservative evangelical publishers, no less) are being published.  Please consider giving this as a gift.

Here is what I wrote in an endorsing blurb that found it's way into the book itself. I'm committed to it and we would be honored if you ordered some from us:

First Chronicles 12:32 mentions the sons of Issachar, who understood the times and knew what God s people should do. Of course, one cannot understand our times without going into the past and realizing the roots of our current historical situation. Our brave authors here do this for us, helping us learn things we did not know, underscoring certain features of our past social failings and bad theologies, and then offer insightful theological reflections to help us name sin, seek forgiveness and move forward in newness of life. Anyone wanting to be Christ s ambassadors of reconciliation and agents of God s transforming kingdom simply must grapple with the social sins named in this book, nurturing hearts that can become broken and healed by these stories of pain and compromise. We must learn the rhythms and goodness of grace that comes through lament and admitting guilt. This book will indeed help us be sons and daughters of Issachar --- aware, repentant, wise, and relevant. I pray it gets a wide, wide readership. 


The Life We Never Expected- Hopeful Reflections.jpgThe Life We Never Expected: Hopeful Reflections on the Challenges of Parenting Children with Special Needs Andrew & Rachel Wilson (Crossway) $12.99 I cannot say how good this book is - it isn't complicated to read, but it surely isn't simplistic. It is about (as Karen Swallow Prior says) "loss, lament, hope, humility, contentment, joy." My kids are grown and I'd be incredibly blessed if somebody gave this to me as a gift -- I can't imagine how it would help somebody in the thick of the hard stuff. Why not wrap one up and send it along?

As Russell Moore writes:

This isn't a book that's going to tell you to pull yourself up by our bootstraps and try harder. This is a book for those who are on the floor, weeping, because they need to know that Jesus is with them.

Refresh- Spiritual Nourishment for Parents of Children With Special Needs.jpgRefresh: Spiritual Nourishment for Parents of Children With Special Needs Kimberly Drew & Jocelyn Green (Kregel) $15.99 I have to admit, I nearly cried when I saw this, and was deeply moved as I dipped in and read random selections. It is arranged as a devotional, a reader to encourage parents who are taking care of kids with special disabilities. It is "more than a devotional" one reviewer said, "it is a lifeline of hope." Raising children can be tiring for anyone. But if you know someone who has a child with handicaps or special needs, it is surely draining for them, and you could bless them with a gift like this. These authors know the struggles of this situation, they understand; both are raising children with significant disabilities. A reassuring, useful, resource. 


Tweetable Nietzsche.jpgTweetable Nietzsche: His Essential Ideas Revealed and Explained C. Ivan Spencer (Zondervan) $16.99 Sometimes the changing face of religious publishing just baffles me. Why the conservative evangelical publisher released this odd little book is a mystery, but I couldn't be happier. What a crazy-good, interesting, useful book. Can you figure out the sweeping worldview of the world's most famous nihilist in 140 characters?  Does what is billed as the "liveliest and fastest-paced introduction" to Fred N even make sense? Yes, and again I say, yes! Give this fascinating book to any kid who is studying philosophy, anybody curious about this architect of postmodernism and atheism.  David Dockery (President of conservative Trinity International University) assures us this is "brilliant and creative."  I hope you know somebody to give this to.


what's best next.jpgWhat's Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done (Expanded Edition) Matt Perman (Zondervan) $19.99 I had the great joy of speaking at conference about faith, work, life, vocation, and cultural engagement recently and Matt was the other keynote speaker. And he bought a lot of books from us - he is a former bookseller, himself. He's a solid guy who used to work with John Piper and now directs "Made to Flourish" which is a fabulous movement helping churches equip folks to think about faith and the marketplace, Christian service in the work-world, and helping all of us who love Jesus live out our faith for the sake of the common good. This book is a fairly sophisticated Christ-centered view of productivity, organizational skills, habits of being disciplines and achieving goals in the work-world or home.  From time-management to the popular "getting things done" regime, Matt will guide you to see how God can help you be all He wants you to be, for Christ's own glory and our neighbor's good. Nice, practical, helpful as we do well work that matters

Okay, friends: stay tuned. This is just part one. As soon as I can, I'll offer some more good suggestions for gift giving.

Here are some of what we'll cover next, in the next day or so.  So many good ideas...



































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December 11, 2016


We hope you enjoyed our last epic list of some random suggestions that might speak to a person for whom you want to give a little gift. Books are such fine presents (and they wrap very nicely.) What a curious thing in our post-Christian culture: a season where we can give gifts to almost anybody without any awkwardness.  Book sales spike during this time of year for a reason; Christian folks certainly be a part of this trend and we should be eager to pass out interesting titles, sharing something of comfort and joy this time of year. 

Who might you give a book to?

Here are some more suggestions, good ideas for your holly jolly generosity.  And, hey, nobody said you can't get these for yourself. Or read it first before you put it under a tree.

So, part two.  Recommendations and descriptions for free -- but ya gotta order through us, right? It's only fair. 


Love, Henri- Letters the Spiritual Life.jpgLove, Henri: Letters the Spiritual Life Henri J. M. Nouwen (Convergent) $24.00  Fr. Nouwen was known for writing letters  --  he kept nearly all of the 16,000 letters he received and he responded to them all.  Some of his replies, spanning two decades, are very revealing, some quite tender, some summarizing things he wrote in his many books. This very handsome hardback offers over 200 of his letters offering wit, condolence, insight, spiritual guidance. As Sue Mosteller writes in her epilogue, "I love this collection. It is for me, a spiritual autobiography. Henri's letters reveal the ever-evolving, ever-deepening, ever-struggling heart of my strong yet vulnerable friend."  


Deeper Magic 2.jpgDeeper Magic: The Theology Behind the Writings of C.S. Lewis Donald T. Williams (Square Halo Books) $16.99  I can nearly guarantee you that no one you know has this book yet -- I picked them up from the publisher a day ago, and we are most likely the only bookstore that has them now. There are so many good books about Lewis, of course, that one could be forgiven for thinking we simply don't need any more.  And then you would see this one and realize it fills a significant hole in the large Lewis literature; Deeper Magic literally offers a systematic theology informed by Lewis, compiling and collating and drawing up his prose, fiction, letters, prayers, poems, and essays to create the sort of theology Lewis would have written had he been a theologian.  Such a comprehensive overview of even a professional theologians life-long body of work can be daunting (even the most precise theological professional changes her or his mind over time and may have contradictions within their own system of thought.)  It is more daunting when the writing is so vast and allusive -- children's stories, epic poems, letters, sermons and more make up Lewis's oeuvre. 

Still, this is much more than a shoehorning of Lewis proof-texts into theological categories (the nature of truth, the character of God, the meaning of salvation, the person and work of Christ, the end times and more.) It is a fabulously rich, very studious, systematic study -- with a degree of admitted speculation -- of what Lewis really meant by "mere Christianity."  Agree or not, this is unlike any book about Lewis you've read and it is a must-own volume for anyone who is even somewhat serious about the great Oxford don.

Listen to Diana Pavlack Glyer, author of Bandersnatch: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and the Creative Collaboration of the Inklings

Williams has done the impossible: he has written a highly readable overview of C. S. Lewis's theology. He draws from the deep well of a lifetime spent studying literature and theology and Lewis. My understanding has been greatly enriched; yours will be, too. This book is a marvel. I am happy to recommend it.

CS Lewis and the Arts.jpgBy the way, big kudos to Square Halo Books in Lancaster, PA, for releasing this. They did this something like this a couple of years ago, publishing a book which filled a real gap in Lewisania. Their splendid C.S. Lewis and the Arts: Creativity in the Shadowlands ($18.95) offered a dozen great essays by a variety of Lewis scholars, some who are themselves artists or cultural creatives. Why not wrap 'em both up together -- a perfect gift to appeal to what Lewis called "reason and imagination."  



how's your soul +.jpgHow's Your Soul?: Why Everything That Matters Starts with the Inside You  Judah Smith (Thomas Nelson) $22.99  This is a sweet and upbeat book, funny, honest, written as a guide to soul-care, attending to our inner lives, in a way that is inviting for those who are not mature in Christian faith (but it does come at things directly from a Biblical/evangelical perspective.) I like that this author speaks to his readers as if they are interested in hearing him out as a young pastor, but is aware that they may not have full buy-in to his assumptions about the Bible or church life. Judah is very popular among young adults for his previous best selling books Jesus Is ____ and Life Is____. This isn't for serious skeptics, philosophy majors or cultural critics, but for pretty ordinary young adults who don't know much about faith but are willing to consider it, this is a way into the conversation. 

It's Not What You Think- Why Christianity Is About So Much More .jpgIt's Not What  You Think: Why Christianity Is About So Much More Than Going to Heaven When You Die Jefferson Bethke (Thomas Nelson) $16.99  I love this young dude and his fast-talking, super honest, evangelical YouTube talks. (He went viral with his rant "Jesus > Religion" which became a good book and is, happily, an indication that he is a serious and thoughtful pastor, not a fad star.) In this fun and readable guide to Christian living he suggests we've gotten the story wrong.  He invites folks to reconsider some standard Christian slogans and/or teachings which he tweaks, noting the what people often think about these things isn't quite right; Christian discipleship isn't even what you thought.  This "not that, but this" approach is an ancient method of doing theology, and while it sounds sort of edgy, it's just good solid explication. Blurbs on the back are from the popular Lysa TerKeurst and the always interesting Bob Goff, noting that Jefferson has "rattled by assumptions about Jesus."  Some of the chapter titles are "Your Story's Not What You Think", "People Are Not Who You Think" "You Aren't Who You Think", "Worship's Not What You Think",  "The Kingdom's Not What You Think" -- there is even a nice chapter called "The Table's Not What  You Think" which has the subtitle, "It's not just a meal, it's a sacred space."


Today's Moment of Truth- Devotions to Deepen.jpgToday's Moment of Truth: Devotions to Deepen Your Faith in Christ Lee Strobel & Mark Mittelberg (Zondervan) $19.99  This is a devotional made with heavy glossy paper and a colorful padded cover and ribbon marker making it a very nice gift.  It offers 180 insightful devotions "that will give you daily infusions of spiritual truth while deepening your knowledge of the evidence for Christianity."   I hope you know Strobel and Mittelberg who are fun guys who are great communicators, known for compelling workshops and books about apologetics (the defense of traditional Christian truth claims) and evangelism (inviting non-churched folks to consider the free gift of salvation offered in Christ.) They know their stuff and here offer nice, solid, inspiring short pieces about various truths. I think this book is ideal for those that may not want to read a heady theology book or even a sustained argument about Christian evidences but who wants something a bit more intellectually stimulating than a simple inspirational devotional. In Today's Moment of Truth the authors offer a reflection upon either a scientific, historical or biblical fact, equipping readers to stand confident in those reasonable truths. Nicely done.


making sense of god.jpgMaking Sense of God: An Invitation to the Skeptical Timothy Keller (Viking) $27.00 This recent book, published in hardback by a prominent New York publishing house, is one of the very best books to give to somebody who has an allergy to religion, who isn't sure they want to even consider the plausibility of Christian truth claims, and want a literate, intelligent, astute argument. Keller's early book of this kind -- emerging from his innovative church-planting among smart, cosmopolitan New Yorkers -- was called Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism (Penguin Books; $17.00.)  Making Sense of God is in many ways a prequel to that, for those perhaps not even ready to read the case for Christianity's truth and reasonableness but who are willing to explore if the notion of God is sensible. This book is very, very good and I highly recommend it. 


Life's Too Short to Pretend You're Not Religious  .jpgLife's Too Short to Pretend You're Not Religious David Dark (IVP) $20.00 David Dark is one of our most energetic and curious writers -- part Bob Dylan, part Dylan Thomas (okay, I just said that because it sounded cool, which is all I was going for. Maybe I should have said for those who like Sufjan Stevens and Michael Chabon; Daniel Berrigan and Beck, U2 and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.) David is a pop culture savant, a Southern literature buff, a righteous social activist an interesting teacher, and  a heckuva storyteller.  He wrote this fascinating book -- part memoir, part literary rumination, part reflection on the nature of our worldviews -- to friends who may call themselves "spiritual but not religious." 

I did a much longer review when it first came out, and think it could be a great gift for somebody you may know so wanted to mention it again. David invites us to admit we all live by story, that there are social imaginations and some profound stuff behind and underneath and in the things we care most about, the stories and values and episodes that have shaped us.  Call this stuff religion or call it something else, it is evident that we all are in this together, guided by ultimate concerns and deep commitments that come from somewhere. David interestingly calls these "attention collections" and invites readers to be self-aware of what has shaped our deepest attentions, our loves. Maybe all of this very entertaining, smart writing can help us see what we're most about, and how this might be some signal of transcendence, pointing us to the good, the beautiful, maybe even the true.  As it says in big block letters on the back "Religious is a complicated word."  If you know some literary, thoughtful person who mistrusts the word, give them this. 

Sara Zarr, a contemporary award winning novelist says:  "Life's Too Short to Pretend You're Not Religious is a bracing manifesto for modern people and an optimism-infused love song to humanity."  


Becoming Wise- An Inquiry Into the Mystery and Art of Living .jpgBecoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living Krista Tippett (Penguin Press) $28.00  This is wonderfully written, a spectacular book by the well known and deeply appreciated NPR interviewer who, on her show "On Being" interviews all sorts of interesting folks, spiritual leaders, scientists, political activists, church folk and others who can tell their story of living a good and creative life. For those who don't necessarily need an overtly Christian book but would warm up to something eloquent and mysterious and healthy and good, this book would be wonderful. Tippett has interviewed some of the most interesting, courageous, and insightful people on the planet and here she tells of things she learned from these many years of talking to these wise and thoughtful humans.  Endorsements on the back are rave, of course, from Elizabeth Gilbert, Parker Palmer, Karen Armstrong, Brene Brown and others. Andrew Solomon says she has "ecumenical generosity" with a "lovely wisdom" and secularist Adam Gopnik opines that "Krista Tippett is one of America's ablest listeners..."  President Obama gave Tippett the coveted National Humanities Medal not long ago and praised her for "thoughtfully delving into the mysteries of human existence."  Nice stuff and a good conversation starter for those who want to invite deeper conversations, perhaps, finally, about Jesus and His Kingdom.  Highly recommended.


Designing Your Life- How to Build a Well-Lived Joyful Life .jpgDesigning Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived Joyful Life Bill Burnett & Dave Evans (Knopf) $24.95  This is a very handsome, sturdy hardback designed nicely to help people -- get this -- use design principles to, well, design their life.  These are remarkably thoughtful teachers and a course they teach at Stanford is among the most popular courses at that prestigious school.  Burnett is the executive director of the Stanford Design PRogram and, with Evans, is cofounder of the Life Design Lab.  

There is a lot of emotive talk these days about finding one's passion, and following some vague call to do great things, dare greatly, make a difference, to be and do and go.  These authors ratchet things down a bit and invite readers to design a life you can love. They are all about "prototyping some potential lives" and guide readers how to get away from dysfunctional believes and find a better framework and process for moving forward. It shows how to get advisers, mentors, and a supportive community to help with life design, which (like a design, they teach us) is a "team sport."   Here's the skinny: designers don't think their way forward, they build stuff.  Burnett & Evans help us figure out life options in the real world.  It's a great tool, a fine, helpful book.


Gospel According to Star_Trek.jpgThe Gospel According to Star Trek: The Original Crew Kevin C. Neece (Cascade Books) $24.00  I enjoyed writing about this before and wanted to give it another shout out here, now. It's really, really good, for anyone who loves Star Trek and for anyone who wants a fairly serious, deeply Christian analysis. As Christian philosopher (and pop culture enthusiast) David Naugle says about it "You hold in your hands a treasure!" Yes.

Watching TV Religiously- Television and Theology in Dialogue.jpgWatching TV Religiously: Television and Theology in Dialogue Kutter Callaway with Dean Batali (Baker Academic) $27.99  In the few weeks this book has been out it has generated a number of fascinating reviews and even debates on the internet, wondering about their perspective, framework, analysis. (The authors take some exception to some of the important work of James K.A. Smith, and, so, there's that.)  I mentioned that to persuade you that this is serious stuff, a tremendous read, and what one has called "a crucial conversation...that is essential" and what another says is "a brilliant and timely analysis."  Callaway is a professional theologian, by the way, and Batali is a TV writer with over twenty years of experience, even as head writer for several popular shows.   The first portion of the book offers a high quality discussion of TV scholarship, how shows are made, how it all works, and then moves towards more intentionally theological concerns -- can we discern God's common grace in all things? Do late modern consumerist ideologies deform even how we consume the popular arts? 

David O. Taylor of Fuller Theological Seminary offers a keen endorsement and reminds us:

While it may be called the small screen, television has an influence that is oversized. Every five years, it seems, a new collection of TV shows frame "the new normal" in a way that enables an entire society to re imagine itself. For that reason, we need judicious, charitable guides to help us navigate what is arguably the dominant storytelling medium of early twenty-first century culture. 

Day Alt Music Died.jpgThe Day Alternative Music Died Adam Caress (New Troy Books) $16.99   I did a very big review of this when it first came out, raving about Adam's extraordinary knowledge of the history of rock music and how he tells the great story of the rise of rock, fold rock, alt rock, indie rock, and more, as the story of the struggle between commerce and art.  That is, he sees grunge and alternative rock (not to mention, punk, obviously) as a large reaction to vapid hair bands and glam rock.  Alas, once the Seattle sound became popular, the record labels put out dozens of wannabe grunge bands and the co-option of an artful sound happened once again. The pendulum swings between art and innovation and record deals and profiteering business, and the next chapter of the music of our lives evolves.  I can't tell you how much I loved this book and how I recommend it for anyone half-way interested in pop culture, rock and roll, popular music, entertainment, or the music industry.  Adam is a really good guy -- he teaches in the Music Business Program at Montreat College in North Carolina -- and for those that know this book, he is considered a genius. 

As the wonderful writer and cultural critic Sven Birkerts (yes, Sven Birkerts of The Gutenberg Elegies) writes about it, 

A patient (and fascinating) itemization of the stages whereby corporate logistics sought to monetize a hip-shake and a sneer and everything that followed from it. The history is fascinating -- much fresh lore here -- and the cultural and economic analysis is chillingly persuasive. 


The Road Back to You- An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery .jpgThe Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery Ian Morgan Cron & Suzanne Stabile (IVP) $24.00 This is without a doubt the most fun book you will ever read on the Enneagram and, with wit and jokes and stories and advice, The Road Back becomes a pleasant guide to understanding oneself and others.  Cron and Stabile do some mild spiritual direction stuff but this isn't a heavy theological study nor primarily about one's spirituality, it is more general and foundational, just providing a tool to understand your deepest wounds, your particular sins and the certain graces to claim if you've got typical foibles matched with the Enneagram "types." This is much more fun than the Meyers-Briggs, say, and the stories and honesty in this book make it truly captivating. The numbers (and wings and other pieces of the system) can be a bit mystifying but these authors make it clear and useful.  There is a wook-book, too, that is good for processing the material, even good for small groups. That sells for $8.00.


October 31, 1517- Martin Luther and the Day That Changed the World.jpgOctober 31, 1517: Martin Luther and the Day That Changed the World Marty Marty (Paraclete) $19.99  This is a compact sized hardback, small, thin, and very handsome, an exquisite little book by one of our great Lutheran thinkers, writers, leaders. He explains what led up to that big day almost 500 years ago, and how Luther's protest movement shapes us yet today. The forward, by the way, is by a Catholic writer James Martin, which is pretty nifty. I love this little book and think it would make a great gift.

Here I Walk- A Thousand Miles on Foot to Rome with Martin Luther.jpgHere I Walk: A Thousand Miles on Foot to Rome with Martin Luther Andrew Wilson (Brazos Press) $17.99 I've highlighted this well-written book a couple of times before groups, just reading a couple of sentences... I was hooked by reading the first paragraph of the introduction, and then, again, by the first page. What a fun and interesting book; the author and his wife, working on PhDs on church history at Princeton, decide they will reenact Luther's famous journey across Europe to Rome. So this is part hiking memoir, travelogue, church history pilgrimage, and, finally, a biography of this epic season of Martin's life. The title -- of course! -- is a hilarious play on words of Luther's most famous words, "Here I Stand."    This new boo by Andrew Wilson is a great, great read!

By the way, send me a note if you want other biographies of Luther or studies of the Reformation. We have a little list compiled we'd love to share...


God & Churchill- How the Great Leader's Sense of Divine Destiny.jpgGod & Churchill: How the Great Leader's Sense of Divine Destiny Changed His Troubled World and Offers Hope for Ours Jonathan Sandy's & Wallace Henley (Tyndale) $15.99  This fall I talked to who has hundreds of books about Churchill in his own library; he said that this book is a good corrective to those that miss Churchill's faith and that it includes some material that is simply not found in any other place. Which is to say it would be a great gift to a Churchill fan.  Publishers Weekly says it is "an excellent read" and Os Guinness calls is "fascinating and well-argued book." 

Lincoln's Last Speech- Wartime Reconstruction.jpgLincoln's Last Speech: Wartime Reconstruction and the Crisis of Reunion Louis P. Masur (Oxford University Press) $24.95  Do you know the distinguished history professor from Rutgers, Dr. Louis Masur, author of several respected books about the civil war and about Lincoln?  This one came out just a year ago and it explores the last speech President Lincoln gave -- on the evening of April 11th, 1865. One can only weep thinking of what had happened and what was to come, not only regarding Lincoln's death but in the way in which subsequent administrations shaped the tumultuous decade that followed. What was the great President's frame of mind at the end of the civil war? What was his best vision for reunion and reconstruction? How were the rights of blacks beginning to be discussed?   Eminent Gettysburg professor Dr. Allen Guelzo says: "Louis Masur presents us with the clearest view by far of the torturous beginnings of the Reconstruction era...  Lincoln's Last Speech is, in fact, the best introduction to the opening phases of Reconstruction we have, and one that moves to first place in any Reconstruction reading list."

The Twilight of the American Enlightenment- The 1950s.jpgThe Twilight of the American Enlightenment: The 1950s and the Crisis of LIberal Belief George M. Marsden (Basic Books) $26.99  I am not sure why I think this, but it seems like this book is needed now even more than when it was published a couple of years ago. Marsden is one of the true deans of contemporary Christian scholarship and as a historian he is highly, highly regarded. Here is is examining, in a way that seems utterly germane this season, how religious faith did or didn't play in the mid-20th century and, more, how faith in the liberal values of American democracy came undone.  What he means by "liberal" is technically precise and his thesis is rather specific, but, nonetheless, this is a rip-roaring ride through an era that some of us need to know more about. 

Mark Noll says Marsden in Twilight... offers penetrating insights "on civic authority, modern anxiety, and failed liberal expectations"  and makes a "persuasive appeal for a culture of genuinely inconclusive pluralism that the leading thinkers of that era sought but could not deliver."  Duke's Grant Wacker calls it "another masterpiece" and Robert Wuthnow of Princeton says it helps us understand contemporary gridlock. Barry Hankins of Baylor says "Anyone seeking to understand American culture and weigh in on the conversation should read this book."

If You Can Keep It.jpgIf You Can Keep It: The Forgotten Promise of American Liberty Eric Metaxas (Viking) $26.00  I gave this a qualified thumbs up when I did a long review this summer, telling about how surprised I was at how deeply moved I was by this telling of the genius of the American revolution and the founding of the republic. Few countries are, it should be said, are founded by such interesting scholars and philosophers with such innovative ideas. We ought not tire of learning about our earliest days and Mr. Metaxas -- colorful writer that he is -- tells it really well, and gets the grand themes and most of the small details right. Some professional historians have quibbled about a few small errors and many (myself included) disapprove of much of Metaxas's political persona. Still, as he did with his riveting books about WIlberforce and Bonhoeffer and his two collections of short biographies (Seven Men and Seven Women) he makes complex history accessible and inspiring.  If You Can Keep It isn't the only book one should read about the Founding Fathers, but it is ideal for some. We're happy to suggest it.

Reading the Bible with the Founding Fathers .jpgReading the Bible with the Founding Fathers Daniel L. Dreisbach (Oxford University Press) $34.95 I recommended this in a list I did recently for the Center for Public Justice, a Christian citizen's organization and I insisted it was nothing short of brilliant and highly regarded. Blurbs on the back are by Mark Noll and John Witte, Jr. and Thomas Kidd, some of the most esteemed Christians writing in the field of history. They say things about it that are truly inspiring (Witte says "it can be read in an evening but mined for a lifetime.") For anyone interested in how the Bible was read, understood and used in the colonial era, this is the most significant book yet. 


broken way.jpgThe Broken Way: A Daring Path Into the Abundant Life Ann Voskamp (Zondervan) $22.99  Oh my, this would make just a perfect gift for so many sorts of people -- it has a beautiful cover, it is written with passion and a stylized sort of prose that is artful and touching. I suppose it may be most appreciated by women, but men read her too -- One Thousand Gifts has been a perennial best seller and has inspired other resources, studies, devotionals and more.  I hope you know her splendid Advent resource, also working on that Thousand Gifts theme about gratitude called The Greatest Gift and the beautiful coffee table family gift book called Unwrapping the Great Gift.

And yet, in God's upside down Kingdom and in Ann Voskamp's hard-won experience, things are not as they seem and those that are too happy are, well, you know what Jesus said about them. The last will be first and blessed are they, He weirdly said, who mourn. It is this theme that Voskamp develops in this gorgeously written, wise work about the "daring" path.  That would be the path of suffering.  Philip Yancey -- who has thought about these things perhaps more than any evangelical author in our lifetime -- says the book is "Rich. Gritty. Intimately vulnerable."  Eugene Peterson, an author and pastor and friend we trust, says it is "Convincing.... Stunningly fresh."

"What do you do with your unspoken broken?" she asks. Voskamp may romanticize is just a bit at times but she invites us to be honest and to be open to the transformative power of this way that beckons us. "Dare to take up the broken way -- to abundance."  

soul bare smaller .jpgSoul Bare: Stories of Redemption... edited by Cara Sexton (IVP) $16.00 We've been telling people about this since it first came out and think it is brave, interesting, raw, even. It is a great collection of short pieces, testimonials of how God was present in the lives of those going through various sorts of hard times. From some very talented young women writers (and a few men, too) who have struggled with pain, loneliness, depression, addiction, abuse.  There are real wounds in our lives and nearly anyone can relate to honest stories of vulnerability.  These young writers -- most with a pretty cool style -- are authentic and artful, realizing God offers grace and community not to cover our our hurts but to embrace God's goodness and be given hope. This is poignant and painful, even, but a great book of good news. A portion of the sales of this book goes to HELPONENOW.  It makes a great gift of encouragement and solidarity. 


After the Cheering Stops- An NFL Wife's Story of Concussions.jpgAfter the Cheering Stops: An NFL Wife's Story of Concussions, Loss, and the Faith That Saw Her Through Cyndy Feasel (Thomas Nelson) $24.99  This brand new book is both an inspiring sports biography but also a disturbing story of injury, concussion, cover-up and anguish. Feasel offers her story as the wife of Seattle Seahawks center Grant Feasel who died in 2012 at age 52. Blurbs on the back are from Jeff Kemp (Facing the Blitz) and Dave Krieg, both former Seahawks quarterbacks that new Grant well. All-Pro NFL Safety Vann McElroy calls Cyndy Feasel's husband "a gentle giant" and says her brave story "needs to be part of the discussion." This is heart-wrenching, but vital, even urgent; Julie Carobini says "Cyndy Feasel is destined to become the Erin Brockovich of CTE for sounding the alarm about what concussions can do to a family."  


Under the Stars.jpgUnder the Stars: How America Fell in Love with Camping Dan White (Henry Holt) $28.00 This is a major study, a wonderfully written, big social history, a book that fabulously explores how we search for ourselves in the wild.  There's a lot here -- one reviewer mentions the "oddball characters, scenic vistas, leaky pup tents, and scofflaw marmots..." (And who wouldn't want a book about scofflaw marmots?)

Elizabeth McKenzie says

I have never before had so interesting, hearty, and manly a companion. I fairly feel in love with him."  Yes, this is what John Muir said about Theodore Roosevelt, but I'm saying it now about Dan White after reading Under the Stars  -- an informative and lyrically written travel memoir about the American wilderness experience that's also very funny and full of surprises.

The Hour of Land- A Personal Topography of America's National Parks.jpgThe Hour of Land: A Personal Topography of America's National Parks Terry Tempest Williams (FSG) $27.00 What a sturdy, thoughtful, serious, luminous writer Ms Williams is, a national treasure, a nature writer and environmental activist respected for her craft as writer and for her clear-eyed vision for ecological sanity within a endearing and enduring sense of place. ("Language and landscape are my inspiration" she says in the first line.)  Here she writes about the great National Parks she as us to consider how we are "slowly learning what it means to offer our reverence and respect to the closet things we have to sacred lands."

Williams writes in The Hour of Land of Grant Teton National Park, Theodore Roosevelt National Park (North Dakota), Acadia, Gettysburg, Effigy Mounds National Monument (in Iowa), Big Bend (Texas), and Gates of the Arctic National Park in Alaska. 

earth psalms.jpgEarth Psalms: Reflections on How God Speaks Through Nature Francine Rivers with Karin Stock Buursma (Tyndale) $16.99  This is a lush and beautiful gift book full of vivid nature photography and lovely calligraphy and nicely type set quotes from popular Christian novelist Francine Rivers. Rivers is known for very moving writing that sometimes set Bible stories in more contemporary times and although not high-brow, she is considered a master of the genre. Who knew she so loved the outdoors, appreciated the beauty of creation, reveled in the delightful joy of nature? This really is a devotional with solid BIble teaching and stories from around the world (and her own backyard.) The quotes are from a variety of sources, mostly older Christian classics -- Brother Lawrence, Martin Luther, Charles Spurgeon,  Dorothy Sayers, and a few modern writers, Joni Eareckson Tada, Charles Stanley. She draws on everyday stuff -- turtles, trees, birds, and of course uses the praise songs of the Psalms. Very, very nice. 

Crossing the Waters- Following Jesus.jpgCrossing the Waters: Following Jesus Through the Storms, the Fish, the Doubt and the Seas Leslie Leyland Fields (NavPrss) $15.99 What a grand and surprising book this is -- one you could happily give to any number of folks. Fields is a remarkable writer, very talented and very wise. (I adored the collected she edited The Spirit of Food and really appreciate her excellent book on the myths of parents and many have been helped by her Forgiving Our Fathers and Mothers.) She is, by vocation, not only a writer, but a fisher-person doing her work with her family on a remote island off the coast of the mainland in Alaska.  This book includes some vivid telling of her wild experiences -- dramatically wet and wild, scary, even -- fishing in the dangerously cold seas of the Pacific Northwest. But here's the thing: besides being a woman's wilderness memoir and story of life in Alaska, it is also a study of faith. And, quite literally, a study of fishing in the Bible.

Early in the unfolding of this great book, Leyland Fields makes a trek, nearly a pilgrimage, to the Middle East, to fish in the sea of Galilee.  And there it gets really interesting, offering what the publisher says  is "the wettest, stormiest, wildest trip through the gospels you've ever taken."

Do you recall the classic little book, so loved by so many decades ago, called A Shepherd Looks at the 23rd Psalm (by Philip Keller, which is still in print, by the way>) In a way, this is a look at the disciples -- fisherman that they were -- by a woman well aquatinted with nets and salt water and storms and fish on the beach.  I think Crossing the Waters is a tremendous book, what reviewer Mark Galli calls "a rare gift."  

He continues, "It pulses with story and theology, with lived suffering and quiet joy, with vast mysteries and a strong Savior."


Essential Worship- A Handbook for Leaders.jpgEssential Worship: A Handbook for Leaders Greg Scheer (Baker) $19.99  One of the finest congregations that have been nurtured in thoughtful, somewhat liturgical, yet somewhat contemporary worship styles is Church of the Servant, a CRC congregation in Grand Rapids MI.  Greg Scheer is their legendary worship director, a writer of liturgy, a song-writer, one who guides adults and children into lovely and moving rituals of strong worship.  This, his second book, explains a theology of worship and worship leading.  Rave reviews come from Sandra McCracken, Glenn Packiam ("This is the book we've been waiting for.")

John Witvliet of the respected Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, says,

Greg Scheer is a theologically and pastorally sensitive reflective practitioner -- and ideal teacher for a new generation of worship leaders. 

I hope all kinds of folks read this. I agree with Sandra McCracken who say it is "a good springboard for conversation and growth for both worship leaders and congregations."  One of the best books of this sort in years.

The Worship Pastor.jpgThe Worship Pastor Zac Hicks (Zondervan) $17.99 Hicks is Canon for Worship and Liturgy at Cathedral Church of the Advent (in Birmingham AL.) It is a truly interesting book with each chapter unpacking a different metaphor for worship, exploring how this particular image relates to Biblical teaching and liturgical practice. Hicks is concerned that many contemporary worship leaders have inherited a model of leadership that equates leading worship with being a rock star. Of course, worship isn't about performance; it's firstly about God and it is about shaping souls and making disciples; every worship leader is, in that sense, a pastor.  This is a clear guide to leading worship, what Glenn Packiam says is "a masterpiece that is equal parts manuel and manifesto."  Can we re-envision what worship leading is all about? Can we inspire worship leaders with solid and helpful guidance about their role in congregational worship?  Even if your church doesn't have "worship pastors" I think this book should be widely read. A great gift. 

worship-in-the-joy-of-the-lord-selections-from-chip-stam-worship-quote-of-the-week-by-calvin-institute-of-christian-worship-1937555186.jpgWorship in the Joy of the Lord: Selections from Chip Stam's Worship Quote of the Week Calvin INstitute of Christian Worship (Calvin College Press) $23.99 This is a very handsome paperback, a slightly oversized gift type book loaded with great quotes about worship.  Don't let the "Chip Stam" thing throw you -- Stam was apparently a gifted leader who sent out these quotes (from famous authors, church leaders, books, poems) to folks; this book collects over 300 quotations of them from him about public worship. They are arranged in 12 categories, from times and seasons to using the Psalms to singing and hymns to stuff about suffering and death.  One chapter is called "Life is Worship" and another reflects on "The God We Worship." These quotes are from across time and church history and include some very contemporary writers, too.  Almost like a devotional, with endorsements from Constance Cheery, Bob Kauflin, Marva Dawn, RIchard Mouw and others, this is a rare and wonderful treat. A great gift idea. 


The Faithful Artist -  Vision for Evangelicalism and the Arts .jpgThe Faithful Artist: A Vision for Evangelicalism and the Arts Cameron J. Anderson (IVP Academic) $26.00  Don't let the word "evangelicalism" throw you - this will be inspiring and exceptionally informative for anyone of any faith tradition wanting to explore how religion informs the arts. Cam is one of our most thoughtful and articulate interpreters of this body of work and I am not only glad he added his voice to the big body of literature about faith and the arts but I am astonished how very much good stuff there is here. What a great, significant, important volume this is. 

Cam has worked in ministry with artists and art professors and is now the director of CIVA (Christians in the Visual Arts) and is respected widely.  Vibrant blurbs on the back of this recent book are from Makoto Fujimura, Calvin Seerveld, Nicholas Wolterstorff, Luci Shaw, and others. 

Imagine- A Vision for Christians in the Arts- Revised and Expanded.jpgImagine: A Vision for Christians in the Arts: Revised and Expanded Steve Turner (IVP) $16.00  Turner is himself a poet but is mostly known as a writer and rock critic. (His brand new book called Beatles '66: The Revolutionary Year is a must-read for any fans and his 2013 book Popcultured is an excellent Christian entry into the worlds of rock music, digital media, advertising, film, fashion, video games, and such.)  Imagine has often been one of our go-to introductory books about faith and the arts, especially for those who are young and somewhat confused by the shunning of modern art forms among conservative Christians. It makes a beautiful, captivating Biblical argument for being culturally engaged, "in but not of" the world, and aware of the good gift art plays within an all-of-life-being-redeemed worldview.  This brand new edition is updated and expanded and includes study questions for individual reflection or small group discussion. 

By the way, although the new one looks tremendous, we have some of the very fine first version still in stock, which we could sell at 40% off, while supplies last. If you want to grace some young art students with this at the sale price, let us know.

Thumbprint in the Clay- Divine Marks of Beauty, Order and Grace Luci Shaw.jpgThumbprints in the Clay: Divine Marks of Beauty, Order and Grace Luci Shaw (IVP) $17.00 Do you recall our rave announcement about this when it came out. In so many ways, for so many reasons, this is a wonderful example of the generative and beautiful sort of religious literature that is available these days. Dear Luci Shaw is an experienced poet, a widely published author, and so respected for her many travels, lectures, workshops, and presentations and the book will be appreciated by anyone who is a writer, a visual artist, or anyone wanting to be reminded that God's very creation shouts about God's beauty and creative goodness.

Bret Lott, himself a respected novelist, says "This book is wise beyond measure, the writing beautiful beyond compare, and its's heart a reflect of the one true God... A Beautiful, ruminative, and necessary book."  Other lovely endorsements on the back of this lovely little book are from Leslie Leyland Fields and Richard Rohr. 



Roots of Violence- Creating Peace Through Spiritual Reconciliation.jpgRoots of Violence: Creating Peace Through Spiritual Reconciliation Krister Stendahl (Paraclete) $16.99  This slim book is nearly historic, years in the making, and an important contribution to mainline denominational folks wanting to think about the radical implications of gospel-based reconciliation. Stendahl was the dean of Harvard and the Lutheran Bishop of Stockholm and was respected globally as a person involved in interfaith conversations, eager for profound dialogue with others, and of his desire for global peacemaking.  This book emerged after his death from notes he used in talks given all over the world -- always adjusting them, adding on, editing; it is said he worked on this in the hospital room the day he died. What is so fascinating about this is the contributions of Imam Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi and Brandeis Professor Marc Brettle who add modern perspectives on concepts of salvation within Islam and Judaism.

James Carroll (who wrote one of my all time favorite memoirs, An American Requiem: God, My Father, and the War That Came Between Us) wrote the very informative introduction. He apparently knew Stendahl well and is pleased to bring this potent little book to a wider audience.

Revelation- A Search for Faith in a Violent Religious World .jpgRevelation: A Search for Faith in a Violent Religious World Dennis Covington (Little Brown) $26.00  Just the other day I got another email note from a friend who recalls that I sold him Covington's high octane memoir of hanging out with snake handling Pentecostals called Salvation on Sand Mountain perhaps the most unforgettable book I've ever written. This is Covington's most recent and if you are interested you can find my longer review at BookNotes this past summer. I couldn't put this well written book down as Covington travels throughout the Middle East (and a few other places) in search of how religion fuels violence and terrorism and genocide and -- ironically, perhaps, foolishness to some -- how religion is the answer to war and violence. Can faith fuel healing and hope? (He "goes to unimaginable lengths" one review raved, "to answer a defining question of our time.")  Can he find healing and hope? This is tender and explosive, quiet and dramatic, adventurous and reflective.  Kim Barnes, herself a brilliant writer and memoirist, says "From the first sentence on, you understand that Dennis Covington brings to the page is something raw, terrifying, brilliant, and necessary." What a story, by one of our most insightful storytellers. 

Almighty- Courage, Resistance and Existential Peril in the Nuclear Age .jpgAlmighty: Courage, Resistance and Existential Peril in the Nuclear Age Dan Zak (Blue Rider Press) $27.00  I will just tell you now: this will be on my short list of the best books I've read this year, certainly one that I simply couldn't put down. The author is a gifted storyteller, a very fine reporter, and one who brings both big historic trends and local, specific detail, all in colorful prose.  I suppose the bigger project of this gut-wrenching and yet fascinating book is the dangers of the nuclear arms race and a government run amok with Pentagon projects making more and more bombs that can destroy the world. Most of us know the dramatic story of the Manhattan Project and the dangerous tests of atomic bombs in the deserts near Los Alamos New Mexico.  But few know the back story of the Atomic Energy Commissions created-out-of-nothing town of Oak Ridge Tennessee and the unique feel of that secretive city made to help America build radioactive bombs. Zak tells of this mid-twentieth century history in really interesting ways, but he keeps jump ahead to the main device he uses to help us appreciate this complex history: three Christian protestors who did non-violent civil disobedience to protest the immorality of making these kinds of massive weapons (that simply cannot be used justly as they necessarily kill so many civilians) and to bear public witness that Christ, the Prince of Peace, disapproved of these plants making these devices that, if used, could incinerate hundreds of thousands of people.

I believe they are right that these weapons are categorically evil and that it is a sin to make them, and I believe they are righteous to be willing to spend the rest of their lives in jail to take actions to expose the manufactured apocalypse these secretive nuclear weapons plants represent.  However, agree or not with their theology or their tactics, in Dan Zak's reportage, the story becomes hard to put down; you will want to know what happens next, how these folks are led, how the trials ended up, and what difference the military and the civilian folks at the plant and in the town reacted. 

Activists Michael Walli, Sister Megan Rice (upon who a character in the early seasons of Orange is the New Black is loosely based), and Greg Boertje-Obed were charged with intending to endanger the national defense after breaking into this nuclear weapons site in 2012. Almighty gets it's name, I presume, because so often these Christian protestors insist that nuclear weapons are not only bad devices, but enslave us because they are idols.  This book is about them, about why the did it, and what is at stake. At over 350 pages, I didn't want it to end. I hope somebody out there is as inspired as I was and as grateful for the witness of these unusual people and of this talented investigative writer.

By the way, as you look at that cover, you'll notice some small dark spots at the foot of the bomb cloud.  Just to get a sense of the size and gravity of this radiation cloud, realize that hhose are huge battleships. 


Divine Merger.jpgDivine Merger: What Happens When Jesus Collides with Your Community Mark Strong (IVP) $16.00  I love this book -- it isn't too lengthy or technical but is really good, about how this church learned to bring God's Kingdom message into the community. Strong is the pastor of a multi-ethnic inner city church in Portland. Solid stuff, upbeat and visionary, this guys been through a lot and the book is honest about the pains of this kind of work.

God is in the City.jpgGod Is In the City: Encounters of Grace and Transformation Shawn Casselberry (Mission Year) $17.00 We've been thrilled to stock this rare book, published by the urban activists and young adult missionaries at Mission Year. Shawn Casselberry is a good advocate for God's justice and encourages folks to love the poor, to offer solidarity with those who are broken, and to celebrate redemptive moments in even hard situations. This is a rare book and ought to be better known. John Perkins rights in the foreword "I urge you to read this book. You will be inspired and transformed by what you encounter."  The storyteller of good stuff happening will bring inspiration and encouragement to anyone involved in the center city life and will surely bring insight to anyone who is even vaguely interested in what God might be doing on hard city streets which are, believe it or not, becoming streets of joy and havens of hope. This is a great book.

Write to us if you want more about the missional church (we've got dozens of titles here) or urban ministry or community development.  We've got a lot.


Just Courage- God's Great Expedition for the Restless Christian .jpgJust Courage: God's Great Expedition for the Restless Christian Gary A. Haugen (IVP) $16.00 I am so glad that this book is finally out in a good looking paperback -- it has been out in hardback for years but a little expensive but remains one of the best books on Christian living I've ever read. This is a great collection of talks and sermons and chapters by one of the most important leaders on the planet, the founder and CEO of the anti-trafficking organization the International Justice Mission (IJM.) This is stimulating, dramatic, Biblical, balanced, thoughtful, invigorating, not too dense, good for anyone who wants motivated to care more and live more robustly in responsible ways. If you want to care more about those who suffer of if you want to understand a Biblically-informed vision of working for structural change, this book is a wonderful gift; Haugen is a blessed guide, a clear teacher and fantastic ally on the journey towards justice and courage. Highly recommended for anyone, a must for those who want to be more involved in the world.

Justice Calling Where Passion Meets P.jpgThe Justice Calling: Where Passion Meets Perseverance Bethany Hanke Joang and Kristen Deede Johnson (Brazos Press) $19.99  Again, this is a book I reviewed at greater length at BookNotes and it is one we celebrated and will continue to promote; it is, I am convinced, one of the best books of the year. To put it simply it is about how passion and perseverance meet, and it offers a compelling Biblical overview about the theme of justice and God's faithfulness to help us gather passion and perseverance. Which is to say, I suppose, it is not just a book about global concerns or activism or transformation but it is a book about hope. Dan Allender calls it "glorious." Gary Haugen says about it that it is a boo we should all "dig into and carry close at hand."   

return to justice.jpgReturn to Justice: Six Movements That Reignited Our Contemporary Evangelical Conscience Soong-Chan Rah & Gary Vanderpol (Brazos Press) $19.99  I hope you recall my rave review of this earlier in the year -- I mention it again because it might be just the ticket to give as a gift to someone who cares about the world and wants a big picture of how social concern for public justice has increasingly been talked about as central to faith in the last decade or so. In a way this is a contemporary church history, exploring how these issues pressed upon many younger evangelicals and how organizations and movements were developed in recent years.  For that alone it is wonderful, interesting, helpful, good for anybody to read. 

Further, though, it is about those issues, six key concerns that have increasingly become urgent to address and how evangelicals, especially have stepped up.  Truly one of the most important books of the year, I hope you know somebody who is growing into a concern for Biblically-based social justice ministry for whom this book would be a fabulous gift.

Or, perhaps you know somebody who is skeptical of this and wonders where all this recent talk and passion has come from. This might be a great gift to help open the hearts to some who are less convinced that all this is important for distinctive Christian witness.   It is both carefully researched and it is inspiring. As Scot McKnight says, this resurgence of concern for justice "emerges from deep wells in the evangelical tradition and the story needs to be told."  Highly recommended. 


Created & Creating.jpgCreated & Creating: A Biblical Theology of Culture William Edgar (IVP Academic) $24.00 Bill has been a friend of our store and his care for others, for the arts, for Biblical fidelity even as we move into complicated areas, has been an encouragement and model for many.  I agree so much with Tim Keller who says:

Anything from the pen of Bill Edgar is profitable to read, but this subject is Bill's wheelhouse. An important book on a topic that, for Western Christians, has never been so crucial.

And so, this brand new book -- it arrived yesterday! -- will be incredibly appreciated by many people who read BookNotes, and I'm hoping a bunch get ordered this week. What joy to be able to offer such substantial resources for key leaders who are, as Keller says, involved in this critical conversation.

I'm sure he will reflect on the views of Abraham Kuyper, T.S. Eliot, Richard Niebuhr, Francis Schaeffer, maybe C.S. Lewis, maybe Jacques Ellul, even, and will engage the work of contemporaries such as Tom Wright, Rod Dreher, Os Guinness, and other important voices.

I have only glanced at it, but am struck by the back blurb by K. Scott Oliphint who says "I can count on one hand the people who are qualified to write such a  work and Bill Edgar is on the top of the list. This should be the first volume one reads when questions of Christianity and culture are broached." 

Except that culture isn't something that is "broached" as a "topic." It is our life. As Calvin Seerveld once quipped, "culture is not optional." Which is to say, the topic of this book is -- as Steve Garber says of vocation --  integral not incidental to the missio dei.

Okay friends, my fingers are sore from typing and your eyes are red from reading.  maybe your budget it almost shot as you want to buy a number of these for someone you know.  I hope you find it helpful.

There's more, coming very soon.

I can't promise more mistletoe and chestnuts roasting, but if you've got gift-giving concerns, we're hear to help.  Stay tuned -- I'll finish this gift giving guide in a day or so.   As always, you can use our link (shown below) to our order form page which is secure so you can leave credit card digits safely. Or just give us a call.  We don't have elves, but we are eager to help get some gifts in the mail to you soon.  Thanks.

Next, maybe I'll mention books for these kinds of folks:























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December 13, 2016


As promised, here's some more Christmas pa rumpa pum pum, ideas for holiday gift giving, books for various readers. I won't repeat how I am always struck by what a great opportunity this Christmas season is to give gifts to folks, books that can be transforming and helpful and fun and good.  Skip the fruitcake (unless your special person really loves fruitcake.) Books are, as we say, great gifts.

See my FIRST BIG LIST of various titles for various sorts of folks HERE.  PART TWO of our 2016 gift giving guide is HERE.

And here we go, PART THREE of our fairly random list of fairly interesting ideas for all kinds of readers.

All of these are 10% off and we can ship promptly.  We appreciate your support; use the order form below and well get back to you confirming everything.


silence endo new cover.jpgsilence and beauty.jpgSilence  Shusaku Endo (Picado) $16.00  This is the most important novel in contemporary Japan and may be one of the most important films in the storied career of filmmaker Martin Scorsese.  As we described earlier at BookNotes, Scorsese bought the rights to this decades ago and has been waiting most of his professional career to do the film adaptation, which releases in the next few weeks. The story is intense, about the persecution of Christian priests and missionaries in 14th century Japan. Is God silent? This handsome new edition of the novel has a discussion guide and a new foreword by Scorsese.

SIlence and Beauty: Hidden Faith Born of Suffering Makoto Fujimura (IVP) $26.00 This stunning book (with a beautiful, award winning cover) is Mako's own story as a modern artist who discovered the novel SIlence during a trip to Nagasaki, where the horrid tale is set. It figured into his conversation and, as he developed his worldview and aesthetic imagination and art work, he continued to ponder how art can be transformational, healing, profound in the face of suffering. This is in many ways Mako's own rumination on the same themes explored by Endo and, also, a telling of his own experience with the novel, and his relationship with Mr. Scorsese as he served as a conversation partner with him as he was making the film. One of the best books of the year, coupled with the novel it would make a very poignant, relevant, artsy gift. 


Being Disciples- Essentials of the Christian Life.jpgBeing Disciples: Essentials of the Christian Life Rowan Williams (Eerdmans) $10.00 The current Archbishop of Canterbury says "Here is quite the most beautiful writing on discipleship I know." On faith, holiness, living in society, life in the spirit. Like so many before him, he starts with an essay on "faith, hope, and love." Only 90 pages.  Pair it with the equally succinct and equally eloquent Being Christian: Baptism, Bible, Eucharist, Prayer (Eerdmans; $10.00) about which England's Church Times writes, "A book of enormous substance... it is impossible to do it justice, so you must buy it and read it. And then read it again and again."  


gratitude oliver sacks.jpgGratitude Oliver Sacks (Knopf) $17.00 When the world famous and wildly innovative psychologist was dying he wrote this pleasing little essay, published in a small-sized hardback, classy and blessed. 

"My predominant feeling is one of gratitude," he writes. "I have loved and been loved. I have been given much and I have given something in return. Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure."

The last chapter tells of his Orthodox Jewish upbringing -- his mother had seventeen brothers and sisters and her father even wore his yarmelke to bed. What a nice book this is.


vital little plans.jpgVital Little Plans: The Short Works of Jane Jacobs edited by Samuel Zipp & Nathan Storring (Random House) $28.00  For anyone wanting a gift about the wise and humane arrangements of our social lives in places, Jane Jacobs -- author of the seminal Life and Death of Great American Cities  -- is essential.  This brand new book is a  gathering of career-spanning, previously uncollected writings and talks by the legendary author and activist. As the feisty James Howard Kunstler (Geography of Nowhere, Home from Nowhere and more) says, "It is one thing to bring important ideas to the world, quite another to do it with such wit and subtlety. This volume reminds us what a sheer, crackling great writer Jane Jacobs was." Jeff Speck, author of Walkable City, advises, "Don't cheat yourself of the pleasure that lies between these covers."

For what it is worth, we stock a number of books in this field, from the wonderful The Poetics of Space by Gaston Bachelard, de Botton's The Architecture of Happiness, to the heady, important The Theology of the Built Environment (by T.I. Gorringe). We recommend as the best Christian reflection written for nonspecialists and highly recommended to everyone, The Space Between: A Christian Engagement with the Build Environment (Baker Academic; $26.00) by Presbyterian pastor and new urbanist Eric O. Jacobsen, author also of Sidewalks of the Kingdom. I bet if you know somebody interested in this kind of stuff, they'd be tickled to get any of these good books.


Visual Arts in the Worshiping Church.jpgVisual Arts in the Worshiping Church Lisa J. DeBoer (Eerdmans) $24.00 Published in cooperation with the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship and the newest in their Liturgical Studies series, this brand new book -- it released this week! -- looks to be the best serious thing I've ever seen on this topic. Robin Jensen calls it "wise and insightful" and "an indispensable resource."  W. David Taylor, who edited the wonderful For the Beauty of the Church, says that too many books on this topic are muddled, but, "Thankfully, DeBoer is a careful scholar; her study of the visual arts in worship is both concrete and illuminating, and its points to a fruitful way forward."  I have read Nicholas Wolterstorff's foreword and it suggests it is "groundbreaking" and "full of fascinating details and perceptive analyses.  I am so glad Visual Arts in the Worshiping Church arrived in time to tell you about it. You are going to surprise someone and bless them significantly -- if they are serious enough to read such a weighty, mature volume. Wow. 


Embrace- God's Radical Shalom for a Divided World.jpgEmbrace: God's Radical Shalom for a Divided World Leroy Barber (IVP) $16.00  The walls between us may seem impenetrable, but Leroy is wise and faithful and experienced and gracious enough to push through, to guide us towards embracing others, even those with whom we may have great differences. We have been told that Hearts & Minds has one of the best selections of books about civil rights, racial justice, cross cultural relationships and multi ethnic ministry in any Christian bookstore. I don't know about that but I do know that Leroy's new book is one I will recommend time and again -- it is delightful, basic, yet challenging. He is now the chaplain of Kilns College and director of the Voices Project.  This is good for anyone, brief and so very interesting. Highly recommended.

Strength to Love .jpgStrength to Love Martin Luther King, Jr. (Fortress Press) $24.00  I'm told that Coretta Scott King used to say that this book was the one that Martin heard positive replies back about more than any -- it consistently changes lives. She writes, "this book best explains the central element in Martin Luther King Jr.'s philosophy of nonviolence: his believe in a divine, loving presence that binds all life."  I love his Stride Toward Freedom and think Why We Can't Wait is especially timely. Folks should have some good collection of his speeches and sermons.  Letter from a Birmingham Jail is a great gift. But this has been released in a very handsome paperback with french folded covers and is a great gift for anyone.

just mercy.jpgJust Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption Bryan Stevenson (Spiegel & Grau) $16.00 I said several years ago that this was one of the most moving books I have ever read in my entire life. I am glad it is out in paperback and eager to remind folks about this story of a great Christian man doing hard legal aid and life-saving law work for poor folks imprisoned unfairly.  The most discussed, nearly definitive book on racist mass incarceration, The New Jim Crow (Michelle Alexander) is essential reading but a bit tedious; Just Mercy just sings, painfully but beautifully. It is a must read (endorsed by Ms Alexander!) by a elegant, brave leader that I predict will someday get the Nobel Peace Prize.  Give this book now, and people will thank you for opening their eyes.


radical pursuit of rest.jpgThe Radical Pursuit of Rest: Escaping the Productivity Trap John Koessler (IVP) $16.00  Who wouldn't like a book with a pillow on the cover, eh? (Hey, you could give them this and a pillow.) But don't be deceived, this is a serious, mature, thoughtful work, a good book that explores the idols of our soul and the pressures of our culture. This book is, as Alan Fadling (who wrote the exquisite and highly acclaimed book The Unhurried Life) "biblically rich, theologically well-rooted and thoughtful throughout... a good guide into God's gracious and multifaceted gift of rest."  This is compelling and radical stuff, learning to resist "productivity" and trust God. It will help.

Wholeheartedness- Busyness, Exhaustion, and Healing the Divided Self .jpgWholeheartedness: Busyness, Exhaustion, and Healing the Divided Self Chuck DeGroat (Eerdmans) $15.00  I have written about this before and exclaimed often how I appreciate this very good writer and this very interesting thinker.  Again, this isn't simple or cheap, but it is really good to read -- a fine writer can even bring us hard truths and explore tender stuff and it can be a delight. I admire DeGroat's vision and appreciate his style. The cover's nice, too, eh? A good gift for somebody who may need it badly.

Holy Listening with Breath, Body, and the Spirit .jpgHoly Listening with Breath, Body, and the Spirit Whitney R. Simpson (Upper Room Books) $12.99  Okay, I know nothing about yoga, even though one of my favorite people in the world is a yoga instructor and she thinks the practice nearly saved her life. And I don't even know if this is actually about yoga, as such. But it is about listening carefully to your body, your breath, and how the Spirit can help you listen to God.  Several serious spiritual directors and Christian yoga instructors have been glad for this mature, nuanced book, full of exercises and 40 meditations.  This is a cool combo of lectio divina, yoga, breath prayer, aromatherapy and imaginative reflection. Somebody you know is going to love this brand new book!


And the Word Became Color- Exploring the Bible with Paper, Pen, and Paint.jpgAnd the Word Became Color: Exploring the Bible with Paper, Pen, and Paint Debby Topliff (firefly life) $24.00  Debby Topliff is an art teacher who also received a MA from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and is a solid and thoughtful guide to Biblical study but here she invites us to not only study or learn about the Bible but to engage it with our senses. She shows how her own engagement with the Bible was transformed as she brought her art to it. Granted, some of us are better at painting and drawing than others but this book can help anyone. And if you know somebody that is artsy, it could be a lifeline, getting them into GOd's World in powerful, potent ways. Here in this study guide she offers her own paintings as examples of how to see the texts anew -- several from the gospels and others from other passages in the New Testament.  

Writing in the Margins- Connecting with God .jpgWriting in the Margins: Connecting with God on the Pages of Your Bible Lisa Nichols Hickman (Abingdon Press) $16.99  I didn't realize that earlier this year the publishers gave this a slightly new cover as the book has been somewhat revised and expanded. My long introduction still serves to set it up, and I am so honored -- really! -- to have my name on the cover. That's not exactly why I mention it, though: Writing in the Margins really is a marvelously interesting book offering stories of those who interacted with God through underlining, writing symbols, question marks, and journal entries write in the holy pages.  I love this book and you, too, can be led to renewed interactive spiritual expression as you pick up the pen and write as you read.  A neat gift for those willing to respond in this way. Make sure they read the foreword -- ha!

Frameworks- How To Navigate the New Testament- An extraordinary Guide for Ordinary People.jpgFrameworks: How To Navigate the New Testament: An Extraordinary Guide for Ordinary People Eric Larson (Frameworks) $27.00  This book has been picked up by a major Christian publisher but we have it in its first edition, ones we purchased from the author himself when it was first produced. This illustrates, I think, that we truly believed in this oversized book that makes the chronological and theological framework of the New Testament so much more approachable.  Although this is a big book, handsomely produced, it has a "less is more" layout and helps us answer ten questions for each of the 27 books (answers about the book's theme, purpose, outline, how it is organized, how it reads, what makes it unique and what is key to remember and more.) It has some helpful photographs and offers a teacherly assistance to anyone wanting to get more out of their Bible reading.

habakkuk before.jpgHabakkuk Before Breakfast: Liturgy, Lament, and Hope Brian J. Walsh and the Wine Before Breakfast community (Books Before Breakfast) $14.00 Published in Toronto by this rag tag group of university students and others who gather early on Tuesday mornings for a creative liturgy, Bible study and weekly Eucharist, HBB explores the prophetic, earth-shattering, perplexing laments of the book of Habakkuk.  As I explained in my hefty review when it came out this fall, this book is rare and, I think, very, very important. It shows how a living group, a fellowship, a  communion, can engage the Bible honestly, with contemporary application, in the context of music, prayer, litany and worship. There is really very little like it.

They did release a year ago a similar, thicker book sharing their time spent in the gospel of John called Saint John Before Breakfast. We have a few of those, too; it's pretty radical!

Each chapter has a pastoral letter written by the CRC chaplain, Brian Walsh, to the community prior to the service, setting the stage, so to speak, for the reading of the Word. That is followed by a section which shares a conversation about choosing relevant music (from Dylan to Springsteen to Taize to Celtic hymns) and then offers both the sermon of the week and the liturgical prayers and litanies. One can learn a lot about the Bible when listening in to a real group who struggled to break it open honestly, and one can learn a lot about small groups and innovative and relevant worship practices when joining in with a group like this. This is highly recommended, but -- as Brian's friend N.T. Wright says in his endorsement, Habakkuk Before Breakfast is "a book to shake us up and make us realize that God's loving justice is the only firm ground on which anyone - or any society -- can ever stand."   Don't give this to anybody that wants simple answers, religious platitudes, or cheap readings of these powerful texts.


Reading the Bible Missionally.jpgReading the Bible Missionally edited by Michael Goheen (Eerdmans) $35.00  Okay, Brian Walsh and his Wine Before Breakfast group aren't in here, but they could be, as living examples of some of what this provocative and important volume proposes. Some of the very best Biblical thinkers of our time weigh in on how to read the Bible in such a way as to be captured by its wholistic, life-changing and world-redeeming message.  Authors of this heavy, yet vital, volume include Craig Bartholomew, Richard Bauckham, Christopher Wright, Carol Mosma, Joel Green, George Hunsberger and more. "This book significantly widens and deepens the emerging conversation on missional hermeneutics..." Can mission and God's cosmic redemption plan unleashed in the world in Christ be a helpful lens to help us understand the Bible properly and fruitfully.  This book is amazing, smart, convicting.... somebody you know might need it!

The Day the Revolution Began.pngThe Day the Revolution Began: Reconsidering the Meaning of Jesus's Crucifixion N.T. Wright (HarperOne) $28.99  I was a little reluctant to list this under the heading "for a serious Bible scholar" as this isn't Tom's deepest most scholarly work.  The fourth volume of his magisterial "Christian Origins and the Question of God" series, Paul and the Faithfulness of God was a two-volume set (weighing in at 1700 pages) and was supplemented by two other hefty collections of essays about Paul.  The Day the Revolution Began is not that dense and is not that hard.

Yet, it is more challenging than, say, Following Jesus, How God Became King, The Case for Psalms, or Simply Christian. It is mid-level and, actually is considered a sequel to one of his most popular and influential volumes, Surprised by Hope.  As I said in my long overview published at BookNotes when it first released in October, it explores nearly every New Testament text about the cross of Christ and interprets them in light of "the end of the story" -- that is, new creation, the Kingdom coming, restoring all things.  This, my friends, is very good scholarship but not needlessly arcane or aimed primarily for the academy.  If you know anyone who loves and studies the Bible -- certainly and priest, pastor, or preacher -- this would be a very, very valuable gift to them.  Highly recommended.

Apostle of the Crucified Lord- A Theological Introduction to Paul and His Letters Second Edition .jpgApostle of the Crucified Lord: A Theological Introduction to Paul and His Letters Second Edition Michael J. Gorman (Eerdmans) $48.00  This is a brand new second, expanded edition of a great, great (if serious) introduction to the Paul and his work. It is not a simple Sunday school guide but it is -- despite its erudite style, offered in almost 700 pages! -- a introduction to Paul. Mike, a friendly supporter of our work here in Dallastown, teaches at St. Mary's Ecumenical Institute and is considered by many to be one of the top few NT scholars writing today.  He knows about everybody in the field and brings together various theories and various Biblical truths. Doug Campbell of Duke Divinity School says that Mikes insights about being in Christ, suffering with Him, being agents of His redemption -- called "participation" by some -- "is one of the key features of the modern scholarly landscape. This new second edition of his balanced yet probing introduction to Paul's thought is therefore profoundly welcome."  Wow. 

N.T. Wright says of it, 

Michael Gorman enviably combines simplicity of presentation with profound originality. The present work, enhanced in this new edition, is simultaneously an accessible textbook and an exposition of challenging new ideas which all Pauline scholars must take seriously. A book to draw in the beginner and to compel the expert into fresh reflection. 


Compassion in Practice- The Way of Jesus .jpgCompassion in Practice: The Way of Jesus Frank Rogers (Upper Room) $9.99  Dr. Rogers is a professor of spiritual formation and codirector of the Center for Engaged Compassion at Clarmont School of Theology. I trust this gives you a clue -- it is deeply ecumenical, somewhat interfaith, theologically progressive, and a bit deep. Brian McLaren says it has "a perfect mix of stories, exercises, insights and reflections on the life and teachings of Jesus... Rogers will help you become a genuine practitioner of compassion."  Recommended as a workbook by The Academy for Spiritual Formation of The Upper Room.

The Way of Love- Recovering the Heart of Christianity .gifWay of Love: Recovering the Heart of Christianity Norman Wirzba (HarperOne) $25.99 Oh how I have recommended this brilliant book -- do you recall my announcement of it at BookNotes earlier this year? Wirzba is a very highly respected scholar, mostly an environmentalist, a farmer, a friend and early collaborator with Wendell Berry, and author of books such as the heavy Theology of Food and the wonderfully written Living the Sabbath. Here he has given us an outstanding, rich, thoughtful study of the topic of love. Eugene Peterson raves, as he rarely does, insisting this is one of the best books he has seen on the subject. There is more going on here then merely talking about the role of love (as if that weren't enough) but Wirzba is making an argument about theology and the core of faith, that is it, of course, not about intellectual assent or proper belief, but about living the way of Jesus, which is love. It is mature, thoughtful, careful and powerful. 

love does.jpgLove Does: Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World Bob Goff (Thomas Nelson) $16.99  I like to remind people of this from time to time and now is perfect time to suggest it. You may recall that Goff is one of the funniest people I know and this book is one of the most enjoyable, entertaining, and compelling books you will ever read -- his capers and joyful stories, his adventures to make a difference (whether in the life of a local shut in or in some of the most dangerous and exotic place on the planet) will stick with  you for a long, long, time. Trust me, you can give this book to a teen, to a disgruntled middle ager, to an older person (as long as they don't mind the crazy antics and fun storytelling.) Goff is a good, good man, a crazy soul and a fabulous lover of Jesus. Buy a few of these to have on hand to give away to, well, whoever... love does, after all.  Do it!


Keeping Love Alive as Memories Fade- The 5 Love Languages.jpgKeeping Love Alive as Memories Fade: The 5 Love Languages and The Alzheimer's Journey Deborah Barr, Edward Shaw, and Gary Chapman (Northfield) $15.99  We have a number of very good books on Alzheimer's and dementia, some that are more clinical and explanatory, others that are gospel-centered, offering a spirituality of the condition. This is a new one and it seems brilliant -- easy to follow, co-written with the famous Gary Chapman, PhD,  by practitioners (one with an MA in health education and the other an MD) who in this field. I would suppose you know the basic gist of Chapman's "5 Love Languages" approach which offers five different ways people receive love; that is, we are wired differently and have different styles of "hearing" how those around us care for us. We have to learn how to "show" or "speak" or "act" love to those around us in ways that work for them. Well, how interesting is it that Chapman and his colleagues apply these five options to ways to relate to those with memory loss and dementia.

There is a good endorsement on the back of this brand new book by the one who wrote the "bible" for Alzheimer's caregivers (Peter Rabins of The 36-Hour Day) who says of it,

Through stories that are moving and unflinching, Keeping Love Alive As Memories Fade shows how love can persist even as dementia gradually erodes memory and physical abilities. It offers powerful testimony to the lasting nature and immense power of human relationships. 

We think this looks nearly brilliant and intend to read it as we walk down this road with my own mom; email us, though, if you want other suggestions and other titles for yourself.


Aging Matters- Finding Your Calling For the Rest of Your Life .jpgAging Matters: Finding Your Calling For the Rest of Your Life R. Paul Stevens (Eerdmans) $16.00  If anyone can write a good book on vocation and calling it is Paul Stevens; that he applies it so well to the older population, seeking vocational discernment in a new season of life, is an immense gift. That he calls aging itself a calling is brilliant and generative; game-changing, as they say.  Lovely endorsements on the back are from Marilyn McEntyre and Eugene Peterson, who says this may be Steven's "most important work...  a brilliantly crafted, prayerfully shaped witness for living for the glory of God."

Rich in Years- Finding peace and Purpose in A Long Life.jpgRich in Years: Finding peace and Purpose in A Long Life Johann Christoph Arnold (Plough Publishing) $12.00  This is a great little book, a glorious collection of chapters which invite older folks to examine their days and search for experiences of meaning and joy. This is simple yet profound, Christianly conceived but would be of interest to almost anyone. There's an endorsement even from Pete Seeger on the back, Eugene Peterson, Alive von Hildebrand. There's some great storytelling here, and the author brings other voices int the conversation -- living well in light of eternity.


The Boys in the Bunkhouse- Servitude and Salvation in the Heartland .jpgThe Boys in the Bunkhouse: Servitude and Salvation in the Heartland Dan Barry (Harper) $26.99  I will tell you up front: this will be on our end of the year "Best Books of 2016" short list, one of the most moving and truly unforgettable books I've read in years. It is hard to capture the beauty, the pathos, the outrage, and the humanity of this very well reported story in a few sentences, but it is an exceptional book by an exceptional writer. (So taken was I by this author's vision and craft as a writer that I found a previously published memoir, Pull Me Up, and devoured it for its sheer beauty. I hope to read his award winning book about the longest game of baseball every played called Bottom of the 33rd: Hope, Redemption, and Baseball's Longest Game.

This book is at times painful as it is about the indentured servitude of a group of mentally challenged young men who, kept in a bunkhouse in Iowa as they worked at a dangerous poultry processing plant, grew old together for over 30 years, somehow without anyone doing anything about their captivity. As Colum McCann, author of the National Book Award-winning Let the Great World Spin writes of it, "Dan Barry gives dignity even to the darkest corners of the American experience. He is the closest thing we have to a contemporary Steinbeck." Or maybe the closest to an Upton Sinclair. 

I was a special ed major, and Beth and I met at a camp working with the severely disabled, so I have a special interest in the treatment of adults with intellectual disabilities and I realize that this story is not a simple one of abuse and horror. At the beginning, the one who found these jobs for these "boys in the bunkhouse" was awarded and acclaimed for his willingness to employ the "mentally retarded" as they were called in the days this story begins; it is a complex story and Barry treats the whole story with the awe and mystery (and sometimes outrage) it deserves. This is an outstanding example of investigative reporting turned into an epic tale, perhaps a morality tale, but a great read and a great and finally hopeful book. 

Apostle- Travels Among the Tombs of the Twelve.jpgApostle: Travels Among the Tombs of the Twelve Tom Bissell (Pantheon) $28.95  This hefty, handsome hardback with deckled pages just feels like a great book. Glancing at the back you see rave, rave reviews of this authors other work, honoring his craft, saying what a fine writer he is, calling him "wildly talented" and "one of our most interesting and ambitious writers."

I wasn't sure if this should be listed under memoir (as he is telling his own tale of searching out the tombs of the Apostles of Jesus) or if it should be suggested to those who like travel literature; you can imagine the breadth and geography of these particular travels. This is entertaining and funny and learned and there is some drama -- he heads to Spain, India, Kyrgyzstan, Greece, Rome, and is in the contested Middle East,  Jerusalem, Turkey, and, well... 

Mostly, though, this is what he learns as he walks around talking to folks, learning the legends, visiting the sepulchers, interviewing the old priests, figuring out the "mysterious and paradoxical lives" of those at the heart of the Christian story. "A book both for those of the faith and for others who seek to understand Christianity from the outside in.

Bissell comes to realize that the story of men like Peter, Matthew, Thomas, John, is the story of early Christianity (including, he concludes, rather competing versions of the meaning of Jesus.) Apostle: Travels Among the Tombs... includes fascinating scholarship, fabulous travel writing, new insights about Biblical history, and a rich story of one man's own search for truth and more.


Art of Memoir.jpgThe Art of Memoir Mary Karr (Harper) $24.99  Renowned as the writer of the stunning The Liars Club, Cherry, and Lit, here Karr offers a bit of insight into the art of writing memoir, by way of telling more of her own story as a writer. You may know she is a recovering alcoholic, a person of deep faith, a poet and professor.  If anyone you know is a serious writer, this book should impressive them. If they love memoir writing, they'll surely enjoy this one by a master of the genre.

midnight jesus.jpgMidnight Jesus: Where Struggle, Faith, and Grace Collide Jamie Blaine (Thomas Nelson) $15.99 This book really captured me because it is so raw and real, funny and fun, heavy (as it is about those with psychiatric problems, drug and alcohol issues, folks who are often poor and troubled in a small, Southern town) without drifting into bathos or sentiment. The author is known in town as "the late-night psychiatric crisis guy" and, besides being a counselor/social worker is a heavy-metal loving, pin-ball playing,  treatment center admissions counselor who is active in his Pentecostal church and, by the way, DJs at a local roller skating rink, about which he writes with great, touching beauty. This book is entertaining as Blaine ruminates on his life and work and edges towards some remarkably profound stuff about God and grace, without being the least bit preachy.  Rock on late night dude. And thanks for telling your tale.  I hope your writing another.

Hillbilly Elegy- A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis .jpgHillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis J.D. Vance (Harper) $27.99  I can hardly recall the last time there has been so much discussion about a memoir -- for a while, Vance's story was used to explain "poor rural white" folk who intended to vote for Trump. Conservatives liked that this growing up poor in a dysfunctional family in rust-belt America town seemed to show that government welfare wasn't decisive for him; he got out of his family mess through hard work, dedication, a realization about the importance of virtue and values, religion and such.  Hillbilly Elegy does seem to have some sociological value -- as most memoirs do -- to illuminate stuff going on within these rural communities.  Rod Dreher -- no mean memoirist himself! -- says it is "An American classic, an extraordinary testimony to the brokenness of the white working class but also its strengths. It is one of the best books I've ever read...the most important book of 20156."

I will comment more on Rod's evaluation when I get around to publishing my own review that I wrote several months back. For now, just know this is a great read, fun, interesting, revealing, and a good window into the lives of many of our fellow citizens. If you haven't heard, Vance's people are from Kentucky, moved to Southern Ohio, his mom had a bunch of husbands, his colorful and often violent grandparents stood up for his honor, and he ended up, after a stint in the Marines, at Yale Law School.  What a story.

Impossible Love- The True Story of an African Civil War, Miracles and Hope Against All Odds .jpgImpossible Love: The True Story of an African Civil War, Miracles and Hope Against All Odds Craig Keener & Medine Moussounga Keener (Chosen) $15.9  The voice of this story is less like a memoir and more like a testimonial, or a faith-filled autobiography.  That is, it is less literary and more a telling.  But, wow, what a telling it is; the story is itself nearly epic. Allow me to explain -- I know you could give this to some people as a gift and their lives will be enriched and they will be glad. It's one of those books that is passed around, I think...

Craig Keener, you may know, is a preeminent New Testament scholar and author of several commentaries and Bible resources -- I've met him a time or two and he is a good scholar, a good teacher, a bit shy, or at least that is how he is presented in the start of this book. The short version is that he met Medine, who would become his wife, while she was an African PhD student who was studying at Duke when they first met -- and then eded up in the middle of the civil war in the Congo. When she first went back to Africa she faced terror, disease, and devastating hardship and Craig didn't know if she was even alive.

Here is what it says on the back:  "Separated by continents, cultures, and the ravages of war, Craig and Medine never stopped believing that faith, hope, and love can surmount even the most overwhelming obstacles. Part romance, part thrilling adventure, their story is an unforgettable, miracle-filled journey of impossible love. You will be amazed by the God whose own great love for each of us will always overcome."

Rolland and Heidi Baker are authors themselves who have heard, read, and written countless missionary stories. Some really are moving, stimulating, informative, inspiring. They say of Impossible Love "This story gripped our hearts as few books have and lifted us higher in Jesus than ever. Read it!"  R.T. Kendall, the famous preacher from London says, " was not prepared for how compelling this book is. It has all the ingredients of a thriller that will keep you turning the pages."  Another reviewers says it is "A real=-life story more incredible than any work of fiction." Nabeel Qureshi says "reading it kindled a flame in my heart to be a greater part of God's story." 

Finding God in the Waves- How I Lost My Faith and Found It .jpgFinding God in the Waves: How I Lost My Faith and Found It Again Through Science Mike McHargue (Convergence) $24.00  This has been on my own short list of books to read, soon, especially since I am drawn to books that share the interior lives of writers, their faith journeys, their ups and downs, struggles, fears and doubts. That this author is a science guy -- literally, he has a very popular podcast under the moniker of "Science Mike" which has attracted church folks, former evangelicals, atheists, the spiritual but not religious, seekers of alls sorts. He writes for the Storyline blog of Donald Miller and has appeared in Relevant and Sojourners and The Liturgists Podcast. He is a Christian turned atheist turned follower of Jesus who uses his own story to help people come to believe in and know God in an age of science. This is his story and yes, there's some science. But it is mostly a memoir,  quite entertaining, interesting, well told.

Here is what Matthew Vines says of it:

Mike McHargue s life has straddled two diametrically opposed worldviews: conservative Christianity and secular humanism. His fearless search for the truth led him out of the strict confines of his Southern Baptist upbringing, but his persistent experience of God wouldn't let him remain an atheist. In Finding God in the Waves, McHargue offers a vulnerable, relentlessly logical account of the deconstruction and reconstruction of his faith that's sure to challenge skeptics and believers alike. His story will resonate with anyone who's ever doubted, been the odd one out, or struggled to make sense of their faith. And by giving readers this intimate window into his own journey, he will both help doubters grow in their respect for faith and help believers grow in their respect for science.

Or, listen to this from Peter Enns, whose own somewhat similar book The Sin of Certainty is very, very good:

This is the most honest, challenging, and insightful book on reclaiming a lost faith that I've ever read -- utterly unique and unexpected. I had one ah ha moment after another as Science Mike cast my faith and my doubts in a more hopeful and encouraging light. I couldn't put it down. 

Or importantly, hear Rachel Held Evans, author of Searching for Sunday, a memoir that I found deeply moving:

Extraordinary. It s so rare to find a book that is both this important and this much fun to read. Funny, intelligent, and disarmingly honest, Finding God in the Waves gives voice to a generation of faithful skeptics and masterfully navigates the tricky terrain of faith, science, belief, and experience in a way that honors the humanity of atheist and believer alike. It s the kind of book that forever changes how you see the world and yet reads like a comfortable conversation with an old friend. With this work, Mike McHargue has established himself as one of the most thoughtful and necessary Christian voices of our time.


Word By Word- A Daily Spiritual Practice .jpgWord by Word: A Daily Spiritual Practice Marilyn McEntyre (Eerdmans) $17.99 I so appreciate this poet, writer, and professor of literature (Ms McEntyre teaches "medical humanities" at UC Berkeley, helping docs and medical caregivers learn to be better by reading literature.) Here she offers a devotional book around words, not so much Bible verses, but phrases from the English language. She invites us to "dwell with and savor" fifteen specific words -- listen, receive, enjoy and a dozen more. Each word can be pondered for a week, with seven daily exercises to help meditate on the meanings and implications of the week's marvelous word.  I hope you know her Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies, which is a very, very important set of guides to steward well the resource of language. Word by Word will be greatly loved and passed around among word lovers, I am sure.

Marilyn writes in the introduction:

I invite you to discover, as I have, to my lasting delight, how words may become little fountains of grace. How a single word may, if you hold it for a while, become a prayer.


revealed.jpgRevealed: A Bible Story Book for Grown Ups edited, curated, compiled by Ned Bustard (Square Halo Books) $36.99  I almost called this category "For Those Who Wanted To Give This as a Gift Last Year But Were Afraid To." Or, maybe, for those who just haven't heard of this but will jump at the chance once they do.

This is a handsome, nicely created,  oversized (almost 10 x 9) paperback full of black and white reproductions of mostly classic linographs and woodcuts which illustrate Bible stories, from Genesis to Revelation.  With each facing page the Bible text the artwork illustrates or evokes is printed out, and there is an annotation, explaining either the art or the text or both. This is, truly, like a child's picture storybook Bible -- for adults. Which is to say there is a particular emphasis (although not an obsession) with the gory, the troubling, the sexual, or what maybe W.C. Field's called "the good, the bad, and the ugly." The artwork is a blend of classic and contemporary, much commissioned for this project. It isn't for everyone but many have found it to be nearly genius. Whether you "like" all the artwork or not, the idea of this - the book itself as a finished product -- is extraordinary. Nothing like it. Somebody you know (with the necessary trigger warnings and reminder that this, like the Bible itself, sometimes R-rated) will find this to be a provocative, and greatly appreciated, perhaps even wondrous gift. We are glad to promote it, happy to be one of the few places that has reviewed it.  Who might you gift it to?


More-With-Less.jpgMore-With-Less: A World Community Cookbook  Doris Longacre, with a new foreword by Rachel Stone (Herald Press) $22.95   We have stocked this marvelous Mennonite cookbook since the day we opened and Beth and I have given quite a few away over the years -- it remains a wonderful, wonderful gift, a great cookbook to use (even for those who aren't advanced or skilled) made all the better in this very handsome, very new, 40th anniversary edition.  Earlier editions have sold over 1 million copies! We enjoy all three in the "World Community Cookbook" series -- More-With-Less, Simply in Season, and Extending the Table, but More-with-Less remains the classic.

Just read some of these review quotes:

It's easy to assume eating ethically, with a clean conscience, means spending more than we can afford on the dinner table. This cookbook gratefully and cheerfully proves that assumption wrong, with its simple, hearty, and conscious-driven recipes. I'm grateful for this tool as our family pursues eating well--both in our bellies and in our compassion for others."--Tsh Oxenreider, author of At Home in the World and Notes from a Blue Bike

More-with-Less has possibly educated more people around the world about Mennonite values and beliefs than any book of history or theology. Longacre's culinary politics were at the forefront of a food sustainability revolution that is even more relevant today."--Marlene Epp, professor of history and peace and conflict studies, Conrad Grebel University

Besides being a book to cook with, More-with-Less is a book to live with. Not only will you find recipes to savor food, but you will discover new ways to savor community and celebrate the world's diversity of peoples and places. This book is an invitation to receive and share God's gift of life. --Norman Wirzba, author of Food and Faith

My well-worn copy of "More-with-Less" has not only been my go-to cookbook, but also a call to care for the earth and seek fair food for all. This beautiful edition continues to inspire and invite us all to take action, in our kitchens and around the world.  --Stefan Epp-Koop, acting executive director, Food Matters Manitoba

More-With-Less has been a go-to resource for forty years because it's classic -- reliable ingredients, timeless recipes, and practical advice for practical cooks. Like a favorite pair of jeans, you'll find yourself returning to this cookbook over and over again. The best text for being a good steward of God's creation while making memories around the table! --Nancy Sleeth, author of Almost Amish and director of Blessed Earth

We are connected to our food--cultivating it, preserving it, and preparing it. We are nurturers instead of consumers. This shift affects our relationship to the Giver of our daily bread. We become co-creators with God and stewards of God's garden. More-with-Less Cookbook invites us to recognize and remember this connection. --Mary Beth Lind, coauthor of Simply in Season

More-with-Less Cookbook is more than a collection of recipes. When I was a young adult, it helped shape my worldview. The tips and suggestions taught me how to buy food and cook responsibly. It helped me realize that for Christians even the simple act of cooking a meal can be a testimony of faithfulness. --Marlene Harder Bogard, executive director, Mennonite Women USA 

More-with-Less still speaks the truth today. It's comforting to know that the same simple advice can hold true in an ever more complex food environment. Food tastes best when shared with others and better still when you know you aren't taking it away from someone who needs it more.  --Leanne Brown, author of Good and Cheap

More-with-Less reminds us that what we eat and how we eat impacts those for whom food may not be readily available. These delicious, healthy recipes are designed to simplify what can be a stressful and often wasteful process. This book recaptures our imagination and empowers us to enjoy the fullness of God's wonderful creation through food and community. --Jenny Yang, Vice President of advocacy and policy, World Relief

This beautiful anniversary edition of More-with-Less honors Doris Longacre's vision to help people eat more compassionately, more mindfully, and better. Conscientious eaters will appreciate the wise resourcefulness found within. --Lisa Graham McMinn, author of To the Table: A Spirituality of Food, Farming, and Community


Ridiculous Faith- Experience the Power of an .jpgRidiculous Faith: Experience the Power of an Absurdly, Unbelievably Good God Shelene Bryan (Nelson Books) $16.99  This author is vibrant, maybe absurdly and unbelievably, ridiculously so, because she is caught up in the passion of God's great goodness.  And, man, the energy she draws from that. You may know her book Love, Skip, Jump or her ministry providing clean water to children around the world. Endorsements on the back range from Lisa Chan to Karen Kingsbury toe the former President of Catalyst, Brad Lomenick (and when he says somebody is "one of my favorite people on the planet" you should take notice.) This is asking why we have profound moments of faith but they often vanish quickly. This is about abundance -- not in a crass materialistic sense, but in a way that resonates with the promises of God and the invitation to a creative, life-changing trust in God.

Deeply Rooted- Knowing Self, Growing in God.jpgDeeply Rooted: Knowing Self, Growing in God Christopher Maricle (Upper Room) $14.99  Less excitable than Shelen Bryan and her "ridiculous" book, above, Maricle's quiet guidance will be appreciated by those who want to ponder a bit, slow down, ponder a bit, and realize that spiritual growth is much like a tree -- roots and branches, as we say. Dirt, seeds, water, support the roots and this book is a gentle exploration of the life cycle of a tree-like faith. This book shows the stages many souls follow as they develop -- starting with self knowledge and knowledge of God, grounded in the "soil of humility, growing strong roots of love and compassion" and expanding and deepening into virtue. Finally, "we discern what actions our soul should take and we bear fruit."

This is a nice study of the lifetime work of practice, understanding how to prune and care for the tree which is our interior life.  Nice.

Waiting for Wonder- Learning to Live on God's TImeline .jpgWaiting for Wonder: Learning to Live on God's TImeline Marlo Schalesky (Abingdon) $16.99  This would make a wonderful gift to anyone -- I suppose mostly a woman --  who is in a season of waiting, wondering, perhaps why it seems that God is waiting. This lovely book offers a unique, contemplative journey to reveal the wonder that is often missed in life by walking through the life of the biblical character Sarah, one who knows what it means to wait.

As it says on the back cover: "Embark on a journey through disappointment, doubt, and detours to discover God in the 'not yet' places of life." Schalesky is an award-winning author of many other books, including Wrestling with Wonder: A Transformational Journey Through the Life of Mary.


after college - erica young reitz.jpgAfter College: Navigating Transitions, Relationships and Faith  Erica Young Reitz (IVP) $16.00  One of the highlights of our book-selling year was to host a little "book launch" party, celebrating Erica's brand new book, releasing it into the world with a prayer and some autographs. Erica is a dear friend, a very sharp campus minister (working for the CCO out of Calvary Church in State College PA) and now, increasingly, a nationally known speaker and author. She gets almost everything just right, pitch perfect, with a beautiful prose style that guides college seniors into prepping for that big transition out of college and into their young adult years.

I hope you saw my longer review of this at BookNotes last July or perhaps some of the other good reviews that have been publishers. Maybe you've hear from others just how pleasant and wise and useful this good book is. There is very little on the market like this, and the advise and counsel she shares comes from years of working with students transitioning out of school and into the rest of their lives.  Erica cares and it is palpable; she wants young friends to flourish, she wants them to take God seriously, she wants them to work well with a sense of calling and visions of vocation. This would make a great gift certainly for any Christian student who is a college senior and for anyone who has graduated in the last year or so, wanting to navigate successfully through the unique obstacles during this time, attending to their faith, their job search, their living, their lives. Highly recommended.

Serious Dreams cover.jpgSerious Dreams: Bold Ideas for the Rest of Your Life edited by Byron Borger (Square Halo Books) $13.99  I hope you don't mind me reminding you of my own little book. We've got great responses from it -- the author's who allowed me to edit their graduation speeches and collect them here with reflection questions and some cute graphics are to be commended. The book is great because, well, who wouldn't want to hear a great message and eloquent inspiration from Richard Mouw, John Perkins, Amy Sherman, Steve Garber, Nicholas Wolterstorff, and Claudia Beversluis? My own talk which makes up one of the chapters has been complimented and I'm glad;  I'm proud of the introductory chapter too. And -- get this! -- Erica Young Reitz had her publishing debut in the great little epilogue she wrote, offering some good stories and some sage advice that ends this nifty little book.

after college - erica young reitz.jpgSerious Dreams cover.jpgIf you know anyone who wants some of the most astute, culturally engaged Christian thinkers today offering motivation for a life well lived, living out faith in the marketplace and work-world, Serious Dreams makes a great little gift.


If you know college seniors or recent grads, why not give them both -- After College and Serious Dreams. One is more extensive and practical and detailed, one is motivational and inspiring (as graduation speeches at their best can be.) It would be great pairing.


Kierkegaard- A Single Life.jpgKierkegaard: A Single Life Stephan Backhouse (Zondervan) $24.99 I mentioned something you could give to a philosophy-type in my last list but forgot to name this; and how could I? This is perhaps the most significant recent biography of the great Dane and one which examines not only his life and his faith, but the influence he has had on our greatest cultural icons, from Kafka to Orwell, Barth to Bonhoeffer, from Camus to Martin Luther King, Jr. (who studied him carefully.)  If you don't believe me that this would make a great gift (for a student, a scholar, or an one interested in intellectual leaders) just know that many great writers have given enthusiastic endorsement for this fine book.

When somebody like Richard Beck says "I've waited by whole life for this book" you must pay attention. 

Stephen Backhouse's Kierkegaard: A Single Life is an extremely useful book that makes Kierkegaard accessible to those just beginning to know him. Backhouse's account of Kierkegaard's life is exemplary but particularly useful is his summary of Kierkegaard's works. -- Stanley Hauerwas, Gilbert T. Rowe Emeritus Professor of Divinity and Law, Duke University

Stephen Backhouse has given us a wonderfully lively and sympathetic portrait of one of the greatest minds of the nineteenth century, sparing us nothing of Kierkegaard's abrasive, contrarian personality, but also illuminating the extraordinary courage and spiritual depth of the man. We have waited a long time for such an accessible introduction, growing out of deep study of the abundant original sources and bringing them alive with a light and sure touch. -- Rowan Williams, Master of Magdalene College and former Archbishop of Canterbury

Drawing on the wealth of new biographical material that has become available in the last twenty years, Backhouse's life of Kierkegaard sets the Danish thinker in his time and place and does so with confidence and verve. Few books about this most subtle and elusive of figures could be described as page-turners, but Backhouse combines a fast-moving style with a strong grasp of the big issues that makes this a compelling read. For those who have not yet read Kierkegaard himself, this will leave them wanting to do so - which must be the best outcome for any work of this kind. -- George Pattison, Professor of Divinity, University of Glasgow

This is an extraordinarily likable book about a not-very-likable, though fascinating, figure. This is not hagiography; Backhouse gives the full measure of Kierkegaard, and loves him in all his weirdness. Backhouse is a great storyteller---witty, imaginative, and with an eye for irony and humor. This book fills a need for an introduction for the educated nonspecialist to Kierkegaard's life and thought, which are inseparable. How lucky we are that this need has been filled with such flair. -- Dr. William T. Cavanaugh, Director, Center for World Catholicism and Intercultural Theology, DePaul University

Almost every road in modern Christianity leads back, at some point, to Kierkegaard. Yet few appreciate this fact because we've lacked a knowledgeable and accessible guide. Finally, we have one in Stephen Backhouse. I've waited my whole life for this book. And so has the church. -- Dr. Richard Beck, Associate Professor of Psychology, Abilene Christian University

Starting with the astonishing scenes at Kierkegaard's funeral, Stephen Backhouse traces the life and impact of this extraordinary, elusive, passionate critic of passionless Christianity. Backhouse's book is both learned and accessible, so that the issues that Kierkegaard wrestled with walk off the page to challenge us again today, while the man himself haunts us, calling us and hiding from us, as he did his contemporaries. -- Dr. Jane Williams, Assistant Dean and Lecturer in Systematic Theology, St Mellitus College


Creed- What Christians Believe and Why.jpgCreed: What Christians Believe and Why: Exploring the Apostles Creed Adam Hamilton (Abingdon) $19.99  Brand new, we have all the ancillary product, too, for those that want to use it in church this Lent; there's a DVD, leaders guide, youth edition, and more. For now, the book would make a great gift.  

I haven't looked at this yet (it is brand new!) but I'm sure it is lively, interesting, moderate and friendly in tone, and reliable in perspective. He's a moderate United Methodist, popular, engaging and, I think, pretty balanced.  Should generate good and helpful conversations.


impossible people.jpgImpossible People: Christian Courage and the Struggle for the Soul of Civilization Os Guinness (IVP) $20.00 I hope you read my long review in BookNotes last summer of this important hardback book. Os Guinness is a wonderful writer, a renowned leader in the evangelical world, a sociologist and apologist and cultural critic (and I count him as a friend and somewhat of a mentor, through his books and words of encouragement.) Some of us will read anything he writes, and know how rewarding his good books are.

Here, as in some of his other hard-hitting works, he brings critique to those who accommodate  themselves to the pressures and attitudes and values and practices of late modernity, essentially allowing the world (as warned against in Romans 12) to "squeeze us into its mold." What does it mean to have renewed minds, to counter that pressure, as Romans says? What does it look like to be a peculiar people, to stand firm against the drift in culture (and, too often, in the church) away from first things, truth and goodness, virtue and gospel-centered clarity and conviction? How can we resist the principalities and powers? We need robust, orthodox theology and a sure sense that there is a battle to be fought -- we can't just hope for better days.  Yes, we must serve God's work in God's ways, relying on God Himself -- the was the theme of  trusting God and being positive about which he wrote so nicely in 2014s Renaissance: The Power of the Gospel No Matter How Dark the Times which was the precursor to this recent one. Impossible People  sounds the alarm, reminding us of the cost of discipleship, the response to the good news proclaimed in Renaissance.

Here is how the publisher explains the message of this thrilling, sobering, astute, and finally inspiring book; whether you agree with every idea and appreciate every paragraph (who does with any serious book?) Impossible People demands to be read and considered. I hope many give it away and many read it.

The church in the West is at a critical moment. While the gospel is exploding throughout the global south, Western civilization faces militant assaults from aggressive secularism and radical Islam. Will the church resist the seductive shaping power of advanced modernity? More than ever, Christians must resist the negative cultural forces of our day with fortitude and winsomeness. What is needed is followers of Christ who are willing to face reality without flinching and respond with a faithfulness that is unwavering. Os Guinness describes these Christians as "impossible people," those who have "hearts that can melt with compassion, but with faces like flint and backbones of steel who are unmanipulable, unbribable, undeterrable and unclubbable, without ever losing the gentleness, the mercy, the grace and the compassion of our Lord." Few accounts of the challenge of today are more realistic, and few calls to Christian courage are more timely, resolute and hopeful. Guinness argues that we must engage secularism and atheism in new ways, confronting competing ideas with discernment and fresh articulation of the faith. Christians are called to be impossible people, full of courage and mercy in challenging times.


Names for the Messiah- An Advent Study Walter Brueggemann.jpgSocial Criticism and Social Vision in Ancient Israel Walter Brueggemann.jpgNames for the Messiah Walter Brueggemann (Westminster John Knox) $13.00  I reviewed this previously as an Advent study and know it might be a little late for some, now, but you could tuck this into someone's Christmas stocking and they could read it on Christmas Sunday. Four talks or lessons, one the four names for God in Isaiah 9:6.  Just came out this fall. Very nicely done.

Social Criticism and Social Vision in Ancient Israel Walter Brueggemann (Cascade) $20.00 This is the newest collection of fairly scholarly essays by the unstoppable Brueggemann. Edited and compiled by K.C. Hanson, these pieces look at social critique in Deuteronomy, in a chapter comparing "a poem of summons" in Isaiah 55 with a "narrative of resistance" in Daniel 1, a "counter to conventional social reality" as seen in Psalms 9 and 10, and more. He picks up themes from his classic Prophetic Imagination (linking it to "social flourishing") and does lots of exegetical teaching, offered with great interpretive gusto. There's one chapter on the tearing of the curtain in Matthew 27 and a update of the literature on Isaiah ("Five strong readings.")  These pieces mostly were done earlier in his career and yet seem mostly as relevant today as ever. 

God, Neighbor, Empire- The Excess of Divine Fidelity and the Command of Common Good.jpg

For what it is worth, Walt has a major new scholarly book published by Baylor University Press called God, Neighbor, Empire: The Excess of Divine Fragility and the Command for Common Good ($24.95.) It has been out of stock at the publisher, and they hope to have more to us soon.

One writer says:

Brueggemann God, Neighbor, Empire is a stirring account of the various ways in which the Old Testament is offered as an alternative to the imperial narrative that dominates ordinary imagination both in ancient times and in the present.As always, one does not need to agree with every Brueggemann reading of the biblical text in order to find him a stimulating and helpful contributor to our understanding of some important themes of biblical theology overall, and of the ways that this theology should shape our imagination, our desire, and our practice, rather than merely reflect them.

Walter himself says, evocatively,:

Justice, mercy, and the public good all find meaning in relationship a relationship dependent upon fidelity, but endlessly open to the betrayals of infidelity. This paradox defines the story of God and Israel in the Old Testament. Yet the arc of this story reaches ever forward, and its trajectory confers meaning upon human relationships and communities in the present. The Old Testament still speaks.

If you want it before Christmas, let's talk -- I can keep you posted. We can hope.


The Undoing of Saint Silvanus Beth Moore.jpgThe Undoing of Saint Silvanus Beth Moore (Tyndale) $24.99  Beth Moore is very popular as a women's Bible teacher, with videos and conferences books and curriculum -- and we can be glad that someone so popular is neither heretical, narrowly fundamentalist, or too simplistic. She's a fine Bible teacher, solid, compelling, charming. I am not sure she is cut out to be a novelist but there are those who adore her insights, follow her ministry, and would love to know that she has tried her hand at fiction.  This book is set mostly in post-Katrina New Orleans (the titular Saint Silvanus is a old church that is now an apartment complex, a setting for some of the mystery and drama) and it seems pretty cool. I think some would love it -- Christian fiction well told with a strong message of goodness and grace and redemption.

Here is what the important LIbrary Journal gave as their verdict:

Making her fiction debut, best-selling inspirational author Moore ( Audacious; Breaking Free) delivers an absorbing, suspenseful read. Readers who prefer a story focused on finding faith through adversity will savor this beautifully written novel.


Traces of the Trinity- Signs of God in Creation and Human Experience.jpgTraces of the Trinity: Signs of God in Creation and Human Experience Peter Leithart (Brazos Press) $20.00

There are more than a dozen books about the Trinity that we have here in the shop, from the most heavy and historical to the experiential and pleasant. Most are sturdy, reliable, useful. For the former, see, for instance, The Quest for the Trinity: The Doctrine of God in Scripture, History and Modernity by Stephen Holmes (IVP Academic), The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything by Fred Sanders (Crossway) or the recent heady collection of essays One God in Three Persons: Unity of Essence, Distinctions of Persons, Implications for Life edited by Bruce Ware & John Stark (Crossway.) On the less scholarly side, we like Trinity: The God We Don't Know by Jason Byassee (Abingdon) and Experiencing the Trinity by Darrell Johnson (Regent College Press) or the short devotional Experiencing the Trinity: The Grace of God for the People of God (Crossway.)  A thoughtful middle ground level -- serious but not too hard -- may be Delighting in the Trinity by Michael Reeves (IVP Academic.)

But this recent Peter Leithart one is unlike any of the above and, although utterly, carefully Biblical and orthodox, is a bit 'outside the box' and truly fascinating. It will delight and surprise and stimulate anyone who wants to stretch a bit. Jack Levison of Southern Methodist has endorsed it and listen to this from RTS scholar John Frame:

This is the most delightful book I have read in a long time. One of its delights is its clear, gracefully written prose, which easily engages the reader. The book presents a cogent case for a highly significant point: the whole created world images the divine Trinity. Leithart argues this thesis comprehensively, demonstrating that the divine perichoresis -- the mutual indwelling of the three persons of the Trinity--is reflected in every area of human life, including perception, thought, language, sex, time, space, music, and imagination. Leithart's argument has the potential, therefore, to bring major change to our study of all these areas of reality, and thus to all the ways we live in the world. 

Divine Dance.jpgDivine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation Richard Rohr with Mike Morrell (Whitaker House) $23.99  One of the most discussed books of the year, it has been celebrated and denounced.  Rohr is one of the most popular religious writers in recent years, a liberal Franciscan who beautifully brings together contemplative spirituality and radical social action in the world. I wrote a pretty major review at BookNotes, affirming much of what this good Brother does and yet suggesting that I thought the dancing bit was just a bit obtuse at times. I thing he gets some things wrong -- like the difference between the creation and the Creator, which is no small thing.

Yet his is an interesting book and while he's wrong that nobody has talked about the Trinity much throughout church history, it is such an endlessly mysterious topic, it is useful to read varying perspectives.  I read a review lately that was very critical, and I thought the critic was almost fully right until he said that recommending this book disqualifies one from giving advice. That's just silly, and implies that if one doesn't agree with an author one dare not read him. Or that if you disagree with his evaluations you ought not be listened to about anything.  I say to be discerning, but read widely, and be generous in conversation with others.

Not that the art in this redeems it fully, but the inside cover shows a close up of the famous Rublev icon, making this an especially nice volume to hold; opening that first page and seeing that is itself pretty nice.  Consider this a justice-seeking, quite lively, somewhat process-oriented, postmodern version of what the Desert Fathers and Mothers termed perichoresis. 

Read some of the reviews from responsible critics for evaluations -- that's always a good practice. But many thoughtful folks, especially in the mainline denominational world and among progressive thinkers, love this. It's worth sharing, and then talking about.


Preemptive Love- Pursuing Peace One Heart at a Time.jpgPreemptive Love: Pursuing Peace One Heart at a Time Jeremy Courtney (Howard) $15.0  I know that this story can impact lives, and that it would really be appreciated by anyone burdened by the horror in Aleppo, Syria, or anyone wondering about a Christ-like response to ISIS.  This book was written before the current crisis, but Jeremy here tells of his networking efforts to save the lives of Iraqi kids. He interacts with Muslim clerics, Arab folk leaders, Al Qaeda operatives,  working to save the lives of children suffering heart disease -- a crisis there --  by uniting Kurds and Iraqis, Jews and Palestinians, Muslims and Christians around this ministry of health and healing pediatric heart surgery.  Part medical missionary, part Christian peacemaker, this adventurous character from Texas tells an unforgettable story that is sure to bring some hope and clarity. Highly recommended.


The Betrayed  The Daegmon War- Book 2.jpgthe gifted dickerson.jpgThe Gifted: The Daegmon War: Book 1 Matthew Dickerson (Living Ink Books)$14.99

The Betrayed: The Daegmon War Book 2 Matthew Dickerson (Archway Publishing) $21.99

Here is what you need to know about these very nicely done, very impressive fantasy stories for kids or adults: Matthew Dickerson is certainly one of our leading scholars of J.R.R. Tolkien (and C.S. Lewis) and has immersed himself in the grandest and best fantasy literature since he was a lad (working in his Dad's Logos Bookstore.) Dickerson teaches at Middlebury College and has had the opportunity to be friends with some of the best American writers (the day I met him, recently, he had hosted the poet Billy Collins the day before.) His splendid book Homer to Harry Potter: A Handbook on Myth and Fantasy (Brazos Press; $24.00) is a must-read for anyone who enjoys fantasy or thinking about epic stories through the lens of thoughtful Christina faith.

Narnia and the Fields of Arbol .jpg(To remind you of how smart this guy is, he has two academic press books looking at environmental concerns in Lewis's Narnia and in Middle Earth, Narnia and the Fields of Arbol ($35.00) and Ents, Elves and Eriador: The Environmental Vision of J.R.R. Tolkien ($25.00.) Both are great!)  So, these fantasy novels are classic, full of adventure and virtue and drama and faith (which is to say they are modeled after a writing style more inspired by Tolkien than, say, Game of Thrones or some of the other overly violent and nearly occult fantasy these days.) These are fine, fine stories, not well known, and it would be a great blessing to support this guy, buy these books, and help promote novels done with great care and joy.


Slow Pilgrim- The Collected Poems.jpgSlow Pilgrim: The Collected Poems Scott Cairns (Paraclete Press) $39.00  This is a very attractively made paperback with a fabulous foreword by Gregory Wolfe. If anyone is interested in contemporary poets who are also very spiritual -- Cairns is an Orthodox Christian, and has written several books about monastic and mystical faith -- this is a poet that they simply must know. This spans three decades of work and is a wonderful, thick volume.

small porch poems.jpgA Small Porch: Sabbath Poems Wendell Berry (Counterpoint) $25.00 We don't sell much poetry, truth be told, but among our biggest sellers is, naturally, the famous essayist, farmer, novelists and poet, Kentuckian Wendell Berry. You may know that he writes what he calls "Sabbath Poems" as he walked and wandered (and wondered?) around his familiar territory, seeking intimacy with land and self and God. Some of these have been published over the years and this is his newest volume, released just this summer in a colorful, striking, slim hardback. Very nicely done and wonderfully accessible poems by one of our most popular authors.

he Ordering of Love- The New and Collected Poems of Madeleine L'Engle .jpgThe Ordering of Love: The New and Collected Poems of Madeleine L'Engle Madeleine L'Engle (Shaw Books) $20.99 This is not new -- dear Madeleine has been in heaven for several years, now -- but I haven't mentioned it in a while. The cover is so striking, the poems so good, even the foreword by Lutheran pastor and writer Walter Wangerin is very, very nice.  I hope you know her children's fantasy, her Bible reflections, her must-read book on the arts (Walking on Water) and her quartet of memoirs. But surely you ought not skip her poetry. A few of Beth's all time favorite lines come from this woman's pen and her writing is to be cherished. Give this to anyone that is a true lover of poetry or to one that maybe has her of L'Engle, likes literature, and may be willing to try a book like this. It's very, very nice.


What Matters- The Search for Meaning with Os Guinness.jpgDVD  What Matters: The Search for Meaning with Os Guinness Os Guinness (Discovery House) $13.99  This is a beautifully filmed documentary in which the eloquent thinker takes a step-by-step approach in search of answers to questions like "Who Am I?" and "Why Am I Here?"

Set in the beautiful, lush setting of Oxford University, he starts off reminding us that we all need "meaning" and "belonging." He explains how the modern world influences us in our we think and why people make the choices that they do.

"It's only if you really understand the meaning of life that other things, like success, careers, and so on, really make any sense," says Guinness.  And this DVD, with intellectual rigor but much heart and passion, too, offers a helping hand, honestly walking with individuals as they consider life's deepest questions.

He offers four stages to consider, inviting viewers to a journey which includes "a time for questions, a time for answers, a time for evidences, and a time for commitments." He compares how various belief systems -- including atheism, Eastern worldviews, and theism -- answers the question about ultimate purpose.

You may know that one of my all time favorite books is Guinness's The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life (W Publishing Group; $17.99) which is about calling and vocation and deeper discipleship in all of life. This DVD presentation touches on some of that and if you appreciated that, you will love this.

However, I think it tends to draw even more on Guinness's wonderful The Long Journey Home: A Guide To Your Search for the Meaning in Life (Waterbrook; $18.99.) That was a brilliant guide to helping people discern if various worldviews held up to the deepest questions of life (such as the question of suffering.) Ideas have consequences and differences in view make a difference.  These resources are for those who are willing to ponder.  The DVD is a treat, listening to Os candidly and sincerely invite people to think things through for themselves is a great grace and a beautiful model of honest exploration.

Reason for God DVD.jpgDVD The Reason for God: Conversations on Faith and Life Timothy Keller (Zondervan) $36.99  (price includes a DVD and participant's workbook.) This is a six session curriculum but many folks have watched it on their own or just with a friend or two. Keller is a thoughtful, good thinker and fine communicator who invites viewers to "doubt their doubts" and be honest about their presuppositions. In these well-produced sessions Keller gathers together thoughtful participants (mostly young adults) who do not share his faith or his evangelical convictions. These skeptics and seekers entertain his good comments and he fields their good questions. It ends up being quite a fascinating conversation, live and honest, showing how to explore Christian faith in such a open setting.

Here are the six session titles in the Reason for God DVD:

1. Isn't the Bible a Myth? 

2. How Can You Say There Is Only One Way to God? 

3. What Gives You the Right to Tell Me How to Live My Life? 

4. Why Does God Allow Suffering? 

5. Why Is the Church Responsible for So Much Injustice

  1.       6. How Can God Be Full of Love and Wrath at the Same Time?



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December 18, 2016


With no extra cost we can get books to nearly anywhere in the US in a few days,  by Christmas if you order now.

These are all at a great discount. 25% off  THIS WEEK ONLY.

Sale expires December 24, 2016.

While supplies last.  The family prayer book Teach Us to Pray is excluded from this offer.  Sorry, no discount on that one.

After December 24, 2016 all items mentioned are 10% off. 

Keep in mind that we've got the 12 days of Christmas coming up, and some folks give gifts then, especially on Epiphany. If the Wise men gave gifts that day, well it makes sense, eh?

Some nice picture books that would make sweet presents to little ones you love.

Why Am I Here.jpgWhy Am I Here? Constance Orbeck-Nilssen, illustrated by Akin Duzakin (Eerdmans) $16.00 Eerdmans is one of the world's premier theological publishers and a personal favorite. There children's publishing plan is interesting: they acquire the rights to particularly provocative, always artsy, sometimes award-winning books from Europe (and other places overseas) and re-do them into English. Why Am I Here?, for instance, was an important WHY AM I HERE page spread.jpgchildren's book in Scandinavia and although it doesn't seem particularly religious -- and the artwork is edgy and modern -- it is asking a huge question: why me, why here? Even young children can imagine that they might have been born elsewhere and this playfully gets at this profound curiosity. "What if I lived somewhere completely different -- in a city with millions of people, perhaps, or a country where the fighting never ended?"  There are some unpleasant questions but the child's wonderings end nicely, that he is loved wherever he is, and, for now, he is at home.  Very thoughtful.  One reviewer explained how the book can teach empathy.

You Belong Here M.H. jpgYou Belong Here M.H. Clark, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault (Compendium) $18.95  I like this for a number of reasons. The handwritten text and the very lovely, if slightly modern, drawings work together to create a poetic and serene story about various creatures and where they belong -- whales in the ocean, bears in their caves. And the theme is that "you" -- the child to whom it is being read -- "belong here." It is about acceptance and love and being in the place one belongs.

Oh my, you could give this to your grown kids, too, for that matter...Sweet.you_belong_here page spread.jpg

Refuge- The Timeless Story of Christmas Anne Booth .jpgRefuge: The Timeless Story of Christmas Anne Booth & Sam Usher (Little Brown) $15.99  I am so glad we found this simple, small book as in its nearly understated telling of the nativity it highlights the part about Mary and Joseph needing to run for their lives as they became refugees in Egypt. It isn't too intensely told but it is a key part of the Biblical story.

The pen and ink washes include a little pastel giving this a quietly moving look. Refuge supports refugees with the publisher donating money from each copy to UNCHR: The UN Refugee Agency.  Very nicely done.

refuge page spread.jpg

Christmas Love Letters from God - Bible Stories Glenys Nellist.jpg

Christmas Love Letters from God - Bible Stories Glenys Nellist, illustrated by Rachel Clowes (ZonderKidz) $16.99  Perhaps you will recall our celebrating the fantastic big book Love Letters from God which not only has whimsical and expert drawings and great art, but a little tipped in envelope that can be opened, with a little letter, from God, to the child.  What a great idea this was, a great children's picture Bible, made personal with this feature, something even better than the popular lift-the-flap trick.

christmas love letters page.jpgThis one is a holiday version of the earlier one. Children can open and read their own personal Christmas letters from God as they experience seven stories surrounding the birth of Christ. At the end of each engaging story, children will find their own letter from God written especially for them, in the same nifty little envelope that opens up. Brightly done, great Bible teaching, heartwarming. I love this, and your kids will do.

The Plan- How God got the World Ready for Jesus.jpgThe Plan: How God got the World Ready for Jesus Sinclair Ferguson illustrated by Angelo Ruta (Christian Focus) $9.99 I loved how this started, saying that to be ready for something, one has to have a plan. True. And that for this great plan of God to redeem the world, God had to get several people in the right place at the right time. This text heavy story shows that Caesar had that census, the shepherds guarded their flocks, the wise men rode camels through the desert as they followed the star. Those who trust the Reformed accents of this good Scottish Presbyterian preacher will be glad for this book. The pictures are colorful if not spectacular.  The story ends with modern day people -- some oddly at the beach, some at a picnic in the woods -- hearing this Christmas story with an invitation for children to receive Christ as savior and be assured of His love and their part in his plan. 

The Lord's Prayer- Words of Hope and Happiness Rick Warren.pngThe Lord's Prayer: Words of Hope and Happiness Rick Warren, illustrated by Richard Jesse Watson (ZonderKidz) $16.99 This is a beautiful, beautiful book with fairly traditional, lush children's illustrations by a renowned artist. It goes through the lines of the Lord's Prayer with each phrase nicely printed over a picture and then a simple explanation along the side in a handsome graphic. This is really nice.  Here's one heads-up: the book was released previously, went out of print, and has been re-issued with a brand new cover. The artwork on the cover is fabulous, I think, just great, although the art on the inside is more vivid than the classy cover indicates.


This is a great book -- highly recommended.

The Priest with Dirty Clothes R.C. jpg

The Priest with Dirty Clothes R.C. Sproul, illustrated by Justin Gerard (Reformation Trust) $18.00  This, too, is a wonderful reissue of an older book, now made expertly with sturdy end papers and wonderful artwork.  The style seems a bit like contemporary children's movies, which I mean as a compliment -- very well done. The story is fascinating, a rather obscure Biblical episode about Joshua the high priest in Zechariah 3:1-5. What does it mean that our Great Prince can offer "new clothes for the heart" if we trust Him? Believe it or not, this is a kids book about the theological doctrine of imputation (that some say is at the heart of the biblical doctrine of justification.) What an imaginative way to get at this inner transformation -- "the great exchange" -- where we are given newness as a gift. 

Books Do Not Have Wings Brynne Barnes.jpgBooks Do Not Have Wings Brynne Barnes illustrated by Rogerio Coelho (Sleeping Bear Press) $16.99  Those who know quality and often playful children's picture books esteem Sleeping Bear and this book will certain underscore their reputation -- it is so imaginative and playful and fascinating. It includes intricate watercolor illustrations of wild boats and machines and phenomenal stuff -- saying that a book (only if it is read) can be nearly anything, taking you (as the old Reading Rainbow song put it) "anywhere." What an outrageous way to remind young readers of the power of the imaginations, guided by the printed page.

Kwame Alexander, 2015 Newbery Medal Award Winner says of it, "This is not just a book. It's a loony look. A clever, rhythmic, rhyming, rollicking, magical celebration of whimsy and words that soar off the page. But, if this were a book -- with incredibly inspiring illustrations -- it would surely hook young readers."  

Radical Book for Kids- Exploring the Roots and Shoots of Faith Champ Thornton.jpgThe Radical Book for Kids: Exploring the Roots and Shoots of Faith Champ Thornton (New Growth Press) $24.99  This is a truly extraordinary book, unlike anything we've seen come out this year.  The hardback cloth cover has ink over it in a texture like an old school silk screen, giving it a very retro/hipster feel. Edgy cool parents will dig the graphic appeal of the cover, even the inside cover pages has artful lines giving it a very hip design feel.

The inside itself is less edgy, but it is utterly colorful, lots of graphics and full color pictures and drawings and random fonts. It's a visual spectacle but not so much that it becomes a distraction.

radical book for kids page spread.jpg

And that's a good thing because there is more Christian -- even theological  -- content in here then almost any kids book I know. There's a lot of random facts and historical stuff, but the theological stuff is classic and solid.

Here's what it says on the back:

The Radical Book for Kids is a fun-filled explorer's guide to the Bible, church history, and life for children 8 and up. Vibrantly illustrated and chock-full of fun facts and ideas, this engaging and interactive book communicates big truths about life while stimulating children's natural curiosity and sense of adventure. 

Blurbs on the back are from respected conservative theologians like Michael Horton, Timothy Paul Jones, and the brilliant John Frame.

Their Great Gift- Courage, Sacrifice, and Hope in a New Land John Coy,.jpgTheir Great Gift: Courage, Sacrifice, and Hope in a New Land John Coy, photographs by Wing Young Huie (CarolRhoda Books) $19.99  CarolRhoda is known for respected nonfiction books for young readers and this is a stunning collection of photographs and stories -- arrival stories, at first. With nearly lyrical text and the thought-provoking photos, this is a book about the experiences of immigrants in the twenty-first century. It focuses on the lives of children, children who have come to America from many different parts of the world and from very different circumstances. This is a beautiful reminder of the goodness of our land of freedom and diversity.  The photojournalism is superb and valuable for anyone although the text is sparse, for younger children, I suppose. There is a great piece in the back about how the two men became friends (twenty-five years ago!) when they met on the basketball court. Nicely done.

Parachute Danny Parker.jpgParachute Danny Parker, illustrated by Matt Ottley (Eerdmans) $16.00  Originally published in Australia, kudos to Eerdmans for picking up this quirky, clever book.  It is going to be beloved for some kids who just might relate.  In this simple story, the boy has a parachute which he carries as what we sometimes call a "security blanket" (although it is not named as such.) The scene of him needing it when he crawls out of his bunk bed each morning is wild -- you'd think his bed was a tower twenty stories high. And so on. Place by place he needs this parachute to keep him safe. (You never know when your going to need one, after all.) The pictures -- it took me a minute to figure this out -- are from his point of view, with "Jack and the Beanstalk" sort of heights, swinging bridges and parachute page spread.jpgladders and ropes. Eventually (I won't spoil it too much for you) he uses the thing and it works. Slowly he realizes that maybe he doesn't need it all the time.  Know any kid with a banky that they just won't give up? Kids with excessive fears? Who knows, maybe this wild and fun tale that takes that seriously just might help.

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Teach Us To Pray- Scripture-Centered Family Worship .pngTeach Us To Pray: Scripture-Centered Family Worship Through the Year Lora Copley & Elizabeth Vander Haagen (Calvin Institute on Christian Worship/Calvin College Press) $29.99 This new book is a very handsome but very big paperback -- it's 9 x 8 inches and almost 2 inches thick!  It hefty because it is arranged with a two page facing spread for each day of the year. It guides families through family devotions in a richly liturgical and ecumenical way that I don't think I've ever seen done so well. It is geared to the church year, starting, of course, in Advent. There are some hymns and songs in the back.

Each day starts with "Preparing" -- there is something to do or say, and for a few of these you may need to lose some inhibitions.  Then there other one-word "headlines" with a sentence or two describing what to do. The headlined portions of each day's devotion follows the same daily pattern; after preparing there is inviting, stilling, singing, Bible reading, dwelling, praying, and blessing.  There is a nifty icon/logo symbol for each one along the margin.  There are good ideas but it isn't too extravagant. It is child-friendly but not silly. The authors are both ordained CRC pastors and active mothers. (Lora Copley works on the Navajo Nation in NM and Elizabeth Vander Haagen is in Grand Rapid, MI.)

Listen to what Peter Choi of City Church in San Francisco, says:

Teach Us to Pray reminds us that prayer involves both discipline and delight. Copley and Vander Haagen have poured their hard-earned wisdom as pastors and parents into these pages, inviting us to pray as a way of re-narrating our lives into the story of Scripture, as modeled in the Christian calendar. They have found a way to do so with grace, simplicity, attention to a wide range of human emotions, and passages from every book of the Bible. To use this resource is to be led by wise pastoral guides into daily, active devotion as well as unexpected moments of sweetness in friendship with God. My family and I will be reaching for this cherished book every day for many years to come. 



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

December 23, 2016

We Can Send a Hearts & Minds Gift Card via E-mail OR: Make Your Own DIY Gift Card

We've sent this out other years for those that need a quick last minute gift. If you don't want to make your own gift card we can digitally send one of our own to you via email.  That's very quick and very easy. Any amount.

Last, last minute, lots of fun, DIY Gift Card. You make it, you give it. Simple.

Abook wrapped in brown.jpgs do most stores, we enjoy selling and sending out gift certificates.  You may call them "gift cards" but ours aren't plastic,  but nicely printed certificates; old school.  Some customers really enjoy giving them and they are the perfect solution for gifts large or small.  We make them for any amount you'd like, and can send them out anywhere.

But here is what is fun -- this time of year we invite a little homemade DIY action.  Why not get crafty, use your imagination, open up that aesthetic dimension of life, and prettify something as a way to share some H&M joy?  You can make your own gift certificate and we will honor it.

Yep, you can make your own gift card, for any amount, drawing it up in any way you'd like.  Give them to your loved ones, and voila, they can be ordering whatever they like, whenever they like.

Here is how it works.  On the secure order form page at our website, just type in that you arpaper trail.jpge making your own gift card and tell us the dollar amount you want it to be for.  We will send to you the cc receipt (or a bill, if you'd rather) to your address for your records.  We will also reply promptly via email (as we always do) and give you a little gift certificate number that you can write on the card somewhere, just for everybody's records.  (Be sure to give us YOUR email address, not the recipients, as we want to confirm with you.) 

If you tell us to whom you are giving it, that would be helpful for our files, too.  We won't correspond with them, but having a name would be good.  That way, if they lose it -- heaven forbid, since it will be a work of art -- we can still honor it. 

This is so easy, and if you'd rather do it over the phone, that is simple, too.  Just call the shop at 717.246.3333.

Mhandmade christmas.jpgaking and giving your own gift certificate is one last way for you to say Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, or to commemorate any of the Twelve Days of Christmas, including (our family favorite) Epiphany.  The Persian astrologers brought gifts to Jesus on that day, so you could put Epiphany art on it.  Smart thinking, eh?  Or use it for a Christmas eve stocking stuffer or along with a thank you to someone who has blessed you this year.

Speaking of gift-giving, you all are a great gift to us.  Beth and I and our staff thank you for caring about books, for supporting a real store, and for allowing us to inform you about books we think you'll like, all through the year.  We enjoy our on-line friends and appreciate those who follow along, sharing in our efforts.  You are part of this story and we are grateful, daily.  At this glorious holiday time, though, we are especially aware of how we wouldn't be here if it were not for you, our friends and customers.  Merry, merry Christmas.


order here
takes you to the secure Hearts & Minds order form page
just tell us what you want to order

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

                   Hearts & Minds 234 East Main Street  Dallastown, PA  17313


December 26, 2016


books for living.jpgBooks for Living Will Schwalbe (Knopf) $25.95  Oh my, I'm so excited about this. It releases today!  I hope you know the name of this author as he wrote the wonderful memoir The End of Your Life Book Club which was about books he read together with his mother as she was dying. What a mother he had, and what a book he wrote, a combo of a story of dying well, of grief and loss, and the life-giving power of reading together. It would simply not do it justice to say it was a bunch of book reviews although perhaps that was the narrative structure.  I loved that book and recommend it.

This brand new one, it seems, is in a similar vein, reviews of about 25 books -- from Stuart Little to The Girl on a Train, from Bird by Bird to Death Be Not Proud. There are a few old classics (The Odyssey, David Copperfield) and some fairly modern ones (the must-read Reading Lolita in Tehran.)  He has a certain lesson gleaned from each and I am eager to see how he shows us how reading brings life, is for life, how books are our companions as we travel through life, such as it is.


There are some great and classy endorsements on the back of this handsome hardback, blurbs from the likes of Nikki Giovanni, Elizabeth Alexander, Thomas Foster, whose book How to Read Literature Like a Professor I enjoyed a lot.

Here is wonderful Mary Oliver:

Books for Living by Will Schwalbe lives wonderfully up to its title. He offers an easy tone, sections chapter by chapter of his chosen stories and their affiliations to our own lives. He reminds me of a diviner who walks the open fields, taps, and reveals something rarely talked about, or perhaps never noticed, in one story or another, but is important. That's a thrill! I can't imagine a person who loves books not being grateful. Any season of the year, this book is a gift. 

And the always fun A.J. Jacobs says, seriously,

I very much enjoyed it . . . inspiring and charming . . . Books, to Schwalbe, are our last great hope to keep us from spiraling into the abyss. It's an old-fashioned thesis that this ancient medium can save civilization but I happen to agree. Books build compassion, they inspire reform. They remain, Schwalbe writes, one of the strongest bulwarks we have against tyranny. And man, do we need bulwarks right now. Lots of bulwarks . . . Read Schwalbe's book.

Roots To The Earth.pngRoots to the Earth Wendell Berry, wood engravings by Wesley Bates (Counterpoint) $26.00  How did we not know this was released just a bit ago? How glad we were to display it last week!  It is a handsome oversized art book illustrating a few of Wendell Berry's poems that are most obviously about farming. (Ahh, yes, reading about farming is good but Eugene Peterson has said that perhaps Berry's books about farming could also be read to be about church life. I like that line that notes how off it is to suggest that Moby Dick is "about whaling.")  But, yes, these poems and engravings are, at least, about farming.

The publisher tells us the backstory:

In 1995, Wendell Berry's Roots to the Earth was published in portfolio form by West Meadow Press. The wood etchings of celebrated artist and wood engraver, Wesley Bates, were printed from the original wood blocks on handmade Japanese paper. 

In 2014, this work was reprinted along with additional poems. Together with Bates original wood engravings, and designed by Gray Zeitz, Larkspur Press printed just one hundred copies of this book in a stunning limited edition. 

Now it is with great pleasure that Counterpoint is reproducing this collaborative work for trade publication, as well as expanding it with the inclusion of a short story, The Branch Way of Doing, with additional engravings by Bates. 

In his introduction to the 2014 collection, Bates wrote: 

As our society moves toward urbanization, the majority of the population views agriculture from an increasingly detached position In his poetry [Berry] reveals tenderness and love as well as anger and uncertainty The wood engravings in this collection are intended to be companion pieces to the way he expresses what it is to be a farmer.

A-Well-of-Wonder.jpgA Well of Wonder: Essays on C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the Inklings Clyde S. Kilby edited by Loren Wilkinson & Keith Call (Paraclete Press/Mount Tabor Books) $28.99  I suspect that anyone who cares much about the Inklings will know well the important role Wheaton English professor Clyde Kilby played in promoting their work in the mid-to late 20th century. Would we know or care as much about Lewis and Barfield and Williams and Sayers and the others if it weren't for the beloved Kilby (1902 - 1986) and his editing, compiling, teaching, and, finally, founding the premier Lewis collection at the Marion E. Wade Center? I had reason to hear about this marvelous anthology of Kilby's essays more than a year ago and I'm delighted -- thrilled, even -- to get to announce it to you here.

Happy Christmas!

Arts-and-the-Christian-Imagination.jpgThe Arts and the Christian Imagination: Essays on Art, Literature, and Aesthetics Clyde S. Kilby edited by William Dyrness & Keith Call (Paraclete Press/Mount Tabor Books) $28.99  This book is not even here yet although we expect it later this week. What a beautiful companion to A Well of Wonder. Here is what the publisher says about it:

Dr. Clyde Kilby was known to many as an early, long and effective champion of C. S. Lewis, and the founder of the Marion E. Wade Center at Wheaton College, IL, for the study of the works of Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and other members of the Inklings. Less known is that Dr. Kilby was also an apologist in his time for arts, aesthetics and beauty, particularly among Evangelicals. 

This collection offers a sampler of the work of Dr. Clyde Kilby on these themes. He writes reflections under four headings: Christianity, Art, and Aesthetics; The Vocation of the Artist; Faith and the Role of the Imagination; and Poetry, Literature and the Imagination. 

With a unique voice, Kilby writes from a specific literary and philosophical context that relates art and aesthetics with beauty, and all that is embodied in the classics. His work is particularly relevant today as these topics are being embraced by Protestants, Evangelicals, and indeed people of faith from many different traditions. A deeply engaging book for readers who want to look more closely at themes of art, aesthetics, beauty and literature in the context of faith.



Visual Arts in the Worshiping Church.jpgVisual Arts in the Worshiping Church Lisa J. DeBoer (Eerdmans) $24.00  We stock anything we can from the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship and this is another in their serious-minded Liturgical Studies series, edited by the brilliant and significant John D. Witvliet.  This new one has already been called "wise and wonderful" and "indispensable" (by Robin Jensen) and, in the words of W. David O. Taylor (editor of For the Beauty of the Church: Casting a Vision for the Arts, a collection which I happen to love) "her study of the visual arts in worship is both concrete and illuminating, and points to a fruitful way forward."  DeBoer is an art history prof at Westmont College but has spent time in congregations all over, and has been in dialogue with some of the finest practitioners around. It includes a very impressive foreword by Nicholas Wolterstorff who has, I trust you know, written deeply about worship, liturgy, and also about justice and aesthetics.  

Wolterstorff says of DeBoer's book, that she uncovers,

...how actual congregations in different traditions do in fact engage the arts and why they engage them as they do. It's a groundbreaking approach, full of fascinating details and perceptive analyses.

God, Neighbor, Empire- The Excess of Divine Fidelity and the Command of Common Good.jpgGod Neighbor Empire: The Excess of Divine Fidelity and the Command of Common Good Walter Brueggemann (Baylor University Press) $24.95  I announced this last week but also said we didn't have any in stock. The academic press who published it must have run out right away -- before they even hit all the stores.  (There was that huge Society of Biblical Literature Conference, after all.) So, for us, this is brand new -- wow!

This one is truly new and substantial, not like the other two releases by Dr. B this year -- one a collection of previously published scholarly pieces, the other a very short set of meditations both which are themselves pretty great. But a brand new work like this by Brueggy just makes my year, and here we go. What an amazing, serious, evocative book. Not utterly new ideas, of course, but new texts, new messages, new connections, new challenges to embody the prophetic imagination in our times.

These lectures were first delivered at Fuller Theological Seminary and Brueggemann's fluency in the Biblical text and evangelical faith commitments are on wondrous display. The forward is by Tim A. Dearborn -- when I first met him I think he worked for World Vision, so knows a thing or two about passion for the oppressed and the hard work on the ground inspiring church folks to care about global justice. Now Dr. Dearborn is the Director of the Lloyd John Ogilvie Institute of Preaching there at Fuller. It is a wonderful piece setting the stage.

Walt's chapters are rich and dense, as you would expect.  His assigned topic was to relate Justice, Grace, Law, and the Mission of God.  Yeah, just that.  And yet through it all, there shines a beauty. Tremper Longman notes "his deep love of God, Scripture and humanity reverberates throughout this incisive exploration of God's excessive faithfulness."

After a very lengthy and learned introduction, Brueggemann sets out these four presentations, each which are substantial.  

The Nature and Mission of God

Irredacibly, Inscrutably Relational


From Zion Back to Sinai


The Inexplicable Reach Beyond


The Summons to Keep Listening


Created & Creating.jpgCreated & Creating: A Biblical Theology of Culture William Edgar (IVP Academic) $24.00  I gave a quick shout out about this last week when I was doing those epic "something for everyone" book lists. I still haven't had time to look through it much -- it's been on the shelf about a week and I look at it longingly as I zip by a twenty times a day. It really is brand new and very, very significant. And, I think, will be a popular resource for Hearts & Minds loyalists.

You may recall that Beth and I hosted Bill and his wife at an annual lecture we sponsored out in Pittsburgh a few summers ago. Bill had just released a very interesting book about Francis Schaeffer's True Spirituality and how Schaeffer's cultural engagement, relevant, thoughtful theology, and moment-by-moment trust in Christ inspired him in his own work as jazz musician, justice seeking urban dweller, and professor of apologetics.  Back then Bill told us he was working on a major work on our own cultural engagement -- in but not of the world -- and our very essence as humans made in God's image, culture formers that we are?    Just the title alone says so much and hints that it is going to be a very wise and insightful book.

His colleague K. Scott Oliphint, professor of apologetics and systematic theology, at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia says what many of us who know Bill surely think: "I have been waiting for this book since I first met Dr. Edgar."  

Oliphint continues:

I can count on one hand the people who are qualified to write such a work, and Bill Edgar is at the top of the list. He is a Christian theologian who is also an expert in cultural studies. This should be the first volume one reads when questions of Christianity and culture are broached.

Or, as Tim Keller put it,

Anything from the pen of Bill Edgar is profitable to read, but this subject is in Bill's wheelhouse. An important book on a topic that, for Western Christians, has never been so crucial.

Right on!

The publisher explains more, even as they promise some forthcoming resources for teaching Created and Creating:

By exploring what Scripture has to say about the role of culture and by gleaning insights from a variety of theologians of culture -- including Abraham Kuyper, T. S. Eliot, H. Richard Niebuhr, and C. S. Lewis -- Edgar contends that cultural engagement is a fundamental aspect of human existence. He does not shy away from those passages that emphasize the distinction between Christians and the world. Yet he finds, shining through the biblical witness, evidence that supports a robust defense of the cultural mandate to "be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it" (Genesis 1:28). With clarity and wisdom, Edgar argues that we are most faithful to our calling as God's creatures when we participate in creating culture.

restored berlin - better.jpgRestored: Finding Redemption in Our Mess Tom Berlin (Abingdon) $15.99  Perhaps you

need a book to just help you get back on track in this new year. Perhaps you need basic, clear, convicting good news.  Tom Berlin is an upbeat, good writer, not much fooling around but some great examples, good stories, inspiring stuff. Although simple and clear he is not simplistic -- he draws on everybody from St. John of the Cross to Evelyn Underhill, Augustine to Dallas Willard (via Bill Murray, but that's another story.) He's a United Methodist pastor who has written some very popular books about congregational health and finding big faith.  (One book studies various ways people encounter God -- fascinating.)  I love the idea of this book; God redeems the mess of our lives, that salvation is goodness restored, health, healing, hope, meaning even amidst the junk. Far as the curse is found, you know. Transformation. Restoration. Berlin is an obviously good pastor, a sensitive shepherd and knows well the messes we make.  And he cares enough to show us a way out, based on the work of God the restorer.

As Brenda Birton-Mitchell (an inductee into the Martin Luther King College of Preachers at Morehouse College) puts it, 

Pastor Tom Berlin has written this book through the eyes of the his heart. I could see the handiwork of God in every chapter.

Or listen to Ginger E. Gaines-Cirelli, Senior Pastor of the famous Foundry United Methodist Church in Washington DC:

In Berlin's capable hands, a dog with a mouth full of couch cushion, a poll on stink bugs, and an intrusive vine in a neighbors yard all become occasions for exploring the gap we create between ourselves and a God who is always reaching out to love us.


any item mentioned
10% OFF
order here
takes you to the secure Hearts & Minds order form page
just tell us what you want to order

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

                   Hearts & Minds 234 East Main Street  Dallastown, PA  17313