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A Dozen great Father's Day Recommendations (and a FREE book offer.)

It's not too late to send dad a book for Father's Day; not too late for grandpap or Uncle Bob or some soon to be daddy. Or any other guy who needs encouraged in his guy-ish role.  Or, well, you know: almost any day is a good day to give a book to anybody.


Here are a few about dads, or that your dad might like.  Need other ideas?  Email me at or call the shop at 717.246.3333.  We'll help you find the perfectly chosen read for some dude or Mister in your life, or anybody else.  Thanks!


father's day buzz.jpgFather's Day: A Journey into the Mind and Heart of My Extraordinary Son  Buzz Bissinger (Houghton Mifflin) $26.00  Let me get this said right away: Bissinger is a heck of a writer, clever, interesting, observant, eloquent, and yet, well, manly.  Yup, he's the best-selling, talented author who gave us the brilliantly entertaining book that inspired the excellent TV show, Friday Night Lights. When you get props from legendary sports writers like Frank Deford (we have his great new collection, too, by the way) you know your in the big leagues.  This story, though, is not about the big game, it is about Bissinger's real life, and his complicated relationship with his grown son, afflicted with significant intellectual disabilities and an autism-like disorder.  There are many good memoirs by parents of special needs kids but none that I know of by a dad that is as good (and honest) as this. 

The core of the story narrates a cross country road trip taken by Buzz and his son Zach--gifted with an uncanny sense of direction---coming to grips with confusion and frustration and wonder and love. (Zach was a twin; his brother ends up at U of Penn.)  One reviewer, in fact, writes that "the real journey, though, is interior. It's a barely guided tour through Mr. Bissinger's own roiling anxiety, his depression, his narcissism and his profound insecurity, not to mention what he sees as his failings as a man, as a father, as a son and as a writer." Yes, but it is still a fabulous road trip, an adventure tale, fun and interesting, entertaining and uplifting, truly moving at times. That it carries a no-nonsense blurb from Temple Grandin is cool, too.  She says "Every father of a special needs child should read this very insightful book."  I'd expand that a bit.  Every father.  


learning from my father.jpgLearning from My Father: Lessons on Life and Faith  David Lawther Johnson  (Eerdmans) $15.00  This publisher, you probably know, is one of the premier houses releasing serious theological texts, important, mature works  of spirituality and faith-based cultural criticism.  We respect them immensely, and carry many of their titles.  It is interesting to me when they choose to do a book of this sort--a personal memoir, a guide to more ordinary living.  What I mean to suggest is that they don't crank these out promiscuously like some publishers; when Eerdmans does a book like this, you know it is extraordinary and intelligent and will be well reviewed.  And this certainly is.  My sales rep gave me an advanced copy months ago and we are grateful to now announce it: it is a perfect Father's Day gift.  Johnson is a longtime business leader and lawyer and now the CEO of BioCrossroads, a collaborative enterprise supporting initiatives in science and biotech.  And he is a Christian, inspired by his father, a Presbyterian pastor.   


The heart of this book (and it has a lot of heart) are the insights gathered as Johnson re-reads and reflects upon (and offers excerpts of) a batch of letters his father sent him years ago when the lad was a homesick, overwhelmed freshman at Harvard.  Yes, this is loaded with fatherly advice (so maybe, dad, you should give it to your son or daughter!) but it is also a tribute to the father, his good counsel, his graceful style, his keen arguments about the credibility of a Christian vision of life and how we make meaning in this life.  The book rings true on so many levels and is a treat to dip into, to ponder, enjoy, or share with others.  Blurbs on the back cover are by NPR commentator, Krista Tippett and Mitch Daniels, the Governor of Indiana.  Walter Isaacson (who wrote that big book about Steve Jobs) calls it "a beautiful book" and "inspiring."  E. J. Dionne says it is, "quite simply, a beautiful book---eloquent, deeply moving, quietly passionate, and wise."  I love Dionne's last line: "In offering this gift to his father, Johnson has gifted all of us."  Indeed.


unbroken.pngUnbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption  Laura Hillenbrand (Random House) $27.00  Remember this one from a year ago---it won so many awards for being such a riveting, well-written story (by the same gifted woman who gave us Seasbiscuit.) One could hardly find a better book for a WW II era vet, or anyone interested in the engrossing story of being shot down in the Pacific, tortured in a Japanese prison camp, and finding faith after years of anguish.  Louis Zamperini was an Olympic hero before the war, and yet his greatest triumph was surviving, and then forgiving, those who abused him as a POW.  The adventure is awesome, and horrific story, which goes from bad to worse, leaves you panting, the writing is just spectacular.  Mr. Zamperini is a truly amazing man (google him and watch the youtube videos) and nearly any man would appreciate being gifted with this story, a story that really is of survival and resilience, and--thanks be to God--bone fide and glad redemption.  What a book!


crossed lives crossed purposes.jpgCrossed Lives--Crossed Purposes: Why Thomas Jefferson Failed and William Wilberforce Persisted in Leading an End to Slavery  Ray Blunt (Resource Publication) $37.00/ H&M sale price, $27.00  I've written about this before, too---a new book by a good friend, a gentleman and a scholar, as they say, who draws leadership principles from these two colleagues whose lives ended up so differently.  We hope to have the author do a presentation on this fascinating book here at the shop perhaps in the fall.  It's intriguing enough that we want our customers to hear all about it as it raises vital questions, about history, about the worldviews of Jefferson and Wilberforce, and about what kept them going, year by year.  One of the big take-aways, by the way, is that Wilberforce not only was an evangelical Christian with historically sound doctrine, but he had community; friends.  Jefferson had a less than orthodox faith and, frankly, few true and lasting friends.  This is a study that breaks new ground, a great book for anyone interested in history, in faith-based social action, or in leadership.  Get for yourself or or give the book to someone soon.  Please note: our special discounted price on Crossed Lives, shown above, is better than the 20% off offered on all the others, so that is the final discount.

dallas and the spitfire.pngDallas and the Spitfire: An Old Car, and Ex-Con, and an Unlikely Friendship  Ted Kluck & Dallas Jahncke (Bethany Publishing House) $14.99  This is an fine book in a great genre---like a "buddy movie" sort of, and fun for any guy.  This tells of a solid Christian fellow discipling a messed up, druggie, ex-con. But, wait, this relationship isn't all that simple---the ex-con teaches the Christian guy a bunch: it is not a "how to mentor" guidebook or a one-sided inspiration tale.  It is the narrative of a friendship, a messy and funny biography of this crazy dream of fixing up an old car and learning of God's great grace through it all.  This is story which is ore profound perhaps even than it wants to be. ("At the risk of embarrassing these nitty-gritty guys, this is ultimately a story about love," writes Justin Taylor.)  Kluck is a good writer (whose stuff has been seen in the ESPN magazine.)  D and the Spitfire really is a wild tale, profoundly informed by good theology, and a true love for that old Triumph Spitfire.  One reviewer quipped it seemed like "Good Will Hunting meets John Owen" and if you get that, you know this book is for you. 


the searchers.jpgThe Searchers: A Quest for Faith in the Valley of Doubt Joseph Laconte (Nelson) $24.99  Loconte is well-known and respected on the deep end of the blogosphere, a prolific conservative pundit on political and cultural concerns.  Here, he uses his notable skills and brilliant mind to come up with a book that is genius--well written and creatively conceived, about hope. It is a beautiful, good piece of work.

Consider what Eric Metaxas (I assume you've given his Bonhoeffer away as a gift already) writes:

Every once in a while a book comes along that is so elegant and beautiful and vital that you can't imagine the world without it.  Joe Loconte's The Searchers is a masterpiece, one of those rare books you will want to give to almost anyone, believers and non-believers alike. It overflows with wisdom and information about the very thing that makes us human, our search for meaning in the universe. 

Wow, how 'bout that?  Do you have a somewhat inquisitive, educated, thoughtful dad?  Skeptic or disciple, as Eric notes, this is really a great book to give.  Each chapter starts with a short report of a person or episode, and from there wonderfully ruminates and explores and teaches, offering authentic, serious, solid, hope.  As Os Guinness puts it, this brand new hardback is "fresh, powerful, and often hauntingly beautiful... [written by] a poet philosopher." 


artificial maturity.jpgArtificial Maturity: Helping Kids Meet the Challenge of Becoming Authentic Adults Tim Elmore (Jossey Bass) $24.95  Tim has become one of the leading speakers and writers on the transition into young adulthood; he does leadership training, especially for college students, and has his own ministry teaching leadership principles (even to children, by the way.)  This is work that might catapult him to great fame as it explores---on a prestigious publisher, well known for doing the likes of, say, Parker Palmer---how to parent in a way that helps kids grow up into something other than what he calls "artificial maturity."  As Mary Gerardy, a dean at Wake Forest, puts it, "Without question, this is the right book, tackling the right subject, written by the right person, and delivered at the right time."

I think this book is useful for any leader in business, education, government, ministry, and the like, but it is---this Father's Day---also ideal for those serious about parenting.  In a nutshell, the context of his book is that the iY generation (kids raised in a world of the internet and ipods) and the Homelanders (those born after 9-11) have been exposed to more information than any generation heretofore, but have not necessarily been able to process the information coherently.  What do you do with what we know? How do we impart wisdom so that the highly-informed can handle living in such a hot-wired world?    Elmore claims that many kids (including young adults) are not only overexpose to info/data, but are underexposed to meaningful relationships and real-life experiences.  This overexposed/underexposed paradox is the starting point for his helpful advice.  I think Artificial Maturity is a very interesting book, important for teachers, youth workers, and, of course, parents. 


uncommon manhood.jpgUnCommon Manhood: Secrets to What it Means to Be a Man  Tony Dungy  (Tyndale) $12.99 Who doesn't admire Tony Dungy, famed football coach, leadership guru, and thoughtful Christian teacher? He's got other, bigger books and studies, but this trim-sized gift book offers short excerpts, quotes, meditations and reflections, enhanced with great graphic design, colorful pages, and pictures galore.  The pictures are beautifully printed, includes folks of various races (thank you, Tyndale!) and makes a great, great gift.  Know any young men verging on authentic manhood?  New dads?  Dungy fans?  Guys graduating for whom you need a little gift?  This could be given to your dad, or, if you are a dad, you could give it to your son.  Father's Day or not, this is a handsome, upbeat, colorful book, and we are happy to suggest it. 

By the way, might I say just a word about race, here?  Above, I just applauded the artful, multi-cultural pictures in this book.  I said that, well, because it does show a diverse range of men, but also because there is an African American man and his boy on the cover.  Does this mean that the book is only for black guys?  Pu-leeze.  I know most BookNotes readers are not so stunted in imagination, but I want to put it here in black and white: people of color buy books with white folks on the covers all the time.  I'd like to not have to mention it, but you know the complexities of these things.  So there ya go.  Buy the book, no matter what your skin tone.  In fact, women are allowed to buy it too, and give it to a guy they love.  But be warned, there is an even more radical diversity in here: there are pictures of tough jocks and firefighters and mountain climbers, and there are photos of musicians and men playing with kids.  Three cheers!


Things We wish we had said.jpgThings We Wish We Had Said: Reflections of a Father and a Son  Tony & Bart Campolo  (Authentic) $14.99  I've written before how much I love this book, and how happy we were a year or so ago when it was re-issued.  This is a wonderful set of letters back and forth between the famous, funny evangelist and his honest, radical son.  Both express there great love for one another, the way Tony's wholistic vision of faith and politically progressive work effected their family.  Bart expresses some frustrations---it hit me, too, since, I too, like many of us, haven't been away for work more than we may have wished---and this candor makes it a stronger book.  There are two very dynamic men and their inspiring conversations make fabulous reading.  Highly recommended.

hiking thru.jpgHiking Through: One Man's Journey to Peace and Freedom on the Appalachian Trail Paul Stutzman (Revell) $13.99  This is a very, very nice memoir of a guy whose wife died of cancer and, in part to cope with his grief, and to reconsider his life, he sets off to hike the AT--a "through hike" as it is called, meaning the whole 2,176 miles of it.  This was a very popularly self-published book, especially among avid backpackers (or those who read about the famous trail.)  It doesn't happen as often as people think is does: a self-published book got picked up by a real press, it was given a new cover and, here ya go: a good as new amazing book with a proven track record.  I think any outdoorsy guy would like it.  It's full of good nature writing, descriptions of the grueling trip, and great stories of all the characters he meets along the way.  Highly recommended.

fly-fishing.jpgFly Fishing--the Sacred Art of Casting a Fly as a Spiritual Practice  Rabbi Eric Eisenkramer and Rev. Michael Attas  (Skylight Paths) $16.99  This publisher is an interfaith outfit, a bit playful, who does easy-to-read books about spiritual practices, attending to God's presence in the ordinary.  In this new book, to serious fly fisherman---one a Rabbi, the other an Episcopal priest (and medical doctor.)  If you want to learn a bit more about this artful fishing style, tying flies, or being better stewards of rivers and streams, if you love the idea of fishing combined with faith, this is a great, great resource.  Fun, full of (tall?) fish tales and some meditative ideas about finding God in the outdoors.  I hope you know that we carry other books like that, from evangelical and from interfaith perspectives, on all sorts of outdoor adventure stuff.  Call if us if you need other ideas...


earth_works.jpegEarth Works: Selected Essays  Scott Russell Sanders (Indiana University Press) $25.00  As we curate our selections, we occasionally find authors that fit us wonderfully, that are both people of faith and notable in their fields, great thinkers and great writers, deep and dear.  Sander's won me over years ago when I read a few of his essays about a sense of place (and adored his book about homemaking, Staying Put.) This is a recent anthology, collecting much of his extensive writing career of nature writing, conservation, literary and cultural criticism and memoir.  He's friends with Wendell Berry (if that helps you place his voice and vision) and Terry Tempest Williams, and the back cover includes glad raves from Kathleen Dean Moore, Lewis Hyde.  If your dad likes the literary, environmentalist magazine, Orion, this is a must-have book; he'll be surprised and impressed, I bet.  If he doesn't, this is a great way to introduce him to an American hero.


my-brothers-keeper-what-social-sciences-do-dont-mary-stewart-van-leeuwen-paperback-cover-art.jpgMy Brother's Keeper: What the Social Sciences Do (and Don't) Teach Us About Masculinity Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen (IVP) $17.00  This is an amazing book, a serious example of distinctively Christian research, rooted well in a neo-Calvinist, Reformed worldview, with solid grasp of the feminist insights on the literature about men and men's studies.  It is more insightful and balanced than many books on this topic.  We have reasons to be fond of this important book---well, okay, we get a shout out in it---and really appreciate her classic, Gender and Grace so we're happy to share it with anyone who is up for this serious bit of innovative, critical, gender studies scholarship. Van Leeuwen is a professor at Eastern University in St. Davids, PA.  Offer expires June 15, 2012.


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