In my last post I asked that you help us spread the word about what I insisted was the best possible gift to honor high school graduates who are going off to college. Make College Count: A Guide to Life + Learning by Derek Melleby (Baker; see our 25% discount) is a book I care a lot about---I know the author, helped out a tad with the book itself, know the students he interviewed to tell of their "college transition." Besides these valued connections, the more important reason is that is really is the finest example of substantive, important content and cool packaging, a fabulous mix of message and medium, to give as a gift to a soon-to-go-away-to-school student. I know some astute campus workers who are going to use it on campus in the fall with incoming freshman, so, again, it really is an excellent and thoughtful book. Small, upbeat, breezy and, if they read it (which I think they most likely would given its attractive style and brevity), life-transforming. To be invited to think about your life, to ponder some big questions, to ask about what comes next is a great, good gift.
Here are some suggestions for books to give to college graduates. Some churches honor their college grads, and, sometimes, not unlike my mocking of cheesy and unhelpful gifts sometimes earnestly given to teens, some congregations tend to miss this good opportunity to truly honor their college grads. College graduates (or those graduating from other institutions of higher learning, trade schools, culinary schools and such) have just completed a grueling number of years dedicated to learning about and mastering the skills of a vocation; they determined (with, or probably without help from their church) that they were called to a career. Now is the perfect time to underscore that, to commission them, even if only symbolically, by honoring them with a book to help them understand that God cares about what they do next.
If the congregation is small or you only have a handful of recent graduates, you may want to consider browsing through our (somewhat dated, but still quite useful) link to our Books By Vocation. Click on the career that comes closest to that of your graduate---education, communications or media studies, psychology, business, law, engineering, the arts, science---and choose a book custom-selected for their own field. If your team or pastor or church educator doesn't know the majors of your college grads, it is never to late to show interest. I know some younger adults who stay connected to their church merely because their church has shown interest in what they do professionally. The local church becomes the conduit to say that God cares about his or her career choices and God will enable each person to serve well in their chosen vocation. Call us if you'd like to consult about that list or other "books by vocation."
Another fantastic option--the one we most regularly suggest this time of year--is to gift the grad with the handsome paperback book The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life by Os Guinness (Nelson; $17.99.) It is literate, beautifully written, mature and yet not overly demanding---it can be read devotionally doing each of the short chapters every day. In our years of book selling and recommending gifts, there is no other title that we so regularly suggest for such momentous occasions. You may know that I reviewed it as my one pick of a most important book in the anthology of book reviews Besides the Bible: 100 Books...(Biblical; $14.99) So it is important, we think.
For those unsure of giving a rather large book, a few of the key chapters of The Call---that everyone serves God, in all areas of life, that any career if done before an "audience of One" can be a holy vocation--have been excerpted into an inexpensive and still quite handsome small sized paperback under the title Rising to the Call: Discover the Ultimate Purpose of Your Life (Nelson; $12.99.) That, too, is a lovely little gift, and we are eager to promote it this time of year.
Nice Bibles make good gifts this time of year, as do handbooks for basic Christian living. Guides to the deeper spiritual life may be appreciated and some churches give a prayer book or daily devotional. We might recommend the very popular Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals compiled by Shane Claiborne, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove and Enuma Okoro (Zondervan; $24.99) which has great appeal, especially among younger folks, it seems. Or how about a book of poetry? I know it is a long shot, but it might be a good idea---call us if you'd like to discuss some options.
Still, it seems to us that it is a particularly relevant time to honor the graduates sense of call. Why not get them a book that equips them to follow God's way in the work-world? Or to discern "what comes next"? Or to consider how to be faithful in a new phase of life? We've often recommended general resources such as A Journey Worth Taking: Finding Your Purpose in This World by Charles Drew (P&R; $12.99) or even Don't Waste Your Life by John Piper (Crossway; $9.99.) He has that great chapter on "serving God in the 8 to 5" that I have written about before. If you like a passionate and uncompromising call to live for the glory of God, noting the cost of discipleship, this is a great, gutsy gift.
Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation by Parker Palmer (Jossey Bass; $18.95) is a truly lovely gift, hand sized, a warmly peach color, written gently and slowly, inviting readers to a reflective experience of pondering their heart's deepest desires. In many ways it is the opposite of the big Biblical vision of Drew and the passionate call to dedication in Piper. It is quiet, not pushy, a touch mystical. I know with the title it seems that this would be ideal for first year students, but its depth and contemplative tone seems more appropriate for those just a bit more mature. It is a fine way to say "listen to God in your life as you seek for a job or move to new places after college." I know some who have truly valued receiving it, and I know some parishes that are always on the look-out for opportunities to bless their folks with this exact book.
Mastering Monday: A Guide to Integrating Faith and Work John Beckett (IVP; $18.00.) This is one of my picks for "best book" as an introduction to this important area---how to serve God in the workplace. I choose it because it is fairly generic (not just for business people, say but good for any career) and it is a handsome hardcover that makes a nice gift. There are others---some smaller, some more sophisticated. This one is thoughtful, includes relevant Bible exposition, and offers very inspiring insights. This one is a very fine choice.
Know somebody who graduated from a technical school or who is taking a job working with their hands? Shop Class as Soul Craft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work by Matthew Crawford (Penguin; $15.00) was a huge seller last year this time. Now out in paperback it is still considered to be an extraordinary story. I have written about it before, so you may recall its basic trajectory: Crawford was a brainy scholar, doing papers and academic fact-checking at some prestigious think tank. He was woefully unhappy, even sensing himself at odds with some profound moral center. Did what he do matter? Does it make a difference? Alas, he started a motorcycle repair shop and, well, the rest is history. While this serous book is a bit of a critique of the epistemologies of the academy---teaching a lot of, uh, stuff that doesn't matter or help people discover meaning or truth---it is mostly (as the subtitle says) an reflection on the meaning of labor. Know any really smart blue collar guys? Women or men who have taken up a craft as their calling? Anybody who graduated with some technical degree (and who likes to read?) Shop Class as Soul Craft could be the ticket. How many philosopher-mechanics have written wisely on the work of our hands? Wonderful
Lastly, do you know anyone who has graduated from a seminary, someone seeking ordination to serve God in the ministry? We have the perfect suggestion: Eugene Peterson's wise and witty memoir, his story of being called into church work. Simply called The Pastor: A Memoir (HarperOne; $25.99.) Peterson has other books more directly about "vocation holiness" that might be more directly useful, but this new hardback would make a splendid gift.
Don't miss this opportunity to affirm the great achievement of earning an advanced degree. Commission folks, in a manner of speaking (if not in a real ceremony), to go with God into their career and calling. Help them "think vocationally" in this vital time in their lives. It would be our great pleasure to help you help them. Order or call us today.
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