Hearts & Minds gift giving guide—for moms, dads, sports fans, film buffs and those with interests from science to art

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I know that this time of year some of us really, truly enjoy giving gifts to others.  Of course, many people have more plastic and chrome than they need, and buying somebody new shoes is just a bit tricky.  And socks just don’t cut it.

Books are always great gifts.  They are personal, carry a bit of aesthetic character, and say something.  They speak of your own interests and are custom chosen for the recipients interest. They aren’t too big, yet aren’t insubstantial.  And in this world of electronica, they almost have a nostalgic, antiquarian quality.  They wrap nicely–for those who recycle or wanting to be thrifty, we sometimes use newspaper, with a red ribbon..

Here are some random suggestions for some of the hard-to-buy-for folks on your list.  Feel free to email us with questions if these jog your noggin or inspire your thinking.  There’s more where this came from.  We are grateful to be like Santa’s elves, helping create the perfect gift for your needs.  We hope it is helpful that we offer a hefty discount (see the bottom of the post, please.)

We gift wrap for free.  And some of the holiday spirit comes along, too.  Merry Christmas.

for those who like memoir

Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way  Shauna Niequist (Zondervan) sale price $12.97  This hip hardback is every bit as good as her fantastic Orange Tangerine her memoiristic reflection on finding God in the ordinary.  Here, as the title suggests, she has hit upon some hard times, tells of her ups and downs, and with moving, honest, witty, and inspiring prose, moves us to see God’s faithfulness even in the “bittersweet” moments.  Highly recommended.

A Million Miles in a Thousand Days: What I Learned While Editing My Life Donald Miller (Nelson) $19.99  This was truly one of my favorite books of last year, and we mention it again and again. Miller has to, literally, “get a life” when they start filming a movie version of his best-selling set of rambling reflections, Blue Like Jazz.  If you know anybody wondering what to do next, or is floundering about direction, or wondering what “story” can make sense of their days—especially if they are under 50—this could change their lives.  Funny, stream-of-consciousness style, wise and laden with good insights for the readers new commitments, projects and travels.   His (earlier) third book, by the way, Searching for God Knows What,  was reissued recently with a new cover and some expanded stuff.  That would be a cool gift, too.

10872026-reluctant-pilgrim.jpgReluctant Pilgrim: A Moody Somewhat Self-Indulgent Introvert’s Search for Spiritual Community Enuma Okoro (Fresh Air) $17.95  I couldn’t put this down, and it has one of the coolest, hip looks of any book this season.  She’s honest, real, a bit funny, hurting and on a journey full of a young woman’s yearnings for real church.  I’m sure you know some younger guy or gal who’d love this.  You may know her, by the way, as co-author with Shane Claiborne and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove of the much-acclaimed Common Prayer: Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals.  A fresh, new voice.

The Grace of Silence: A Memoir Michele Norris (Pantheon) $24.95  Toni Morrison does not “blurb” many books, but there it is, right on the very classy cover: “An insightful, elegant rendering of how the history of an American family illuminates the history of our country.”  Top-shelf endorsements also come from Doris Kearns Goodwin, Henry Louis Gates, Tom Brokaw, and Dave Isay of StoryCorps who calls it “a soaring memoir that pays powerful tribute to the quiet and dignified heroes among us.”  She mentions York, Pennsylvania in the preface, inspired as she was by an NPR story she did on a conversation about race held here that yours truly helped set in motion.  It’s a glad, small connection to this complex story by a gifted storyteller.

The Match: Complete Strangers, A Miracle Face Transplant, Two Lives Transformed Susan Whitman Helfgot (Simon & Schuster) $26.00  This remarkable moving book has a strange appeal.  It is a medical thriller, a poignant story of organ transplants, and an epic drama of how lives weave together, reminding us of our shared humanity.  See our rave review here.  Meeting Susan was wonderful, and we think you could give this as a gift to some special friend or loved one.

American Requiem: God, My Father, and the War That Came Between Us James Carroll (Mariner) $15.95  This isn’t new, but I’ve been re-reading it lately, and telling folks about its vivid power, literary beauty and riveting psychological narrative.  By the late 1960s, Carroll’s beloved father was picking the bombing targets in North Vietnam and he (James) had forsaken his family’s desire for him to be a priest and had joined up with the Dorothy Day, Dan Berrigan and the religious, pacifist movement, organizing and protesting the war.  One cannot begin to describe the brilliance of this well-crafted memoir, which won the prestigious American Book Award a few years back.  Father son stuff, to be sure, an so much more…

for an aspiring Christian intellectual    

Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God  John Piper (Crossway) $19.99  A passionate call to think as an act of worship, reflecting on the relationship of reason and affections.  

A Place for Truth: Leading Thinkers Explore Life’s Hardest Questions  edited by Dallas Willard (IVP) $20.00  A collection of some of the great speeches done at the famous Veritas Forums, which offers multidisciplinary, intellectually-credible arguments for Christian belief and practice on secular college campuses.  More than traditional apologetics there are papers on science and cultural renewal and social ethics and more.  Excellent.

The Passionate Intellect: Christian Faith and the Discipleship of the Mind  Alister McGrath (IVP) $22.00  McGrath has dual degrees in science and theology and this collection of chapters includes thoughtful, rigorous inspiration; at least a third of the essays attempt to navigate the recent debates about atheism and the sciences.

for a worship leader

Facedown Matt Redman (Regal) $12.99  This small pocket-sized hardback is by one of the most respected contemporary worship leaders and songwriters, reflecting on the times people in the Bible go prostrate before God.  A very thoughtful reminder of God’s holiness and awe.  

AL405.jpgIn God’s Presence: Encountering, Experiencing, and Embracing the Holy in Worship   N. Graham Standish (Alban Institute) $18.00  Graham is a mainline Presbyterian pastor, a con
templative, and an innovative pioneer of multi-dimensional blended worship stylings.  Insightful and practical.

Worship and the Reality of God: An Evangelical Theology of Real Presence John Jefferson Davis (IVP) $22.00  An academically rich and deeply moving survey of the need for worship renewal that starts with overcoming “habits of mind and heart, conditioned by our surrounding culture, that hinder our faith in the real presence of the transcendent God among his people.”   This is a book that reminds us of incomparable Reality.

The Worship Architect: A Blueprint for Designing Culturally Relevant and Biblically Faithful Services Constance M. Cherry (Baker) $22.95  Although those who lead services whose liturgical rituals are rarely altered, most Protestants could find this a God-send.  Don’t let the word “blueprint” fool you—these are mature, thoughtful, insightful ideas, gleaned from her work as professor at the Robert Webber Institute for Worship Studies.

for a younger parent

Sacred Parenting: How Raising Children Shapes Our Souls Gary Thomas (Zondervan) $13.99  One of our personal favorites, combining practical wisdom and a mature spirituality, nicely written in short, upbeat chapters. Lovely.

The Faithful Parent: A Biblical Guide to Raising a Family Martha Peace & Stuart Scott (P&R) $14.99  Perhaps the forward by Tedd Tripp hints that this a serious, Biblically-oriented approach that is conservative and helpful.

17 Things My Kids Taught Me About God: Parable of Spiritual Sight J. Mack Stiles (IVP) $8.99  The bright Lego pieces here remind us that we can take great joy in pondering what our kids have to teach us about God.  This isn’t shallow cutesy stuff, either.  Inspiring, thoughtful, sound.

In the Midst of Chaos: Caring for Children as Spiritual Practice Bonnie Miller-McLemore (Jossey Bass) $21.95  In the fantastic “Christian practices” series, this is warm, honest, profoundly Christian in an ecumenical tone, wise and interesting.  Not your typical religious self help approach.

for a young mom

Blue Like Play Dough: The Shape of Motherhood in the Grip of God Tricia Goyer (Multnomah) $13.99  If the young mom knows of Donald Miller’s famous Blue Like Jazz it is worth it to give this just for the clever allusion in the title.  A creative and good memoir of young motherhood.

Real Moms…Real Jesus: Meet the Friend Who Understands Jill Savage (Moody) $12.99  A small sized paperback with a beautiful pile of laundry on the cover (and I mean that, it’s a beautiful cover that speaks well of home life.)  Includes a study guide with solid, Biblical guidance for growing in faith.

Spilt Milk: Devotions for Moms (Zondervan) $12.99  Light-hearted, easy-to-read, yet passionate about the purposes of motherhood.  Give it to somebody who needs to laugh.

God Loves Single Moms: Practical Help for Finding Confidence, Strength, and Hope Teresa Whitehurst (Revell) $12.99  This clear-headed and good book is written by a clinical psychologist who  has worked as a therapist at Harvard Medical School.  Pretty impressive help, yet with a simple message: God is with you!  Would this make a nice token of encouragement for somebody you know?

for a young dad

Rookie Dad: Thoughts on First Time Fatherhood David Jacobsen (Zondervan) $12.99  How cool is this little handsize book with a picture on the cover of a bib that says I heart Daddy??  This young author has a BA in English literature and an MCS in Christianity and the Arts and he has no clue.  No Clue.  Welcome to the club.  You know some young guy who needs this!

Bond of Brothers: Connecting With Other Men Beyond Work, Weather and Sports  Wes Yoder (Zondervan) $16.99  This isn’t just about fathering, in fact, it hardly is.  Smart thinking, huh?  A great book, inviting men to be truly known.  Which is gonna help, trust me.

Father & Son: Finding Freedom Walter Wangerin and Matthew Wangerin (Zondervan)Spiritually_hea-330.jpg $19.99 A poignant father-son story by one of the leading religious writers of our time. Their adopted son Matthew shares his voice making this a stunning, honest story.  Maybe not for the brand new dad, and not only for dads…

99 Ways to Raise Spiritually Healthy Children Kathleen Long Bostrom (WJK) $14.95  Although written for anyone most dads will dig this because it is easy (a ton of things to do), colorfully designed (like her 99 Things to Do Between Here and Heaven), and happily low-key.  Bostrom is theologically sound as a mainline denominational writer, but doesn’t have high-pressure fears about getting the kid saved through a formulaic conversion.  No, this is long-haul, kind, creative, stuff, helping us all come to deeper faith, day-by-day.  There is a Bible passage for each entry, too.  Nice.

for married lovers

The Christian Lover: The Sweetness of Love and Marriage in the Letters of Believers compiled by Michael Haykin & Victoria Haykin (Reformation Trust) $15.00  What a lovely little hardback, full of letters of devout Christians, writing of their faith and love.  Strong on the Puritans, especially, who were renowned for their firm theology and wedded bliss.

Aflame: Ancient Wisdom on Marriage compiled by Sam & Bethany Torode (Eerdmans) $15.00  this small sturdy hardback is a perfect stocking stuffer or special gift for those who value the best insights of the ages.  Illustrated with pastel shadings and b/w photography, making this nice in every way.

The Mystery of Marriage: Meditations on the Miracle  Mike Mason (Multnomah) $13.99 Still one of the all time great reflections on the meaning and spirituality of marriage.  Powerful, lovely prose, deeply contemplative, mature.  

for those who love the Bible

Larry_Stone,_The_Bible_thumb.JPGThe Story of the Bible: The fascinating history of its writing, translation & effect on civilization
Larry Stone (forward by Ravi Zacharias) $34.99  One of the great coffee table gift books of the year!  This large sized, handsome text includes over 90 illustrations, 23 life sized pull out pages from some of the world’s most important Bibles.  The producers of this lavish volume are known for similar productions on the Civil War and the Constitution, with self-contained facsimile artifacts and full-color fold-out pieces and maps.  Really, really informative, and a glorious example of what a book can be.  A very special gift.

The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible Scot McKnight (Zondervan) $14.99  Just out in paperback, this is a fun and honest evangelical account of the foibles of Bible interpretation and how to wisely understand and apply the variety of confusing texts that come to us as God’s Word.  Phyllis Tickle writes “This is far and away the best, gentlest, most intelligent argument I have ever rad for the absolute necessity of embracing th
e Bible as story.”

Captive to the Word of God: Engaging the Scriptures for Contemporary Theological Reflection Miroslav Volf (Eerdmans) $18.00  Volf, who teaches at Yale Divinity School,  is increasingly honored as one of the most important theological scholars today.  In this brand new collection, he offers various articles, sermons, papers, and chapters on  exploring the Bible and its role in our life.  Moderate in tone, thoughtful but not arcane, helpfully nuanced, well crafted.  You may know a geek who would be thrilled to own this new book by a master thinker and devout scholar.

The Doctrine of the Word of God  John Frame (P&R) $39.99  Okay, this isn’t for everyone.  A massive book, the fourth in the serious “theology of Lordship” that this excellent, conservative, Reformed writer has been giving us these last years.  The previous one about the commandments was excellent.; this one is about God’s speech to humans, its power, authority, and presence.  J.I. Packer wrote the forward; Frame is renowned as a clear and passionate teacher at Westminster Seminary.

whythebiblematters.jpgWhy The Bible Matters Michael Erre (Harvest House) $13.99  I said earlier this year that this has become my favorite, fun, and very helpful overview of the whole big grand narrative.  This is all the cool stuff, the historically redemptive vision of the unfolding drama, quoting Tom Wright and Al Wolters and explainging why reading the Bible in this “big picture” missional way can make a difference.  I suspect that it is best for younger adult readers who will dig his informal style and passionate storytelling.

for those who love the printed page

Besides the Bible: 100 Books That Have, Should, or Could Create Christian Culture Dan Gib son, Jordan Green, Pattison (Biblica) $14.99  Hopefully you saw my rave review, or their nice words about our shop, and might be inspired to offer this to somebody you know.  This is a faithful book lovers dream come true!  Come on, I’ll even autograph my little chapter if I have to.  This is a great, great gift for anyone who likes to read, or anybody who might need some encouragement to broaden their tastes.

The Mockingbird Parables: Transforming Lives Through the Power of Story
Matt Litton (Tyndale) $14.99  One of our favs of the year, this is just what you think: faith-based reflections on To Kill a Mockingbird.  Litton is a high school English teacher and this fine book deserves to be discussed, searching it’s insights about compassion and justice and the how story can shape our lives.  Certainly you know somebody you can gift it to?  Perhaps give ’em a paperback version of the Harper Lee classic.

My Reading Life  Pat Conroy (Doubleday) $25.00  Who knew the famous novelist was also a book collector, a Milton scholar, and a fabulous essayist about the joys of reading.  Wonderful!

The Lost Art of Reading: Why Books Matter in a Distracted Time David Ulin $12.95 I have shared this shirt-pocket sized hardback at a variety of places I’ve gone this fall and although it is very small, it truly resonates with book lovers.  This is a mature, intellectually robust memoir about the fate of the book, written by the former editor of the L.A. Times Book Review.
for one who would appreciate a literary approach to personal growth

Art of Being You: How to Live as God’s Masterpiece Bob Kilpatrick & Joel Kilpatrick art-of-being-you.jpg  (Zondervan) $18.99  A father and son team (the father having been involved in the world of Christian rock for decades) use the image of being God’s artwork to unpack the “art of living.”  A well written, guidebook reflecting on how you are “beautifully drawn, brilliantly scored, poetically rendered.”  A nice, compact-sized hardback.

This I Believe: On Love edited by Dan Gediman (Wiley) $19.95  Perhaps you know the NPR show “This I Believe” which often offers up stunningly beautiful manifestos of all sorts of folks.  In this book, you’ll discover a diverse and tender collection of essays about love (not all romantic love, by the way.)  You won’t agree with them all, you will be blown away by others.  A smallish hardcover, this is a beautiful gift for the right person.  Pair it with Four Loves by C.S. Lewis for a real package.

About You: Fully Human, Fully Alive Dick Staub (Jossey Bass) $22.95  Staub is one of my favorite writers and here he vibrantly calls us to be “fully alive.”  He cites an early church father who famously said “The glory of God is man fully alive.”  This is about reaching our potential, making a difference, affirming the goodness of life in God’s creation, rejecting the damaging “body vs soul” dualism, and, well, enjoying life.  Theology, philosophy, self-help, and motivation for cultural creatives.  Love it!

God and the Art of Happiness Ellen Charry (Eerdmans) $35.00  What a weighty, handsome hardback, written by a significant thinker at Princeton Theological Seminary.  With endorsements from the legal scholar John Witte, the stunning spiritual theologian David F. Ford, and Princeton main-man Dr. Iain Torrance, you know this will make the right kind of person very, very happy.  What a gift she has of forging deep connections between academic theology and daily living.  What an important book to remind us of some very important truths about human existence under the sun.

for those who like the movies

Hollywood Worldviews: Watching Films With Wisdom and Discernment Brian Godawa (IVP) $16.00  A thoroughly updated and expanded version of his earlier edition, this is, clearly, not about stamping out the joy of going to the movies by over-analyzing them or being some kind of begrudging worldview cop.  Yet, he does help us see between the frames and make sure we don’t suspend our beliefs or minds as the lights go down.  Very useful.

Of Pilgrims and Fire: When God Shows Up At the Movies Roy Anker (Eerdmans) $17.99  The best collection of seriously Christian film reviews in years.  Illuminating for the insight about particular movies, and an education on how to engage culture Christianly, this is masterful, luminous, provocative, and thrilling.  A must for any film buff.

for those who like rock music

We Get to Carry Each Other: The Gospel According to U2  Greg Garrett (WJK) $16.95  Greg is a great writer, a thoughtful and enjoyable conversation (and listening) partner as we take in the greatest rock band in the world.  Smart, insightful, not preachy, wonderful for Christian fans, and even more-so for those who may not quite understand all the spiritual themes in the lads from Dublin.  By the way, we have a young reader’s book, a small, brief, overtly Christian biography of Bono that might be a nice stocking stuffer for a savvy middle schooler.  It’s called Breaking Through by Grace: The Bono Story by Kim Washburn (ZonderKidz; $6.99.) 

The Soul of Hip Hop: Rims Timbs and a Cultural Theology Daniel White Hodge ()IV P) $17.0
0 With artists like Eminem and Kayne continuing to garner huge critical acclaim and even huger sales, this kind of book is bound be be appreciated by a lot a da kidz.  Hodge is an old Tupac fan, too, so he gets the “theology of hip hop.”

Stronger: Forty Days of Metal and Spirituality Brian “Head” Welch (HarperOne) $22.95  You may recall the shocking and inspiring memoir Save me From Myself about this heavy tatooed metal legend’s legendary conversion.  Head was lead guitarist for Korn.  This is his brand new one, more on the journey as a solo artist.  Want to get a metal head reading?  Reading about faith?  Forget Joel Olsteen, if you get my drift.  This is your ticket.

for sports fans

Game Day for the Glory of God: A Guide for Athletes, Fans, & Wannabes  Stephen1840_large.jpg Altrogee (Crossway) $9.99  I love the sentiment of this little, passionate book—we live for God’s glory and that is the basis for joy, and athletic fun.  Forward by C.J. Mahaney.

God and Football: Faith and Fanaticism in the SEC  Chad Gibbs (Zondervan) $12.99  If you know a hardcore college football fanatic, this is a must.  If you want to give a gift to nearly anybody who is even remotely a football fan, this is fun, funny, a bit inspiring, an inspired road trip to the stadiums.

Remember Why You Play: Faith, Football, and a Season to Believe David Thomas (Tyndale) $14.99  In November 2008 a game was played down South that is so inspiring to think about, it gets me choked up just reading the back cover.  The Gainesville State School is a maximum-security correctional facility and at their last game of the season–they had won no games all year—something remarkable happened.  Of course they had no home field, and no fans as these were the worst sort of juvenile offenders.  The Faith Christian Lions, an excellent team already headed for the playoffs, determined to surprise these players by “adopting” them as if they were the “home team.” Fans of Faith Christian formed a 40-yard spirit line, and cheerleaders moved to the visitor’s side of the stadium where they cheered–by name–for the stunned, usually ignored (or despised) Gainseville players.  Coach Kris Hogan has been interviewed on ESPN, and was an honored guest of the NFL commissioner at last year’s Superbowl.  What a story, an example of second chances and Christian goodness, written by a fine sports writer from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

for those interested in the arts

Saving Leonardo: A Call to Resist the Secular Assault on Mind, Morals & Meaning Nancy Pearcey (Broadman) $26.99  You may recall how we reviewed this early in the fall.  It is one of the more important books of the year for us, an insightful and provocative exploration of worldviews, the history of ideas, our intellectual context, and the ways in which the arts carry an ethos and way of thinking that has eroded meaning.  Secularization is a force driving Western culture, and the contemporary arts—with their roots in the romantic reaction to rationalism–must be understood if we are to seek a contemporary renewal.  Full color art, tons of contemporary illustrations, a vivid example of the ways the cultural criticism of Francis Schaffer has left a robust legacy.  A gift that thoughtful artists will relish.

Rouault-Fujimura: Soliloquies Thomas Hibbs (Square Halo Books) $19.99  Last winter, we raved about the extraordinary work of Square Halo Books and their historic release of this comparison and contrast of the work of contemporary Protestant abstract artist Makoto Fujimura and early 20th century French Catholic artist George Rouault.  This handsome collector’s edition includes a “refraction” essay by Mr. Fujimura and an extended piece by art critic Hibbs.  This is a truly wonderful little gift; rare, important, inspiring.  Read my original review, here.  Perhaps such a colorful, small book with such contemporary importance isn’t for everyone, but you might know someone who would be surprised and touched by allowing them in on this extraordinary project.

for those who are interested in science

Science & Christianity: Four Views  edited by Richard Carlson (IVP) $20.00  Four different scientists, all of deep, evangelical faith, explore what it means to “integrate faith and science” with four very different methods and models.  Each offer a response to the other, too, so this provide an wonderful opportunity to explore ways in which to think about this vital topic.

Science, Creation and the Bible: Reconciling Rival Theories of Origins Richard Carlson and Tremper Longman (IVP) $16.00  This brief book is spectacularly useful, very innovative, and offers “robust respect for science in all its manifestations with a high view of Scripture. (Karl Giberson, author of Saving Darwin and senior fellow of The BioLogos Foundation.)  Carson is a research professor with a PhD in psychics and Longman is one of the most prodigious and respected Old Testament guys around.  None of the multiple creation stories in the the Bible preclude evolutionary science.  Very useful for how to read the Bible, and a good introduction to a vast topic.
Darwin’s Pious Idea: Why the Ultra-Darwinists and Creationists Both Get It Wrong Conor Cunningham (Eerdmans) $34.99  With endorsements from some of the leading intellectuals the world over (Charles Taylor, Slavoj Zizek, John Haught, Louis Dupre) this is a cogent, weighty, massive study.  At well over 500 pages, not for the faint of heart; you’re going to need a bigger stocking than hangs by most trees….

for those interested in spirituality

Becoming the Answer to Our Prayers: Prayers for Ordinary Radicals Shane Claiborne & Jonathan Wilson-Hartgtove (IVP) $13.00  This slim book has come to mean a lot to me, and it is highly recommended as a basic study of contemplative prayer–with an emphasis on how that deep inner spirituality shapes us as people in the world.  Gracious, helpful, inspiring.

Invitation to Solitude and Silence: Experiencing God’s Transforming Presence Ruth Haley Barton (IVP) $18.00  This has won a number of publishing awards and Ruth gets accolades wherever she speaks; this new, handsome hardcover includes are really useful, interactive study guide.  Who doesn’t need a book like this?  Give this to someone you care about this time of year, and they will sigh wistfully. 

Mystically Wired: Exploring New Realms in Prayer Ken Wilson (Nelson) $17.99  One of the great great books of 2010, this uses brain studies and a bit about neurology to show how we are “wired” for prayer.  Very hands-on practical, new insights offered and concrete proposals for how to walk into the realm of meditation and Christian spirituality.  Excellent.
for culture makers

Christ Among the Dragons: Finding Our Way Through Our Cultural Challenges 
James Emery White (IVP) $17.00  I’d read anything this smart, culturally-savvy, passionate reformer would write.  Here, he illustrates ways to be “in but not of” the culture of our times, reflecting upon some of the unique challenges of our day, and how to most faithfully deal with the “dragons on the edges of the maps” of our perilous times.  Know someone who wants to offer love and grace to a world that is hurting?  Wants to learn to live out faith with integrity and fidelity?  Wants historic, orthodox faith that is  yet timely and relevant?

Building Cultures of Trust Martin Marty (Eerdmans) $22.99  Marty is a widely respected, mainline church history, charming scholar, ecumenical churchman and fabulously interesting mature writer.  Anyone tired of the mistrust–of each other, and of institutions–will take heart with this fine work.

To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, & Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World James Davison Hunter (Oxford University Press) $27.95   One of the great scholarly works of our time, asking how change actually happens, how the so-called Christian right and Christian left have failed, and how best to re-imagine our construal of cultures, how they work, how faithful Christians can meaningful bring insights which will bear fruit in lasting renewal.  Right or wrong, this is a book that serious Christian thinkers might have on their list.

for school teachers

The End of Education: Redefining the Value of School  Neil Postman (Vintage)  $15.00  One of the best cultural critics of our age, the late Neil Postman gives an extended rumination on the “goals” (ends) of education.  Without good ends, what’s the point?  Written more than a decade ago, it is still vital, urgent, insightful, raising profound questions about “first things” without seeming overtly religious.

The Craft of Christian Teaching: A Classroom Journey John Van Dyk (Dordt College Press) $15.00  My favorite writer on how to think and teach “Christianly.”  This shows how accepting Christ as Lord effects how one does schooling, how one teaches, how one serves his or her students in the classroom.  Although he has in view educators in alternative Christian schools, this is so wise, so vibrant, so well “integrated” that teachers from any setting can surely benefit.  Highly recommended.

Teaching with Fire: Poetry That Sustains the Courage to Teach Sam Intrator, Megan Scribner & Parker Palmer (Jossey Bass) $16.95  I’ve mentioned this before and it really makes a lovely gift: this is a gathering together of poems that real teachers sent in, indicating that these works help keep them focused, reminds them about why they teach, poems that can inspire educational leadership in nearly any setting.  Very impressive.
for an older youth or collegiate

Called to Be Human: Letters to My Children on Living a Christian Life Michael Jinkinsart,book,pages,christmas,cool,craft,creative,family,gifts,love,paper,photography,presents,trendy,vintage-4a75759cad763c264e89e46c71543cb7_m.jpg (Eerdmans) $15.00  These are wise and moving and well written letters by a mainline seminary prof to his teen and college age children.  Not preachy, not particularly evangelistic, but subtle and interesting.  Dare I say it brings to mind Buechner, perhaps?  Very nicely done.

The Outrageous Idea of Academic Faithfulness: A Guide for Students Derek Melleby & Donald Opitz (Brazos) $13.95  I mention this often because there is nothing in print like it, inviting college students to reconsider the reason they are in college, offering a way to “think Christianly” and relate faith and the work of the classroom.  What “story” shapes their interest in college?  Can study be an act of workshop? College-bound seniors need this book, and certainly any college student you care about who doesn’t have it yet…

for one who cares for creation

Gardening Eden: How Creation Care Will Change Your Faith, Your Life, and Our World  Michael Abbate (Multnomah) $13.99  Abbate is a recognized expert in green development strategies, and founder of GreenWorks, an award-winning landscape architecture design firm.  Here he gives a delightfully upbeat set of solutions for greener lifestyles, from a happily evangelical perspective.  Forward by Randy Alcorn.  Yay.

The Gospel According to the Earth: Why the Good Book is a Green Book (HarperOne) $22.95  A very handsome hardback sporting a great quote from Eugene Peterson and endorsements on the back from a variety of leaders in the progressively evangelical movement for creation care and environmental stewardship.  A solid, fresh, basic overview.

for church leaders

The Great Emergence: How Christianity Is Changing and Why Phyllis Tickle (Baker) $17.99  Agree or not, dear Phyllis is a fantastic writer, astute and clever and wise and fun.  This is one of the most talked about books in this field in a while.  A fairly positive assessment of the postmodern emergent conversation from a stalwart Episcopalian.

Deep Church: A Third Way Beyond Emerging and Traditional Jim Belcher (IVP) $17.00  Does it impress you that Jim is a friend and customer of H&M, that Rich Mouw wrote the forward, or that Tim Keller graces the cover with an affirming quote?  How many authors get shout outs from Mark Driscoll and Rob Bell?  Love it!  Really, really good.

Whole Church: Leading From Fragmentation to Engagement Mel Lawrenz (Jossey Bass) $24.95   This curious, seasoned and fun pastor followed in leadership the great Stuart Briscoe, and helped continue to shape a thriving, growing congregation. These are his insights, a fresh lot of new ideas, and some inspiring visions for congregational work.  His “four kinds of engagement” are priceless.

for travelers

The Only Road North: 9,000 Miles of Dirt and Dreams Erik Miradnette (Zondervan) $12.99  I tell people about this often—it is a riveting travelogue of a young guy driving around Africa, with moving missionary encounters, tragedy and hope.  Gripping.

Wonderlust: A Spiritual Travelogue for the Adventurous Soul Vicki Kuyper (New Hope) $14.95  From the charming scene of Venice on the cover to the wonderful prose throughout, this is a fine, Christian bit of travel writing.  This gal goes to some of the most exotic places on Earth and draws deep inspiration.  Enjoy!

240_360_Book.176.cover_.jpgSacred Journey Charles Foster (Nelson) $17.99  Surely one of the most interesting books I’ve read this year, the final volume in the “Ancient Practices Series.”  The author is a barrister and scientist and a heckuva writer. Senior editor of the grand series, Phyllis Tickle, says it is the best!  Even if you have no interest in going on a pilgrimage as such, this is a wonderful argument in their actual favor.  As a metaphor, “life’s a
journey” works, at least, making this a fabulous read, for those who want some dust on the feet of their spiritual journey. Wow.

for one who wants to read about Jesus

The Jesus Manifesto: Restoring the Supremacy and Sovereignty of Jesus Christ Leonard Sweet & Frank Viola (Nelson) $14.99  Depending on who you ask, this was great and helpful, or brilliant and mind-blowing.  Either way, it makes a fine book to share; a great price for a hardback, making it a nice gift.  Two very gifted communicators and innovative thinkers remind us of the basics: Jesus deserves “supremacy in all things”  The gospel is, finally, all about Jesus.  There’s something about that Name.  Nice. We stock all of Len’s books, by the way, and for those who like clever, provocative, one-idea-after-another-books with tons of fascinating footnotes, he’s a good read.  His new one is called Nudge: Awakening Each Other to the God Who Is Already There (Cook; $19.99), which is his heart-pumping, mind-boggling opus on evangelism. And, he’s mostly right, which helps!  Yay.

The Gospel According To Jesus: A Faith That Restores All Things Chris Seay (Nelson) $19.99  I keep wanting to explain this to folks, inviting them into the great joy of reading a book about Christ as Kingdom bringer, One who gives us His righteousness, a book that is at once down-home and fascinating, plain-spoken but not simple, excitingly new and yet classic.  Seay has a reputation for being a bit edgy, and there is some custom made contemporary art to go along with text, but this isn’t anything odd.  As Mark Batterson writes, it is about “community, generosity, risk-taking, action, selflessness, relationship, brokenness—all of it encompassing good news.”  A great book about Jesus and what He came to do.

1onelife.jpgOne.Life  Scot McKnight (Zondervan) $14.99  The edgy-looking hipster dot in the title shouldn’t throw you; this is one of the world’s leading New Testament scholars, an academic guy who reads and blogs more than any ten scholars, and who is respected in mainline, evangelical and liturgical circles.  Yet, he knows how to bring it to the people, and this is a great example. My pal Gabe Lyons, youthful leader of the “next generation” (as his own brilliant book by that title puts it) wrote the forward.  He notes that here the life of Jesus becomes as “accessible and powerful” as anything he’s seen before, as McKnight masterfully weaves together the life of Jesus in all its complex glory.  The phrase that functions as a subtitle?  “He calls. We follow.”  Right on.  Give this cool-looking paperback to anybody who hungers for meaning, who wants to learn about daily discipleship that is, in fact, based on the life and teachings of Jesus the Christ.

for one who is serious about lived theology

Letters To a Young Calvinist: An Invitation to the Reformed Tradition James K.A. Smith (Brazos) $14.99  I don’t know who you know that might want this in their Christmas stocking and it is admittedly a peculiar title to put on a gift list that is trying to be widely helpful.  Still, this book is just a gem, more than a gem, a treasure of pastoral wisdom and insight.  Written as a set of letters to some of the much-publicized “new Calvinists” who are all up in arms about truly Reformed theology and the debates about predestination and the like.  Smith–himself a Calvinist, and a professor of philosophy at Calvin College–sends these letters hoping to broaden the reading and experiences of these sometimes brusque young leaders.  He invites them, in kind letter after letter, to the riches of the broader Reformed tradition (and even to dip into the waters of true ecumenism.)  If you follow these things, you might know what I mean when I say I call this book “from Piper to Kuyper.”  If you don’t know those two authors, I bet you know somebody who does.  Anyway, this is sweet disciple-making, pastorally caring theology at its finest. Kudos.

Small Faith: Great God N.T. Wright (IVP) $18.00  Even for those that may not agree with allsmallfaith-199x300.jpg the details of his more academic theology (for some he is too liberal, for others, way too conservative) this brand new hardback is sure to please: it is a reprint of his very first book, originally published in England in 1972.  Here, in these inspiring reflections, you can see many of his current concerns in seed form.  One of the world’s premier Bible teachers and a former Anglican bishop, Wright is always a good gift.  Earlier this year he published a major book on character formation that some are itching to get:  After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters (HarperOne; $24.99.)  Wonderful!

Practice Resurrection: A Conversation on Growing Up in Christ Eugene Peterson (Eerdmans) $24.00  This is the fifth and final installment of his now-legendary set of “spiritual theology” books.  From Publishers Weekly reviews to raves by Dallas Willard, Lauren Winner or Peter Marty, these books have been acclaimed and acclaimed and so very appreciated.  You surely know somebody who’d love it.  Your pastor, perhaps?  Anybody who likes slow, rich, good writing.  He or she will thank you.

For the Fame of God’s Name: Essays in Honor of John Piper  edited by Sam Storms and Justin Taylor (Crossway) $35.00  This may be the most handsome, traditional looking wonderful book of the season, and few stores even knew about it—it is a collection of pieces offered as a surprise for the passionate Baptist preacher’s birthday a few months ago.  As a tribute to one of the defining voices of recent evangelicalism, this is a dynamic and intelligent anthology, and an important collection.  Here you have deep and vital pieces by the likes of D.A. Carson, Sinclair Ferguson, Mark Dever, Wayne Grudem, Stephen Nichols and more.  27 chapters, with eloquent endorsements on the back from David Wells (of Gordon Conwell) and Mark Noll (of Notre Dame.)

for the unusually offbeat

The Great Typo Hunt: Two Friends Changing the World, One Correction at a Time Jeff Deck and Benjamin Herson (Crown) $23.95  Oh, man, this is funny, as they narrate their road trip and bold efforts to correct signs, billboards, coffee shop menus and all manner of mistaken writing.  As Richard Lederer (he of Anguished English fame) says, “Only Deck & Herson could make the complete decline of the English language so entertaining.”   Seriously funny, it may be overly-lauded by Harvard’s Steven Pinker who writes, “This pair of kooks with their high standards and principled civil disobedience give me hope for humanity.”  Well, that’s the Ivy League for you, finding hope from corrected spelling.  Still, it is pretty great.

State By State: A Panoramic Portrait of America: 50 Writers on 50 States  Edited by Matt Weiland and Sean Wilsey (Ecco) $16.99  You may know these feisty, young turks, who write for Granta,  The Paris Review and McSeeny’s.  When their not fooling around with those upscale literary projects, they do this.  J. Franzen on New York, Dave Eggers on Illinois, Louise Erdrich on North Dakota.  I love the reviewer who predic
ted “Odds are, you’ll fall for every state a little.”  Hold on.

0743291476.jpgYear of Living Biblically  A.J. Jacobs (Simon & Schuster) $15.00  Okay, if every single person you know—with a sense of humor or an interest in the Bible–has read this, you don’t have to buy any more.  If not, get busy.  It has on the cover “One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible” and you may know it is wonderfully written, crazy funny, and pretty darn moving in some unsuspecting ways. A personal favorite.   If you’ve given this already, how about his newer one?  We have it in its first-edition hardback, The Guinea Pig Diaries: My Life as an Experiment and, now, just retitled in paperback as My Life as an Experiment: One Man’s Humble Quest to Improve Himself by Living as a Woman, Becoming George Washington, Telling No Lies, and Other Radical Tests. ($15.00)  Tell me you don’t know somebody odd enough to enjoy this narration of oddball experiments.

If You Can’t Lose It, Decorate It: And Other Hip Alternatives to Dealing With Reality Anita Renfroe  (NavPress) $12.99  We’ve enjoyed Anita’s goofy Christian humor for years.  Then she went viral with that spectacular youtube clip of what moms do, sung breathlessly to the tune of The William Tell Overture.  You know you want to give this silly book to some gal who likes her humor inspirational.

The Soul of Spider-Man  Jeff Dunn & Adam Palmer (Regal) $9.99  Yep, you read that right: a Christian devotional with “unexpected spiritual insights found in the legendary super hero series.”  It is it pretty cool, with a great, great cover. These are the two who did the Taming A Liger (obviously, for those in the know, a book about Napoleon Dynamite.)  Pretty cool stuff, although not as cool or as deep as the spectacular The Dude Abides by the remarkable Cathleen Falsani (Zondervan; $14.99). Now that is some offbeat stuff.  If you know the phrase or the Coen Brothers movie it refers to, you know you want this book, and who you’d dare give it to. If not, never mind.


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3 thoughts on “Hearts & Minds gift giving guide—for moms, dads, sports fans, film buffs and those with interests from science to art

  1. Byron, a confession….it’s one of those mornings when I couldn’t quite get my work motor started so I ended up doing something special. I read your holiday recommendations blog. REMARKABLE! Thank you. My own Christmas list just got much larger. I do find myself wondering if and when you ever sleep?! Have a blessed and joyous Christmas. Give my regards to Beth.

  2. I didn’t know, and can’t imagine, that you have trouble getting started! Still, the compliment means to world to us. THANKS.

  3. I just ordered Mockingbirg Parables – can you add to that order 1 copy of “Moon Over Manifest” if you have it (Newest Newbery winner). Also if you think there is enough still relevant for us in the book 99 ways to raise spiritually healthy children, please add that as well. Our son is a believer and active in a bible study, so if this is geared for families with younger kids just starting down that journey, skip that one.
    Thanks and have a great year!

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