Hard to buy-for people on your list? This is what you need right now: a list of books as gifts for one who… PART ONE

Some of us love giving gifts, but don’t want to give something pointless or mundane.  And achristmas-presents.jpg few people that we’d like to share some love with are, well, tricky, if not prickly, about what they might like.  Ergo, you need some help on the book front.  We can ship promptly, gift wrap if you’d like, tuck little notes in saying that the package is from you.  Call us if you want to chat.  Some of these described below are brand new, most are new this season, but a few are not.   This is Part One.  Part Two (including some fiction, youth books, and other great categories) will come in a day or so.

So, say you’ve got this friend…

For a person in need of setting boundaries, learning some helpful social skills or making changes:

beyond b.gifBeyond Boundaries: Learning to Trust Again in Relationships  Dr. John Townsend (Zondervan) $24.99  His best-seller Boundaries has been a staple, wisely offering insightful ways to say no, protect oneself, use prudence and savvy to take control of your life.  This new book is about moving forward, next steps, learning to trust after painful relationships.  Stephen Arterburn of the New Life Live! radio talk show says “…a must for everyone who read Boundaries. This is his best book yet.”

The Lost Art of Listening: How Learning to Listen Can Improve Relationships  Michael Nichols (Guildford) $16.95  This is not new and not particularly religious, but a fine and important book written with good human or practical illustrations and helpful exercises.  Good for leaders, coaches, mentors, or anyone who wants to buck the trend of modern life and slow down, pay attention, and care about others and what they say.

Made to Crave Devotional: 60 Days to Craving God, Not Food  Lysa Terkeurst (Zondervan) $12.99 Made to Crave has been one of the best-selling self-help books in religious publishing in recent memory and has helped many with a new way of thinking about eating.  Here are sixty brand new devotionals to encourage you in your weight loss journey. These are witty and helpful, a companion to the book.

hap.gifHappiness  Joan Chittister (Eerdmans) $20.00  How to describe an elegant and thoughtful extended rumination on the meaning of happiness written by one of the most esteemed religious writers of our time?  Sister Joan has been writing for years and some suggest this is her very best. She explores sociology, biology, neurology, psychology, philosophy and world religions to excavate what she calls the archeology of happiness.  A universal concern, explored by a Benedictine contemplative and social activist.  Very nice.

For someone who is a Christian and interested in politics:

Through the Year with Jimmy Carter 366 Daily Meditations from the 39th President (Zondervan) $24.99 Just out, this is a lovely collection of lessons Jimmy taught in his many years as a Baptist Sunday school teacher.  I’ve listened to some of these on tape and they are rich and solid, faithful and applicable.  A very handsome gift from a former President.  Not too shabby.

BC_LeftRightChrist_Shadow.pngLeft, Right & Christ: Evangelical Faith in Politics  Lisa Sharon Harper & D.C. Innes (Russell Media) $22.99  I reviewed this here  celebrating this good conversation between two fine Christians on different sides of the isle.  A great option to give, for those in either camp, or those who are non-partisan, presuming they are interested in a Biblically-based but civil disucssion.  If you have any politicos on your list, this is one you could consider giving.

A Public Life: How Followers of Christ Should Serve the Common Good Miroslof Volf (Baker) $21.99  On the short list for the book of the year, I’ve reviewed this at BookNotes and other places, so very glad for his wise and thoughtful counsel about navigating Christian claims in a pluralistic society.  Highly recommended, about human flourishing and public justice.

branding .gifBranding Obamessiah: The Rise of An American Idol  Mark Edward Taylor (Edenridge) $17.99  We got these on a bit on sale allowing us mark them down lower than other on-line dealers.  We are eager to let folks know that this is a fascinating study of how faith-like impulses and inspirational stories were knowingly used by Obama’s marketing team.  This is a helpful and very well documented study of how media works, how candidates are promoted, how stories are told that frame a candidate in nearly sacred terms.  I think you could safely give this to two sorts of people: those that don’t like Obama and want information about his back-story, his candidacy, his image that was pretty creatively created.  Or those who do like much about his Presidency but are eager to see the background of his campaign, who he hired to create what sort of perceptions.  This drifts into critical mode at times but it isn’t really a book for or against the policies of the current administration, but a helpful look at the role of media, how political mass marketing happens these days and ways that image and symbols and values are influential in telling the story of a candidate or a movement. Interesting.

For a pastor in a  liturgical church who appreciates the importance of serious worship or a worship leader in a non-liturgical church who might need to go deeper:

grand e.gifGrand Entrance: Worship on Earth as in Heaven Edith Humphrey (Baker) $22.99  Dr. H. is a stellar prof at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary who moved from the Anglican communion (she’s Canadian, a graduate of the prestigious McGill) to become Orthodox.  She gets worship. This is a serious book, but beautifully written—deep and wise and good. 

In God’s Presence: Encountering, Experiencing and Embracing the Holy in Worship N. Graham Standish (Alban Institute) $18.00  Graham is a Presbyterian (USA) pastor of a growing church that does this ancient-future worship planning, and offers a mature and practical guide to both deepening and playing with notions of holy presence.  Nice.

For a preacher, probably in a mainline congregation, that uses the common lectionary:

The Seasons of Creation: A Preaching Commentary  Norman C. Habel, David Rhoads, and H. Paul Santmire, editors (Fortress) $29.00  T
his was created (mostly) by Australian Lutherans and is a splendid guide to preaching about creation, environmental stewardship and Earth-keeping. Very useful for preachers and worship planners wanting to hear the cry of the Earth and the concerns of the poor in the texts. If your preacher cares about the looming environmental crisis, get her or him this. If he or she doesn’t, this might help.

collected sermons of w b.gifThe Collected Sermons of Walter Brueggemann  (WJK) $30.00  This big hardback is a treasure chest of some of Walt’s best sermons.  It is a sturdy hardback and includes 67 sermons, in nearly 360 pages.  (There is a useful Scripture index, too.)  A few of these are old–one from 1972, and a few from the 1980s.  A few of the concluding ones are very recent.  An introduction to theme highlights some of the themes of Brueggemann’s preaching, and a small forward that he wrote is eloquent and itself quite inspiring.  This collection is in the series of other uniform hardbacks that includes sermons of William Sloan Coffin, William Willimon, Fred Craddock….a wonderful gift.

daily f.gifDaily Feast: Meditations from Feasting on the Word Year B  edited by Kathleen Bostrom & Lib Caldwell (WJK) $25.00  This oh-so-soft, brown, leather-like devotional makes a great gift for any pastor or preacher (or anybody who cares about the lectionary readings for each Sunday.)  These good editors adeptly choose sections of the highly acclaimed lectionary preaching commentaries (Feasting on the Word) and arranged some of the more pithy portions to read for each daily reflection.  Contributors are a who’s who of mainline denominational traditions, such as Barbara Brown Taylor, Ruth Boling, Kathleen O’Conner, Lee Barrett, Martin Copenhaver, Michael Lindvall, Cynthia Rigby.  Contributors are from a variety of perspectives, there is good multi-ethnic representation, and each day’s readings are faithful to explore the lectionary reading, with a helpful response and prayer.  

For a minister who loves literature or a lover of literature who cares about ministers:

Pastors in the Classics: Timeless Lessons on Life and Ministry from World Literature
Leland Ryken, Philip Ryken & Todd Wilson (Baker) $16.99  The first half of this includes great overviews, studies of, and discussion questions for twelve different novels about clergy (from Canterbury Tales to Gilead) and the long second half includes helpful overviews from oodles of novels where pastors are mentioned, described or are part of the plot.  Learn about characters from Death Comes for the Archbishop, Godric, Poisonwood BIble and so many more; books by Flannery O’Connor, George MacDonald, Susan Howatch, and many more.

For a person wanting to think about faith in the workplace:

taking your soul.gifTaking Your Soul To Work: Overcoming the Nine Deadly Sins of the Workplace Paul Stevens & Alvin Ung (Eerdmans) $15.00 We have many books, many good, good books, on a basic Christian philosophy of work.  It is a topic that too few buy books about, so giving a gift of this sort might be very special. There are many that we admire, many that an interested person would enjoy—call if you’d like.  I list this one because it may be that you’ve had conversations with someone lately about their struggles, about character formation, about the hardship and joys of being faithful in what for some is a hard place.  This book not only looks at the seven deadly sins, but also at matching virtues, all explore in the context of modern jobs.  Very useful; sure to be appreciated.

For someone wanting a thoughtful guide to Jesus, informed by good scholarship, but not too heady and still quite orthodox:

simply j.gifSimply Jesus: A New Vision of Who he Was, What he Did, and Why He Matters N.T. Wright (HarperOne) $24.99  As Lauren Winner writes about it, it is “erudite (and yet also entertaining) and decidedly thoughtful-provoking…Somewhat to my surprise, I felt that, in reading Simply Jesus, I was really coming to know Jesus better; I actually felt Him near.”  Excellent.  Can’t say enough about this, although we have literally dozens of other serious books about Christ.  Have anybody on your list who is going on about “keeping Christ in Christmas”?  Help ’em out and let them study up.

The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited
Scot McNight (Zondervan) $19.99  I love this book, and it is strong in its own right.  One of its strengths is it offers the insights of Wright (and others) about Christ as Kingdom-bringer, Messianic healer of the cosmos, Climax of the unfolding Story of God, in a way that is even more lively and upbeat than Wright.  It is no insult to say with a wink that it is “N.T. Wright for Dummies.”  Highly recommended.

For someone unsure about Christianity and whether it is true:

What Good Is God: In Search of a Faith That Matters Philip Yancey (FaithWords) $23.99  I suggest this because it is a collection of well written stories, examples of people who have found God to be alive and meaningful even amidst great suffering.  In Yancey’s hands, these testimonies come alive, and their poignant power makes them riveting.  This isn’t typical “apologetics” (arguments about God) but a beautiful collection of accounts of those who have found by God and whose faith has been substantial.

Not the Religious Type: Confessions of a Turncoat Atheist  Dave Schmelzer (Saltriver) $16.99  There are oodles of books from excellent authors such as Tim Keller (Reason for God) and Alister McGrath, and a dozen other intellectual Christian response to the “new atheists.”  This one is a lovely gift idea because it is so fun, interesting, honest, and well written.  Blurbs on the back are by novelist Andre Dubus and Sue Brown, resident dean of freshman at Harvard.  Brian McLaren suggests it evokes the work of Anne Lamott and Donald Miller.  A small hardback, it isn’t pushy and is very interesting. Very nicely done.

rage.gifThe Rage Against God: How Atheism Led Me To Faith  Peter Hitchens (Zondervan) $22.99 hardback or $14.99 paperback  In light of the very recent death of raging atheist Christopher Hitchens, I had to include this fabulous work by his less famous brother.  A year ago the British Education Secretary wrote “The two best written books this year were Christopher Hitchen’s memoir Hitch-22 and his brother Peter’s The Rage Against God.”   Peter writes, “On this my brother and I agree: that independence of mind is immensely precious, and t
hat we should try to tell the truth in clear English even if we are disliked for doing so.”  Here, he tells the truth.  Impressive.

For someone who is agnostic and content about that:

Spiritual Envy: An Agnostic’s Quest  Michael Krasny (One World) $22.95  This book developed quite a buzz this year, a word-of-mouth following because it reflected keenly on spiritual questions without any proselytizing and was written by an excellent and witty writer.  Endorsements range from Dave Eggers (McSweeney’s) and novelists like Isabel Allende and Joyce Carol Oates.  Bill McKibben writes “If you feel a little bludgeoned by the Dawkins/Hitchens approach to God, this is the book for you, generous instead of pinched, and honestly engaged with actual religious people and ideas, not a series of straw men.”  He calls the author “open and curious.”  Dan Shapiro notes that this memoir of seeking and questioning is “a beautifully written book, and reading it is a spiritual adventure.”

For classic literature lovers:

jane a devo.gifcharles d dev.gifA Jane Austen Devotional  and A Charles Dickens Devotional (Jack Countryman) $15.99 each. These just arrived, handsome hardbacks with textured fabric covers, each one offering excerpts of the historic writings of these enduring authors. On the facing page after the excerpt there is a devotional meditation, drawing Christian insights from the passage offered.  Very, very nice.

The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction  Alan Jacobs (Oxford University Press) $19.95  Jacobs is surely a national treasure, a suburb wordsmith and a serious, dedicated thinker.  This was one of the best books I’ve read all year, a bit demanding, but well worth the careful study.  He asks why reading still matters, how to read well even in the age of on-line shallowness and short attention spans.  One of the chief benefits of reading well and widely, Jacobs insists, is that it is pleasurable. Sure there are other reasons we ought to read more, but this surely is one of them.  Any reader of literature, and any lover of literary culture will adore this.  You will be there friend for life if you introduce them to this lucid, faithful writer.

For those who love memoir, but with a spiritual lesson:

praying for stangers.gifPraying for Strangers: An Adventure of the Human Spirit River Jordon (Berkley) $24.95  Earlier in the year I linked at BookNotes to a fabulous “trailer” for this where the novelist Ms Jordon tells of the funk she was in when her grown son was in Afghanistan and the other in Iraq.  She concluded she needed to focus on others, learning to pray for the needs of other people.  She takes up the task of praying daily for someone, and then this true life tory unfolds, complete with amazing connections, serendipitous meetings, divine appointments and mysterious coincidences.  What a story–learning to trust, learning to pray, learning to care, in a well-crafted memoir.

Shirt of Flame: A Year with Saint Therese of Lisieux Heather King (Paraclete) $16.99  Heather King has been one of my favorite writers and I have in other years raved about her memoir of alcoholism and recovery (Parched) and her slow conversion to Roman Catholicism (Redeemed.)  She is smart, insightful, raw, and inspiring.  Here, she spends a year studying the “little flower” and gives to us what one reviewer called “the grit of sanctity.”  Another priest said it is “a moving book, written with so much humility, confidence, and love. The true meaning of the Little Way shines through Heather King’s grace-filled witness. The author’s original prayers are some of the most beautiful I have read.” This is a fine story, as bit about Heather and a bit about Therese and a bit about the reader, learning and growing from this spiritual classic.

flunking s.gifFlunking Sainthood: A Year of Breaking the Sabbath, Forgetting to Pray, and Still Loving My Neighbor  Jana Riess (Paraclete) $16.99  I’ve raved about this all fall and laughed myself silly through much of it.  Each chapter is her telling of a tale of woe as she tries, and usually fails,  to read a spiritual classic each month (and, man, don’t get her started on the aforementioned St Therese who she calls a drama queen!)  She has a spiritual practice to do each month, so in a manner something like The Year of Living Biblically by the humorist A.J. Jacobs, this experiment ends up being a time of goofiness and Godliness, failure and insight, writing about the very real ups and downs of the intentional spiritual life.  Ya gotta love a smart gal (she went to Princeton Seminary) who knows how to admit she doesn’t have it all together, and can tell you about it with so much gusto.  There is more I could tell you, but I suppose I should say that this isn’t for everybody on your list.  Only those with some interest in spiritual formation and silly reporting about an oh-so-ordinary life and an open-minded sense of humor.  It’s that good.

raised right.gifRaised Right: How I Untangled My Faith from Politics  Alisa Harris  (Waterbrook) $14.99  I reviewed this as soon as I finished it, a fine memoir by a good writer who was raised in an exceptionally far-right-wing family, strictly fundamentalist and active in conservative political activism.  Long story shot, she becomes a journalist and drifts from her parent’s ideology, shifts a bit in her understanding of faith, becomes a progressive voice for social change and is still on a journey, trying to figure it all out.  This tale moves from truly upbeat, fascinating, to troubling, to perplexing.  What a story.  What a book.  For anyone who has lived through some of the rise of the religious right and has moved away from the it (or for anyone who wants to understand that world) this memoir is a treat. 

For anyone who loves the movies:

ethical vision of clint.gifThe Ethical Vision of Clint Eastwood  Sara Anson Vaux (Eerdmans) $24.00  This brand new release reminds us that when Eerdmans does a book about popular culture it is weighty, impressive, insightful, and well-researched.  This is magisterial, a “lavish and articulate hymn of praise to one of Hollywood’s greatest film directors.”  Jolyon Mitchell (Media Violence and Christian Ethics) says it is “engaging, fluent, and original, this book is a “must read” for film scholars, movie enthusiasts, and anyone interested in Clint
Eastwood’s films.”  

Of Pilgrims and Fire: When God Shows Up at the Movies  Roy M. Anker (Eerdmans) $18.00  I wasn’t kidding about Eerdmans film studies books.  Roy Anker has come to be known as one of the faith community’s leading film critics and his many serious reviews (in Books & Culture, for instance) have been gathered together here making it a truly wonderful anthology for anyone who likes film.  If you know anybody who likes talking about the movies they’ve seen, this is a thoughtful, engaging gift that they will be grateful for, I’m sure…Highly recommended.

For pop music fans:

broken h.gifBroken Hallelujahs: Why Popular Music Matters to Those Seeking God  Christian Scharen (Brazos) $17.99  Scharen has written other good books; one about how pastors can equip folks for living integrated lives in public and another is a study of the band U2. This new one is a thoughtful study of why even the less-than-happy songs of broken people matter–it is well written and will appeal to anyone who is interested in the interface of pop culture and Christian faith, or anybody interested in thoughtful rock music.  There is an amazing chapter on Leonard Cohen, too, by the way.  And my friend Ken Heffner of Calvin College is mentioned for the good work he does bringing in interesting artists to young adults, for those of you who have followed his ministry there.  Excellent.

sects love.gifSects, Love and Rock & Roll: My Life on Record  Joel Heng Hartse (Cascade Books) $23.00  Remember that guy in the movie (or novel) High Fidelity who made lists of albums, top tens of this style or that, obsessed with documenting his life according to rock music?  This author is sort of like that, telling the story of the evolution of his musical tastes from cheesy contemporary Christian (Carman!  DeGarmo & Key!) to the louder, artsy end of that movement (he names rare stuff like Blenderhead,  Noisy Little Sunbeams, Starflyer ,Wish for Eden, Pedro the Lion, and Zao.)  His coming of age stories are spot on and I wish I knew this guy, now.  He listens to Radiohead and Daneilson, Iron & Wine and Animal Collective.  If  you’re musical reference points include everything from Larry Norman to the C + C Music Factory, if you have stories to tell when you think of early Jars of Clay or Ben Folds Five, if you wonder how a Christian kid can move from PFR to mewithoutyou, from Twila Paris to Mates of State, all the while reading Wendell Berry, this this book is for you.  Or someone you love.  Wow.

For any Christian seeking self-awareness and gentle guidance:

winter light.gifWinter Light: A Christian’s Search for Humility  Bruce Ray Smith (Kalos Press) $12.95  This is a gorgeously designed little paperback, handsome to hold, touching to read, helpful to ponder.  It includes free verse and stream of consciousness meditations as the author invites us into his inner life.  In what are short journal entries, he ruminates on his desire for humility and all that that entails as he seeks God’s promise to shape and sanctify him.  My, my, this is sweet, precious stuff, candid, nicely written, and very inspiring, rooted in a very solid understand of God’s work in our lives.  He draws on Scripture and authors as diverse as Shakespeare and Sartre as well as many spiritual classics, including some of the British Puritans.  Lovely, edifying, written by a sincere, struggling Christian who happens to have a PhD in English lit.  I think you should by this for someone who likes quality spiritual writing.

close enuff.gifClose Enough to Hear God Breath: The Great Story of Divine Intimacy  Greg Paul (Nelson) $15.99 I raved about this previously, as I have his first two passionate books (about urban ministry and his holy friendships with the poor.)  Here he walks us through the many ways the Bible can come alive, pointing us to a God who comes close to us, and how God reveals God’s own love through the unfolding drama of the story.  From Genesis through the fall, through promises and incarnation, especially, we know that God wants to be in relationship with us.  This fine writer helps us embrace that.  Len Sweet (who reads a lot more than most) has said that this book has a heart that “beats louder than most any book you’ll ever read.”


abundant simplicity.gifAbundant Simplicity: Rediscovering the Unhurried Rhythms of Grace Jan Johnson (formatio/IVP) $15.00  I think the beautiful cover itself will draw oohs and ahhhs when this is unwrapped.  When they start reading it, they will be drawn in–who doesn’t want the virtues of simple living, less-draining days, character formed around trusting God for enough.  This is an amazing book of small experiments, and will be appreciated by somebody you give it to.

For Christians needing a challenging call to serious discipleship:

I am a follower.gifI Am a Follower: The Way, Truth, and Life of Following Jesus  Leonard Sweet (Nelson) $15.99  I like that this brand new books suggests that Sweet gives us “a colorful melange of practical applications, imaginative metaphors, and probing biblical expositions.”  That’s putting it mildly.  Sweet is a master of storytelling, of the off-hand quip, of schemes and dreams of making a difference as we live into the ways of God’s Kingdom. What an author!  Here he deconstructs notions of leadership and points us vividly to followership.   The summons of Jesus isn’t to imitation but to incarnation. We must move from a leadership cult to a followership culture.  Whewie!  If you have any Leonard Sweet fans in your circle of friends, this brand new book would be a surprise to them, I bet.  His last book, by the way, was a novel, The Seraph Seal.  That is pretty darn cool, too…

Jesus-+-Nothing-Everything-Cover-196x300.jpgJesus + Nothing = Everything Tullian Tchividjian (Crossway) $18.99  This is written by the amazingly thoughtful grandson of Billy Graham who is now the pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian in FL.  He is a great writer, meaty and solid and engaging.  This, as you may guess, is about the gospel, what it means to be “gospel centered” and to realize that all of life is a response to God’s grace and Christ’s goodness.  We don’t add works or techniqu
es or programs and anything else.  And once we are clear about God’s saving grace, and the centrality of Jesus (plus nothing!) then you really do have a whole new life  You get “everything” and that changes everything.  This is really, really good, a bit thoughtful, but exciting and clear on the full magnitude of God’s grace in the midst of turmoil.  It is based on a study of Colossians.

836345.gifPracticing the Way of Jesus: Life Together in the Kingdom of Love Mark Scandrette (IVP) $15.00  Looking for a challenging Christian book to give a somewhat edgy young person, somebody in need of a fresh take, a powerful call, a whimsical yet fully serious invitation to whole-life discipleship. This has endorsements by some hipster leaders (Debbie Blue, Shane Claiborne, Michael Frost) but is also remarkably solid. Called a “beatnik Tolstoy” Scandrette runs ReImagine, a center for spiritual formation, and the Jesus Dojo.  Told you.  This is very good on daily living in the way of Jesus, resisting temptation, living in community, exploring creative discipleship.  This may be too cool for some on your list, but for somebody, it may be just the thing.

For a young philosopher, not looking for anything Christian:

Breakfast with Socrates: An Extraordinary (Philosophical) Journey Through Your Ordinary Day  Robert Rowland Smith (The Free Press) $12.99 Wired magazine says that “Smith takes the reader into a worm hole of psychology, sociology, and theology to show us the hidden meanings of our daily lives.”  This is entertaining, interesting, and truly walks you through your day (a bagel with Hegel, Eggs with Bacon?) applying the principles of philosophy to daily living.  As they say on the back, neither breakfast, lunch or dinner will ever be the same.

Driving With Plato: The Meaning of Life’s Milestones  Robert Rowland Smith (The Free Press) $19.99  Smith is back, this time walking us through various ages and stages of life.  A. J.. Jacobs writes “I’ll never drive the same way again. Or have a midlife crisis the same way again, for that matter. This book is elegant proof that philosophy doesn’t have to be fusty or musty.”

Or for one who is looking for Christian encouragement in philosophy:

Philosophers Who Believe: The Spiritual Journey’s of 11 Leading Thinkers edited by Kelly James Clark (IVP) $22.00 If someone is is wondering how to “think Christianly” about this field, or wonders if there are serious philosophers who are also serious Christians, this is a fine overview, with introductions to the work of these important witnesses in the academy.  Very helpful.

For a student or teacher who is a doing more serious philosophy:

loving to know.gifLoving To Know: Covenant Epistemology Esther Lightcap Meeks (Wipf & Stock) $49.00  The heavy title and salt price might be the first clue that this is, in fact, real philosophy, done by a working scholar.  Esther is a friend and this book is a gem, an in-depth follow up to her lovely introduction to the work of Michael Polanyi for ordinary folks entitled Longing to Know: The Philosophy of Knowledge for Ordinary People. This new one is well worth working through, and broaching an essential topic for Christian thinkers: if we reject as unsound the Enlightenment ideal of secular facts known rationally in the brain, how do we know, Biblically speaking?  If “to know” something in the Bible is yada–intimate, personal, relationship with something–then we need a “covenantal epistemology.”  My friend Steve Garber has a beautiful blurb on the back, alongside a rave from Yale scholar Nicholas Wolterstorff, and another from James K.A. Smith.  Highly recommended.

Secularism and Freedom of Conscience  Jocelyn Maclure & Charles Taylor (Harvard University Press) $26.95  Those who didn’t wade through the massive, and massively important The Secular Age, may find this recently translated short piece of interest.  At least if you present it to someone who is aware of contemporary social analysis, they will be very, very impressed with your very astute gift-giving.

For one who is interested in the arts and creativity, but not overtly religious:

common as air.gifCommon As Air: Revolution, Art, and Ownership Lewis Hyde (Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux) $26.00  I suppose this solid hardback could be called “cultural history” and Hyde could be seen as the Pied Piper of a new vision of art as gift, given to the community for the common good. (I hope you know his amazing paperback, reissued in an anniversary edition, The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World.  That, too, would make a great gift, but those who read in this field may have it.) Here in this more recent work, he has written what one astute observer called a “stunning book” which draws on science art, politics and all sorts of thinking about who owns art and ideas.  Brilliant, if a bit heavy.

Photography and the Art of Seeing: A Visual Perception Workshop for Film and Digital Photography Freeman Patterson (Firefly) $24.95  This is the newest edition of a classic, showcasing superb color shots, offering lucid explanations of how to get the best photo by seeing well, all with a hope to help you capture and produce an effective expression.  This is a fully re-done version, beautifully designed, on the glories of the craft of photography and how to combine technical excellence with passion and art.  Very useful.

rumors of w.gifRumors of Water: Thoughts on Creativity and Writing L.L. Barkat (T.S. Poetry Press)15.00  Barkat, the founder of this poetry publisher and a curator of poems and writing at several internet locations, is one of our favorite memoirists (Stone Crossings.)  Here she offers a “page a day” sort of approach, with clear stories and examples of her own creative process.  Gordon Atkinson writes “A few brave writers pull back the curtain to show us their creative process. Annie Dillard did this.  So did Hemingway.  Now L.L. Barkat has give us a thoroughly modern analysis of writing. Practical, yes, but also a gentle uncovering of the art of being a writer.”  Or, better, as Leslie Leyland Fields puts it, “This is not just a book about writing well, it’s a book about living well.”

For one who likes good art books, even if they have they religious themes:

cover-for-guy-chase-book-300x297.jpgThe Art of Guy Chase edited by James Romaine  (Square Halo Books) $19.99  Guy Chase was an evangelical leader in the modern art world and an active friend of groups like CIVA (Christians in the Visual Arts) and IAM (International Arts Movement.) 
As he was dying last year a group of very thoughtful artists, patrons, critics, and scholars wrote about his edgy, minimalist work and Square Halo published this tribute to his art.  Full of colorful reproductions, laden with squares and boxes and graphs and re-done photos, this odd stuff may be (to the uninitiated) reminiscent of the best of Warhol.  Chase was a genius, and these articles, alongside so much of his fresh work, is a wonderful gift for anyone who appreciates the latest sorts of contemporary art.

Rouault/Fujimura: Soliloquies  Thomas Hibbs (Square Halo Press) $19.99  We lauded the release of this amazing little book as a “publishing event” when it came out a year or so ago.  Makoto Fujimura produced some evocative abstract paintings inspired by some previously unreleased Rouault works that the family of the famous French artist invited him to see.  Serious critic compares and contrasts these two artists in an amazingly rich essay, and many great paintings are beautifully reproduced here.  Anybody who is interested in the art world should have this small volume—what a gift it would be, rare, interesting, a witness to the imaginative vision of the Square Halo publishers.  Fujimura has a final essay explaining more about his Christian perspective on his creative work.

For science lovers:

indescribable.gifIndescribable: Encountering the Glory of God in the Beauty of the Universe   Louie Giglio & Matt Redman (Cook) $14.99 paperback or $24.99 deluxe hardback  This coffee table book is one of our favorites of the season, laden with color photos from the Hubbell telescope, offering amazing views of the grandness of the cosmos, the smallness of us all, here.  The text is a bit of science and a lot of inspiration, reminding us to join in the creational song, declaring God’s glory and realizing that the God who made this amazing beauty loves us so.  The paperback itself is splendid, a call to worship (based on the popular talks Giglio gave at the Passion conferences and on the best-selling DVD Indescribable.) What a great book, and what a great coffee-table edition.

birds our.gifThe Birds Our Teachers: Collector’s Edition: Biblical Lessons from a Lifelong Birth-Watcher John Stott (Hendrickson) $24.95  We’ve reviewed this before, loved selling it several years ago until it went out of print.  A year ago it was re-issued and we are so glad—the thoughtful, late, evangelical statesman was not only astute theologically, a spiritual leader and cultural activist, he spent a life-time learning from the birds he so loved to observe.  There is a DVD here with amazing footage of Stott traipsing around looking at snowy owls, migrating storks, even Penguins in the Falkland Islands.  A very nice and rather rare gift for backyard birders, ornithologists or John Stott fans.

bee.gifA Bee in a Cathedral And 99 Other Scientific Analogies  Joel Levy (Firefly) $29.95  This big hardback includes nifty analogies and cool graphics to explore scientific stuff you simply ought to know.  Or at least will enjoy knowing.  This demonstrates basic scientific truths and principles using metaphors and similies to “describe the unbelievably massive, the inconceivably tiny, and the unfathomably complex in intuitive terms that we can all understand.  This is “info-graphics” at its finest, with good stuff about physics chemistry, biology, astronomy, the human body and more.  By the way, don’t you have somebody on your list that would want to know that “if galaxies were the size of peas, there would be enough to fill a large sports arena.”  Or, the human heart’s capacity to pump blood is such that i would take less than 18 days to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool.”  What a gift for that geeky loved one or anybody with a natural curiosity!

For a college student just home for the holidays who you want to challenge to think as a Christian, even in the classroom:

outrageous i.gifThe Outrageous Idea of Academic Faithfulness: A Guide for Students Donald Opitz & Derek Melleby (Brazos) $14.99  You surely have read my raves about this in the past, extolling it as one of the most important books any young student can read.  If your freshman has already read the primer, Making College Count, then this is the next step, altogether interesting, fun, funny, and very wise, this invites students to this “outrageous” idea that God wants you to learn much, study well, think in Biblical categories, see life through the lens of the gospel and discern ways to relate faith and learning, making college-life an act of worship and discipleship. These guys are very good friends and this is a Hearts & Minds favorite.  Give it to your collegiate and if they don’t like it, I’ll find them a better book for them.  A great little gift idea to fill that freshly laundered, home from college stocking.

For a kid who is really into video games:

Virtuous Worlds: The Video Gamer’s Guide to Spiritual Truth John Stanifer (Winged Lion Press) $14.99  I’m telling ya: get some high energy drink and wade through this guide to gaming, offering simple Christian insights along the way of each game’s story.  From The Legend of Zelda to Star Fox and Mario and beyond, Halo and and Second Life and Sims and Metroid and more — this covers the waterfront.  The theological insight is not so much the grand scope of thinking philosophically about gaming, but using the games to springboard into discussion of the Bible and faith.  Some deep thinkers might find this a bit simplistic, but most younger gamers will be tickled to see a book which calls its table of contents a “title screen” and the afterward is “game over.”  From the ethics and wisdom of cheating codes to insight gleaned from some of the legends and mythic fantasies behind the games, this is a one-of-a-kind book, a great effort to enhance the spiritual lives of kids who do computer and video games.  You’ve spent that money for the kid’s system and some pretty pricey games, why not spring for a book about relating virtual and spiritual growth to the quest?

For those wanting to grow in historic Christian spiritual formation and knowledge of great books:

25 Books.gif25 Books Every Christian Should Read: A Guide to the Essential Spiritual Classics selected by Renovare (HarperOne) $18.99  A team of wonderful leaders such as Richard Foster, Dallas Willard, Phyllis Tickle, and Richard Rohr (and others) give explanations and overviews of 25 great classics. There are selections from these chosen classics, discussion questions, and helpful testimonies by the editors as to why these books remain vital.  Along the way there are sidebars of the favs of other authors, of various theological persuasions, and these fun lists are a great part of t
he resource this grand book is.  A closing portion lists excellent contemporary authors whose body of work you should know, from Wendell Berry to Eugene Peterson, from John Stott to Anne Lamott, from Walter Wangerin to N.T Wright.  This will warm the heart of any Christian book-lover on your list, and will be a friend and ally for years to come for any pilgrim walking along Christ’s way.  Highly recommended.

besides.gifBesides the Bible: 100 Books That Have, Should, or Will Create a Christian Culture  edited by Dan Gibson, Jordan Green, John Pattison (Biblica) $14.99  I’ve named dropped this before, suggested it as a general gift when folks don’t know what other book to give, and highlighted it as a great guide to over 100 different short book reviews that these authors (and a batch of guests) want to suggest “besides the Bible.”  Did I tell ya that I’ve got a chapter in there, saying what my one most-recommend book is?  Come on, don’t you know somebody to whom you’d like to introduce a wild and wooly collection of favorite titles?  This is a rare find, and will bring a huge smile to the face of anybody who is committed to life-long Christian reading. 

For the person who likes to read but you just have no idea:

Well maybe tomorrow’s list will offer some ideas, but…

A Hearts & Minds gift certificate will do the trick.  Send us at the order form page the name ofgift cert.jpg your friend or loved one—that is, to whom you want it made out, and the amount you prefer.  We can send it to them on your behalf (if so, just be sure to tell us how to write your name–first or last name or nickname or whatever, their address,and if it for Christmas or some other occasion.)  Of course, if time permits, we can send it to you directly.  Give us the details, we’ll take care of the rest.

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One thought on “Hard to buy-for people on your list? This is what you need right now: a list of books as gifts for one who… PART ONE

  1. Beautiful list, Byron! Before I read the WHOLE list, I was tempted to think, “Where are the Catholic writers?” But, of course you included some. As I recall, there is a fine Catholic church almost across the street from your store. What a market! Prime the pump there! And may God bless your efforts! Have you read any of Mr. and Mrs. Scott Hahn’s works? I see him on EWTN-TV. Solid! –JIm

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