After yesterday’s epic list suggesting nice recommendations for various sorts of people, I just had to do some more. Maybe these will be of interest to you or yours, or it might jog your thoughts about other people you could give books to, or other books you wanted to share. Call this biblio-ministry, perhaps, but now’s a nice time of year to share the benefits of helpful resources.
Most of these are somewhat lesser known, good stuff that we’re excited about that, books with which you could really surprise a person. If you wanted the latest best seller, I bet you’ve already taken care of that, no? This is a list for, shall we say, more discriminating readers, or for that person that you just don’t know what to buy. A gift card to the restaurant chain at the mall just isn’t right for everybody, after all.
Depending on where you live, we can still get many shipments to you by Christmas, usually for about $5. Order now and we’ll check everything out for you and reply promptly to confirm. Give it a shot — better late then never for these special last minute gifts. You think Santa is going to be carrying this stuff? I think not.
FOR A PET LOVER
Faithfully Yours: The Amazing Bond Between Us and the Animals We Love
Peggy Frezon (Paraclete) $17.99 This nice hardback is a fine book, and makes a nearly perfect gift. It is inspirational, full of fun and often amazing stories about our animal companions, and offers a bit of a Christian perspective without being heavy handed or overly theological. Maybe you’ve seen Dr. Marty Becker (“America’s Veterinarian” on “Good Morning America”) who, of course, could endorse any number of the many books about critters these days. He called this one “Blissfully engaging and full of love… a heart-warming must-read for anyone who has experienced the power of the bone between animals and people.” This is a book about animals and about kinship. Very nicely done.
Two Dogs and a Parrot: What Our Animal Friends Can Teach Us About Life
Joan Chittister (BlueBridge) $18.95 Do you know this very popular, very thoughtful woman religious? Sister Joan is an Erie-based Benedictine nun who has dozens of books — a major biography was just released about her, too — mostly about the inner journey of contemplative spirituality, but also about peace, justice, service to the poor and such. She is, along with Richard Rohr, one of the most popular voices among more progressive Christians and beloved among many who hunger for ancient Benedictine wisdom applied among the daily stress of modern life. Anyway, she just released a month ago a new hardback offering three long pieces on three different pets she’s befriended over the years. If you know Sister Joan, you know this will be well written and engaging, touching and reflective, and firmly in the tradition of contemporary spirituality. What joy to know this behind the scenes aspect of her life and her loving animal friends!
FOR SOMEONE INTERESTED IN FAITH AND FOOD
Bread & Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table, with Recipes
Shauna Niequist (Zondervan) $19.99 I was drawn to this lovely 2013 hardback for a particular reason today, and re-reading a very, very moving few pages is what inspired me to do this “part two” of my already massive book list. How did I not mention this beautifully written book yesterday? There are many people — youngish or not — who would love this tender, memoirist rumination on eating, cooking, sharing food, doing hospitality and being a person who delights in the goodness of God’s creation. There’s recipes too. What a great gift this would make… maybe with a hand written note promising to join them in preparing one of the recipes and exploring the joys of good food together.
Eat with Joy: Redeeming God’s Gift of Food
Rachel Stone (IVP) $16.00 This is my go-to book for one wanting a nicely written, very thoughtful, but balanced study of faith, food, and the joys of eating well. I really, really like this book and while it isn’t as lush and richly eccentric as, say, the classic Supper of the Lamb
by Capon or as radical as the remarkable reader Food and Faith: Justice, Joy and Daily Bread
edited by Michael Schut, Ms Stone’s nice paperback is a joyful gem. A nice forward by Norman Wirzba, too.
FOR SOMEONE JUST STARTING OUT READING THE BIBLE
Why the Bible Matters: Rediscovering Its Significance in an Age of Suspicion
Mike Erre (Harvest House) $14.99 You know, we’ve got dozens of books like this, and I want to suggest this because it does two things: it makes a reasonable case why
the Bible matters, and gives some tools to those who may wonder how to defend the classic, historic view that the Bible is an inspired book, reliable and authoritative. Secondly, it does give the big picture narrative a nice pitch, showing that the Scriptures are a coherent narrative moving readers into a big story, a story of redemption and hope and goodness. He does all this without sounding too strict and yet without pushing too many envelopes. And he’s funny. This is a nice, balanced, thoughtful intro good for anyone wondering how to start, or deepen, their journey into the Bible as God’s Word for us.By the way I enjoyed his older Jesus of Suburbia
and loved his Astonished: REcapturing the Wonder, Awe, and Mystery of Life with God.
The Whole Story of the Bible in 16 Verses
Chris Bruno (Crossway) $10.99 Yep. This is solid, good stuff, with a bit of an evangelistic intent, making it clear that the overarching story is one that is Christ centered, affirming his death and resurrection as the fulfillment of the whole great messy plot. I love the way God’s grace and Christ’s glory are drawn out in key turning points, explained in 16 short chapters.
The Big Story: How the Bible Makes Sense Out of Life Justin Buzzard (Moody Press) $13.99 This is one of the coolest little Bible overviews that I know, and it really does explain the big plot of the whole Bible as one coherent narrative that explains the realities of our life in a broken world. From the essential goodness of God and the creation to the account of sin and dysfunction and the hope of redemption, this telling of the Bible story always helps the reader make sense of life. Nowadays people don’t even ask the old question, “what do you do?” but they say “What’s your story?” This book allows us to have our own story be grafted into that Big Story. I can’t tell you how useful I think this is, especially for younger adults who want a clever, shorter read that is user-friendly and compelling. A great gift.
FOR THE BIBLE SCHOLAR ON YOUR LIST
The Paul Debate: Critical Questions for Understanding the Apostle
N.T. Wright (Baylor University Press) $34.95 I have told you before about how useful this astute work is — it is, in a sense, Wright’s view of five key areas where there currently is academic debate regarding Paul. Much of this was distilled from a year’s worth of study of the critics of his magisterial, two volume Paul and the Faithfulness of God
that came out in November 2013. (That highly anticipated two book fourth volume in his “Christian Origins and the Question of God” series would be an awesome gift if they can take it. It’s $89.00, before our discount.)
Paul and the Trinity: Persons, Relations, and the Pauline Letters Wesley Hill (Eerdmans) $26.00 You may know Hill’s fabulous, rich book about deep, intentional friendship called Spiritual Friendship: Finding Love in the Church as a Celibate Gay Christian) but you may not know this recent, rigorous academic book bringing together two very hot topics in scholarly circles these days: Trinitarian theology and Pauline studies.
Dr. Hill breaks new ground here (truly) and it will be a very valuable book for serious students of the New Testament.
Sacred Sense: Discovering the Wonder of God’s Word and World William Brown (Eerdmans) $22.00 This handsome paperback isn’t exactly a scholarly work (although Brown is renowned for his work on Wisdom Literature and other Old Testament genres, and he has contributed well to the conversations around faith and creation care.) Look at these good reviews:
a book that is eye-opening and occasionally jaw-dropping, Brown draws
the vital connection between genuine wonder and hope for the created
world. Wide-ranging and thoroughly engaging, this volume shows both
mature and novice readers how to see more deeply into the Bible. What is
much more, it gives us the best reason to slow down and look. Ideally
suited for discussion groups in congregational settings.” Ellen F. Davis — Duke Divinity School
“Erudite and down-to-earth, serious and funny, full of deep insights written in sparkling prose, William Brown’s Sacred Sense
is a timely exploration of wonder in the Bible and in the world.
Indeed, these insightful meditations on seventeen biblical texts — from
Genesis 1 to Revelation 22 — cultivate an appetite for wonder. May
this excellent book find a multitude of readers.” Steven Bouma-Prediger — author of For the Beauty of the Earth: A Christian Vision for Creation Care
for Bill Brown, is a living word and source of transforming wonder. In
this breathtaking volume he guides readers through an expansive biblical
landscape ranging from creation to new creation and evoking a sense of
wonder about God, the world, and our humanity. This is one of those rare
books that gladden the heart, mind, and imagination.”
Frances Taylor Gench — Union Presbyterian Seminary
A New Heaven and a New Earth: Reclaiming Biblical Eschatology
J. RIchard Middleton (Baker Academic) $26.99 Okay, I know I’ve pushed this on you before, even naming it as one of the very top books of 2014. I wish I could just name it again as it is getting traction and good reviews all over. It really is a defining book, important, serious, but not tedious. Richard is a good thinker, an evangelical with both a broad and deep Biblical understanding, having written in major scholarly journals, in conversation with responsible scholars all over the map. Blurbs on the back here range from Walt Brueggemann to James Smith to Cornelius Plantinga, from Al Wolters to Sylvia Keesmaat. If your Bible loving friend doesn’t have it yet, why not gift it today!
MORE FOR THOSE INTERESTED IN THEOLOGY
Counterfeit Christianity: The Persistence of Errors in the Church
Roger E. Olson (Abingdon) $19.99 Don’t let the funny cover fool you; this is a serious book by a very, very reputable scholar who teaches at George Truett Theological Seminary and has published major works from various good presses. This really does give an overview of distorted Christian teachings and a lively evaluation of how these discredited views are cropping up again in our age. This isn’t trying to pick a fight or, to use Jesus’ own warning, straining gnats. This is important theological discourse about the nature of fidelity to a standard sort of Christian worldview. Throughout church history we’ve seen stupid stuff hurt the church and some of that stupidity has been immoral actions, ugly crusades, heartrendingly evil inquisitions and such. But some has been dumb thinking and fool hearty promotion of unbiblical notions. We really should guard against nastiness and fighting, but still, this kind of resource can be immeasurably useful.
J.I. Packer: An Evangelical Life Leland Ryken (Crossway) $30.00 We have a number of very good, seriously done biographies or autobiographies of famous contemporary theologians in our store; we’ve got a thick hardback about Jorgen Moltmann, a two-volume biography of John Stott, the reflections of Dorothy Soelle, a small paperback memoir of Douglas John Hall that I really enjoyed, and we’ve been pleasantly surprised that we’ve actually sold a few of the very interesting memoir that came out last year by Thomas Oden, A Change of Heart: A Personal and Theological Memoir. This new book about the man his friends call Jim, and many of us call J.I. stands in this grand tradition of telling the life story of a serious modern Christian leader. Packer is doubtlessly one of the primary shapers of modern day evangelicalism (not to mention a student of the Puritans, applied Reformed theology, and theological spirituality. I trust you know of his book Knowing God.) One reviewer called it a “good book about a great man” and another said it is “fascinating, insightful, and, to my mind, precisely accurate…” Alister McGrath wrote a very good bio of Packer in the late 70s, and Sam Storms did a recent paperback that is said to be very nice, but this one is now definitive.
FOR A SKEPTIC OR CRITIC OF CHRISTIAN FAITH
True Paradox: How Christianity Makes Sense of Our Complex World
David Skeel (IVP) $15.00 This brilliant work wasn’t released as a major scholarly tome from a university press, but it might have been; it is serious, thoughtful, rigorous. I’m glad it is also quite readable and truly fascinating. Skeel is a well regarded attorney and public intellectual (Professor of Corporate Law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School) who has been on NPR and The News Hour
, Nightline, Hardball
and written for the New York Times, The Weekly Standard
and the like. He’s very, very smart and this book makes a simple case: no simple worldview can give an adequate account for the complexity of the world and the weirdness of our human experience. The tragic/redemptive story of the gospel may be the very stalwart explanation that can sustain investigation into the complexity of reality as we know it. One Times
reviewer complimented Skeel for his knowledge and for writing with such gracefulness. He “makes sense of essential questions and you can feel the power of his intellect and faith on every page.”
Letters to an Atheist: Wrestling with Faith
Peter Kreeft (Rowman & Littlefield) $19.95 This is a nice sized hardback, not too thick not too intimidating or demanding, and that illustrates much about this book: it is really designed to enter into good conversations with the reader, not just marshal fact after fact after fact, stacking up weighty arguments, cases, evidences. It is, rather, a lovely set of letters, “profound yet chatty, brilliant yet warm and humorous” says Ronda Chervin, herself a former atheist, now at Holy Apostles College and Seminary. I hope you know Kreeft as the writer of many imaginative works, pretend dialogues and conversations created to help sort through important matters. The significant Jesuit thinker James V. Schall, emeritus at Georgetown University writes, “For anyone honestly looking to see what arguments for atheism are and how they might be resolved, no better book can be found.”
FOR ONE WHO WANTS TO BE A LEADER – OR WHO IS A LEADER
Storied Leadership: Foundations of Leadership from a Christian Perspective
Brian Jensen & Keith Martel (Falls City Press) $18.00 I have written about this before and we were the first bookstore to promote it; I was the first reviewer to weigh in, I think, in our affirming BookNotes post description. I give it two big thumbs up, and a hat tip to the guys who did it, allowing their writing to reflect their good experience as leaders, and as those who develop leaders at Geneva College in Western Pennsylvania. Storied Leadership
is deeply Biblical, offering a reminder of the narrative of the Scripture and the redemptive story it tells; it is intentional about allowing that worldviewish plot-line to inform what we think about life, discipleship, the work and reign of God and
, consequently, the nature and task of leadership. The second half, after the thrilling Christian perspective developed in the first, is really practical, offering wise practices for sturdy leadership. Published by a classy micro-press started by a dear friend, this is a book that isn’t well known, but ought to be. Buy a couple, quick!
Servants and Fools: A Biblical Theology of Leadership
Arthur Boers (Abingdon Press) $19.99 My description of this at BookNotes earlier this fall was one of the most popular blog posts I did this year. It seems that many leaders — some who work in the world, or who are pastors or church leaders — wanted to take in this hard-hitting critique of the unhelpful ways church folk have adopted worldly leadership assumptions and have perhaps unthinkingly understood leadership guided by values rooted in unbiblical philosophies. In a feisty forward, Eugene Peterson explains what is at stake — our faithfulness to the Bible and the Jesus Way not to mention the health of parishes and Christian organizations and leaders who do not serve them in spiritually healthy ways. In this book, Boers does a close reading of many Bible texts, seeing in them a counter-cultural ethos and radical vision which undercuts modern American corporate structures and institutional practices. To say the Bible subverts our modern understandings isn’t that
uncommon, but to show how and why and what to do about it makes this book a very, very necessary resource. I dare you to give it to a leader you know.
FOR A SPORTS FAN
100 Things Orioles Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die
Dan Connolly (Triumph) $14.95 I know this isn’t of interest to everyone, but if you care about the Birds, Dan is a friend and one of the most knowledgeable guys on the planet about our team. We helped launch this book when it first came out last spring with a very fun book signing one day before he had to report to his place in the journalistic seats at Camden Yards. It really is the ultimate resource for O’s fans.
Wisdom Walks – Sports: 40 Game Changing Principles for Athletes, Coaches & Teams Dan Britton & Jimmy Page (Summerside) $14.99 This is a very cool looking book, a smallish hardback in a sturdy slipcase sleeve with a die cut circle on the front that shows off the cover. This is a playbook for sports and life, nothing too outlandish, just a reliable, fine guide to faithful living and God-glorifying sporting. Created by some FCA staff, with a forward by the remarkable Tony Dungy. There’s a few stars with endorsing blurbs such as Tamika Catchings, seven-time WNBA All Star and two time Olympic Gold Medalist.
FOR ONE INTERESTED IN MULTI-ETHNIC, GLOBAL FAITH
Jesus Without Borders: What Planes, Trains, & Rickshaws Taught Me About Jesus
Chad Gibbs (Zondervan) $15.99 This is a heck of a fun book, interesting, well written, open-minded but still eager to be about God’s work in the world, growing in Christ. The author lived his whole life in what he claims is “the buckle of the Bible belt” (you may think you
live there, but he’s from Alabama!) Christianity seemed to be the default setting for everyone he knew.
Over the course of many months, Chad had his world and worldview rocked as he spent time with believers from Beijing to Rio de Janeiro, worshiping with them and observing not only how their faith influenced their daily lives but also how their daily lives influenced their faith.
So, here ya go: this will a delight for anyone that likes light travel writing, for those interested in the global church or world missions, or just anyone who likes a memoir about a faith journey that is forever altered by learning about brothers and sisters in other parts of the world. If one values an open minded generosity, they will like this book. If they aren’t quite there yet, maybe this will push them to be a little more aware and open-minded. It’s very nice.
Global Gospel: An Introduction to Christianity on Five Continents
Douglas Jacobsen (Baker Academic) $21.99 Anybody that has met “Jake” Jacobson – a professor of church history and theology at Messiah College near us here in central Pennsylvania – respects and enjoys him. He is a curious guy who writes about faith and scholarship (published on Oxford University Press) and got a PhD under Martin Marty at University of Chicago. He’s a member of the UCC and, now, he’s going to have to be considered an expert in emerging global faith, too. This book, just out, is getting rave reviews and surely going to be considered one of the most important books of the year. Rave reviews on the back are from Mark Noll, Amos Young, Michael Kinnemon, and Todd Johnson, all important players in the work of acknowledging and building bridges with the majority world Body of Christ in the global South and far East. I suppose this is designed as a textbook but it is still a rare volume, energetic, astute, full of important stuff from both Pentecostal sources and mainline denominational settings. Global Gospel
makes the case for a global gospel indeed!
Introduction to World Religions
edited by Christopher Partridge (Fortress) $45.00 We have dozens of books about world faiths, about global spirituality, about interfaith dialogue and what used to be called comparative religions. Some are feisty and evangelical, some attempting to be more disinterested and fair-minded. Some are too complex, others simplistic. This big one is a highly regarded major textbook type volume, almost 500
pages on lovely glossy paper to enable bright full color photographs and good graphics. It will be a cherished volume for anyone interested in such a resource There’s even a CD that comes with it! This is a very balanced, exceptionally fair-minded overview of major religions. This was original researched and produced in cooperation with Lion Press in the UK. Top notch, for sure!
FOR ONE INTERESTED IN GOOD READING ABOUT SERVING GOD IN THE MARKETPLACE
Kingdom Calling: Vocational Stewardship for the Common Good Amy L. Sherman (IVP) $17.00 Of the many, many good books out these days recovering the doctrine of vocation, and thinking about our callings into workaday careers and jobs and what it means to “think Christianly” and be distinctive in our service as salt and light in those professions or job sites, few can rival Ms Sherman’s for original insight, creative approaches, and strategic, thoughtful guidance. I know some told me they thought her little chapter was one of the highlights in the book I edited, Serious Dreams, and I could agree. Her extrapolation of Proverbs 11:10 — about prospering for the sake of the common good — in my book was splendid. But here, she spells it out with great detail, and offers various “levels” (so to speak) or models of faith/work integration. What does it mean to steward our vocational gifts and callings? What are ways to actually make a difference within our own workplaces and spheres of influence? Can we help our employers shift focus in ways that will be innovative and helpful? If you want to see transformation in your own town or city, and wonder what is missing from our missional efforts, I think this book could provide huge benefits and fresh insights. Give it to somebody who cares about these things! Steve Garber, of Visions of Vocation fame, wrote a great afterward; the forward is by the always energetic Reggie McNeal. What a book!
By the way, although it isn’t a large part, Amy lights up the screen more than once in the splendid For the Life of the World DVD. What’s the gospel for, she asks. This book is a good part of the answer! You can share it with great confidence to anyone eager to learn, to grow, and to take more steps about this whole “faith in the work-world” project.
At the Altar of Wall Street: The Rituals, Myths, Theologies, Sacraments, and Mission of the Religion Known as the Modern Global Economy Scott W. Gustafson (Eerdmans) $22.00 Okay, this may not be the warmest or coziest little gift you’re going to give this year, but if you need something for an economist, or a serious business person contemplating his or her role in the global economy, if you know a Christian social ethics scholar or somebody just interested in reading about how religion works out in the public square, and the role of myths and rituals, this close reading of the habits and ideologies of the financial world will be eye-popping and surely appreciated. Agree or not with this seemingly outlandish thesis, it will be hard to put down for those atuned to thinking about the symbolic power of stuff going on Wall Street. Gustafson is a stock-market investor himself (and, previously, a Lutheran seminary prof) so he knows what he’s talking about. It is provocative, of course, but he argues that economics functions in our current global cultural just as religions have functions in other cultures. If you know a person who would like a book that is described as a “trenchant analysis” this could be your surprise gift of the year!
FOR ONE INTERESTED IN GROWING IN SPIRITUAL PRACTICES
Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices That Transform Us: Revised and Expanded Adele Ahlberg Calhoun (IVP) $22.00 So-created by the wonderful spirituality ministry at The Transforming Center, this big handbook has recently been revised, expanded, and re-issued with a lovely new cover. My, my, this may be the single best one-volume resource of which we know to guide folks into the classic spiritual habits that help yield a deeper, more Christ-like life. Calhoun is ecumenical, catholic, draws on all kinds of good sources, and remains evangelically-minded and intentionally Biblical. This is a treasure-trove, and so very lovely that you can give it to anyone that is interested in growing in their faith life. If they are a spiritual director or have keen interest in reading contemplative writings, this will be truly appreciated. Highly recommended.
Pray Like a Gourmet: Creative Ways to Feed Your Soul David Brazzeal (Paraclete Press) $18.99 What a fun and curious book, pleasantly written and attractively designed to show how this French chef learned to pray more deeply by taking practices learned in his gourmet cafe and applying them to his spiritual life. This is fun, unique, and not too odd, come to think of it: the interface of prayer and food prep. Phyllis TIckle said it was “the gentlest, most readable, kindest guide to prayer one could ever hope to explore.” Maybe you could give it to someone who wouldn’t accept a more conventional book about how to pray. It sure is a fun book, on very nice paper, with lots of color throughout.
FOR A POETRY READER — OR ONE WHO MIGHT LIKE TO BE INTRODUCED
Slow Pilgrim: The Collected Poems
Scott Cairns (Paraclete Press) $39.00 This big paperback is created very well, the cover done on textured stock with French folds and paper that has deckled edges. The layout is easy to use, and the work, well, the work is legendary. Cairns is a religiously aware poet, his imagination shaped by his journey to Eastern Orthodoxy and time spent at a legendary monastery near the Mediterranean. The preface is by Richard Howard and there is a good word from Image Journal
editor Gregory Wolfe. Slow Pilgrim
includes the complete works from seven volumes of Cairns mature work. “An enormous gift,” Howard writes, “not only to the literary community but also to all who feel themselves embarked on a pilgrimage through life.”
Hungry Spring & Ordinary Song: Collected Poems (an autobiography of sorts)
Phyllis Tickle (Paraclete) $18.00 I was writing about this at BookNotes a week or so ago, so glad that it came out, admiring its handsome design, commending the fabulous forward, noting that the poems are from nearly the whole of her long publishing life. Those of us who knew Phyllis as a leader in the church, within interdenominational discussions, and within the publishing world, all are glad to see anything by her and I might have neglected to underscore just how very good and accessible these poems really are. I think it would make a great, handsome gift to anyone who likes poetry of a modern sort… lovely, thoughtful, evocative. I know your supposed to like Mary Oliver and Wendell Berry, and we do, but add the late Phyllis Tickle to the list of those who celebrate the spirituality of the ordinary through her allusive, suggestion-rich words, phrases, and literary pictures.
FOR A HIP YOUNG MISSIONAL CHRISTIAN
Staying Is the New Going: Choosing to Love Where God Places You
Alan Briggs (NavPress) $14.99 I love this book, this call to stay local to care for our places, to develop a geography of spirituality, if you will. I have written about it before, and I am sure I will again as I write up my Best Books of 2015 list before too long. Yes, we are called to neighborliness and concern about our neighborhoods and towns, but this goes further explaining why and how and the results of such a down-home, small-scale, missional discipleship. There is a rather literary forward by the great Michael Frost and I have read some of out loud in several workshops and sermons.
I think this is a great, great book, easy to read, interesting, and hopeful. Hooray.
Surprise the World: The Five Habits of Highly Missional People
Michael Frost (Navpress) $4.99 Just when I thought the inestimable Aussie couldn’t say anything more about missional evaluations of faith and culture, about the Jesus way and communities of the King, about postmodernism and love for people, about being in exile and taking risks and God and sex and community and…. well, is there anything he hasn’t
written about? I so respect and enjoy this lively, important thinker, teacher, prophetic leader and church activist, but he sure is prolific. Now, he’s just done it again, released a book that I think is going to be a “must-read.” It came yesterday and I was delighted — it is cool to hold, small, and really inexpensive. And, yep, it covers just five missional practices. This little book will help you journey down the “road to missional” and will not only help you see opportunities to learn and serve but will help you embrace habits that keep you going, attentive, eager to be an avenue of God’s redemptive work in the world. At our discounted price, this is a tremendous bargain and it is so new I doubt anybody you know has it yet. Buy a bunch so you can — wait for it…. “Surprise the World!” Uh-huh.
FOR ONE WHO LIKES SOLID HISTORICAL BIOGRAPHIES
Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More — Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist
Karen Swallow Prior (Thomas Nelson) $24.99 Have I listed this lately? I surely must have as I think it is one of the best books of the year, and it is the first major work on this amazing Victorian era woman. You may know her from Eric Metaxas’s great book on Wilberforce, Amazing Grace
(or the film by that name) or, if you are older, you may even recall hearing of her once-popular novels, plays, poems. She was, quite simply, a major literary figure and Christian abolitionist leader who feel out of favor and was, until Metaxas, and now, thankfully, the extraordinary Karen Swallow Prior, not well known at all. This book will change all that — it’s a great biography and great read. Give it to somebody who likes biographies, or who might appreciate the story of this literate woman from an earlier era. Blurbs on the back couldn’t be more vibrant — raves from Richard Mouw, Thomas Kidd, Ann Voskamp, Leonard Sweet, Mark Noll, Russell Moore, Natasha Aleksiuk Duquette, Kevin Belmont.
Yet One More Spring: A Critical Study of Joy DavidmanYet One More Spring: A Critical Study of Joy Davidman
Don W. King (Eerdmans) $32.00 There is no doubt, this is a must-read book for anyone seriously interested in the life and work of C.S. Lewis. If you have a friend who is cuckoo for the Oxford Don, this book will thrill him or her no end; Joy Davidman was, of course, Lewis’s wife, whom he married as she was dying of cancer. An American, of Jewish descent, perhaps once a socialist! How unlikely a pair they were. Her son Douglas Gresham has offered a great endorsement (“an amazing portrait” he says) which is, of course, essential for such a book. Dr. King, editor of the Christian Scholars Review
and lit prof at Montreat College is the
Davidman scholar (having edited also this year a big volume of her poetry, A Naked Tree
and previously having edited her collected letters, gathered in Out of My Bone.
) Over 250 serious pages.
FOR SOMEONE THAT LIKES MOTIVATIONAL SELF-HELP READS BUT NOT THOSE THAT ARE TOO RELIGIOUS
Rising Strong: The Reckoning, The Rumble, The Revolution
Brene Brown (Spiegel & Grau) $27.00 Perhaps you know this popular hardback, an upbeat call to be more vulnerable, to take risks, to be willing to fail. We’ve written about it before and am glad that this hip bestseller is written by a woman who herself is a follower of Jesus. (She is also a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate School and the CEO of The Daring Way.) It is, you may know, the sequel to the bestseller
(you probably know somebody who has told you about her much-discussed 2010 TED talk.) Well, if you think your friend already has Daring Greatly
and Rising Strong
how about her earlier ones: The Gift of Imperfections
or I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t.)
We’ve got ’em all.
Small Victories: Spotting the Improbable Moments of Grace
Anne Lamott (Riverhead) $22.95 Well, this may work, as long as the person you are giving it to loves great, honest sentences, clever word play, and a bit of a sarcastic, snarky tone. Okay, a lot of snark. Ms Lamott, you should know, is a recovering addict with a killer wit, a bohemian Presbyterian with dreadlocks, a novelist and writer and loud mouth gal who will tell you just what she thinks about almost anything, from religion to politics. What a storyteller! And what a carrier of grace: if anything, she teaches us to not sweat the small stuff and to love everybody. Many of these pieces were previously published in part of other anthologies and collections and she selected them to hang together in a very classy hardback. This is very, very moving stuff, fun, touching, edgy, and will make a good gift to those who don’t mind a little spice and a piety that is colorful and disarming.
FOR YOUR PASTOR
The Pastor as Public Theologian: Reclaiming A Lost Vision
Kevin Vanderhoozen and Owen Strachean (Baker Academic) $19.99 This nice hardback would be a great affirmation of one of the most important, but often under-appreciated tasks of the local pastor — being a resident theologian. I think your pastor would appreciate this (even if he or she may not agree with all of the proposals these authors make) and to have such a calling underscored would be a lovely gift. In fact, maybe your gift to him or her should be that you’re going to read it first, and be an advocate for the vocation of being a public theological voice, honoring your pastor by deepening your awareness of what this central part of the pastor’s job really is. This is a very good and very needed book.
The Vulnerable Pastor: How Human Limitations Empower Our Ministry
Mandy Smith (IVP) $16.00 The latest in the respected “IVP Praxis” line which are exceptionally thoughtful books which intend to equip those in contemporary ministry. It is quit new, so would make a surprising gift, I suspect. Pastors are Human Too, it says on the back — and yet, and yet. So many pastors are not invited to be real, to be human, to be vulnerable. This new work will be discussed much, I trust, and is presented as a serious book, with a great preface by David Hansen, and blurbs on the back from Marshall Shelley, who has been an editor at Leadership Journal
for many years, and Carolyn Custis James. Paul Sparks, one of the three amigos who wrote The New Parish
says of it, “Beautifully written. Irresistibly truthful. The Vulnerable Pasto
r is a profound reversal of nearly everything you know about being a ministry leader.”
MORE FOR THOSE INTERESTED IN SCIENCE
Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion and Naturalism
Alvin Plantinga (Oxford University Press) $27.95 Okay, this isn’t for everyone, not even for ordinary practicing scientists, as it is actually about the philosophy of science, written by one of the premier academic philosophers in the world today. This is a weighty work making the case that the conflict that the media (and all kinds of people, from atheists to fundamentalists) talk about — faith vs science — isn’t really what the battle is about. What is
contested, or ought to be, is the underlying philosophy of science that shapes our understanding of data, facts, truth, the role of science and the role of faith. That is, science, as science doesn’t even exist: it is always science informed by some underlying perspective, some deeper a priori
assumptions, held in faith-like ways, and that’s
where the issues get interesting. This is a lucid, reasonable, important book to clarify what is going on in recent debates about faith and science, and a way that at once gets us out of the false dilemmas, and yet clarifies where deep differences do exist. What a book!
The Cosmic Common Good: The Religious Grounds for Ecological Ethics
Daniel P. Scheid (Oxford University Press) $29.95 Wow, talk about a bit of a controversy — global warming/climate change and progressive Catholic social ethics! This important volume is just out, brand spanking new, by one of the leading theological voices in this debate about science, creation care, the role of religion in the modern world, and the nature of contemporary stewardship for the sake of the common good. This author got his PhD from Boston College and now teaches at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. Just listen to these rave endorsements:
This volume could not be more timely. Just when Pope Francis issues
the momentous encyclical, Laudato Si: On the Care of our Common Home,
Scheid gives us the most complete account of its norm, the common good,
that exists. His is also one of the most creative, expanding a
traditionally human-centered norm so as to make the case for Earth
rights and a ‘cosmic’ common good. For religion, ethics, and ecology,
Scheid’s is a major contribution. –Larry Rasmussen, author of
Earth-honoring Faith: Religious Ethics in a New Key
Cosmic Common Good is one of the finest books to emerge in ecological
ethics in recent years. Well-written and carefully argued, it opens up
important new grounds for Catholic social teaching and comparative
religious ethics. By highlighting a cosmocentric perspective it expands
the fields of religion and ecology and ecological ethics for years to
come. –Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim, Directors, Forum on Religion
and Ecology at Yale University
This visionary and
carefully crafted work takes the theological grounds of ecological
responsibility to a new level. Though most scholars recognize that inter-religious cooperation is essential if humans are to resolve urgent
global challenges, few are equipped to offer specific and
tradition-spanning theoretical grounds to anchor activism and hope. It
is no exaggeration to say that this book is essential reading at the
cutting edge of Christian ecological ethics. –Lisa Sowle Cahill,
author of Global Justice, Christology and Christian Ethics
FOR AN OLDER CHILD OR YOUNG TEEN READER WHO IS SMART AND EAGER TO EXPLORE A MIND-BLOWING YA NOVEL
Straw House, Wood House, Brick House, Blow Daniel Nayeri (Candlewick Press) $19.99 I raved and raved about this two years ago, I think, and the publishing world has similarly lathered it with praise. Nayeri is a friend, an amazing guy in the publishing world and a very creative author. (We’ve promoted his box of dice-like cubes and storytelling guide that Workman released not long ago, How to Tell a Story which is pitched with the tag 1 Book + 20 Story Blocks = Millions of Adventures.) We also have his three paperbacks that re-tell, but mess with, classic tales for modern YA readers (Another Faust, Another Pan, and Another Jekyll, Another Hyde (Candlewick Press; $8.99 each.) What fun.
This Straw House, Wood House… book deserves lengthy evaluation and fine prose to describe its nuance and brilliance. But the very short version is simply this: each of these four novellas linked to the three little pigs story is written in a different genre. Each story “riffs on a classic style, using contemporary tropes to explore timeless themes.”
“Straw House” is a “sizzling Western” and “Wood House” is a sci-fi tale; “Brick House” is a hard-boiled detective drama. “Blow” is described as “grimly humorous” and “delivers a Shakespearean love story that brings together two feuding artisan families. Four stories, four very different styles!
Is this whimsy, brilliance, or madness? You can read it yourself and find out!
Two time Newbery honoree Gary D. Schmidt says Nayeri is a “modern Lewis Caroll” and we must think of this book as sheer virtuosity. Linda Sue Park (also a Newbery medalist) says it is “sheer genius… I can’t remember the last time I read such a clever and successful plot-line.”
Fancy reviewers have noted it is “a metaliterary triumph” and a few have thought it cool that he composed it all on an IPhone, the first book done that way. That Daniel is a Christian leader and offers good theological insight here, too, for those who have the eyes to see it, is all the better. Straw House, Wood House, Brick House, Blow is a fabulously entertaining, smart kids book unlike any you’ve seen. It will delight some kids, I am sure of it. Maybe parents, aunts or uncles, too. We’ve got ’em!
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