In a perplexing gift-giving jam? We can help.
You’re going to love giving gifts like these.
A fun part of our job is when folks ask us to find a book for them to give as a gift for an eccentric aunt, their young adult kid who has very certain hip tastes, a sciency scholar, a lonely grandma with limited mental capacities, or their co-worker who is frustrated with church but curious about Christian truth claims. If you want to give a gift to a friend – and who doesn’t this time of year when it is natural to do so – we can help.
Send us an email and describe the person a bit (especially whether they read a lot, or not, are pretty sharp, or maybe not super sophisticated, if they would want something from a certain theological orientation or not.) We can make some suggestions for you, described each, and explain why it might be a nice selection to bless your friend. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that books make better gifts than the proverbial ugly sweater.
Here are some suggestions, just some random topics and some good ideas. We love getting to show off the breadth of our inventory. We can send these out promptly, to you or to your recipient. We gift-wrap for free, too.
FOR SOMEONE WHO LOVES BOOKS AND WORDS AND READING
Reading for the Common Good: How Books Can Help Transform Your Church and Neighborhood C. Christopher Smith (IVP) $16.00 One of my very favorite books of the year, if you want to inspire anyone who loves books (or maybe those that don’t) to realize the joy and significance of reading widely, this book is a sure-fire win. They will love it.
Word by Word: A Daily Spiritual Practice Marilyn McEntyre (Eerdmans) $17.99 This is something like a devotional – a set of reflections to be read and pondered – about the meaning of phrases in our English language. You may know our fondness of Marilyn’s must-read Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies or her lovely little set of Bible ruminations What’s in a Phrase that showcase her poetic sensibilities and fine writing and profound insights. This new book is a true gem.
FOR SOMEONE WHO ENJOYS “SOUTHERN FICTION” AND CULTURE
Dimestore: A Writer’s Life Lee Smith (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill) $24.95 Beth and I would both say this is one of the most delightful, enjoyable books we’ve read all year. I’m sure it would make a tremendous gift to those, at least, who like Lee Smith’s popular Southern novel. This is somewhat of a memoir (including much about her girlhood and the small town in which she grew up and her father’s beloved dime store.) One reviewer said it is “a pitch-perfect mining of the memories, desires, and imaginations fueling one of the South’s — no, one of America’s — master storytellers.” Perhaps akin to Euodoras Welty’s One Writer’s Beginnings, it is fun, fresh, upbeat, sentimental, wise, and so very enjoyable to read. Annie Dillars says “her brilliance shines. Her wide warmth blesses everything funny about life and — here especially — everything moving and deep.”
FOR SOMEONE INTERESTED IN MEDICINE
The Finest Traditions of My Calling: One Physician’s Search for the Renewal of Medicine Abraham M. Nussbaum, M.D. (Yale University Press) $28.50 This is a truly beautiful book, a wonderfully written memoir about a doc in Denver and his own struggle to see his work as a vocation. The reviews have been extraordinary, noting both how nicely it is written and how thoughtful his insights are about the work of the doctor in these days. One surprising blurb on the back comes from edgy Lutheran pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber, who writes, ” Reading The Finest Traditions of My Calling, I couldn’t help but see Nassbaum as a Martin Luther of healthcare and this book as his 95 theses. May true reform ensue.” A substantial, good gift.
Attending Others: A Doctor’s Education in Bodies and Words Brian Volck (Cascade) $25.00 This is one of the most beautifully books we’ve encountered all year, one I wish I had the space to write about more. Dr. Volck is a pediatrician and a poet, and his book shows how he learned to be a better doctor by paying attention – attending, as they say – to his patients (mostly women and children) and to the printed page (yes, reading poetry and fiction.) Volck is the co-author of Reclaiming the Body: Christians and the Faithful Use of Modern Medicine and has practiced medicine among the poor in Central America and has travelled throughout the world; some of his insights gleaned from these unique settings are described wonderfully in this book. Attending Others would make a perfect gift for nearly anyone who is thoughtfully working in health care but also for anyone who has had experiences with medical providers and who long for better encounters. Endorsing blurbs come from Wendell Berry, Marilyn McEntyre, Paul Farmer, Leslie Leyland Fields and other H&M favorites. He has published in The Christian Century, Image, Health Affairs, America, and more.
Pursuing Health in an Anxious Age Bob Cutillo, MD (Crossway) $17.99 I wish I could press this book into the hands of so many folks as I am sure it would be a fascinating and helpful reading experience for them. This is for doctors or health-care workers of any sort, but, also, for any of us who seek better health, who wonder about medicine and nutrition and exercise and healing and wholeness and what it all means and looks like. This is not a “self improvement” type book, but a mature pondering of life and health in our secular age. Yes, it draws on the magisterial work of philosopher Charles Taylor (The Secular Age) and does some provocative cultural analysis as we attempt to situate our longings for wellness within a life well lived. One person who cares a lot about faith-based views of integrating faith and work said this might be the sort of book Tim Keller would write if he were in the field of medicine. The always-astute Andy Crouch wrote the foreword in which he situates the book well, and explains why he is so impressed with its wisdom. Don’t worry about the bland cover this is a very, very thoughtful book.
Listen to the always thoughtful Ken Myers, of Mars Hill Audio Journal:
Reflection on the moral meaning of medicine sometimes results in the
contriving of collections of guidelines or flowcharts to guide the
making of difficult medical decisions. In a refreshing alternative, Dr.
Cutillo has woven a wise and engaging meditation with the power to
transform how we imagine the meaning of health and of community. By
situating the practice of medicine in the context of modernity’s
preoccupations, obsessions, and blind spots, he reminds us that health
is neither an entitlement nor a reductionist solution to an engineering
problem. It is, rather, a gift–given by one who took on human form
himself–to be received and cherished with wonder and love.
FOR A TECHNOLOGY GEEK
Shaping a Digital World: Faith, Culture and Computer Technology Derek Schuurman (IVP) $18.00 I think this remains the best book yet about computer science, about thinking in a deeply Christian way about the world of digital culture, programming, technology and more. It is vital for nearly all of us, I’d say, but certainly for anyone working in the field. Derek is a very thoughtful guy and cites many of our favorite books and authors. If you like our general perspective here at Hearts & Minds you will surely appreciate this thoughtful, readable book.
Networked Theology: Negotiating Faith in Digital Culture Heidi Campbell, Stephen Garner (Baker Academic) $22.99 Baker Academic has, as a publisher, been remarkably committed for over a decade of doing books about “cultural exegesis” showing us how to engage culture seriously, faithfully, thoughtfully, intentionally “in but not of.” The books they’ve released in this series are not simplistic (and are, in fact, sometimes a bit demanding, seemingly arcane to non-specialists in cultural apologetics.) This is a brand new one in this “Engaging Culture” series and it is simply a must for anyone who reads about communications and media or how our social and religious lives are shaped by digital culture. Very impressive.
iGods: How Technology Shapes Our Spiritual and Social Lives Craig Detweiler (Brazos Press) $17.99 Detweiler is a smart and productive author, working well in this whole arena of entertainment and pop culture (having previously done books on film and video gaming.) This is a fairly serious and deeply Christian assessment of digital culture and the forces and venues that shape us, not merely about how church folks can simply use new technology for church growth (we have those kind, too.) With chapters on Amazon, Google, Facebook, and YouTube, Instagram and Twitter, iGods explores aesthetics and technology and audience participation and more. What in informed, interesting study of the impact of all of this on us, our worldviews, our practices, our habits, and how we can live redemptively within this hot-wired, entertaining, ever-connected world.
FOR SOMEONE INTERESTED IN FAITH, FOOD, AND FARMING
To the Table: A Spirituality of Food, Farming and Community Lisa Graham McMinn (Brazos Press) $19.99 What a lovely book, by a fine, fine writer, doing good work relating these topics. There is good theology, here, reflecting, out of a Christian worldview, upon how to consider land and farming and food. The author has told some of this story in a previous memoir nicely entitled Dirt and the Good Life (Barclay Press; $17.99) so she has been at this a while. There is fabulous stuff here about food – about food production, cooking and blessing and serving, about meals, about feasting, about hospitality, and all the goodness that comes with the table. And, yes, there is some fine writing about localism, agrarianism, farming, community gardening, sustainability, animal welfare, and the like. This book is itself a feast, the author a delight, the stories told are inspiring and a joy. There are wonderfully compelling blurbs on the back from Joel Salatin (The Marvelous Pigness of Pigs), Norman Wirzba (Food and Faith: A Theology of Food), Rachel Marie Stone (Eat with Joy), and Jenell Paris who says “If this book were a table, it would bow under the weight of its abundance.”
The Spirituality of Wine Gisela Kreglinger (Eerdmans) $24.00 We have promoted this previously but want to suggest it again. For anyone interested in a theology of food and farming, or certainly for anyone interested in wine this is doubtlessly the best book yet done on the topic. The author was raised in an old family vineyard and still works in this tremendously interesting world of farming, wine, delight and danger. (Yes, she has a chapter about the abuse of alcohol.) Gisela Kreglinger is not only an esteemed vintner but has a degree in theology; she nicely covers Bible teaching about wine, about celebration, and tells of her own professional work in the fields and winery, explaining the whole winemaking process. A really great book. Maybe give it with a good vintage?
FOR PARENTS OF YOUNG CHILDREN
Small Talk: Learning From My Children About What Matters Most Amy Julia Becker (Zondervan) $15.99 I hope you know this very fine writer (whose earlier book was called A Good and Perfect Gift: Faith, Expectations, and A Little Girl Named Penny which was very highly acclaimed, published by WJK.) Here, Ms Becker offers stories and testimony of how God uses the smallest voices to teach us the greatest truths. That is, this book is about the very big questions little kids ask, and how that “small talk” might shape us. It is profound, beautiful, written somewhat as a memoir. It’s sweet and very smart.
For instance, read this from Jen Pollock Michel, author of Teach Us To Want,who reviewed it in the Englewood Review of Books:
Becker’s Small Talk offers spiritual lessons without being simplistic. In fact, what I might like best about the book is the insistent need to defend the holy beauty of materiality and the idea that we can find God in the kitchen as well as the cloister. Becker does this, not by waxing eloquent for pages about ethereal ideas, but by embedding theological truth in the sights and sounds of the everyday.
I like the blurb by Gabe & Rebekah Lyons, who write:
Amy Julia Becker gets to the heart of our most valuable moments with our children — the ones in which we laugh, cry, and marvel at the unexpected revelation of truth and joy in our every day lives. Small Talk reveals how talking without children about the most important things in life actually ends up growing us up…
Parenting: Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family Paul David Tripp (Crossway) $22.99 This is a handsome hardback, clear, solid, Reformed, offering gospel-centered freedom to raise kids in the way of Jesus. It may seem a bit overly theolgoical or even heavy-handed to some, but for those that follow Tripp (he has written widely, although it was his brother, Ted, who wrote Shepherding a Child’s Heart.) Rave, rave endorsements on the back are from Francis Chan, Tobymac, Gloria Furman. Ann Voskamp says “Simply put, I read everything that Paul Tripp writes. I can’t afford to miss one word.” If yo know parents wondering about their calling as parents, this could offer solid, Biblical confidence.
Give Your Child the World: Raising Globally Minded Kids One Book at at Time Jamie C. Martin (Zondervan) $16.99 I hope you recall our rave review of this earlier — come on, even LeVar Burten (of “Reading Rainbow” fame) says this is “an invaluable resource.” And that it is — it is something like a globally-aware Honey for a Child’s Heart or a mission-minded, Christ supplement to The Read Aloud Handbook. I thikn Jamie Martin is my new patron saint, hero, and book-lover pal, even though I’ve not met her. I hope you know a parent you can give this to. We’ll wrap it for you if you want. This guide to reading well, helping kids learn about the world “one book at a time” is just fabulous. Who will you give it to?
FOR PARENTS OF OLDER TEENS
It’s Not Too Late: The Essential Part You Play in Shaping Your Teen’s Faith Dan Dupee (Baker) $15.99 There is, as I said in my own review of this (and my blurb on the inside) nothing like this in print. Dupee is a very good friend, parent of two sets of twins who are now thriving young adults, and the CEO of a Pittsburgh-based, interdenominational campus ministry organization. I say this to remind you that Dupee knows young adults well, and wrote this book in part inspired by conversations he had with college age students, older teens, and focus groups with parents of teens. He is convinced -and explains wonderfully in this book -that it “is not too late” to be influential in the life of your child who is emerging into young adulthood. This book is funny, interesting, and very, very helpful. Highly recommended.
FOR ONE WHO IS INTERESTED IN GEOLOGY and THE BEAUTY OF NATIONAL PARKS
The Grand Canyon: Monument to an Ancient Earth edited by Carol Hill (Kregel) $26.99 This book has a bit of a back-story and it is certainly one-of-a-kind (and certainly a beauty to behold, laden as it is with gorgeous shots of the Grand Canyon and other wonders of nature.) The back-story is this: well-intentioned Christian scholars who believe in a “young Earth” and dismiss evolution have created many books about how things like the Grand Canyon “prove” the Bible, particularly the accounts of the flood in early Genesis. They have published handsome volumes with this odd, minority viewpoint, and have gotten them, surprisingly, into many of the gift shops of the National Parks.
We should be glad that inspirational books aren’t blacklisted by the Park gift shops but it is, shall we say, unfortunate, that this less than mainstream Christian viewpoint seems to have a monopoly in this niche market of gift books about nature. And so, a group of evangelical scholars who reject “young Earth creationism” and favor a more balanced sort of scholarship vis a vie the age of the Earth, the role of fossils, the way to do Bible-shaped science, and such, have released this extraordinary book with hopes that it might be a more responsible public face of faith and science; it debunks some of the creationist Christian views and affirms the beauty, oldness, and, yes, creation, of the Earth. This well-designed book is presented in a grand coffee table style and it seems a great example of classy, thoughtful, artful, book-making. Kudos to all involved – including the professors of geology, biology, paleontology, hydrology, who labored together, and the photographers (there are more than 250 photos and 17 reproductions of artwork) and designers – there are over 100 diagrams and sketches) who put it all together. It would be a great gift just for the pictures and the glory of such a handsome volume. It is the only book of its kind, bringing together these thoughtful Christians who work in these related fields and who wanted to give testimony to God’s faithfulness, the goodness of the creation, and a valid exploration of the age and formation of Arizona’s grand Grand Canyon.
FOR A CHURCH PLANTER — OR OTHERS INTERESTED IN CHURCH RENEWAL
The Church as Movement: Starting and Sustaining Missional-Incarnational Communities J.R. Woodward & Dan White (IVP) $20.00 Okay, I’ll admit, most readers don’t have church planters on their list but if you do, this is the one to get. It combines mature and thoughtful theology, a deep vibrant missional vision, and tons of stories from years of experience of training, supervising, and assisting those who are starting new churches. Many books call themselves “field manuals” but this really is; it is interactive, explains eight key competencies, and guides users towards starting up flourishing and impactful faith communities.
You know what? I think this guidebook could help any sort of team doing ministry, seeking church revitalization, or starting a new mission or project. There is an exciting foreword by Alan Hirsch, a rave blurb by Fuller President Mark Labberton, a nice recommendation from Linda Bergquist, and an lively endorsement on the back by Efram Smith, we should all listen to. Wow.
Loving the CIty: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centerd Ministry in Your City Timothy Keller (Zondervan) $16.99 Several years ago, Keller released a big hardback (Center Church) which his “Redeemer City to City” ministry recently re-issued in three separate (expanded) paperbacks. The first portion of Center Church is now called Shaped by the Gospel and the third portion is now called Serving a Movement. They each have some updated content, and input by new authors, with Keller responding to them. In this pivotal, central section of Center Church the issue is largely about contextualization, embodying the gospel into the local setting. There’s good stuff about that principle and some specific teaching about loving the place where God sends you. Daniel Strange, Gabriel Salguero and Andy Crouch each contribute to Loving the City and Keller’s response is helpful. This is a fine book for any church leader, certainly a must for anyone doing ministry afresh in a new city. But we are pleased to suggest it to any pastor who wants to think about Kingdom outreach and church ministry in a given place and want to engage the culture around us, even with nonbelievers and unchurched folk. Which is to say, nearly anyone, eh? It would make a good gift.
FOR SOMEONE GOING THROUGH HARD TIMES
Broken Hallelujahs: Learning to Grieve the Big and Small Losses of Life Beth Allen Slevcove (IVP) $16.00 I’ve written about this before, and there has been a nice response from folks who have appreciated it. I like what the publisher explains:
The losses in our lives are both big and small. We leave home. We experience physical illness. We struggle with vocation. We may long for a spouse or child. We lose people we love to addiction or death. Spiritual director Beth Slevcove offers stories of loss from her own life along with distinctive spiritual practices that can guide us back to God.
The Gift of Hard Things: Finding Grace in Unexpected Places Mark Yaconelli (IVP) $16.00 Surely one of the most moving books of the season, this is written by a master storyteller, a respected youth minister, retreat leader, and Director of a nonprofit helping explore community activism and compassion. This powerful endorsement by Kenda Creasy Dean (author of Almost Christian) captures much:
I am undone. Maybe it’s because Mark Yaconelli is the best storyteller of his generation, or because these pages are so achingly honest, or because somehow this guy just has my number — but whatever the reason, this book made me ‘softer, more open, more human.’ The Gift of Hard Things is a book of dazzling grace, a slice of holy ground, as life-giving as water in the desert. Take your shoes off and drink up.
When Breath Becomes Air Paul Kalanithi (Random House) $25.00 I suppose you’ve heard of this — it is one of the most acclaimed books of the year! It has garnered the most exquisite positive reviews in places such as The New York Times and from fellow authors such as Ann Patchett who says “This is one of a handful of books I consider to be a universal donor — I would recommend to anyone, everyone.” As Atul Gawande says, it is “rattling, heartbreaking, and ultimately beautiful, the too-young Dr. Kalanithi’s memoir is proof that the dying are the ones who have the most to teach us about life.”
FOR ONE WHO READS ABOUT CONTEMPLATIVE SPIRITUALITY
Into the Silent Land: A Guide to the Christian Practice of Contemplation Marin Laird (Oxford University Press) $18.95 We have so many books on this topic and in their field that it is difficult to suggest just one. I like a compact hardback as a gift, though — something handy and yet classy, nice. This feels right. It has become better known in some circles (I know folks reading it together) and we are glad; yet, my sense is it isn’t widely known. Laird has written some very good books, including a companion to this one curiously called A Sunlit Absence. Into the Silent Land was called “beautiful and deeply consoling” by one reviewer; others endorsements are from Rowan Williams, Desmond Tutu, Stephanie Paulsell and Merton scholar Lawrence Cunningham. Mature, clear, solid.
FOR THE NEWLY MARRIED OR THOSE WHO ENJOY READING ABOUT MARRIAGE
As For Me and My House: Crafting Your Marriage to Last Walter Wangerin (Nelson) $15.99 This is a bit older, but still works really well for those that enjoy good reading. It has great writing, great stories, and is a candid look at communication and forgiveness, especially. He’s a highly respected novelist and poet (and used to be an urban Lutheran pastor) so is rather artful and not culturally “conservative” or sexist in his approach. Beth and I both have said it is among our top few choices…
The Mystery of Marriage: Meditations on the Miracle Mike Mason (Multnomah) $15.99 Contemplative, rich, thoughtful, deeply spiritual, quite lovely. Eloquent and elegant, a bit literary, and at times almost mystical — so probably not for everyone. A favorite of many, though; we have a few customers who buy it repeatedly to give away. I often think that this sort of “spirituality of…” is the way to go rather than the popular books that offer more practical skills of communication and such. Interestingly, Mason was a bit reluctant to get married, in part because he’s sort of an introvert who had spent time developing his own interior life; he had been single for quite a while and didn’t feel terribly emotional about the whole thing. This is a very Christ centered approach, but gentle and reflective. Later, by the way, he wrote the lovely The Mystery of Children.
Sacred Marriage: What If God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy? Gary Thomas (Zondervan) $15.99 Another of our all-time favs! Highly recommended. This, too, attempts to offer more the “reason for” and “meaning of” but not as deep or contemplative as Mason’s. Still, this is a wonderful look at the deeper theological and spiritual nature of marriage. His tag line is “what if marriage wasn’t to make us happy, but make us holy” — which maybe reminds us a bit of Dallas Willard (but a more breezy writing style) with that message of inner transformation, being shaped into Christ-likeness. Gary Thomas is not a heavy writer, tells nice stories, writes with a light touch and even with humor at times. There is a companion called Devotions for the Sacred Marriage ($14.99) too, which is a nice companion volume if you like those short daily readings.
The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God Tim & Kathy Keller (Dutton) $16.00 I guess I don’t have to explain the features of a Tim Keller book — smart, nicely written, intellectual without being too abstract, honest, Biblical, Reformed. He’s a highly regarded PCA pastor and public intellectual in New York City and even the New York Times suggested he was the closest thing to a CS Lewis we have these days. His wife Kathy co-wrote some of this. They share a bit more intimately in this then perhaps in some of his other books, and it is nice to see them working together to bring such a thoughtful and engaging theological foundation for the meaning of a good marriage. Beth and I don’t agree with their “complimentarian” (the phrase in contrast with egalitarian) view, but, to be honest, even though they say they believe the Bible teaches male “headship” they work it out in egalitarian ways and admit so in the book, telling stories of who does what based on gifts and abilities and seasons of life. It is a very impressive book and we recommend it.
FOR A PASTOR WHO IS A THEOLOGY BUFF (OR OUGHT TO BE)
Becoming a Pastor Theologian: New Possibilities for Church Leadership edited by Todd Wilson & Gerald Hiestand (IVP Academic) $25.00 I have explained this before and wanted to suggest it here, now, as a fine gift for your pastor, for nearly any church leader who appreciates being taken seriously as an intellectual leader. (Not every church honors their pastor as such so it is no wonder some recoil for that part of their calling.) Last year we named two books on this theme as key new books and this collection of papers is a perfect follow up. Chapters are by James K.A. Smith, Peter Leithart, Kevin Vanhoozer, Lauri Norris, and others.
Douglas Sweeney writes
This passionate set of essays comes at a crucial time for the church. Wilson and Hiestand call pastors to lead their people once again, not so much as CEOs, therapists or entertainers, but as those who want to help them know the Lord.
Preaching the Luminous Word: Biblical Sermons and Homiletical Essays Ellen F. Davis (Eerdmans) $30.00 We have dozens and dozens of books on preaching and any number would be great gifts to those who preach regularly; this new one is outstanding, a fine example of both good thinking about homiletics and rigorous Biblical reflection. Davis is the Distinguished Professor of Bible and Practical Theology at Duke Divinity School. Austin McIver Dennis helped with this, a senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Asheville NC. Stanley Hauerwas wrote the foreword.
As Krista Tippett (host of the radio show “On Being”) says:
Ellen Davis is the rare academic – a brilliant academic – who takes seriously the art, craft, and calling of preaching. I am grateful that this book is in the world, in a moment in which the world so urgently needs the discerning, luminous word.
FOR A PASTOR WHO NEEDS SOME WISE INSIGHT
Ministry Mantras: Language for Cultivating Kingdom Culture J.R. Briggs & Bob Hyatt (IVP) $17.00 JR is an energetic young pastor and consultant and author and yet he is sobered by real world failure (see his outstanding, much-acclaimed book Fail.) Here, he reminds us that “we become what we say” and that to create a fresh culture in our congregations, leaders must cast vision, help folks rethink how we think and talk and do our life together. These numerous chapters on “mantras” are arranged in two sections, mantras for leaders and mantras for the community. This may be one of the most interesting books on church life this year. A.J. Swaboda notes that “Jesus did pithy – so well that people remembered so much of what he said.” Skye Jethanie says that Briggs and Hyatt “satisfy our cultural desire for the simple without succumbing to the simplistic.”
Mandy Smith (whose marvelous The Vulnerable Pastor was one of picks of best books last year) says:
Ministry rarely allows the space needed to shape words that describe reality well – which is why we need a resource like Ministry Mantras, whose simple yet deeply scriptural and practical probers help us describe – and shape – reality for our communities. These are not random, pithy sayings, but a holistic health vision of ministry expressed in succinct, everyday language, ready to be shared and repeated. And lived.
Faithful Presence: Seven Disciplines That Shape the Church for Mission David Fitch (IVP) $17.00 It may not mean much to everyone but this is co-published by Missio Alliance, a fine church revitalization movement and stands firmly in the Praxis line of IVP, offering books that equip leaders for better ministry. This is a powerful, wonderfully realized invitation to see the church anew, in light of these seven transformative practices that help us all embody the Kingdom of God, even now. This is somewhat of a response – Anthony Bradley calls it a “corrective” – to the much-discussed views of James Davison Hunter and his best-selling Oxford University Press book, To Change the World. Fitch has been interested in and has written widely in the shape of the church, responding to God’s own faithful presence, while propels us into the world. This is an extraordinary, important book.
FOR ONE WHO WORKS IN HIGHER EDUCATION
At This Time and In This Place: Vocation and Higher Education Edited by David S. Cunningham (Oxford University Press) $35.00 This is a scholarly collection of essays compiled by Hope College Professor of Religion and the Director of the CrossRoads Project there. It is almost axiomatic these days that we need visions of vocation, that talk about careers needs to be related to callings. This one-of-kind professional text explores why this is and how to do it well. Blurbs on the back are from important voices in the philosophy of higher education, Christian Smith, Tim Clydesdale and Jennifer Lindholm, who calls it “essential reading.”
FOR A WOOD WORKER
The Lost Carving: A Journey to the Heart of Making David Easterly (Penguin) $16.00 I have told folks about this before and it is one of those very special books – the author tells of falling in love with wood carving while visiting as a youngster a famous Cathedral with famous wood carvings. As he grows into his vocation, he is given the chance of a life-time – to repair the very wood carvings, damaged in a fire, that inspired him decades before. So begins a “journey into the heart of making.” Beautifully rendered, this is a vital book for anyone who enjoys memoir, stories of creativity, or who is interested in woodworking.
FOR A CHRISTIAN WOMAN IN THE WORKPLACE
A Woman’s Place: A Christian Vision for Your Calling in the Office, the Home, and the World Katelyn Beaty (Howard Books) $22.99 I know I told you about this often, having done a major review of it when it first released late last summer. It is one of the best books of 2016 but yet, I’m afraid, isn’t terribly well known. Beaty is sharp, thoughtful, offers a fine overview of the conversations about work and calling, vocation and career, and applies these insights to the lives and stories of women. This isn’t Lean In for Christian women, really, but it is a fine, thoughtful, and engaging book that is simply a must for any Christian serious about the work-world ministry of God’s scattered people, male or female. Highly recommended.
FOR THOSE INTERESTED IN CREATION CARE
Caring for Creation: The Evangelical’s Guide to Climate Change and a Healthy Environment Mitch Hescox and Paul Douglas (Bethany House) $14.99 Perhaps you will recall the big review I did of this winsome, marvelous book. Perhaps you could give it to someone you know – it is inviting, pleasant, important, inspiring. It is a fair-minded approach, I’d say, and good for “climate change skeptics” or especially for those who lean to the right politically. (Both authors are free-market guys, Republicans, pro-life, well churched.) I love this surprisingly passionate, moving call to care for the beauty of God’s good world and wake up to what is surely one of the great moral crises of our time. Highly recommended.
Great Tide Rising: Towards Clarity and Moral Courage in a Time of Planetary Change Kathleen Dean Moore (Counterpoint) $26.00 I have said often that I will read any new book by Kathleen Moore, such a fine and moving writer she is. I suppose I’d say this was one of the most moving books I experienced this year, with it’s remarkable prose, its coherent vision, its passion for justice and goodness and living a life of meaning in the face of the harms perpetrated upon the Earth. Some may find it a bit overwrought and others might want a Biblical or theological perspective and this does not offer that. But it is a sturdy, morally serious and, most often, beautiful book of nature writing, solace, family, and the search for meaningful action in a time of climate change.
FOR A VEGAN (OR ANYONE INTERESTED IN CHRISTIAN VIEWS OF ANIMAL WELFARE)
Vegangelical: How Caring for Animals Can Shape Your Faith Sarah Withrow King (Zondervan) $16.99 Sarah is a feisty friend, a wonderful writer, a fun person who is “all in” in her discipleship, following Jesus, hopefully bringing others into His Kingdom of peace and justice. and restoration of a groaning creation. Years ago she came to believe that it is Biblically and theologically responsible to consider animal welfare as part of her faith; she tells that story with some degree of academic depth and radicalism in the important Animals Are Not Ours (No, Really, They’re Not): An Evangelical Animal Liberation Theology (Cascade; $25.00.) Here, in the clever, recently written Vegangelical, she offers a somewhat less heady, more inviting, overtly evangelical call to animal care and vegetarianism. Agree or not, this is a very interesting book, a very good effort at grounding animal concern within Biblically-based, gospel-centered discipleship. There are plenty of practical tips, too, although it isn’t a book of recipes or primarily about diet.
FOR A LAWYER OR LAW STUDENT
The Lawyer’s Calling: Christian Faith and Legal Practice Joseph Allegretti (Paulist Press) $12.95 This slim book is the finest introduction to being a Christian in the field of law of which we know. He uses thoughtful categories and invites attorneys to consider how their vocation can assist others and how they can serve the cause of justice. Nicely done.
Redeeming Law: Christian Calling and the Legal Profession Michael Schutt (IVP) $27.00 This big paperback is ambitious but surely the very best book in this field. We have a few others that are “must reads” – some which are more philosophical about jurisprudence or the history of legal thought. This has some of that but also invites deep consideration about the role of “thinking Christianly” about the vocation of lawyering and what it means to serve God within the legal profession. Highly recommended.
FOR A FAN OF ABRAHAM KUYPER
The great Dutch scholar, pastor, journalist, and eventually Prime Minister of Holland is renowned for so much – including the famous line about Christ claiming “every square inch” of creation. We are glad for this recent translation project offering very handsome, oversized editions of important Kuyper books that haven’t been translated into English before. (They have some very helpful introductory essays and annotations, making them that much more helpful.) Here are the four that have been released in the last year or so, published by Lexham Press. $49.99 each.
Common Grace: God’s Gifts for a Fallen World (volume 1) Abraham Kuyper
Pro Rege: Living Under Christ the King (volume 1) Abraham Kuyper
Our Program: A Christian Political Manifesto Abraham Kuyper
On the Church Abraham Kuyper
FOR ONE WHO LOVED THE OLYMPICS LAST SUMMER
Courage to Soar: A Body in Motion, a Life in Balance Simone Biles (Zondervan) $24.99 This is surely one of the most eagerly anticipated books this season, the lovely story about this lovely young woman. She says, “My journey to the 2016 Olympics started on a daycare field trip.” And so she tells us her story, sometimes what seems nearly miraculous. Her faith is clear, her family helped her wildest dreams come true, and, well, you know the rest… The blurbs on the back make one smile – Nastia Liukin, Dominique Moceanu, Martha Karolhyi. There is even a fabulous foreword by Mary Lou Retton.
FOR A FAN OF MARY OLIVER
Upstream: Selected Essays Mary Oliver (Penguin Press) $26.00 We have touted this happily, a grand collection of various essays by this, one of the era’s most beloved and respected poets. Some of these finely crafted pieces are about nature, as the cover suggests, but, of course, many are about what is too coldly called literary criticism. That she writes with warmth and color and passion about writing and books and words, well, that’s it. If you know anybody who likes her poems, this will be a great, luminous gift.
FOR FANS OF “THE FIXER UPPER”
The Magnolia Story Chip and Joanna Gaines (Thomas Nelson) $26.99 I don’t watch that much TV, let alone those fix up your home shows. But this is nice, mostly because this couple work well together. They are, well, cute together, and, I think, offer a good witness to the world. They are graduates of Baylor University and it shows; they are thoughtful, kind, fun. We appreciate their renovation projects (and think it is cool that Joanna buys her custom wall coverings from the respected York Wall Paper Company. Hey, Mr. and Mrs. Gaines, next time you’re in York, look us up!!!) We have a nifty little gift card package that we’ll send along with any order. Cool stuff.
FOR ONE WHO IS CONCERNED ABOUT WHAT THE INTERNET IS DOING TO THEIR SOUL
The Wired Soul: Finding Spiritual Balance in a Hyperconnected Age Tricia McCary Rhodes (NavPress)$14.99 We don’t know whether to shelve this book in our “digital/media” section or in our spirituality section. It really is about our interior lives, about spiritual formation, but sets it in the context of our involvement in digital practices, high-tech stuff. A decade ago I swore by the brilliant, prescient Habits of the High-Tech Heart by Q Schultze. This is an ultra-up-to-date version of that, asking out we can find deeper spirituality in our net-surfing, hot-wired, always connected world. Rhodes has written other books about spirituality amidst the chaos of our busy days, and in this one she hones in on teaching spiritual disciplines for digital natives. Can we “be still” and know? Wonderfully-done.
FOR ONE LAMENTING SOCIAL INJUSTICES
Prophetic Lament: A Call for Justice in Troubled Times Soong-Chan Rah (IVP) $17.00 I know, I know, I’ve mentioned this often. There is simply nothing like it, a study of the sad Biblical book of Lamentations, applied to issues of racial injustice, urban violence, “Black Lives Matters” and more. If you need to share a book with someone in lament these days, this is a Biblical study by a passionate professor, evangelical and justice-minded. Very useful, sure to be appreciated.
Forgive Us: Confessions of a Compromised Faith Mae Cannon, Lisa Sharon Harper, Soong-Chan Rah, Troy Jackson (Zondervan) $22.99 I suppose you know people who are upset about the recent election, about the violence of the police exhibited at Standing Rock, about the frustrating verdicts (over and over) at seemingly race-related and violent police incidents. This book reminds us as the church of our complicity in past injustices and invites us to confess, lament, ask forgiveness, and move on towards greater reconciliation. You know and I do, too, that there are those who are nearly exiled from conventional Christian faith because they don’t hear this kind of admission. There are those who really need to hear that these kinds of books (published by conservative evangelical publishers, no less) are being published. Please consider giving this as a gift.
Here is what I wrote in an endorsing blurb that found it’s way into the book itself. I’m committed to it and we would be honored if you ordered some from us:
First Chronicles 12:32 mentions the sons of Issachar, who understood the times and knew what God s people should do. Of course, one cannot understand our times without going into the past and realizing the roots of our current historical situation. Our brave authors here do this for us, helping us learn things we did not know, underscoring certain features of our past social failings and bad theologies, and then offer insightful theological reflections to help us name sin, seek forgiveness and move forward in newness of life. Anyone wanting to be Christ s ambassadors of reconciliation and agents of God s transforming kingdom simply must grapple with the social sins named in this book, nurturing hearts that can become broken and healed by these stories of pain and compromise. We must learn the rhythms and goodness of grace that comes through lament and admitting guilt. This book will indeed help us be sons and daughters of Issachar — aware, repentant, wise, and relevant. I pray it gets a wide, wide readership.
FOR PARENTS OF SPECIAL NEEDS CHILDREN
The Life We Never Expected: Hopeful Reflections on the Challenges of Parenting Children with Special Needs Andrew & Rachel Wilson (Crossway) $12.99 I cannot say how good this book is – it isn’t complicated to read, but it surely isn’t simplistic. It is about (as Karen Swallow Prior says) “loss, lament, hope, humility, contentment, joy.” My kids are grown and I’d be incredibly blessed if somebody gave this to me as a gift — I can’t imagine how it would help somebody in the thick of the hard stuff. Why not wrap one up and send it along?
As Russell Moore writes:
This isn’t a book that’s going to tell you to pull yourself up by our bootstraps and try harder. This is a book for those who are on the floor, weeping, because they need to know that Jesus is with them.
Refresh: Spiritual Nourishment for Parents of Children With Special Needs Kimberly Drew & Jocelyn Green (Kregel) $15.99 I have to admit, I nearly cried when I saw this, and was deeply moved as I dipped in and read random selections. It is arranged as a devotional, a reader to encourage parents who are taking care of kids with special disabilities. It is “more than a devotional” one reviewer said, “it is a lifeline of hope.” Raising children can be tiring for anyone. But if you know someone who has a child with handicaps or special needs, it is surely draining for them, and you could bless them with a gift like this. These authors know the struggles of this situation, they understand; both are raising children with significant disabilities. A reassuring, useful, resource.
FOR A PHILOSOPHY LOVER
Tweetable Nietzsche: His Essential Ideas Revealed and Explained C. Ivan Spencer (Zondervan) $16.99 Sometimes the changing face of religious publishing just baffles me. Why the conservative evangelical publisher released this odd little book is a mystery, but I couldn’t be happier. What a crazy-good, interesting, useful book. Can you figure out the sweeping worldview of the world’s most famous nihilist in 140 characters? Does what is billed as the “liveliest and fastest-paced introduction” to Fred N even make sense? Yes, and again I say, yes! Give this fascinating book to any kid who is studying philosophy, anybody curious about this architect of postmodernism and atheism. David Dockery (President of conservative Trinity International University) assures us this is “brilliant and creative.” I hope you know somebody to give this to.
FOR SOMEONE WHO LIKES ORGANIZATION THINKING, PRACTICAL HELP, GETTING THINGS DONE
What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done (Expanded Edition) Matt Perman (Zondervan) $19.99 I had the great joy of speaking at conference about faith, work, life, vocation, and cultural engagement recently and Matt was the other keynote speaker. And he bought a lot of books from us – he is a former bookseller, himself. He’s a solid guy who used to work with John Piper and now directs “Made to Flourish” which is a fabulous movement helping churches equip folks to think about faith and the marketplace, Christian service in the work-world, and helping all of us who love Jesus live out our faith for the sake of the common good. This book is a fairly sophisticated Christ-centered view of productivity, organizational skills, habits of being disciplines and achieving goals in the work-world or home. From time-management to the popular “getting things done” regime, Matt will guide you to see how God can help you be all He wants you to be, for Christ’s own glory and our neighbor’s good. Nice, practical, helpful as we do well work that matters
Okay, friends: stay tuned. This is just part one. As soon as I can, I’ll offer some more good suggestions for gift giving.
Here are some of what we’ll cover next, in the next day or so. So many good ideas…
FOR ONE WANTING TO CELEBRATE THE 500th ANNIVERSARY OF LUTHER’S THESES
FOR A HISTORY BUFF
FOR A SPORTS FAN
FOR ONE WHO IS UNHAPPY WITH THE OUTCOME OF THE RECENT ELECTION
FOR A WORSHIP LEADER
FOR ONE CALLED TO PEACEMAKING
FOR THOSE WHO WORK WITH THE URBAN POOR
FOR SOMEONE INTERESTED IN GLOBAL JUSTICE
FOR A C.S. LEWIS BUFF
FOR CHRISTIANS IN THE ARTS
FOR SOMEONE INTERESTED IN POPULAR CULTURE
FOR A FAN OF ALTERNATIVE ROCK
FOR A PERSON WHO NEEDS SOMETHING LIGHT, FUN, BUT STILL CHALLENGING
FOR ONE WHO WOULD ENJOY A CLASSIC COOKBOOK
FOR A YOUNG SEEKER, NOT FULLY AWARE OF MUCH ABOUT CHRISTIANITY
FOR A SKEPTIC — SERIOUS AND THOUGHTFUL, PERHAPS LEFT BRAINED
FOR A SKEPTIC — SERIOUS AND THOUGHTFUL, PERHAPS RIGHT BRAINED
FOR ONE WHO LOVES THE BIBLE BUT WANTS SOMETHING FRESH
FOR THOSE WHO LOVE MEMOIR
FOR SOMEBODY WITH A QUIRKY SENSE OF HUMOR
FOR A COLLEGE SENIOR
FOR AN OUTDOOR ENTHUSIAST
FOR ONE WANTING CLASSY HELP FIGURING OUT THEIR LIFE’S GOALS
FOR AN ADAM HAMILTON FAN – BRAND NEW
FOR A WALTER BRUEGGEMAN FAN – BRAND NEW
FOR AN N.T. WRIGHT FAN – HIS MOST RECENT
FOR A BETH MOORE FAN – HER NEW NOVEL
FOR A HENRI NOUWEN FAN — NEW LETTERS
FOR ONE WHO WOULD APPRECIATE A CREATIVE, PROGRESSIVE STUDY OF THE TRINITY
FOR ONE WHO WOULD APPRECIATE A STURDY, CONVENTIONAL STUDY OF THE TRINITY
FOR ONE WHO WOULD LIKE A NEW NOVEL
ANY ITEM MENTIONED
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