YOU WILL THANK US LATER: 12 anticipated books to PRE-ORDER NOW at 20% off from Hearts & Minds BookNotes

I hope you saw the last BookNotes post (we heard that some who subscribe didn’t see it in their inbox the day before Christmas.) We invited you to download a book cover and give a last minute gift of a PRE-ORDERED book.  While we can easily take pre-orders for almost any legitimate book, we picked three that are going to be just wonderful, and, we think, important.  I predicted already that they will be in the running for Best Books of next year!

I know this was appealing to some, and our 20% discount was appreciated, too.

Strong and Weak- Embracing a Life of Love, Risk, and True Flourishing.jpgIt's not too late.jpgYou Are What You Love- The Spiritual Power of Habit.jpgWe suggested for you the January release of the new Andy Crouch book, his fantastic follow-up to Playing God called Strong and Weak: Embracing a Life of Love, Risk & True Flourishing (IVP; $20.00.)


Also, we suggested the mid-February release of It’s Not Too Late: The Essential Part You Play in Shaping Your Teen’s Faith (Baker; $15.99) by our good friend Dan Dupee, President of the CCO, about parenting older teens and college-age young adults. It is really a fine book, fresh and helpful.  Skip back to that previous BookNotes post if you didn’t see our description of it.


Lastly, we were pleased to recommend the eagerly-awaited early-March 2016 book by James K.A. Smith We Are What We Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit (Brazos Press; $19.99) which in many ways is going to be a lucid and action-able summary of his much-discussed “Cultural Liturgies” project. (That is, he will, we’ve heard, summarize in readable style his major works Desiring the Kingdom and Imaging the Kingdom and what will be, someday, Embodying the Kingdom.

No sooner did I hit post, and put that BookNotes newsletter up on Facebook, that I wished I had named a few more equally interesting, important, forthcoming works.  The first few months of 2016 are going to be exciting for book lovers, at least the sort of readers that follow BookNotes, so I felt badly not naming a few other equally anticipated titles.

Perhaps you might want to PRE-ORDER them here, now,

at our BookNotes 20% off promo. Just use the links to our secure order form, below.



We think you will enjoy reading about 12 more soon-to-be released titles.  We are happy to announce these that are sure to please many of our customers and Hearts & Minds friends.  We will have them as soon as anyone, and suspect that you might be delighted to be among the first to receive some of these. We’ll be shipping them as soon as they arrive. We’ll deduct the discount from the regular retail price shown but won’t bill you or use your credit card until we actually send them on their way to you.  Okay?

Know anybody else you could forward this to?  Happy New Year, ya know… Thanks for helping us spread the word.

We suspect most will actually be here a bit sooner then the announced date; in some cases, considerably earlier.  Hooray.  Ain’t it good to be a book lover?

to the table mcminn.jpgTo the Table: A Spirituality of Food, Farming, and Community Lisa Graham McMinn (Brazos Press) $19.99  due early January 2016  The minute I heard of this it catapulted to the top of my most-eagerly awaited list; McMinn is an expert writer, a woman I’ve read for years, whose books are good and true and lovely. When I saw the final copy of this, recently, I was just dazzled — nice illustrations bring to mind a Mollie Katzen cookbook, too, or some of our own old books like Lappe’s Diet for a Small Planet. This is an interesting, graceful call and practical guide to a slower (if sometimes demanding) local lifestyle, almost as if it is a follow-up to her very practical Walking Lightly on the Earth.   To the Table includes stories from McMinn’s community near George Fox University, near Newberg, Oregon, including inspiring advice from the work she and her husband do with their CSA (including mouth-watering recipes!) Author/Mad Farmer Joel Salatin says it is about “dining devotionally” and Rachel Marie Stone (who wrote Eat with Joy) says it is a “warm and wise invitation to practice eating as a spiritual discipline.”  Do you want more intention, compassion, gratitude? Are you interested in gardening, health, neighborly conviviality?  To the Table is a gem, a gift, a sweet yet astute volume. Order it today!

Out of the House of Bread- Satisfying Your Hunger for God with the Spiritual Disciplines .jpgOut of the House of Bread: Satisfying Your Hunger for God with the Spiritual Disciplines Preston Yancey (Zondervan) $18.99 due January 2016 This will be a lovely hardback and should become a treasured volume, but it remains to be seen if P. Yancey — Preston, not Philip — becomes well-known among us.  We’re offering this as a pre-order for just this reason — it deserves to get some buzz right away. His wonderful spiritual memoir about being a Southern Baptist Texan who fell in love with “reading saints, crossing himself, and high church spirituality” called Tables in the Wilderness: A Memoir of God Found, Lost, and Found Again, was an unsung treasure of 2014. Yancey is an alumnus of Baylor University, is in the process of being ordained a priest in the Anglian Church of North America, after having complete an Master in Theology from St. Andrews in Scotland. He is currently serving as a Canon Theologian, so he’s a smart cookie, but he is also — as you will discover in this wonderful new book — a baker.  This is, in many ways, a spirituality of baking, even if it is mostly structured around meditations upon and guidance in the classic spiritual disciplines.  I’ve already marked up by advanced review copy!  Brother Yancey may be a modern day Brother Lawrence, himself a baker who “practiced the presence of God” in his kitchen. An appendix includes information about gluten free breads, as well as suggested readings and artwork for contemplation — from suggested icons to paintings from artists as diverse as Rembrandt, He Qi, Marc Chagall and Mako Fujimura. This is a great book.

My Name Is Lucy Barto.jpgMy Name Is Lucy Barton: A Novel  Elizabeth Strout (Random House) $26.00 due early January 2016  I haven’t laid eyes on this yet, but it is a 208-page, wonderful-looking hardback with deckled edge paper due out soon by the esteemed author of Olive Kitteridge.  Olive Kitteridge, a connecting set of stories that came out in 2007, and subsequently won the Pulitzer Prize, was one of the most popular novels around a few years back. Wonderful!  This new one, My Name is Lucy Barton, will surely be one of the most discussed novels of 2016.  It is said to be a profound exploration of the mother-daughter bond which begins when a woman in the hospital is visited by her estranged mother. SIgnificant things from the past come up, tender things are poignantly drawn, and her great gift of portraying redemption within the ordinary will surely make this an acclaimed novel, one of the most eagerly awaited of the year.  Pre-order it today and, as with the others, get 20% off.



 The Justice Calling- Where Passion Meets Perseverance.jpgThe Justice Calling: Where Passion Meets Perseverance Bethany Hanke Hoang & Kristen Deede Johnson (Brazos Press) $19.99 due January 2016  Just when I thought we didn’t need any more books on the topic of social justice, I learned of this forthcoming work by two seasoned activists and educators, and — wow! — am I ever excited.  Bethany Hoang, by the way, is a person we’ve crossed paths with often; she has an MDiv from Princeton and is the director of the Institute for Biblical Justice at IJM (International Justice Mission) giving her the right to be heard, as much as anyone I can think of.  This is going to be an amazing book by a really important writer! Kristen Johnson (with a PhD from St. Andrews) is a professor of theology and Christian formation at Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Michigan. She is known as a wise guide, passionate about the interface of theological formation, spiritual growth, cultural engagement and social action, and vocational discernment.  Putting theses two scholars/leaders together is a stroke of genius!

Here is what Nicholas Wolterstorff says of The Justice Calling:

Many books on justice have appeared in recent years. Three things make this one stand out from the crowd. First, instead of quoting only a few golden nuggets from Scripture, the authors trace the theme of justice throughout Scripture. Second, they give concreteness to their discussion with harrowing true-life stories of present day sex trafficking and slavery. And third, they explicitly address the need of those who struggle for justice, patience, lament and hope. An important contribution.

I like that Bethany’s mentor, Gary Haugen, has an endorsement as well, saying,

There is much joy to be found as we follow God into his work of justice, so much strength to be gained in the Scripture’s that he’s given to us. The Justice Calling takes us deep into all these gifts. As we face down the giants of injustice in the season ahead, this is a book I’d urge every follower of Jesus to dig into and carry close at hand.

America's Original Sin.jpgAmerican’s Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America  Jim Wallis (Brazos Press) $21.99 due mid January 2016  One may not agree with everything Sojourners magazine and ministry does, but I am more than eager to promote this particular resource and encourage you to pre-order it right away.  We’ve known and watched Wallis since before they moved to DC (hands up if you recall The Post American, published out of their radical community in Deerfield in the early 70s) and we hosted him here at our bookstore ages ago. “America’s original sin” of racism is surely one of Jim’s strong passions and a topic about which he has been consistently outspoken for decades and decades, starting when, as a high school student, he wandered from his own local evangelical congregation into Detroit’s blazing inner city.


Wallis has over the years come to know many black leaders and has submitted himself to some of the best former leaders and students of the old civil rights movement, as well as many of the rising young activists in the post-Ferguson years.  American’s Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America will be a major work, and we hope you and your circle of friends consider it carefully. There will be a forward by Bryan Stevenson, author (as if I have to tell you, of Just Mercy.) Kudos.  Coming soon!

Trouble I've Seen- Changing the Way the Church Views Racism.jpgTrouble I’ve Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism Drew G.I. Hart (Herald Press) due mid January 2016 $16.99  Well, one might say that it is unfortunate for a first-time author on an indie press (Herald Press is a long-standing, but smallish Mennonite publishing house) to release a book about racism the same day as one by progressive rock star and best selling author Jim Wallis. I’d guess this is not lost on Drew himself.  But there are many reasons why you should pre-order this right away, and get ready to read it when it comes out.

Yes, I will admit, we have a personal connection to this author and some of his story, so we sincerely want to get a buzz going on this; a few good book clubs and adult classes using it would generate word-of-mouth interest. Please don’t hesitate to order extras from us — we’d appreciate it because we really do want to support this book. You see, Drew Hart is an old friend, a young African American leader formerly of Harrisburg, PA.  He worked at near-by Messiah College, in fact, and was on staff with the CCO. (I might have even sold him some of the books cited in this new book.) He is currently a respected speaker, leader, blogger (his blog Taking Jesus Seriously is hosted by the Christian Century) and  is a PhD theology candidate working on social ethics at the Lutheran  Theological Seminary in Philadelphia.  His experience of being a young black man within a largely white and rural evangelical denominational culture (the Brethren in Christ) and as a student in a largely white, mainline Protestant seminary, has given him an array of insights and a unique angle of vision. HIs Anabaptist influences are evident as well, making this a strong, interesting, important paperback.  Drew Hart is a rising voice you need to know. Trouble I’ve Seen is a book you should get.

Hart asks, “What if racial reconciliation doesn’t look like what you expect?” Given the high-profile killings of young black men and the recent uprisings and culture-wide conversations on race and white privilege, the time is ripe for fresh and young voices alongside older ones like Wallis.  D.G.I. Hart challenges white and black Christians about their assumptions and practices, in ways that are compelling and interesting. He tells much of his own story, here, and it is a book I highly, highly recommend. There’s a very good foreword by Christena Cleveland.  Kudos to Herald Press, props to Drew.

As Shane Claiborne writes, of Trouble I’ve Seen,

This book is a gift from the heart of one of the sharpest young theologians in the United States. Hold it carefully, and allow it to transform you — and our blood-stained streets.

Life's Too Short to Pretend You're Not Religious  .jpgLife’s Too Short to Pretend You’re Not Religious  David Dark (IVP Books)  $20.00 due February 2016 I do hope you know the brilliant and provocative writing of David Dark (such as his insightful and fun study of pop culture, Everyday Apocalypse; his pained love letter to these United States, The Gospel According to America; or the one I have a little endorsing blurb in, right next to a rave by Eugene Peterson, The Sacredness of Questions Everything.) Dark writes like a manic prophet at times, creative in thought and word, living righteously in word and deed. Charles Marsh in a rave review mentions his “luminous reckonings with the real” —  how’s that for a book endorsement!  This passionate book is, I gather, a hip and thoughtful guide to faith for smart seekers and skeptics. 

These “strange negotiations” are sure to help us all craft a more sustainable sense of meaning, but will be particularly good for the “spiritual but not religious” fans of the likes of the high brow New Yorker or the edgy Pitchfork.  He wrote it for just such thoughtful seekers. As Sara Zarr — herself nominated for the National Book Award — writes of it, “A bracing manifesto for modern people and an optimism-infused love song to humanity.” Charles Marsh calls it a “irresistible triumph.”  David’s an amazing guy, and this book is going to be life-giving and intellectually important for some.  Maybe you know somebody you can give it to?  You really ought to pre-order it, so you have is promptly!

Medieval Wisdom for Modern Christians- Finding Authentic Faith in a Forgotten Age .jpgMedieval Wisdom for Modern Christians: Finding Authentic Faith in a Forgotten Age with C.S. Lewis Chris R. Armstrong (Brazos Press) $19.99 due February 2016 My, my, what can I say about this? I’ve not seen it yet, but it is very high on my own personal waiting list, and I’m confident it will be one of the more fascinating and useful books of the season. (I think the last major work I read on the Middle Ages was a lovely one by Thomas Cahill.) This one is going to be fantastic!


Firstly, I might note that Chris Armstrong wrote an earlier book that I just loved which in some ways is similar in approach and effect, with the great title Patron Saints for Postmoderns: Ten from the Past Who Speak to Our Future which showed off his knack for taking older writings and making their worth apparent and even urgent. (Dr. Armstrong is, by the way, editor of Christian History magazine, so knows what he’s writing about!) Here, he will be offering a similar project, helping us see the important  middle ages stuff that C.S. Lewis himself read, realizing the significance of the previous centuries which in which Lewis famously immersed himself.  This is a curious, cool idea of a  book that will certainly be enjoyed by not only those interested in church history, but by Lewis fans as well.  

“Too many evangelical views of church history,” the publicity about the book tells us,  “leave out the medieval period.”  Tapping into current interest in ancient studies, though, Armstrong explores in Medieval Wisdom for Modern Christians the Middle Ages —  in conversation with Lewis. How cool is that? If all you know about the medieval world is what you’ve seen in Monty Python’s Search for the Holy Grail, you know you need this book.  If all you know about Lewis is that he was super smart and a bit dusty, well, this will help you get the fuller picture of his own loves and influences. If you are a church leader wondering how the contemporary issues of the modern world might ever be explored with depth and deep wisdom, this will help too.  Armstrong himself is a leader in the faith/work conversations, currently directing a special collegiate program called Opus: The Art of Work. He also serves as a senior editor of the on-line Patheos faith and work channel. He holds a PhD from Duke University and is a friend of Hearts & Minds. Kudos!

The Future of Our Faith- An Intergenerational Conversation on Critical Issues Facing the .jpgThe Future of Our Faith: An Intergenerational Conversation on Critical Issues Facing the Church Ronald J. Sider and Ben Lowe (Brazos Press) $18.99  due February 2016 Ron Sider is a friend and mentor and hero. I’ve read all of his many books, and encourage you to dig into his old ones and recent ones. You will find a passionate believe who is courteous and careful, impeccable in his evangelical faith and eager to be Christ-like and Biblical in his social ethics and political advocacy. Ben Lowe is a younger friend, a young adult leader in the faith-based effort to be better at creation care and environmental stewardship, especially around issues related to  climate change. Ben even ran for office a few years ago, and wrote a fine, fine book about enduring in faith and patience even while attempting to make a difference in the world. I love him!


In this forthcoming book, the two leaders — one now in retirement, one truly rising in prominence — chat about what changes await their beloved evangelical tradition, and how gospel-centered ministry is changing in the new era we find ourselves in.  From marriage, homosexuality, creation-care, politics and more, these gentlemen not only highlight difference between them, but develop insight that is useful for any church or para-church ministry, eager to be the church always reforming, but equally committed to fidelity to the ancient truths handed down.  What a edifying and worthwhile time you will have listening in on this wide-ranging conversation!  More, what an important model we see here as they cultivate an intentional, charitable, and much-needed intergenerational dialogue.  Pre-order this today, but please: consider ordering more than one. The Future of Our Faith is a book that is really going to be useful!

Good Faith- Being a Christian When Society Thinks You're Irrelevant and Extreme.jpgGood Faith: Being a Christian When Society Thinks You’re Irrelevant and Extreme David Kinnaman & Gabe Lyons (Baker Books) $19.99 due early March 2016 This is truly one of the most anticipated titles of 2016.  I’m very excited as both authors — guys I count as friends and supporters — will be at the CCOs 2016 Pittsburgh Jubilee Conference.  This forthcoming book will officially be launched nation-wide at the 2016 Q Commons events in March.  You can pre-order it now, and I hope you do.  The last book they did together is still commonly cited as it explored the research done by the Barna Group on how young outsiders to the church think about the faith. (That was, of course, called Unchristian and remains a best seller.) After that amazing and provocative study, they each wrote their own books, both of which we’ve sold well over the years: Lyons did the excellent The Next Christians and Kinnaman did You Lost Me.  Both are really, really good.

It is fabulous that they are teaming up again, writing new stuff out of their years of experience helping others imagine and take next steps to live out faith in relevant and winsome and effective ways. If you’ve seen any of the extraordinary Q events curated and led by Gabe Lyons, or heard David Kinnaman in his many good presentations around the research his organization does, you know that these are talented communicators and thoughtful, energetic teachers. Agree or not with every detail, you simply must be aware of their work, and you will delight in reading any of their impressive books. I whole-heartedly endorse their efforts, and I’m sure Good Faith will be a great blessing. (I expect an early manuscript of it to arrive shortly, and I’ll be hard pressed not to take the day off work the minute it arrives to dive in, with pen in hand.)  I’ll be writing more about it, I’m sure.

Their forthcoming volume Good Faith: Being a Christian When Society Thinks You’re Irrelevant and Extreme will ask us how Christians can be culturally engaged and faithful to the gospel, proposing fresh insights based on extensive new research equipping us to be firm about our deepest convictions without being defensive or judgmental. Can we both challenge the direction of culture and still be clear we are committed to serving the common good?  Can we learn to understand the heart behind opposing view and learn how to stay friends with others, despite differences? Can we hold with confidence our religious convictions without being toxic or alienating to others?  This is going to help us love others, care for the culture, deepen our desires to help renew and restore the brokenness around us and honor God in gracious and effective ways.  May it be widely read, and widely discussed. Pre-order it today!

c vs c.jpgCreate vs. Copy: Embracing Change, Ignite Creativity, Break Through with Imagination Ken Wytsma  (Moody Press) $14.99  due March 2016 This small hardback is one I am sure to read as soon as I can. Books about creativity are everywhere these days — tapping into a mostly wholesome cultural ethos of wanting to be entrepreneurial, inventive, generative, or at least a bit clever in finding one’s own signature style as we pass through our days. There’s a reason that these kinds of guides to increasing our own capacities to be creative are enjoyed by so many.


But, yet, good as many are, I suspect something less then substantive about some of them. Not so with this: Wytsma is President of the Kiln’s College, and his last book, 2015’s The Grand Paradox: The Messiness of Life, the Mystery of God, and the necessity of Faith  was said to be, by the brilliant Nicholas Wolterstorff, one of the best treatments of faith that he ever read!  (Okay, here is exactly what Nick said:  The Grand Paradox is “Thoroughly honest, never evasive, free of clich├ęs, deeply Christian, encouraging rather than scolding in its tone, it is the most perceptive and helpful discussion of faith that I know of.”  Wytsma’s Pursuing Justice: The Call to Live and Die for Bigger Things emerged from his own innovative efforts starting the groundbreaking Justice Conference, and is fantastic. What I mean to say is that he is a extraordinary thinker, an important leader, a fine writer, and he has earned the right to be listened to, to be heard; you should consider reading anything he does!

If this forthcoming one offers some background insight about how he does his thing — wow!  if he shares with us how to be a big more creative, not merely copying what is in vogue, then bring it on!  I trust him, and we should be rejoicing for any assistance he can give us, especially about how to enhance our imagination.

Here’s what the Moody Press catalog says about Create vs. Copy:

This short, punchy book blends theology, history, and cultural observation to lead you toward a healthy, confident, more innovative life mindset. It celebrates the good news of your God-given capacity to create and help you harness it to take charge of your life, navigating changing times, and, ultimately, flourish and succeed. 


This will be a book of beauty, grace, and energy,and sounds like it will be very useful to many, from ordinary readers to professional artists and designers, and especially to leaders of organizations, ministries, and nonprofits. 

Thumbprint in the Clay- Divine Marks of Beauty, Order and Grace Luci Shaw.jpgThumbprint in the Clay: Divine Marks of Beauty, Order and Grace Luci Shaw (IVP Books) $17.00  due April 2016  I hope you know the wonderful writer, Luci Shaw, who has spent a lifetime working publishing, offering many volumes of poems and good books of thoughtful prose. Her most recent nonfiction works have included books about aging and the spirituality of her own “ascent.” She is an author and person we esteem and enjoy, and we hope you do to. She is one of the best.

This new one is a rumination on God’s own thumbprint found in all things.  It is, she says, “for me a singular clue to human identity.” God is, of course, the creative and ever-creating One.  The publicity about the book reminds us that “We reflect God’s imprint most clearly, perhaps, in our own creating and appreciation for beauty. A longing for beauty is inherent to being human.” Is there some sense in which beauty is redemptive?

Novelist Brett Lott writes,

Luci Shaw is a treasure, and Thumbprints in the Clay shows us again precisely why: this book is wise beyond measure, the writing beautiful beyond compare, and its heart a reflection of the one true God… This is a beautiful, ruminative and necessary book.

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ALMOST INSTANT, FABULOUS, CHRISTMAS PRESENT – DOWNLOAD A COVER OF A BOOK YOU CAN PRE-ORDER FROM US. ON SALE. DO IT NOW.

I know we’ve sent a lot to you lately — from some reviews of heavy theology books to a few Advent devotional lists to a BookNotes feature of interesting kids books, to two long posts offering book ideas for certain sorts of hard-to-buy-for readers.  We love telling you the kinds of things we stock, and of course these reviews are all archived for you to order later, if you’d like.  20% off any thing ever mentioned.

And, we’re eager now to quickly tell you that you can PRE-ORDER nearly any forthcoming book you want from us. Really, we can get almost anything!

Here’s a quick gift idea: you could download the cover of a forthcoming book (use a google image search or go to a publisher’s website) and wrap that up as a little card, or as a promissory note.

We’ll then send that book to the address you give us, once it comes out.  Easy, huh?

That would be a great last minute gift; easy for you and very impressive!

Almost any book that is coming out in the next few months would work; we can promise to send it to your recipient (or directly to you, if you prefer) whenever it does release.  We can enclose a note saying it is from you, and even gift wrap for free, too, if you want.

And we won’t even use the credit card number you give us until we ship the book, once it really comes out.  Nice, eh?

May we suggest that you pre-order now at least one of these three forthcoming titles? They are excellent choices for any serious reader of non-fiction.

These three are among the most anticipated books of the next season, and although we could name a dozen other good ones, we’re happy to promote at least these three that we think will be just the sort many of our readers would want.  We’re here to help you out, now.  Download these covers, send us an order, and we’re good to go. Merry Christmas and ho, ho, ho.

You Are What You Love- The Spiritual Power of Habit.jpgYou Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit James K.A. Smith (Baker) $19.99  not yet released:  DUE MARCH 2016 You may know that Jamie Smith has been one of the most talked about Christian authors of the last several years.  His remarkably interesting and very important books Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation and Imagining the Kingdom: How Worship Works have been considered to be truly ground-breaking, and widely read across the denominational spectrum. These books talk about how we are not merely thinkers — “brains on a stick” as they say — but God created us to be lovers. Minds and Hearts!  We desire and love and care and serve. So Christian formation that only teaches data — Bible truths or worldviewish principles or theological doctrine, no matter how right or profound or astute —  but doesn’t really shape our deepest desires, loves, priorities and such isn’t going to be truly transformative. And in fact, our Christian worship practices may be “thin” and less influential, while our secular cultural liturgies may be “thicker” and truly impact how we see and feel about the world.  Those books explore deep and wise visions of spiritual imagination and how worship, among other things, effects our human flourishing and the tone of our discipleship.

These two fabulously rich books will be, a year or so from now, supplemented with a crowning third volume, tentatively called Embodying the Kingdom.

Here’s the thing: both of these first two were a bit academic and although they were really exciting in many ways, there were ponderous and demanded a bit from serious readers. I suspect the third will be a little scholarly, too, once it is done.

However, this spring (maybe mid-March) Smith has a volume coming that will be, simply put, a more accessible summary of volume one (Desiring…) and a summary of volume two (Imagining…) and a summary of what will become volume three (Embodying the Kingdom.) You are What You Love will be an overview of Smith’s whole, big “Cultural Liturgies” project and will be a perfect way to help those who haven’t yet waded through the first two to get up to speed. 

Or, for those who have read the first two, and are eager for the third, this forthcoming one will tide them over early this Spring, offering a fresh re-articulation of Smith’s thesis, explained anew, and offered as a basic tool for those of us wanting to keep this conversation alive, embodying it in church and culture.

This is going to be a “Book of the Year” for 2016, no doubt, so you could give it away, now. I’m sure your friend will thank you.  Yes!

Here is what the publisher says about it:

In this book, award-winning author James K. A. Smith shows that who and
what we worship fundamentally shape our hearts. And while we desire to
shape culture, we are not often aware of how culture shapes us. We might
not realize the ways our hearts are being taught to love rival gods
instead of the One for whom we were made. Smith helps readers recognize
the formative power of culture and the transformative possibilities of
Christian practices. He explains that worship is the “imagination
station” that incubates our loves and longings so that our cultural
endeavors are indexed toward God and his kingdom. This is why the church
and worshiping in a local community of believers should be the hub and
heart of Christian formation and discipleship.

Strong and Weak- Embracing a Life of Love, Risk, and True Flourishing.jpgStrong and Weak: Embracing a Life of Love, Risk, and True Flourishing Andy Crouch (IVP) $20.00  not yet released, DUE JANUARY 2016 Like James K.A. Smith’s named above, this is one of the most anticipated books among thoughtful and widely aware Christian readers.  Mr. Crouch — who has been here to Hearts & Minds, and supports us in very nice ways — has been percolating the ideas in this book for quite a while and we trust him a lot.  (We sold a book to him that pushed him further along in writing this new one) and we heard an early version of what would become this book more than a year ago at a conference in Boston.  It is, Beth and I both agree, one of the books we are most eager to see, and one of the books that we are most eager to sell.  I’m not kidding: Beth still has notes she took about his lecture a year ago in her purse, now, and can tell you about his chart with four options spelled out about power, opportunity, vulnerability and oppression.

It certainly will (I’m just telling you now) be one of the Best Books of 2016. 

Not unlike the James Smith book above, although perhaps not so obviously,  Strong and Weak is the third in what seems to be, if not a set, a series of books that nicely flow from one to the next.  First, was Crouch’s remarkable — and a personal favorite  — very generative book Culture Making: Recovering our Creative Calling. Since it’s publication in 2013 it has been a Hearts & Minds standard; we take it everywhere and recommend it often.

Then came Playing God: Redeeming the Gift of Power, an excellent book, and a rare one, it seems, studying thoughtfully a Christian view of power, even power expressed within institutions. and how we can have a better view and engagement with authority and power.  It made sense when that one came out: if we are to be culture makers, reflecting God’s image by making something of the world, using our gifts and talents to serve the common good, stewarding well all that God has put into the creation for us to explore and manage and develop, as his first one said, then — sooner or later — we are going to have to deal with institutions, organizations, leaders, and cope with the question of power. How do we get things done, and reform the world in ways that are healthy?

Playing God was not really a book on leadership, although some seemed to think that. It was about the goodness of power (and the horror of it when it is abused.) Yes, to really make a difference in the world, we are going to have to be salt and light and influential leaven within systems and structures and bureaucracies; exploring the sociology of power becomes important to nearly any Christian wanting to be serious about making a God-glorifying, neighbor-loving dent in the fallen world around us. We must, as the sub-title puts it, “redeem power” and Andy tells stories from all over the world of people doing just that.  I think Playing God is, to this day, one of the best books I’ve ever read and one of the ones that is woefully under-appreciated among us.

This forthcoming one — due, we’ve heard by the end of January — seems to be a follow up to Playing God, although one does not need to read Playing God to appreciate Strong and Weak.  We’ve got an advanced copy of it, and it stands alone quite nicely. It will be a somewhat hand-sized, chunky hard-back a perfect little gift.  It is not too intimidating or heavy, although the question of how we use power — and what happens to folks who are vulnerable and unable to exercise self-determination — is endlessly fascinating.  A point of this book is that some of us choose not to take any rises, play it safe, don’t rise to the fullness of our potential, and that is a form of powerlessness, too.  We are not made for utter safely, or utter powerlessness.  How can we flourish and enjoy real life by expressing our deepest talents and values.  “Regardless of your stage or role in life,” he says, “here is a way of love and risk so that we all, even the most vulnerable, can flourish.”

You may want to give this book to someone, or get it for yourself, asap. Especially after you read John Ortberg’s nice endorsement, who writes,

This book is going to have a profound impact on our world. It’s built on a clear, deep, life-changing insight that opens up vast possibilities for human flourishing. Classic, elegant, and utterly illuminating.

It's not too late.jpgIt’s Not Too Late: The Essential Part You Play in Shaping Your Teen’s Faith Dan Dupee (Baker) $15.99 not yet release DUE FEBRUARY 2016 I will be writing more about this later, but for now, you should know that this is, again, what we believe to be a groundbreaking, exceptional book.  There is nothing quite like it in print, and we can’t wait to sell it once it becomes widely available this winter. I have read an advanced version of the manuscript — have an endorsing blurb on it, in fact — and am really excited to tell you about it.

Here’s the short version (and why you should pre-order it now.) This is an exceptional book that is bucking the trends and assumptions we tend to have, expressed in the media, in popular culture, and even in some Christian books (I heard a person say it in the bookstore just this afternoon!) that parents of college age students don’t really have much influence anymore, that once kids reach that stage in their lives, their parents work is mostly done, and they have to hope for the best.  Even in matters of faith, young adults will tend to drift from their spiritual roots, it is assumed; after high school kids will leave the church, and, at best, will come back to their faith communities, at least at Christmas and Easter. We hope that once they sow their oats, settle down, they might come back to faith in mid-life.

No, no, no.  Dupee knows better, and can tell you why the data suggests something very different: his research shows that parents and the local church of college age students do still have a huge role to play, and that wise parenting of teenagers, even older teens, can pay off in vibrant faith and healthy transitioning after high school into Christian discipleship in the young adult years. It’s Not Too Late explains all this in fun and sparkling prose, drawing specific principles and practices that he has learned along the way. Dupee is a down to earth guy, a dad himself (of two sets of twins, I might add) and knows well the struggles of parenting adolescents who are growing into young adulthood. He tells some great stories, too, making this a top-notch and really fascinating parenting books, more interesting and more important than most.

Dupee is a good friend and a person I admire greatly. I’ll happily admit that I’m biased: Beth and I know Dan and his wife, Carol, and some of his kids, too, themselves now college graduates. You see, Dan has been the President of our beloved campus ministry organization, the CCO (Coalition for CHristian Outreach.) If anybody knows young adults, college students, and those who love and serve them well, it is Dan Dupee. If anybody should hav
e written a book like this, it is Dan.

In his prep for this book, Dan convened numerous focus groups. (As the CEO and director of a para-church ministry that partners with local congregations near colleges, he knows churches that have good outreach to students, and knows many, many collegiates. He had ready access to lots of folks who were very willing to participant in his gathering of data.) Some of what parents and young adults said in these many face-to-face research groups is reported in It’s Not Too Late and you will be excited to learn what works (and what doesn’t) in wise and effective parenting of teens and young adults transitioning out of the house and into college or adult life. You can be confident that this is a book that is at once fun to read, upbeat and practical, and yet actually based on research, gathering of data, and lots and lots of first hand stories with students Dan has met through the CCO and their parents.  It’s a treasure of a book, and we couldn’t be more happy to commend it to you. 

Why not order a few now. Give one as a gift, and donate one to your church library?  We’ll be among the first to get them (mid-February, we’re told.)  Order now at our 20% off.  Spread the word: it is not to late to do what God invites us — expects us — to do: care for our young adults as they move away from home, take up their own vocations in the world, and deeper their discipleship, for the rest of their lives.  This book will help.

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MORE SPECIFIC SUGGESTIONS FOR CERTAIN KINDS OF READERS (part two) 20% OFF

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.jpgFaithfully 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.jpgTwo 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 .jpgBread & 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 .jpgEat 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 .jpgWhy 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.jpgThe Big Story- How the Bible Make
s Sense Out of Life Justin Buzzard.jpgThe 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
Paul Debate (Baylor U).jpgThe 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 hill.jpgPaul 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 .jpgSacred 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: 

“In
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

“Scripture,
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

new heavens and new earth.jpgA 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 .jpgCounterfeit 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. jpgJ.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.jpgTrue 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.jpgLetters 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.jpgStoried 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.jpgServants 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.jpg100 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 .jpgWisdom 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 .jpgJesus 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 (.jpgGlobal 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).jpgIntroduction 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. jpgKingdom 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.jpgAt 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 .jpgSpiritual 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.jpgPray 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.jpgSlow 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-5.jpgHungry 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.jpgStaying 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.jpgSurprise 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.jpgFierce 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.jpgYet 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.jpgRising 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
Daring Greatly (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.jpgSmall 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.jpgThe 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 Many Smith.jpgThe 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 Pastor 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 (.jpgWhere 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 Daniel P. jpgThe 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 

The
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.jpgStraw 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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BOOK IDEAS FOR THAT PARTICULAR KIND OF PERSON: WHAT A LIST! — 20% OFF

wrapped-books.jpgOkay, we’ve paired a number of good books — mostly new, although a few chestnuts, too — with a particular sort of reader, someone maybe on your gift list to whom you might want  to give a book.  Of course we simply couldn’t be exhaustive, but if you have a certain person and are stymied as to what sort of book to give, send us a quick inquiry or call.  We’ll see if we can help find for you a good book to give to that hard to buy for person.

It’s a perfect time of year to give almost anyone a little gift and sharing a book now may be done without awkwardness, so why not take this opportunity? Been wanting to help inspire or inform someone dear?  Maybe this will help, or at least get you thinking.

HERE’S OUR “JUST THE RIGHT BOOK IDEAS FOR … ” list. Ideas for those interested in science, art, history, spirituality, work, family, seekers, cynics, and more.  Books for parents, books for college students, books for video gamers, books for memoir-lovers, theologians, politicos, and more.

Sorry we didn’t show all the covers… call us if we can help explain anything at all.

ALL ON SALE, while supplies last.  We’ll deduct 20% off the regular retail prices that are shown.  Order below.


For what it is worth, we can send small packages (a book or two or three) to most places in the country via US Priority Mail cheaper than UPS and often quicker. We cannot guarantee it, of course (unless you pay extra for expedited service, which we can easily do), but it is our sense that orders that go out on Monday would be received most places by Thursday.  How’s that? 

FOR THOSE INTERESTED IN HISTORY

Why Study History: Reflecting on the Importance of the Past John Fea (Baker Academic) $19.99  We have raved about Professor Fea’s award winning, detailed and impeccably balanced Was American Founded as a Christian County; this little volume backs up and makes the case for why Christians (and anyone, for that matter) should care about the enterprise of reflecting on our past. This is a lovely little book, highly recommended.

Christian Historiography- Five Rival Versions.jpgChristian Historiography: Five Rival Versions Jay Green (Baylor University Press) $34.95 For those who are interested in the Christian pursuit of serious academic scholarship, this will be an edifying and important example of the integration of faith and learning. It will be thrilling for those interested in the philosophy of history, and how people of faith should think about the foundational questions in this field.  Fair, wide-ranging, theologically rigorous, this is a magisterial contribution to thinking about how we write, research, interpret and read history.

In the Beginning Was the Word: The BIble in American Public Life, 1492 – 1783 Mark A. Noll (Oxford University Press) $29.95  What a handsome big book this is, studying in impeccable detail the rise of the use of the Bible in the earliest days preceding and during the founding of these United States. Noll is an esteemed historian and this simply a must-read for anyone interested in the colonial era.


religion in the oval office.jpgReligion in the Oval Office: The Religious Lives of American Presidents Gary Scott Smith (Oxford University Press) $34.95 A few weeks ago I put this 665 page magnum opus on a list I did for the Center for Public Justice, for those interested in  the history of US political life. Smith had won remarkable awards for a previous book a decade ago on the faith of some of our Presidents and in this brand new one, he bests himself, wonderfully exploring the unique religious convictions of eleven others. This has garnered fabulous reviews from those who study the history of Presidents, those curious about the inner working of the White House, and how faith has or hasn’t impacted US policy, in the distant past and in recent decades. A fascinating, great read!

FOR THOSE INTERESTED IN CHURCH HISTORY

Why Church History Matters: An Invitation to Love and Learn from Our Past Robert Rea (IVP Academic) $20.00  For many contemporary Christians, questions about the role and value of church history can be difficult to appreciate. Professor Ray is a clear teacher, passionate and helpful, showing over and over why knowing how the church unfolded, for better or worse, is vital to know today. This is nearly a one-volume overview of church history, but it’s main concern is to explain why it matters. especially for those who are clear that their life and ministry are to be Bible-based. Yes!

theologians.jpgTheologians on the Christian Life  (Crossway) $18.99 or $19.99 each We have dozens and dozens of books on church history, from the earliest first century founders of the Way to the church fathers and on into the modern era, and American and global faith expressions.  And some people really geek out on this stuff, so give us a call if you think we can help.


This series of handsome paperbacks is not exactly church history, at such, but draws on the spiritual wisdom of important figures, asking how their own theological insights in their day might be useful for our own faith development today.  Call it applied theology from the past, these are almost all really, really interesting and very, very helpful.  Read the Bonhoeffer one by Steve Nichols if you don’t believe me, to see how they not only teach about the person, his writings, but also how it can aid us in our own spiritual journey.  The Luther one is important, John Newton’s fascinating, Wesley inspiring. If you know about Francis Schaeffer (the only really modern person studied) the one by Bill Edgard is very good.  A nice set with uniform covers, why not buy a few and wrap them up together?

FOR THOSE INTERESTED IN THE ARTS

rainbows for fallen world.jpgRainbows for the Fallen World Calvin Seerveld (Toronto Tuppence Press) $30.00  I list this old classic as it is one of the most esteemed books in the contemporary conversation about faith and the arts, aesthetics, and the role of these matters in our daily life as the people of God.  Seerveld has written much, often quite dense, about aesthetic theory, and there is some of that in here, but many think this is his most useful book, energetically written, truly profound, and somewhat hard to find.  We’ve stocked it since the day we’ve opened and folks are still delighted to discover it. Whew.

IWG Art and IWG Music both.jpgIt Was Good: Making Art to the Glory of God edited by Ned Bustard (Square Halo Books) $24.99  I routinely say this is my favorite collection of good essays about faith and the arts, about aesthetics, about beauty and about how serious people of faith can create important, mature, contemporary art.  There are some that are more basic, some that are more complex, but this is simply a must-read for anyone interested in the arts. Some lovely design touches and full color illustration make it a particularly nice volume.

 It Was Good: Making Music to the Glory of God edited by Ned Bustard (Square Halo Books( $24.99  Did you see what I wrote above? It goes double for this one, 33 fabulous chapters that are not simplistic or too obvious, but not heady or overly deep, either.  There’s fascinating, faith-fueled pieces here on various genres (jazz, blues, hip-hop) to various practices for and by musicians (rehearsal, song-writing, collaboration, performance) and some for all of us, on using music in worship, singing the Psalms, music as solace during grief, how to host and listen well to live music.)  A must for musicians, classical or contemporary, and a delight for anyone passionate about songs.

Kicking at the Darkness: Bruce Cockburn and the Christian Imagination Brian J. Walsh (Brazos Press) $22.00 All right, this isn’t for everyone, but I love to show it off — I even helped offer some input along the way, so it means a lot to me!  Cockburn is an esteemed, progressive Christian who has won just about every award one can get in the contemporary folk rock and global music stuff.  Last year his big auto-biography appeared called Rumours of Glory: A Memoir (HarperOne; $28.99) and I reviewed it at great length.  But this one is a serious, challenging, and finally inspiring interplay between Cockburn lyrics and Biblical texts.  Walsh is deeply (deeply) immersed in Cockburn’s social imaginary and knows all his albums well, and he is one of the best Bible guys I know. Fabulously entertaining and seriously exploring a Christian view of art, music, and how rock artists like Cockburn can help us along the way.

FOR THOSE INTERESTED IN PHOTOGRAPHY, ETHNOGRAPHY OR URBAN MINISTRY 

Witness: Cleveland’s Storefront Churches Mark B. Greenlee (Greenlee )$39.95  This is a truly fascinating, beautiful coffee-table book of wonderfully reproduced photographs taken by a good friend of ours, a thoughtful Christian lawyer who in his free time got involved in photographing buildings around his beloved city of Cleveland, Ohio.  Eventually, as he matured in his skills of seeing and getting good shots, he focused on store-front churches, mostly ethnic, many Pentecostal or other spiritual flavors very unlike his own mainline denominational loyalties. As Greenlee got to know the pastors or lay-leaders of these quirky, small ministries, he grew increasingly eager to tell their stories, to show their houses of worship and their often eccentric-looking worship spaces. There are over 500 buildings in that one city alone that have been re-purposed for urban worship!  I wish I had a picture of it to show you — we have a nice stack of them here and I promise you won’t be disappointed!


This special book offers at once an inclusive vision of the church — there are so many kinds of folks following Christ — and a study of urban ministry, often giving great and colorful dignity to the poor and oppressed and marginalized. This would be a great gift for anyone interested in urban affairs, in the story of under-the-radar street missions, and of racial and ethnic diversity.  Also, I must say, it would be a cherished gift for anyone interested in architecture or urban buildings, as these photographs capture such wonderfully curious spaces. It is very well produced, originally prepared in cooperation with Kent State University Press, on glossy paper, and very nicely reproduced photos. Witness is a rare find, which I promise will be an intriguing a blessing to that special person — even if you’ve never been to Ohio!

FOR ANYONE WHO LOVES WELL-WRITTEN, INTRIGUING MEMOIR

Swim, Ride, Run, Breathe: How I Lost a Triathlon And Caught My Breath Jennifer Garrison Brownell (Pilgrim Press) $18.00  From the first paragraph I was hooked — what a powerhouse of a punchy, good writer!  Brownell is an almost mid-life UCC pastor but this book is rather surprising: it is a moving, enjoyable, captivating memoir, telling of her interior life and thoughts — snarky at times, fearful, raw, a bit inspiring — as she concludes she wants to do a triathlon.  She is not — I repeat, she is not — an athletic type at all.  This ends up being somewhat of a reflection on the role of our bodies, especially since her husband is himself pretty seriously disabled and wheel-chair bound.   (Some of this is, then, about her marriage.) As the feisty, excellent writer and preacher Debbie Blue writes, “This is not an inspirational tale about cheerfully conquering adversity. It is a funny, heartbreaking and wise story about telling the truth in all its messy beauty and learning to love it. It’s about finding grace and gratitude in the ordinary and extraordinary details of life and memory. It is wonderful and hopeful. I loved it.”  So there.

TThe Year Without A Purchase- One Family's Quest to Stop Shopping and Start Connecting .jpghe Year WIthout A Purchase: One Family’s Quest to Stop Shopping and Start Connecting Scott Dannemiller (WJK) $16.00  This unassuming little volume is certainly one of my favorite books of the year — it made me laugh right out loud, made me cry and made me wonder what in the world they’d do next.  And what in the world I might do next. It’s fun and funny, as Dannemiller offers an insiders look into this family’s zany plan not to buy anything for a year (except food and essentials. And the stuff they might cheat on.) Margot Starbuck says it is “playful, thoughtful, substantial” and she is right;!  This family really did try to connect with others, living well on less, and it is told with a wink and a sly grin, even as it is nicely inviting and even compelling. Of course you don’t have to do what the Dannemiller’s — Scott, Gabby and two loud, smart kids — did. But you can give this book to anybody who likes a family drama, with a view to being more just, sustainable, joy-filled, and faithful.  Yeah.


Ordinary Light: A Memoir Tracy Smith (Knopf) $25.95  This has been on my list to read myself, and if you know somebody who is interested in complex, literate, important memoir, this is getting named on a e Pagels, Abraham Verghese, Julia Alvarez? It is lyrical, evocative, poignant without sentiment.  Jamaica Kincaid says it is “at once common and ordinary, while also being singular and unique.”  There is much love in this harsh story written by the “dazzlingly original Pulitzer Prize winning poet hailed for her ‘extraordinary range and ambition.'” 

Tracy Smith was the youngest of five children born into an affectionate, God-fearing African American home. Her parents were part of the struggles for human rights in the contentious Civil Rights era in Alabama;  Tracy ends up at Harvard in a new century, but her mother gets cancer right before she goes off to college.

It is said that “Ordinary Light is the story of a young woman struggling to fashion the own understanding of belief, loss, history, and what it means to be black in America.” .  It is “shot through with exquisite lyricism, wry humor, and an acute awareness of the beauty of everyday life.  I like what it say on the cover: “Here is a universal story of being and becoming, a classic portrait of the ways we find and lose ourselves amid the places we call home.” Smith teaches creative writing at Princeton University.

Wild in the Hollows.jpgWild in the Hollow: On Chasing Desire and Finding the Broken Way Home Amber C. Haines (Revell) $16.99  I wonder if anyone recalls the review I did from this late last summer?  I explained how very creatively written this is, a certain sort of moving voice, emerging from a poetic, young Christian woman, being honest about her life and faith journey.  God makes himself known in broken places, she learns, and from her conservative, Southern ethos she moves to a wider understanding of God’s grace.  This reflects on her deepest desires, about her wanting a certain sort of husband and certain sort of family and how it wasn’t quit meant to be.  I think any young woman who lies creative non-fiction would appreciate this, and if the woman is a wife and mother and doing ministry and having a hard time fitting it, it would be even better.  The remarkable writer Sarah Bessy says “this book made me feel homesick and at home all at he same time.”  Nish Weiseth, who wrote the very helpful Speak: How Your Story Can Change the World calls Amber Haines a “once-in-a-generation voice.”  And I love how Emily Freeman (author of the recent Simply Tuesday and last year’s A Million Little Ways) puts it: “How can a woman with a story so different from my own be telling my story too? Amber Haines has found a way, and I am deeply grateful for her artistry, her honesty, and her courage. This captivation book has stunned me speechless.”

god in sink.jpgGod in the SInk: Essays from Toad Hall Margie Haack (Kalos Press) $11.95  Okay, this isn’t a full-on autobiographical memoir, it is a collection of essays and ruminations, stories about her own life, her faith, her struggles, her family and the remarkable ordinariness she finds, day by day.  I say that the ordinariness is remarkable because Margie and Denis are remarkable folks, with an incredible ministry — hospitality, mentoring, cultural criticism and appreciation, writing, teaching, embodying the gospel in their own place, among those whom God brings to their door — so you’d think as evangelical rock stars they’d have some spiffy, notable life. And you would be wrong. You may know their stellar magazine, Critique and may appreciate their engaging honesty and spiritual depth. These are essays that have appeared in Margie’s own newsletter, formerly called Notes from Toad Hall, and are about finding God in the mundane moments of life, about feeling deep things, worry and annoyance and sadness and joy, even as she realizes God’s grace blesses us smack in the middle of our stumbling ways.


I love this book, it’s honesty about ordinary things, and commend it to men or women, young or old, who are up for an honest look at real life through the lens of woman who is sincere, devout, but a bit snarky, complaining, just shy of cynical.  And joyful, did I say joyful? Glad for knowledge of God, merciful because she knows mercy. This is a grand and great book, lively, wise, funny, and a perfect resource for those who want to read more than a predictable devotional, but not a major theological tome.  Get two, one for you and one for your friend or relative.  You won’t regret it. Soon, you, too, will find God in the kitchen sink.


The Art of Memoir Mary Karr (Harper)$24.99  Mary’s stunning memoir The Liar’s Club was followed by the equally breathtaking Cherry and helped set off the last 20th century fascinating with memoir. Her excellent third volume — again, it is so interestingly written and such a story! —  Lit, includes her story, such as it is, of her conversion to Christ.  These are exceptionally well regarded works by the literary world, and her recent book on how to write memoir will be interesting to anyone who follows the genre, or who cares about Ms Karr.  It is one my own bed stand and I cannot wait to read it for my own pleasure, soon.  Cheryl Strayed (Wild) says, 


Mary Karr has written another astonishingly perceptive, wildly
entertaining, and profoundly honest book-funny, fascinating, necessary. The Art of Memoir will be the definitive book on reading and writing memoir for years to come. 

FOR ONE WANTING TO KNOW WHAT — OR WHO — TO READ NEXT

Writers to Read- Nine Names That Belong on Your Bookshelf .jpgWriters to Read: Nine Names That Belong on Your Bookshelf Douglas Wilson (Crossway) $16.99  The spectacular writer Doug Wilson — who drives me crazy sometimes, I might point out — self published a great, great little book on writing on his odd little publishing house, Canon Press, called Wordsmithy.  I’ve read it twice, and if you are a young writer you should, too.  Out of that, perhaps, came this, too: good writers, good thinkers, good Christians in the contemporary Western world, should be readers, and thoughtful ones at that.  This book explains why, and gives you nine names whose works you should read.  As it says on the back, “If books are among our friends, we ought to choose them wisely.”   


Why are some authors truly important, considered great? Why should we go out of our way to read these, at least?  Can we become better readers as we take up the books of the finest writers?  Wilson curates a list here, guiding us through some books that he thinks we should read, and tells us why.  From Chesterton, Eliot, Mencken, and others, to P.G. Wodehouse, Robert Capon, Marilynn Robinson, many will love his discussion of these authors and their work.  You may be annoyed when you realize he included his colorful son, N.D. WIlson, with such august company, but I think it’s a fine choice for what he is doing here and I’d not expect anything other from D.W.  This is a fine, fine list and great advice for any eager reader. You should heed him, or at least mostly heed him.  This book is a fun, good start.

FOR THOSE INTERESTED IN POLITICS

The Political Disciple: A Theology of Public Life Vincent Bacote (Zondervan) $11.99  Call this a little stocking stuffer with a big bang. You may know we hosted Dr. Bacote to lecture out in PIttsburgh last summer and we were thrilled to hear him make this basic, important, nuanced claim that Christians must be involved in public life, without ideological loyalties to the right or left, but to offer uniquely Christian witness as citizens committed firstly to God’s reign.  Neither agitated or cynical, this is the most clear-headed, basic, and nicely short book on Christian engagement in civic life of which we know.  Part of four-book series of “Ordinary Theology” which includes fantastic small books on urban planning (CIties and the City to Come), on surgery (The Scalpel and the Cross), and one on sexuality (Faithful: A Theology of Sex.)  Get all four!

The Good of Politics: A Biblical, Historical and Contemporary Introduction James Skillen (Baker Academic) $24.00  Skillen is one of the premier thinkers about the reasonable relationship between faith and politics and a exceedingly needed voice these days. He has written careful, important books for four decades or more. (In fact, he founded the Center for Public Justice decades ago, written widely on Kuyper, social justice, and political pluralism and, by the way, has been one of the inspirations and intellectual mentors to the above-mentioned Vincent Bacote.  And me, too.) I have raved about this, naming it last year as one of the most important books of the year as it offers a solid, detailed exploration of how government has been understood throughout church history and how various denominations and traditions have often failed to grapple with all that the Scriptures teach about the nature of God’s creation, the common good, and the task of the state. A must-read for anyone wanting to develop a faithful understanding of civil society, the role of law, and the nature of public justice,statecraft and citizenship.

Five Views on the Church and Politics- Five Views.jpgFive Views on the Church and Politics: Five Views edited by Amy Black (Zondervan) $19.99  This is brand, brand new —  we got it a bit early into the store just this week!  It is one of these useful, if almost tedious, studies that offers six views, and then, after each chapter, the other authors offer their own response and critique. By the end of the book  you not only hear great examples of these varying viewpoints, but the responses back and forth of the other positions. What a great way to learn!  The perspectives and orientations of this amazing collection include a “seperationist” view written by a Mennonite/ Anabaptist, a “two kingdoms” approach written by Robert Benne, a Lutheran, a classic Roman Catholic view, a prophetic black church perspective and an integrationist/Reformed view by Kuyperian James K.A. Smith.  I must admit I read Jamie’s chapter first and it is brilliant, concise, insightful. I’m eager to join this conversation, and trust you know somebody who will be grateful to get this as a gift.

FOR THOSE WHO ARE TEACHERS

Teaching and the Christian Imagination .jpgTeaching and the Christian Imagination edited by David Smith & Susan Felch (Eerdmans) $22.00  This literally just arrived today and I’ve been eager to see it for weeks and weeks now, having heard about it from the publisher and one of the authors. Talk about brand new! This is a wonderfully conceived and wonderfully written anthology of great pieces about three central metaphors for teaching — pilgrimage, gardening, and building.   A rave review on the back by Dorothy Bass of Valparaiso University notes that readers will “encounter BIblical texts, poems and works of art that will help you see what you do every day with new eyes.”  Perry Glanzer of Baylor says “I have never read anything quite like this delightful book.”  This will be soul-nourishing and encourage educators — from elementary to high school to college instructors — to greater faithfulness and excellence in their craft.  It includes some important folks who have written about faithful views of education such as Barbara Carvill, Kurt Schaefer, Timothy Steele and John Witvliet.  Smart, thoughtful, and I am confident it will be fabulous for those serious about teaching. Smith, by the way, is the director of the Kuyers institute for Christian Teaching and Learning and director graduate studies in education at Calvin College while Susan Felch is director of the Calvin Center for Christian Scholarship and a professor of English there. 

Making a Difference: Christian Educators in Public Schools Donovan Graham (Purposeful Design) $16.95  This is a book I regularly suggest, perhaps the best in this small genre of thoughtful, faith-informed view of serving as a public school teacher.  We have books that are more detailed, studying theories of education from a Christian worldview, and we have some that are lighter, encouragement and prayers and devotionals, but this is just right, a helpful survey of how to be “salt and light” and make a difference in the lives of the children one teaches in public schools.  Nice.

FOR THOSE INTERESTED IN SCIENCE

The Language of Science and Faith: Straight Answers to Genuine Questions Karl Giberson & Francis Collins (InterVarsity Press) $22.00  We often recommend this nice hardback as a very solid overview — in a useful question and answer sort of format — helping people in the science community realize faith is not a detriment and helping people in the church world realize that science can be approached rigorously without compromising appropriate, BIblical theology.  This is not only about the questions of evolution and origins, and it is not from the view of “creation science” so it should have very wide appeal.  Highly recommended as one way into this vital conversation. 

Delight in Creation- Scientists Share Their Work with the Church.jpgDelight in Creation: Scientists Share Their Work with the Church Edited by Deborah Haarsma & Scott Hoezee (Center for Excellence in Preaching) $16.99  You most likely won’t find this book anywhere else, but we couldn’t be more thrilled to promote it.  Created by a scientist and a preacher, this is a collection of stories of various scientists, people of deep faith, describing what they do.  The goal of this fine book was to alert preachers what many of their parishioners actually do, and how these Christians in the science professions relate their sense of vocation and calling to their research. There are testimonials here from earth scientists, environmentalists, an astronomer, a psychological researcher, a chemist, an engineers, a mathematician, a scholar of bio-ethics and more. What’s also great as it was nicely designed with breath-taking pictures, some handsome color graphics, and a very nice, classy touch here at there. (Kudos to our friends Rob and Kirsten Vander Giessen-Reitsma for their good work.) What a great paperback book to enhance anyone’s vision of the delight we can have in God’s wondrous world and the good work done by those with the vocation of service through science.

The Story of Science: From the Writings of Aristotle to the Big Bang Theory Susan Wise Bauer (Norton) $26.95  I hope you know — and stand in awe of — the vast learning and good writing of Ms Bauer.  She is known for a several remarkable, big volumes such as The Story of the World andThe Well-Educated Mind (called a “landmark” achievement, reviewed well in the New York Times and America, for instance) and is esteemed in both classical and home schooling circles,. She has been published in exceptional journals and many news outlets. This recent one is, as you might guess, her  well-organized and nicely-written overview of the history of science.  Or, more precisely, it is a guided tour through the best science writing.  Called “a riveting road map to the development of modern scientific thought” it will surely appeal to those who appreciate a bigger picture, or for those who want to read groundbreaking science writing for themselves, rather then having it be interpreted in public debates by journalists and politicos. There are twenty-eight succinct chapters illuminating the entire history of science by examining the writings that have been offered by the scientists and scholars. 

Mathematics Through the Eyes of Faith James Bradley & Russell Howell (HarperOne) $19.99 This is a remarkable book, interesting to anyone in the STEM fields, asking about the relationship of chance and divine providence, what concepts like infinity might offer to theological reflection, and wondering whether math is, in fact, discovered or invented, and why it is so effective and important in the sciences. Most of the earliest Western mathematicians believed in God and some were lively Christians. The rich intersection of faith and math has never been more exciting and vital to explore.

FOR SOMEONE INTERESTED IN TRANSFORMATIVE DISCIPLESHIP, SPIRITUALITY FOR DAILY LIVING

Good-and-Beautiful- all three 300x160.pngThe Good and Beautiful God: Falling in Love with the God Jesus Knows

The Good and Beautiful Life: Putting on the Character of Christ

The Good and Beautiful Community: Following the Spirit, Extending Grace, Demonstrating Love 

James Bryan Smith (formatio/IVP) $24.00 each

Any one of these three from the “Apprentice Series” could be life-changing, and each have garnered some of the strongest reviews we’ve seen in decades of selling books about the interior life, spiritual renewal, and contemplative discipleship. The late, great Dallas Willard has said that these offer “the best practices I have seen in Christian spiritual formation.”

They are handsome together as a set, but they do stand alone, and we are sure that they would be helpful to someone you know and love.  For what it is worth, these are our favorite sorts of books: thoughtful and wise and profound, without being overly mystical or deeply eccentric. Just what most folks really need, plainspoken guidance on transformation from the inside out, based on our understanding of God, our commitments to Christ, and how the Spirit works in community!

visions of vocation.jpgVisions of Vocation: Common Grace for the Common Good Steven Garber (IVP) $16.00  I suppose you know we’d suggest that you give this to a special someone; VoV is one of my all time favorite books, and it speaks so very eloquently and deeply about the things that matter most — how we construe our lives, the meaning of history, the nature of God’s promises in Christ — that is should be read by all thoughtful people, religious or not. It’s largest themes, though, keep circling back to questions of how to care about the world without giving up, how to love well, finding passion particularly in one’s own discernment about calling and career. Can we take on God’s messy world, serving well, offering our best selves to make a difference right where we are? We will sustain faithful Kingdom living for the common good if we are clear about our own visions of vocation and trust God to work through us, in but not of this crazy world. I love this book, and you should give it to someone who hungers for integrity, who will not abide cheap answers, who wants a good writer and serious thinker.  Such a nice cover, too.  Highly recommended.

Renaissance -  Os Guinness.jpgRenaissance: The Power of the Gospel However Dark the Times Os Guinness (IVP) $16.00  This is a truly handsome paperback and, truly, one of the most important spiritual books I’ve read in years. I cannot easily summarize Dr. Guinness’s profound insights, but it does at least say this: we must trust God for social renewal, public justice, and cultural transformation, and we cannot expect to manipulate it with power, media buys, church growth or other man-made strategies to change the world. We should, indeed, use our gifts and callings to serve God robustly in all of life, but we should also realize that a spiritual renaissance comes from the gospel itself, not our own efforts.  It is at once a stinging rebuke to the idols of our culture and a critique of churches (liberal or conservative) that fail to live distinctively. If  you know someone who needs a reminder of robust, orthodox seriousness and a pleasant and inspiring call to hope, this might be the perfect small gift. It’s not a large book, but it carries a large, large message: trust and obey, live in hope.  What a fine, eloquent book.

cultivated life.jpgThe Cultivated Life: From Ceaseless Striving To Receiving Joy Susan Phillips (formatio/IVP) $17.00  We have highlighted this book throughout the fall at various events, and folks have appreciated this lovely tone, the gracious, ecumenical perspective, and how this woman, who is a professor of sociology and a spiritual director, weaves together fresh visions for living well.  A great forward by Eugene Peterson reminds us that this book helps us wisely walk through the disconnected “circus” of our fast-paced modern culture.  As Phillips puts it, “Cultivation requires a kind of attentiveness that is counter-cultural to our age of distraction.”  Know anybody ready to leave the circus?

Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God Timothy Keller (Dutton) $26.95  This is surely one of the great Christian books of the year, a major work with solid theology and wise counsel and helpful application. Keller is famous for being both astute and serious-minded, popular among his parish of mostly young, sophisticates in Manhattan.  This is rich, grounded in the best thinking of the ages, applied smartly to modern believers. Very good.  This is a sturdy hardback that just came out in early November.  See, also, his brand new devotional, The Songs of Jesus, described below.

FOR SOMEONE WANTING A UNIQUE DAILY DEVOTIONAL

songs of jesus.jpgThe Songs of Jesus: A Year of Daily Devotions in the Psalms  Timothy and Kathy Keller (VIking) $19.95  Yep, this is a daily devotional, a short reading from the pens of Tim and Kathy, inspired by their own practice of reading the Psalms day by day throughout the year.  There is solid exegesis, some helpful spiritual insights, and a bit of their own life shared together in a very handsome compact sized hardback with a ribbon marker.  This is a wonderfully reliable, thoughtful, handsome. Highly recommended.

One Year Home and Garden Devotions Sandra Byrd (Tyndale) $15.99  This attractive paperback devotional covers one whole year and offers an encouraging, applicable, sometimes humorous, and always personal message each day for contemporary women of all ages who delight in being busy at home.  This is earnest and often quite personal.  The publisher offers this sentence as one example of the insights which emerge from caring for one’s home life.

There is something poignant and meaningful about up-cycling an abandoned planter with its well-earned patina while considering how the lines of life has etched on us actually makes us more appealing.

Disciplines: A Book of Daily Devotions 2016 The Upper Room (Abingdon) $15.00  This perennial best seller is a favorite among many.  It is a handsome, somewhat trim sized, handy paperback written mostly by working United Methodist pastors, seminary profs and preachers. Each d;ay has a selected Bible reading, of course, a meditation on the scripture passage and a prayer or suggestion for reflection.  The authors are from a variety of backgrounds and each one does a week’s worth, offering 53 different voices. Very nicely done.

FOR SOMEONE INTERESTED IN PROGRESSIVE FAITH, A DOWN-TO-EARTH SPIRITUALLY, AND DISCIPLESHIP ORIENTED TO OUR COMMON SPACES

Grounded.pngGrounded: Finding God in the World — A Spiritual Revolution  Diana Butler Bass (HarperOne) $26.99  I have reviewed this just a bit on line, and hope to write more about it someday, but keep coming back to it’s basic structure and main points.  It is arranged in a fascinating, generative way, the first third being luminous, important, and excellent descriptions of how Christian faith must be informed by our “natural habitats” of dry, water, and sky.  For those that recall Diana’s beautiful memoir Strength for the Journey: A Pilgrimage in Community you know that she can write wonderfully, weaving seamlessly social and cultural analysis (she is trained as a church historian) and vulnerable testimony of her own personal story, doubts and warts and all.  Here, she writes more beautifully than ever, drawing on science writers and naturalists (Bill McKibben, Wendell Berry, Annie Dillard) to help us understand our place on Earth. And where God is being discovered even among those who are most attentive to concerns about the state of the environment.

The second, perhaps even more interesting portion of the book, explores “Human Geography” by writing of how spirituality evolves and is embodied within structures of roots, home, neighborhood and the commons.  Any one of these chapters is well worth pondering, and I am grateful for her passionate storytelling and her broad theological reading as she points us to a faith that is grounded, for the life of the world, in service to the common good of the whole cosmos. A few of these chapters moved me deeply (despite asides and sentences that I found troubling, even off putting, at times.)  This manifesto for real world faith, grounded in places — yes, she cites Wendell Berry and Wes Jackson, too — will resonant with many who are seeking belonging and fidelity amidst a culture of displacement.

I think this very handsome hardback will make a nice gift for many, but I am a little reluctant to promote it widely. Conservative evangelicals will find some of her theological sources suspect — she draws on Paul Tillich and Sally McFague and Marcus Borg and mystics such as John O’Donohue and John Philip Newell. It might be fair to say she stands in the tradition of deep immanence, favoring panentheism — citing authors like Brian Greene and Matthew Fox. In a way it is the next logical step after her much-discussed 2012 watershed release, Christianity After Religion.  It is, however, more beautifully written and more personal, as she shares of her own deeply anguished journey about “Christianity for the rest of us” and how to sustain church involvement and spiritual practices while moving increasingly towards involvement in the post-Christian but deeply spiritual ethos of our ecological age, to what really is.   

I would recommend Bass’s Grounded to be read with discernment and with healthy conversation partners — there’s so much to ponder and discuss! — by nearly anyone, but it will be an especially cherished gift for those who have these intuitions about faith that is expressed in less dogmatic and more experiential ways, attuned to what God is doing in this new era of awareness of both the threats to and the blessings of God’s good creation. Shauna Niequist says “Grounded made me love this beautiful world more deeply, and made God’s presence more visible everywhere I looked.”

If one needs a Biblically-oriented, historically orthodox, theology book that places the search for awe and wonder and faithful practices of environmental sustainability within a more conventionally evangelical worldview, this may not be the one… 

FOR NORMAN WIRZBA LOVERS, CREATION-CARE ADVOCATES, OR THOSE FOLLOWING THIS SERIES, EDITED BY JAMES K.A. SMITH

From Nature to Creation- A Christian Vision for Understanding and Loving Our World.jpgFrom Nature to Creation: A Christian Vision for Understanding and Loving Our World Norman Wirzba (Baker Academic) $19.99  I can tell you of at least three sorts of folks who would love having this book gifted to them, during this time of year or anytime. It is going to be a beloved gift, I’m sure…

Firstly, and most obviously, it will be appreciated by those who love Wirzba’s writings. He’s pals with Wendell Berry and has served to edit some of Berry’s populist, agrarian work. He has written a major book on the spiritual roots of the modern environmentalist movement, and a major book on the theology of food (Food and Faith: A Theology of Eating.)  We adore his very accessible co-authored paperback Making Peace with the Land: God’s Call to Reconcile with Creation — written with farmer Fred Bahnson.  Professor Wirzba’s Living the Sabbath is a delightful read, challenging and wide-ranging as we learn the rhythms of rest and delight in God’s good world. Many friends and customers of Hearts & Minds are fans of Wirzba.


Secondly, of course, there are those who simply care about these issues, that really are interested in the outdoors, environmental protection, creation-care, living lightly in their own place, but maybe don’t know his serious body of work. This would be a great choice, deep and foundational, important and clear.

Thirdly, one of the most talked about and often-cited contemporary Christian thinkers and writers these days is James K.A. Smith.  We have hosted lectures with him and count him as a friend — even though his serious output (even as editor of Comment magazine) is hard to keep up with.  This volume, From Nature to Creation, is the most recent in a big series Jamie Smith has edited, a series of weighty paperbacks called “The Church and Postmodern Culture.”  In each, European (and often French, deconstructive) post-modern philosophy is brought into conversation with historic Christian theology and church life.  Although this one seems perhaps a bit less obviously postmodern — others in the Smith series include books with titles like Whose Afraid of Postmodernism?, Whose Afraid of Relativism? What Would Jesus Deconstruct and Globo-christ, just for instance — this Wirzba one will take its place on the shelf next to others in the series, especially The Economy of Desire (Daniel Bell) and The Politics of Discipleship (Graham Ward.) Anyway, there are those who have been collecting this whole set.  Earlier in the year we reviewed the previous one in the Smith-edited series, the excellent Fieldwork in Theology: Exploring the Social Context of God’s Work in the World by Christian Scharen.  Norman Wirzba’s, I’ve heard, is the final one in this 10 book series.  We’ve got em all.

FOR THE SPIRITUAL OUTDOORS ADVENTURER

Backpacking with the Saints: WIlderness Hiking as a Spiritual Practice Belden Lane (Oxford University Press) $24.95  We only have a very few of these left, but it is remarkable. You may know our love for his deep and stunning similar book The Solace of Fierce Landscapes (also Oxford University Press; $) As I’ve described before, this serious book studies great religious mystics, each read and explored in a particular outdoor mountain climb, river expedition or wilderness sojourn  This offers mature reflections on classic spiritual writings — from Therese of Lisieux to St. John of the Cross toLuther to Merton and more — and some nifty outdoor hiking tales in some pretty fabulous locations.

Rewilding the Way.jpgRewilding the Way: Break Free to Follow an Untamed God Todd Wynward (Herald Press) $15.99  Be warned!  This outdoorsy book — set in the stark, striking American Southwest — will rock your world.  Wynward is a wilderness guide who has spent more than one thousand nights in the great outdoors. He founded a wilderness-based public charter school.  He is passionate about how we need to be in touch with the power and rhythms and wonder of God’s creation, but this is not just a book about outdoor adventure. It is a serious and uncompromising call to reject the ease of modern life, to faithfully follow Christ, to be “wild” in our understanding of faith and whole-life discipleship. I quipped to one friend that he reminds me of Shane Claiborne, but in the desert wilds rather then the urban slums.

Wynward is a fine writer, an exceptional visionary, a creative educator, forming communities able to help us reject soul-deadening affluenenza and culturally-accommodated church; importantly, he’s alive to the ways of Jesus.

Best Day on Earth.jpgBest Day on Earth: The World’s Most Extraordinary Experiences From Dawn till After Dark  Rough Guides (Penguin) $19.95  Okay, this is a large sized, full color, brightly arranged paperback that is so much fun to behold, I can hardly contain myself. Imagine — okay, it takes quite a leap — to plan the ultimate 24 hours on Earth. Witness nature’s greatest spectacles, be inspired by off-road adventures, try a new adrenaline sport in a far-flung destination, and see famous sights in a different light.  Search the internet all you want, you will be hard pressed to find such lush photographs, so coherently arranged, taking you on this mission impossible.  Rough Guides are legendary for their accuracy and back-roads insight, and have done similar fun books, such as their popular Make the Most of Your Time on Earth and First Time Around the World.  (Yeah, the rough-riding guide to the first time you travel around the globe.)

This Best Day starts at daybreak as you “marvel at otherworldly Cappadocia” in Turkey and watch the famous stilt fisherman at work in Sri Lanka, and then on to see dawn break over Bagan in Myanmar.  And on it goes, short entry by entry, with amazing full color pictures.  You can “haggle at Cai Rang Floating Market” in Viet Nam  or wake up in the Mojave Desert in the USA.  There’s a great map, and lots of options — maybe you’d want to experience rush hour in Mumbai, India, or try the life aquatic in the Red Sea.  You’ve got to see the picture of the active volcano Irazu in Costa Rica.

You’ll be back in Myanmar to see the Golden Rock at dusk. and will enjoy the brightly colored lanterns at Hoi An’s Full Moon Festival — if it’s the fourteenth day of the lunar calendar, at least. Later, you can see an all-night parade in Rio and after trying your late night luck in Vegas, admire the Northern Lights in Swedish Lapland.   What a fun picture journey all over the world.

FOR SOMEONE WHO IS SERIOUS ABOUT STUDYING MISSIOLOGY

The Gospel and Pluralism Today- Reassessing Lesslie Newbigin.jpgThe Gospel and Pluralism Today: Reassessing Lesslie Newbigin in the 21st Century edited by Scott W. Sunquist and Amos Yong (IVP Academic) $28.00 This is an amazing work, compiled by two leading evangelical thought leaders, with several major contributors (including our friend Dr. Esther Meek.) It just came out so I have not studied it, but I am confident it will be considered one of the most significant books of the year.

Here’s what it says on the back cover: toward the end of the twentieth century, Lesslie Newbigin offered a penetrating analysis of the challenges of pluralism that confronted a Western culture and society reeling from the dissolution of Christendom. His enormous influence has been felt ever since. Newbigin (1909-1998) was a longtime Church of Scotland missionary to India and later General Secretary of the International Missionary Council and Associate General Secretary of the World Council of Churches.

They continue, the essays in this volume explore three aspects of Newbigin’s legacy. First, they assess the impact of his 1989 book, Gospel in a Pluralist Society, on Christian mission and evangelism in the West. Second, they critically analyze the nature of Western pluralism in its many dimensions to discern how Christianity can proclaim good news for today. Finally, the contributors discuss the influence of Newbigin’s work on the field of missiology. By looking backward, this volume recommends and advances a vision for Christian witness in the pluralistic world of the twenty-first century.

FOR INKLING FANS WHO THOUGHT THEY HAD IT ALL

Bandersnatch- C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the Creative Collaboration of the jpgBandersnatch: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the Creative Collaboration of the Inklings Diana Pavlac Glyer (Kent State University Press) $18.95  There may be no other book like this, a serious and mature study of the creative process used by this legendary group of Christian writers.   It has been eagerly anticipated; Glyer’s older book The Company They Keep  broke new ground in understanding the friendship of Lewis and Tolkien.  This one is a joy to read and is a fabulous invitation to think about collaboration in work and in cultural creativity. 

Michael Ward of Planet Narnia fame writes,

 No one knows more than Diana Pavlac Glyner about the internal workings of the Inklings. In Bandersnatch, she shows us how they inspired, encouraged, refined, and opposed one another in the course of producing some of the greatest literature of the last on hundred years.


Charles Williams- The Third Inkling.jpgCharles Williams: The Third Inkling Grevel Lindop (Oxford University Press) $34.95  I joked that this could have been called “the weird Inkling” as William’s fascination with the occult and spiritually mystical traditions was an important contribution to his work with Lewis, Tolkien and the others. Eerdmans still has some of his mysterious fantasy novels in print; one is said to have influenced some of Dancin’ in the Dragon’s Jaws by Bruce Cockburn. His church history, The Descent of the Dove, remains a true classic.  Colin Duriez says, “A ground-breaking and compelling biography establishing, after years of neglect, Charles Williams as a poet, writer, and critic of unusual importance.” Almost 500 pages, it was just released a few weeks ago.

FOR SOMEONE INTERESTED IN SERIOUS THEOLOGY

The Crucifixion Rutledge.jpgThe Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ Fleming Rutledge (Eerdmans) $45.00  I hope you saw our major announcement about this at BookNotes a few weeks ago as we had the opportunity to be one of the very first bookstores to promote this and to be with this renowned Episcopalian preacher and scholar as she lectured during a recent book launch event. This very new 668 page book is a stunning, serious, tour de force, acclaimed by folks all over the theological spectrum for being a classic, historic study of the meaning of the cross, the nature of Christ’s death and how our justification is received through God’s grace. What a major work, surely to be much discussed in years to come. 

Joy and Human Flourishing- Essays on Theology, Culture, and the Good Life.jpgJoy and Human Flourishing: Essays on Theology, Culture, and the Good Life edited by Miroslav Volf and Justine E. Crisp (Fortress Press) $39.00  Fortress almost always overprices their books, but this, this, is worth every dollar, an excellent collection of important essays by some of the finest working theologians writing today.  It is a book about joy, about life lived in God, about human and cultural flourishing; you can read chapters by  Jurgen Moltmann, N.T. Wright, Marianne Meye Thompson, Mary Clark Moschella, Charles Mathewes, Miroslav Volf.  The very introduction will bless you and stimulate your thinking: it is called “Bright Sorrow” which is a phrase from Russian Orthodox scholar Alexander Schmemann’s For the Life of the World. Endorsements are from Willie James Jennings, the African American scholar now at Yale, and John Ortberg, the popular pastor at Menlo Park EPC Church in California.  

Listen to what Nicholas Wolterstorff says of Joy and Human Flourishing:

If ever a book filled a gap, this is it. Joy is a central component in the New Testament description of life as it is meant to be lived. Yet theologians have given little attention. Philosophers have done no better. This volume is an excellent beginning at filling that gap. It’s ground-breaking.

Our Program- A Christian Political Manifesto Abraham Kuyper.jpgOur Program: A Christian Political Manifesto (Collected Works in Public Theology) Abraham Kuyper (Lexham Press) $49.99  This is the first of an comprehensive, years-in-the-making publishing program translating (sometimes for the first time) into English the legendary theology of common grace created by the prolific Dutch scholar and civic leader.  Kuyper lived in the end of the 19th century into the early 20th century, and the recent interest in his work is nothing short of phenomenal. As I cited in my review a few weeks ago, Greg Forster writes, “It is a scandal and a disgrace that we have all read Burke’s response to the French Revolution, but few in the English-speaking world have read the equally profound and equally consequential response of Abraham Kuyper — a response that has at least as much to say to twenty-first century readers as Burkes.”

Gordon Graham (Henry Luce Professor of Philosophy and the Arts at Princeton Theological Seminary) says “Kuyper’s ‘anti-revolutionary’ vision, worked out here at length, provides an illuminating historical lens through which to see contemporary debates between Christianity and secularism.”  Fascinating.  This is a large sized hardback with lots of annotations and helpful aids to work through this seminal work of public theology.

FOR A SAINT FRANCIS FAN, OR ANYONE WHO LOVES ART FROM THE MIDDLE AGES

The Story of St. Francis of Assisi In Twenty Eight jpgThe Story of St. Francis of Assisi In Twenty Eight Scenes Timothy Verdon (Mount Tabor Books) $24.99  Do you recall last years absolutely lush, classy and quite hefty book by Verdon called The Art of Prayer? What a great gift that makes for anyone interested in older Christian art, full color reproductions designed to show how beholding ancient beauty can enhance one’s spiritual life.  Here, the esteemed Christian art historian (trained at Yale and now the Academic Director of the Mount Tabor Centre in Barga, Italy) offers a lovely short biography of the life and mission of Francis, by reflecting on twenty eight art pieces.

These aren’t just any art pieces, but are the legendary thirteenth-century frescos by Giotta that cover the walls of the famous Basilica in Assisi named for the saint.  Here is what it says on the back of this handsome book:  They are reproduced in full color, together with a schematic drawing showing their placement in the church.  Through detailed descriptions and illuminating commentary on each of the famous frescoes, Verdon tells the story of Francis’s extraordinary life, allowing today’s reader the opportunity to “read” the art on those walls in the same way that a medieval Christian might have done.

Wow.  Frankly, even if one isn’t all that interested in the poor monk himself, this idea of exploring the experience of viewing these intentionally placed frescoes — as perhaps millions of people have over the centuries! — is itself a remarkable experience of the Body of Christ, seeing what others have seen, and learning what others have done, from the 13th century onward.  Produced well on heavy stock paper, this is a fine, fine book and will be a treasured gift for someone special.  Be sure to take a peek yourself before you wrap it and share its glory.

A MODERN DAY MEMOIR ABOUT READING AN ANCIENT BOOK  (FOR SOMEBODY WHO NEEDS A SELF HELP BOOK BUT WON’T READ A TYPICAL ONE.)

how dante can save.jpgHow Dante Can Save Your Life: The Life-Changing Wisdom of History’s Greatest Poem Rod Dreher (Regan Arts) $29.95  I have written about this at length, and shared my appreciation for this often in these last months.  It is technically a sequel to The Littel Way of Ruthie Leming his tear-jerking and altogether lovely memoir of leaving the fast-paced, high-powered life of a culture reporter, political pundit, and film critic to move to rural Louisiana to be with his extended family after the death of his beloved sister. Alas, he gets settled in to this family-oriented, slower paced Southern town only to realize not all is well in the family system. He gets depressed, develops an auto-immune illness from the stress, gets into counseling, helps plant an Orthodox church, and — low and behold — finds the thing that helps him out of his serious funk and the serious dysfunctions of his not so warm and friendly way of life is reading The Divine Comedy.  This is a southern, nearly Gothic tale, a study of Dante, and the thinking person’s self help book.  I loved it.

Eric Metaxas gets it right when he says,

Sometimes a book comes along that you want to press into the hands of everyone you know. A brilliant, searingly honest account of one man’s path to real healing, and an invitation to the rest of us to join him.

Ronald Herzman, the SUNY professor who teaches the audio Great Courses lectures on The DIvine Comedy says “Dreher has assimilated what is most urgent in Dante and makes The Divine Comedy passionately real.

A KILLER MEMOIR FOR THE HIP AND RELIGIOUSLY CYNICAL, WHO LIKES A RAW, HONEST TELLING OF A MESSED UP EMERGENT CHURCH

Accidental Saints- Finding God in All the Wrong People.jpgAccidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People Nadia Bolz-Weber Convergent Books) $23.00  Okay, this is not for everyone. Trust me on this. Give this to your up-tight, Victorian fundamentalist aunt and her grey hair will turn purple!  Give it to your young, truly reformed crusader and he’ll put up his dukes to smack  you down for pushing heresy, GLTB dignity, and women preachers, tattooed up, no less.  She is edgy and a little odd and a little jaded and ornery and part of a community that is assured of the righteousness of being progressive.  This isn’t the soft edge of evangelicalism and it isn’t mere dressed up liberalism.  This is far out Bible-reading, serious stuff about law and grace.

So, if you know somebody who is comfortable within the youth-ish culture that uses the F-word casually, who writes with irony and postmodern edge, and who still loves Christ and His holy church, well, this author of Pastrix might keep them in the church, and might make them thank you profusely for years to come.  This book is as weird and funny and sacrilegious and inconsistent and sinful and creative as anything I’ve read all year.  And you know what: it sings grace, it lives out evangelical hospitality, offers good news of acceptance and dignity to all listening in to her story about her peculiarly named church with right-on theological meaning: The House of All Sinners and Saints. It isn’t my subculture and it isn’t my style of speaking and it isn’t my theological tendency, but it was won of the most amazing reading experiences I’ve had in years!  It moved both Beth and I deeply, and we are grateful to have experienced it.

One reviewer said it is “a triumph of faithful storytelling,” Another write of it that “this book made me so happy to be a Christian. Honest and funny, deep and insightful Accidental Saints disarmed me and then, right when I was vulnerable, Nadia’s words snuck right in to mess with me.”  Another says “Nadia understands more than most that we are messed up people living in a messed up world with other messed up people. She gets the human condition. She refuses to sugar coat the depths of her own desperation and need.  And that’s why she get’s grace — our dire need for grace… I couldn’t put this book down.”

I couldn’t either, and I appreciate much about her counter-cultural vibe, her emergent Lutheran faith community that invites all manner of oddballs to show up.  I like A.J. Jacobs famous quip that Nadia is what you get if you’d mix the DNA of Louis C.K., Joey Ramone, and Saint Paul.”  She is a recovering addict, a former late night stand up comic, and an ex-fundamentalist now serving as a liberal Lutheran in punkish attire — and often wearing that liturgical dog collar.  She’s a darned good writer, stunningly s