By Bill Reimer
SEARCHING FOR SOME books to give at Christmas but don’t know where to begin? To help you out, we’ve asked Bill Reimer, the manager of Regent College Bookstore in Vancouver, for his recommendations of recently published books.
Devotion and Spirituality
Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God by Tim Keller. Dutton. A guide to prayer by a well-respected Manhattan pastor and author, who while possessing impeccable Reformed credentials, ranges widely throughout the Pietist, Roman Catholic and Orthodox traditions of prayer.
A Prayer Journal by Flannery O’Connor. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. A recently discovered prayer journal written between 1946 and 1947 while O’Connor was a student at the University of Iowa. A glimpse of the interior of an extremely talented young person who longs to use her artistic gift in God’s service but even more, to commune with God.
God For Us: Rediscovering the Meaning of Lent and Easter edited by Greg Pennoyer and Gregory Wolfe. Paraclete Press. Daily meditations, Scripture readings and classic art illustrations. A sequel to God With Us: Rediscovering the Meaning of Christmas.
Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More—Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist by Karen Swallow Prior. Thomas Nelson. More, a contemporary of Wilberforce, is the subject of a short but accessible biography by the literary scholar, Prior, who draws a picture of a life of great accomplishment but not without weakness.
Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand. Random House. The story of Louis Zamperini, child of Italian immigrants, juvenile delinquent, Olympic runner, airman, broken, alcoholic ex-POW, who was transformed by Jesus Christ. When people ask me for a book recommendation I inevitably show them Unbroken. Now in paperback and audiobook with the film version coming to a theatre near you this Christmas.
George Whitefield: America’s Spiritual Founding Father by Thomas S. Kidd. Yale University Press. A non-hagiographic biography by a first-rate American church historian. Whitefield, born in an inn in Gloucester, England, went on to become a central figure of the North Atlantic evangelical awakening during the eighteenth century.
Village of Secrets: Defying the Nazis in Vichy France by Caroline Moorehead. Random House. The story of Le Chambon and a cluster of other villages that sheltered hundreds of children. Heavily Protestant, the Huguenot flavour of the villages has been emphasized in previous studies, but Plymouth Brethren were also prominent in rescue as well as some Catholics and even secularists.
True Paradox: How Christianity Makes Sense of Our Complex World by David Skeel. InterVarsity Press.
Likening the book to a “gateway drug” for people who don’t think there is any reason to take Christianity seriously, Skeel attempts to make Christian sense of the complexity of human experience in a suffering world. For an article that features Skeel and an atheist friend, google: “new york times skeel”.
To be a Christian: An Anglican Catechism by The Catechesis Task Force of the Anglican Church in North America. Anglican House Publishers. “This Catechism is designed to make clear to everyone what it means to be a Christian.” With an introduction by J.I. Packer, it is a fine example of simple and classic catechetical instruction with an Anglican accent.
Seriously Dangerous Religion: What the Old Testament Really Says and Why It Matters by Iain Provan. Baylor University Press. A creative response, by a master teacher of Old Testament, to the current cultural challenge of a Richard Dawkins, a Karen Armstrong, and a Derrick Jensen, all of whom see the God of the Old Testament as monstrous or just primitive. An invitation to those who think the biblical story to be untrue and dangerous to reconsider!
Paul and the Faithfulness of God by N.T. Wright. Fortress Press. A door stopper. Where does one begin? Wright begins with the story of the slave Onesimus and the new way of life that Paul sees as coming with the Messiah, Jesus. Wright’s mastery of the primary sources and how they fit within the Greco-Roman world are on full display here and we are grateful even if we never finish reading this magnificent series.
Lila: A Novel by Marilynne Robinson. Harper Collins. The follow-up to her Pulitzer Prize-winning Gilead and Orange Prize-winning Home, Lila returns to Gilead, Iowa, to tell the story of minister John Ames's enigmatic second wife, who arrives in town one rainy day after years of drifting and migrant work. Robinson, a highly-gifted author, is a self-identifying Christian and an admirer of the writings of John Calvin.
Planted: A Story of Creation, Calling, and Community by Leah Kostamo. Cascade Books. In a fine literary debut, Kostomo reflects on the story of the A Rocha environmental community situated on a farm near Vancouver. This is no mere “chronology” but rather a work of deep spiritual memoir that takes us into a family that is “planted” in a community within God’s good creation.
Inhabiting Our Culture
Vanishing Grace: What Ever Happened to the Good News? by Philip Yancey. Zondervan. A kind of What’s So Amazing About Grace? revisited, only at a time when there is a much increased hostility towards Christianity. Yancey, using a disarming cast of Christians past and present, seeks to nudge the Church away from useless culture-warring and on to a grace-filled path.
How (Not) To Be Secular: Reading Charles Taylor by James K.A. Smith. Wm B. Eerdmans. One Canadian Christian philosopher making another Canadian Christian philosopher accessible for a broader audience. This small book is gaining traction.
Kingdom Conspiracy: Returning to the Radical Mission of the Local Church by Scot McKnight. Brazos Press. Newly ordained as an ACNA priest, veteran New Testament scholar McKnight argues that rather than being “buzzwords for both social justice and redemption,” the biblical concept of “kingdom of God” is much more closely rooted in the role of the local church. A controversial book that is worth wrestling with.
Children Young and Old
Favorite Parables from the Bible: Stories Jesus Told by Nick Butterworth and Mick Inkpen: Zondervan. Back in print in North America. My favourite. This book connects. My grown kids still remember the words.
Pilgrim’s Progress retold by Gary Schmidt, illustrated by Barry Moser. Wm B. Eerdman's. A great evening read with marvelous illustrations.
Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing by Sally Lloyd-Jones, illustrated by Jago. Zondervan. Devotional thoughts marvelously illustrated for almost everyone in the family. Published in 2012 but now with a deluxe cover that is appropriate for gift-giving.