Monday, November 30, 2009

Top Christmas Book Picks

Stone Crossings Christmas 2

There are books I return to, because they give me new gifts every time I open them. Sometimes these books give me old gifts too, and that is good, because I delight to relive the wonder or joy, the philosophy or challenge.

When I consider these again-and-again books, I realize that although I've taken certain things from them, they also promise to give general gifts to their readers. Perhaps some of these gifts are the kind you might want to put on your wish list or share with someone else this Christmas...

The gift of writing-freedom

The Soul Tells A Story: Engaging Creativity With Spirituality In The Writing Life and The Right to Write: An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life. Does writing call you? Are you answering that call? What gets in the way? What might move you forward? Here are my two favorite books that offer writing-freedom, not just anecdote or advice.

The gift of spiritual rejuvenation

Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation. Are you tired, maybe disillusioned, or in search of deeper direction in your spiritual life? This gentle book is worth reading once a year.

The gift of reassurance for mothers

Ordinary Mom, Extraordinary God: Encouragement to Refresh Your Soul. This is my standard baby-shower gift, or anytime gift for mothers who could use wisdom, solace and a dose of light humor.

The gift of reconciliation (denominational and ethnic respectively)

The Real Mary: Why Evangelical Christians Can Embrace the Mother of Jesus and Reconciliation Blues: A Black Evangelical's Inside View of White Christianity. Both of these books give a new twist on subjects we think we already know about. And they pave the way for reconciliation. The latter might even bring you to tears, it's so honest and beautifully written.

The gift of forgiveness

Stone Crossings: Finding Grace in Hard and Hidden Places. I used to think this was a book about grace. And it is, in its way. But somewhere along the line, I realized that many people were finding a particular kind of grace in its pages: forgiveness. One woman wrote to tell me that she'd been told to forgive for a long, long time... through friends, sermons, religious books, and nothing had ever made it possible. Until she read Stone Crossings. This sentiment has been echoed elsewhere, including in Glynn Young's precious revelation of how the book helped him forgive his father.

The gift of a poignant story

The Summer Book is a gorgeous telling of the relationship between a young girl and her grandmother, both coming to life and facing endings in their own ways. Kristin Lavransdatter changed the way I write. Undset's choice of details is often simple, yet conveys powerful emotions of love and loss. The Things They Carried was one of those books that took me by surprise. I don't ordinarily prefer war stories, but this one gets to the heart of humanity in amazing ways. It also makes you think about the nature of truth and story.

The gift of poetry

How to Read a Poem: And Fall in Love with Poetry and Poemcrazy: Freeing Your Life with Words. As children, we are naturally drawn to poetry. Yet many of us lose our love of it along the way. Both of these books will help you find the joy and necessity of poetry again, the first lyrically so and the second creatively so.

The gift of better blogging

Naked Conversations: How Blogs are Changing the Way Businesses Talk with Customers. This is one of my all-time favorite books on how to navigate the blogsophere and grow an audience. Every blogger should read it at least once.

The gift of thoughtful morning devotions

Celtic Devotions: A Guide to Morning and Evening Prayer. Simple yet deep, this is a beautiful book. The prayers are like poetry (which makes sense, because many are taken from Celtic song).

The gift of smart humor

The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible. This one is hilarious and gives a fun perspective on our Old Testament roots. It's worth buying the book just for the description of how he tries to live the Proverb "slow to anger" while at Mail Boxes, Etc. (Do remember that this is a book written by an agnostic. I probably don't need to say that, but I didn't want anyone to be surprised when the author admits to believing or not believing in things that various kinds of Christians might hold dear.)

The gift of simplicity

Not So Fast: Slow-Down Solutions for Frenzied Families. This good-humored book will make you smile while giving you practical ways to simplify your life and dig deep into family relationships.

The gift of art

A Profound Weakness: Christians & Kitsch is a bit expensive, but if you can afford the price tag it's full of excellent art philosophy. And the pictures are gorgeous (all the more amazing because she has photographed kitsch in unusual, beautiful ways.)

Refractions: A Journey of Faith, Art, and Culture will give you new ways to think about art and faith. The essays have a great balance of both the personal and philosophical.

What gift do you want to give someone this year? Maybe you can find it in this little Christmas list.

Stone Crossings Christmas photo, by L.L. Barkat.

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Anonymous Maureen said...

A list of quite wonderful books that will send me searching for a few with which I'm unfamiliar.

Words bound together
between paper covers
open into gifts, each
one and then another

10:38 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Oh, my goodness. This is a feast for me. Checking these out--adding some to the list...

12:24 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Thank you... again and again , it seems.

1:40 PM  
Anonymous CircleReader said...

Wow - thanks for this list! I'll be checking out several of these, especially Fujimura (who is coming to my town in a couple months) and Reconciliation Blues.

The other day in the bookstore I noticed Edward G. Dobson's The Year of Living Like Jesus. It looks like it would make a great companion to The Year of Living Biblically, and in fact, A.J. Jacobs wrote an introduction for it, saying he & Dobson have more in common than just big beards...

5:33 PM  
Blogger Mary DeMuth said...

Thanks so much for listing Ordinary Mom! I'm honored to be among such great company!

10:05 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

i think a few bookshops might just be happy to see me crossing the threshold with a very much expanded list : )

5:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

a luscious listing of literature

12:00 PM  
Blogger S. Etole said...

First on my Christmas list is "Seedlings in Stone!"

1:53 PM  
Blogger S. Etole said...

My mistake ... I meant "Stone Crossings." I was thinking one thing and typing another. {Blush}

2:09 PM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Thank you all for your sweet and fun comments (even a poem from Maureen! :)

S. Etole, think nothing of it. Others have done the same in the past and I imagine they will in the future. You have made me smile.

2:34 PM  
Blogger e.o.w. said...

Ahh, so much inspiration! I would especially LOVE to read Stone Crossings. Let me know if you'd be interested in bartering a copy for bunches and bunches and bunches of photo cards...

8:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

LL - Remarkably, several of these books are my favorites too! There are a few I haven't read though, and I am looking forward to checking those out! Blessings!

8:49 AM  
Blogger travelmom said...

Oh, I was thrilled to see that several of your picks are on my nightstand. I will have to add the others to my "wish list." I love to hear what others are reading.


12:35 AM  
Blogger Tea with Tiffany said...

Thank you for sharing!

9:32 AM  

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