I’m notorious for last minute shopping. I’m also notorious for picking out great books. I’ll spare you the repetition of recommending my favorite novel, Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson. Except, if you need a good book and know someone who hasn’t ever read Gilead, I highly recommend it! Okay. Enough.
Here are ten books that would make for a great gift.
Devotional and Christian Life
An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith by Barbara Brown Taylor.
With grace and kindness, Barbara Brown Taylor walks her readers through the landscape of faith. An ordained Episcopal priest, Taylor understands the layered lives so many of us have, and gives everyone snapshots of how to see and recognize God in those various places.
I’ve read this book three times, and I’ve given it to at least a half dozen people over the last several years. Everyone says they underline so many words there’s hardly a page that isn’t colored with ink. While I think more women than men have read this book, I do believe thoughtful men who enjoy beautiful prose, and take their faith seriously, would get a lot out of it.
Help, Thanks, Wow by Ann Lamott
I’ve been reading Ann Lamott for almost twenty years. It all started with Traveling Mercies, one of my all-time favorite memoirs. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend you run to the book store or to a computer and order it straight away.
Help, Thanks, Wow is short, witty, tender, and helpful. It makes a great White Elephant gift, or for someone who is trying to figure out the spiritual life but can’t stand Christians who seem to have it all perfectly together and never show any real emotions about anything. Ann Lamott is the exact opposite. She shows us over and over that faith is available to anyone who is honest enough to admit they need help.
Girl Meets God: On the Path to a Spiritual Life by Lauren Winner.
I bought this book over the summer whilst on a walk with John. We ran into a Half-Price Books store and decided to take a short detour. Three hours later and a stack of books in my arms, I was in my happy place. Lauren Winner tells her honest story of converting out of Orthodox Judaism into Christianity.
I laughed, and cried, and remembered all over again why I love reading memoir. This is great for a college student. It’s great for anyone who loves to read about people’s spiritual lives.
Fun Literary Fiction
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
This is a WWII novel my mom gave me for Christmas last year. I read it Christmas night all the way into the wee hours of the morning until I finished it. If you love fiction, and family, and conflict, and war, and everything that makes for a great novel, this is the book to read. Lots of people have read it, so you might want to find out if the person you need to give a gift to already has it, but honestly, it’s splendid.
Lately, I don’t read as much fiction as I used to because I’m reading way more non-ficiotn. But I LOVED this book.
When Elizabeth Strout writes a new book, I put down its release date on my calendar. Her books are beautiful. These two books are companions. One is a novel and the other a collection of short stories. They’re overflowing with life and love and hope and sorrow and healing. I love Elizabeth Strout’s heart that comes through each one of her novels. She gets what it means to be human like very few other novelists writing today.
Devotions by Mary Oliver
I quote Mary Oliver all the time. I have every single one of her poetry books and reread her poems almost daily. She’s a legend.
This is a compilation of all her poetry so far, and I think it would make a really beautiful gift for almost anyone, especially writers who look for inspiration and keys to unlock the mysterious in our lives. Mary Oliver understands the great mysteries and writes about them in every single one of her poems.
New and Notable
We Were Eight Years in Power by Ta-Nehisi Coates
After reading Between the World and Me, along with several of Ta-Nehisi Coates’s essays in the Atlantic, it’s probably safe to say that he is one of the most important writers out there right now.
Recently, I listened to him in a conversation with Krista Tippett on On-Being, which was remarkable. It’s also because of a conversation that Ta-Nahisi Coates had with Stephen Colbert that tipped me over the edge and helped me decide to enroll at Fuller Theological Seminary. (That’s an entire blog post, right there.)
I bought this book for a White Elephant gift, hoping no one else would want it. I picked it out, and low and behold, I got to take it home … so I’m reading it along with another book that Ta-Nehisi Coates recommended, by Frederick Douglas. This is a must read. At least, for me.
Can You See Anything Now, by Kate James
This is a must read! Kate James just won the best fiction of the year by Christianity Today for this novel. In the same vein and Richard Russo, and Elizabeth Strout, Kate James makes us feel people’s struggles, their hurt, their secret hopes, and she beckons us to nod our heads in understanding.
I highly recommend this novel.
Adopted: The Sacrament of Belonging in a Broken World by Kelly Nikondeha
I had the honor of meeting Kelly at the SheLoves conference last winter where we discovered we both reading several of the same theologians. I joined her book launch team, and have had a blast reading her book and sharing with several people.
This is a book about belonging, and about taking the risk of inviting others into our world even when it means some sort of sacrifice on our part. At a time when adoption and foster care are spoken about consistently on social media, Kelly Nikondeha does an incredible job of making this subject deeply theological. By that, I mean, this book is all about the good and gracious heart of God that welcomes and adopts with great generosity.
Okay, that’s ten books. Feel free to add your own book recommendation in the comments section of this post.
See you on the other side of Christmas Day.
Much Love and God’s warmest blessings to you and your loved ones,