IM Gift Guide 2016 — Part One: Books


IM Gift Guide 2016 — Part One: Books

If you haven’t made up your Christmas wish list yet, here are a few items we recommend for gift-receiving and giving this year.

The links in today’s post and in most posts throughout the year will take you to Amazon, where Internet Monk is an Associate. That means if you click our link to get to Amazon, IM gets a small portion of the proceeds of any sale, even if it’s not the item we linked. It’s a great way to support the site while getting great deals on merchandise.

We will start by giving our book recommendations for 2016.

• • •

Mere Churchianity: Finding Your Way Back to Jesus-Shaped Spirituality

We continue to recommend Michael Spencer’s book as a help to those who want to follow Jesus but question their relationship to the church which claims to represent him. This is a classic statement of life in the “post-evangelical wilderness” from the one who coined the phrase and lived there to tell about it. Michael will always be the Internet Monk, and this book captures the heart of what he wrote here on this site for many years.

He was a gift to all of us, and with his book, he keeps on giving.


Walking Home Together: Spiritual Guidance and Practical Advice for the End of Life

Chaplain Mike’s first book explores how one might begin to prepare to face the final season of life. It’s filled with stories from his experiences with parishioners and hospice patients as he takes the approach of walking alongside the reader and answering some of the tough questions we face when the prospect of dying becomes a reality.

As the seasons of our life change, and we come closer to home, CM’s book offers the kindness and counsel of a friend to help us navigate the journey.


The Between Time: Savoring the Moments of Everyday Life

Damaris’s delightful book will help you appreciate even more the gifts of perhaps our most talented writer on Internet Monk. She is certainly our most widely-traveled author, and here you will find intriguing stories from her experiences in many unusual and striking settings. For example, the chapter “How the Whole Town Threw Us a Wedding,” wrote David Cornwell in his IM review, “has the makings of a movie. Elements of the script would be as follows: The Peace Corps; a young couple; Liberia; jungle; theft; rain; mud; multiple religions and nationalities; and the inexperienced reverend.”

Damaris writes about nature, grace and community with the insight of an imaginative, yet thoroughly grounded pilgrim.

The Day the Revolution Began: Reconsidering the Meaning of Jesus’s Crucifixion

I am currently reading Tom Wright’s latest effort, which further refines his own “New Perspective” take on Jesus and what he came to do. It focuses specifically on the meaning of “the cross” as the central theme and symbol of the Christian faith.

I have no idea how he does it, but Wright (in my opinion) just keeps getting it right — righter and righter, in fact.




Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People

Nadia brings radical grace Lutheran theology to the streets and to all kinds of people we might never suspect get it. And as I said in my IM review, this chick makes me want to be a real Lutheran (and even more so since pietistic types distrust her so much).

This is a magnificent book of stories, true tales of death and resurrection, failure and forgiveness, brokenness and renewal.

And yes, she curses — effectively.



The Sin of Certainty: Why God Desires Our Trust More Than Our “Correct” Beliefs

No Bible scholar today is making a bigger impact on my life than Pete Enns. I love his Bible teaching best, but The Sin of Certainty addresses an approach to the Bible and faith that, in reality, keeps people from truly trusting God in favor of holding correct beliefs.

Perhaps the way is made by walking, not through understanding as we normally conceive it. This is the theology of the cross and how it opposes one aspect of the theology of glory — an insistence on the “winning” quality of dogmatic certainty as the mark of strong faith.


Paul and the Gift

Okay, this one is for the serious student or theologian on your list. First of all, it is very expensive, and secondly, it’s long and detailed. But believe me, it is worth it.

Barclay is recognized by his peers as one of today’s most influential New Testament scholars. He suggests that people have often talked past each other about “grace” through the years because we focus on different aspects of this subject. Barclay tries to get to the root of Paul’s distinctive emphases with regard to grace that set him apart from his contemporaries and reveal the heart of his message. I’m still digesting this breathtaking work of masterful theology.


Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis

This one is on my own wish list for Christmas. Many have found help understanding what’s happening in our country today and how the recent elections could swing the way they did by reading this book.

The publisher writes: “Hillbilly Elegy is a passionate and personal analysis of a culture in crisis—that of white working-class Americans. The decline of this group, a demographic of our country that has been slowly disintegrating over forty years, has been reported on with growing frequency and alarm, but has never before been written about as searingly from the inside.”


All the Light We Cannot See

Here is our fiction recommendation. Anthony Doerr’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel is a fascinating, intricate tale of ordinary people caught up in the events of World War II, using the development of radio communication as a device to weave their stories together.

In a review in the Aspen Daily News, Carole O’Brien wrote this succinct yet apt description: “There is so much in this book. It is difficult to convey the complexity, the detail, the beauty and the brutality of this simple story.”



A Small Porch: Sabbath Poems 2014

Wendell Berry’s collection is our poetry recommendation for this year.

Because we all long for “beauty in excess of need.”

The world lives by its beauty in excess of need.
In excess of his absence,
he is here in the Sabbath beyond his reasons,
the Sabbath of measureless delight.



We recommend two older books for reading during this year of commemorating the Reformation’s 500th anniversary. We will mention more throughout the year, but these are basic and will give you a good overview at the start.

The Reformation: A History

First is Diarmaid MacCulloch’s masterful history. It is wide-ranging, richly layered and captivating, arguing what has now become standard interpretation: that there was not one Reformation but many, and that they owe much, not only to the religious reformers, but also to the Renaissance and a host of other changes that were taking place in Europe at the time.





Luther: Man Between God and the Devil

Second, by far the best and most engaging book about Luther that I have read. (Here is my IM review.)

Oberman presents a groundbreaking perspective that creates an indelible impression of Martin Luther as a medieval religious man, caught up in what he considered to be a profound battle between the forces of God and the Devil in the End Times. This is the “apocalyptic Luther” that many have under-appreciated. Such a view has great impact on our understanding about how Luther viewed his reform efforts and what he thought they might accomplish.

13 thoughts on “IM Gift Guide 2016 — Part One: Books

  1. Books that are changing my life:

    Four Hour Body by TIm Ferris
    I Will Teach You to be Rich by Ramit Sethi
    The Nerdist Way by Chris Hardwick
    The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When To Quit by Seth Godin
    The Magic of Thinking Big by David J. Schwartz


  2. Any recommendations on a book that can be used to follow the church calendar for those of us currently attending churches that don’t?


  3. The Book of Mysteries by Jonathan Cahn is a lot better than it’s title or official description would indicate. It’s a daily devotional written by a Jewish Christian rabbi, tho he might not claim those particular words, but Messianic Jew might not work either. He leads a congregation of Jews and Gentiles in New Jersey and if I lived nearby I would surely check it out. Each daily one page message uses the format of a student interacting with a Jewish teacher in a school set in a Middle Eastern desert setting. Many of the daily lessons involve the meaning of Hebrew words or the Jewish religious calendar, but the New Testament is explored as well, and all centers on Jesus as Messiah.

    I have learned a lot from a perspective that I have not found anywhere else. I started the book late in the year and read four or more pages a day until now when two pages a day will get me to the end of the year and I can start it over at the intended page a day. I find the book equally informative and inspirational. You can get it for around twelve bucks at Amazon or Christian Book Distributors so you’re not out a lot if it turns out to be not your cup of tea. I would be surprised if there was something in the thirty-some pages I have left to read that I objected to. While some of the lessons might have echoes of Evangelicalism, it is mainly Jewish in perspective as Jesus might have seen it, and I find it unique, definitely different. I look forward to reading it again, perhaps again and again.


  4. If you click through you’ll see it anyway, but Amazon currently has a promotion, enter “HOLIDAYBOOK” at checkout under the “Gift cards & promotional codes” section to receive $10 off any books purchase of $25 or more. Not sure if that’s cumulative, or if a single book has to be $25.

    My recommendations from what I’ve read this year include:
    A devotional, To Live With Christ by Bo Giertz
    Shoot Me First by Grant Lock, a fellow Aussie about his 20+ years living in Afghanistan
    The Reason: How I Discovered a Life Worth Living, a biography by Lacey Sturm, the lead singer of the band Flyleaf
    (I’m currently rereading the above two as they’ve just released sequels, but haven’t gotten to those yet).
    Anything by Frederick Buechner
    And on the fiction side I’ve just finished reading the Darktrench saga by Kerry Nietz (the first book is called A Star Curiously Singing), a sci-fi trilogy where the main character is basically property, on a future Earth under sharia law, kept obedient by an implant in his head.

    And my wishlist for next year, in addition to some mentioned already, includes For the Love of God by Don Carson, William Grimshaw of Haworth, and Befriend: Create Belonging in an Age of Judgment, Isolation, and Fear by Scott Sauls.


  5. It takes the “church” out of grace and places the subject right where it belongs, in our human hearts.

    OK, Oscar, now you’re talking. I haven’t read any of Nadia’s books (yet) but it’s time I did. I don’t know if passing them on to my church would work, though. A little too… uh… Let me know how that went for you.

    I have a good friend who raved about Nadia’s book Pastrix but he USED to go to my church.

    I have high praise for Damaris’ book The Between Time and that truly would make a great gift. An excellent devotional without the schlock of most devotionals. And it’s well-written, unlike most devotionals.

    I also have the first volume of Chaplain Mike’s Walking Home Together and I’m ashamed to say that it’s still on the pile. But it looks good. I’ll get on it, Mike!

    Happy Black Friday to all. I hope you all stayed home. Shop online instead. For good books.


  6. Seriously!? I needed this list yesterday, when I was on amazon. Oh well, that’s why I have amazon prime…soo I can order MORE books!
    All to say, I, too, a slowly making my way thru Wrights book–amazing, and yes,, how does he keep getting it wright, oops, right….! love his writings. Thankful my son in law turned me . on to him.
    Will. Go and order most, if not all of these, even tho I am knee deep in wrights book, and 3 others!
    Since we are at a Lutheran church now,, and for all the other reasons…. want to read about that, grace, etc.
    Thanks for the recommendations!


  7. “Accidental Saints”: I read this, loved it, and then passed it on to a friend. HE read it and then his wife read it and BOTH loved it. I then passed it to our church’s book club, but no reports as yet. I love the author’s application of divine grace and its human application PLUS it caused me to rethink my own ideas on the subject. It takes the “church” out of grace and places the subject right where it belongs, in our human hearts.

    “Hillbilly Elegy”: I read this one thinking that it would be a study on an overlooked portion of our society. It wasn’t. It is more the life story of a young man growing up in southern Ohio with roots in northeastern Kentucky. It also explores the ethos of a people who have been ignored and ridiculed but it makes no apologies for what it reveals.

    Since I grew up in north Ohio amongst a neighborhood populated by these people, I absorbed a lot of the thinking and behaviors of these people, even to the point of picking up a bit of their drawl. Consequently I recognized a lot of what the author explains, the severe loyalty to “kin”, the dysfunction of a displaced people, the poverty and alcoholism and the family breakups.

    This book doesn’t so much as explain Trump, so don’t look for it, but it DOES open a window on the dynamics of the lower classes, not necessarily all white, and why they find themselves marginalized. It also offers hope, a rare commodity.

    As far as the writing goes, the book perked along just fine till the author tells of his college experience. Then it bogs down and he loses his way, detracting from a mostly fine effort. It is worth reading anyway.


  8. “No Bible scholar today is making a bigger impact on my life than Pete Enns.”

    Yup, me too. Especially appreciated his “Inspiration and Incarnation”


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