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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.