Surely you’ve already bought gifts for all the book lovers on your list. But perhaps you are the book lover, and want to drop a few hints. Thanks to the miracle of e-readers, all of these can arrive by Christmas. Even for hard copies, you still have until 3 p.m. today (Eastern standard time) to get them in time from Amazon.
The Christmas Plains by Joseph Bottum A well known writer and editor tells of his childhood Christmases in the Black Hills of South Dakota, while meandering back and forth to other times and places as well: 1888 and its killer blizzard; modern-day New York during it’s rare moments of snow-covered stillness. Bottum fondly recalls so many favorite things–story books, carols, vinyl LP Christmas recordings, toys–that were of almost sacramental significance to him as a boy. Needless to say, the larger spiritual themes are there, subtle and graceful.
The Complete Thinker–the Marvelous Mind of G.K.Chesterton. Some people find Chesterton’s essays difficult because of all the references to the culture, politics, and personalities of early 2oth century England. They find to easy to miss the forest among all those pesky trees. Dale Ahlquist acts as your personal Chesterton sherpa. On a wide variety of topics (the problem of evil, war and peace, law and lawyers, life and death, the universe, and more!) he shows us the essence of Chesterton’s thought, serving up generous helpings of direct quotation. He explains these in a winsome style peppered with humor that must have G.K. looking down from heaven and saying “That’s my boy!”
Witness of the Saints by Milton Walsh For those who love the Office of Readings, here are many of the second readings arranged and quoted by category, following the outline of the Catechism–articles of the Creed, the Sacraments, Christian Life and Prayer. Also of great value is a timeline of all the fathers, doctors and saints quoted in the liturgy, so at last you will not have to wonder what century Melito of Sardis or Origen lived. Short bio-sketches of each holy writer are also very welcome. I’ve always suspected that the Office of Readings is the best way for ordinary Catholics to become immersed in the greatest writings of the Church. Witness of the Saints proves that point.
History of the Catholic Church: from the Apostolic Age to the Third Millenium by James Hitchcock. I couldn’t believe my good fortune in receiving this book. Hitchcock is an engaging historian. This is the opposite of put-you-to-sleep textbookishness. The intimidating scope of the work is made manageable for the reader because of frequent subtitles (The Jewish Legacy; Angels and Devils, The Kingdom; Paul and the Law, etc.) The Church, its teachings, its cast of characters (both noble and notorious) are covered with complete honesty and obvious love. I’m looking forward to the end of Christmastide activity so that I can relax and lose myself in this book.
The Christus Experiment by Rod Bennett Do you like science fiction? Here’s the premise: going back in time to 30 AD to grab Jesus and bring him to the present. If that sounds like a good kind of crazy to you, get this book. Bennett is a good writer. You won’t be cringing at the phrasing gaffes, anachronisms, and whatnot so common to self-published fiction. Let geeks delight!