Reviews > Culture

Books: More blessed to give

Culture | Although with these gifts, the getting is pretty nice, too

Issue: "Modern martyrs," Nov. 30, 1996

There is only one thing I enjoy more than reading really good books--and that's sharing really good books with others. As you can imagine, I really have a heyday at Christmastime.

At the top of my gift list this year is the new children's book by Michael Card, Close Your Eyes So You Can See (Harvest House). Along with its stunning musical companion--on either cassette or compact disc--it tells 10 delightful stories of children in the life of Jesus. And it tells them in the incomparable style of the poet laureate of modern Christian music.

If you are looking for some classic stocking stuffers, check out Penguin's nifty collection of abridged literary masterpieces. Less than 90 pages apiece and measuring only a little larger than an index card, the Sixties Classics Series includes excerpts from such works as Boswell's Johnson, Vasari's Lives of the Artists, Milton's Paradise Lost, Dante's Inferno, and Carlyle's Heroes and Hero Worship. A decade ago I might have turned my nose up at such a commercial gimmick. Now I'm thrilled by the chance to introduce my friends to the best of the best in this relatively painless fashion. I've already stockpiled a hefty supply of them.

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The problem with Jan Karon's delectable books about the mythical little town of Mitford is that they're never long enough--I usually gobble up all three-hundred-plus pages the very day I get my hands on them. The latest, These High Green Hills (Viking) was no exception. When it was released this past summer I knew that my only solace would be that I'd have a blast giving copies away during the holidays. So I will.

Last year the theology book I gave away most was Seeking the Face of God by Gary Thomas (Nelson). This year it will be Primitive Theology by John Gerstner (Soli Deo Gloria). Containing his collected primers--on inerrancy, predestination, apologetics, dispensationalism, and a half dozen others--it is perhaps the great man's most cogent work. But if this volume only contained the essay on "the problem of pleasure" it would be more than worth the price.

My predilection for all things Scottish is revealed by the prominent inclusion of The Dictionary of Scottish Church History and Theology (IVP) edited by Nigel de S. Cameron and The Collins Encyclopedia of Scotland (Harper Collins) edited by John and Julia Keay on my list.

The Moral of the Story (Broadman & Holman) is a collection of timeless folktales, parables, and stories compiled by Jerry Newcombe. City Life (Scribner) is the latest exploration of sociology, history, and architecture by the inimitable Witold Rybczynski. Worship in Spirit and Truth (P&R) is a powerfully insightful study of biblical patterns for worship by John Frame--undoubtedly one of the most brilliant contemporary Reformed theologians. And Permanent Things (Eerdmans) is a marvelous collection of essays edited by Andrew Tadie and Michael Macdonald on the lasting cultural legacy of G.K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, Dorothy Sayers, T.S. Eliot, and Evelyn Waugh.

I'll be giving away copies of each of these treasures; I can hardly wait. What a glorious way to observe this Advent season.

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