Friday, December 9, 2011

Great Christmas Gift Books for "Almost" Everyone

Every great book is not for every person.    Accepting that reality has been a journey.

I used to think that some books absolutely everyone must read, and then they would love and cherish them as much as I did.  This view was shaken some years back when I proposed to our little parish book group that we read Thornton Wilder’s The Bridge of San Luis Rey.   I was shocked that every member but me so disliked reading (much less discussing) this classic.

And then there was the time last year I solemnly promised to Sue, a Catholic workout buddy, that she would love The Loser Letters, but she must read and love The Screwtape Letters first.  And she really, really didn’t like either one.  Sorry, Sue!

Those books are classic and deservedly loved by millions.  And they would make great Christmas gift books . … . for me.  But, as I now admit freely, not for everyone. 

With those stories (and many others, trust me) in mind, putting together my annual list of Christmas-worthy gift books became daunting.  I receive tons of great Catholic books, and learn about many others.  How to recommend ones that would be of interest to the wide range of Catholic Post readers? 

This year, I chose not just books I personally love, but well-written, nicely “done” books that may be outside my comfort zone but that others would love and enjoy.  I sought out online friends, church acquaintances, and even perfect strangers in trying to find out what makes a great gift book.  And as always, I encourage you to seek out your local Catholic bookseller and explore the great options out there. 

Fiction for adults:

Ida Elizabeth:  Ignatius Press has a new edition of one of my favorite authors, Sigrid Undset, best known for her historical fiction trilogy Kristin Lavransdatter.  Ida Elizabeth is set in the 20th century, but still conveys Undset’s characteristic Catholic style and deep exploration of marriage and relationships.

Stealing Jenny (available as both an e-book and paperback) by award-winning author Ellen Gable is a well-paced and heart-pounding story with a very Catholic vision.  I could not stop reading Stealing Jenny on my Kindle App, neglecting household and family to find out what would happen.

Fiction for kids:

*Who can resist Christmas puns?  Not me.  An Angel Named Herald by local author Deacon Bruce Bradford is a charmingly goofy picture book with a sweet Christmas message.

*The brand-new Betsy-Tacy Treasury compiles in one handsome volume the first four classic  Betsy-Tacy books; they are like the Little House books, except set in early 1900s small-town Minnesota.  Tacy is a Catholic girl, and faith is a normal element of the girls’ lives.

*Ranger’s Apprentice fans rejoice, as author John Flanagan has begun a new series  set in the fictional lands of Araluen and Skandia —The Brotherband Chronicles.    Fans of adventure, friendship and fun will enjoy The Outsiders—first in this series about a group of  young sailors.

*For older readers (teens and up), The Song at the Scaffold by Gertrude von Le Fort, a classic recently reprinted, is a fictionalized account of the true martyrdom of a group of Carmelite sisters during the French “Reign of Terror


“A sad saint is a sorry saint, indeed,” goes the old expression.  Between Heaven and Mirth: Why Joy, Humor and Laughter Are at the Heart of the Spiritual Life by Father James Martin, S.J., explores how humor and laughter are not just add-ons, but vital, to healthy spirituality.  Like all Fr. Martin’s works, Mirth is easy to read without being “lite.” 

Surrender! The Life Changing Power of Doing God’s Will by Father Larry Richards, mentioned to me by several readers.  Fr. Richard challenges people to grow in the spiritual life  by putting God and His will first, always.

I love well-designed and written books that feel good to hold and read.  Generous Faith: Stories to Inspire Abundant Living by Sister Bridget Haase is handsomely formatted and sized.  In short, thoughtful stories, Sr. Bridget invites readers to have “generous faith” by living in the moment, accepting and trusting in divine care, and experiencing God’s presence in our daily lives. 

Welcome Baby Jesus! Advent and Christmas Reflections for Families by Sarah Reinhard is a gentle, easy read to help families “appreciate Advent” and the Christmas season through Scripture, reflections and action ideas.


  1. Hello. I am a huge fan of Tolkien and Lewis. Recently, I discover the book "Looking for the King: An Inklings Novel" and I will read it. Looking for some reviews, I find the interview you did with David Downing. I want your permisson to translate it and publish in my blog, cause I guess it's a good opportunity for us, brazilian fans of Tolkien and Lewis, to know more about the book and the author. Waiting fot you answer, thanks. Bye.

  2. Natallie, I'd be honored for you to translate my interview with David Downing. Thanks for stopping by, and be sure to come back and let me know when it posts, and I will share it here.