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5 Books Worth Gifting This Christmas

If you’re anything like us your favorite gift to receive – and give – is a book. Now I don’t mean some fancy new “tablet” with head-ache inducing, glare-heavy digitized versions of whatever is popular or noteworthy. No, I mean a good old fashioned, well bound, smells-like-dust-and-shelves book. I can’t imagine there are many experiences more exciting than turning an actual page you can’t help but turn, than the anticipation of opening the cover of a brand new book for the first time or the pleasure of re-reading that dog-eared, well marked, beloved book you’ve been loaning to people for years. It’s too bad fewer and fewer people know what I’m talking about.

This Christmas do your part to keep people turning pages. Give a book to someone you love.

Of course, you don’t want to give just any old book about any old subject. You want to – no, you need to – give books about things and idea that you believe are important and meaningful. And if you’re reading this chances are you believe that Christian classical education, cultural renewal, and the cultivation of wisdom and virtue are important to you, like they are to us.

If that’s true here are some books worth considering this Christmas season.

For those on your list who are new to classical education, try one of these essentials.
For a great stocking stuffer try one of the ISI Student Guides to the Major Disciplines


1. Through A Screen Darkly: Looking Closer at Beauty, Truth and Evil In the Movies
by Jeffrey Overstreet

In the style of a cinematic travel journal, film columnist and critic Jeffrey Overstreet of Christianity Today and leads readers down paths less traveled to explore some of the best films you’ve never seen. Examining a feast of movies, from blockbusters to buried treasure, Overstreet peels back the layers of work by popular entertainers and under-appreciated masters. He shares excerpts from conversations with filmmakers like Peter Jackson, Wim Wenders, Kevin Smith, Scott Derrickson, producer Ralph Winter, and stars like Elijah Wood, Ian McKellan, Keanu Reeves and the cast of Serenity, drawing war-stories from his encounters with movie stars, moviemakers, moviegoers and other critics in both mainstream and religious circles. He argues that what makes some films timeless rather than merely popular has everything to do with the way these artists, whether they know it or not, have captured reflections of God in their work. Through a Screen Darkly also includes a collection of reviews, humorous anecdotes, and on-the-scene film festival reports, as well as recommendations for movie discussion groups and meditations on how different films echo the myriad ways in which Christ captured the attention and imagination of culture. – Eighth Day Books

2. The Art of the Commonplace
by Wendell Berry

Wendell Berry is inimitable. The paradox and source of that claim lies not in some grand scheme or complex philosophy, But rather in (what editor Norman Wirzba calls) his ”sustained attention to the particular.” The product of this attention to ”agrarian” (here we mean biological and ecological) concerns is a delight, even a wonder in their intrinsic worth and interdependence within the whole of creation — which Berry believes has been damaged by the perversion of industrialism and urban life. The Art of the Common Place is a penetrating retrospective of Berry’s finest work, offering us his vision into the art of our common life together. Gathered loosely into four sections, these essays consider the authentic life lived in relationship to the land and each other, embodied creatures in accord with their Creator. But we can’t quite leave it at that — the author’s imaginative voice carries a deep and simple resonance that must be heard (here describing the nature of topsoil): ”It is very Christ-like in its passivity and beneficence, and in the penetrating energy that issues out of its peaceableness. It increases by experience, by the passage of seasons over it, growth rising out of it and returning to it, not by ambition or aggressiveness. It is enriched by all things that die and enter into it. It keeps the past… as richness, new possibility… always building up out of death into promise. – Eighth Day Books

3. Ironies of Faith: The Laughter at the Heart of Christian Literature
by Anthony Esolen

In Ironies of Faith, celebrated Dante scholar and translator Anthony Esolen provides a profound meditation upon the use and place of irony in Christian art and in the Christian life. Beginning with an extended analysis of irony as an essentially dramatic device, Esolen explores those manifestations of irony that appear prominently in Christian thinking and art: ironies of time (for Christians believe in divide Providence, but live in a world whose moments pass away); ironies of power (for Christians believe in an almighty God who took on human flesh, and whose “weakness” is stronger than death); ironies of love (for man seldom knows whom to love, or how, or even whom it is that in the depths of his heart he loves best); and the figure of the Child (for Christians believe that unless we become like unto one of these little ones, we shall not enter the Kingdom of God). Esolen’s finely wrought study draws from Augustine, Dante, Shakespeare, Tolkien, Mauriac, Milton, Herbert, Hopkins, Dickens, and Dostoyevsky, among others, including the anonymous author of the medieval poem Pearl. Such authors, he believes, teach us that the last laugh is on the world, because that grim old world, taking itself so seriously that even its laughter is a sneer, will finally—despite its proud resistance—be redeemed. That is the ultimate irony of faith.

4. Redeeming the Time
by Russell Kirk

Is the American nation decadent? Are the fatalistic prognosticators of despair, in fact, modern prophets? Or do we today still have the means at our disposal to “redeem the time” for ourselves and for generations yet unborn? In twenty-two lively chapters, America’s foremost conservative mind, Russell Kirk, considers ways in which to recover real education and humane learning; assesses the nature and current state of legal discourse; addresses the precarious condition of our civil social order; and examines today’s sometime noxious cultural climate. Arguing that our civilization stands in peril, Kirk exhorts those who believe lief is worth living to address themselves to means by which a restoration of culture may be achieved.

Widely hailed as the father of modern American conservatism, Russell Kirk has authored over thirty books, including The Conservative Mind: From Burke to Eliot – From the Publisher

5. Hipster Christianity: When Church and Cool Collide
by Brett McCracken

Hipster Christianity: When Church and Cool Collide is a journalistic, in-depth exploration of the phenomenon of “cool Christianity” in the 21st century. More than just a surface description of an interesting new trend in Christianity, the book goes deep into the questions of what it means to be cool and what it means to be Christian. Are these competing aims? Why is the church today so preoccupied with being cool, fashionable, trendy, and relevant? Where does this phenomenon fit in to the larger narrative of “hip” and “Christian cool”? By exploring these questions through the lenses of their various contexts (politics, fashion, art, technology, etc) and theological/philosophical associations (postmodernism, emerging church, missional, etc), this book attempts to provide a thorough examination and nuanced critique of an increasingly prevalent but under-studied incarnation of contemporary Christianity: the Christian hipster. – From

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