My 2014 Gift Giving Book Recommendations

It has been a privilege to read some great books this year and I am pleased to recommend the following books as gifts for this Christmas season, and throughout the year as well! Looking forward to reading more great books in 2015!

So here are my recommendations for the reader or readers in your life with a brief quote from my reviews of each book:


For the Fiction Readers on Your List…


18114124Fallen Beauty by Erika Robuck

I was amazed (and at times, uncertain) at the mercurial narrative from start to finish that had my mind and emotions all over the map from start to finish. In my opinion, Robuck’s narrative style, capturing the edgy and uncertain life of both Kelly and Millay (both of whom fit and illustrate the title Fallen Beauty) is one of the biggest pluses of this book.”


18209339The Word Exchange by Alena Graedon

“I think that Alena Graedon has given us something important to think about – the place, the value, (really pricelessness) of words, meaning, and community and the vital interplay of all three. This is demonstrated in how the treatment of word flu takes place – with silence and reflection, reading a physical book, and writing.”


20873691To Live Forever by Andra Watkins

“To Live Forever is a fast paced and unpredictable novel that, at certain points, reminded me of the dark romanticism of Nathaniel Hawthorne and Edgar Allen Poe with its frequent forest settings filled with ghoulish and evil images and apparitions.”


17910573The Tyrant’s Daughter by JC Carleson

“The Tyrant’s Daughter is novel of many threads – the cultural differences between Laila and her American classmates, the navigation of adolescence and adolescent relationships, the differences between a war torn nation and one with peace and prosperity, the role and place of women in societies ruled by men, the emerging political power of women, and the human dynamics within families of the haves and have nots in a culture and country at war – woven together with a credible cast of characters.”


18222672Night in Shanghai by Nicole Mones

“Nicole Mones’ newest novel, Night in Shanghai, is worth every word! With meticulous detail to locations of streets, hotels, and the cultural and political life of Shanghai in the turbulent years of 1937-1941, Mones’ brings alive the nightlife of a culturally diverse city that quite frankly I never knew existed as it did.”


978-1-4143-8949-3 The Fight by Luke Yardley

In Luke Wordley’s debut novel, The Fight we are taken behind the masks of anger in men, young and old, and shown the unresolved pain and loss which fuels that anger and drives so many to angry and destructive acts. And Wordley does a masterful job of telling an all too common story but with the potential for hope and change.”


17934508The Trident Deception by Rick Campbell

The last time I read a military and political thriller involving a submarine it was a thriller about a sub named Red October!…The result is a true thriller that has more twists and turns in its plot than did Hunt for Red October which I consider to be the gold standard of military thrillers.


Helpful and Inspirational books about Faith and Family..


21816684Vanishing Grace by Philip Yancey

“…Vanishing Grace: Whatever Happened to the Good News? is a timely book for today as Yancey seeks to go behind the rhetoric and find out why religion, especially Christianity, is being perceived more negatively today. His search leads the reader on journey that is rich and multifaceted.


18608105Empty Nest by Marci Seither

“…this book is not just for parents who are, like me, beginning to enter the empty nest phase. I think that Seither’s book would be a wonderful book for those entering the world of teen and really high school parenting as she steps back in later chapters and provides some wonderful long term thoughts on preparing your child for the day they leave the nest. Of note is her quote of Annette Spangler who said “parents can either raise their children to be faith-based or fear-based… We have to decide if we are going to raise safe kids or strong kids.”

18951090Soul Keeping by John Ortberg

I often ask the congregation I serve, “How is your soul?” I think that I have a right to ask that question because I am their pastor and I have been charged with caring for their souls. But John Ortberg has asked me, as a reader, in his newest book Soul Keeping: Caring for the Most Important Part of You, the same question, “How is  your soul?”…  I liked this book for its depth, simplicity, and hopefulness for while Ortberg does remind the reader of the impact of sin and sinfulness on the soul, his focus on God’s work to help us see our soul be transformed is front and center.”

18778012No Saints Around Here: A Caregivers Guide by Susan Allen Toth

No Saints Around Here is Toth’s first person account of the final eighteen months of her care of, and life with, her husband James as he succumbed to Parkinson’s disease along with dementia… There are many topics she touches on in this book that many in the professions of counseling, medicine, social work, and ministry will find helpful and practical. Topics such as handling step-family issues, dealing with the mental and physical exhaustion of care giving, and taking care of one’s self. But it is also for care givers and their families who will benefit as well from Toth’s experiences. I really appreciated this book for its practical wisdom and insight it offers both in my own care giving role and in my work as a clergy. I will be recommending it to others as a guide to help them as care givers and as those who help care givers.


Living in the Power My Weakness by Dave Clark

This book was a joy to read. And as I read I felt the Dave was talking, on many issues, to me. I liked this book for its honesty and yet hopefulness of living and working in the challenging field of ministry despite our human weaknesses and frailties.



For The Reader Who Loves History and Biography…


17262206 (2)Lawrence In Arabia by Scott Anderson

“If you like military history, this book describes the hit and miss successes and failures of the British and the fledgling Arab army, to dislodge Turkish forces from Palestine, Syria, Iraq, and the Arabian peninsula during the First World War. If you like political history, this book provides an often confusing portrait of the fluid political alliances and betrayals which occured and which has impacted geopolitical realities up to the present. Well researched and very engaging, Lawrence in Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly, and The Making of the Modern Middle East provides some very important historical background reading to the current Middle Eastern situation.”

18594532Russian Roulette by Giles Milton

“…With his ascension to power, Lenin began to focus on exporting his socialist revolution to the world so that capitalism and capitalistic nations would fall. The English took a dim view of Lenin’s plans and thus began an effort to defeat those plans as well as re-establish a government friendly to the west, democracy, and capitalism. Giles Milton’s book chronicles this effort with the stories of an eclectic group of British agents and friendly Russians of what would become commonly called the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) or MI6.”

18310279Fierce Patriot: The Tangled Lives of William Tecumseh Sherman by Robert L. O’Connell

“What impressed me about this book was that in addition to a very readable and helpful narrative on Sherman himself, is O’Connell’s observations about the second generation of American leadership into which Sherman is chronologically born and the how the strategic and tactical development the US Army of the West has influenced US military doctrine since then. And in the introduction, O’Connell also reminds us of the challenges of writing about persons long dead whose visible nature eludes us which offers both a challenge and an opportunity.”

cover52018-mediumBaghdad: City of Peace, City of Blood by Justin Marozzi

“This is not just a political or even religious history of the city though those two themes run through the book and are adequately addressed. This is a story of Baghdad and its people, its development and architecture, its expansive and expressive cultural periods which led to advancements in learning across the disciplines notably of math and science but also of literature, most notably poetry, which Marozzi points out, was central to court life for centuries. The result is a comprehensive look at Baghdad’s development as a key city in the Middle Eastern world.”







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