With Christmas and Hanukkah so close at hand, gift-givers or list-makers might want to consider books that address religious topics.
Recent publications cover a broad range of subjects, from African-American prayers to the President s spirituality to Buddhist life to God s quest to find his missing boot.
Here are some new religious titles worthy of consideration for the holidays:
STANDING IN THE NEED OF PRAYER: A Celebration of Black Prayer, compiled by the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. Foreword by Coretta Scott King (The New York Public Library, $27.50 hardcover, 266 pages).
An extraordinary look at the black religious experience, from Manila to Ghana to New York City, through the use of stunning black-and-white photos and printed prayers. Memorable photos include Jesse Jackson preaching to inmates in the Cook County Jail; hundreds bowing toward Mecca during Muslim World Day Parade in New York, and Archhbishop Granville Williams face down, a large cross on his back, during his ordination service in Barbados.
THE CATHOLIC FAITH HANDBOOK FOR YOUTH, by Brian Singer-Towns (St. Mary s Press, $16.95 softcover, 461 pages).
Designed to explain the essentials of Catholicism to teens, this handbook covers the church s foundational teachings, sacraments, views on morality, and teachings on prayer. Features such as “Saintly Profiles,” “Did You Know?”, and “Looking Back” provide information in eye-catching formats.
A BOOT FELL FROM HEAVEN, by Kare Bluitgen, illustrated by Chiara Carrer (Kane/Miller, $15.95 hardcover).
In this tender tale from Denmark, God s boot slips off a cloud and falls to Earth. He comes down to find it, but everybody is too busy to help. In the end, a young boy who found the boot gives it to God and has “all the time in the world” to hear about God s adventures.
NEVER SAY GOODBYE, by Lea Gillespie Gant, illustrated by Maryn Roos (Tommy Nelson, $12.99 hardcover).
There is nothing so difficult for a child as losing a loved one, and Lea Gillespie Gant delicately addresses this topic for youngsters through a conversation between Netta, a grandmotherly rabbit who is going away, and Hannah, a young bunny. Hannah asks all the tough questions a child logically would ask and Netta answers each one lovingly and patiently.
ASK THE RABBI: The Who, What, When, Where, Why & How of Being Jewish, Rabbi Ron Isaacs (Jossey-Bass, $22.95 hardcover, 272 pages).
This book, written in a friendly Q&A format, includes such topics as teachings on nonmarital sex, the wearing of beards, and why Israelis have a reputation for being “harsh.” Rabbi Isaacs doesn t dodge tough issues and handles all questions diplomatically.
THE GARDEN OF PRAYER, by Thomas Kinkade (Andrews McMeel, $9.95, pocket-sized hardcover, 96 pages).
Thomas Kinkade, the popular “Painter of Light,” reproduces his nostalgic artwork alongside inspirational quotes from a variety of sources, including the Bible, T.S. Eliot, Mother Teresa, and himself (“The more you give yourself to others, the more joy and peace will flow into your own life,” he writes).
WISE MEN AND THEIR TALES: Portraits of Biblical, Talmudic, and Hasidic Masters, by Elie Wiesel (Schocken, $26 hardcover, 337 pages).
Nobel Peace Prize-winner Eli Wiesel tells stories of people sent by God to help humankind find its spirituality, including Sarah, the mother of Isaac; Bible strongman Samson, and Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi.
FAITH TRANSFORMED: Christian Encounters with Jews and Judaism, edited by John C. Merkle (American Interfaith Institute, $25, 216 pages).
Twelve Protestant and Catholic theologians and professors describe how their interaction with Jews and Judaism helped them deepen their understanding of their own faith.
THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO TOLKIEN: Visions of the Kingdom in Middle-Earth, by Ralph C. Wood (Westminster John Knox, $14.95 softcover, 169 pages).
As Return of the King, the third and final installment of Peter Jackson s Lord of the Rings movie trilogy, opens Wednesday, author J.R.R. Tolkien is getting another turn in the spotlight. This companion book gleans spiritual messages from the fantasy adventures of hobbits, wizards, elves, and dwarves.
THE FAITH OF GEORGE W. BUSH, by Stephen Mansfield (Tarcher/Peng uin, $19.99 hardcover, 200 pages).
Few modern presidents have brought their religious and political lives together as thoroughly and openly as President Bush.Nashville-based author Stephen Mansfield tracks Mr. Bush s spiritual journey, from his mainline Protestant upbringing to his wild college days to his 1985 born-again experience to his belief he was called by God to run for the presidency.
TIBETAN BUDDHIST LIFE, by Don Farber (DK, $30, 192 pages).
Fulbright scholar Don Farber captures the diversity and beauty of Buddhist life in this collection of more than 200 photos he took in Asia and the West over the last 24 years. His photographic skills are complemented by his well-written explanations of Buddhist traditions and practices.
PATHS TO PRAYER: Finding Your Own Way to the Presence of God, by Patricia D. Brown (Jossey-Bass, $19.95 hardcover, 343 pages).
PRAYERS OF COMFORT AND STRENGTH; PRAYERS TO NOURISH A WOMAN S HEART, and PRAYERS FOR HOMESCHOOL MOMS, all by Michele Howe (Jossey-Bass, $12.95 each, pocket-sized hardcover).
Michele Howe of suburban Toledo, provides emotional support and biblical advice for women in these three pocket-sized books. Each follows the same practical, easy-to-follow format: A real-life scenario, an appropriate scripture, a conversational prayer to God, and an inspirational quote.
KNOW PEACE IN TROUBLED TIMES: Promises and Testimonies from Today s Christian Leaders (North American Mission Board, $10.99 hardcover, 93 pages).
You will have troubled times and God will give you peace in the midst of them, Robert Reccord writes in the foreword. Forty brief chapters offer prayers of consolation and hope, starting with a scripture, by a variety of prominent Christians including Rick Warren, Steven Curtis Chapman, Shirley (Mrs. James) Dobson, and Charles Colson.
- DAVID YONKE