Our 2009 “ReadTheSpirit 10 Best Bets for Holiday Shopping” are so awe-inspiring this year that we’re inviting you to savor them with us all week. No peeking, now! We’ll roll out 10 great book ideas throughout this week—in plenty of time for holiday shopping whatever your faith may be.
What holidays are coming? In a word: Lots!
If you haven’t discovered it already, ReadTheSpirit publishes a weekly “Spiritual Season” column by Stephanie Fenton. Here’s this week’s edition—and we offer her fresh forecast of holidays every week, so you won’t miss anything your friends and neighbors are observing.
Our theme for this year’s Holiday Shopping list comes from writer and pioneering evangelist Rob Bell, who encourages all of us to rediscover the awe within our faith traditions. Rob’s amazing coffee-table book, “Drops Like Stars” is one of our honorees this year. (Note: The numbers 1 to 10 don’t imply relative ranking—all 10 are “Best Bets” this year.) …
No. 1: ROB BELL’s Boundary-Busting Book,
“DROPS LIKE STARS”
OK, ROB, you’re to blame (or actually to honor) here! You sparked this “awe-inspiring” theme for our holiday guide with your passionate appeal for a radical opening up of our religious assumptions! The book actually says:
“There’s a phrase we use when we’re describing something that’s new and fresh and unexpected. We say it’s ‘out of the box.’
“The problem with that phrase is that when something or someone is judged to be in or out of ‘the box,’ it reveals that ‘the box’ is still our primary point of reference. We’re still operating within the prescribed boundaries and assumptions of how things are supposed to be. ‘Out of the box’ is sometimes merely another way of being ‘in the box.’
“And then there are those … who come from a totally different place. They ask another kind of question:
“There’s a box?”
Rob himself comes from a totally different place. Want to read more about Rob’s unusual new multi-year project, called “Drops Like Stars”? Here’s an interview we published with Rob as he launched the effort.
If you’re familiar with Rob’s best-selling Nooma video series, this giant new book is designed much like the illustrated “study guides” in the Nooma packages—except in a cosmic-size graphic design and theological scope. Like all of our 10 Best Bets this year, we can guarantee that the recipient of this gift won’t receive anything else like it this year!
CLICK HERE to buy a copy of “Drops Like Stars: A Few Thoughts on Creativity and Suffering” from Amazon (and help ReadTheSpirit as you do).
No. 2: PATRICK McDONNELL’s Picture Book for Adults:
“GUARDIANS OF BEING”
ONCE AGAIN, read about this unique project via our in-depth interview with Mutts cartoonist and world-class pet lover Patrick McDonnell. We say “world class,” because he used the clout of his popular cartoon to join forces with best-selling spiritual writer Eckhart Tolle on this new book.
Of all the books we featured in 2009, “Guardians of Being” ranks near the top in reader feedback. Wherever I’ve traveled this autumn, readers want to talk about this book and the new awareness spreading nationwide about our spiritual connections with animals.
Here’s how we praised this book in our earlier review:
Who is Patrick McDonnell? He grew up, like a lot of us, as a fan of
“Peanuts.” He told me, “I loved Charles Schulz as a
kid. I was aware of the spiritual quality in the comic strip and that’s
why I loved it so much.”
Patrick is a true artist, which is why
his cartoons have a loose and personally expressive look to them that
might spark memories of earlier comics like “Krazy Kat.” In fact,
“Krazy Kat” is one of Patrick’s own favorites, partly because it
featured wildly imaginative writing and partly because of the
“scratchy, handmade look in those comics.”
Or, in other words—clear signs that a Creator’s hand is shaping the narrative.
CLICK HERE to buy a copy of “Guardians of Being” from Amazon (and help ReadTheSpirit as you do).
No. 3: R. CRUMB’s Pulp Fiction Blast from the Bible,
“THE BOOK OF GENESIS ILLUSTRATED”
NO, WE ARE NOT RELATED! Our bylines have floated around American media for decades now and I’ve answered this question countless times, but now our names are converging in a single place, so: No, he’s Crumb. I’m Crumm.
He’s 12 years older than me. And, to be honest, he’s way more daring. But, I have to point out: Both of us did wind up devoting years of effort to religious themes. In this case, R. Crumb spent four years illustrating “Genesis” as a graphic novel.
We’re honoring this as a Best Bet because—well, duhhh!—we’d be dumb to ignore the enormous interest in this graphic novel! Whatever you think of R. Crumb’s “take” on scriptures, anyone who cares about religion has to be thrilled that millions of Americans are curious about the Bible’s first book once more.
Over the past month, “Genesis” and “Guardians of Being” are the two most-asked-about new books when I talk with groups of readers.
What’s in the book? Well, R. Crumb, that’s what.
If you know his work, you’ll be forewarned that this is an R-rated version of Genesis with men and women actually “knowing” each other when the Bible says they did. As usual in an R. Crumb comic, most of the men and women look fairly big, beefy and hairy—like a convention of disgruntled pro wrestlers. So, the R-rated scenes aren’t what most of us would call erotic. Some scenes are as literally violent as the biblical verses themselves: In one scene, when the Bible says a man was slain with a sword—we see his head chopped in two. The whole graphic novel is in black and white—thank God. If he’d worked in color, I couldn’t have stomached the reds.
Those are the disclaimers—so you’re fully forewarned. But I promise you this: Give this book to someone at a holiday gathering—and this will be the one gift passed around until you pack it up to head for home.
It’s not everyone’s cup of tea—but it’s just too cool to miss!
CLICK HERE to buy a copy of “The Book of Genesis Illustrated by R. Crumb” from Amazon (and help ReadTheSpirit as you do.)
No. 4, and our last one today …
FERNANDO MOLERES’ Mysterious Collection of Windows into
“LIVES OF DEVOTION”
WHEN I WAS A BOY, I began my lifelong quest for spiritual answers through the pages of magazines. At that time, we owned a small black and white TV set and I loved literature—but my vision mainly expanded through the pages of magazines: Life, Look, National Geographic, Ebony and others. I eagerly awaited these colorful, evocative, exotic windows into worlds beyond my home.
I know that, today, billions of people access the Internet on a daily basis—but that portal is deceptively blind to the grandeur of the world’s cultures.
So, for this list of awe-inspiring books I wanted to include a book with a visual grandeur and mystery that might have the capacity to pop open our weary eyes.
I found it in Fernando Moleres’ “Lives of Devotion: The Many Faces of Faith.”
Unlike our other three recommended authors, today, you’ve probably never heard his name before. You should meet him through this book. He’s a very important photographer, concerned with helping us to see corners of the world that we’d prefer to ignore. Born in Spain in 1963, his major projects have included: documenting child labor around the world, showing us life in one of the world’s biggest urban garbage dumps, and photographing African slums.
He’s not a man looking for pretty pictures merely to entertain. It’s his restless, investigative, journalistic sensibility that comes through in page after page of this terrific coffee-table exploration of monastic life around the world. Wandering through its lavish pages, peering into his scenes of religious devotion and passion, I became that boy again—eager to enlarge my world.
You’ll find that same pleasure, I’m sure.
Finally, I know that some readers will want to know that Moleres’ global scope includes some rarely visited corners of the Earth. In addition to popular spots like Jerusalem, Egypt, Italy and India, he devotes special sections to Ethiopia, Syria, Armenia, Serbia, Russia and Myanmar.
CLICK HERE to buy a copy of “Lives of Devotion: The Many Faces of Faith” from Amazon (and help ReadTheSpirit in the process).
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(Originally published at https://readthespirit.com/)