Our Holiday Gift Guide

Whatever your faith, you can improve your own outlook on life—and build a healthier community in the New Year 2015 by sharing these gems …


We are proud to have the highly respected faith-and-film writer Edward McNulty contributing weekly to our online magazine in the department called Visual Parables. For several decades, McNulty has served as a leading expert in sparking discussions that draw faith-related themes from popular movies. In 2013, McNulty decided to move his vast database of more than 1,000 film reviews into the ReadTheSpirit family of websites. The only thing McNulty sells—the only source of ongoing support for his work—is the Visual Parables Journal, a monthly magazine McNulty has been publishing for many years. This Journal goes beyond the free reviews published online—and, in each issue, adds complete discussion guides to recent films plus other Journal-only “extras.” Lots of clergy, teachers, small-group leaders and film buffs enjoy the Journal.

NOW THROUGH DECEMBER 31, an annual subscription to Visual Parables is on SALE. Order now (before New Year’s Day 2015) and you’ll get $10 off the normal annual subscription rate of $39.95. (Plus, it’s a wonderful way to support the ongoing work of one of America’s highly respected film critics.)


As a publisher, ReadTheSpirit Books is known for “building healthy communities” and encouraging peacemaking. Two of our most popular books in this effort are Blessed Are the Peacemakers, by global peace trainer Daniel Buttry. Over many years of circling the planet in his work, Buttry has met and worked with many world-famous peacemakers. In this book, he profiles dozens of men, women and children who have risked their lives on the side of peace. Then, University of Michigan sociologist Dr. Wayne Baker’s landmark research on American values has made headlines coast to coast this year. Offering hope while everyone else portrays a deeply divided U.S., Baker’s research concludes that Americans are united by 10 core values. All 10 values are presented—along with intriguing discussion questions—in Baker’s book United America. Got a friend, relative or co-worker who you think will never see eye to eye with you? Baker’s book makes a perfect gift! (You may also enjoy reading Baker’s long-running weekly series, OurValuesand check out Daniel Buttry’s section of our website with many sample chapters from his books, called Interfaith Peacemakers.)


Millions of men, women and children need help right here in our American communities. Faith Fowler’s This Far By Faith is a wise and funny and inspiring series of true stories about Faith’s well-known ministry in Detroit with poor, disabled and homeless men and women. The book’s many endorsers include Mitch Albom, who writes: “This memoir, like the author herself, is funny, poignant, moving, beautifully staged and oozing with a commitment to a simple yet profound idea: that other people are worth the trouble.”

In addition, 65 million Americans are caregivers for someone they love. One in three American households includes a caregiver. You surely have a caregiver in your circle and this might be something you get for yourself. If you haven’t already ordered a copy of the Rev. Dr. Benjamin Pratt’s A Guide for Caregiving—do so right now. The person who receives this gift will be sure to thank you!


An important part of a “healthy community” is the assurance that everyone is welcome to live without fear. So, ReadTheSpirit has been publishing a series of books on themes of anti-bullying and inclusion. Bullying Is No Laughing Matter is a perfect choice if you’ve got a friend or family member wrestling with the challenge of bullying. They might be …

  • A parent or grandparent with school-age children
  • A teacher in public schools or religious schools or Sunday school
  • Teens or ‘tweens who are concerned about the 24/7 onslaught of bullying in social media

You’ll see that a number of people on your shopping list would enjoy our colorful, large-format comic book, Bullying Is No Laughing Matter. If this theme is especially important to you, then you might consider the more complete guidebook to understanding this growing problem: The New Bullying. (You may also enjoy the colorful Bullying Is No Laughing Matter department in our website, which publishes new comic-related “activity guides” each week.)

In addition, ReadTheSpirit has published two books in 2014 about the importance of hospitality toward LGBT men and women in congregations nationwide: A Letter to My Congregation and, new this fall, Changing Our Mind. (You may want to read our latest story about the nationwide interest in Dr. David P. Gushee’s book, Changing Our Mind.)


Laughter—especially warm-hearted humor—is always welcome at the holidays. ReadTheSpirit has two downright funny writers whose stories cover all of life’s challenges. Rabbi Robert Alper is nationally famous as both an accomplished standup comic and a practicing rabbi (he still conducts high holiday services each year). Of course, good humor transcends cultural categories. Alper’s book Thanks I Needed That is a wise and wonderful collection of real-life stories that Alper spins with grace and wit. In addition, Rodney Curtis is sometimes better known by the title of his first memoir, The Spiritual Wandererand his two subsequent books are gaining in popularity, as well. They are humorous looks at how Rodney overcame the twin ills of our age: unemployment and a diagnosis of cancer. The books are called A ‘Cute’ Leukemia and Getting Laid (Off). (You may also enjoy reading Rodney’s popular online series.)


One of our most wide-ranging columnists is Suzy Farbman whose GodSigns book and weekly columns explore “Synchronicity, Turning Points and Beyond …” Her memoir GodSigns is the true story of how she overcame a dire diagnosis of cancer. But this is far from a typical “cancer memoir.” Her book is funny, inspiring and courageous as it explores many different directions in her pathway back to health. The book is a perfect gift for anyone worried about a difficult challenge looming ahead in life. The recipient of this gift will come back to give you a warm hug after enjoying Suzy’s adventures. There’s real hope between the covers of this book!


As our communities and even our own families are becoming more diverse, people want to become more culturally competent—especially educators, health-care professionals, public safety officers—and pretty much anyone whose profession takes them into business and the public square. ReadTheSpirit Books specializes in this important theme with a wide range of books you’ll find in our bookstore. Want to learn more about Judaism? Try Debra Darvick’s This Jewish Life. Want to learn about Islam? Try The Beauty of Ramadan. Our signature series in this genre are the 100 Questions and Answers About … books produced by the MSU School of Journalism. Start right here to learn about the MSU team and many of their books.


(Originally published at readthespirit.com, an on line magazine covering religion, spirituality, values and interfaith and cross-cultural issues.)

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