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All I Want For Christmas Is Books

Author: Andy Drozdziak

All I Want For Christmas Is Books

Advent, for many,  means the time to start Christmas shopping. Andy Drozdziak gives his recommendations for those readers among your loved ones.

I love to read, as do many of the people who are closest to me. When buying Christmas gifts, therefore, I’m naturally drawn towards the bookshop for inspiration.

Below are five books that I love – both Christian and secular - that I can recommend as great Christmas presents.

1.     All The Light We Cannot See

Anthony Doerr, Fourth Estate, 2014

A story to move the heart. Set in the German occupation of France in World war two, Doerr intertwines the stories of Marie-Laure, a blind, motherless French girl and Werner, a sensitive German technical genius.

What makes this novel stand out is the tenderness witnessed in Marie-Laure’s relationships. When her father disappears, she lives with her Aunt, Madame Manec and great‑uncle Etienne, who comes to life describing his past to Marie-Laure.

Doerr draws a striking contrast between the oppression of the German occupation and the warmth of these relationships. Marie-Laure’s imagination, formed by her father’s miniature buildings and the literary classics that she devours in Braille, is vividly described. Madame Manec, buoyed by the challenge of overcoming the Germans, encourages the shell-shocked Etienne to join her, asking: “Don’t you want to be alive before you die?” 

Doerr uses rich, poetic language, with an admirable attention to detail, to create engaging characters that you really care about.

2.    Trust Surrender Believe Receive

Rónán Johnston, What’s your story, 2014

A must-read for anyone interested in praise and worship. And it’s not only for musicians. Sure, praise and worship leaders will find it helpful, but it’s more about Rónán Johnston’s story and his tips on connecting with God.

Many will identify with his testimony of “trying to get God to do what I want” and saying no, more often than yes, to God’s will. During the recent Irish financial crash, he explains, with characteristic honesty, how he started to say “yes” to God, even in financial hardship. From this “yes”, worship flowed freely.

Written in a conversational style, you could read it just as easily on a train as in a church. Trust Surrender Believe Receiveis an ideal gift for someone  wanting to go deeper on their spiritual walk.

3.    Brooklyn 

Colm Tóibín, Viking, 2009

An Irish girl’s emigration to America: surely this story has been told enough already? Tóibín tells a familiar story in an engaging way. Eilis is a young Irish woman whose life seems very ordinary, even when she starts a new life in America. Tragedy turns Eilis’ world on its head and she is forced to make stark choices: between the new and the old, and between familiarity and the unknown. The appeal of this book lies in Tóibín’s elegant writing in chronicling one girl’s quest for happiness and freedom.

4.   Words of Life From Luke

Frances Hogan, Collins, 1990

If you want a decent Bible commentary, this is for you. Written in a punchy and accessible style, Frances Hogan shows how Luke’s Gospel does not offer comfort as much as it brings a challenge. This challenge is to live a new kind of life, in solidarity with those whom Jesus associates, namely the marginalised or rejected. She underlines effectively how those inside and outside the Church are called to a life of compassion and mercy.

5.    Eager To Love

Richard Rohr, Hodder & Stoughton, 2015

Not an easy read, but a worthwhile one. Rohr retells the story of “two dropouts”, Francis of Assisi and his companion Clare. Eager to look “beyond the birdbath”, Rohr demonstrates how Francis’ radical application of Jesus’ teachings has transformed many. The similarities Rohr underlines between the issues prevalent in Francis’ days and those in our own time are striking. He gives readers food for thought as to how Jesus’ teachings can transform lives today, just as they did in the time of Francis of Assisi.

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