Do you have a bibliophile in your life that you are looking to surprise with a gift this holiday season? Well, here is a list of books that would melt the heart of any book lover. At the beginning of the list I’ve included books that are related to religious studies but there are a couple books at the end that would appeal to any reader.
Jewish Concepts of Scripture: A Comparative Introduction edited by Benjamin D. Sommer. A deeply fascinating book that discusses how the Jewish community from the rabbinic to modern period viewed the Bible.
Inheriting Abraham by Jon Levenson. Jon Levenson is on my “read everything they write” list and in this book he points out that Jewish, Islamic, and Christian communities each have different understandings and traditions surrounding Abraham. Therefore, he questions whether “Abrahamic religions” is a useful concept.
In Defense of Religious Moderation by William Egginton. Egginton’s motivation in this book is to demonstrate that “fundamentalism,” or an epistemic stance in which one is absolutely certain that they are able to accurately discern the universe’s code of codes, is separate from religious belief. Accordingly, he believes that the best antidote to religious violence and fanaticism is not atheism but a more modest, or moderate, religious sensibility. While I think he at times stretches his case and doesn’t quite understand some of the Church matriarchs and patriarch, it is a deeply fascinating book that easily moves between discussion of The Matrix, Richard Rorty, Islam and back again.
The Bible and the Believer by Marc Brettler, Peter Enns, and Daniel Harrington. A Jew, a Protestant, and a Roman Catholic (no, this isn’t a joke) each discuss how they hold together their religious faith while simultaneously engaging the biblical text from a perspective that takes into account contemporary scholarly advances. If you know someone who is serious about cultivating a religiously informed intellectual life then you need to get them this book. Needless to say, everyone who is studying the Bible in both academic and worship communities will greatly benefit from it.
A Brutal Unity: The Spiritual Politics of the Christian Church by Ephraim Radner. An interesting and provocative book that tries to explore the oneness of God as conceived within Christian theology in relation to the often fratricidal tendencies of the Christian community both historically and in the present (think of all those church splits and fired seminary professors you’ve heard of not to mention the Crusades). The book sets forward a path for Christians that centers upon giving up parts of oneself in order to live in harmony and seek peace. As one who tires of being attacked by my fellow Christians and, even more, who is continually discouraged to see my Christian friends in the academy get ground down by the gears of “Christian” power, this book was a breath of fresh air and a strong personal challenge.
Phantoms on the Bookshelves by Jacques Bonnet. An absolutely marvelous little reflection upon personal book collection. Bonnet accumulated a personal library of tens of thousands of volumes and speaks from a heart in love with books. This is a must-read for any bibliophile.
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan. A fun novel about a guy who works in a San Francisco bookstore and stumbles upon a secret society that is trying to break a code made by Aldus Manutius, one of the world’s most significant book printers. You can read the short story that the novel was based on, but the novel takes the basic story line and extends it quite a bit.