When asked a question, I may not know the answer but I often suggest a book. I read a lot and love to recommend books to others. So, why not share? Here are books to consider for Christmas. They are not always religious but they are interesting. The list is in no particular order. With each book there is information provided by Amazon.com followed by, “Why I recommend this book.”

Vanishing Grace: Whatever Happened to the Good News by Philip Yancey: “Why does the church stir up such negative feelings?” Philip Yancey has been asking this all his life as a journalist. His perennial question is more relevant now than ever: research shows that favorable opinions of Christianity have plummeted drastically—and opinions of Evangelicals have taken even deeper dives. Yet while opinions about Christianity are dropping, interest in spirituality is rising. Why the disconnect? Why are so many asking, “What’s so good about the Good News?” In Vanishing Grace, Yancey shows the desperate need our world has for grace, and how Christians can truly make the gospel good news again. Wading deep into the transformative power of grace, you will read illuminating stories of how faith can be expressed in ways that disarm even the most cynical.

Why I recommend this book: “Faith is not simply a private matter or something we practice once a week at church. Rather, it should have a contagious effect on the broader world.” If you are looking for a book that will help you shape your faith and then share that faith in a creative way with others then read Vanishing Grace. I believe this may be Philip Yancey’s best book.

Right Color – Wrong Culture: A Leadership Fable by Bryan Loritts: Increasingly, leaders recognize the benefit of multi-ethnic organizations and are compelled to hire diverse individuals who will help them reflect a new America. Transitioning a church or organization to move toward multiethnicity requires the right kind of leader. One who is willing to immerse themselves into the environments and lives of people who are different from them and make a difference. In Right Color, Wrong Culture you enter into a conversation between individuals who are grappling with changing neighborhoods while struggling to remain relevant within communities growing in diversity. You journey with Gary and Peter as they challenge those around them to reach beyond what is comfortable and restructure their leadership team. Known for his passion to build diversity in organizations, Bryan Loritts equips individuals with the tools necessary to recognize and value the culture that’s often hidden behind race and color.

Why I recommend this book: “An elderly black woman approached him, put out her weathered hand and squeezed Peter’s hand with a strength that surprised the pastor… ‘I grew up in this city. I was here during segregation. After all these years of praying for our city, I just had to come and see this church for myself.’” Moving a church from all white to multi-ethnic, grappling with constantly changing neighborhoods and cultures is almost impossible but so necessary. A must read for any pastor or church leader.

Simplify: Ten Practices to Unclutter Your Soul by Bill Hybels: Exhausted. Overwhelmed. Overscheduled. Sound familiar? Today’s velocity of life can consume and control us . . . until our breakneck pace begins to feel normal and expected. That’s where the danger lies: When we spend our lives doing things that keep us busy but don’t really matter, we sacrifice the things that do. What if your life could be different? What if you could be certain you were living the life God called you to live—and building a legacy for those you love? If you crave a simpler life anchored by the priorities that matter most, roll up your sleeves: Simplified living requires more than just cleaning out your closets or reorganizing your desk drawer. It requires uncluttering your soul. By eradicating the stuff that leaves your spirit drained, you can stop doing what doesn’t matter—and start doing what does.

Why I recommend this book: “Often when people describe their too-busy lives, they make it sound as if overscheduling happened to them unwittingly, like they had no choice in the matter… News flash: You are the boss of your schedule.” Okay, okay, I confess. This book is for me. I need to learn how to simplify my life and this book will help.

Gray Mountain by John Grisham: The year is 2008 and Samantha Kofer’s career at a huge Wall Street law firm is on the fast track—until the recession hits and she gets downsized, furloughed, escorted out of the building. She’s offered an opportunity to work at a legal aid clinic for one year without pay, after which there would be a slim chance that she’d get her old job back. In a matter of days Samantha moves from Manhattan to Brady, Virginia, population 2,200, in the heart of Appalachia, a part of the world she has only read about. Mattie Wyatt, lifelong Brady resident and head of the town’s legal aid clinic, is there to teach her how to “help real people with real problems.”

Why I recommend this book: “The horror was in the waiting-the unknown, the insomnia, the ulcers. Co-workers ignored each other and hid behind locked doors Secretaries and paralegals passed along the rumors and refused eye contact. Everyone was on edge wondering…” From the first page, this novel took you for a roller coaster ride of a compelling story. But in the end you learned what being a lawyer could be and should be in the midst of the poverty in coal mining country.

Pilgrimage into the Last Third of Life: 7 Gateways to Spiritual Growth by Jane Marie Thibault and Richard L. Morgan: Do you dread growing old? The last third of life, from age 60 on up, doesn’t have to be feared. When viewed from a Christian perspective, this season of life can be meaningful, endurable … and even joyful. Thibault and Morgan suggest approaching the Last Third as a pilgrimage—a journey full of purpose, ripe with opportunities for spiritual growth. This collection of scripture-based meditations will inspire you or someone you know to move fearlessly into the Last Third, looking forward to the opportunities this time of life can hold. The book includes reflection questions and can be used by individuals or groups for a 7-week study.

Why I recommend this book: “Osteoporosis has wrecked Marie Shepherd’s body. Multiple fractures of wrists and legs restrict her to a wheelchair. Despite numerous bouts in skilled nursing for rehabilitation, Marie returns to our community and maintains her cheerful spirit. Her disability has attuned her to the suffering of others, fostering a deep compassion. Despite her pain, she exemplifies what Kathleen Fischer calls ‘winter grace’: courage grown larger in the face of diminishment.’” As I grow old, I find myself looking at books like this. If you are getting older or if you are caring for the elderly, you need to read this book.

Next week: Five more books to recommend. Meanwhile, send me your comments or suggestions for other books to: LarryDaviies@PrayWithYou.org