Fiction and non-fiction; religious and secular; historical and hysterical. Aleteia has your last minute shopping needs covered right here.
Just think, a week from tomorrow, we’ll be in Christmas Eve. The running around will be done, and the daily Advent Meditations will have (hopefully) readied our hearts and made us fully prepared for the triumph and tenderness of the Christmas Mass.
But yes, most of us still have some shopping to do, and if you’re a bit confounded on what to get people — in several categories, from adult to teen to child — here are some suggestions to help you get done in time appreciate the beautiful, season-and-soul enriching O Antiphons that are about to begin.
In no particular order, some books that will make terrific gifts:
1) Cultivating Virtue: Self-Mastery With the Saintsby “Anonymous” (Tan Books)
This book is a true gift in every way, from its gorgeous design and gilt-edged presentation, to its content. Originally published in Europe in 1891 and brilliantly – -most important, “readably” — translated into very clear and conversational English, this book takes you through the virtues through out the year, day-by-day, sharing stories of both great and lesser-known saints, and their writings. If you’re looking for something that is rich in both feel and content, and you have someone ready to make some new friends of the saints, you can’t go wrong with this.
2) Humility Rules: Saint Benedict’s Twelve-Step Guide to Genuine Self-Esteemby Augustine Wetta, OSB (Ignatius Press)
The title seems serious but in fact this is a rather jolly book, as one might guess by the skateboard tucked under the arm of St. Benedict. Wetta, a Benedictine monk of St. Louis Abbey, has a terrific sense of humor and a puckish eye for illustration. Here he has essentially broken down the Rule of St. Benedict for young adult readers (and teens, I’d say) and his down to earth prose reads like an extra-clear C.S. Lewis who is feeling breezy.
3) The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister’s Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine, Lindsey Fitzharris (Scientific American / Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
The cover is eye-catchingly gory and, with its Victorian font, immediately suggests Jack-the-Ripper. Anyone who follows Fitzharris on Facebook is aware of her expertise on the nightmarish hell that was the practice of medicine in the Victorian age, and here she takes us on a fascinating journey into the real terror of it, as faced by countless patients, before Joseph Lister (hello, Listerine!) managed to convince an often stubborn medical community to take antiseptic practices seriously. Sterling prose, vivid descriptions and more than a dollop of humor makes this a must-have, especially for students of medicine or fans of historical horror stories.
4) The Ninth Hour, by Alice McDermott (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
A breathtaking novel the reader does not want to put down, and a stunning, evocatively drawn illustration of the truth that most lives of faith, not even the lives of nuns, can remain lived in black-and-white when there is so much grey, all around. Set in the early 20th century, McDermott’s depictions of the mostly Irish sisters who visit the poor and sometimes squalid tenements of their parishioners are accurate reflections of the sort of strong, fiercely faithful, and yet bold before God women who essentially invented the notion of “social services” well before the government ever thought to. Fascinating, affecting. A great, great novel.
5) Eight Whopping Lies and Other Stories of Bruised Grace, by Brian Doyle, (Franciscan Media)
What a writer we lost at the too-soon passing of Brian Doyle, perhaps the finest essayist of our age. His was an irresistible and singular voice, managing to write about his life, and the lives of others, with keen insight, elegantly expressed. He is also capable of wringing your heart with one poignant paragraph, only to keep the tears falling — this time with laughter — as he hauls out a phrase full of sass and brass. We’ve lost a treasure, but if you give this book as a gift — a great stocking stuffer, this one — the treasure is passed on.
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