Cornelius Plantinga Jr. (Eerdmans)
For gists and piths, you won't find a better book than this one, which grew out of a series of summer seminars for preachers that Plantinga has led at Calvin College since 2003. Anyone who works with words—not preachers only—will find instruction and delight here. Reading for Preaching is a marvel of concision, blunt good sense, sharp insight, and intellectual generosity. Buy one for yourself and one for your pastor. (If you are a pastor, buy a second copy for a friend in the pulpit.)
Eric Jaffe (Scribner)
The combat psychiatrist in question, Major Daniel S. Jaffe, was the author's grandfather. The war crimes suspect was Okawa Shumei, neither a military officer nor a government official but a writer and speaker whose ideas helped to lead Japan into war. Starting with the moment at the 1946 Tokyo counterpart to the Nuremberg trials that brought the two men into contact, Jaffe skillfully shifts back and forth between their stories while filling in the historical context. His narrative is fascinating on multiple levels—not least for a Japanese perspective on the war.
Edited by Paul A. Lacey (New Directions)
For your poetry-loving friend, this massive volume (with an introduction by poet Eavan Boland) would provide a yearlong feast. Born in England, Levertov (1925–97) came to the United States in her 20s and became one of the leading American poets of her generation. She lost some readers and gained new ones when she took a fiercely political turn in the 1960s. With the arc of her career laid out for us, it becomes clearer than ever before that she was fundamentally a religious ...