Gold, Frankincense, And Books

The gift of a book is a twofold gift. First is the book itself, marvelous words and pictures leading to realms of the imagination.

Second is the gift of yourself. You believe that what delights you will also delight the recipient. The gift of a book celebrates the bond and the joy of mutual interest.

Forthwith, my recommendations for some of this season’s best books for giving:

A Way With Words

For someone who enjoys the way words go together, choose Frederick Buechner, Annie Dillard, and Virginia Stem Owens.

Buechner’s Brendan (Atheneum, $17.95) is a superb fictional treatment of a real sixth-century saint, set in the generation after the coming of Christianity to Ireland through the preaching of Saint Patrick. The conflict between Christ and paganism is fresh and direct—part of the fabric of life.

Brendan, son of Finnloag, spent his life in the monastic world. Reared there since his first birthday, he founded a monastery of his own, returning there after his fabled voyages around the Irish sea and the Atlantic, perhaps as far as Florida.

Playing Possum

An Excerpt

“I had a friend once who, inspired by the Epistle to the Philippians, I decided to practice dying as a spiritual exercise. He would come home from work, worn out and fretted by a job he didn’t like, to a house with crying babies and a restless wife, and he would lay down and die. Prostrate himself on the floor in the midst of domestic detritus and play dead, like a possum. He would fold his hands across his chest, close his eyes, and pretend it was all over. All the toil and strain to make a living, to make a life. No more obligations. No more responsibilities. No more opportunity to make his mark on an already ...

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