They come in all shapes and sizes, and in varying degrees of foolishness, too: angel books. Just when you think the latest publishing fad has finally played itself out, three or four more arrive: how angels can help you beat the stock market, perhaps, or a geographical guide to angelic domains. (You want to know who is in charge of California? Look it up.) Amid this sludge, it is easy to write off the entire genre. That would be a mistake. Two new books show why.

Timothy Jones's "Celebration of Angels" (Nelson, 239 pp.; $15.99, hardcover) offers a biblically based view of what we know (and what we don't know) about angels. Jones, a former associate editor at CT, shows that to acknowledge the existence of angels is to affirm the reality of the spiritual realm - a reality that needs affirming against both secular naturalism and the perversities of New Age spirituality. Readable and engaging (among its many user-friendly features is a quick survey of six popular myths about angels), Jones's book is also handsomely illustrated.

Ann Spangler's "An Angel a Day: Stories of Angelic Encounters" (Zondervan, 128 pp.; $12.99, hardcover) consists of 60 daily devotionals divided into 12 thematic chapters. Like Jones, Spangler includes contemporary accounts of encounters with angels in addition to the biblical passages on which most of her selections are based.

As a poet, teacher, editor, publisher, and mentor, Luci Shaw has been a vital force in contemporary Christian writing. Her new book of poems, Writing the River (Pinon, 87 pp.; $12, hardcover), distills the hard-won wisdom of a lifetime, revealing the presence of the transcendent in the fabric of everyday life.


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