Christmas Gift Book List

????????????????????????????With little more than three months until Christmas, are you dreading the annual hunt for presents for a long list of loved ones? Tired of buying unneeded gifts that get sold on eBay? Consider buying books for the readers on your list. They take little storage room and can be held and cherished, or passed on to friends.

Don’t know what books to buy? Here’s a list of Christian books I recommend that should include something for most of the readers on your list. I’ve read and enjoyed most of these books recently, and if I haven’t, a close family member has. And for the non-readers I’ve included a brand new DVD. Enjoy!

 Kids and Teens Fiction about cross-culture experiences:

1. Asking for Trouble; Through Thick and Thin; Don’t Kiss Him Goodbye; and Flirting with Disaster (London Confidential Series) by Sandra Byrd (age 8 through early teen). Savvy moves from Seattle to London and tries to fit into the British public school scene. I read the first in the series and enjoyed it. The age level reads, “age 8 and up” but I think an early teen would enjoy it as well. Savvy is forced to make decisions about issues that are true to life. Her Christian values determine the decisions she makes.

2. Peanut Butter Friends in a Chop Suey World by Deb Brammer (age 8 and up). Now in its seventh printing, my first book continues to be used widely by mission organizations to help MK’s know how to adapt to a new culture. In this book Amy Kramer sees many cultural perspectives of life for an American in Taiwan.

3. Two Sides to Everything by Deb Brammer (age 8 and up). Josh McKay learns about his mother’s native culture when he goes to live for a while with her Uncle Hamish on a New Zealand sheep farm. This is a good book for boys. It explores many aspects of New Zealand culture which has British roots with its own unique flavour.

4. Careful Enough? by Dillon Forbes (upper teens). Daniel spends his senior year of high school in China with his parents who are tent-making missionaries. This book gives a very accurate view of one kind of ministry possible in China. I don’t know of another book like this that gives such a detailed look at everyday life for an American in China at this age level. Strongly recommended for anyone considering ministry in a creative access nation.

 True Stories:

 Christian Biography/Legal Suspense:

Edges of Truth: The Mary Weaver Story by Deb Brammer with Steve Brennecke. Coming November 22, 2013, just in time for Christmas. This fascinating true story will scare you, make you laugh, and give you hope. I spent the last two years researching, interviewing, and writing this story. Steve, my friend and Mary’s lawyer, helped me write it. The story itself inspired me to be thankful and to understand how God is in control even when it looks like he’s not. The website contains lots of information and you can sign up to be reminded when the book comes out.

 Sports Story:

The Perfect Mile: Three Athletes, One Goal, and Less Than Four Minutes to Achieve It by Neal Bascomb. My husband Art enjoyed learning the history behind the first 4-minute mile. He feels most runners and many sports enthusiasts would enjoy this well-written book.

 True Missionary Story:

End of the Spear; Walking His Trail by Steve Saint. I discovered these books recently. Steve Saint, son of Nate Saint was baptized as a boy by members of the party who speared and killed his father. Much later, when Steve had a family with teenagers who lived in the States, the Waodani (previously known as “Aucas”) practically demanded that he bring his family to live with the tribe. End of the Spear tells about the year in 1995 and 1996 they lived with the Waodanis. These books are well written, inspiring, and strongly recommended.

 Contemporary Fiction:

1. Doesn’t She Look Natural; She Always Wore Red; She’s in a Better Place (Fairlawn Series) by Angela Hunt (adult). Jennifer Graham inherits a funeral home and learns that running one can be a real ministry. It deals with real issues Christians face today with humor and honesty. I really enjoyed this series.

2. Second Opinion; Necessary Measures; Urgent Care (Healing Touch Series) by Hannah Alexander (adult). Art and I enjoyed reading this series by husband/wife team Hannah Alexander. You may not agree with the position on divorce and remarriage, but this is a good series that deals with real challenges and Christian issues faced by people in medical careers.


1. Fatal Illusions; The Tenth Plague by Adam Blumer. Pastor Mark and Gillian Thayer’s vacations turn into murder investigations that bring them into contact with some bizarre events. These well-written mysteries are written by a conservative Christian author who entertains with a clear message. You’ll enjoy these.

2. Cape Refuge; Southern Storm; River’s Edge; Breaker’s Reef (Cape Refuge Series) by Terri Blackstock. These books give great suspense with good character development and a strong Christian message. This well-known author uses these books to talk about second chances for people who have messed up their lives and are looking for a new beginning. Art and I both really enjoyed these.

3. Shoofly Pie; Chop Shop; First the Dead; Less Than Dead; Nick of Time; Ends of the Earth (Bug Man Series) by Tim Downs. If you are looking for hilarious, audacious suspense, Tim Downs is your man. Nick Polchak, the bug man, solves mysteries by examining bugs on bodies. Sounds awful, but this suspense is great. These novels are clean, but it’s hard to find anything strongly Christian in them. You don’t have to read them in order and our favorite was probably Less Than Dead.

 Books for Writers:

1. Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell. This gives techniques and exercises for crafting a plot that grips readers from start to finish. I discovered this book in the last couple of years and have found it helpful in thinking through a book, figuring out what’s missing and what goes where. I helped me take the truth of the Mary Weaver story and put it into a strong plot structure. This is the most helpful writing book I’ve found in this stage of my writing. I recommend it for writers that are working on novels.

2. Polishing the “PUGS” by Kathy Ide. This is a reference book that helps you polish punctuation, usage, grammar, and spelling. It handles many of the problems you have as you manage the details before you submit a manuscript to an editor or move to publication. I had a good style guide before, but it didn’t use the Chicago Manual of Style as a guide which is the normal style guide for books. Kathy goes according to Chicago Manual of Style, The Christian Writer’s Manual of Style and the Associated Press Stylebook, and tells you when those styles vary. She is especially helpful with terms necessary for Christian publication: capitalization of pronouns for God and religious terms, correct ways to deal with Scripture references and versions, and things like that. Any writer can profit from her help with semicolons, em dashes, en dashes, and the like. This has helped me a lot as I polished the final revision of Edges of Truth.

 Family DVD:

The Wednesday Morning Breakfast Club by Duke Street Productions. Newly-hired waitress, Megan, gets a taste of customer service when three elderly men walk into the restaurant one Wednesday morning. Crotchety, persnickety and eccentric, the three men give Megan a run for her money. In spite of initial impressions and the snide remarks of Martha, her co-waitress, Megan rolls up her sleeves and endeavors to be the best server possible for her three regular customers, and a slow but warm friendship blossoms.

My daughter pre-viewed this movie for me. She says it is well-written and the photography is great. It is not overtly Christian and says nothing about church or salvation, but relates a positive message of valuing older people. Though it talks about dying it does so in a subtle way. She says it’s a good, family friendly film.

Amanda Barber, the script writer and one of the lead actors, is a friend of a writing friend of mine. I’m looking forward to seeing it. You can view the trailer here.

Coming next week: Books of interest to those in ministry, including a group of books about Chinese culture.

[Image by Kirsty Pargenter, Deposit Photos.]