Nov 30, 2018

Books for Every Lutheran in Your Family: A Gift Guide

By Anna Mussmann

I love choosing Christmas presents. Finding just the right item for each person is a lot like cooking, sewing, or any other creative endeavor: it takes time, thought, and effort; and the results are satisfying. Of course, I am also blessed with an extended family inclined to gratitude and joy. That makes it all much more fun!

My family-of-origin likes to give moderate gifts. This year we gathered to exchange them at Thanksgiving because we won’t all be traveling for Christmas. I gave books to everyone. Books are an admirable gift. They are suitable both to those who already have a lot of stuff and those who don’t. They fit easily into a suitcase (or a Kindle) and provide travelers with entertainment for the flight home. They can be found second-hand or on sale throughout the year. They are--or should be--part of everyone’s life. I myself am always on the hunt for new book recommendations.

Should you be looking for titles to wrap this year, here are suggestions based on things I’ve recently read and/or gifted.

Religious and Non-fiction Books

For the Lutheran women in your family, try He Restores My Soul. It is a collection of essays by Lutheran women about Christ’s faithfulness in times of struggle and suffering. The writing, the theology, and the Christian comfort are equally beautiful. This volume of devotions might also hit the spot for the mothers you know.

For nearly anyone, consider a leather-bound personal hymnal from CPH. It’s a little smaller than a “pew hymnal” and can be personalized with your recipient’s name. It would make a particularly good gift for someone who travels frequently or who will soon head off to college. Similarly, you might try a compact or regular edition of the Treasury of Daily Prayer or the book Reading the Psalms with Luther. They are attractively bound and offer an abundance of devotional material. There’s just something special about a beautiful, compact book to take along in one’s bag or keep on the nightstand.

This volume qualifies both as literature and also as devotional reading. It’s an annotated collection of great poetry (authors include Shakespeare and Emily Dickinson) that relates to faith, God, and the soul. Because it is new it is unlikely that your recipient already has it. Note: the price seems to fluctuate on Amazon, so check back again later if it’s currently more than $25.

Gene Edward Veith’s The Spirituality of the Cross is an excellent book to give to the non-Lutheran Christians who are or might become part of your family (assuming they are the sort of book-minded folks who are interested in reading about ideas and theology. It is geared towards people who already understand Christian terminology and theology).

My husband and I are currently both reading Walter Wangerin As For Me And My House: Crafting Your Marriage To Last and are appreciating it immensely. It’s very well-written--quite literary, in fact--and inspiring. Your spouse might like reading it together with you. I also gave a copy to my sister who is engaged to be married. Family Vocations by Veith and Moerbe is another volume that is applicable both to those who are in the process of forming their families and those who have enough experience to reflect on what they have built.

For the kids, take a look at Kloria Press. Classic Lutheran hymns, creatively and attractively illustrated, make up the texts in their picture books. Both of these are exceptionally rendered. They also offer board books. In addition, this independently published look at the story of salvation is well-done.

On a completely different topic, have you heard of Anno’s Math Games by Mitsumasa Anno? The author/illustrator has created a series of books that teach math through creative illustrations. My children enjoy them quite a bit and may get some for Christmas.


Here are three novels I have given to others in the last few years:
Imperium by Robert Harris is well-researched historical fiction based on the early career of Cicero. It is likely to delight any of your friends or relatives who are familiar with the famous orator and/or who have classical tastes. 
Laurus by Eugene Vodolazkin is--well, actually, I haven’t read this one. I gave it to my husband based on a blog post by Gene Edward Veith and my husband recommends it. Try it on a relative who likes Russian literature. 
The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison is an excellent choice for fantasy-lovers. It’s an unusual book. The author does all kinds of things authors are told not to do (including having characters spend pages explaining things) and yet somehow it all works beautifully and is fun to read. The details and depth of the story would likely also appeal to fans of historical fiction or literary fiction.

If you know anyone who is an adult fan of Laura Ingalls Wilder and the Little House books, get them this book. It includes the autobiographical material Wilder used to write her famous series as well as extensive, fascinating, scholarly notes.

Beautiful editions of classics are always a good choice. I like the Penguin clothbound classics series (here’s an example) and I love the collector’s library books (example). The latter are extremely high-quality pocket editions, suitable for stowing in one’s purse.

I’m a big fan of “children's” books that appeal to the whole family. I’ve written before about some of my favorite Christmas picture books.

Don’t forget about poetry books. Beautifully-illustrated ones are fun to share, especially if you can build a habit of reading one poem a day (or the same one every day for a week) with your children.This quirky combination of alphabet book, fantastical creatures, and erudite glossary is a fun title to share as well (my full review is here). I’m considering getting this volume of nature-related poems for my family. We already have Gyo Fujikawa’s poetry book and enjoy that one.

Looking for more ideas? Your friendly neighborhood SDMW writers have written a number of reviews, including two for recent CPH novels your family members might not yet have read.

Blessed Advent!


After graduating from Concordia Wisconsin, Anna taught in Lutheran schools for several years and became so enthusiastic about Classical Education that she will talk about it to whomever will listen. She is a big fan of Jane Austen, dark chocolate, and the Oxford comma. Anna and her husband live in Pennsylvania with their two small children. Anna's work can also be found in The Federalist.

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