Books that inspire and help direct lives to better live the Gospel are the best kinds of gifts at this wonderful time of year. The first four books, as well as the last, are good for ages twelve through adult. The two picture books indicate the best appropriate age.
John Stockton: Assisted, An Autobiography, includes a foreword by John’s longtime teammate, Karl Malone, as well as a preface and inclusion in every section by Kerry L. Pickett. There are two words that seem appropriate to describe this inspiring book about one of Utah’s most prized professional athletes. They describe the way this book was written and they describe his attributes: humble and hard work. Stockton has always exemplified a low profile, avoiding the stage and keeping his personal life personal. So having this opportunity to read from his own words how he worked hard, gave up many social activities in order to achieve his dreams, how he met his wife and how he ended up in Utah is interesting, well written and even humorous. You begin to hear his voice as you read; his self-defacing humor in his viewpoint concerning himself and how he affected the outcome. The result is a book that showcases his highly competitive spirit. But moreover, it demonstrates the importance of family, his love of God and country, and his diligence and consistency in hard work. There are also photos sprinkled throughout of Stockton and the people most important to him.
The Romney Family Table: Sharing Home-Cooked Recipes and Favorite Traditions, by Ann Romney, is packed with delicious, mouth-watering recipes. But this book is so much more than a cook book. It begins with the section about family and showcases the interconnections between Ann Romney and her children and grandchildren. The stories of how she used to dress her young sons, before going to bed on Saturday nights, in their Sunday best so that she could get them to church on time is so relatable and easy to understand. This gorgeous over-sized book is sectioned into “Family”, “Traditions”, “Holidays” and then “Recipes”. There are many, many recipes and the glorious photos of the food will make you hungry. There are also many great photos of the Romney family in many relaxed settings.
My Name Used to be Muhammad: The True Story of a Muslim Who Became a Christian, by Tito Momen, with Jeff Benedict, is enlightening with the information it gives concerning growing up in Nigeria in a religious community where life was completely connected to religious training and scripture study. The author portrays his life with an even flow that goes from early life being immersed in Islam. Then onto his introduction to Christianity and becoming imprisoned because of his change of beliefs. This imprisonment lasted for fifteen years and was filled with abuse and extremely difficult persecution while in prison. But this experience didn’t dishearten him; rather his strong testimony gave him continual hope. Be warned that the abuse and sexuality discussed is descriptive and is not meant for children.
In Wisdom & Order, by Boyd K. Packer, is actually a compilation of some of President Packer’s most memorable and influential messages. The book is broken down into six parts that include “Gospel Foundations”, “Principles For Perfection” and “Youth and Family”. As with all of his talks, these messages are inspirational and hit the mark of what we need to do to improve our daily lives. For instance in the “Principles For Perfection”, his chapter on profanity begins with a touching story of helping a young brother who had been in a single-car accident. President Packer relates how upset this man was when he found his car had been completely destroyed and how he used language that was very profane. He was later ashamed of himself and President Packer used this story as an example of how we need to control our emotions. The stories found throughout are exhilarating and help teach valuable lessons.
Christmas From Heaven: The True Story of the Berlin Candy Bomber, with a DVD enclosed and read by Tom Brokow, and performed by the Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square, and beautifully illustrated by Robert T. Barrett, retells the account of Lt. Hall Halvorsen and how he became known by German children at the end of World War II as the “Candy Bomber”. It all began when he tore his two pieces of gum in half that he had in his pocket. These sweets-starved children tore these pieces into even smaller pieces to share with others and thus began his goal to get kids more sweets. The wonderful illustrations in this picture book are interspersed with actual photos that are sprinkled throughout. And there is much history provided under each photo, along with the text, that goes along with each double page illustration. There are even directions of how to make a candy parachute found in the back of the book. This book is good for all ages.
Sing to Baby Jesus: A Christmas Counting Book, by Rachelle Pace Castor, and illustrated by Dean Kleven, is a rhyming picture book that actually can also be sung. In fact, Janice Kapp Perry put the words to a sweet melody and this music can be found in the back of the book. Each brightly colored picture is a double-page spread featuring different sets of animals as they help celebrate the birth of the Baby Jesus. Each page brings on another set of animals that corresponds with the count reaching the number ten. This book is good for ages two to six.
12 Gifts For Christ: Traditions, Activities, and Devotionals for a Christ-Centered Christmas, by Merrilee Boyack, is the perfect book to bring about the true meaning of Christmas with your family. The book is divided into 12 sacred gifts which include gratitude, charity, forgiveness and joy. But it’s the first chapter that truly sets the tone of this wonderful smallish size paperback. The gift of personal knowledge discusses the importance of developing a personal knowledge of Christ. This book points out how to locate scriptures, along with words from the prophets, to really learn of Him. There is a bountiful load of ideas to help with sharing these important gifts for Family Home Evenings not only during the Christmas season but throughout the entire year. I especially enjoyed reading the author’s inspiration for writing this book found in the Introduction. It’s a perfect way to begin reading this perfect book.