Recommended Reads: The Good Book is the Best!

While there are so many good books out there, you and I know that the best book is the Good Book. Today I want to highlight a couple of books that get young and old alike into the Bible.

61u4wwgzkcl-_sx428_bo1204203200_I’ve already featured a post on The Jesus Storybook Bible. It may look like just another picture book, but it is much more than that, and I’ve heard more than a few times that the adult reader was moved to tears while reading it aloud to a youngster. We currently carry it in the bookstore, and also have a Spanish-English bilingual version as well.


612l14kntsl-_sx327_bo1204203200_The Action Bible is a graphic novel that captures the overall narrative of the Bible in chronological order. And lest you think it is just a “guy book,” the girls of Bibliopolis are often crowded around the book reading it together, and fighting to get in line to check it out.

Just yesterday I had a pretty involved discussion with the 1st-2nd grade girls about why Pilate would have given Jesus over to be crucified if he knew Jesus was innocent. They had logical and insightful questions, and we were able to make connections to how we choose to do wrong when we are so afraid of getting into trouble.

There were some funny moments too. A couple of memorable lines from our discussion:

  • “Why was Pilate afraid of losing his job and getting into trouble? He could just lose his job and be a regular person.”
  • “Pilate should have listened to Jesus. And to his wife!”

I always have these two books out on the ottoman in the middle of our reading area, and without fail, whether 1st graders or 8th graders, someone will pick one up and read from it during part of our time together.

Here’s an unstaged photo of 1st-2nd boys reading the books. 🙂

They’re great ways to get the kids and adults in your life interested in the Bible, and hooked into God’s story.

Do you have any interesting stories or experiences with reading or sharing The Jesus Storybook Bible or The Action Bible with someone? 

MYOB (Make Your Own Book (Table))

Having a gathering of friends, family, coworkers, and you want to feature some books as gifts? You can make your own book table. A few weeks ago, the Klesis Berkeley upperclassmen hosted a retreat for some of their friends, and they designed a great space using a pallet, some lights, and…a table! The theme of the retreat was about “home” and so they used the pallet for an interactive element.

Hope these pictures give you a bit of inspiration for any holiday gatherings you might be having. If you have any pictures to share, send them my way!

Defying Reading Statistics!

Yesterday’s Breakpoint Commentary entitled “Be a Bookworm, Not a Goldfish: The Lost Art of Reading a Book” cited new findings from a Pew Research Center study that over 25% of Americans, and a whopping 1 in 3 American men, did not read a book in the past year. The article’s title is a reference to the now-common shockstistic (a word I just made up) that the human attention span is now shorter than that of a goldfish. There’s debate about how true it is that we can no longer sustain thought for 8 seconds at a time, but the bigger point is that reading good books* can help us fight against the effects of our 21st century instant culture on our brains, and more importantly our minds and souls.

Author Eric Metaxas references professor Allan Bloom, author of The Closing of the American Mind:

The failure to read good books both enfeebles the vision and strengthens our most fatal tendency—the belief that the here and now is all there is.

In terms of actual reading of text, Americans have never read more than they do today, with innumerable text messages, emails, tweets, posts, news feeds, and other updates. As Christians, how much more important is it for us to learn how to engage our minds and enter into dialogue with an author about sustained arguments, ideas, or imagined worlds and characters so that we can become more reasonable, thoughtful, attentive students of the Word, and equipped to fight against all that is in the world that that tells us “that the here and now is all there is”!

While Metaxas brings up ideas and arguments that are familiar to us, especially if you’ve been in one of the “Effects of Living in the Internet Age” or “Technology and the Brain” type of workshops we have had, I appreciated reading this commentary and recommitting myself to defying the norm, and fighting for my mind and for my soul!

And as the Gracepoint “book lady,” I’m so happy that we at Gracepoint Berkeley church, as well as our other church plants, are doing what we can to defy these statistics together! It warms my heart when I receive emails from people who say they’ve read more in the last year than they did in all of undergrad. Sadly, just STARTING the Winter Reading Challenge will put you ahead of a good chunk of Americans. Not only are we refusing to be goldfish by being bookworms, I think many of us are on the way to being book dragons. 🙂

How many books did you read in 2016? Remember, more important than the number of books, is growing as a reader! Did you read more than you did in 2015?


* You can check out Breakpoint’s Recommended Reading List. It has lots of books that we carry at the store. 🙂

Recommendations from Pastor Ed Kang

Sunday at Gracepoint Berkeley church‘s college worship service, Pastor Ed Kang gave some suggestions for ways to make the most of the precious gift of winter break that college students have. When I was in college, I definitely did not appreciate and consider the reality that the time in college is the ONLY time I would ever have this gift of a month-long vacation!

Among some of the suggestions, Pastor Ed recommended some books. First, he suggested winter break would be a great time to read through the entire Bible. Then he recommended Mere Christianity, The Problem of Pain, and Miracles, all by C.S. Lewis. And if that was too intimidating, to start with The Screwtape Letters.


It brought back memories to my freshman year of college a “few” years ago, when Pastor Ed issued the same challenge to start building up my faith by reading C.S. Lewis books.

Which C.S. Lewis books are your favorite? Which ones are you going to tackle this winter break? 

Reading Snapshots: It Must Be a Sign

The other day, while Elisa from Gracepoint Berkeley church was waiting in the car to pick up her older sisters from school, she was spotted doing some light reading in the car.

light car reading - we would see jesus
Though she’s smiling, this is NOT a staged photo. She was in fact leafing through the book in the car. 🙂 

What with Sammy and Elisa both reading We Would See Jesus, I think it is definitely a sign that you should read it if you haven’t already! Notice The Case for Christmas is also next to her. What were you reading when you were 4-years old? 🙂


Alicia: My Story, A CYL Book for the Ages

“What’s your favorite book?” This is one of the questions I get the most from people. And I have so many that I needed to start breaking them down by genre, or other ridiculously narrow categories so as to afford me more favorite slots, such as “My favorite book I read during the years I owned my Scion was…”

Since people have pointed out that favorite means ONE, and my overuse of it was rendering it meaningless, I have exchanged “favorite book” for books that “CYL,” or change your life.

Hands down, one of my absolute top three CYL books is Alicia: My Story by Alicia Appleman-Jurman. I’ve hesitated to write a post about it, because I know I cannot do it justice. But starting today, it is $1.99 on Kindle and other e-book versions. I don’t know how long that deal will last, but it has compelled me to finally post about it.

I love reading or watching anything about or set during WWII (see: shout out for The Book Thief, another CYL book). I also love memoirs and biographies. I also love books featuring strong female protagonists (Katniss was NOT the first, y’all). Alicia is all of those and more. I happened upon the book during a browsing session at Barnes & Noble on Shattuck Ave (we hardly knew ye). The title and cover don’t exactly scream, “Read Me,” but for whatever reason I picked it up, and boy, am I glad I ever did.

We were going through Ruth in our DTs at the time, and perhaps that colored my perspective as I got to know Alicia’s life story. As she lost each of her family members to the Nazis (I’m not giving away any spoilers, don’t worry), she continued to survive, with only her wits as well as the help of others. What was astounding was she didn’t allow her circumstances to overwhelm her or justify being selfish, but she continued to think of others. She ended up taking care of thousands of orphaned children, counseling them, mothering them, providing for them, when she herself had her own traumas and needs to tend to. All this would be admirable enough, but then every once in a while, she would mention things like, “I would soon be 14.” And you’re like…WHAAAAT?!?!

To date, reading Alicia the first time was one of the most moving reading experiences I have had. Alicia came to me at just the right time in my mid-20s. As I studied the life of Ruth, and got engrossed in the life of Alicia, I had this moment of, “My life is truly a picnic” and I committed to stop complaining about my life and how “hard” it was to deal with x, y, z first-world problem.

Then I proceeded to tell everyone around me to read it, and stocked up on copies to give away. I think Michelle from Gracepoint San Diego church was one of the first. And she couldn’t put the book down either! She would read it while Stephen was at soccer practice. 🙂 Over the years I have gifted it to many people, sometimes with a forceful, “You HAVE to read this.” Some people I remember for sure are Sandra from Gracepoint Davis church, Mia and Susan from Gracepoint Minneapolis church, Lydia from Gracepoint Los Angeles church, Anna, Christine, Hannah, Elise, pretty much any of my housemates over the years, and countless others…you can try asking random sisters if they’ve read it if you want to find out how they liked it! I think I’ve recommended it to many brothers as well. 🙂

While the book isn’t as well known as Night by Elie Wiesel, it is every bit as worthwhile a read. Alicia settled in the Bay Area when she came to the U.S., and devoted her life to sharing her story as a survivor of the Holocaust, especially with students. I therefore had the opportunity to meet Alicia in 2003, when she came to speak at the high school where I used to teach. It was before the era of always having a camera with me, so I do not have a photo of our meeting. But to prove that you can remember a life experience without a photo, I can still feel the firmness of her handshake and the attentive focus of her eyes as we had a short exchange, and I was able to express a bit of how her courage inspired me and so many others I have passed her story onto.

All this to say, I highly recommend this book for anyone who is in about 5th grade and up!

Have you read Alicia: My Story? Were you one of the ones I “forced” to read it? What books have “changed your life”?

Wisdom From the Wemmicks – Pt. 2!

After Alex shared about her experience reading Max Lucado’s Wemmicks books, she decided to share some of the books with her life group. They read You are Special and You are Mine, and had a time of sharing about the gospel truths and life lessons they drew from the books.

Here’s Kaylin, one of the juniors in Klesis at Berkeley, with another plug for the wonderful children’s books:

This was one of the most memorable life group times. I was struck afresh by how the gospel is so simple that it can be presented in a children’s book, while I often make the gospel unnecessarily complicated. I found the Wemmicks and Punchinello’s story to be true to our own world, and was able to draw wisdom that achievements and material possessions are just stars, dots, boxes, and balls. Their story reaffirmed that I am not special because of anything I do, but the fact that I am the Maker’s. The gospel was so clear to me as I was reading the book and I was warmed by Eli’s love towards Punchinello. These books are so good; they are truly layered and deep! After life group, I went on amazon to find the whole collection to read to my baby cousins. 🙂

A limited quantity of the entire collection will be available at the bookstore soon! Perfect gifts for the holidays.