Times are tough and trips to Europe are expensive: This is not the moment for 1,000 Places to See Before You Die. But it is the moment for The Pilgrim’s Guide to Rome’s Principal Churches, an affordable coffee-table book that has just been reprinted by Angelus Press. It’s a pilgrim’s guide in the traditional sense — short of a human expert talking you though the churches of Rome, I can’t think of a better walk through what you’re looking at. It’s also great for anyone who wants to know Rome better but can’t get there, for financial, health, or other reasons. History and faith and beauty: It’s a trip and a treat.
Speaking of Rome, The End and the Beginning: Pope John Paul II — The Victory of Freedom, the Last Years, the Legacy, the second volume of George Weigel’s biography of John Paul II, is out. Parts of it read like a novel. Read about it here, and then get the book. It’s history, but it’s also inspiration, his chapter on the pope’s last encyclical — how he died — especially.
For folks who like easy-to-read fiction: Michael Walsh and Ralph Reed both have novels for you this year, and I’ve even got something for those who like nun stories. The tea-partier on your list might like Michael Walsh under another name, “David Kahane”; his Rules for Radical Conservatives: Beating the Left at Its Own Game to Take Back America just came out.
Apart from books, I always recommend holy, wholly reliable soap. You can also try coffee, mustard, and caramels. (Some related recommendations here.) And there’s always the option of donations to the National Review Institute, or DVDs of Firing Line.