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EW YORK — Louise Erdrich is more than this year’s winner of the National Book Award for fiction. She is a bookstore owner and has some ideas for what customers might pick up as holiday gifts. The four other finalists: “This Is How You Lose Her,” by Junot Diaz; “A Hologram for the King,” by Dave Eggers; “The Yellow Birds,” by Kevin Powers; and “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk,” by Ben Fountain. “This was a tough crowd!” Erdrich, who runs Birchbark Books in Minneapolis, wrote in a recent email about her competition. Erdrich didn’t mention her own novel, “The Round House,” but another author-bookseller took care of that. Ann Patchett, the writer who founded Parnassus Books in Nashville, says she has been recommending Erdrich’s story of a boy seeking his mother’s rapist well before the award was announced in mid-November. “I read the book really early on, and I’ve thought about it every single day since,” Patchett said. “It’s dark, funny, complex and very, very moving.”

All reading levels and genres

Patchett had several other suggestions, from Jon Meacham’s biography “Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power,” a pick she thinks ideal for men; to Maile Maloy’s “The Apothecary” for middle schoolers. She also loved J.K. Rowling’s first grownup novel, “The Casual Vacancy,” a feeling she made


Louise Erdrich reflects on growing up in North Dakota and her new book, “Round House,” at her store, BirchBark Books, in Minneapolis.

clear in October when she interviewed the “Harry Potter” author on stage at Lincoln Center in Manhattan. Erdrich also cited the illustrated edition of Edmund de Waal’s “The Hare With Amber Eyes,” writing “it feels lustrous in hand, orderly, pleasing. This is what a book should be.” Gayle Shanks, owner of the Changing Hands bookstore in Tempe, Ariz., likes the novel “Beautiful Ruins” by Jess Walter; Deb Perlman’s “Smitten Kitchen” cookbook; and Marcus Samuelsson’s memoir “Yes, Chef.”

Bookstores’ picks

Barnes & Noble is suggesting works of humor (“The Onion Book of Known Knowledge”),

“The Rolling Stones 50,” an illustrated biography, and “Casual Vacancy” are two picks for holiday gift lists.

music (An illustrated Rolling Stones biography to mark the band’s 50th anniversary) and

history (“Reporting the Revolutionary War”). Sarah McNally, owner of

McNally Jackson Books in Manhattan likes Alice Munro’s story collection “Dear Life”; Alan Ryan’s two-volume history “On Politics” and Louise Glueck’s “Poems 1962-2012.” Kate Milford, a children’s author and McNally Jackson employee, suggests the picture book “Cecil, the Pet Glacier,” by Matthea Harvey; the middle school novel “Twelve Kinds of Ice,” by Ellen Bryan Obed and illustrator Barbara McClintock. “This is going to be one of those things adults buy for a kid and end up keeping themselves or giving to other adults, too,” Milford says of the Obed book. “It’s beautifully illustrated, beautifully written, and just feels like a classic gift book.”

Review: Complexities of Lincoln’s faith explored THE JACKET


He has previously explored the faith of Barack Obama and George W. Bush, and now author Stephen Mansfield takes on the complex and fascinating religious life of Abraham Lincoln, who went from fiery atheism in youth to such deep conviction later that his second inaugural address could be called a kind of sermon to the nation. Textbooks often freeze and simplify Lincoln’s religion, making him merely a “skeptic, ever religiously uncertain,” Mansfield writes in “Lincoln’s Battle with God.” “The truth is that Lincoln was, in fact, a religious pilgrim.” There’s no end to books parsing the 16th president, of course, and even Lincoln’s faith has had many thoughtful explorations. The value of Mansfield’s study is its sharp focus, its detail about those who influenced Lincoln and the author’s willingness to let some aspects of the president’s belief remain mysterious or not fully resolved. “‘Lincoln’s Battle with God’ dismisses those determined to shape Lincoln in their own religious image, whether deeming him godless or a ‘true Christian.’” “The silencing of Lincoln’s faith by the secular and the exaggerating of Lincoln’s faith by the religious have given us a less accurate and less engaging Lincoln,” Mansfield writes. As we follow Lincoln’s journey through life, it’s a revelation to read how candid and forthcoming he could be about his state of mind and soul. A lifelong sufferer of depression, he wrote as a young man,

‘Lincoln’s Battle with God: A President’s Struggle with Faith and What it Meant for America’ Author: Stephen Mansfield Publisher: Thomas Nelson Pages: 272 Price: $22.99 Connect:

“ rule

‘Lincoln’s Battle with God’ dismisses those determined to shape Lincoln in their own religious image.” — Stephen Mansfield


“Lincoln’s Battle with God: A president’s Struggle with Faith and What it Meant for America” is a biography by Stephen Mansfield.

“If what I feel were equally distributed to the whole human family, there would not be one cheerful face on the Earth.” And a friend recalled his description of himself as “a seeking spirit” with a pleading prayer: “Help thou my unbelief.” In his 20s, freed from the strict Calvinistic beliefs of his father and other youthful

religious influences — including the wild enthusiasms of revival meetings — Lincoln for a time vehemently and publicly rejected the religious givens of contemporary America. Devouring freethinkers such as Thomas Paine and the Scottish poet Robert Burns, who scoffed at fake piety, Lincoln became known for his hard

line. But when he went so far as to write a “little book on infidelity,” attacking the divinity of Christ and the inspiration of the Bible, and then announced that he hoped to publish it, “friends were mortified,” Mansfield writes. Believing publication would kill a promising career, one admirer “snatched it from Lincoln’s hand” and burned the manuscript. This early, fanatical antireligion, which followed Lincoln even as he became an Illinois legislator and later a lawyer, “makes us wonder if the

fuel of this heat wasn’t some other hatred entirely,” Mansfield says — suggesting it could have been rage against his father, or against petty preachers, or even against a God that had allowed the deaths of his mother, sister and sweetheart. The author suggests “honest Abe” became less than fully so as he entered politics; a campaign handbill denied he had ever “scoffed” at religion. But Mansfield notes other factors besides political calculation that coincided with changes in his faith. Two ministers whose writing he admired and whom he sought out personally shaped his thinking, and he continued to read and study the Bible, a habit learned from his mother. Though he never joined any church, he attended Sunday services of his wife’s Presbyterian congregation in Washington — and even a Tuesday evening prayer meeting, listening from the pastor’s office so as not to be distracted. The death of his beloved son, Willie, in the depths of the Civil War might have turned Lincoln permanently from God, but instead confirmed his religious quest, Mansfield argues. Insistently, he asked clergymen for guidance about “the state of the soul after death.” He came to see the unrelenting carnage of the Civil War as God’s judgment and punishment for slavery, as he says in his second inaugural shortly before his assassination. Mansfield notes that “we want conclusions rather than processes, ... conversions rather than religious journeys,” and that that can keep us from recognizing Lincoln as “one of our most religious presidents.”

1. LAST MAN, by Vince Flynn. (Atria Books, $27.99) 2. MERRY CHRISTMAS, ALEX CROSS, by James Patterson. (Little, Brown & Co., $28.99) 3. RACKETEER, by John Grisham. (Doubleday Books, $28.95) 4. POSEIDON’S ARROW, by Clive Cussler and Dirk Cussler. (Putnam Adult, $28.95) 5. FLIGHT BEHAVIOR, by Barbara Kingsolver. (Harper, $28.99) 6. CASUAL VACANCY, by J.K. Rowling. (Little, Brown & Co., $35) 7. GONE GIRL, by Gillian Flynn. (Crown Publishing Group, $25) 8. SWEET TOOTH, by Ian McEwan. (Nan A. Talese, $26.95) 9. PANTHER, by Nelson DeMille. (Grand Central Publishing, $27.99) 10. SINS OF THE MOTHER, by Danielle Steel. (Delacorte Press, $28) 11. CROSS ROADS, by William Paul Young. (Faithwords, $24.99) 12. WINTER OF THE WORLD, by Ken Follett. (Dutton Books, $30) 13. BONE BED, by Patricia D. Cornwell. (Putnam Adult, $28.95) 14. WINTER DREAM, by Richard Paul Evans. (Simon & Schuster, $19.99) 15. TIME KEEPER, by Mitch Albom. (Hyperion Books, $24.99) 16. ANGELS AT THE TABLE, by Debbie Macomber. (Ballantine Books, $18) 17. NYPD RED, by James Patterson and Marshall Karp. (Little, Brown & Co., $27.99) 18. DEAR LIFE: STORIES, by Alice Munro. (Knopf, $26.95) 19. ROUND HOUSE, by Louise Erdrich. (Harper, $26.99) 20. BACK TO BLOOD, by Tom Wolfe. (Little Brown & Co., $30) 21. YELLOW BIRDS, by Kevin Powers. (Little Brown & Co., $24.99) 22. TWELVE, by Justin Cronin. (Ballantine Books, $28) 23. SECRET KEEPER, by Kate Morton. (Atria Books, $26.99) 24. BRIDGE, by Karen Kingsbury. (Howard Books, $19.99) 25. WANTED MAN, by Lee Child. (Delacorte Press, $28)


1. KILLING KENNEDY, by Bill O’Reilly, Meg O’Reilly and Martin Duggard. (Henry Holt & Co., $28) 2. BAREFOOT CONTESSA FOOLPROOF: RECIPES YOU CAN TRUST, by Ina Garten. (Clarkson N. Potter Publishers, $35) 3. THOMAS JEEFFERSON: THE ART OF POWER, by Jon Meacham. (Random House, $35) 4. GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS (2013). (Guinness World Records, $28.95) 5. NO EASY DAY, by Mark Owen with Kevin Maurer. (Dutton Books, $26.95) 6. HOW TO CREATE A MIND: THE SECRET OF HUMAN THOUGHT REVEALED, by Ray Kurzweil. (Viking Books, $27.95) 7. MY YEAR IN MEALS, by Rachael Ray. (Atria Books, $29.99) 8. HELP, THANKS, WOW: THE THREE ESSENTIAL PRAYERS, by Anne Lamott. (Riverhead Books, $17.95) 9. I DECLARE: 31 PROMISES TO SPEAK OVER YOUR LIFE, by Joel Osteen. (Faithwords, $21.99) 10. SIGNAL AND THE NOISE, by Nate Silver. (Penguin Press, $27.95) 11. SMITTEN KITCHEN COOKBOOK, by Deb Perelman. (Knopf, $35) 12. LAST LION, by William Manchester and Paul Reid. (Little, Brown & Co., $40) 13. JOY OF HATE, by Greg Gutfeld. (Crown Forum, $26) 14. RIPLEY’S BELIEVE IT OR NOT! DOWNLOAD THE WEIRD, by Geoff Tibballs. (Ripley Publishing, $28.95) 15. AMERICA AGAIN, by Stephen Colbert. (Grand Central Publishing, $28.99) 16. DEAR CHANDLER, DEAR SCARLETT, by Mike Huckabee. (Sentinel, $24.95) 17. BRUCE, by Peter A. Carlin. (Touchstone Books, $28) 18. MASTERY, by Robert Greene. (Viking Books, $28.95) 19. FAR FROM THE TREE: PARENTS, CHILDREN AND THE SEARCH FOR IDENTITY, by Andrew Solomon. (Scribner, $37.50) 20. FIFTY SHADES OF CHICKEN: A PARODY IN A COOKBOOK, by F.L. Fowler. (Clarkson N Potter Publishers, $19.99) 21. OUTPOST: AN UNTOLD STORY OF AMERICAN VALOR, by Jake Tapper. (Little, Brown & Co., $29.99) 22. WAGING HEAVY PEACE, by Neil Young. (Blue Rider Press, $30) 23. ROLL ME UP AND SMOKE ME WHEN I DIE: MUSINGS FROM THE ROAD, by Willie Nelson and Kinky Friedman. (William Morrow & Co., $22.99) 24. JESUS TODAY: EXPERIENCE HOPE THROUGH HIS PRESENCE, by Sarah Young. (Thomas Nelson Publishers, $15.99) 25. ROD: THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY, by Rod Stewart. (Crown Archetype, $27)

— Publishers Weekly

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