Vivian Churness (Believers Press)

We’re overloaded with memoirs, yes. But now and then, amid the buzz and the din, a voice catches your attention. So it was for me when I opened this book, by a woman whose husband took off one day with their 3-year-old son, Philip. Thirteen years passed before she saw the boy again. Churness had been a medical missionary in India, and her faith sustained her throughout the ordeal. Her story is moving precisely because it hasn’t been shaped into a slick narrative or loaded down with minutiae. A rare memoir in which there isn’t a single false note.


Agnese Baruzzi (Tango Books)

Who would have guessed that just now—when so many experts are predicting the demise of the traditional book, and kids are being wooed with all manner of “devices”—we would be enjoying a cornucopia of superb children’s books? Case in point: Baruzzi’s rendering of the Aladdin story, with elegant cut-paper illustrations. This tale of a magic lamp—which appears in The Thousand and One Nights—was one of the first I remember encountering as a small boy. It’s nice to think of kids in 2014 hearing and seeing it for the first time in this gorgeous new version. (Now I must find a copy of Baruzzi’s edition of Pinocchio.)

Baseball's Greatest Comeback

J. Brian Ross (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers)

If you are a bookish baseball fan, December is not merely the dead center of the off-season —it’s also a time to relish the Hot Stove League with a slice of the game’s history. This year marks the centennial of the “Miracle Braves” of 1914. Boston’s National League team, mired in last place in July, staged a wildly improbable comeback, overtaking the New York Giants to win the pennant and face the Philadelphia Athletics, the reigning dynasty, in the World Series. Historian Ross’s account is a bit clunky but always entertaining, loaded with colorful characters and illuminating glimpses of the era.

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