Books I’ve Written
Pocket Guide to 2012: Your Once-in-a-Lifetime Guide to Not Completely Freaking Out (2012, self-published):My most recent book and the latest addition to the Pocket Guide series, written specifically for the “Mayan” Doomsday that, um, didn’t happen. A pretty useless book at this point, except for the first half where it chronicles the history of mankind’s end-times obsession.
O Me of Little Faith: True Confessions of a Spiritual Weakling (2010, Zondervan): Finally, a real book with real chapters, instead of all the bite-sized bathroom reading stuff of the Pocket Guides (see below). OMOLF is about my struggles with faith, my questions about Christianity, and my unsteady belief in God…and how I’ve learned to function as a practicing Christian despite that kind of spiritual uncertainty. It’s not meant to be a “5 Ways to Fix Your Doubt” kind of book, but one in which I hope my journey provides some encouragement to others like me. Because there are a lot of us.
A Guy’s Guide to Life (2010, Thomas Nelson): An update to the advice-y Guy’s Guide book I wrote in 2004 (see #3 below). We updated all the cultural references and a few of the topics. For instance, Megan Fox replaced Hilary Duff as an example of a “hot girl.” Sorry, Hilary. And there’s a whole section about online etiquette and sexting. Bazinga.
Pocket Guide to the Afterlife (2009, Jossey-Bass): The most recent book in the Pocket Guide series, and one I had the most fun researching…because most of the information was brand-new to me. Who knew there were so many crazy afterlife ideas in world religions? This book takes the Christianity-and-history focus of the previous Pocket Guide books and expands it to include a bunch of different faith traditions. Because those traditions are the ones with realms of punishment containing “mountains of knives” and soul-devouring death deities with hippo legs. Fascinating stuff.
Pocket Guide to Sainthood (2009, Jossey-Bass): Right after Pocket Guide to the Apocalypse came out in 2005 (see #4 below), Relevant asked if I had any other historical/religious ideas. I did. I pitched them this book, but they shot down the idea because it seemed “too Catholic.” However, as a non-Catholic I find the saints endlessly fascinating and weird and this book practically wrote itself—I mean, look, St. George lassoed a dragon with a woman’s girdle. That’s awesome even without jokes. This is probably my favorite of all the Pocket Guide books.
Pocket Guide to the Bible (2006, Relevant Books): In my mind, the first real follow-up to Pocket Guide to the Apocalypse (#4 below). It’s an entertaining, easy-to-read layman’s introduction to the Bible, from its actual content to activities surrounding its publication (like the development of the canon and a guide to translations). You might not think that a book about the Bible should contain a reference to Angelina Jolie’s, um, feminine assets, but this one does. And, no, I will not apologize for it. Initially this book was published by Relevant. When they shut down their book division in 2007, I bought the rights back and republished it with Jossey-Bass in 2009, along with Pocket Guide to Sainthood and Pocket Guide to the Afterlife.
Postmodern Bible Stories (2006, Relevant Books): This was a cool little book of tear-out postcards. Each one was a graphic-design interpretation of a specific Bible story by an up-and-coming artist. I wrote all the text for this book, but my contribution went uncredited in the publication process. I was fairly disappointed about this, because 1) I worked hard on the text and had to read and summarize a whole lot of Bible stories for it; and 2) It was pretty cool, stylized stuff and I’m proud of it. But I’m trying not to be bitter, because I got paid for it and it was fun. Outside the Relevant staff at the time, I’m pretty sure no one knows my contribution to this book. Until now, I guess.
Pocket Guide to Adulthood (2005, Relevant Books): A repackage of Things You Should Know by Now (#2 below), with a couple of extra chapters. Published by Relevant, who wanted to put another Pocket Guide book on the market after the minor success of Pocket Guide to the Apocalypse (#4 below). I don’t really consider this to be part of the official Pocket Guide canon. So there.
Pocket Guide to the Apocalypse (2005, Relevant Books): The first book that felt “right” to me — one in which my love of religion, history, and snark joined together in an awkward tango of educational fun. I began writing it when the Left Behind series was still a publishing behemoth, and ripe for mockery. As are all the thousands of people who keep predicting the end of the world but haven’t been too accurate about it. The overall success of the book probably wasn’t due to either the popular subject matter or the deft way I explain the book of Revelation, but to two other things: 1) Jerry Jenkins, of Left Behind co-authorship, graciously gave me a killer endorsement (“This guy is gonna be SO left behind”), and 2) Wal-Mart decided to stock it in their stores nationwide. God bless the Wal-Mart book buyer. One of my biggest sellers so far, and the initial reason I ended up on some TV shows.
A Guy’s Guide to Life (2004, W Publishing): Subtitle: How to Become a Man in 208 Pages or Less. When Katie Meier published A Girl’s Guide to Life in early 2004, I pitched Transit/W Publishing on a companion book directed at teenage guys. On the strength (?) of my experience as an advice-giver for Things You Should Know by Now, I got the job, and this book resulted. It was a fun book, because I was able to write very casually (it’s for teens) and very frankly about s-e-x (again, it’s for teens). This book has been my most consistent seller, year-to-year.
Things You Should Know by Now (2003, Relevant Books): My first real book. In the process of writing Cheap Ways to…, Relevant asked me if I had any other book ideas. Yes! I said. Then they asked me what those ideas might be. Fifteen minutes later, I’d come up with a list of five or so. They liked this one: an advice manual for people in their twenties. About all kinds of random stuff. This was not long after Alexandra Robbins’ and Abby Wilner’s Quarterlife Crisis came out, and at the time there wasn’t much in bookstores talking about that transition period between college and adulthood. TYSKBN did. It had chapters about not getting into credit card debt, using proper grammar, making smoothies, and cooking eggs. And lots of other things. Very random. And definitely a first book. Not a career-maker by any means.
Cheap Ways to… (2003, Relevant Books) This was my first real book. Not long after I began writing for Relevant Magazine (still in its email newsletter and dot-com phase), they asked me to consider joining a few other writers to co-author a fun little book on how to do things cheaply. As I recall, we each were asked to come up with ideas of things to do. Then we compiled our ideas, separated them into categories, and chose from that list. Each author wrote about 7 chapters or so. The co-authors were Josh Hatcher (we still keep in touch on Facebook), Katie Meier (who became a good friend during the process), and Margaret Feinberg (yes, that Margaret Feinberg).
Other books to which I’ve contributed: Banned Questions About the Bible (2011, Chalice Press): I answered, as best as I could, some pretty tricky questions for this compilation book. It also features Becky Garrison, Jarrod McKenna, and a few others.
Relevant Nation (2007): I wrote a few of the profiles in this book about young artists, activists, and creatives making a big impact in the world. I also came up with the title, for what it’s worth.
Spiritual Journeys (2005): Subtitle: How Faith Has Influenced 12 Music Icons. I contributed the “spiritual” profiles of Sean Combs and Moby.