After the abundance (or, perhaps, overabundance) of family and friends, shopping and eating, music and church — all the noisy, crazy joy that is Christmas — many of us may find ourselves headed out to the movies next week for a little quiet time in a darkened theater.

If you’re planning to see either or both of the season’s two most talked-about movies — The Hobbit and Lincoln — be sure also to check out these two great backlist titles from Eerdmans, which provide insight, respectively, into the spirituality of Tolkien’s Middle-earth and the life and faith of America’s “redeemer president.”

If you’re planning to see The Hobbit, read . . .

The Battle for Middle-earth

The Battle for Middle-earth

The Battle for Middle-earth: Tolkien’s Divine Design in The Lord of the Rings
Fleming Rutledge

Writing as an enthusiastic but careful reader, Fleming Rutledge draws on Tolkien’s extensive correspondence to show how biblical and liturgical motifs shape the action in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. At the heart of the plot lies a rare glimpse of what human freedom really means within the Divine Plan of God. 

“When I was halfway through J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings for the first time at age 68,” writes Rutledge. “I thought I could detect a subterranean narrative with strong theological implications. I began taking notes, and then read the book all the way through a second time. By then I was convinced that the subtext was indeed there, hidden under the surface of the epic tale. When I began to conceive of a book about this underplot, I read Tolkien’s selected letters, and my hunch was proven, in spades. Tolkien acknowledges how it began to grow on him as he wrote. Few, however, of the many books about LOTR acknowledge this theological subplot. My book, which retells the story while bringing out the theological implications, is designed to show how Tolkien’s faith in God and deep commitment to the church as a community of resistance take shape in his narrative. The chapter on The Hobbit shows how the subnarrative developed exponentially from that early work.”

If you’re planning to see Lincoln, read . . .

Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President
Allen C. Guelzo

Since its original publication in 1999, Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President has garnered numerous accolades, not least the prestigious 2000 Lincoln Prize.

The first “intellectual biography” of Lincoln, Allen Guelzo’s peerless account of America’s most celebrated president explores the role of ideas in Lincoln’s life, treating him as a serious thinker deeply involved in the nineteenth-century debates over politics, religion, and culture. Written with passion and dramatic impact, Guelzo’s masterful study offers a revealing new perspective on a man whose life was in many ways a paradox. As journalist Richard N. Ostling notes, “Much has been written about Lincoln’s belief and disbelief,” but Guelzo’s extraordinary account “goes deeper.”

Click to order Fleming Rutledge’s The Battle for Middle-earth: Tolkien’s Divine Design in The Lord of the Rings or Allen C. Guelzo’s Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President.

Click to read Guelzo’s Huffington Post article “A Civil War Professor Reviews ‘Lincoln.’