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Friday, June 13, 2008


As the mid-summer's dream of warmer days and some time away from our usual responsibilities approaches, I note that many periodicals and newspapers begin to publish the "beach reading" or summertime bests. Even Circuit Rider's latest edition, May/June 2008, listed some well-known United Methodists--laity and clergy--and their favorite books.

John Wesley used to read a wide variety of topics and disciplines. He was particularly fond of the sciences in his time as well as theology. He advocated wide reading with clergy. Sometimes I worry that we as clergy don't read widely enough, keeping us from having a diverse perspective on the world, our lives, the culture, and the people entrusted to us. But then, do laity read widely outside of their fields of interest? I'd be interested to know what influences what you read.

I'll begin by listing what I am presently reading, too. I usually have several books going at a time--one on my iPod (audio book) and one or more that I'm reading with my eyes. All are stimulating but quite frankly I'm much less inclined to fall asleep while reading when I'm running plugged into an audio book!

On my iPod I am reading Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery by Eric Metaxas. This is an excellent history of how social change occurs, motivated by people of faith. I haven't seen the movie but I can't imagine that it represents the social conditions and Methodist influence as pointedly as the book. I am learning things about Methodism in England during the last half of the 18th century (and later years of John Wesley) and the beginning of the next. The social conditions as well as the way in which Methodism is regarded by "outsiders" isn't something that I have as vividly had described. Plus, it's important to read about those who have brought about deep social change against all odds.

With my eyes I am reading The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann. This came from Bishop Will Willimon's recommendation in the Circuit Rider. His description of this novel caused me to call up my local bookstore and get a copy asap. As Bishop Willimon says, "When the church becomes infatuated with physical illlness, and ministry too easily degenerates into running errands for those who are experiencing physical degeneration, Mann's novel that takes place entirely in a hospital tells the truth. Our therapeutic church is really changed in this classic." I'm only about 100 pages into this 700 page novel so I can't say I have his perspective yet, but I'm intrigued!

And then with my eyes, I am also reading A Spring without Bees: How Colony Collapse Disorder Has Endangered Our Food Supply by Michael Schacker. The bee population is disappearing, bee colonies are collapsing, and the greatest scientific minds can't figure out why. The interconnectedness of the bee with agriculture with world hunger and poverty should give overwhelming concern to us all. We as United Methodist Christians need to do more theological thinking about the ecological changes going on around us.

For me I'm reading history, fiction and science.



Tami McConkey said...

Hello - I think bookclubs might influence what a lot of people read. I'm in two of them and even amongst friends and neighbors, I'm amazed at the variety of interest. This month, my neighborhood bookclub is reading the novel, The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf, by Mohja Kahf. It provides great insight about growing up in the United States as a muslim woman. My other bookclub is reading a memoir by Curtiss Anderson called Blueberry Summers - Growing up at the Lake. (So, we're reading about being at the beach.)

In my car, I'm listening to the autobiography of Julie Andrews -- a double treat because it's read by the author!

Every morning (this year) I read a page from: 365 Days with William Wilberforce. I'm sure you've seen lots of similar books -- it starts with a scripture passage, has a couple of paragraphs from Wilberforce's writings and a meditation. It's great, but I can't recommend the movie Amazing Grace enough. It is truly inspiring and uplifting.

I'm a prosecutor and read a lot for work. Recently I finished a book called Amish Grace about a community that immediately forgave a man who shot ten of their children. This book is very helpful for everyone who has contact with people facing issues of forgiveness and unexpected loss.

Happy Summer Reading!

Jeff Reed said...

I hope the lack of response means that folks are out enjoying summer and it isn't due to a lack of reading!

I'm reading "The Truth About God" by Stanley Hauerwas and William Willimon. I picked it up at Annual Conference and it is an interesting perspective on the 10 Commandments.

I'm also reading "Another Turn of the Crank" by Wendell Berry.

From time to time I like to pull books off the shelf that I read some time ago to reread - I like the different perspective that I can get from a book due to "life" that has happened since reading a book the first time. This last couple of weeks it has been "The Cloister Walk" by Kathleen Norris. (Even more interesting now that I'm a full-time grad student at St. John's.)

And finally, "Day by Day with Saint Benedict" by Fr Terrance G. Kardong. This gives a daily reading from the Rule of St. Benedict, plus some fairly humorous insights into monastic living.

Brent Olson said...

I've been reading "A Universe of Home," by Paul Gruchow. A terrific writer. He has a quote that he got from Wendall Berry that just haunts me, involved as I am in the world of modern agriculture. "The one thing farmers need to ask is, do I want my neighbor's land, or my neighbor."

Unfortunatly, for many farmers that question has already been answered and it ain't pretty. It's hard to watch the dissolution of a community.

I've also just finished "The Road" and "The World Without Us." and am thinking seriously of moving on to joke collections and old Beetle Bailey cartoons, just for a break.


Pastor Justin said...

Here is my list:

Read already- "Holy People" by Gordon Lathrop and "Jesus for the Non-Religious" by John Shelly Spong

To Read:
"The Worldly Philosophers: The Lives, Times, and Ideas of the Great Economic Thinkers" by Robert L. Heilbroner; "Being Consumed: Economics and Christian Desire" by William T. Cavanaugh; "Calculated Futures: Theology, Ethics, and Economics" by D. Stephen Long, Nacny Ruth Fox, and Tripp York; "Following Jesus in a Culture of Fear" by Scott Bader-Saye and a few others.

Need to Finish: "Dreams from my Father" by Barack Obama (I started this one before I met with my SPRC way back in the spring of 07)...

carol zaagsma said...

Just finished... "A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose," by Eckhart Tolle. I found the second half more interesting than the first.

Almost finished with... "The Innocent Man," a non-fiction work by John Grisham. The injustice is maddening. Unfortunately, this book is not up to standards of the Grisham writing I've enjoyed in the past.

In the middle of..."Their Eyes Were Watching God," by Zora Neale Hurston. This one is taking me awhile due to the dialect.

Just started the following with two different groups at church... "Earthy Mysticism: Spirituality for Unspiritual People," by Tex Sample, and "They Like Jesus but Not the Church: Insights from Emerging Generations," by Dan Kimball.

Next up..."The Ethics of What We Eat," by Peter Singer and Jim Mason.

Marj said...

I just finished two books, White Like Me by Tim Wise. He spells out origins and impacts of White privilege.
I also just finished The Sugar Addict's Total Recovery Program by Kathleen DesMaisons, Ph.D., Addictive Nutrition. (And now I've begun the program.)
A few months ago, I read the best book I've ever read about immigration. It's called They Take Our Jobs and it's by Aviva Chompsky. (Yes, she's Noam's daughter, and a professor in her own right.)

Bishop Sally Dyck said...

Thanks for offering your reading lists. I'm going to leave this blog up for a while yet because I'm just fascinated by what people read! Including myself! I've struggled with the ones I mentioned in this blog and have moved on to some other things, including Wicked! I also just got back from a week's vacation where I never did so little reading--but it was all fun with friends and just sitting by the ocean can take your eyes away from the page pretty easily.

So, if you're one of those persons who visits this blog but doesn't leave a comment, use this as an opportunity to share with us your favorite and/or summer reads! Thanks.

Becky Jo Thilges said...

I read "Dead Lucky" which is Lincoln Hall's account of his 2006 Mt. Everest expidition during which he was left for dead at 28,000 feet, survived the night, and was discovered by other climbers the next morning. I was intrigued by it because I heard Hall talk on NPR about how "lucky" he was with some of the circumstances that saved his life. I wanted to see wtih my eyes how God had "worked all things together for good". I am forever fasicanted by Mt. Everest, albeit from a good distance. I am even more intrigued by how God works in all of life to create blessing and goodness and grace in circumstances that seem hopeless.

Pastor Amanda said...

I just wrote a post on some things I've been reading lately. To read, click on my name and then it's in the Pastor's blog.

Fearless Fourteen (Janet Evanovich)
Lock and Key (Sarah Dessen)
Deepening Your Effectiveness (Glover/Lavy.)

Amy said...

Recently finished, They Like Jesus but Not the Church: by Dan Kimball, which has me pondering my identity and actions as a person of the bubble more carefully. I finished the book weeks ago, but it is still inked on me.

Currently reading, Huston Smith's The World Religions, Some of My Best Friends Are Books by Halsted and The Narnia Chronicles by Lewis, and Jesus for the Non-Religious by Spong.

This is an interesting grouping of books listed in the blog, definitely on my list to check out.

Dianne said...

Thanks for all the interesting postings of what people read. I love to know what sparks the interests of others.

During this busy transitional time, I have found two books of interest to me. The first is "Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations" by Robert Schnase. I am envisioning using this book with the ad council and weaving it into our vision/mission statements.

The other book is one I just started and can't put down! It is called "The Shack" written by William P. Young. It based on a true story of one man's encounter with God. I really recommend this as a must read!

Happy reading - enjoy the warm days of summer.

Michelle said...

I miss the days when I could curl up and read for hours but at least I get to read with my children. So this summer Zane and I are reading The Dark is Rising and Over Sea and Under Stone by Susan Cooper. I am also rereading, myself this time, the Harry Potter series and am on book four, The Goblet of Fire. I just reread Elaine Pagel's Beyond Belief and now am starting C.S. Lewis' Surprised by Joy. I hope to get to Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. But frankly, I've gone to a lot of movies this summer instead (listed on my blog.)
-- Michelle Hargrave

David said...

After a hectic month, I am trying to get in touch again with blogs that have become a part of my spiritual reading. "Hectic" for me usually means less reading, but not a complete absence of reading.

Earlier this summer I read Tokens of Trust: an introduction to Christian belief by Rowan Williams. My wife, daughters and I read Greg Mortenson's Three Cups of Tea (well worth reading given the on-going developments in Pakistan and Afghanistan and a wonderful story about one person's deep desire to make a difference in the world).

I just finished the novel, Snow by Nobel Prize winning author Orhan Pamuk. I lead an interfaith book group in Duluth, and read the book with that group. Many found they didn't like it, but I found it fascinating - a look at Turkey where politics and religious expression intermingle in fascinating ways.

I am almost finished with Anthony Robinson's What's Theology Got to Do With It? a reflection on theology and ministry.

ester said...

I have found the "classics" helpful. I read (re-read) Walden and found it amazingly insightful though written in th 1840's. Same with "the Jungle" about poverty in the early 1900's in Chicago and how an imigrant family cannot make it despite hard word. Also Thomas Moores "Utopia" was insightful, and filled with his Christian views about this fictional land. As Bullwinkle Moose once told his friend Rocky, "you can't beat the classics I always say".