"Of making many books there is no end,” says Ecclesiastes. Certainly more books are made than can be read, and many are produced that probably didn’t need to be. But there are some books that yet need to be written. Here are six suggestions:
In 1965, I reported in these pages on the New York World’s Fair. At that event, I was wandering around in the Protestant and Orthodox pavilion where a smorgasbord of offerings to gods both known and unknown (to me) were vying for attention. Even as I tried to breeze by, the representatives of the Church of the New Jerusalem/Swedenborgian stopped me.
Sometimes it’s the books we disagree with that make the biggest impact on us: we find ourselves locked in argument with the author or continually returning to the book because its flaws help us clarify our own thoughts. We asked several people to identify a book with which they have serious, respectful, ongoing arguments.
A few years ago one of my adult children picked up a book of theology I was reading, leafed through a few pages, then asked, “Dad, why are you still reading this stuff?” Good question. There are many reasons why I read this stuff: Because I need to read in order to preach. Because, as Anselm put it, faith seeks understanding, and I don’t understand it all yet.
Every now and then I read a book for the simple reason that everyone else is reading it. After all, a faithful preacher needs to exegete the culture and the congregation as well as the lectionary texts.
For those of us who measure time not only by the liturgical calendar but by the baseball season, fall is a time to reflect on what happened or did not happen. It is a painful time once again for those of us who invest ourselves in the fortunes of the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs have not been in the World Series since 1945 and haven’t won a World Championship since 1908.
It’s summer, a time when most preachers are lucky enough to enjoy an extended Sabbath. For me, summer affords the opportunity to do the kind of reading I know I need to do but am not able to get to in the midst of the normal schedule. I save major works to take with me on summer vacation.
My interest in books leads to odd behavior sometimes: checking out the content of the bookshelves when I am visiting someone’s home or a colleague’s study, sneaking a look at whatever my airplane seatmate is reading, poring over the list of ingredients on a cereal box when there is nothing else at hand to read.