I’m always interested in what my friends are reading, and I find that people tend to ask me about what I’ve been reading. So, to continue that conversation, here are three books that have meant something to me recently.
What books compel a second—or third or fourth—reading? How is the second reading different from the first, and what does the difference reveal about the book or the reader? We asked ten writers, including Margaret Miles, Gordon Atkinson, Mary Doria Russell, Diana Butler Bass and David Cunningham, to name a book that they chose to reread, and to share their reactions "the second time around."
There are always far more books than there are hours for reading, so I try to strike a balance between what I think I need to read and what I know I’ll simply enjoy. In the former category this summer is Lamin Sanneh’s Disciples of All Nations: Pillars of World Christianity.
"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.