Are you looking to add some books to your Christmas list? The Matriarchs are here to help! This week they offer you their “best of the best” in the following categories:

  • Essential books: If she had to get rid of all but a few books, these would stay. 
  • Reference books: For studies, sermons, retreats, leadership — she regularly goes to these to undergird her teaching and preaching
  • Group studies: The best things she has shared with her congregations
  • Spiritual life: Where she goes to nurture her own soul
  • New books: The best things she has read lately

Bonus: Something else on her Christmas list, not necessarily for “Pastor Me.”


  • “Books” can include other media.
  • Our best books might not necessarily be found in the Religion section of a bookstore or library.

Our Matriarchs are all over this question. Enjoy!

Martha’s Suggestions

Oh, books! I love books the most, with yarn a close second, but you didn’t ask about that. 

  • Essential books: This sounds like a desert island question! If I had to choose ten books other than the Bible and Shakespeare, books I would willingly read over and over again, they would be: Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel, “Fun Home,” a study of identity and what we risk when we hide it (it has been adapted into an amazing Broadway musical); Ta-Nehisi Coates’ “Between the World and Me,” a life-changing book about racism and identity, worthy of all the accolades it is receiving; Mary Oliver’s “Thirst,” hands down my favorite collection of her poetry; J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Fellowship of the Ring;” Willa Cather’s “The Song of the Lark,” which explores the development of an artistic identity; Jane Austen – hmm, probably Pride & Prejudice, a great study of class and manners. I would include a few childhood favorites: C.S. Lewis’ “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe,” Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “The Long Winter” (such a study of perseverance!), Madeleine L’Engle’s “A Wrinkle in Time,” and D’Aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths. 
  • New books: I read a lot of books by RevGals! I hesitate to play favorites. We have a lot of wonderful writers in our group, and they have blessed me with their work. You can find them all in our Amazon store

Bonus: My family’s favorite recent additions to the holiday menu have all come from Ree Drummond and her Pioneer Woman Cooks blog. She’s on TV now and also has a book, and it is *definitely* on my wish list. You won’t want to miss her Whiskey Glazed Carrots. 

The Pioneer Woman Cooks: A Year of Holidays: 140 Step-by-Step Recipes for Simple, Scrumptious Celebrations 

Feel free to tell my family. 😉 

Martha Spong

RevGals Executive Director

Jennifer’s Suggestions

Essential books:   The Wee Worship Book- Iona Community

Reference Books: Bible Women by Lindsay Hardin Freeman

Group Studies:       Life is a Verb- Patti Digh

                            We Make the Road By Walking- Brian McLaren

Spiritual life:      Your Daily Rock- Patti Digh

The Rule of Benedict-A Spirituality for th 21st Century- Joan Chittister

New Books:    Sacred Pause- Rachel Hackenberg

Jennifer Burns Lewis   www.anorientationofheart.blogspot.com

Sharon’s Suggestions

I am 20+ years beyond seminary. Some of these books, though older, have stood the test of time. They also made it through the great book giveaway preceding my recent geographic move. Many of my newer favorites are authored by RevGal. I second Martha’s suggestion to check out our Amazon store!

Essential Books:

Generation to Generation (Edwin Friedman)

The Once and Future Church (Loren Mead)

Fashion Me a People (Maria Harris)

Reference Books:

The Parables of Jesus (Joachim Jeremias)

The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus (Peter Gomes)

A People’s History of Christianity (Diana Butler Bass)

Group Studies:

What It Means to Be Human (Molly T. Marshall);

Life Keys: Discover Who You Are (Jane A.G. Kiss & David Stark)

I Refuse to Lead a Dying Church (Paul Nixon)

Spiritual Life:

Daring Greatly and Rising Strong (Brene Brown)

Between the Dark and the Daylight: Embracing the Contradictions of Life (Joan Chittister)

Women Who Run With the Wolves (Clarissa Pinkola Estes)

New Books:

Big Magic (Elizabeth Gilbert)

The New Jim Crow (Michelle Alexander)

Between the World and Me (Ta-Nehisi Coates)

Bonus: At the top of my wish list is something that motivates me to put down the books and get moving. Because I wore out my last one, I’m dreaming of a new FitBit One.

Sharon Temple at revmama.com

* * * * *

We have shared some of our favorite books. How about you?

What essential books have a permanent place on your shelf?

What’s on your Christmas wish list?

Please join the conversation in the comments below.

Are you looking for some advice about a difficult ministry situation? The Matriarchs are ready to help!

Send your questions to AskTheMatriarch (at) gmail (dot) com


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2 thoughts on “Ask the Matriarch: Books for A Pastor’s Christmas List

  1. “Reading habits of clergy” was a thesis topic 30-some years ago, written by a pastor-librarian. It was published in book form and I borrowed it through interlibrary loan. So you don’t need to track it down: In essence, pastors who liked to read for pleasure before they entered the ministry liked to read during their careers. Those who didn’t, didn’t. (I’m sure that research since then would include qualifiers for people who have difficulty reading. I know several pastors who are great preachers and have dyslexia (acting/speaking ability vs. reading challenges.))

    My favorite books this year include Bettyville, by George Hodgman; Last Bus to Wisdom, by Ivan Doig; and Making a Point, by David Crystal.


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