I read seven books on my one-week vacation last fall, so I am serious about getting some reading done this summer, starting this last week in June. By the time you read this, I will be sitting on the front porch of the UCC Headquarters building at Chautauqua, no doubt holding a book in my lap. The question is, which book will it be?
The photo illustrates the challenge ahead of me. From top to bottom I count 16 volumes – first four I have finished and want to tell you about in this blog post, then two thick ones I have started to read but still have a long way to go, then 11 more I’ve either purchased or received to review and cannot quite get around to reading, and on my Kindle there are two more invisible to your eye, dear readers.
18 books. Where to start?
I’ll tell you a little about each one, and in the comments I invite you to tell all our readers about the stack on your desk or bedside table.
- Intrusive God, Disruptive Gospel: Encountering the Divine in the Book of Acts, by Matthew Skinner (Brazos Press, 2015) – Skinner, Professor of New Testament at Luther Seminary, may be familiar to you from Working Preacher. His wonderful, readable book is a great resource for preachers but would also be a wonderful choice for a Sunday School class or study group. It’s clear he loves the book (so do I), and the 26 passages he chooses to open up for the reader give a great overview of the adventures of the early church and its evangelists. I’ve already marked up my copy, used it to lead a Narrative Lectionary Bible Study and quoted Skinner in a sermon. Highly recommend.*
- She: Five Keys to Unlock the Power of Women in Minstry, by Karoline Lewis (Abingdon Press, 2016) – Lewis, also a professor at Luther Seminary, and the successor to David Lose as the author of Dear Working Preacher, tells the God’s honest truth that women need to hear about a life in ministry. I had the opportunity to read the book in galleys and liked it so much I purchased a copy. Lewis exhorts clergywomen to know the Biblical and theological basis for defending their ordination and offers up straight talk about sexism. Each section ends with questions and exercises for reflection. This book should be on every clergywoman’s bookshelf, and clergymen, I recommend you read it, too. My only critique is one the author owns in the preface: it is written from the perspective of a privileged, straight person and does not address the additional complexities of intersectionality.
- Christ Beside Me, Christ Within Me: Celtic Blessings, by Beth A. Richardson (Upper Room, 2016) – Richardson is a member of the RevGals webring (All the Wonders), the Director of Creative Content at the Upper Room, and the Managing Editor at Weavings Journal – please pause for a moment of mournful silence in acknowledgement that Weavings is soon to publish its last print issue; it will continue in digital form. This slim volume of blessings in the Celtic style touches on ordinary life experiences from walking the dog to drinking coffee to birthdays and losses. Although I have read it for purposes of review, I will be tucking it into my bag, probably beside my knitting, for those moments when a blessing seems needed.*
- Ruined, by Ruth Everhart (Tyndall House, due out in August) – This is the first invisible book on my list. I had a chance to read much of the manuscript as a member of Ruth’s writing group and to follow the process as she worked on the book, and to read a digital galley copy. In it, she tells the story of a brutal rape in college and its implications for her life and her faith. Her writing is frank and visceral, lyrical and even humorous, as she tells the story of her girlhood in the Christian Reformed Church, her traumatic experience while a senior at Calvin College, and the impact on her personal life and her faith life. While the descriptions of the attack on Ruth and her roommates are distressing, Ruth brings you into the room in a way that is powerful without being gratuitous. Her theological reflections are profound. Her wrestling with the racial component of the assault is honest and unselfconscious. Ruth is one of our longtime RevGal bloggers, a member of our Ask the Matriarch panel, and a Presbyterian Church (USA) pastor. You can show her some love with an Amazon pre-order. I did.*
- Alexander Hamilton, by Ron Chernow (Penguin, 2004) – How does a bastard, orphan, son of a — okay, okay. I am on page 229 or 800+. This one is coming with me in its Kindle version. We have tickets to the show in late July. Yes, I know some of the original cast will be gone by then.
- Theory U: Learning from the Future as it Emerges, by C. Otto Scharmer (Berrett Koehler, 2009) – I have a lot more pages to read in this one, which was recommended by the instructors in Auburn Seminary’s coaching program. Not a vacation read, but fascinating. His view of the future is on point for what we are seeing in this year’s US election cycle.
- The rest of these books I haven’t cracked open. The Art of Memoir, by Mary Karr (Harper, 2015) – This one has a good chance of making the trip.
- The Givenness of Things: Essays, by Marilynne Robinson (Farrar Straus Giroux, 2015) – Probably staying home. I really loved When I Was a Child I Read Books, although she is very tough on my Cousin Jack in it. Reading more Marilynne Robinson is part of my commitment to becoming smarter in 2016.
- This is the Story of a Happy Marriage, by Ann Patchett (Harper Perennial, 2013) – She will be at Chautauqua, so I’m going to say this one is coming along, in case of signing opportunities. Her Bel Canto is one of my all-time favorite novels, Patron Saint of Liars made me weep, and her memoir of a friendship, Truth & Beauty, is gorgeous. (Note from Chautauqua – this book is delectable. I am 1/3 of the way through it.)
- Immunity to Change, by Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey (Harvard Business Press, 2009) – Another ancillary textbook. Also a no for vacation. Or even quasi-vacation. I’m the UCC Chaplain for Week 1, so I do have some responsibilities. And I would note that the authors of these books about leadership and change have never heard of total depravity.
- Cryptomnesia, by Christine A. Chakoian (Abingdon, 2014) – My wife read this one, so I’m catching up, but later.
- The Art of Authenticity: Tools to Become an Authentic Leader and Your Best Self, by Karissa Thacker (Wiley, 2016) – We’ve never met but have friends in common, and I am really looking forward to reading Thacker’s book later this summer.
- Outlaw Christian: Finding Faith By Breaking the “Rules,” by Jacqueline Bussie (Thomas Nelson, 2016) – Also for later.*
- Biblical Literalism: A Gentile Heresy, by John Shelby Spong (HarperOne, 2016) – Did I mention Cousin Jack will be at Chautauqua, too? This may be the book in my lap all week.
- Jesus Before the Gospels, by Bart D. Ehrman (HarperOne, 2016) – I love Ehrman’s books, most of which I have read, which makes it all the funnier that I just misread the title of one of his previous books listed on the cover as “Mansplaining Jesus.” Ehrman also makes me smarter, but he doesn’t convince me he is right about faith matters. I will read this book … eventually.
- The Digital Cathedral: Networked Ministry in a Wireless World, by Keith Anderson (Morehouse, 2015) – I like to think I already know a lot about the online world and ministry, but based on things I’ve read by Keith in the past, my guess is he will teach me something new. (But not on my vacation.)
- Last among the hard copy books, but far from least, Grounded: Finding God in the World – a Spiritual Revolution, by Diana Butler Bass (HarperOne, 2015) – I’ve been saving this one up. How many books can I read in a week? This one is coming with me.
- The second invisible book on my list is Coffeehouse Contemplative: Spiritual Direction for the Everyday, by Jeff Nelson (Noesis Press, 2016), who has been one of the supportive BlogPals to the RevGals almost from the beginning – You can get the book on Amazon. I am admittedly slow in getting through it because I have it as a review PDF. But it’s on my Kindle now! So it’s going with me.*
What are you looking forward to reading this summer? And have you read any of the books listed above? Let me know your thoughts about them in the comments. (Also, there are three more on my bedside table…)
*Reviews marked with an asterisk indicate I received a free or early review copy in exchange for my honest assessment.