Technically, all four seasons are good for reading, but I find that summer is great for catching up on literature I want to read. This past year I reorganized two courses, and that means last summer and the academic year was spent reading things I “had to” read. That, of course, means the next three months are gonna be wonderful. I have pulled together a list that is probably longer than I can actually work through, but I am most definitely going to do my best to read the following books.
One of my absolute favorite British novelist is Joanna Trollope, who is a great, great niece (or something like that) of Anthony Trollope. I don’t actually expect anyone to know who he is. She writes about dysfunctional English families. Great stuff. I have missed her last two offerings: The Soldier’s Wife and Daughters-in-Law. Technically, that is the beginning and end of the “reading for pleasure” list because I will probably NEVER reference either of those books in a class.
The following texts have a 50/50 shot at being mentioned in a course. There are three books about Jesus/the Gospels that I MUST get through or I will have considered the summer a waste. The first is Scott McKnight’s The King Jesus Gospel. McKnight, like me, is a fan of N.T. Wright. Wright produces books faster than I can read them, and so his How God Became King and Simply Jesus will be read.
For spiritual formation I hope to get through a number of Quaker and “Quaker-related” books. Douglas Gwyn’s Conversation with Christ: Quaker Meditations on the Gospel of John will be read devotionally. The Faith and Practice of the Quakers and Essential Writings by Rufus Jones are on the program. Jones was probably the most influential Quaker in the first half of the twentieth century, and a well-known advocate for a mystical understanding of spirituality. For a very long time, I have found mystics intriguing; therefore, when Richard Roberson offered to loan me a book about Mother Gavrilia (Mother Gavrilia: the Ascetic of Love), I said, “Sure, you betcha.” Or something like that. Gavrilia was a Greek Orthodox believer who after a mystical experience sold all she had and moved to India to work with the poor.
I am not going to apologize for this: I think pietism has some really good handles for grasping Christianity. I know some folks think the tradition is too experiential, emotional, and lacking cerebral engagement with the faith. I think both experience and intellect are important, and I believe historical Pietism is generally misunderstood. So, I hope to get through Michelle A. Clifton-Suderstrom’s Angels, Worms, and Bogeys: the Christian Ethic of Pietism. If it is accessible, I will be recommending it. Perhaps if people took Pietism more seriously, Ross Donthat wouldn’t have reason to write Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics. Donthat, who is the youngest person to be a columnist for the New York Times, argues that what is passed off as Christianity is far from “orthodox.”
Yesterday, I began the program by purchasing and starting Partricia McCormack’s Never Fall Down. Described as a “novel”, the storyline actually follows the horrific experiences faced by Arn Chorn-Pond during the Khmer Rouge reign of terror in Cambodia. The narrator is an eleven year old boy who tells his story in simple sentences and broken English. I am 68 pages into the book, and it is, for lack of a more creative expression, a page turner.
Well, that is what I am planning on reading. I would be curious to know what books are on your summer reading list.