A while back, as the Featured Religion Author for Barnes&Noble.com, my assignment was to share eight of my favorite books about religion. I am going to cheat while I have the opportunity.
Below I have eight categories of books, and all of them will have at least two titles. There are twenty books in all. I have also given each book a score between one and ten regarding how arduous a read: one = Dr. Seuss easy and ten = you need a dictionary and lots of time.
1. C.S. Lewis – He has a category all by himself. The Weight of Glory (7), is a stunning compilation of addresses given by Lewis in the 1940s and 1950s spanning a breadth of topics and issues that continue to be relevant today, especially the titled address, one of the most beautiful in history. Also, The Great Divorce (5) (Fiction) and Perelandra (5), (Science Fiction) are well worth the time spent.
2. 20th Century Prophets – Christ and the Media, (7), by Malcolm Muggeridge and almost anything by Jacques Ellul, such as Anarchy and Christianity (7), The Humiliation of the Word (9), The Politics of God and the Politics of Man (6) and Money and Power (7). Both of these men had a profound understanding of modern technological society and stood with clear prophetic presence. Reading them is like wading through wet concrete, but finding diamonds everywhere.
3. I Need Some Help Here – I picked two books that are speaking into current issues in life-giving ways. Love is an Orientation, (5), by Andrew Marin, is the single best book I have ever read on spirituality and the LGBT community; it’s a must read! Christa Black’s, God Loves Ugly, (4), whether pre-adolescent or adult, this book assists women and those who care for them in facing and working through questions of body image, eating disorders and self-destructive thinking and behaviors that enslave so many.
4. Paradigm Busters – The Shack Revisted, (6), by Dr. C Baxter Kruger, Mississippi theologian and storyteller, is beautiful and brilliant. The byline is: “There is more going on here than you ever dared to dream.” An influence on C.S. Lewis, G.K Chesterton, Madeleine L’Engle, J.R.R Tolkien, Oswald Chambers, Mark Twain and others is George MacDonald, Scottish literary genius. Besides his novels, The Princess and the Goblin, Sir Gibbie etc., I highly recommend Unspoken Sermons: Christ in Creation (7).
5. On Second Thought – My suggestions in this category are two creative and thought producing and provoking books: The Yellow Leaves, (5) by Frederick Buechner, master story-teller and weaver of meaning, and The Death of Adam: Essays on Modern Thought, (7), by Marilynne Robinson, a stunning collection of essays by a word-craftsperson.
6. Conversations – There are two recent books that invite us into a wider conversation between faith cultures in which the authors work to maintain both orthodoxy and openness. Brian D. McLaren’s, Why did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road? (6), and Dr. Paul Louis Metzger’s, Connecting Christ: How to Discuss Jesus in a World of Diverse Paths (6). Read both of them.
7. Heaven and Hell Category – Two gifted and grace-full writers I bring to your attention in another conversation that is ‘finally’ getting larger play and focus. Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church (6), by N.T. Wright, and Her Gates will Never be Shut: Hope, Hell, and the New Jerusalem (6) by Bradley Jersak.
8. Leave me Alone so I can Think About this Awhile – Sometimes you simply need to let a writer visit and share a cup of tea and wander into some of the precious places of the heart without asking for permission. Two such guests are Jean Vanier, Drawn into the Mystery of Jesus through the Gospel of John, (5) and Henri Nouwen, The Wounded Healer, (5). You could always add a little Thomas Merton, Brennan Manning and Richard Rohr to the mix too, for colors of longing and mystery.