Book Club Channel
Why 25 Books? An Interview with Lyle SmithGraybeal
What happens when you read these books? What is the goal?
The goal, plain and simple, is formation in Christlikeness. What happens is we take ideas of value into our minds through our eyes which, upon reflection, seep down into our hearts and, eventually, transform our behavior. In the process we become more like Jesus.
What does each chapter contain?
In each chapter, following a brief biographical sketch of the book's author, Julia Roller, the primary author for 25 Books, has written a 30,000-foot overview of a book, an explanation of why it is vital, and some hints on reading it. There is then around a two thousand-word excerpt for each book, which is a good chunk. And each chapter ends with a study guide, mostly for the excerpt but with a couple of questions for the book as a whole.
25 Books also contains an appendix with some important contemporary authors and their writings and "My Personal Top 5" book lists from each of the editorial board members and other Christian leaders like Brian McLaren, Mindy Caliguire, and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove peppered throughout the text.
How did you choose these twenty-five books?
The book is a Renovaré Resource, a line of books that we have been developing with HarperOne for just about twenty years. So Renovaré has a pretty extensive network of users and collaborators. We polled these folks for their top five books that they think everyone should read and a little over two hundred people responded. We then assembled an editorial board for the project with notables like Richard Foster, Dallas Willard, Phyllis Tickle, Richard Rohr, John Wilson, and a few others. The editorial board began with the top sixty books from the poll of our constituency and through a process of conversation and voting they narrowed the list to twenty-five books. And that did it.
Why isn't the Bible on the list?
Every Christian that can read should read the Bible. It is the top book on every list. We felt this so self-apparent that we didn't need to include it as one of the twenty-five.
Why does the list only include dead authors?
A book needs to stand the test of time before it can be considered a "classic" that everyone should read. Will its notoriety outlive its author by two or three or more generations? Will it speak to the cultural concerns of the future? Will the Church and individual Christians need its wisdom 50 or 100 years from now? These questions cannot be answered, of course, for a book by any author still writing. So the editorial board simply decided to exclude living authors. That put, we did include a book by Henri Nouwen, who died in 1996. This may have been a bit premature, but we felt that Nouwen's work is vital for understanding the unmitigated, ever-available grace of God. That is a topic that speaks to any age.
Why so many Roman Catholic authors among the twenty-five books?
Well, of course, there was only one church before the great schism of 1054, which led to naming the Western church as Roman Catholic and the Eastern church as the Orthodox Church. Nevertheless we westerners tend to think of everything before the Protestant Reformation as Roman Catholic, so that makes the list seem a bit stilted when you combine pre-1054 titles with the more modern Roman Catholic writings. In any case, it seems that for some reason in the 13th to 17th centuries there was this amazing outbreak of mystical theology in Western Europe; from this we have the writings of Teresa of Avila and Julian of Norwich and The Cloud of Unknowing and more. These years make up about a third of the list and certainly help bend it in a Roman Catholic direction.