Book Club Channel
Why 25 Books? An Interview with Lyle SmithGraybeal
Which of the authors is the most difficult to understand for modern readers?
While not necessarily the best for a reader getting into 25 Books, I think the first selection in the book, On the Incarnation by St. Athanasius, is the most difficult. It is one of the first works of orthodox theology and, while the topic is absolutely vital for his time and ours, it is a dense read.
Of the twenty-five do you have one that is the most important, that is a passageway for the other books?
That's a tough one as they are all so good and each offers a different pathway for Christian formation and discipleship. But, for me, I consider The Imitation of Christ a good first step and door opening to the rest. It is squarely on the topic of Christian formation, the chapters are short (almost like a modern devotional), over the past six centuries it has more copies in print than any other book excepting the Bible, and it is a pretty easy read. It should still be read reflectively as the ideas are compact, but it is not difficult and contains all the major discipleship themes.
Is there a theme that runs through all the books?
Becoming like Jesus. That is the goal of the Christian life.
What were some of the books that almost made it but didn't?
I lobbied hard for Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Life Together but the editorial board chose his The Cost of Discipleship instead. The Little Flowers of St. Francis is a notable exception, especially since editorial board member Richard Rohr is a Franciscan. And you would think that The Journal of George Fox would have made it because of Richard Foster's involvement (Fox and Foster are both Quakers, and Fox was the founder of the movement), but Richard was able to let it go quite easily.
In the book you suggest 25 Books is good for group study? How do you use it in a small group?
We all need encouragement for our life of discipleship in a culture, even a Church culture, that is too often indifferent. So reading 25 Books with a group of friends and disciples is a good idea. You could read the book through one chapter at a time with small group meetings and discussion in between from start to end. Or you could read the chapters until you hit upon a book that you would really like to stick with for a while and read that book, for instance The Imitation of Christ, in total and then resume your reading of 25 Books. Or, if you are really taken by the project, you could read each book in the list in its entirety using the corresponding chapter in 25 Books as a guide and encouragement. I hope to do the latter in the near future and make a three to four year project of it (though I can't imagine reading all sixteen or so volumes of Calvin's Institutes and the five volumes of the Philokalia).
Would 25 Books make a good holiday gift?
Probably not for your kids or your atheist uncle-unless you're being evangelistic with your gifts for your uncle this year. But for any Christian that is committed to a lifetime of discipleship I think it would make a tremendous gift. It could give them guidance for a multi-year discipleship experience.
Return to the Patheos Book Club for a blogger roundtable discussion of 25 Books Every Christian Should Read, as well as to read a book excerpt.