Twenty Books I Want to Read

I’ve been tagged in yet another Facebook meme. This one asks me to list fifteen books that I would like to read. That seems to be a pretty cool list to draw up; in fact, it seemed worthy enough to publish to my blog as well as to Facebook. Of course, fifteen seemed impossible, so I have taken the liberty of listing twenty books.

So here goes. This list is presented alphabetically by title, and of course it represents only a tiny fraction of the books on my “to read” list. If you want to read any of these books yourself, follow the links to purchase a copy at Amazon.

  1. At Swim-Two-Birds by Flann O’Brien — A legendary comic Irish novel that is said to be as much of a masterpiece as anything by Joyce or Beckett.
  2. The Cloud of Unknowing with the Book of Privy Counsel: A New Translation by Carmen Acevedo Butcher — Dr. Butcher lives near Atlanta and is friends with my good friend Darrell, who says this new translation has helped him to fall in love with The Cloud all over again.
  3. The Complete Julian of Norwich by Father John-Julian, OJN — an annotated edition of Julian’s Revelation of Divine Love by the former superior of an Anglican contemplative order devoted to Julian.
  4. Consuming Jesus: Beyond Race and Class Divisions in a Consumer Church by Paul Louis Metzger — This book is one of several titles on my to-read list that connect the dots between the Holy Eucharist and the subversive promise of Christian social thought.
  5. Crunchy Cons: How Birkenstocked Burkeans, gun-loving organic gardeners, evangelical free-range farmers, hip homeschooling mamas, right-wing nature lovers, and their diverse tribe of countercultural conservatives plan to save America (or at least the Republican Party) by Rod Dreher — I might love this book or I might hate it, but either way I’m interested in the greening of the Republican party, which is what this book explores.
  6. Deification and Grace: Introductions to Catholic Doctrine by Daniel A. Keating — deification is usually associated with Eastern Orthodoxy; this Catholic-oriented survey by a respected scholar (and published by a conservative press) looks interesting.
  7. The End of Food: How the Food Industry is Destroying Our Food Supply—And What We Can Do About It by Thomas F. Pawlick — The politics of food production is something I think we all should be concerned about. It’s far beyond just being sure to buy organic: between GMOs and agribusiness, our health, our economy, and the ecology of the planet are all at risk.
  8. Faithful Dissenters: Stories of Men and Women Who Loved and Changed the Church by Robert McClory — A reminder that there’s more ways to be a good Christian than just blindly following the rules.
  9. The Gethsemani Encounter: A Dialogue on the Spiritual Life by Buddhist and Christian Monastics edited by Donald W. Mitchell and James Wiseman, O.S.B. — Christian-Buddhist dialogue emerging from a historic interfaith gathering of contemplatives at Gethsemani Abbey, where Thomas Merton lived.
  10. The Gifts of the Christ Child & Other Stories and Fairy Tales by George MacDonald — Recommended to me by the abbot of the Monastery where I work, the fiction of this 19th-century Scottish mystic is saturated with his Celtic, optimistic worldview.
  11. God Speaks in the Night: The Life, Times, and Teaching of St. John of the Cross edited by Silvano Giordano, OCD et al.; translated by Kieran Kavanaugh, OCD — Lavishly illustrated biography of one of the Christian tradition’s greatest mystics, assembled by members of his Discalced Carmelite Order.
  12. The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O’Connor by Flannery O’Connor, selected and edited by Sally Fitzgerald — Beneath the southern gothic weirdness of O’Connor’s fiction is an intelligent, perceptive, and devout Catholic artist, who shines through in this anthology of her correspondence.
  13. Inhabiting the Cruciform God: Kenosis, Justification, and Theosis in Paul’s Narrative Soteriology by Michael J. Gorman — There’s been quite a buzz about this book on Twitter; I’m particularly interested in it because it’s a Protestant exploration of deification.
  14. Joyce’s Book of the Dark: Finnegans Wake by John Bishop — I’m not sure if this book will make Finnegans Wake any more comprehensible, but it looks like a fun exploration of the mythic dreamscapes found within that most enigmatic of Irish novels.
  15. King of Mysteries: Early Irish Religious Writings by John Carey — anthology of the treasures of ancient Celtic Christian literature, edited by one of the most perceptive scholars of the field.
  16. Merton & Hesychasm: The Prayer of the Heart (The Eastern Church) edited by Bernadette Dieker and Jonathan Montaldo — A generous anthology of writings by and about Thomas Merton, concerning his interest in Eastern Orthodox spirituality and the Jesus Prayer tradition.
  17. Power, Gender, and Christian Mysticism by Grace M. Jantzen — Jantzen’s book on the theology of Julian of Norwich was wonderful, so I’m curious to see what she has to say about mysticism as a whole.
  18. Quest for the Grail by Richard Rohr — I love Rohr’s work on emergence Christianity and contemplation, so I figure I’d enjoy seeing what he has to say about masculine spirituality.
  19. Saving Paradise: How Christianity Traded Love of This World for Crucifixion and Empire by Rita Nakashima Brock and Rebecca Ann Parker — Not sure if I buy this book’s thesis or not, but I’m willing to give it a try: the authors argue that early Christian art (and, therefore, theology) was far more positive and life-affirming than the obsession with the crucifixion that emerged in the middle ages.
  20. Sex, Economy, Freedom and Community: Eight Essays by Wendell Berry — A book recommended to me by a spiritual director years ago, but which I never read: arguing for the link between authentic/healthy faith, community, small-scale agriculture, and living in harmony with the earth.

So there you go. Now, what’s your list?

Sister Joan Chittister and the Way of Paradox
The Intelligent Person's Guide to Prayer
Why Trappists Make Great Spiritual Guides
Talking about "Befriending Silence"
About Carl McColman

Author of Befriending Silence, The Big Book of Christian Mysticism, Answering the Contemplative Call, and other books. Retreat leader. Speaker. Professed Lay Cistercian.

  • Joe Rawls

    Merton and Hesychasm is one book I reread repeatedly; it’s a real gold mine.

  • Paul Rack

    Even if the thesis doesn’t work (about the crucifixion in Christian art), that’s just the teaser, really. Saving Paradise is a wonderful book reframing Christian history in terms of life and blessing rather than death and punishment. I learned a lot from it. It preaches well.