Summer Reading: What Book Has Changed Your Life?

Peter WallacePeter Wallace

In the early 1980s, the Jesus Seminar was anathema to all of us at the conservative seminary where I was working on my Th.M. Liberals run amuck! But ten years later, I found myself wandering, spiritually and theologically, ending up a progressive Episcopalian. Ironically, perhaps, one of the books that had a major impact on my own evolving views summarized the Historical Jesus studies I had earlier found so abhorrent: Marcus Borg's Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time. Profound yet powerfully simple, this slim book helped me get my mind -- and my heart -- around the Jesus I believe in.

This summer, Dr. Borg is back on our shelves, this time with his first novel, and it's an utter delight. Putting Away Childish Things manages to both entertain and educate, as Borg's own deep faith and bracing intellect infuse the narrative. For me, and I mean this only in the most positive way, it was rather like Alexander McCall Smith's Isabel Dalhousie goes to seminary. It's the perfect summer book for those of us who want not only to be amused, but to have our mind and faith stretched a good bit.

Peter Wallace, host and producer of the "Day1" radio program ( and author of Living Loved: Knowing Jesus as the Lover of Your Soul.

Read a review of Putting Away Childish Things at Patheos.

Sara MilesSara Miles

Salvation on Sand Mountain , by Dennis Covington, is a book that continues to deepen for me every time I read it. Beautifully, subtly written, reverent, horrific, and funny by turns, it's Covington's wrenchingly honest account of worshipping with a snake-handling Holiness church in Appalachia. What makes the book so remarkable is that it is both a book about God and a book about church. It's an unblinking look at the wickedness of Christian believers (from our doctrinal disputes to our petty jealousies and murderous plots) and yet it reveals the depths of the love among us. And it shows, luminously and faithfully, what happens when the Spirit descends on ordinary people. Covington, whether handling serpents himself or deciding that the whole enterprise is insane, never indulges in dishing out exoticism to readers, or in distancing himself from the experience: his Church of Jesus Christ with Signs Following is the one Church, "that wonderful and sacred mystery," and the ancient Aunt Daisy is a prophet speaking to all who have ears. As the believers on Sand Mountain testify, "Brother, this thing is real."

Sara Miles is the author of Jesus Freak: Feeding, Healing, Raising the Dead and Take This Bread: A Radical Conversion. She is Director of Ministry at St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church in San Francisco.

Carl GreggCarl Gregg

In the fall of 2005, I read Margaret Guenther's book Holy Listening: The Art of Spiritual Direction as part of my discernment of whether to apply to the low-residency Diploma in the Art of Spiritual Direction program at San Francisco Theological Seminary. Guenther's book was an important stepping-stone in my transition from debating the merits of other people's second-hand ideas about God to facilitating first-hand experiences with God for myself and for others. I recommend supplementing Guenther's work with Susan S. Phillips' more recent book Candlelight: Illuminating the Art of Spiritual Direction.

If I were to recommend something that every Christian should read, it would not be a book, but a newspaper. Christians are called to embody Jesus' way of love in our time and place, and to respond fully to our call we need to be informed about the needs of the world. There are few better ways to stay informed about the world's needs than reading The New York Times, which is widely considered the newspaper of record in the United States. If you do not have time to read the whole paper, begin by daily reading the "Most E-mailed" articles, which can be found by scrolling down on the newspaper's homepage.

Read Carl's top ten list of books that have most shaped his theology here.

The Rev. Carl Gregg is Associate Pastor at Northminster Church in Monroe, LA and blogs at Faith Forward.

6/21/2010 4:00:00 AM
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