Book recommendations

I received an off blog message from someone asking me to recommend books. This was the question.

Can you recommend any books that might help me understand your understanding of our faith – it seems so attractive, so open, compassionate and real.

Oddly enough, I find that quite a tricky question. Even though I review holy books regularly for a magazine, it is only rarely that I find one sent to me which seems to answer the question.

I recently gave a very good review to David Winter’s new book about basic spiritual practices, The Road Well Travelled. That would not be a bad starting place. (This is probably what I would recommend now where once I would have said, Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster).

There are a few new books floating around which are using the “Inclusive” label which is so very current. Amongst them there is The Inclusive God by Steven Shakespeare and Hugh Rayment-Pickard.

For anyone who is an Evangelical who wonders how on earth people can envisage a thoughtful, biblical (and fun) theology which does not depend on a narrow view of the atonement, you could try Matthew Fox’s Original Blessing. It isn’t a particuarly easy read for someone not used to a bit of theology, but it is the kind of book that you can dip into. I recommend particularly the appendices.

Although it is long in the tooth now, I suggested to someone recently that they had a go at Honest to God, John Robinson’s attempt to make sense of God when certainties started to crumble. The best bits for me are those which deal with Paul Tillich’s notion that we can find God in the depths of our being rather than imagining God up there in the heights of heaven.

At one time when I was doing a lot of thinking about who I was, I got a lot out of Jung and the Christian Way by Christopher Bryant, though this is quite hard to find now.

For anyone thinking about liturgy, Richard Giles’s books are entertaining. Even though I agree with him less now than I used to do, I still think they are well worth a go. Re-pitching the Tent is all about church buildings and how they can be reordered for worship and mission. Creating Uncommon Worship is all about the Eucharist.

Anyone else want to chime in with a recommendation?


  1. I can think of 3, to get one thinking:

    1) Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis
    2) Borg: The Last Week
    3) Crossan: Jesus: a Revolutionary Biography

  2. David | Dah•veed says

    For an idea how many progressives approach our place in the cosmos and our responsibility as fellow beings on starship Earth. The Dream of the Earth and The Great Work – Thomas Berry

  3. Rosemary Hannah says

    If they want a biblical approach which is scholarly while being readable, Kenneth Bailey’s Poet and Peasant is an amazing book.

  4. All authors suggested so far are men.

    Anyone want to contribute any suggestions to provide a balance?

  5. Holly says

    May I suggest Pete Rollins- How (not) to speak of God. The service outlines at the end are very thought provoking… Sorry that I fail to provide balance…

  6. Anne Tomlinson says

    To redress the balance a bit I would recommend anything by one of three American women of letters; Anne Lamott, Nora Gallagher and Annie Dillard. OK, so I hear folk saying they are ‘not theological tomes’; well, in one sense no, but in another they are deeply theological, humane, honest reflections on the wrestling with the connections in the midst of life that doing theology is all about.
    Oh, and to prove I am not gender biased in the other direction, anything by the late Michael Mayne does it for me too, especially This Sunrise of Wonder: Letters for the Journey

  7. Alison says

    Anything by Elisabeth Moltmann-Wendel (yes, wife of Jurgen), especially ‘I am my body’ and ‘Rediscovering friendship’. Biblical, embodied theology by a woman.

  8. fr dougal says

    On LGBT try Gifted by Otherness by Bill Countryman and M R Ritley. 1 male one female author!

  9. I just read what I thought to be a very fine novel by Niall Williams, called John, about the Johannine community in 1st century Patmos and Ephesus. I thought it expressed very well something of the essence of a generous Christian faith. It came out in paperback a couple of months ago.

  10. Elizabeth says

    What a compelling list! My Amazon wish-list has just grown by several titles.

    I would second the recommendation for Nora Gallagher. Things Seen and Unseen and Practicing Resurrection are both memoirs dealing with what it means to be a person discovering faith in the midst of a community trying to live out an inclusive, welcoming ethic (the second focuses more on discernment of a call to ministry – but not exclusively). Other good ones in the ‘spiritual autobiography category is Sara Miles’ Take this Bread and Barbara Brown Taylor’s Leaving Church.

    These three are all by American writers, does anyone know of similar spiritual autobiographies from the UK?

    For a progressive take on sexuality and sexual ethics, I would recommend Jo Ind’s Memories of Bliss: God, Sex and Us.

    A denser theological tome is Catherine Keller’s A theology of becoming – a fairly radical reading of the first sentence of Genesis. Her book, On the Mystery: discerning divinity in process, is more accessible, but I found it less compelling, although a good introduction to a number of strands of progressive theology – process theology, feminist theology, eco-theology.

    Sorry for not including links! I tried, but the technology failed me!

  11. Steve says

    Another oldie but it has worn well: HA Williams, The True Wilderness.

  12. Rosemary Hannah says

    Oh, of course – how could I not think of her?

    Kathleen Norris – The Cloister Walk
    and The Quotidian Mysteries.

  13. Melissa says

    Thanks for this list. I am going to try Original Blessing and Creating Uncommon Worship.

    I have already gotten A Road Well Traveled – maybe I put it down too soon and should give it another go.

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