You probably have, like me, a study full of books. Maybe they spill into another room. They go with you in the car to appointments when you might have some dead space in your schedule. In my study, the books are double-stacked and in somewhat precarious piles. I’ve always dreamed of a study that looked like this:
Recently I decided to re-organize my study and put books of like topic and purpose together. (Of course, they don’t stay that way — but that’s another matter!) I also culled out some books which I hesitated to even donate to the library book sale because they were either extremely outdated or had content that I didn’t want the unexamined mind to read. (Not quite as bad as “The Total Woman” but… you get my drift!)
SOooo… with that in mind, let’s talk about the books in your life!
1. STUDYING: What is your favorite book or series for sermon prep or study? Or have you moved from books to on-line tools for your personal study? I don’t use books much anymore unless I find a particular word or phrase captivating/challenging and can’t get to a conclusion. I’m trying hard to let the Spirit move and not to borrow themes from other writers. But let me promote a one-volume resource I keep at home on the coffee table, just in case. It’s the New Interpreters Study Bible, a one volume, NRSV, with great footnotes. I don’t live near my church, so having a resource at home that *stays* at home makes good sense for me.
2. IN THE QUEUE: Do you have a queue of books you are longing to read or do you read in bits and pieces over several books at a time? What’s in the queue? I usually have more than one book going at a time: something for work and something for pleasure, a book for bedtime, a book on my Kindle, you get the picture. This fall I’m teaching Introduction to Worship at Bangor Theological Seminary, which has meant reading texts for the class. My Currently Reading list on Goodreads is ridiculously long, but also truthful. Well, maybe one of them is just there to remind me to start reading it…
But in case you don’t want to click the link or aren’t on Goodreads, other than texts for the class I’m currently reading:
God Shows No Partiality, by Dave Barnhart — This is a great book setting up the case for being inclusive in the church, written by a Methodist pastor in Alabama who understands what a minefield it is to discuss including LGBT people in some faith communities. I highly recommend it.
Christianity After Religion, by Diana Butler Bass – This one is on my Kindle, thanks to a gift from my friend, Jayne! As ever, Bass is smart and readable and honest about the realities of our culture and the church.
A Thousand Mornings, by Mary Oliver — This is Oliver’s brand new collection of poems; I love it very much. And to be clear, it’s at home, but I consider it to be part of my spiritual and personal development to read poetry.
3. FAVORITE OF ALL TIME: What’s one book that you have to have in your study? Is it professional, personal, fun or artistic? (For instance, I have a copy of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. It just helps sometimes.) I have some favorite children’s books in my study at church, including “The Sneetches,” “The Velveteen Rabbit,” “The Carrot Seed,” and a lot of Christmas books. But let me tell you about two books I often dip into when I’m looking for something quickly as an opening reading or devotional at a meeting or other event.
Why Jesus Makes Me Nervous, by Joy Jordan-Lake — I’ve used this as a Lenten study and frequently return to the thought-provoking stories she tells.
Finding Jesus, Discovering Self, by Caren Goldman and William Dols — This made a fantastic group study book, using stories from the life of Jesus as a guide for healing and wholeness. Each chapter begins with a personal reflection from one of the authors, includes discussion questions and ends with thematic poems and prose quotations. It’s a rich, rich resource.
And here’s a new one I’ve already used and know it will remain on my top list, by a RevGalBlogPals ring member.
Keeping the Feast: Metaphors for the Meal, by Milton Brasher-Cunningham — It’s got poetry, baseball, reflections on the sacrament of Communion *and* recipes! Really, you need a copy. Milton’s blog just moved to a new address, go and say hi: Don’t Eat Alone. I am excited that I will get to meet him in person in a couple of weeks!
4. KINDLE OR PRINT? or both? Is there a trend in your recent purchases? I tend to buy books for work in hard copy. I like Kindle for fiction and things that are too heavy to hold. I do have some professional books on the Kindle, but they are the exception. First, I like to mark them up, and then I like to be able to flip through and find the marks. You can make notes in Kindle, but it’s not the same as paging through for inspiration. Second, I like to be able to loan books to people who see them in my office, and on Kindle, they’re only visible to me.
5. DISCARDS: I regularly cruise the “FREE BOOKS” rack at our local library. (I know, I know. It’s a bad habit!) When’s the last time you went through your books and gave some away (or threw some away?) Do you remember what made the discard pile? Because I’ll be moving, I am in the midst of a serious purge of books both at church and at home. I invited RevGal member, MaineCelt, to have first dibs on my professional books, and she now has the beginning of a practical library. I gave her things that I used a lot in my first years of ministry, most of which are duplicated in the office of someone who will let me borrow after I move.
BONUS: Post a picture of the present state of your study! Just in the interests of full disclosure, here’s mine!
Here’s what the book shelf looks like after the aforementioned distribution. On the top right are books I won’t be taking with me, things I haven’t opened since seminary. I’ve moved them five times, and that’s enough. (And don’t worry, kzj, I’m still weeding.)