Thoroughly Alive

We must hunger after the beautiful and the good...


And now for the non-fiction...

  What a feast of story I found in your comments on the last post.

I can't wait to get home and get these books. Summer reading on the porch, here I come. As a follow up, here is the nonfiction section of the list I made for the students at Semester. Again, this is not a comprehensive list, it's more a list of love, of books that have companioned and cheered me in my learning and journey of soul.

And of course, if you want to, I'd love to know your favorites too.

  1. Walking on Water by Madeleine L’Engle – the best book I have read on what it means to be a Christian and creative. Also by L'Engle, The Genesis Trilogy, a creative, memoir-style exploration of the the characters and themes of Genesis. Her writing came into my life like a hand thrown to a drowning girl when I was doubting God's love and goodness.
  2. The Art of the Commonplace and Life is a Miracle by Wendell Berry – Berry is a KY farmer and his writing demands concentration. He gave up a brilliant literary career in NYC to return to his family’s farm because he decided that culture was falling apart at the seams due to lack of integrity in family, home, land, and community. He decided being a farmer who used land well and invested locally and was faithful to his family was the way to change the world. I find him idealistic, but his evaluation of what is needed, wrong, or necessary to a healthy culture has shaped my thinking on the subject like nothing else. He says things I’ve vaguely thought but never known how to express.
  3. Telling the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy, and Fairy Tale by Frederick Buechner. Sometimes we need a slim gift of a book to liven us to the joyous, fairy-tale grace that the Gospel actually is. I love this book. Also, his Speak What We Feel (Not What We Ought To Say) looks at the greatest works of four authors (Shakespeare, Chesterton, Twain, and Hopkins) and examines how the keenest truths they expressed were discovered in suffering, their deepest beauty created out of pain.
  4. Streams of Living Water by Richard Foster – identifies the different “streams” of Christian faith, the way that different churches/denominations focus on and honor different facets of God’s reality. Presents a picture of all the believers in the world, with different gifts and drives, presenting this holistic, beautiful Church to the world. Also by Foster, Simplicity, which is only partly about the discipline of frugality, and is really about the way in which we must learn to trust God to be the source of all good in our lives.
  5.  Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places – by Eugene Peterson. This is a book to be a sort of foundation to your spiritual journey; how to look at the Bible, how to view the work of Christ, how to relate every area of life to the kingdom of God as it comes. A long book, traversing many topics, but with the point of showing the believer how Christ does indeed, pay in the ten thousand spheres of our lives and redeems each one.
  6. The Great Divorce, by C.S. Lewis. A bus ride from hell to heaven with people who talk themselves out of grace - not to be missed.
  7. Celtic Daily Prayer, by the Northumbria Community. This prayer book, with the Celtic emphasis on beauty, nature, prayer, has formed my devotions daily for the past five years. Morning, noon, evening, and compline prayers, with meditations, devotionals, and special services for high days. I love the rhythm this makes in my life.
  8. Culture Making by Andy Crouch – changed my view on what it means to “change the world” – and affirmed the fact that you can fully serve God in every area of life. Culture is simply the choices we make, the food we eat, the things we create on a daily basis.
  9.  Tolkien’s essay On Fairytales – a grand defense of why story is so vital to the soul.
  10. The Golden Book of Poetry edited by Louis Untermeyer – you need some poetry! This is the children’s version – with a good few classics, whimsy, and great illustration.
  11. The Best Poems of the English Language selected and with a commentary by Alan Bloom. – I may not agree with everything Bloom says about these poems, but he’s got an excellent selection and great insight. If you read this, you’ll have a decent taste of English literature too.
  12. The Interior Castle by St. Teresa of Avila. Has taught me how to think of prayer.
  13. The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence – a humble monk who trained himself to be aware of God in every moment. Beautiful.
  14. The Renaissance of Wonder by Marion Lochhead - this is an exploration of children's fantasy and fairy tale, beginning with George MacDonald. I love the exploration of children's stories in this genre, but also the author's insight into the faith that makes many of them come alive.
  15. The Evidential Power of Beauty. This is definitely a book for idealists, but I love this because it is a systematic tour of creation, beginning with the smallest elements of reality and working up to the greatest creation of a "heroically virtuous human being," showing how beauty is an essential part of our knowing and loving God.

There are so many more, but I'll stop for now. May your reading journey be swift and bright...