Thursday, March 1, 2012


Read these at the risk of changing your mind, breaking your heart and challenging your world

A young Dietrich Bonhoeffer
These are books that not only fascinate me but have somehow changed me.  More than other readings or sources of knowledge, these have re-formed or changed the way I approach life--the way I think, what I value and how I view and regard my neighbors, society, systems and world.  These have either challenged my understanding of how things are and how things should be or they've shaped my behaviors--often both. These books have a continuing impact on me. The trajectories they set in motion have not yet reached fulfillment. I'm somehow living the questions or values or approaches to problems they raise. Together, we're a work in progress. I'm grateful to the writers and publishers of these books and all who influenced them. I can only hope my own journey in grace and with their influence will somehow heighten the trajectory of others.

1 Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Paulo Freire

Most dangerous book in a century. Banned in much of South America for decades. I will never accept the way things are in social arrangements at face value again. I will forever critique life from the perspective of the exploited and believe in their power to change their situation and liberate us all.

2 The Powers That Be, Walter Wink

Exposes the domination system, the myth of redemptive violence and the dismissal of nonviolence as "impractical." "Violent revolution fails because it is not revolutionary enough. It changes the rulers but not the rules, the ends but not the means." "Nonviolence is the way God has chosen to overthrow evil in the world." "Nonviolence never fails, because every nonviolent act is a revelation of God's new order breaking into the world." Alternative: Violence Unveiled, Gil Bailie

3 Letter From Birmingham Jail, Martin Luther King, Jr.

For those who think the church is not fallen and not in need of redemption through the collective repentance and Biblical justice-making of its members. It's not just that racism is called out, but that the prophetic witness of the church is at stake in social injustices wherever they exist.  Alternative: The Journal of John Woolman, John Woolman

4 The Politics of Jesus, John Howard Yoder

The Bible I was too familiar with became a radical critique of the status quo and an invitation to the upside down Kingdom that Jesus articulated and demonstrated.  It awaits our embrace. Alternative: The Upside Down Kingdom, Donald Kraybill.

5 Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer

We've cheapened grace. Grace is costly. Grace is free.  And it is ever so accessible to all. The backdrop to this reflection elevates its simplicity and eloquence: a young German theologian confronting his homeland's compromising church and totalitarian dictator Adolf Hitler. For perspective read: Costly Grace by Eberhard Bethge.

6 Let Your Life Speak, Parker J. Palmer

Rediscover what you were intended to be and do. Move from superficial career to heartfelt vocation. Quaker sociologist and teacher Parker opens his own indirect, disrupted journey in what amounts to a gracious gift for fellow travelers.  Also read by Palmer: The Active Life, A Hidden Wholeness, and Healing the Heart of Democracy.

7 Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Annie Dillard

A simply fascinating, exasperating look at nature--at life, at mystery--through the eyes and heart of a passionate, inquisitive, creative observer. Also read by Dillard: For the Time Being and Teaching a Stone to Talk.

8 Prophetic Imagination, Walter Brueggemann

You'll never look past the Old Testament prophets again.  You might even begin to cultivate a critical, prophetic imagination and see ancient and future wrapped up together in the crucible of today's opportunities and challenges.

9 The Careless Society, John McKnight

Grasp critically what institutionalization and compartmentalization is doing to individuals, families, neighborhoods, communities and American society.  How can we reweave the fabric of our broken, divided, careless society? From the Northwestern University researcher who pioneered asset-based community development (ABCD) strategies.

10 Leadership and Self-Deception, The Arbinger Institute

I hate this book. I love this book.  I hate this book.  I love this book.  It kicks me afresh every time I read it or consider what it says about how I view people, relationships, situations, groups and international problems.  This book will work on me for rest of my life.  Also read: The Anatomy of Peace by The Arbinger Institute.

And I haven't even gotten to William Stringfellow, Wendell Berry, Thomas Merton, Richard Roher, Rob Bell, Dorothy Soelle, John Ruskin, Julian of Norwich, Richard Foster, Rosemary Reuther, Harper Lee, Frank Viola, Miroslav Volf, John Wesley, Howard Snyder, and Henri Nouwen. So many great books, so little time.

1 comment:

  1. I think I've got to add a few more, at least:

    11. "Generation to Generation" by Edwin Friedman.

    12. "The Radical Wesley" by Howard Snyder.

    13. "Nonviolent Communication" by Marshall Rosenberg.


Your tasteful comments and/or questions are welcome. Posts are moderated only to reduce a few instances of incivility.