A friend of mine some weeks ago asked me for a book list. In fact, he said, “Just give me a list, I don’t care whats on it, I just need to start reading again.” Well, I didn’t take him too literally, but I did come up with a book list for the lay person. These books are generally rather readable and well written, but more importantly, could be interesting instead of boring theology.
1. Risks of Faith by James Cone. This book is from a prof here at Union and is actually my go-to book for exposing someone to black theology or maybe even liberation theology in general. Its very readable, and spans Cone’s career as it is a selection of essays, but the text also hits at what Cone is known for, starting “Black Liberation” theology. The work will get you/or keep you thinking on race, gender, poverty – you know, the important things.
2. Myths America Lives By by Richard T. Hughes. While at times I do have some criticisms about the work on certain points (and I may or may not agree entirely with his conclusion, hint, probably not), this book is very readable and hits at the general heart of what the hell really is going on with what we believe as American Christians. Once thats all sorted out, we can finally address if we really should be believing any/some/all the myths.
3. Theopolitical Imagination by William T. Cavanaugh. This book is short and expensive (read here, the publisher is being a jerk), but damn worth it if you can keep up. I would recommend Torture and Eucharist by Cavanaugh, but thats denser and bigger. Theopolitical Imagination may be one of the biggest stretches in terms of reading accessibility on the list, but in this case, that shouldn’t matter – struggle through this book five times if you have to (though I don’t see it being nearly that hard to understand, I think most people could understand it well enough with one reading and some discussion) – just read the damn book. It changed me in such a fashion that my whole theological world-view will never be the same. Ever.
4. God Is Not: Religious, Nice, One of Us, An American, A Capitalist edited by Brent Laytham. This collection has a good spread of essays on negative theology (negative theology is saying what we know God not to be) which in this case strikes at the very nature of what we assume God to be, and sometimes, we assume wrongly. Hence this book.
5. Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore. Possibly one of the funniest books I’ve ever read and I would often times find my self laughing out loud quite often, but also at times is incredibly well researched, in fact if I were teaching a Gospels class or intro to New Testament, I would use excerpts from this book.
6. Dracula by Bram Stroker. The book is riveting and I love the style, but also it is incredibly mature in how it deals with corruption and death. Rather astute I think. One of the most interesting things of note is what happens when a vampire dies – they sigh in peace, in fact, its not a horrible death at all. The vampires are finally allowed to rest and the evil is purged – they become people again in a very real sense. Perhaps we should look at our enemies like this – that there are people underneath all that evil, except we don’t need to use the violence. I used to not be a vampire fan, and I’m still not really, but this book I really like and it seems to have all sorts of theological ideas.
7. Anything by Dorthy L. Sayers, particularly the Lord Peter Wimsy Stories, they’re good mysteries.
8. Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther by Roland H. Bainton. This work is one of the definitive biographies on Luther by a very respected historian, but it is also incredibly readable and personal. In fact, any good reformation class in college that I’ve seen uses this book as one of the major texts. Its just that good.
9. Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business by Neil Postman. Brilliant, just brilliant and it was written in 1984…ish.
10. The Kingdom of God is Within You by Leo Tolstoy. Something to get ya thinking about pacifism, it certainly did me, and it should also be noted that this book had a large impact on Martin Luther King Jr. and Ghandi. You know, some of the real, successful people.
11. The Orthodox Way by Bishop Kallistos Ware. Here is a well written introduction to Eastern Orthodox Theology, well, some of Eastern Orthodox Theology. I’m not sure they’re quite as unified as they say they are. Nevertheless, Ware puts forth clearly certain Eastern Orthodox views that I found rather valuable during my freshman year in college.
12. Sexism and God-Talk: Toward a Feminist Theology by Rosemary Radford Ruether. If you want to put your toe into feminist theology, this would be one of the works to start with. Apparently it is also still one of, if not the only, feminist systematic theology text written (this means that the book deals with the typical categories of theology – the nature of the text, method, language, humanity, Christ, evil, eschatology and a few others that are brought up by feminists). Even if you don’t agree with a large majority of feminism, or are even someone who reacts to feminism negatively, if you haven’t read this book, you can shut up or give this book your open mind. Why? Because this is one of the biggest voices for the past 20 years and this is one of the texts for theological feminism.