If you’re just tuning in now, here’s Part 1 of this post. Now onto more bookish goodness!
5. The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical by Shane Claiborne
First read: 2008
Another random library find, and this time in Benton County, Oregon, at the time the place with the highest concentration of atheists in the country. This is the book that kickstarted the revival of my faith post-college. Shane shares the story of how Jesus messed his life up, turned him from a complacent evangelical hoping for a cushy job and an early retirement to someone whose life has been consumed with radical love and service: traveling to Iraq in solidarity and peace, scattering thousands of dollars all over Wall Street in a “Jubilee” celebration, creating an intentional community in Philadelphia to support his inner-city neighbors for life. But although his story is an extraordinary one, he doesn’t suggest everyone do exactly as he did; rather, his dream is for everyone to find their own way to be radical, and the latter part of his book generously spreads around his enthusiasm.
6. Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion by Fr. Greg Boyle
First read: circa 2011
I’ve cried over many books and laughed out loud at more, but few can make me do both, and this is one. Fr. Greg (or G, as his friends call him) tells the story of his life’s work running Homeboy Industries, an anti-gang employment program in L.A. that makes gang rival coworkers learning job skills together. But really, the story he tells is the story of the young men and women he worked with: the ones he baptized, the ones that hung around his office and drove him crazy, the ones he welcomed home from jail with pepperoni pizza like modern Prodigal Sons, the ones he made accompany him to fancy awards dinners, the ones that left the neighborhood and got stable homes and families, the many that never made it out alive. These are stories you can never forget once you read them, stories that make your compassion a little more boundless.
7. Take This Bread: A Radical Communion by Sara Miles
First read: 2012
Sara Miles walked into St. Gregory’s Episcopal Church as an atheist, out of a vague curiosity to know what was going on, and she chose to take communion at their open table, and in her words, “Jesus happened to me.” Her encounter with Jesus was undeniably an experience, fitting for someone who’d spent her life getting her hands dirty as a war correspondent and cook. Her experience of getting fed with no conditions led her to want to extend the same hospitality to others, and she started a food pantry at the church, giving away boxes of groceries over the altar. The book is also about her radical communion with the community of St. Gregory’s and the food pantry volunteers, the frustrating and fulfilling group she counts as her family in the Body of Christ. A book that invites me to taste and see… and then feed others as I’ve been fed.
8. Monastery of the Heart: An Invitation to a Meaningful Life by Joan Chittister
First read: 2012
This book could be titled Monastic Values for Dummies – and for anyone in the complex yet connected twenty-first century world who wants to lead an examined life. Sr. Joan shares a lifetime of insight from community living by the Rule of Benedict in short, accessible chapters that flow like poems and have titles like “Good Work,” “Retreat and Reflection,” and “Sufficiency and Sharing.” Despite its basis on monastic codes of living, it’s not particularly heavy on Christian imagery, and it’s intended for spiritual seekers of whatever kind. There’s also quite a bit of practical encouragement for building a supportive spiritual community.
9. The Inner Voice of Love by Henri Nouwen
First read: Currently reading!
Normally I wouldn’t recommend a book I’m still reading, but this one has been so influential for me already, as I detailed in a recent post. Nouwen’s hard-won insights from his journey through depression and codependence are so rich that I find practical help on literally every page, expressed in Nouwen’s down-to-earth and gentle style. Seriously, I’ve been carrying this book around in my purse for months, just in case at any time I need an extra dose of perspective and grace.
What are some reads that have shaped your life?