July 28, 2022
Steve Laube is an agent in the Christian publishing marketplace and in a recent blog post (https://stevelaube.com/21-influential-books/) he listed books he called “punctuation marks” in his life. “Some books were a comma, some an exclamation point and some a period or full stop.” Books that have been influential in his life.
What a good idea, I thought, and besides I was struggling with an essay-in-progress. What a good distraction that would be. Limiting myself to my spirituality and theology books, all in the garret, I soon had a pile of over 50 books.
Could I limit myself to 21 books? And why did Steve Laube choose that number anyway, but I decided to discipline myself and see if I could choose the most important from the towering stacks. Here’s the list–in no particular order.
- The Wisdom of the Enneagram, The Complete Guide to Psychological and Spiritual Growth for the Nine Personality Types by Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson (1999)
- In Wisdom’s Path. Discovering the Sacred in Every Season by Jan L. Richardson (2000)
- Walking A Sacred Path, Rediscovering the Labyrinth as a Spiritual Tool by Dr. Lauren Artress (19950
- The Universal Christ, How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe by Richard Rohr (2019)
- The Circle of Life, The Heart’s Journey Through the Seasons by Joyce Rupp and Macrina Wiederkehr (2005)
- Quiet, The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain (2012)
- Transitions, Making Sense of Life’s Changes by William Bridges (1980)
- The Gospel According to Woman, Christianity’s Creation of the Sex War in the West by Karen Armstrong (1987)
- The Seven Whispers, Listening to the Voice of Spirit by Christina Baldwin (2002)
- Composing a Life, Life as a Work in Progress–The Improvisations of Five Extraordinary Women by Mary Catherine Bateson (1989)
- The Cloister Walk by Kathleen Norris (1996)
- The Gift of Years, Growing Older Gracefully by Joan Chittister (2008)
- The Dance of the Dissident Daughter, A Woman’s Journey From Christian Tradition to the Sacred Feminine by Sue Monk Kidd (1996)
- Anam Cara, A Book of Celtic Wisdom by John O’Donohue (1997)
- The Re-Enchantment of Everyday Life by Thomas Moore (1996)
- An Altar in the World, A Geography of Church by Barbara Brown Taylor (2009)
- Seven Spiritual Gifts of Waiting by Holly W. Whitcomb (2005)
- A Hidden Wholeness, The Journey Toward An Undivided Life by Parker J. Palmer (2004)
- The Grace in Aging, Awaken As You Grow Older by Kathleen Dowling Singh (2014)
- The Inner Work of Age, Shifting from Role to Soul by Connie Zweig (2021)
- Holy Listening, The Art of Spiritual Direction by Margaret Guenther (1992)
- Traveling Mercies, Some Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott (1999)
- Awakening the Energies of Love, Discovering Fire for the Second Time by Anne Hillman (2008)
- Holiness and the Feminine Spirit, The Art of Janet McKenzie, edited by Susan Perry (2009)
Why did I choose these titles?
I don’t know. A top of the head, top of the heart reaction. Some of the titles are ones that radically changed my way of thinking. Some are titles that offered me deep insight into who I am and who I was created to be. Many are books I keep returning to. Sometimes re-reading them, but sometimes it is enough to simply hold one of these books and feel the wise energy rising from the pages.
In many cases I was choosing an author more than a specific title. It was not easy to choose only one Joyce Rupp or Joan Chittister, and how could I not add Barbara Brown Taylor’s Leaving Church to the list or Dakota by Katherine Norris or any of the other titles by John O’Donohue or Thomas Moore.
And you might notice authors who are not there; other authors important in my spiritual growth–Thomas Merton, Marcus Borg or John Shelby Spong or more recent writers, such as Brian McLaren or J. Philip Newell or Diana Butler Bass. And what about the ancients–my beloved Julian of Norwich, for example?
Choosing just 21 books was a tough assignment, for sure. And you will notice I cheated, and there are 24 titles on my list. Would the list be the same in a week or if I had created it a few months ago, in the midst of winter? No doubt, but what would remain the same is the power of other people’s thinking and creativity and expertise to deepen my awareness of the movement of God in my life.
Laube decided to gather all the books from his list in one place as a “visual reminder of those moments when God reached out through the pages of creative people…and touched me.” I like that idea, but I decided to keep each one in its current spot on my shelves. Each shelf is like a neighborhood, and I like the idea of all of Karen Armstrong books keeping each other company and sharing space with their neighbors.
Oh, and one more thought. The day will come, I imagine, when I will need to drastically pare down the number of books in my library, thanks to a move to a smaller space, (A friend calls this process, giving oneself a haircut.) and this recent exercise shows me I will be able to do that.
What 21 books are on your “most important” list? I would love to know.
- I made a list of the other 25 or so books that didn’t make the “A” list. Maybe I’ll share that someday, too. That list includes devotionals and writing books.
- Next Thursday, August 4, I will post my end of the month book summary.