That’s what we asked George Fox professors, and to no surprise, the response was almost unanimous: “I can only choose one book?” What we didn’t expect was the wide variety of answers, ranging from books that delved into the usual topics of religion, politics and history to a novel that follows the story of an ambassador from Earth as he treks across an alien world. And more than one professor cracked open The Hunger Games trilogy to better connect with their students.
Curious what your favorite professor is reading? Here are their responses.
Prepare Your Church for the Future by Carl George
I serve on a leadership team at my church dedicated to reaching and integrating the unchurched and those who have been away from church for a long time. The book focuses on empowering lay leaders to establish small groups that function for a season and then reproduce. I would definitely recommend it. It’s well written and insightful.
American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us by Robert Putnam and David Campbell
The book is a must-read for anyone interested in the relationship between religion and public life in America.
From Wild Man to Wise Man: Reflections on Male Spirituality by Richard Rohr
I chose this book because I want to “age well.” It’s very good so far. I would recommend it.
Faithful Citizenship: Christianity and Politics for the 21st Century by Greg Garrett
I chose this book because a) I know the author (he teaches at Baylor University) and love his work, b) I love the subject matter, c) it’s newly published and d) I am contemplating assigning it for a class next year.
I highly recommend it. American politics has become highly polarized, and most Christians are increasingly caught up in this polarization or avoid politics altogether. This book addresses this head on, addressing the causes and building a case for a helpful dialogue between religion and politics.
Biblical Drama in England: From the Middle Ages to the Present Day by Murray Roston
This book traces the use of biblical drama in England from its infancy in the Medieval church, through the Renaissance, Romantic and Modern periods into the 1960s. I chose it because my knowledge mostly consists of piecemeal gleanings from other authors, and this book treats the subject primarily.
I would recommend it for anyone interested in how God’s Word may inspire believing artists, particularly playwrights. Roston doesn’t treat biblical drama as a dramatized sermon or a crude forerunner to the Renaissance, but as a nuanced reflection of the “spiritual struggle of men committed to an ideal yet torn from it by their human weaknesses and strengths.”
Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson’s (audiobook)
I am a huge fan of Apple (I mentioned them in my dissertation acknowledgments, because I would not have made it through higher ed without Mac computers), and I wanted to know more about this complex man.
I found it even-handed and well researched. Isaacson does not pull punches about Jobs’ volatility and demanding nature as an employer, but overall I found it a sympathetic portrayal. Apparently someone has taken Isaacson to task about his comments regarding Jobs’s vegan diet, but in general Isaacson was very fair minded.
Rusty St. Cyr
When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor… and Yourself by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert
I’m reading When Helping Hurts in preparation for carrying on the baton of responsibilities for local and global service-learning in the Office of Spiritual Life, left to me via the legacy of Andrea Crenshaw MacLeod (who is moving-on after 11 years of service).
I would highly recommend it! When Helping Hurts is a must read for all of us Christians coming from more developed countries.
The Politics of American Religious Identity: The Seating of Senator Reed Smoot, Mormon Apostle by Kathleen Flake
This book is about the hearings held to investigate the first LDS Senator in the early 20th century. I chose it to illuminate the current conversations surrounding Mitt Romney’s status as the Republican presidential nominee, and for its exploration of the relationship between church and state. I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in the upcoming election!
Looking Backward by Edward Bellamy
Currently I’m re-reading a book I hadn’t touched since graduate school: Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward. I picked it up again with the idea in mind that it might be a useful text for a new course I’m teaching next spring, a course that focuses on 19th century American writers who spoke truth to their culture. Oddly enough, I’m finding it even a better read than I remembered. It speaks in weirdly prophetic ways to the economic turmoil facing the United States today. It’s almost hard to believe that it was written in 1887.
The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis
I’m reading The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis in three volumes for a research project on Lewis’ theories of rhetoric, style and language.
What I’ve noticed so far is Lewis’ keen mind and intellectual curiosity. What comes across most strongly is his love of literature and reading. His favorites included Sir Walter Scott, Jane Austen, and Malory’s tales of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. It’s also interesting to read Lewis’ perspectives during his atheist period, before his conversion to Christianity when he was 32 years old.
If you love C. S. Lewis, I would recommend reading his letters, perhaps selectively. You learn a lot about his personality and his relationships with his father, his older brother, Warnie, and his best friend, Arthur Greeves, and you learn these things directly from Lewis’ own voice, which is always lively and engaging.
The Hunger Games trilogy
I am always behind on the current “fun” reading, so I got into The Hunger Games trilogy this summer in an attempt to understand what my students are reading. Later I will be enjoying Pride and Prejudice and some other Jane Austin novels, then I will move onto World Without End. That is my plan, until Tom Johnson writes a book, which I know I read immediately.
Compass of Affection: Poems New and Selected by Scott Cairns
The answer is books, not book. But for the sake of this question I will share just one.
I chose Compass of Affection by Scott Cairns because I have enjoyed reading his poetry in the past. I have also heard him read his poetry. Cairns often chooses to confront the reader with inconvenient spiritual situations and questioning. His writing is extremely thoughtful and purposeful and often beautiful, but seldom comforting.
I am happy with the poetry for the most part; however reading the poetry does not make me happy. Cairns does not hesitate to bring up issues, either corporate or personal, that confront the reader with his spiritual shallowness or waywardness.
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
This book provides a look at human nature at its worst. I would recommend it if you can handle dark imagery. It’s a good reminder that evil is real, and when we function out of our survival instincts we become different people in a sense.
Three Short Novels by Wendell Berry
I carried this book with me while travelling in Vietnam. I am reading it because a number of our faculty are Berry fans, while I am suspicious of his version of communitarianism as elevating his aesthetic concerns over the welfare of people, especially those outside his community.
The novels are well-written and moving in parts, but also rather heavily didactic. I’m not sure how the closed-in homogeneous community Berry depicts as ideal appeals to my Berrian faculty friends, who are committed to what strikes me as a distinctly non-Berrian diversity on our campus. I suspect I will get some kickback from the Berrians on campus. I hope so. I’d like to understand better what makes him so persuasive to people I respect.
The Crescent Through the Eyes of the Cross: Insights from an Arab Christian by Dr. Nabeel T. Jabbouor
I’m reading this book as a follow-up to some seminars at my church about Islam. I highly recommend it to all who seriously want to understand Muslims and Islam, the fastest growing religion.
The Governing of Men: General Principles and Recommendations Based on Experience at a Japanese Relocation Camp by Alexander H. Leighton
I read this book (written near the end of WWII) in the early 1980s as part of a doctoral class in organization theory. I remember being taken by the book (looking at how the Japanese organized themselves inside internment camps), but I didn’t recall the details. This summer, I revisited it.
The book can be encountered on several levels: (1) a look at the terrible way we treated our fellow citizens, (2) the way we organize ourselves even in difficult and unwanted conditions, and (3) the remarkable human spirit. I recommend it!
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
I read it because I am looking for a book to use with the Public/Community Health Nursing course I teach. Henrietta’s cancer cells were taken, studied and used for research without her knowledge, contributing to many developments such as the polio vaccine and cancer treatment. It explores issues of race, ethics, confidentiality, science, politics, money and culture. The scientific information and human story of the patient and family are woven together, making it a read that is difficult to put down, and leaves one with many unsettling questions. I recommend it as a great read, difficult to put down. It’s very informative about medical developments over the past 50 years, and the complexity of our lives.
Mark Terry, Visual Arts
The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obreht
The lush language, nuance and texture in this book simply mesmerized me. I couldn’t put it down, reading it in a single sitting. I suspect my literary friends might say it flirts with ‘magical realism,’ but it does so in a completely compelling and believable way. The words are crafted with such care and delicacy, that even harsh realities of recent history in the Balkans feel poetic as they wash across the mindscape of the reader.
The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad
This is a re-read for me, but important because I know some troops in Afghanistan and the Islamic world is certainly rubbing sides with the Christian world. I taught English for a short time to some ladies from Saudi Arabia in Hillsboro, and The Bookseller adds insight into Islamic culture. I would recommend it.
The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Leguin
I chose this book for a little lighter reading. A novel, set on an alien world, the ambassador from Earth escapes captivity and attempts a winter trek across the polar ice cap. One of the challenges is that the intense light and lack of contrast (darkness) makes vision virtually impossible. How do we see, and what role is played by darkness? I had read this about 30 years ago and remembered it as intriguing (a Hugo award winner, I discovered when I picked it up again).
Perichoresis and Process: the Eco-theologies of Jurgan Moltmann and John Cobb by Austin J. Roberts
It’s very good. With my own book now out on the subject, I wanted to hear more deeply from some current western theologians on eco-theology. I suspect Moltmann may have been influenced by the Native American mania in Germany early in life because of the similarities to his eco-imagination and Native American understandings. I could be wrong – it’s just a hunch.
Hacker Techniques, Tools and Incident Handling by S.P. Oriyano and M. Gregg
I chose this book in preparation for the new special topics class CSIS485 Computer Security & Digital Forensics being offered this coming fall. The long-term goal is to develop relationships with local, state and hopefully federal officials for internships and career opportunities for GFU graduates in information systems. It’s a good book – not a great plot though!
Earth Community, Earth Ethics by Larry Rasmussen
I read this along with my students in our summer earth keeping class, and I’m enjoying it thoroughly. I like the way he writes and it is a very important topic. I would definitely recommend it to those interested in a deeper read on the environmental crisis.
Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer
My dean, Linda Samek, encouraged me to read it and sent me the book. I am really enjoying it. The narrative includes highly creative people like Bob Dylan, and as I am a musician, it is nice to have creativity seen in a positive manner. The brain research links creativity to some attention disorders, which has implications for the classroom as well. It was a rewarding personal and professional read.
The Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes
This book was referenced in something else that I was reading, and after reading the reviews on Amazon I thought I’d give it a try. I enjoy both science and history. TMAB is one of the best books I’ve ever read. The first third would make a terrific book by itself, as it is a wonderfully detailed history of the important advances in chemistry and physics in the early part of the 20th century.
The Plundered Planet: Why We Must – and How We Can – Manage Nature for Global Prosperity by Paul Collier
I chose this book because it addresses the environmental implications of economic growth. It is excellent – the kind of book that I wish I had written.
S. Elizabeth Limbocker
Being a Brain Wise Therapist by Bonnie Badenoch
I chose this book because the theory and practice of Interpersonal Neurobiology and Adult Attachment fit very nicely with my work in private practice with couples and individuals.
I would highly recommend the book. Dr. Baddenock is an excellent writer and explains the science behind the brain clearly. She offers explanations and examples of how to apply IPNB in the therapy room.
Augustine of Hippo: A Biography by Peter Brown
This is a challenging book about a super-influential teacher I don’t like very much and Corey Beals does! Mark Terry and I read and discussed it on Skype for a few weeks in June. I recommend the book; it’s Augustine I’m ambivalent about!
Talk About Understanding: Rethinking Classroom Talk to Enhance Comprehension by Ellin Oliver Keene
I chose this book because I continue to think that talk/speaking is an important skill for me, for my students as future teachers and for the children in their classroom. All of us need to improve as speakers and listeners, so this book is adding ideas for me to use and share. Keene is a thoughtful writer and I would highly recommend anything she writes.
Summa Metaphysica I: God and Evil by David Birnbaum
I’m reading this book in addition to the usual light reading (mysteries, mostly). Birnbaum is a Jewish scholar wrestling with the philosophical problem of evil. The holocaust during World War II makes the problem especially acute for religious Jews.
Birnbaum is a thoroughly Jewish philosopher. He quotes extensively from scripture, Talmud, and rabbis from many times and places. At the same time, he also draws on some Christian sources, such as Aquinas and Irenaeus. Does he have a “solution” to the problem of evil? Birnbaum thinks he does. God does not prevent evil in the world, Birnbaum says, because God has set the universe on a quest for “potential.” As a Christian, I can only endorse parts of Birnbaum’s theodicy. He comes perilously close to denying that God actively loves people. Nevertheless, it’s a book worth reading, especially as it gives Christians a window into the mind of a believing Jew who is struggling with one of the really hard questions.
Then and Now by W. Somerset Maugham
I love everything that W. Somerset Maugham writes. He was a spy for England during the First World War and traveled the world under the radar as a writer.
Kids First by David Kirp
I read this to continue my professional development as an adjunct in the MAT program. Imagine the future if we did this for education and the care of our children. Includes 5 big ideas for transforming children’s lives – so hopeful!
Novelas y teatro by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra
I always read two to three books in Spanish through the summer. I am reading this one because there are some selections in this collection that I haven’t read before and I enjoy revisiting the ones I have read.
Big Russ and Me: Father and Son – Lessons of Life by Tim Russell
This is a great book for dads and sons to read as it presents us with respect for dads who were there for us.
Loving to Know: Covenant Epistemology by Esther Lightcap Meek
I read this book on epistemology – which I chose at the recommendation of a friend – because it relates to my work on atonement theory.