Devotional Literature

To make a long and self-absorbed story short, I’m looking for some devotional reading again, something for the spare hour or two after lunch on a Sunday I have off work. Something warm and exciting and conducive to intimacy with the divine. When I was in college I loved C.S. Lewis and some G.K. Chesterton. Within Mormonism, I tended toward Hugh Nibley and Hugh Brown with some old-school Matthew Cowley thrown in. I’m not entirely energized at East Coast Episcopalian or Unitarian-Universalist meetings, though they tend to represent the reading level I prefer. I’m not personally drawn on a general level to American importations of Eastern religious traditions, but if the book were right I’d try it. Any suggestions? The first one I’m meaning to try is Wendell Berry, so if anyone knows his work and wanted to guide me to the first book/essay, that would be great too.


  1. Anne Lamott.

    Julian of Norwich.

    John of the Cross.

    Reinhold Niebuhr’s Leaves from the Notebook of a Tamed Cynic.

  2. Sam,

    I’m a Wendell Berry enthusiast, in fact, I would say that he is one writer who has had a very large impact on my adult life. My favourite books are “The Long-Legged House” and “What Are People For”. You might also want to try “A Timbered Choir”, which is a collection of poems that Berry wrote on Sundays over the course of 20 years.

  3. Killing the Buddha: A Heretic’s Bible by Peter Manseau and Jeff Sharlet

  4. NT Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God.

  5. Latter-day Guy says:

    Jesus of Nazareth, Benedict XVI. Beautiful and insightful.

  6. tell us more about this NT Wright bloke. and is Simply Christian good?

  7. Samuel,
    Think of a modern CS Lewis, but better and with a beard. Wright is the best of Anglicanism: brainy, devout, good.

  8. Ronan, I thought you were the best of Anglicanism. and is Simply good? i ordered the resurrection book just now. i’ll let you know what i think of it.

  9. #4: 800 pages!? Now that’s devotional!

  10. Emerson is always my first choice.

  11. Siddhartha. Martin Buber’s Moses. Kahlil Gibran’s Jesus. Andre Trocme’s Angels and Donkeys.

  12. Cliche and nearly Oprah-ish and not exactly devotional, but: Life of Pi.

  13. Sam – this may not be what you’re looking for, but I find some of ye olde english poets to be fantastic: Donne, Herrick, Milton. There’s a fair bit of fluff and melodrama, but there are moments of depth that I find moving. It can be a nice change of pace.

  14. Add my cheers for Simply Christian. A few more ideas: Markings by Dag Hammarskjold, Only the Heart Knows How to Find Them by Christopher de Vinck, Kant’s Of the Beautiful and Sublime and any number of poetry books. For some not so well known, try Ted Kooser or Czeslaw Milosz’ A Book of Luminous Things. Thanks for starting the list. I’ll be taking some of these suggestions too.

  15. Nevil Shute’s “Round the Bend” =)

  16. Wendell Berry is a wonderful choice. His fiction is as valuable as his essays.

    Henri Nouwen is a writer who seems to be unknown in Mormon circles. I have read a half-dozen of his books and loved every one. He was a Catholic priest from the Netherlands, and spent the last decade or more of his life living in a community of disabled people as their minister.

    His book “The Prodigal Son” is an excellent introduction. Some of his books are ministerial guides for clergy and lay ministers, but many are simply beautiful Christian essay collections.

  17. Steve Evans says:

    Buechner’s Godric is a great, small book.

  18. I second the Berry recommend for Long legged house and would add Sex, economy, and freedom by berry

  19. Sam MB–

    If you want to get a flavor for N.T. Wright’s most recent book, Surprised by Hope, you might check out this Feb 2008 interview from Time magazine. I haven’t read the book yet, but it’s on my list. It appears to be one of his more-devotional, less-academic works, and it looks interesting.

  20. John Sanford, The Kingdom Within

    Paul Tillich, The Courage to Be

    Emerson: the Mind on Fire (a biography about Emerson, can’t remember the author)

    E. Fromm, To Have or To Be?

    are some of my favorites.

  21. Funny that surprised is a riff on CS Lewis (Surprised by Joy), and he previously did Simply Christianity to respond to Mere Christianity. very nice.

    so far i’ve ordered niebuhr and wright’s resurrection book and am going to grab berry. i’ve read and enjoyed Donne and others as well as the Heretic’s Bible (peter is a friend of a friend). the others i’ll have to get to next. i’ll let people know how they are when i finish.

  22. Sam,

    I only just read this BCC post asking for reading recommendations, and I thought I would post a belated suggestion. If you were/are a fan of Lewis and Chesterton, (maybe Williams?) I would strongly suggest their predecessor: George MacDonald. Fascinating story behind the man, and his plummet to relative obscurity, after having been the acknowledged laird of 19th-century British theological literature. Neil Maxwell and a few others in recent years have continued to reference MacDonald (actually, Maxwell dedicated one of his books to him), but for the most part he is only found on the children’s picture-book shelves of every public library in the country. Most of his adult fiction and theology writings (hard to know which have more pure doctrine in them) have been largely forgotten–including Phantastes, which Lewis claims was central to his own conversion to Christianity. At any rate, truly brilliant stuff, ranging from fun to sublime. The original old Scottish version of Sir Gibbie is very inaccessible but, I believe, unparalleled in its description of Christ-like attributes. The more you read of MacDonald the more you will come to believe that C. S. Lewis never had an original thought. Lewis called MacDonald his “master,” and his somewhat autobiographical The Great Divorce finds the main character reaching the afterlife only to be greeted by an angelic patron/tutor by the name of George MacDonald (Lewis–never subtle), whom, the main character says, will of all people never lead him astray. At any rate, 50 or so masterpieces of theology, half of them children’s books (no less doctrinal). Suggested titles: The Wise Woman, Phantastes, At the Back of the North Wind, Lilith, Sir Gibbie, Annals of a Quiet Neighborhood, Paul Faber: Surgeon.

  23. Rechabite says:

    George MacDonald, definitely. For devotional reading, I prefer his theology to his fiction; for several years running, I read a selection from _George Macdonald: An Anthology_ (ed., C.S. Lewis) every night along with my Book of Mormon study. Lewis said, “I never wrote a book in which I did not quote from him.” Since I discovered MacDonald, I fancy I’ve never taught a gospel doctrine class in which I did not quote from him!

    The Lewis anthology is a good place to start. I also highly recommend his Unspoken Sermons volumes. _The Golden Key_ is his best fairy tale. George hyphen macdonald dot com includes links to a large number of e-texts.

%d bloggers like this: