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The shelter-in-place reading list …

April 17, 2020

Here’s what I’ve been reading this year:


A friend gave me Jesus’ Plan for a New World, by Richard Rohr, one of his early books. The book examines the Sermon on the Mount – the blueprint for the Christian lifestyle – in the context of Jesus and his time. By doing this, Rohr brings fresh meaning into our times. “By digging into the work of understanding Jesus and his times, we find the New Testament to be a far richer source of spiritual life than we could ever have imagined,” Rohr writes. This book is easy to read, good for preachers and nonpreachers. I would love to teach a class on it.


I recently finished The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz, by Erik Larson. This is a great shelter-in-place book, as it provides a personal look at the life of those who tried to live as “normal” a life as possible while dealing with the daily terror of Nazi bombing raids. I came away with renewed respect for Winston Churchill and his leadership during perilous times. I wish we had another Churchill today! As only Larson can do it, he personalizes Churchill and his family and emphasizes their humanity in a way that previous biographers have not. The reader is rewarded by a richer experience. This was my fifth Larson book, and I have never been disappointed.


I could not put down Within These Walls: Memoirs of a Death House Chaplain, by the Rev. Carroll Pickett with Carlton Stowers. I picked this book up at the bookstore at Mo Ranch. Pickett details his journey from small town pastor to death house chaplain and his struggle with the morality of the death penalty at the same time he was part of the process. I remember writing about some of these death row cases when I was with The Associated Press. This is a story about the faith that led Pickett to keep to his conviction that no one, no matter what he has done, should die alone. This would be a good book for seminary students and those in Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE).


Lisa Wingate’s book, Before We Were Yours, is one of the best books I have ever read. Wingate is a phenomenal writer and uses her gifts to write a novel that tells how the crimes of Georgia Tann impacted families for generations. Wingate uses facts from a real historical event to craft a heartbreaking tale of children taken ruthlessly from a loving family and put up for adoption. The book informed me about history that I was not aware of, and it shined a light on corruption and the plight of the poor in our country. I was also interested to learn about the history of “shanty boat people” who lived on the Mississippi River. This book made me want to learn more about the Georgia Tann adoption scandal, so I am now reading The Baby Thief by Barbara Bisantz Raymond, one of the books Wingate researched for her novel. I’m about halfway through and finding out a lot about the history of adoption and how one woman wielded such an enormous influence and was able to operate without repercussions for decades.

That’s my book report for today! So what have you been reading?

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