Brent Bill – Writers on the Classics #14

April 12, 2013 — Leave a comment


Brent BillIn 2013, we are encouraging our readers to mix up their reading habits, and read (or re-read) classics in addition to new books, such as the ones we review here in the ERB.

Broadly speaking, a classic is any book that is not a new book, or in other words that is worth reading five, ten or even one hundred years after its initial publication. ERB Editor Chris Smith has an article on The Huffington Post website arguing for reading a mix of classics and new books in 2013.


We’ve asked a number of noted writers to pick the classics that they often return to, and we will be running these lists as a weekly feature on our website through 2013.

This week’s post in the series is by J. Brent Bill.

Writers on the Classics:
[#1 – Shane Claiborne ] [#12 (Previous Post) – Hannah Notess ]


J. Brent Bill is a writer, photographer, retreat leader, and Quaker minister, who has written and co-written many books including: Awaken Your Senses: Exercises for Exploring the Wonder of God and Sacred Compass: The Way of Spiritual Discernment.  Brent lives on Ploughshares Farm, which is fifty acres of Indiana farmland that is being reclaimed for native hardwood forests and warm season prairie grasses.  He blogs at Holy Ordinary.


Ah, what a tough assignment – to name four or five classics that have influenced me.  What genre??  I have four or five in a number of them – comic writing featuring the works of James Thurber, Ogden Nash, Woody Allen and more.  Religion – well there’s Robert Barclay, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, William James, …  Non-fiction: William Shirer, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau (hmmm, maybe I should use all three of my names if I want to be taken seriously).  Fiction, which has greatly influenced my desire to tell stories, especially in my non-fiction spiritual writing, would find me trying to decide between Mark Twain, Evelyn Waugh, Edward Bellamy, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mary Shelley – and those are just some of the classics.  Don’t even get me started on poetry.  Sigh.

So I skipped them all and moved to spiritual classics.  I thought that would be easier.  Oh so many classics; so short a list.

A Testament of Devotion

By Thomas Kelly


This is one of the very first classics of spirituality I ever read.  As teenager.  The fact that he was a fellow Quaker led me into the writing.  The depth of his thought and spirit kept me with statements such as “ways of conducting our inward life so that we are bowed in worship, while we are also very busy with the world’s affairs.”  Thoughts such as that spoke to my condition, as we Quakers say.  It’s a book that never grows old.

The Imitation of Christ

By Thomas a’Kempis
Kindle ebook for only $0.99!

The idea of this theme intrigued and called to my soul.  “Behold in thee is all that I can and ought to desire.” I devoured this book as a young man and was both inspired and intimidated by its depth.  I still am… and return to it again and again.

[ Click to continue reading Brent’s list on Page 2… ]