Top Ten Books Every Pastor Should Read
ERB Playlist #3
Compiled by Todd Edmondson
This is the third in an on-going series of “playlists,” in which we recommend books around a particular theme.
“Making a mixtape (or playlist) is the opposite of indifferent. It’s heartfelt, purposeful — often a subtle form of flirtation. … [The playlist] is a way of making yourself known, an interpersonal form of show business, of making news, of replicating sounds and words you find important. It’s like poetry, because poetry is what you can’t say in any other way.”
– David Dark, The Sacredness of Questioning Everything
(Our 2009 Book of the Year. Read our Review…)
*** A Recent essay by ERB editor Chris Smith on a theology of the playlist…
[ Previous Playlist – #2 Best Agrarian Books ]
*** Watch for more ERB playlists in the coming weeks and months…
( With Christmas right around the corner,
these books would make great gifts for pastors in your church/family!)
This list is ordered alphabetically by title…
1. Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope [ Buy now: Amazon // Kindle – FREE! ] Writing in an era in which novelists could afford to be both earnest and clever, Trollope crafted, in his Chronicles of Barsetshire a brilliant, satirical portrait of English society in all its beautiful and frustrating complexity. But the character who will likely make the greatest impression on the lucky reader who picks up this second novel in the series for the first time will be Mr. Slope, the ambitious clergyman invariably described–by Trollope, by his contemporaries, and by readers in the decades hence–as oily. This chaplain, who is all too willing to enter into the ecclesiastical power struggles that provide one of the major storylines of the novel, is the kind of character that will be (lamentably) recognizable to any pastor, or to anyone who has spent much time in the church at all. As an added bonus, in the excellent film version of the series, Alan Rickman plays Mr. Slope, as only Alan Rickman could.
2. Darkness Visible by William Styron [ Buy now: Amazon // Kindle ] In a completely different vein, this slim “memoir of madness” by the acclaimed novelist provides one of the most intense, revelatory depictions of what it feels like to wrestle with depression that I have ever read. It is not a pleasant read. It’s certainly not fun. But it draws readers into an experience that every pastor should seek to understand.
3. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson [ Buy now: Amazon // Kindle ] In the interest of doing something unexpected, I really wanted to select a less obvious choice from Robinson here–Housekeeping is one of the finest novels of the twentieth century–but I simply can’t avoid this one, the theologically rich, elegantly crafted, Pulitzer-prize-winning novel about John Ames, an Iowa pastor in the final years of his life. Last year, at a book signing for Home, which functions as a companion piece to Gilead, I stood in line and wondered what I was going to say to this author whose novels just completely floor me each time I read them. When I got my chance, all that came out was “Thank you for making the life of a pastor seem beautiful.” That’s really all I can say about this work.