2013 - Classics, VOLUME 6

Ragan Sutterfield – Writers on the Classics #5

Ragan SutterfieldIn 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 Ragan Sutterfield.

Writers on the Classics:
[ #1 – Shane Claiborne ] [ Most recent, #4 – Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove ]

Ragan Sutterfield is the author of the book [easyazon-link asin=”B00845UKFI” locale=”us”]Farming As A Spiritual Discipline[/easyazon-link], and a forthcoming title from Cascade Books on faith and agriculture.  He has written for a variety of magazines including Men’s Journal, Triathlete, Paste, Gourmet, Spin, Fast Company, Christianity Today and Books & Culture on issues relating to health, good food, sustainability, and theology. He blogs on Patheos at WORD+ FLESH.

A Few Old Books I Keep Returning To

Making a list of books, especially a short list, is a hard thing to do.  But these books are ones that I’ve owned for years and would always make it through any culling of my bookshelves.  The books below are ones that I have read, usually more than once, and will certainly read again.

[easyazon-image align=”center” asin=”1619493918″ locale=”us” height=”333″ src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51aVzfJ60kL.jpg” width=”222″] [easyazon-link asin=”1619493918″ locale=”us”]Walden[/easyazon-link]

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By Henry David Thoreau

When I first read Walden it was a book that profoundly challenged me to live out my values.  While still in high school, I made every effort to embrace “simplicity, simplicity, simplicity,” even drinking only water for a year on Thoreau’s advice.  Thoreau primed me for reading and appreciating people like Wendell Berry later on.

[easyazon-image align=”center” asin=”0140444491″ locale=”us” height=”300″ src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41C392mzy7L.jpg” width=”225″] [easyazon-link asin=”0140444491″ locale=”us”]Fear and Trembling[/easyazon-link]

by Soren Kierkegaard

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I first read Fear and Trembling during a math class I didn’t much care for in high school.  It was time well spent.  Kierkegaard enlivened me to a deep and profound engagement with faith that was far beyond anything I’d encountered before.  It is a book I’ve taught to students and one that I will return to again and again.

[easyazon-link asin=”093638462X” locale=”us”]Christian Proficiency[/easyazon-link]

by Martin Thornton

Just after college I came under the guidance of my first spiritual director, Fr. Higginbotham.  He recommended I read Christian Proficiency. Years later, when I asked another priest to be my spiritual director he recommended the same book and so I read it again.  Thornton has a beautiful way of describing the Christian life, not as a hero’s journey, but as focused, disciplined work over a long time.  He also shows clearly why theology is critical to such normal Christian activities as prayer.

[easyazon-image align=”center” asin=”0374528373″ locale=”us” height=”333″ src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51c4Gb6Uo0L.jpg” width=”222″] [easyazon-link asin=”0374528373″ locale=”us”]The Brothers Karamazov[/easyazon-link]

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by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

It has been years since I last read this novel, but I know with all my hope that I will read it more than once again.  Wayne Martindale at Wheaton College would tell students that The Brother’s Karamazov should be added as an appendix to the bible.  I know of no better argument for opening the canon.

[easyazon-image align=”center” asin=”1479233722″ locale=”us” height=”333″ src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/4159eaxEXpL.jpg” width=”208″]

[easyazon-link asin=”1479233722″ locale=”us”]The Imitation of Christ[/easyazon-link]

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by Thomas a Kempis

I’m not one for devotional books, but this book has frequented my bedside over the years.  It is a book free of so much of the sentimental Christianity that most books of devotion seem to trade in these days.  Instead, Thomas a Kempis lays out wisdom for the difficult work of Christlikeness.  Some may shudder at some of his advice, but carefully listening to his words will draw you closer to the disciplined Christian life.

*** [easyazon-link keywords=”Ragan Sutterfield” locale=”us”]Books by Ragan Sutterfield[/easyazon-link]


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C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at: C-Christopher-Smith.com

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