Tag Archives: feminism

25 Books By Women Every Christian Should Read

A couple of years ago Renovaré, with the help of a specially selected board of leading lights in the field of spiritual formation, put out a book called 25 Books Every Christian Should Read. I noticed the lack of women authors as I perused the list. So did Jana Riess, who wrote a post about that lack for beliefnet. Of the 25 books listed, 2 were authored by women, and these two women are both long dead – Julian of Norwich and Teresa of Avila. In order to procrastinate on my own writing project this sunny summer Saturday, I’ve decided to come up with a list of 25 books By Women that every Christian should read. You may disagree with my selections; feel free to suggest other titles by women.

Note that I’ve tried to match books in the male-author-dominated list with works by women from similar time periods. I begin with the two women who made the initial list, then move on to the 23 I picked out.

  1. Revelations of Divine Love, Julian of Norwich
  2. The Interior Castle, Teresa of Avila
  3. Complete Works & Correspondence, Katherine Parr
  4. Psalms of David, Mary Sidney, Countess Pembroke (finishing her brother’s work)
  5. A Short and Easy Method of Prayer, Jeanne Guyon
  6. Flowing Light of the Godhead, Mechthild of Madgeburg
  7. The Golden Sequence, Evelyn Underhill
  8. Writings of Clare of Assisi, Clare of Assisi
  9. Practical Piety, Hannah More
  10. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Anne Brontë
  11. The Forgotten Desert Mothers, ed. by Laura Swan
  12. The Book of Margery Kempe, Margery Kempe
  13. An Essay on Christian Education, Sarah Trimmer
  14. Scivas, Hildegard of Bingen
  15. Book of the City of the Ladies, Christine de Pizan
  16. Writings of Katharina Zell (one collection in English is titled Church Mother)
  17. Collected Writings of Susanna Wesley, Susanna Wesley
  18. Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum, Amelia Lanyer
  19. The Poetical Works of Christina Georgina Rossetti, Christina G. Rossetti
  20. Listening to God, Joyce Huggett
  21. Cloister Walk, Kathleen Norris
  22. The Mind of the Maker, Dorothy L. Sayers
  23. Radical Gratitude, Mary Jo Leddy
  24. Holy the Firm, Annie Dillard
  25. Handbook of Women Biblical Interpreters, ed. Marion Ann Taylor & Agnes Choi

The last book is a resource for anyone who wants to read more books women wrote through history. There are many more. I’ve tried to go for highlights.

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Game of Thrones: Who can Play?

I’m (re) reading the four books in the Song of Ice and Fire Series, A.K.A. Game of Thrones. Yes, re-reading. I first read the books a couple of years ago. I thought the fifth book would be out in paperback by now, but the release has been pushed back to the end of October. When people expressed shock at certain wedding events in the TV show I thought, if you’d read the books, you’d know that.

I’ve been thinking a little bit analytically about this set of books. I’m trying to figure out why Martin chooses the particular Point of View characters he does. In A Feast For Crows most of the POV characters are female. Now I don’t think that GoT has a particularly feminist outlook, but at least women get air-time and are doing both traditional and non-traditional things. I wondered this week if Martin chooses characters with an obvious weakness for his POV set. Robb is never a POV character — and he is an eldest son, and King in the North. Underdogs, those fighting for power seem to prevail in the POV characters. Any thoughts?

Also, I read somewhere (though I cannot remember exactly where, and cannot find the reference) that GoT has no redeeming virtues. It is an un-redeemed world, a world steeped in sin. I’ve been looking for the redeeming features. There are signs that the resurrection is part of the world. And we haven’t got to the end yet, so redemption may yet come. I’m finding this search for redemption is also an interesting thing to think about in my re-reading.

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Reading the Summer Away

I was on vacation last week. I didn’t stay at my house, but didn’t go far. I spent most of the week reading. That was how I planned it. In a post on another blog, I listed five books I planned to read this summer. In early July I finished Still, and wrote about how much I liked the book. Last week I read (among other books) two more from the next five list. I’m still pondering How to Write a Sentence. It is a reflective kind of book. Look for more on that one later. Today I want to talk about Lit! by Tony Reinke.

In November 2011 a series of posts on Lit! by Reinke and Karen Swallow Prior appeared on the Books and Culture website. (They are linked here: first, second, third, fourth.) I found the conversation interesting and stimulating. I was pleased that a man and a woman exchanged views on literature. At the time I didn’t notice the disparity in their qualifications to be included in this public conversation on the Books and Culture blog (Prior teaches English Literature at Liberty University; Reinke works in research and blog writing). I watched for Reinke’s book in the bookshop that employs me, and I looked forward to reading it. I enjoy reading books about books, and I’ve mentioned that fact in this space before — so it pains me to say this: Lit! was a huge disappointment.

Let me start with the good things about the book. It contains a load of ideas to help you read more if you want to do that and are not sure how to begin. Reinke includes stories of ways he and his wife talk about books with their children. Practical advice abounds.

But.

The subtitle of Lit! is “A Christian Guide to Reading Books.” The subtitle should be “A Christian MAN’S Guide to Reading Books.” If you are a Christian Man who appreciates John Piper and John Calvin, you will probably enjoy this book, and relate to it, far more than I did. However, I suggest that even these Christian Men who might like Lit! could do better by reading the books that Reinke accessed to put his book together. Go and read James W. Sire’s Reading Slowly and Mortimer Adler’s How to Read a Book. These two books are better than Reinke’s book. Once you’ve finished with Sire and Adler, move on to Eugene Peterson, Take and Read (not referenced by Reinke), and C.S. Lewis, An Experiment in Criticism, and Studies in Words. So far these are all male authors, and they will serve you better than Reinke does in Lit!

My main problem with Reinke’s discussion is his assumption that the normal Christian is Male, and the female is an exception. Reinke has Christian men as his mental audience, and this was obvious very early in my reading of the book. It is not just that he quotes men almost exclusively (9/15 chapters have no women referenced in the footnotes), it is his laughable attempts at including Christian women in his audience. Once he calls on women to read more theology! Thanks Tony. I’ll keep that in mind. He admits that women read more than men a few times, and perhaps this is why his targeted audience is men — to encourage them to read more. But can’t he also encourage people who already read to read better — and not just by saying hey, don’t be scared of theology or looking smart, go for it, read theology. (I’m paraphrasing, but he does say that, quoting a woman, page 96-97.)

In a chapter called “Raising Readers” aimed at parents and pastors, Reinke again sidelines women. He does this in two ways. First, he stereotypes women in his choice of what to share with his children from his own reading: “For my boys this means reading an excerpt of the hero engaged in battle. For my daughter, this means finding the princess in peril.” Second, he sidelines women by the way he encourages pastors (assumed to be male) to talk with men in their church about their library and books they read. If you want women to read more theology, pastors should talk to them too. If Reinke encouraged pastors to talk with people in their congregation about books that would be great. But he said men, excluding more than half of a typical congregation from consideration.

In my next post about the inadequacies of this book I’ll talk about how Reinke turns reading into an enclosed and guarded thing instead of an expansive and hospitable thing. Look for it.

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Art Show

I went to see Frida and Diego at the AGO tonight. The show features art by and about Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, Mexican artists who were married to each other. In an interesting twist, while I can see why people find Frida’s work interesting I like Diego’s work better. In the first gallery room full of Diego’s early paintings, there wasn’t one that 1Mom and I wouldn’t have taken home if the offer was made.His works are full of life. Frida’s are, in a word, obsessive. Both 1Mom and I tend to like under- or unappreciated art by women. In this case it is Frida who gets the press and the buzz, but we both liked Diego’s stuff better. Maybe we like the underdogs. Or something.

If you are in Toronto, check out the show. You’ve only got one week left.

 

 

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