Are you re-discovering the joy of summer reading sans the beach and interruption of the errant beach ball bouncing into your private space as you thumb the pages of the latest Grisham or Patterson tome? Several years ago I asked a retreat group what their favorite book was and they asked me about mine. “Moby Dick,” I said, “ My absolute favorite!” The silence in the room hung like a dense fog. Not the Bible? Not the Imitation of Christ? They stared at me in disbelief. Really? An angry sea captain trying to disable a big fish? But then one of the women spoke out, “I’m delighted, Sister! Moby Dick is my favorite, too. I have a collection of memorabilia about the novel.” “Well, that makes three of us who claim this book as our favorite,” I assured her, “you, me, and President Obama!” The following Christmas I received a gift from this woman. It was the 1930 edition of Moby Dick with illustrations by the famous Rockwell Kent. It came from her collection. The woman was a concert violinist and a professor of violin. I pictured her laboriously working over her fingerboard, her hair flying as she tackled the notes gyrating like waves in a mad ocean, Beethoven gone wild to the passages of Moby Dick! Aside from the three I just mentioned, I never met anyone else enamored with this consummate American novel. If you’re out there, let me know!
I do not want to suggest books for your summer reading that come from my tastes in literature and general reading. I’m an eclectic reader because I like to have an open mind. But we won’t go there because this includes political books, history, biography, theology, spirituality, science, and down right wonderful fiction from classics to modern day.
Keeping to spirituality, whether you are Christian or not, I suggest the following writers who are inclusive and really put things into perspective for us at these struggling times. There are many more but I find these folks very relatable to the reader. Melanie Svoboda, SND, has a written books so engaging for the person seeking an entrance to the world of spirituality in understandable and often comforting ways. Really, check out her latest one, The Grace of Beauty: It’s Mystery, Power, and Delight in Daily Life. Joan Chittister, OSB, is prolific and her books are easily read and understood within any community of any faith. Joan is a leader among religious women in the United States. She has engaged many people throughout the world in her talks and workshops on the faith. Her latest is The Time is Now: A Call to Uncommon Courage. Try Fr. Jim Martin, SJ, one of the editors at the Jesuit magazine, America. He is extremely popular as a writer and advocate for several causes in the Church. I really liked his Jesus: A Pilgrimage. Finally, anything by Fr. Richard Rohr, OSF, will speak to your spirituality. He peppers his work with a sprinkling of classical references while making it so appealing to any average reader. I think he is a master. Check out, Falling Upwards, his latest. You won’t be disappointed. Finally, read anything by Brian Doyle, an excellent voice for the common experiences of lay people struggling to make a go of a life of faith. He left us all-too-soon a couple of years ago but someone collected a few of his writings into One Long River of Song. A master in creative writing rooted in faith.
These are just a few of the writers and thinkers you can add to your beach list this summer. I have stayed away from ponderous but excellent theologians, so don’t worry. These are people who know where you are and they write to you. Give them a look.
This may be the time to be open to the thinking of spiritual writers who have your well-being in mind. The suppression of activity and socialization might foster a real leaning toward the needs of the soul.
Ask yourself, all of you, my friends and anonymous Angels, if you need more spiritual input and challenge in these days of questioning, seeking, and maybe fear of the unknown.
A good book on spirituality might be just the comfort you need.