Reading underpins my spiritual formation in a big way. In what may be a helpful resource to others, and also as an indication of where I’m coming from, here’s a bibliography of the texts that have challenged and inspired me. I’d be glad to hear of any books you think we should add to the list.
Intentional Community and New Monasticism
- ‘Utopian Dreams’ by Tobias Jones
This is the book that really got us started on the intentional community journey. Toby visits a range of communities in England and Italy, drawing some thought provoking conclusions.
- ‘Community and Growth’ by Jean Vanier
In many of the communities we’ve visited, this book keeps popping up. This seems to be the classic text on religious community, written from Jean’s experience as part of the L’Arche community. It’s a gold mine of wisdom you can dip in and out of.
- ‘The Irresistible Revolution’ by Shane Claiborne
This is the book that introduced me to the idea of New Monasticism. Shane writes about his life in Philadelphia as a member of The Simple Way community, purposefully living in a poor urban neighborhood. Very challenging!
- ‘The Intentional Christian Community Handbook: For Idealists, Hypocrites, and Wannabe Disciples of Jesus’ by David Janzen
A comprehensive manual closely linked to the experiences of the Mennonite community Reba Place Fellowship. It reads like a contemporary ‘Community and Growth’.
- ‘Finding Community: How to join an Ecovillage or Intentional Community’ by Diana Leafe Christian.
An absolutely indispensable guide, filled with real examples of what works and what doesn’t in a community.
- ‘Living Faithfully in a Fragmented World’ by Jonathan R. Wilson
This book started the whole new monasticism conversation. I give a summery of it here.
- ‘Life Together’ by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
- ‘A Community Called Taize: A Story of Prayer, Worship and Reconciliation’ by Jason Brian Santos
A key text for me that provides the framework and language for my spiritual journey. Whatever your beliefs about it, I think even a rudimentary understanding of it is very important, especially if you are a Quaker. We shouldn’t abandon it to the fundamentalists! I had to read a lot of books about the Bible before I could read the Bible itself. The two introductions I would most highly recommend are:
- ‘Reading the Bible again for the first time’ by Marcus Borg
A scholarly and readable (and re-readable) introduction.
- ‘Introducing the Old/New Testaments’ by John Drane
Detailed, scholarly, measured and with lots of pictures! A very comprehensive introduction that I will keep going back to for a long time.
When I got to reading the Bible itself, if I were to recommend an order for reading the various books, I would suggest:
- The Torah (Genesis-Deuteronomy) plus Joshua-2 Kings
Treat the first five books as one book (which in Judaism they are!) and keep going all the way through to 2 Kings. It’s full of great stories (and some pretty horrifying ones) and gives you the grounding you need for everything else that follows. Power on through Leviticus and feel free to skip chunks of Numbers. With the help of a guide such as Drane’s it should by a very satisfying read.
Although it’s perfectly fine to read the New Testament through as it is, I would suggest starting with Luke and then Acts. Written by the same author, this account of Jesus’ ministry and the development of the early Church is vivid and entertaining, with a lot of good stuff about social justice. Women also play a very prominent role.
Some books are much more readable than others. The Hebrew prophets make so much more sense when you know their context, and you really need a good guide to make sense of Isaiah and Revelation.
The following books really sum Quakerism up for me. They’re my must-reads for any Quaker.
- ‘Listening Spirituality’ by Patricia Loring
In her two volumes on personal and corporate spiritual practice, Patricia gives the most full account of the contemporary Quaker life that I know of.
- ‘A Testament of Devotion’ by Thomas Kelly
This is my desert island book. The language is so beautiful, it’s like reading a poem. It’s also very challenging, pulling no punches about the difficulties of living a Spirit-led life.
- ‘Barclay’s Apology’ by Robert Barclay
If you are a Christ-centered Quaker, then this is the classic text on how Quakerism relates to other forms of Christianity.
- ‘The Apocalypse of the Word’ by Doug Gwyn
Full of very important scholarship, and very readable.