I’ve previously mentioned my men’s book club, “Book Burning” briefly once before. I’ve always tried to alternate between new and old books, based on C.S. Lewis’ advice, though this January things took a turn.
The books selected for a book club are typically books that one or more members have previously read and enjoyed. Because not everyone reads the book before discussion, sometimes the only reading is re-reading by those who already love the book. Alternatively, books can be taken on the recommendation of another. Yet whose recommendation does one take? We aren’t interested in an Oprah book club.
Enter 25 Books Every Christian Should Read by Richard Foster’s Renovaré. Frederica Mathewes-Green was on the board, which lent it a great deal of credibility for us, as her Gender: Men, Women, Sex and Feminism was one of our most discussed books previously read.
Compiled by a team spanning Orthodox, Catholic, Evangelical and Anabaptist traditions, the chronological list begins with Athanasius’ On the Incarnation and ends with The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri J. M. Nouwen. Books are both fiction and non-fiction, and only books whose authors are now deceased were allowed. This is important as I would have avoided the book had some of the end-of- book recommendations of contemporary books been included in the official list.
I ran the idea of following the 25 Books recommendations by a few guys who are part of Book Burning and we started in January. We’re interspersing other books for a third of our Burnings. I was afraid that reading ancient Christian literature might not draw as many guys, but we’ve had more guys show up for these discussions than we did when we picked books on our own recommendation.
I figured 25 Books Every Christian Should Read would be similar to 10 Books That Screwed Up the World and 5 Others That Didn’t Help, which summarizes the author’s background and book content. What I didn’t realize – but now very much appreciate – is that 25 Books is structured as a guide for discussing the book with others. It’s perfect as a guide for Book Burning.
It also allowed me to add new direction and purpose to the book club. It’s still about hanging out with friends, eating, maybe smoking a pipe, and discussing books; it’s now also about spiritual transformation. Thanks to the books we’ve read, I see my faith and life differently now.
Since January I’ve begun to forget some of my take-aways from and responses to the books. I plan on writing up, briefly, my thoughts and bits from our discussion about these 25 books so I don’t permanently forget them.