book in grass with the text summer reading overlaid

Summer Reading, No.1: Armin Siedlecki

Pitts’ Head of Cataloging and Rare Book Cataloger, Armin Siedlecki, has seen thousands of books pass through his office and into the collection. What in particular has grabbed his attention this summer? 

The first winner is The Dawn of Everything: a New History of Humanity by David Graeber and David Wengrow (Penguin Books 2022). Published after Graeber’s unexpected death in 2020, this book offers new insights about the origins of human society, the beginnings of inequality and social organization. Graeber and Wengrow argue that the traditional social evolutionary model does not match the material evidence and that the two most common theories of the relationship between individual and community—Rousseau’s idea of the innocent individual corrupted by culture and society and Hume’s suggestion that the society is the results of attempts by individuals to protect themselves in a life that is nasty, brutish and short—are an overly simplified dichotomy of a much more complex anthropological history. The book is iconoclastic as it questions several sacrosanct assumptions of contemporary scholarship and should be read critically, but its challenges are convincingly argued and well supported. It is a stimulating read that compels the reader to reevaluate commonly held ideas and to develop new perspectives on the beginnings of human societies. Find this book at Emory or your local library! 

Armin also recommends Hillary Mantel’s The Mirror and the Light (London: 4th Estate, 2021) which concludes her trilogy about the life of Thomas Cromwell. After describing Cromwell’s rise in Wolf Hall which ended with the beheading of Thomas Moore and his consolidation of power in Bring up the Bodies which ended with the beheading of Anne Boleyn, The Mirror and the Light concludes with Cromwell’s fall from royal favor and his own beheading. Mantel’s ability to describe historical figures as complex, life-like literary characters is undiminished in this third novel, which is meticulously researched and very entertaining to read. Find this book at Emory or your local library

Like what you see? Tune in next week for more suggestions from Pitts and Candler staff and faculty!

Summer Reading

Summer is a great time to explore a new topic, move deeper into a topic of interest, kick back with a good novel, or prepare for the coming year.  Here are a few books that Pitts Theology Library staff members have recently read and enjoyed.  We’d love to hear about your recommendations in the comments!

Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov (London: David Campbell, 1997)– Recommended by Rebekah Bedard, Reference Librarian and Outreach Coordinator

This masterfully written novel poses significant questions for the philosophy of religion. The Brothers Karamazov is a powerful human drama; it is over 800 pages long, but you will have trouble putting it down.

Robert D. Putnam, Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2015) — Recommended by Dr. M. Patrick Graham, Margaret A. Pitts Professor of Theological Bibliography and Director, Pitts Theology Library

Putnam is concerned about the increasing gap between children who grow up in the lower socio-economic ranges of America and those in the upper ranges and the difficulties that the former have improving their lot in life. His analysis proceeds by means of case studies, as he takes up four categories: family, parenting, schooling, and community. He is sympathetic to Charles Murray’s (Coming Apart) thesis that class rather than ethnicity or race is the key factor in American social divisions today. The book may be especially useful for ministers and those training for the parish to help them understand their congregations and work with them more effectively.

Bishop Kallistos WareThe Orthodox Way (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2002)  — Recommended by Jef Murray, Interlibrary Loan Specialist

This book provides a good overview of what the Eastern Orthodox churches teach; it is very eye-opening for western Christians.

Pearl S. Buck, Pavilion of Women (New York: The John Day Company, 1946) — Recommended by Tracy Iwaskow, Head of Public Services and Periodicals Librarian

As an American who spent spent most of her early life in China, Buck felt keenly a cultural divide between the household of her parents and the world around her, and many of her novels explore this tension.  In Pavilion of Women, she presents the character of Madame Wu, who decides to retreat from the world at the age of 40 and permit her husband to take a second wife.  By exploring the upset that this decision causes Madame Wu’s extended household, as well as the internal changes that Madame Wu experiences as she eventually opens more truly to loving others, Pavilion of Women presents perceptive observations about multiple ways in which love manifests while also portraying family life of a noble household in early 20th-century China.

Pierre Bayard, How to Talk about Books You Haven’t Read (New York: Bloomsbury, 2007) — Recommended by Bo Adams, Reference and Systems Librarian

At Candler you’re going to be asked to read a lot of books, and you may need some strategies for talking about the contents even when you haven’t looked at every single page.  Bayard not only has some helpful suggestions, but he makes a strong argument that we shouldn’t be embarrassed about this practice!

Gillian Rose, Love’s Work (London: Chatto & Windus, 1995) — Recommended by Eric Clark, Digital Image Archive Student Assistant and Candler MDiv student, class of 2016

The late philosopher Gillian Rose wrote this short memoir knowing she would soon lose her battle with cancer.  With stern humor and searing poesis, she dissects what she calls her “life affair” in a way that frees her to speak universally to the tragicomic endurance of love, and the need to go on loving, in spite of love’s limits.

Writings of Barbara Brown Taylor and Parker Palmer — Recommended by Caroline Saxton, Circulation Student Assistant and Candler MDiv student, class of 2016

Whatever degree program you’re in, Candler School of Theology is a rigorous, demanding institution.  I recommend taking time this summer to read things that feed your soul–fiction, poetry, Barbara Brown Taylor or Parker Palmer. Find a good devotional book that helps to affirm your calling….And if you have time, look at the “Faculty” page on the [Candler] website and explore some of the books that our faculty have written.  See you in the fall!