book cover for The Man Who Ran Washington by Peter Baker and Susan Glasser

Summer Reading No.11: Bo Adams

It’s been a summer of excellent reading, listening, and viewing recommendations from the staff and faculty of Pitts Theology Library and Candler School of Theology! For this final entry in our summer blog series, we offer here the recommendations of Pitts Director Bo Adams. Bo often recommends that incoming Candler students prepare for graduate school by getting some “fun” reading in, so he offers here some non-academic recommendations that have been entertaining him recently.

If you know Bo, you may know that he has a moderate obsession with politics, both those current and those from America’s past. Even for those who don’t share this interest, though, he recommends Peter Baker’s new biography of James Baker (no relation), The Man Who Ran Washington: The Life and Times of James A. Baker, III. For those who follow contemporary American politics, the story of James Baker might feel like a completely different world, even though it was only a few decades back. This remarkable story gives insight into our nation’s institutions, where power is situated, and how things happened in domestic and foreign policy over the latter decades of the 20th century, as one man, who wasn’t exactly qualified for the various high-level positions he held, was pulling the levers of power left and right. While many may not remember fondly American foreign policy of the late 20th century and its implications for today, Peter Baker’s book is a clear-eyed telling of how it unfolded and the outsized role that one man played in it all. Find this book at Emory or a local library near you!

Bo is proudly a member of Generation X, and The Nineties: A Book by Chuck Klosterman documents incredibly well the cultural hallmarks of that generation’s formative years. Bo suggests, though, that all pop culture fans of any generation will enjoy Klosterman’s exploration of music, culture, politics, and seemingly everything from the bizarre 1990s, a decade that Klosterman argues is a major pivot between the old world and the one in which we live today. Check out this book from Emory or your local library! 

Bo prides himself on injecting obscure knowledge of the American presidency into conversation, particularly trivia from the late 19th century (hey, the gilded age is more relevant than ever!). He notes that one of his favorite sources of fun trivia is the podcast Very Presidential with Ashley Flowers. These short (~40 minute) episodes each focus on one US president (often those lesser known by the public) and offer the lesser known details (often scandalous) that drove the news of the era. Curious to learn about Cleveland’s hidden oral surgery at sea? Want to explore Gerald Ford’s connection with the Manson family murders? These entertaining episodes will be of interest to those who (unfortunately) may not share Bo’s zeal for the history of the White House.

As a final recommendation, Bo draws again on his childhood in the 80s and 90s. One of his favorite podcasts for the drive to work is Fly on the Wall, from SNL alums Dana Carvey and David Spade. If you’re a fan of Saturday Night Live (or even if you’re not but you’re a fan of the celebs that host the show), you’ll enjoy this irreverent and structure-less interview show. Carvey and Spade interview former cast members and hosts from SNL, sharing a lot of behind the scenes info about the show and snippets from their own careers in comedy, TV, and movies.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this summer’s reading recommendations from the Pitts Theology Library and Candler School of Theology staff and faculty! Find them all at, and happy reading! 

book cover for The Candy House by Jennifer Egan

Summer Reading No.10: Ted Smith

This week’s Summer Reading Recommendations are from Candler’s Professor Ted Smith, who was recently appointed as the Charles Howard Professor of Divinity! A member of the Candler faculty since 2012, Dr. Smith 04G works at the intersections of practical and political theology. 

Dr. Smith starts his recommendations with Jennifer Egan’s new novel, The Candy House (New York: Scribner, 2022). He explains, It’s a kind of sequel to her 2010 novel A Visit from the Goon Squad, which won the Pulitzer Prize. The publication of The Candy House is a great reason to revisit that novel. A Visit from the Goon Squad felt formally inventive in 2010, with whole chapters written in text messages and PowerPoint slides. Those chapters are as scattered—and as connected—as the browser history of a curious surfer of the web. Underneath all the formal tricks, they tell almost old-fashioned stories featuring characters readers come to care about. And the book offers a series of brilliant meditations on phenomena like nostalgia, authenticity, and the nature of language in a digital world. Deep in the background are conversations with Proust about memory, consciousness, and time. Goon Squad bowled me over when I first encountered it. I read it almost in a single sitting. As soon as I finished I sat down to write a review.” 

Dr. Smith goes on to admit “The Candy House doesn’t feel revelatory in quite the same way. But it lets us connect with those characters again. And it extends Egan’s meditations on memory, authenticity, and more through updated engagements with a next wave of technologies, including social media, artificial intelligence, and what Shoshana Zuboff has called ‘surveillance capitalism’. Also: did I mention that the world of both books centers on punk rock and whatever “alternative” used to mean?” Find The Candy House at Emory online or in print, or at a local library near you!

Dr. Smith also recommends Reconsidering Reparations by Olúfhemi O. Táíwò (New York: Oxford University Press, 2022). Smith notes “Táíwò makes clear that he is not trying to convince people that some kind of reparations are necessary for systemic evils like slavery, genocide, and imperialism (for that kind of argument, see Ta-Nehisi Coates’s landmark essay in The Atlantic). Nor is he offering a detailed policy proposal. Instead he’s trying to reframe our thinking about reparations as what he calls a “constructivist” project. Instead of looking back, trying to redress past wrongs, he argues that reparations should work towards a more just future. Táíwò argues that this constructivist orientation both answers some of the good-faith criticisms of reparations from people who care about justice and does more to address the particular injustices that come with climate change.” 

Dr. Smith also suggests that “the book is remarkably accessible. Táíwò’s thinking is wonderfully clear, and his writing is lively. Many of our communities and institutions are now trying to think what meaningful reparations might look like. Reconsidering Reparations is an important guide for that work. Even if you don’t agree with Táíwò’s conclusions, he clarifies what is at stake in ways that let conversations reach deeper levels. And he makes me think about the ways Christian understandings of salvation—individual, social, and cosmic—must look to the past, the present, and the future.” Find this book at Emory or your local lending institution

Finally, Dr. Smith recommends the “Matters” series by Mary Margaret Funk, OSB. He explains “Funk is engaged in an important project of reclaiming practices from the desert fathers and mothers—especially John Cassian—for contemporary Christians. Drawing on Cassian (and two millenia of monastic traditions) she frames Christian life as a series of renunciations. The books seem perfectly suited to this season of intense institutional instability in the church, when—for better and for worse—we find ourselves cast as individuals. Funk’s writing is earthy and direct, plain in the best sense of that word. The books can be read quickly, but taking them to heart is the project of many years. A reader could start with any book in the series. But I might recommend Humility Matters as a first stop.” 

Next week will feature our final Summer Reading Recommendations from none other than the Library Director, Bo Adams! Find all summer reading blog posts at

book cover for There There: A Novel by Tommy Orange

Summer Reading No.5: Carmen Toussaint

Pitts’ Summer Reading Recommendations continue this week with Candler’s Contextual Education Senior Program Coordinator, Carmen Toussaint! Carmen recounts “my eight years with the Contextual Education at Candler have brought me great joy in helping students during their MDiv journey.” However, after her first five years in the position, Carmen took a six-year sabbatical to fulfill a lifelong dream: to create and direct a Writer’s Residency. Carmen explains “My delight in meeting writers from all genres and backgrounds brought my love of reading to a whole new perspective.”

Carmen’s first recommendation is author Tommy Orange’s first novel, There There: A Novel by Tommy Orange (NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 2018). The story follows twelve characters from native communities, a chorus of voices that tells of the plight of the urban Native American. Characters grapple with a complex and painful history, an inheritance of beauty and spirituality, communion, sacrifice, and heroism. As the book jacket says, Carmen admits that she can’t say it better than the book jacket: “Here is a voice we have never heard – a voice full of poetry and rage, exploding onto the page with stunning urgency and force.” Find this novel at Emory in print, as an audiobook, or at your local library!

A memoir that Carmen recommends is Deep Creek: Finding Hope in The High Country by Pam Houston (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2019). As summed up in the author’s own words, “How do we become who we are in the world? We ask the world to teach us.” Carmen reflects that “Pam’s rich story of connecting to a piece of land is written to help us understand the value of this search and how we can live through a world that can bring overwhelming obstacles. If you want to take a journey in the high country this summer, take time to read this book.” Deep Creek is available at Emory Libraries or at your local library.

Shifting gears, Carmen introduces us to a blog by Mary Laura Philpott. Mary Laura Philpott is the author of the new memoir Bomb Shelter: Love, Time, and Other Explosives (April 2022), deemed “masterwork” by the New York Times and a “beautifully wrought ode to life” by the Washington Post. She is also the author of the national bestseller I Miss You When I Blink, named one of NPR’s Favorite Books of 2019 and a finalist for the Southern Book Prize. Her essays examining the overlap of the absurd and the profound in everyday life have been featured by The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, and many other publications. Additionally, Mary Laura is a former bookseller and was an Emmy-winning co-host of A Word on Words, the literary interview program on Nashville Public Television. Keep up with new publications, event opportunities, and more on this blog!

Carmen’s final recommendation to connect the mind and body as you take a walk along the shoreline or mountain path is the Rubin Museum’s Mindfulness Meditation Podcast. Led by a prominent medication teacher, this podcast includes an opening talk and a 20-minute meditation session for beginners and skilled participants alike. Check it out at!

Join us next week to hear more recommendations from a Pitts Librarian!

book cover of With Head and Heart by Howard Thurman

Summer Reading No. 3: Emily Miles

This week, Pitts left the library to consult Candler Admissions Advisor, Emily Miles for her top summer reading resources! A Candler alum herself, Emily helps recruit students to Emory’s School of Theology, assisting students and families through the application process, explaining potential career paths for each concentration and degree program, and providing information about financial aid options.

One book that Emily discovered in seminary and has since read several times is With Head and Heart: The Autobiography of Howard Thurman (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1979). She explains that “This autobiography not only gives the powerful history of the life and works of Thurman, but also provides readers with an opportunity to connect to their own minds, spirits, and hearts. The way Thurman recounts his life makes every moment, every encounter, every life event seem crucially important. From his relationships, to books he read, to letters he mailed to his special connection to an old oak tree, Howard Thurman is a man that pays attention to life’s details, appreciating the various circumstances that have led to his success. This book has changed the way I think about the doctrine of hope and how I now practice my faith. It has pushed me to see myself in a new light and to discover that there is a whole world inside of me just waiting to be uncovered.” Grab a copy of Thurman’s autobiography for yourself at Emory Libraries or a library near you!

Another book that comes highly recommended from Emily is Unbound: My Story of Liberation and the Birth of the Me Too Movement by Tarana Burke (London: Headline, 2022). This New York Times Bestseller is a memoir of Tarana Burkes’ own journey in the “me too” movement. Emily notes that “Tarana’s words are raw and powerful. She shares honestly and openly about her own struggles with sexual assault and shame and guides readers to one of her biggest realizations: we can only love others if we love ourselves. If you want an inspirational book to read this summer, it is this one!” Interested? Check out a copy from Emory Libraries, or your local lending institution


If you are looking for a podcast and are interested in the practice and philosophy of yoga, Emily encourages you to check out the “Let’s Talk Yoga” podcast by Arundhati! Arundhati is an immigrant yoga teacher that talks about topics such as cultural appropriation, teaching skills, and how to merge yoga with business. The conversations you will find on this podcast are intended to educate listeners on the roots and history of yoga and how to practically honor that history today. This podcast has made Emily a more conscious consumer in the yoga world and “certainly a more responsible and informed teacher for [her] students!” 

Emily’s final recommendation comes from the wellness platform, Peloton! While Peloton is probably best known for its stationary bike equipment and classes, it offers much more, including a new podcast called “Fitness Flipped.” This podcast literally “flips the script” on what we think we know about fitness and helps listeners connect their minds to their bodies. Topics of these podcasts include body image, rest, endurance, and so much more! “What is even better,” Emily explains, “is that they incorporate a bit of coaching so you can train while you listen to these wonderful episodes! Most of the episodes are 10-30 minutes and length and great for a short lunch time walk (ps. you can get a Peloton membership free for your first month!).” 

Need more recommendations? Tune in next week for some highlights in the digital scholarship world from Head of Digital Initiatives and Technology, Spencer Roberts!

book cover for The House on the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune

Summer Reading No. 2: Brinna Michaels

As Cataloging and Metadata Librarian, Brinna Michaels has a hand in making both print and digital resources discoverable for users. But what has Brinna discovered to recommend for Pitt’s Summer Reading Blog this year?

Brinna starts with House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune (New York: St Martin’s Press, 2021). Brinna describes Klune’s work as “an absolutely beautiful, funny, and heartwarming book about a man who has been forced to be painfully average in every way by the society he lives in, but who learns to find what makes him happy, vibrant, and unique after meeting a gaggle of magical orphans and their mysterious caretaker.” This “modern fairy tale” is also a New York Times, USA Today, and Washington Post bestseller. Find this book through your local library!

Ever wanted cool science stuff explained to you by cool science folks, but without all the confusing science words? Brinna insists that “Alie Ward has you covered with her podcast which explores all types of “ologies,” including: volcanology (volcanoes), teuthology (squids), horology (watches), glycobiology (carbs), gelotology (laughter), and many more! Find this podcast online through your preferred streaming service. 

We hope you enjoy this week’s recommendations! Find all summer reading blogposts here, and don’t forget to visit the blog next week for more suggestions from Pitts and Candler staff and faculty.