What to do with the books? And, “What a writer reads…”

– Rebekah’s study at WFPC

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.

James 1:5, 3:17

– author Derek Maul

A few days ago I included a photograph of the “book nook” end of Rebekah’s office at WFPC; it is a beautiful space. Eight years ago, right after we arrived, Wayne Moore built a series of bookcases for Rebekah’s library, a collection carefully curated since beginning her formal theological education as the only woman in her Greek class at Stetson University in 1977.

Yesterday, when I stopped by the church, Rebekah was talking with John (our associate pastor for discipleship and mission) about some of the volumes he might be interested in. We are very happy that John loves books, and is excited about the opportunity to add to his growing collection.

Rebekah is trying to whittle down what she keeps to maybe a one-hundred book professional library. While she doesn’t have any specific plans or commitments, she absolutely will preach again after retirement. She is too gifted, and The Church so very much needs her passion for Jesus, unswerving belief, and positive enthusiasm.

My Library (we have books stashed everywhere!)

This all begs the question of what books have influenced me over the years, helping deepen my faith and broaden my understanding? What content has been a part of shaping my thinking, and what I would call “my vocabulary of belief?” Who, via their shared journey, could you possibly recognize, reading between the lines of my books, my articles, and my teaching?

Rather than pick my way through the bookshelves around our home, I’m going to share this representative sampling, what bubbled to the surface while I was writing the previous paragraph.

  • C.S. Lewis. Pretty much everything Lewis wrote, not just his inspirational work but The Chronicles of Narnia too. Lewis was the first Christian writer to make me realize how thoroughly accessible theological and philosophical deep-dives can be, and how surprisingly reasonable too.
  • Philip Yancey. The Jesus I Never Knew, What’s So Amazing About Grace, Disappointment With God (and so many more) Yancey’s faith is often presented through the lens of thorough, essay style reporting. True stories, research, minimal commentary. One of my great treasures is a letter Yancey wrote to me praising my writing in GET REAL, and In My Heart I Carry A Star. Yancey forces critical thinking, shares compelling story, and offers pure, incontrovertible, faith.
  • John Ortberg. Primarily a preacher/teacher, Ortberg captures the essence of Reformed faith and presents it in clear terms. All his books are helpful, but especially The Life You’ve Always Wanted, and If You Want to Walk on Water You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat.
  • Frederick Buechner and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I discovered both these writers while Rebekah was pursuing her Masters degree in Divinity at Columbia Theological Seminary. Bonhoeffer, or course, was a German pastor in the 1930’s. His story is courageous and his writing – The Cost of Discipleship for example – is challenging. I heard Frederick Buechner speak at a seminar, then read as much as I could. A room Called Remember, The Alphabet of Grace, and The Magnificent Defeat are great introductions to his work.
  • Christian biographies. I read a ton of these as a teen and young adult. Examples include A Man Called Peter, Tramp for the Lord (Corrie ten Boom), and The Cross and the Switchblade (Wilkerson).
  • The great novels and classic literature. Shakespeare, the poetry of Keats and Wordsworth, Dickens, Faulkner, Steinbeck, Graham Greene, Hemingway, and others… The truly great writers all told stories that address the deeper and eternal questions. Not advancing some carefully delineated theological point of view but requiring the reader to consider the meaning of life, and to think critically when it comes to what we believe.

My book shelves – if I were to reduce the number of books I own to a few hundred representative works – would also include an extensive children’s literature section. But that is a conversation for another day.

This is a thought exercise I would recommend. Build your library, no more than 250 books. What would be there?

Good reading; good thinking; good writing – DEREK


  1. Derek, I’ll email you a copy of an article by a fellow pastor, “Streamlining My Library” that I have used in recent years to purge and streamline my own library. It offers concrete and helpful tips. Y’all have quite a process ahead! Good luck. Blessings to you both in retirement. Hugh

    Liked by 1 person

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