DIVINITY Online Edition

Summer Sampler: Fresh Off the Shelf

Here’s a list of faculty favorites for summer reading.

Teresa Berger, Professor of Ecumenical Theology

Truly Our Sister: A Theology of Mary in the Communion of Saints by Elizabeth A. Johnson, Continuum: 2003.

Elizabeth Johnson’s new book is a companion volume to her much-acclaimed Friends of God and Prophets: A Feminist Theological Reading of the Communion of Saints (New York: Continuum, 1998). Truly Our Sister is much more than just another volume restating the doc-trine of Mary. (There are enough of those out there!) Johnson’s vision of Mary within the great company of friends of God and prophets (cf. Wisdom 7:27) opens up a wealth of extraordinary and intriguing insights that I myself found truly inspiring.

Susan Eastman, Assistant Professor of the Practice of Bible and Christian Formation

Gilead: A Novel by Marilynne Robinson, Farrar, Straus and Giroux: 2004. This is a beautiful, elegiac and wise book, cast as the memoirs of a retired pastor writing to his young son. It is funny, moving and redemptive.

The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, Humphrey Carter, Ed., Houghton Mifflin: 2000. Tolkien’s ruminations, on topics ranging from Elvish syn-tax to the second world war, are full of insights about matters of the faith.

The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O’Connor, Sally Fitzgerald, Ed., Random House: 1979. Flannery O’Connor’s letters are often laugh-out-loud funny and rich in reflections on the intersection between literature and theology.

Mary McClintock Fulkerson, Associate Professor of Theology & Women’s Studies

Fragments of Real Presence: Liturgical Traditions in the Hands of Women by Teresa Berger (see Shelf Life) Crossroad Publishing, 2005. I am obviously biased, since Teresa and I have been colleagues and friends at Duke Divinity School for over 20 years. But if feminist theologian Elizabeth Johnson is to be trusted, this new book is not only “luminous writing,” but also “studded with simple yet profound examples.” It engages the liturgical tradition and renders it life-giving for contemporary women—which makes it a gift to men, too.

Between Sundays: Black Women and Everyday Struggles of Faith, by Marla F. Frederick, University of California Press: 2003. This book follows a group of African-American women in a poor rural area of eastern North Carolina. Although Frederick focuses on the lives of only a few women, she offers categories for recognizing everyday activism in a wonderfully fresh way.

J. Warren Smith, Assistant Professor of Historical Theology

Cold Sassy Tree, by Olive Ann Burns, Doubleday: 1993. This wonderful work of Southern fiction depicts small-town religious and social dynamics in the early 20th century. The story is told through the eyes of a boy who watches the sparks fly when his iconoclastic grandfather marries a 30-year-old outsider—a Yankee, no less—just a month after burying his beloved wife.

John Utz Adjunct Assistant Professor of Literature & Theology

The Final Solution: A Story of Detection, by Michael Chabon, Fourth Estate: 2004. Short and a pleasure to read, so it should satisfy the summer reading requirement, this book rewards close attention like a good poem. There are layers and layers of meaning here—about our love of mystery stories, about the limits of human knowledge, about the depths of human failure, and the interplay of mystery and hope, in the fullest sense of those terms. To top it all off, Chabon is a brilliant prose stylist—beautiful sentences pop out of every page.


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