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Professor Winner Recommends...

Assistant Professor of Christian Spirituality Lauren Winner, currently on leave as a fellow at the Center for the Study of Religion at Princeton University, agreed to share favorite titles from her personal library.

Winner writes and lectures widely on Christian practice, the history of Christianity in America, and Jewish-Christian relations. She is the author of three books, Girl Meets God, Mudhouse Sabbath, and Real Sex: The Naked Truth about Chastity, and is completing a study, forthcoming from Yale University Press, on material culture, religious practice and household piety in early Virginia. She has written for The New York Times Book Review, The Washington Post Book World, Publishers Weekly, Books and Culture, and Christianity Today, and her essays have been included in several volumes of The Best Christian Writing.

Memoir

Miriam’s Kitchen
     by Elizabeth Ehrlich

Ehrlich, a nonobservant Jew who decides in midlife to keep a kosher kitchen, brilliantly conveys the ways religious practice (as opposed to “belief”) is constitutive of religious identity. This is the one book I always recommend to Christians who wish to learn more about Judaism.

Fiction

In This House of Brede
     by Rumer Godden

This novel about a middle-aged English woman who abandons her high-flying career to become a Benedictine slowed me down. Brede, simply put, is a place of prayer, and to read the novel is to be transported there. The women of Brede are deeply worried that the protagonist, formed in the ways of the world, won’t be able to make it as a Benedictine. Both in their worries and in the ways those worldly experiences are used for the good of the community there’s real insight about formation and selfhood.

Can’t Wait to Read

Worshipping Walt: The Whitman Disciples
     by Michael Robertson

I’ve just come from hearing Michael Robertson, professor of English at the College of New Jersey, give a talk about the religious dimensions of Walt Whitman’s work. The talk was amazing, and first thing tomorrow I am going out to buy his book.

Non-Fiction

Claiming the Pen: Women and Intellectual Life in the Early American South
     by Catherine Kerrison

Kerrison traces the gradual increase in white Southern women’s reading and writing over the course of the 18th century. This is one of the most riveting historical monographs I’ve read in a long time. I literally stayed up all night reading it. How often can one say that about the published version of someone’s dissertation?

The Secret History of Domesticity: Public, Private and the Division of Knowledge
     by Michael McKeon

I’m still working my way through this massive and sophisticated account of how the public sphere and the private sphere became separated. So far, I’ve found most helpful McKeon’s account of the changing ways the state and the family analogized each other in the early modern period.   

A Complex Delight: The Secularization of the Breast, 1350-1750
     by Margaret R. Miles

The delights of this fascinating study of the breast in Western art go far beyond the title. Miles argues that midway through the 14th century the breast was preeminently a religious symbol (symbolizing, for example, the church’s nourishing us). By the middle of the 18th century, the breast had been absorbed into both medical and pornographic discourses and no longer carried religious meaning. This title should be on your bookshelf right next to Leo Steinberg’s The Sexuality of Christ in Renaissance Art and in Modern Oblivion.