Shalem Summer Reading 2013


Have you ever wondered about the books the Shalem staff reads? Here’s what some of the Shalem staff have been enjoying over the last year.

From Bryan Berghoef:

John Steinbeck, To a God Unknown
A novel about the land, relationships, spirituality, and the longings we have for connection and meaning between those things. Steinbeck is amazing at moving between the simplicity and complexity at work within each of us.


Elizabeth O’Connor, Our Many Selves
A great book that is really a guide to contemplatively diving into psychological and spiritual self-analysis, or, as Jesus would put it—checking out the log in our own eye. An invitation to open ourselves to who we really are, and how life, grace, and meaning can be sorted out from the complicated beings we are. As someone else has put it: O’Connor provides invaluable insights into the human struggle to become whole.

From Carole Crumley:

Maria Ruiz Scaperland & Michael Scaperlanda, The Journey: A Guide for the Modern Pilgrim
Rich with meaning and spiritual insight, this book traces pilgrimage across time, in scripture, through the lives of the saints and in daily life. Its last chapter on “Returning Home” is one of the best I have ever read on this important aspect of the ongoing journey.

Gregory Boyle, Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion
Boyle tells the stories of two decades of working with gang members in Los Angeles County and he seasons the stories with wisdom from folks like Thomas Merton, Meister Eckhart, Julian of Norwich, Hafiz, Richard Rohr and many others. These stories made me laugh, weep and wonder at the magnificence of tattooed gang members, whose lives are so different from mine and yet, at the heart, so much the same. The book enlarged my heart with a deepened sense of God’s beloved community where everyone belongs.

From Ann Dean:

Martin LairdA Sunlit Absence:  Silence, Awareness, and Contemplation
This beautifully written book is an inspiring treasure of contemplative wisdom, interwoven with meaningful quotes from beloved mystics.  Especially insightful sections on boredom, impasse and the light of awareness.

Pablo Neruda, Odes to Opposites  
Exquisite odes by a master poet who pairs opposites to center attentiveness and open imagination. A pair of opposites a day is a delightful contemplative practice—Ode to peace and quiet and Ode to restlessness, or Ode to solitude and Ode to energy, or Ode to clouds and Ode to waves, or any other pair.

Ilia Delio, Christ in Evolution
This is my favorite of Delio’s books. She reflects on the thought of St. Francis, Teilhard de Chardin, Ramon Panikkar and Bede Griffiths with a cosmic, contemplative perspective.

From Tilden Edwards:

Richard Rohr, Immortal Diamond
In his inimitable style Richard portrays the differences between our false and true selves, comparing the true self to an immortal diamond, formed under the intense pressure of our lives through a process of transformation. He articulates much wisdom about authentic contemplative understanding of the human journey in a very personal and often concrete way.

Mary Conrow Coelho, Awakening Universe, Emerging Personhood: The Power of Contemplation in an Evolving Universe
This is Mary’s magnum opus, as both a contemplatively oriented theologian and scientist, revealing many foundational connections between modern cosmological, scientific and psychological thinking with what great contemplatives have said over the centuries about the human spiritual journey and its fruition. It’s not a book that can be read rapidly, given the density and scope of its insights.

From Christine Jeffrey:

John O’Donohue, To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings

One of my favorite, go-to books. O’Donohue talks about blessings in the context of thresholds and the need to mark them. Many of us, when asked to identify thresholds, note birthdays, marriages and other events that encourage celebration. The thresholds that O’Donohue invites us to mark are some of those but also others that may have taken a long time getting to and ones that are not always surrounded with happiness. All of these thresholds should be ones that we slow down to recognize and indeed ritualize. These blessings connect us with the others that journey with us, give us encouragement and do indeed bless us. 

From Monica Maxon:

Anne Lamott, Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers
A wonderful little book on prayer, written in Lamott’s funny and perceptive style and filled with humor and wisdom. It can be read over and over and over again.

Mark Nepo, Seven Thousand Ways to Listen
In this spiritual memoir, Nepo explores the many gifts and challenges of deep listening, open to us all as we reflect on our relationship with others and the world around us and especially as we look at the changes that come from experience, aging and surviving loss.

From Leah Rampy:

Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone, Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We’re in Without Going Crazy
If, like me, you sometimes despair of the state of our world, Macy and Johnstone encourage us in the practice of active hope. They invite us to open in gratitude, honor our pain, and engage the challenges with new ways of seeing. I’m grateful for the reminder of the personal commitment and transformation that is needed for our participation in the “great turning.” And I’m ever more certain that contemplative leadership is critical if we are to live into God’s desire for Earth.

David G. Benner, Ph.D., Spirituality and the Awakening Self: The Sacred Journey of Transformation
I appreciated Benner’s thoughtful and comprehensive look at the journey of becoming more fully our truest self. While clear that our journey is not linear, his descriptions and questions seemed to invite me to an ever-deeper level of connection with the Holy.

From Patience Robbins:

Cynthia Bourgeault, The Wisdom Jesus
This book is full of inspiration, challenge and a new way of looking at Jesus. I have both read it and listened to it on CD. My favorite chapter is 15 on the Welcoming Prayer. I appreciate Cynthia’s fresh perspective on the Trinity, the role of women, and her many references to the wisdom of the heart.

Etty Hillesum, An Interrupted Life and Letters from Westerbork
This is a book I love to read again and again as it offers an inside view of how one is transformed. I marvel at how Etty, living in Holland during the 1940’s and eventually dying at Auschwitz, could have such a deepening life in God as she was surrounded by suffering,  war and oppression.  I have learned a lot about living in the moment, wide expansiveness for God, and finding joy in all of life.

From Martha Sherman:

Elizabeth Cunningham, The Maeve Chronicles: Magdalen Rising: The Beginning; The Passion of Mary Magdalen: A Novel; Bright Dark Madonna: A Novel
Cunningham weaves Hebrew scripture, Celtic and Egyptian mythology, and early Christian legend, creating an unforgettable fifth gospel story in which the women most involved in Jesus’s ministry are given far more representation. My sense in reading these was deep resonance with a mystical wisdom-way understanding of the teachings of Jesus, a way that Cynthia Bourgeault presents in a much more traditional manner in The Wisdom Jesus.

M. Scott Peck, People of the Lie: The Hope for Healing Human Evil
I found this book incredibly interesting and instructive as I sought within the places and ways that I engage in ordinary, everyday evil, the ways I avoid spiritual growth within and would block it for others, the ways I participate in group evil.  I was then inspired to read his book Glimpses of the Devil: A Psychiatrist’s Personal Accounts of Possession, a more complete account exorcisms described in People of the Lie.  Also amazing, challenging and deeply instructive.


Carol O. Eckerman, Lessons in Simply Being: Finding the Peace within Tumult
Circle Books, 2012
Rev. Margaret Guenther calls this memoir “deeply personal, warm and accessible.” Written by Shalem board member Carol Eckerman, a self-acknowledged “recovering control addict” who finds meaning in life after the collapse of all she had clung to, it is a moving and engaging read. Eckerman freely shares her search for order and meaning in a straightforward style and also shares the rich spiritual insights she has gleaned through her changing life.  All readers will identify with and be inspired by what she shares. 

Dana Greene, Denise Levertov: A Poet’s Life
University of Illinois Press, 2012
In this illuminating and engaging biography, Shalem board member Dana Greene examines the life and poetry of Denise Levertov, author of 24 volumes of poetry as well as four books of essays and several translations.  Along with the details of Levertov’s very active outer life, Greene also weaves the movement of Levertov’s inner life throughout this book and shows a deep understanding of the poetry that these two lives birthed.  Greene’s writing is clear, thoughtful and sensitive, adding much to those who know Levertov and providing a wonderful introduction to those who are meeting her for the first time.

Joan S. Hickey, A Cloud of Witnesses: Personal Stories of God’s Presence in Today’s World
Seraphina Press, 2012
As a teacher, group leader and Shalem adjunct staff member for 25 years, Joan Hickey has had a long-time interest in individual mystical experiences.  Almost all of the stories shared in this book are from people with a Christian background who have also participated in Shalem programs over the years. “In these stories one hears the voices of authenticity,” writes former Shalem board member Dolores Leckey.  “These are the ‘real deal,’ articulate even when the writers are saying they are at a loss for words.  The tone is humble and direct—and lacking any claims to entitlement.  They’re simply telling the truth.” 

May 05, 2013 by Shalem Institute
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