Shalem Summer Reading 2014


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:

Anthony DeMello, Awareness

This book was a surprising and enjoyable read. Taken almost verbatim from lectures given at a retreat, DeMello’s style is very straightforward and sometimes off-the-cuff, mixing humor and serious spiritual insight. One immediately senses the passion he has for helping people “become aware” to the simple wonder of being alive. Drawing from a variety of spiritual traditions, including Christianity, Buddhism, and Hinduism, DeMello delights and dismays with stories and parables that reveal and sometimes startle one into realizing that perhaps one is sleepwalking through life. If you’re looking for something fresh, invigorating, and eye opening, give Awareness a read.

From Carole Crumley:

Spencer Quinn, The Sound and The Furry

No, that is not a typo in the book title. The word “furry “ is a clue that this New York Times bestselling mystery series features a dynamic detective duo, canine narrator Chet and his human partner P.I. Bernie Little. The story is told from Chet’s point of view. Chet’s contribution to solving the case is total attention to the present moment, offering the reader a master class in living in the NOW. It’s a doggone good read!

Vanessa Diffenbaugh, The Language of Flowers

The Victorian language of flowers was used to convey multiple emotions, and Diffenbaugh reveals and uses this secret language to communicate an extraordinary landscape of feelings. Through her characters, she carefully excavates the heart’s journey from mistrust and solitude to a tender, fragile but deepening desire for love.  As the story unfolds, the voice of flowers is heard as strongly as any other character. From the first paragraph, I began to cherish each word. I didn’t want this beautiful novel to end. Certainly, I will never look at flowers the same way again.

From Tilden Edwards:

William Thiele, Monks in the World: Seeking God in a Frantic World.

William interweaves his gripping personal spiritual journey and penetrating poetry with the foundation and development of “The School for Contemplative Living” in New Orleans, whose values overlap a great deal with Shalem’s.

Catherine Whitmire, Practicing Peace: A Devotional Walk Through the Quaker Tradition.

Catherine has given us a practical, lucid, mature application of the central Quaker value of peace making to every area of our personal and societal life. She threads through the book many inspiring quotations from Quaker peace witnesses drawn from throughout Quaker history, who well illustrate contemplation in action.

From Leah Rampy:

Charles Eisenstein, The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible

I am grateful for this book on sacred activism that speaks to my heart.  We are living in and acting from an old story, Eisenstein tells us, a story grounded in separation and scarcity.  From this place, we cannot imagine how to address the wrong we have done to Earth and all creation; it would take a miracle.  Yet, the author reminds us, a new story is longing to emerge, a story of oneness and abundance.  Only from that new story, already written in our hearts, can we move beyond the limitations we currently experience into hope, possibility, and promise – the miracle for which we have been longing.   

From Patience Robbins:

Edwina Gateley, In God’s Womb: A Spiritual Memoir 

This memoir is a wonderful mix of stories, poems and reflections. I deeply appreciated the author’s willingness to share her intimate relationship with God and how that unfolded throughout her life.


Joyce Rupp, Fragments of Your Ancient Name

Simple and lovely meditations with a different name for God every day of the year.

From Martha Sherman:

Adyashanti, The End of Your World

Having experienced some awakening, some moments of awakening, what next?  They don’t last – nor do they occur just because I want them to or because I am doing all this personal transformational inquiry.  I am still bombarded by thoughts, my monkey-mind chatters on, my unconscious patterns and reactions still hook me.  In this book, Adyashanti speaks to seekers who have experienced something of the greater reality and yet the awakening is not abiding.  What pitfalls trip us up?  Is it effort or grace that is most needed?  How does awakening penetrate the mind, the heart, the gut?  What is the natural state of this awakening?  

From Ruth Taylor:

Paulo Coelho, The Witch of Portabello

This fictional story follows the life and death of a woman, Athena, born to a gypsy mother and adopted and raised by a wealthy Lebanese couple.  Told through the eyes of those who have known her throughout her life, we learn of Athena’s lifelong struggle with finding herself, her purpose in the world, and her relationship with the divine.  Towards the end of her life, Athena becomes a controversial spiritual leader in London as she guides others to find the divine in whatever action makes them completely loose themselves in the moment, which, for Athena, is dancing.

Annie Dillard, Holy the Firm

The nature imagery in Annie Dillard’s short 66-page book is captivating and beautifully raw. Told over a three-day period on Puget Sound, Dillard wrestles with themes of the beauty in nature, as well as viscerally describing death in the natural world and the role the will of God has in all she witnesses.

May 05, 2014 by Shalem Institute
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