Sunday, May 08, 2005

Need Quaker Book Suggestions!

As I am delighting in the fact that I found an online resource where a number of older Pendle Hill Pamphlets are available online (, I'm also excited about one more resource for reading material.

I am going to graduate from high school in three weeks, and my mom mentioned to me today that she had no idea what to get me as a graduation present. She noticed my high interest in Quaker reading materials (books, pamphlets, etc.), and offered as my graduation present $200 worth of Quaker books (of my choice)!

Even before this point I had gone through the FGC Bookstore catalogue and circled books that caught my interest right off, but I want to have input from other readers.

What books do you think every Friend should read? What books do you think a young Friend like myself should read? What books blew (blow) you away and took (take) part in your own (or anyone's) spiritual transformation?

Any suggestions?

[If you could give a brief description of the book in addition to title/author, that would be most helpful]


Anonymous Robin said...

(a short list, not necessarily in this order, the * is my favorites)

A good Bible. My husband recommends the Oxford Study Bible

your own Yearly Meeting’s Faith and Practice, obviously

*The Quaker Reader ed. by Jessamyn West: a sampling of lots of good things, I highly recommend Mary Penington on real life as a Quaker

*Plain Living: A Quaker Path to Simplicity by Catherine Whitmire: this is one of my favorites, an advanced course in living as a Quaker, a collection of quotes and a few sharp queries

A Testament of Devotion by Thomas R. Kelly: what we might aspire to. Beautiful descriptions of impossible heights.

*A Description of the Qualifications Necessary to a Gospel Minister by Samuel Bownas: Really good advice, not easy, from 1767

*Where Words Come From by Douglas Steere: A mid-20th Century expression of Quaker faith and worship practice, which guides me still

*Essays on the Quaker Vision of Gospel Order by Lloyd Lee Wilson: a defining text of liberal conservative Friends

Members One of Another: The Dynamics of Membership in Quaker Meeting by Thomas Gates: a brand new description of how we grow into community

Friend of Life by Elizabeth Gray Vining: biography of Rufus Jones. I just read this, but I think it’s out of print. A lot of Quaker history mixed with the hagiography, an amazing life

Friend by Jane Yolen: A young adult biography of George Fox, long out of print, but really well done: all the basic stories in a reasonable length. I didn’t realize it was for “young adults” until I had finished it…

Lives that Speak: Stories of Twentieth Century Quakers for Young People, ed. by Marnie Clark

Friendly Persuasion by Jessamyn West (and Except for Me and Thee, the sequel) fun fictional account of Friends in the Midwest in 1800’s. I don’t know or care if it’s accurate, I liked them.

not Quaker, but worthwhile

*Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindburgh: about growing as a woman throughout life, about writing and love and self. I re-read this every few years

Living Buddha Living Christ by Thich Nhat Hanh: a good introduction/comparison

Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas by Elaine Pagels: this is new early Church stuff

10/5/05 11:10 AM  
Blogger Liz Opp said...

What books do you think every Friend should read?

Tough call. I wouldn't want Friends to idolize any single book! wink

The Journal of George Fox. Whichever edition. I'd say "every Friend should read it" because it gets referred to so often! It's also nice to have some of Fox's most popular quotes in their original context. But I had to be ready myself to read it, lest I be bored and wonder why somebody I had never met recommended it. smile

any Faith & Practice, for the same reason above. These books are talked about often, and it makes sense to know what folks are referring to. Like Robin said, having a copy of your yearly meeting's F&P makes a lot of sense.

What books do you think a young Friend like myself should read?

anything that speaks to you in the moment. I'm half serious.

I once came across a book by British young adult Friends, Who Do We Think We Are? It spoke to me at the time.

Britain Yearly Meeting's Faith & Practice, but more for the ability to just open to any page or segment; not so much for reading from front to back.

What books blew (blow) you away and took (take) part in your own (or anyone's) spiritual transformation?

Members One of Another, which I see Robin recommends also. The author's description of the four areas of responsibility of a meeting really helped me understand what it is I personally seek and yearn for from my faith community. This book also has helped me frame many of my ideas for the Gathering workshop on Quaker identity I am scheduled to lead this summer.

Paul Lacey's Pendle Hill pamphlets, Leading and Being Led, #264, and The Authority of Our Meetings Is the Power of God, #365. Clear specifics about one Friend's understanding of what leadings are and how to test them [in both pamphlets], plus the sources of authority [in #365].

Walking Humbly with God: Selected writings of John Woolman. Very small book, so it even looks manageable! Gave me a great flavor of Woolman's writing as well as his life as a Friend.

Resistance and Obedience to God: Memoirs of David Ferris 1707-1779. A more "accessible" journal than Fox's, in my opinion. It was easy for me to relate to some of his spiritual struggles in being obedient to the call of the Spirit. Plus, great study notes in the back (relates Ferris' spiritual journey to that of our own), and a good historical summary of Friends in the introduction. (Gotta love Marty Grundy! smile)

A Testament of Devotion, by Thomas Kelly. I also had to be spiritually ready to read this book. Ditto for some of his other writings. Spiritually rich imagery. Clearly moved by the Spirit when he wrote. Wish I had known the guy...

Essays on the Quaker Vision of Gospel Order, Lloyd Lee Wilson. I see Robin lifts this book up, too, but I'm guessing you maybe have seen enough of/heard enough from Lloyd Lee in your experience among NCYM(C). Still, this book changed how I look at Friends and their practices.

Listening Spirituality, Patricia Loring. Personally, I liked Volume II much better than Volume I, from what I can recall. Volume II is subtitled "Corporate Spiritual Practice Among Friends"; volume I is "Personal Spiritual Practices Among Friends."

Okay, now I'll give someone else a turn! And I think I'll post my list on my blog, too, for good measure.

Liz, The Good Raised Up

11/5/05 6:42 PM  
Blogger Claire said...

Robin and Liz - Thank you both so very much for putting the time and care into both these lists of Quaker book suggestions, and into previous replies to either my posts or my essay on Martin's site.

It is so encouraging to have found Friends online who are so responsive and supportive. I hope that I can meet you in person some day.

Thank you, Friends

11/5/05 11:47 PM  
Anonymous Paul L said...

I am really digging John Punshon's "A Portrait in Gray". It's the best historic overview I've found and places Quakerism in its theological as well as historic context. Punshon is a delightful writer, full of humor. (My favorite joke, probably not originated by him, is where he refers to Friends who tour NW England in what the pious call the Quaker Pilgrimage "but the less pious call the Fox Trot.") It has a bit of a British bias, but covers American Quakerism well.

I also have been spending a lot of time with Doug Gwyn's "The Covenant Crucified: Quakers and the Rise of Capitalism" (or something close to that). This follows his "The Apocolypse of the Word" (which I haven't read yet) and is a study of how the earliest Friends challenged the religious, political. and economic institutions of 15th Century Britian, suffered unspeakable persecution, and then made their peace when the Kingdom didn't actually come to be. It's fascinating, provocative, well-written, and intense. Very chewy.

12/5/05 7:52 PM  
Blogger Mark Wutka said...

For real beginners, I found Howard Brinton's Friends for 350 Years to be helpful.

Other books that have helped me in my spiritual growth:

The Heart of Christianity: Rediscovering a life of faith by Marcus Borg

If God Is Love: Rediscovering Grace In An Ungracious World by Philip Gulley and James Mulholland, a follow-up to "If Grace Is True"

Jesus and the Disinherited by Howard Thurman (doesn't seem to be available at, this book had a great influence on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and is sort of a blueprint for the civil rights movement (really, any struggle for justice) drawn from Jesus' teachings.

The Story of My Experiments With Truth by M.K. Gandhi and Mohandas Gandhi: Essential Writings

The New Daily Study Bible series by William Barclay, it is only the New Testament, but William Barclay has a wonderful way of explaining possible interpretations and also giving a lot of background.

The End of Sorrow: The Bhagavad Gita for Daily Living by Eknath Easwaran (book 1 of a 3 book series). There is a lot on meditation and recitation of mantras in here, which may not suit a lot of people, but the author's kindness and gentleness and his love of God shine forth from every page.

A Work of Hospitality: The Open Door Reader, 1982-2002 This is a collection of papers from The Open Door Community here in Atlanta that does a lot of work with the homeless and imprisoned.

12/5/05 8:00 PM  
Anonymous Cathy said...

I have been reading Jim Pym "Listening to the Light". I found it to be wonderful. I just recently decide to go with the Quakers faith. After looking at other ways. For some reason I'm drawn to them.

I'm also reading "A Living Faith: An Historical and Comparative Study of Quaker Beliefs" by Wilmer A. Cooper. Just started that one but looks very good.

Hope this helps you

12/5/05 8:23 PM  
Anonymous Kenneth said...

I'd second the Bible (I use the New Jerusalem); Quaker Vision of Gospel Order; and Description of the Qualifications. I often recommend Quaker Reader as the most source material for the least expense (as in, selections from a wide variety of authors rather than someone surveying or interpreting them).

Other books high on my list are Woolman's journal; Brinton's Quaker Journals; Ingle's Quakers in Conflict; Hamm's Transformation of American Quakerism. Hamm's Quakers in America is a recent survey book that I liked a great deal.

Favorite Pendle Hill pamphlets (in no particular order): Taber's Four Doors to Meeting for Worship and Prophetic Stream; Cronk's Gospel Order; Loring's Spiritual Discernment; Graham's Women of Power and Presence.

When I was 25 and just getting into Friends, I loved Jessamyn West's novels (and, I'm slightly embarrassed to admit, de Hartog's also) (embarrassed, just to be clear, because his novels are thoroughly non-historical), and I also loved William Braithwaite's two volumes of Quaker history. LOVED them, but wouldn't really recommend them to anyone else.

17/5/05 5:42 PM  
Blogger Liz Opp said...

Occasionally, The Good Raised Up receives other reading suggestions, despite my request that additional recommendations be listed here, so they'd all be in one spot.

My intention was clear ("Make the request to readers to look at my book list but to add to it over here at Quakerspeak/Spiritual Journeys"), but the impact has been another story.

Sorry for splitting what was intended to be One Helluva Quaker Book List!

Liz, The Good Raised Up

18/5/05 6:59 PM  

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