Biblioteca de Woodland

A Virtual Guide to Soulful Reading
at Woodland Baptist Church

One of the many wonderful things my mother did for me was to take me to every library of every church or town in which we lived to introduce me to the world of books. She counseled me to talk to the librarians because they could help me find books that were good and interesting to read. She once said, “You know Mike, for every book you choose to read, you choose not to read 22 others.” I don’t know where she got that number, but it is woefully small, because every book you choose to read these days results in hundreds, maybe even thousands that you won’t be able to read. Thus, it should behoove us to talk to librarians or other readers to help us discern the books we need to read. Biblioteca de Woodland is a virtual bookshelf that we will share from time to time. Hopefully, it will be a help for your reading discipline. Enjoy!

Mike Massar


The Climate Book by Greta Thurnberg

This young woman is changing the world and she is inviting us to be part of the change. It is a great resource book.

“Having curated Yale Climate Connections’ monthly bookshelf collection since early 2015, I was acquainted with over 1,000 books and reports that address climate change in some way . . . The Climate Book is the most ambitious, wide-ranging, and hard-hitting collection I have ever encountered.” —Yale Climate Connections

“The urgency to act now, to kick the addiction to fossil fuels, practically jumps off the page to punch you in the gut. So while not a pleasant read—it’s quite stressful—it’s a book I can’t recommend enough.” —Science News

“Stuffed with charts and graphs and photos . . . the book is sure to educate. . . . Hopefully billions of people read The Climate Book and enough of them rise up to demand change.” —Associated Press

“Impressively, in The Climate Book, Thunberg and team—which includes well-known names like Margaret Atwood, George Monbiot, Bill McKibben and Robin Wall Kimmerer—explain and offer action items in 84 compelling, bite-size chapters . . . The cumulative impact on my understanding of the crisis through [the book’s] data, cross-cultural reflections, and paths for step-by-step change became mesmerizing.” —

“Impassioned . . . Thunberg gathers essays from scientists, journalists, and activists, starting with lucid and accessible explanations of the science of global warming and its possible effects . . . A comprehensive and articulate shock to the system.” Publishers Weekly

“An urgent collection of writing by leaders in the fields of science, engineering, history, philosophy, and activism . . . Brilliant and alarming . . . Vital reading for anyone who cares about the planet.”—Kirkus(starred revie

“[A] sweeping compendium of essays contributed by more than 100 academicians, authors, environmentalists, and journalists whose specific professional expertise or profound humanitarian concern amplifies the existing science surrounding this crisis of sustainability and ecology. Yet among this esteemed roster of recognized voices, it is Thunberg’s own eloquence that elevates the collection with introductory essays for each section that convey a sense of urgency that is genuine, grounded, and unimpeachable.” —Booklist (starred review)

Greta Thunberg was born in 2003. In August 2018, she started a school strike for the climate outside the Swedish Parliament that has since spread all over the world. She is an activist in Fridays for Future and has spoken at climate rallies across the globe, as well as at the World Economic Forum in Davos, the US Congress, and the United Nations.

Saving Us by Katharine Hayhoe

This is a hopeful book that will inspire us to be better stewards of God’s creation!

“An optimistic view on why collective action is still possible—and how it can be realized.” —TheNew York Times

“As far as heroic characters go, I’m not sure you could do better than Katharine Hayhoe.” —Scientific American

“It’s not an exaggeration to say that Saving Us is one of the more important books about climate change to have been written.” —The Guardian

United Nations Champion of the Earth, climate scientist, and evangelical Christian Katharine Hayhoe changes the debate on how we can save our future.

Called “one of the nation’s most effective communicators on climate change” by The New York Times, Katharine Hayhoe knows how to navigate all sides of the conversation on our changing planet. A Canadian climate scientist living in Texas, she negotiates distrust of data, indifference to imminent threats, and resistance to proposed solutions with ease. Over the past fifteen years Hayhoe has found that the most important thing we can do to address climate change is talk about it—and she wants to teach you how.

In Saving Us, Hayhoe argues that when it comes to changing hearts and minds, facts are only one part of the equation. We need to find shared values in order to connect our unique identities to collective action. This is not another doomsday narrative about a planet on fire. It is a multilayered look at science, faith, and human psychology, from an icon in her field—recently named chief scientist at The Nature Conservancy.

Drawing on interdisciplinary research and personal stories, Hayhoe shows that small conversations can have astonishing results. Saving Us leaves us with the tools to open a dialogue with your loved ones about how we all can play a role in pushing forward for change.

Surrender by Bono

One of the most important SPIRITUAL reads of the year!

Bono—artist, activist, and the lead singer of Irish rock band U2—has written a memoir: honest and irreverent, intimate and profound, Surrender is the story of the remarkable life he’s lived, the challenges he’s faced, and the friends and family who have shaped and sustained him.

Narrated by the author, Surrender is an intimate, immersive listening experience, telling stories from Bono’s early days in Dublin, to joining a band and playing sold out stadiums around the world with U2, plus his more than 20 years of activism.

Throughout a remarkable life, music has always been a constant for Bono and in the audiobook, his distinctive voice is interwoven with a very personal soundtrack adding atmosphere and texture to each and every scene. From moments of classic U2 hits to snippets by The Clash, Patti Smith, Verdi, Johnny Cash and Mozart, Surrender also exclusively features clips of newly recorded reimagined versions of U2 songs including ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’, ‘With Or Without You’, ‘One’, ‘Beautiful Day’ and more, glimpsed for the first time on Surrender: 40 Songs, One Story.

The Deluge by Stephen Markley

“This book is, simply put, a modern classic. If you read it, you’ll never forget it. Prophetic, terrifying, uplifting.” —Stephen King 

From the bestselling author of Ohio, a masterful American epic charting a near future approaching collapse and a nascent but strengthening solidarity.

In the first decades of the 21st century, the world is convulsing, its governments mired in gridlock while a patient but unrelenting ecological crisis looms. America is in upheaval, battered by violent weather and extreme politics. In California in 2013, Tony Pietrus, a scientist studying deposits of undersea methane, receives a death threat. His fate will become bound to a stunning cast of characters—a broken drug addict, a star advertising strategist, a neurodivergent mathematician, a cunning eco-terrorist, an actor turned religious zealot, and a brazen young activist named Kate Morris, who, in the mountains of Wyoming, begins a project that will alter the course of the decades to come.

From the Gulf Coast to Los Angeles, the Midwest to Washington, DC, their intertwined odysseys unfold against a stark backdrop of accelerating chaos as they summon courage, galvanize a nation, fall to their own fear, and find wild hope in the face of staggering odds. As their stories hurtle toward a spectacular climax, each faces a reckoning: what will they sacrifice to salvage humanity’s last chance at a future? A singular achievement, The Deluge is a once-in-a-generation novel that meets the moment as few works of art ever have.

The Ministry for the Future: A Novel by Kim Stanley Robinson

From legendary science-fiction author Kim Stanley Robinson comes a remarkable vision of climate change over the coming decades. 

The Ministry for the Future is a masterpiece of the imagination, using fictional eyewitness accounts to tell the story of how climate change will affect us all. Its setting is not a desolate, post-apocalyptic world, but a future that is almost upon us – and in which we might just overcome the extraordinary challenges we face.

It is a novel both immediate and impactful, desperate and hopeful in equal measure, and it is one of the most powerful and original books on climate change ever written.

One of Barack Obama’s Favorite Books of 2020

“If I could get policymakers, and citizens, everywhere to read just one book this year, it would be Kim Stanley Robinson’s The Ministry for the Future.” (Ezra Klein)

“The best science fiction-nonfiction novel I’ve ever read.” (Jonathan Lethem, Vanity Fair)

“A breathtaking look at the challenges that face our planet in all their sprawling magnitude and also in their intimate, individual moments of humanity.” (Booklist, starred)

Think Again by Adam Grant

Think Again book coverThink Again is a remarkable book by Adam Grant. It is a wonderful tool to help people rethink things – learning the art of questioning our own opinions while learning to be open to other ideas. One of Grant’s guiding principles is priceless: “Argue like you’re right but listen like you’re wrong.” Bill and Melinda Gates promote the book by saying: “Think Againis a must-read for anyone who wants to create a culture of learning and exploration, whether at home, at work, or at school. With warmth and humor, Adam Grant distills complex research into a compelling case for why each of us should continually question old assumptions and embrace new ideas and perspectives. In an increasingly divided world, the lessons in this book are more important than ever.” As the church begins the process of re-gathering, this book is an insightful guide for how to move forward. Find it at your favorite bookstore or here at Amazon.

Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer

Braiding Sweetgrass book coverRobin Wall Kimmerer’s essay collection, Braiding Sweetgrass, is an example of a rarity in the book business. It was published in 2013 by a little- known publishing house Milkweed Editions. It did not have a large-scale marketing campaign, but word of mouth recommendations catapulted it into a long-time stint on the New York Times best-sellers’ book review. Kimmerer, a botanist and member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, describes the book as “an invitation to celebrate the gifts of the earth.” She postulates about why her message is resonating right now: “When we’re looking at things we cherish falling apart, when inequities and injustices are so apparent, people are looking for another way that we can be living. We need interdependence rather than independence, and Indigenous knowledge has a message of valuing connection, especially to the humble.” A review in Forbes magazine said: “this book is a must read for moving into our future. The author has given us a profound perspective of history, restoration, reciprocity, responsibility and hope. If we take only what we need and find ways to restore what we do take, we can take care of the earth and she will take care of us.” This book seems to truly be a gift from God for the living of these days. Find it at your favorite bookstore or here at Amazon.

Making a Poem by Miller Williams

Making a Poem is a book that has been around for a while, but nevertheless seems apropos for the current time. Miller Williams was an American contemporary poet and teacher. He was a professor at LSU, having been recommended for the job by Flannery O’Connor. Later he taught at the University of Arkansas. He produced over 25 books and won several awards for his poetry. He was the third poet to read at an inaugural event when he read his poem “Of History and Hope” at Bill Clinton’s second inauguration. Williams sometimes collaborated with his daughter Lucinda, an acclaimed folk and country musician, and has been compared to another great country musician. “One of the best things that has ever been said about my work was said by a critic who wrote that ‘Miller Williams is the Hank Williams of American poetry. While his poetry is taught at Princeton and Harvard, it’s read and understood by squirrel hunters and taxi drivers.’” Making a Poem is a book of insightful essays for those who love poetry and even those who don’t. His first essay in the book gives hint of such delightful wisdom. Its title is “Nobody Plays the Piano, but We Like to Have It in the House.” Find it at your favorite bookstore or here at Amazon.

The Book of Delights by Ross Gay

Ross Gay’s The Book of Delights is an intelligent, uplifting book of essays – some as short as a paragraph; some as long as five pages. Gay wrote the book’s essays over the period of a year, one each day, for the simple reason that he thought it would be nice to write about delight every day. The handful of rules he set out for himself included composing the essays quickly and writing them by hand. The book’s essays might first be seen as “contemporary lite,” but they are far from that. They are attentive explorations into the gifts in the world around us, and are absolutely delightful. Find it at your favorite bookstore or here at Amazon.

Devotions by Mary Oliver

Mary Oliver is one of America’s beloved poets. This Pulitzer prizewinner’s book, Devotions, is her own personal selection of her best work that has spanned more than fifty years. With literary brilliance she helps us see the world around us and the powerful connections of all living things. As one reviewer has noted, “Part of the key to Oliver’s appeal is her accessibility: she writes blank verse in a conversational style, with no typographical gimmicks. But an equal part is that she offers her readers a spiritual release that they might not have realized they were looking for . . . She tends to use nature as a springboard to the sacred, which is the beating heart of her work. Indeed, a number of the poems in this collection are explicitly formed as prayers, albeit unconventional ones.” Oliver once said, “Attention is the beginning of devotion.” She’s right, and thank God for her (D)devotions. Find it at your favorite bookstore or here at Amazon.

The Overstory Richard Powers

Richard Powers is an American novelist who has created a bit of a cult following due to the fact that his writings explore the effects of modern science and technology. He has written over twelve novels now, with The Overstory garnering the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2019. Powers, who has taught at the University of Illinois and Stanford University, is a literary genius. He has a dexterity and command of vocabulary like few others and uses it to describe complex scientific issues. A former computer programmer, he has written novels about the history of photography, artificial intelligence, nuclear warfare, race and miscegenation, the Holocaust, neuroscience, virtual reality, the chemical industry, and genetic engineering. In an article in The New Yorker James Wood once likened Powers’ fiction to “a dying satyr — above the waist is a mind full of serious thought, philosophical reflection, deep exploration of music and science; below, a pair of spindly legs strain to support the great weight of the ambitious brain.” The Atlantic critic, Peter Brooks, describes Powers as a “historian of contemporary society,” saying that he has the courage and intellectual stamina to explore our most complex social questions with originality, nuance, and an innate skepticism about dogma. This remarkable book about the environment is indicative of his research (He read 120 books on trees and quipped in an interview, “If you know you are going to spend up to three years in writing a novel, you need to be well-versed in your subject.”) The Overstory, whose title comes from the canopy of trees in a forest is a book of enlightenment about the world in which we live. Find it at your favorite bookstore or here at Amazon.

Faith After Doubt by Brian McLaren

Andy Hale, who is the pastor of University Baptist in Baton Rouge, does podcast interviews for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. He recently interviewed McLaren about his latest book, Faith After Doubt: Why Your Beliefs Stopped Working and What to Do About It. In introducing McLaren Andy says:  “I’ve spent the last two decades deconstructing a theology handed to me by a tradition that I no longer embrace. There was a lot to unpack from the denominational tradition of my rearing; the long history of patriarchy, sexism towards female clergy and lay leaders, bullying local churches into creedal submission, and failing to account for a history of racism. It would be entirely understandable for someone like me to look at the varying degrees of hypocrisy and contradictions to the way of Jesus, choosing to walk away from the Church, if not faith, forever. And yet, I find that there is something on the other side of this field of debris that was once the religious worldview handed to me by my forbearers. There is something more.” McLaren said in the interview: “Some people tell me they never have doubts. Faith comes easy for them, they say, at least it has so far. But many, many, many of us do have doubts, and sometimes, our doubts seem far more powerful than our beliefs. It’s hard enough having doubts; it’s impossibly hard to have them, and to feel you must pretend that you don’t.” In a world where there is so much fake news this book is a helpful guide to Good News. Find it at your favorite bookstore or here at Amazon.

Caste by Isabel Wilkerson

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Isabel Wilkerson, has written one of the most eloquent, intelligent and disturbing books of our time. Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, as one reviewer has described it, it is “a masterwork of writing — a profound achievement of scholarship and research that stands also as a triumph of both visceral storytelling and cogent analysis.” It is an important book for people of all races to read, because it points out the lines of exclusion that our society has drawn over the years. When asked about the meaning of the title, Wilkerson says, “Caste is the granting or withholding of respect, status, honor, attention, privileges, resources, benefit of the doubt, and human kindness to someone on the basis of their perceived rank or standing in the hierarchy.” Racism and casteism do overlap, she writes, noting that “what some people call racism could be seen as merely one manifestation of the degree to which we have internalized the larger American caste system.” In another place she notes, “As we go about our daily lives, caste is the wordless usher in a darkened theater, flashlight cast down in the aisles, guiding us to our assigned seats for a performance. The hierarchy of caste is not about feelings or morality. It is about power—which groups have it and which do not.” In this provocative and brilliant book, Ms. Wilkerson calls us to look in the mirror and see who we are. It should be required reading for all who want to nurture Christian community. Find it at your favorite bookstore or here at Amazon.

What We Know About Climate Change by Kerry Emanuel

What We Know About Climate Change by Kerry Emanuel

An M.I.T. climatologist and a conservative, Emanuel sounds the alarm in a measured and scientifically sound way, making clear what we know and what we don’t know. There is little panic in this slender book, but there is a lot of troubling information. Emanuel specifically thought of his book as a way of offering ammunition to those trying to convince family members or friends who are skeptical or don’t understand the science. “Young adults who are disputing this problem with their own parents or an uncle or something — they can hand the book to them and say, ‘Will you at least read this?’” Find it at your favorite bookstore or here at Amazon.

The Great Derangement by Amitav Ghosh

The Great Derangement by Amitav Ghosh

Ghosh gets right to the heart of the matter, imagining how our great grandchildren will view us and offering a disturbing vision: We are deranged. Our inability to deal with a catastrophe we can’t see but know is coming indicates a failure of imagination. The interesting contribution of this book, which comes out of a series of lectures Ghosh delivered at the University of Chicago in 2015, is his indictment of the culture-makers. It has become unfashionable to seem too concerned. To make climate change the theme or setting of a novel, Ghosh writes, is “to court eviction from the mansion in which serious fiction has long been in residence.” His bigger point is that we need a change of narrative. But to do this means that those who make our narratives need to lead the way, to bring their talents of storytelling to bear on what is, he writes, no less than an “existential danger.” Find it at your favorite bookstore or here at Amazon.

Nature's Best Hope by Douglas Tallamy

“Douglas W. Tallamy’s first book, Bringing Nature Home, awakened thousands of readers to an urgent situation: wildlife populations are in decline because the native plants they depend on are fast disappearing. His solution? Plant more natives. In this new book, Tallamy takes the next step and outlines his vision for a grassroots approach to conservation. Nature’s Best Hope shows how homeowners everywhere can turn their yards into conservation corridors that provide wildlife habitats. Because this approach relies on the initiatives of private individuals, it is immune from the whims of government policy. Even more important, it’s practical, effective, and easy—you will walk away with specific suggestions you can incorporate into your own yard.”

Check out your local bookstore to pick up a copy. or Check out the publisher here

Noted environmentalist Bill McKibben says about the book: “Here is one area where individual action can help make up for all that government fails to do; your backyard can provide the margin to keep species alive. Mow less, think more!
Edward O. Wilson of Harvard says: “Tallamy is one of the most original and persuasive present-day authors on conservation.”

On Fire: A (Burning) Case for A Green New Deal - Naomi Klein

For more than twenty years, Naomi Klein has been the foremost chronicler of the economic war waged on both people and planet—and an unapologetic champion of a sweeping environmental agenda with justice at its center. In lucid, elegant dispatches from the frontlines of contemporary natural disaster, she pens surging, indispensable essays for a wide public: prescient advisories and dire warnings of what future awaits us if we refuse to act, as well as hopeful glimpses of a far better future. On Fire: The (Burning) Case for a Green New Deal gathers for the first time more than a decade of her impassioned writing, long-form essays show Klein at her most prophetic and philosophical, investigating the climate crisis not only as a profound political challenge but as a spiritual and imaginative one, as well. Delving into topics ranging from the clash between ecological time and our culture of “perpetual now,” to the soaring history of humans changing and evolving rapidly in the face of grave threats, to rising white supremacy and fortressed borders as a form of “climate barbarism,” this is a rousing call to action for a planet on the brink.

This Sacred Life - Norman Wirzba

Norman Wirzba is Professor of Theology and Ecology at Duke University Divinity School and a pioneer of scholarly work on religion, philosophy, ecology, and agrarianism. He is also the author of Food and Faith, Living the Sabbath, The Paradise of God, and From Nature to Creation. He lives near Hillsborough, North Carolina. This Sacred Life is his latest book and one that merits attention for his brilliant and eloquent insights into our current situation. The book is promoted with the following, 

“In a time of climate change, environmental degradation, and social injustice, the question of the value and purpose of human life has become urgent. What are the grounds for hope in a wounded world? This Sacred Life gives a deep philosophical and religious articulation of humanity’s identity and vocation by rooting people in a symbiotic, meshwork world that is saturated with sacred gifts. The benefits of artificial intelligence and genetic enhancement notwithstanding, Norman Wirzba shows how an account of humans as interdependent and vulnerable creatures orients people to be a creative, healing presence in a world punctuated by wounds. He argues that the commodification of places and creatures needs to be resisted so that all life can be cherished and celebrated. Humanity”s fundamental vocation is to bear witness to God”s love for creaturely life, and to commit to the construction of a hospitable and beautiful world.” It is definitely an important read for 21st century Christians.

How to Pray - C.S. Lewis

C. S. Lewis’s insights on Christianity and his reflections on Christian life continue to guide us more than fifty years after his death. How to Pray showcases Lewis’s enduring wisdom on prayer and its place in our daily lives.

Cultivated from his many essays, articles, and letters, as well as his classic works, How to Pray provides practical wisdom and instruction to help readers nurture their spiritual beliefs and embrace prayer in all its forms. While many people would like to speak to God, they often don’t know how to begin. Lewis guides them through the practice, illuminating the significance of prayer and why it is central to faith.

A welcome addition to the C. S. Lewis canon, How to Pray offers a deeper understanding of our personal tradition of prayer, our faith, and what is means to be a Christian.

Pilgrim Letters - Curtis Freeman

Curtis W. Freeman (PhD, Baylor) is research professor of theology and Baptist studies and director of the Baptist House of Studies at Duke Divinity School. He is the author of Undomesticated Dissent: Democracy and the Public Virtue of Religious Noncomformity (2017), Contesting Catholicity: Theology for Other Baptists (2014), A Company of Women Preachers: Baptist Prophetesses in Seventeenth-Century England (2011), and Baptist Roots: A Reader in the Theology of a Christian People (1999). He is an ordained Baptist minister and serves as editor of the American Baptist Quarterly as well as on the Baptist World Alliance Commission on Doctrine and Christian Unity.

In Pilgrim Letters, Freeman takes disciples on a contemporary journey into an ancient faith. The book is a series of letters written by “Interpreter” to “Pilgrim” that provide “instruction in the basic teaching of Christ” for candidates preparing to be baptized. The letters are framed by a short catechism based on the six principles enumerated in Hebrews 6:1-2–(1) repentance, (2) faith, (3) baptism, (4) laying on of hands, (5) resurrection, and (6) eternal judgment.

The letters lead Pilgrim (the disciple/catechumen/baptismal candidate) step by step through the basics of Christian faith. Each letter explores one of the principles by providing a simple explanation and setting the practice within a broad biblical, historical, and theological context. The theological tenor of the letters is evangelical-catholic, free church-ecumenical, and ancient-future. A set of discussion questions follows each letter as does a short bibliography for further reading. Each letter begins with an image from William Blake’s illustrations of John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress and exemplifying the subject of the letter, followed by an epigraph from the story that fits into the themes of the catechism.

The Complete Gardener - Monty Don

Monty Don is the beloved gardener of Great Britain. His television shows are “must see” in England, and he has a growing popularity here in the United States. In this, his latest offering he combines practical advice with stunning photography, shows gardeners how to create a self-sustainable, environmentally friendly garden for the 21st century, by making the most of the available natural resources to grow organic fruits and vegetables, as well as beautiful plants and flowers. Monty Don’s personal chronicle of a year in his garden, including both successes and failures, shows how an organic lifestyle can be adopted by anyone, and organic gardening can be practiced in a yard of any size. Monty Don is a treasure. Everyone would do well to get to know him.

The Well-Gardened Mind: The Restorative Power of Nature - Sue Stuart-Smith

A distinguished psychiatrist and avid gardener offers an inspiring and consoling work about the healing effects of gardening and its ability to decrease stress and foster mental well-being in our everyday lives.

The garden is often seen as a refuge, a place to forget worldly cares, removed from the “real” life that lies outside. But when we get our hands in the earth we connect with the cycle of life in nature through which destruction and decay are followed by regrowth and renewal. Gardening is one of the quintessential nurturing activities and yet we understand so little about it. The Well-Gardened Mind provides a new perspective on the power of gardening to change people’s lives. Here, Sue Stuart-Smith investigates the many ways in which mind and garden can interact and explores how the process of tending a plot can be a way of sustaining an innermost self.

Stuart-Smith’s own love of gardening developed as she studied to become a psychoanalytic psychotherapist. From her grandfather’s return from World War I to Freud’s obsession with flowers to case histories with her own patients to progressive gardening programs in such places as Rikers Island prison in New York City, Stuart-Smith weaves thoughtful yet powerful examples to argue that gardening is much more important to our cognition than we think. Recent research is showing how green nature has direct antidepressant effects on humans. Essential and pragmatic, The Well-Gardened Mind is a book for gardeners and the perfect read for people seeking healthier mental lives.

Parting the Waters; Pillar of Fire; At Canaan's Edge - Taylor Branch

Taylor Branch masterfully captures America during the lifetime of Martin Luther King, Jr. This three-volume history will endure as a masterpiece of storytelling on American race, violence, and democracy. Pulitzer Prize-winner and bestselling author Taylor Branch makes clear in this magisterial account of the civil rights movement that Martin Luther King, Jr. earned a place next to James Madison and Abraham Lincoln in the pantheon of American history.

The Book of Hope by Jane Goodall and Douglas Abrams

In a world that seems so troubled, how do we hold on to hope?

Looking at the headlines–a global pandemic, the worsening climate crisis, political upheaval–it can be hard to feel optimistic. And yet hope has never been more desperately needed.

In this urgent book, Jane Goodall, the world’s most famous living naturalist and Doug Abrams, internationally-bestselling author, explore–through intimate and thought-provoking dialogue–one of the most sought after and least understood elements of human nature: hope. In The Book of Hope, Jane focuses on her “Four Reasons for Hope”: The Amazing Human Intellect, The Resilience of Nature, The Power of Young People, and The Indomitable Human Spirit.

Told through stories from a remarkable career and fascinating research, The Book of Hope touches on vital questions including: How do we stay hopeful when everything seems hopeless? How do we cultivate hope in our children? Filled with engaging dialogue and pictures from Jane’s storied career, The Book of Hope is a deeply personal conversation with one of the most beloved figures in today’s world.

And for the first time, Jane tells the story of how she became a messenger of hope: from living through World War II, to her years in Gombe, to realizing she had to leave the forest to travel the world in her role as an advocate for environmental justice. She details the forces that shaped her hopeful worldview, her thoughts on her past, and her revelations about her next–and perhaps final–adventure.

There is still hope, and this book will help guide us to it.

What We Owe the Future by William MacAskill

“This book will change your sense of how grand the sweep of human history could be, where you fit into it, and how much you could do to change it for the better. It’s as simple, and as ambitious, as that.”
—Ezra Klein

An Oxford philosopher makes the case for “longtermism” — that positively influencing the long-term future is a key moral priority of our time.

The fate of the world is in our hands. Humanity’s written history spans only five thousand years. Our yet-unwritten future could last for millions more — or it could end tomorrow. Astonishing numbers of people could lead lives of great happiness or unimaginable suffering, or never live at all, depending on what we choose to do today.

In What We Owe The Future, philosopher William MacAskill argues for longtermism, that idea that positively influencing the distant future is a key moral priority of our time. From this perspective, it’s not enough to reverse climate change or avert the next pandemic. We must ensure that civilization would rebound if it collapsed; counter the end of moral progress; and prepare for a planet where the smartest beings are digital, not human.

If we make wise choices today, our grandchildren’s grandchildren will thrive, knowing we did everything we could to give them a world full of justice, hope and beauty.

Do I Stay Christian? A Guide for the Doubters, The Disappointed, and the Disillusinoed by Brian D. McLarin

Dubbed “a heroic gate-crasher” by New York Times bestselling author Glennon Doyle, Brian D. McLaren explores reasons to leave or stay within the church and if so how…

“Brian’s new book on remaining Christian knocks it out of the ballpark in terms of framing and naming the questions. I cannot stop reading it. Thank you, Brian!”
—Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM, founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation, author of The Universal Christ

“Any thoughtful Christian has been asking the questions McLaren tackles here, but many of us are afraid to voice them aloud. In Do I Stay Christian? we’re gifted a gentle guide who opens ideas and voices the questions we cannot, naming our frustration, fear, and hesitant hope.”
—Rev. Dr. Amy Butler, former Senior Minister, The Riverside Church; Founder, Invested Faith

Do I Stay Christian? addresses in public the powerful question that surprising numbers of people—including pastors, priests, and other religious leaders—are asking in private. Picking up where Faith After Doubt leaves off, Do I Stay Christian? is not McLaren’s attempt to persuade Christians to dig in their heels or run for the exit. Instead, he combines his own experience with that of thousands of people who have confided in him over the years to help readers make a responsible, honest, ethical decision about their religious identity.

There is a way to say both yes and no to the question of staying Christian, McLaren says, by shifting the focus from whether we stay Christian to how we stay human. If Do I Stay Christian? is the question you’re asking—or if it’s a question that someone you love is asking—this is the book you’ve been waiting for.

Search: A Novel by Michelle Huneven

“Delectable. . . Huneven treats us to a savory plot that blends spiritual yearnings with earthly pleasures. Forks out!” –Oprah Daily 

From critically acclaimed, award-winning author Michelle Huneven, a sharp and funny novel of a congregational search committee, told as a memoir with recipes

Dana Potowski is a restaurant critic and food writer and a longtime member of a progressive Unitarian Universalist congregation in Southern California. Just as she’s finishing the book tour for her latest bestseller, Dana is asked to join the church search committee for a new minister. Under pressure to find her next book idea, she agrees, and resolves to secretly pen a memoir, with recipes, about the experience. That memoir, Search, follows the travails of the committee and their candidates–and becomes its own media sensation.

Dana had good material to work with: the committee is a wide-ranging mix of Unitarian Universalist congregants, and their candidates range from a baker and microbrew master/pastor to a reverend who identifies as both a witch and an environmental warrior. Ultimately, the committee faces a stark choice between two very different paths forward for the congregation. Although she may have been ambivalent about joining the committee, Dana finds that she cares deeply about the fate of this institution and she will fight the entire committee, if necessary, to win the day for her side.

This wry and wise tale will speak to anyone who has ever gone searching, and James Beard Award-winning author Michelle Huneven’s food writing and recipes add flavor to the delightful journey.

Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation by Kristin Kobes Du Mez

A scholar of American Christianity presents a seventy-five-year history of evangelicalism that identifies the forces that have turned Donald Trump into a hero of the Religious Right.

How did a libertine who lacks even the most basic knowledge of the Christian faith win 81 percent of the white evangelical vote in 2016? And why have white evangelicals become a presidential reprobate’s staunchest supporters? These are among the questions acclaimed historian Kristin Kobes Du Mez asks in Jesus and John Wayne, which delves beyond facile headlines to explain how white evangelicals have brought us to our fractured political moment. Challenging the commonly held assumption that the “moral majority” backed Donald Trump for purely pragmatic reasons, Du Mez reveals that Donald Trump in fact represents the fulfillment, rather than the betrayal, of white evangelicals’ most deeply held values.

Jesus and John Wayne is a sweeping account of the last seventy-five years of white evangelicalism, showing how American evangelicals have worked for decades to replace the Jesus of the Gospels with an idol of rugged masculinity and Christian nationalism, or in the words of one modern chaplain, with “a spiritual badass.” As Du Mez explains, the key to understanding this transformation is to recognize the role of culture in modern American evangelicalism. Many of today’s evangelicals may not be theologically astute, but they know their VeggieTales, they’ve read John Eldredge’s Wild at Heart, and they learned about purity before they learned about sex—and they have a silver ring to prove it. Evangelical books, films, music, clothing, and merchandise shape the beliefs of millions. And evangelical popular culture is teeming with muscular heroes—mythical warriors and rugged soldiers, men like Oliver North, Ronald Reagan, Mel Gibson, and the Duck Dynasty clan, who assert white masculine power in defense of “Christian America.” Chief among these evangelical legends is John Wayne, an icon of a lost time when men were uncowed by political correctness, unafraid to tell it like it was, and did what needed to be done.

Trump, in other words, is hardly the first flashy celebrity to capture evangelicals’ hearts and minds, nor is he the first strongman to promise evangelicals protection and power. Indeed, the values and viewpoints at the heart of white evangelicalism today—patriarchy, authoritarian rule, aggressive foreign policy, fear of Islam, ambivalence toward #MeToo, and opposition to Black Lives Matter and the LGBTQ community—are likely to persist long after Trump leaves office.

A much-needed reexamination, Jesus and John Wayne explains why evangelicals have rallied behind the least-Christian president in American history and how they have transformed their faith in the process, with enduring consequences for all of us.

Bittersweet: How Sorrow and Longing Make Us Whole by Susan Cain

In her new masterpiece, the author of the bestselling phenomenon Quiet reveals the power of a bittersweet outlook on life, and why we’ve been so blind to its value.

With Quiet, Susan Cain urged our society to cultivate space for the undervalued, indispensable introverts among us, thereby revealing an untapped power hidden in plain sight. Now she employs the same mix of research, storytelling, and memoir to explore why we experience sorrow and longing, and the surprising lessons these states of mind teach us about creativity, compassion, leadership, spirituality, mortality, and love.

Bittersweetness is a tendency to states of longing, poignancy, and sorrow; an acute awareness of passing time; and a curiously piercing joy when beholding beauty. It recognizes that light and dark, birth and death—bitter and sweet—are forever paired. A song in a minor key, an elegiac poem, or even a touching television commercial all can bring us to this sublime, even holy, state of mind—and, ultimately, to greater kinship with our fellow humans.

But bittersweetness is not, as we tend to think, just a momentary feeling or event. It’s also a way of being, a storied heritage. Our artistic and spiritual traditions—amplified by recent scientific and management research—teach us its power.

Cain shows how a bittersweet state of mind is the quiet force that helps us transcend our personal and collective pain. If we don’t acknowledge our own sorrows and longings, she says, we can end up inflicting them on others via abuse, domination, or neglect. But if we realize that all humans know—or will know—loss and suffering, we can turn toward each other. And we can learn to transform our own pain into creativity, transcendence, and connection.

At a time of profound discord and personal anxiety, Bittersweet brings us together in deep and unexpected ways.


Everything Happens for a Reason and Other Lies I've Loved by Kate Bowler

Kate Bowler is a professor at Duke Divinity School with a modest Christian upbringing, but she specializes in the study of the prosperity gospel, a creed that sees fortune as a blessing from God and misfortune as a mark of God’s disapproval. At thirty-five, everything in her life seems to point toward “blessing.” She is thriving in her job, married to her high school sweetheart, and loves life with her newborn son.

Then she is diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer.

The prospect of her own mortality forces Kate to realize that she has been tacitly subscribing to the prosperity gospel, living with the conviction that she can control the shape of her life with “a surge of determination.” Even as this type of Christianity celebrates the American can-do spirit, it implies that if you “can’t do” and succumb to illness or misfortune, you are a failure. Kate is very sick, and no amount of positive thinking will shrink her tumors. What does it mean to die, she wonders, in a society that insists everything happens for a reason? Kate is stripped of this certainty only to discover that without it, life is hard but beautiful in a way it never has been before.

Frank and funny, dark and wise, Kate Bowler pulls the reader deeply into her life in an account she populates affectionately with a colorful, often hilarious retinue of friends, mega-church preachers, relatives, and doctors. Everything Happens for a Reason tells her story, offering up her irreverent, hard-won observations on dying and the ways it has taught her to live.

No Cure for Being Human (and Other Truths I Need to Hear) by Kate Bowler

The bestselling author of Everything Happens for a Reason (And Other Lies I’ve Loved) asks, how do you move forward with a life you didn’t choose?

It’s hard to give up on the feeling that the life you want is just out of reach. A beach body by summer. A trip to Disneyland around the corner. A promotion on the horizon. Everyone wants to believe that they are headed toward good, better, best. But what happens when the life you hoped for is put on hold indefinitely?

Kate Bowler believed that life was a series of unlimited choices, only to find that she was stuck in a cancerous body at age 35. In her instant New York Times bestselling book, No Cure for Being Human, Kate searches for a way forward as she mines the wisdom (and absurdity) of our modern “best life now” advice industry, which offers us exhausting positivity, trying to convince us that we can out-eat, out-learn and out-perform our humanness. With dry wit and unflinching honesty, she grapples with her cancer diagnosis, her ambition, and her faith and searches for some kind of peace with her limitations in a culture that says that anything is possible.

In facing down cancer, Kate, “a Christian Joan Didion” (Glennon Doyle), searches for hope without cheap optimism, and truth with room for mystery. We are as fragile as the day we were born, and we will need each other if we’re going to tell the truth: Life is beautiful and terrible, full of hope and despair and everything in between, but there’s no cure for being human.

A Burning in My Bones by Winn Collier

Bones: The Authorized Biography of Eugene H. Peterson, Translator of The Message

Encounter the multifaceted life of one of the most influential and creative pastors of the past half century with unforgettable stories of Eugene’s lifelong devotion to his craft and love of language, the influences and experiences that shaped his unquenchable faith, the inspiration for his decision to translate The Message, and his success and struggles as a pastor, husband, and father.

Author Winn Collier was given exclusive access to Eugene and his materials for the production of this landmark work. Drawing from his friendship and expansive view of Peterson’s life, Collier offers an intimate, beautiful, and earthy look into a remarkable life.

For Eugene, the gifts of life were inexhaustible: the glint of fading light over the lake; a kiss from his wife, Jan; a good joke; a bowl of butter pecan ice cream. As you enter into his story, you’ll find yourself doing the same—noticing how the most ordinary things shimmer with a new and unexpected beauty.


Abraham Joshua Heschel: A Life of Radical Amazement by Julian E. Zelizer

“Zelizer’s book is absolutely riveting, both as a study of a truly important figure within Jewish thought and in providing insight into the politics of the 1960s.”—Sandy Levinson, Balkinization

“When I marched in Selma, I felt my legs were praying.” So said Polish-born American rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907–1972) of his involvement in the 1965 Selma civil rights march alongside Martin Luther King Jr. Heschel, who spoke with a fiery moralistic fervor, dedicated his career to the struggle to improve the human condition through faith. In this new biography, author Julian Zelizer tracks Heschel’s early years and foundational influences—his childhood in Warsaw and early education in Hasidism, his studies in late 1920s and early 1930s Berlin, and the fortuitous opportunity, which brought him to the United States and saved him from the Holocaust, to teach at Hebrew Union College and the Jewish Theological Seminary. This deep and complex portrait places Heschel at the crucial intersection between religion and progressive politics in mid-twentieth-century America. To this day Heschel remains a symbol of the fight to make progressive Jewish values relevant in the secular world.



The Dig

The Dig begins in May 1939, as World War II ominously appeared on history’s horizon. Amateur excavator/archaeologist Basil Brown, was hired to dig up the huge mounds on Edith Pretty’s property in Suffolk, where he made a most incredible discovery. First, he came across the skeleton of an 88-foot ship dating to the Anglo-Saxon period. This was the first phase of what Sue Brunning, curator at the British Museum, has called “one of the most important archaeological discoveries of all time, certainly in British archeology but I would argue in the world.” The next phase was discovering the burial chamber within the ship, filled with a treasure trove of artifacts, made from gold and garnet: a stunning helmet, shoulder clasps, a golden belt buckle. Pretty donated the artifacts to the British Museum, where they sit to this day, known as the “Sutton Hoo find.” This fascinating story is the subject of Netflix’s new film “The Dig,” starring Ralph Fiennes and Carey Mulligan. It is a movie about moving forward in difficult times, thus insightful for our time. Now streaming on Netflix.

David Attenborough’s: A Life on Our Planet

David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet opens with Attenborough standing in the deserted remains of the Chernobyl nuclear plant, a once vibrant territory that was evacuated after human error rendered it uninhabitable. The documentary is what Attenborough calls “his witness statement” of the environment, tracing his more than 60-year career as a naturalist, mapping how steeply the planet’s biodiversity has degenerated before him. However, the documentary is far from a “doom and gloom” genre. Attenborough speaks of the opportunities to bring hope back into the ecological lexicon. Now streaming on Netflix.

“Framing Faith with the Stomach in Mind”

Framing Faith with the Stomach in Mind” is the Rutlen Lecture on Faith and Creation at Luther Seminary, given by Norman Wirzba, the Gilbert T. Rowe Distinguished Professor of Christian Theology and Senior Fellow at the Kenan Institute of Ethics at Duke University. His research and teaching involve the intersections of theology, philosophy, ecology, and agrarian and environmental studies. Raised on a farm in Southern Alberta, Norman went on to study history at the University of Lethbridge, theology at Yale University Divinity School, and philosophy at Loyola University Chicago. He has taught at Saint Thomas More College/University of Saskatchewan, Georgetown College (KY), and Duke University Divinity School. The lecture is creatively delivered and insightfully relevant, a worthy investment of one’s time. Find it on YouTube.

"Look and See: A Portrait of Wendell Berry"

Look and See

Wendell Berry is a philosopher, essayist, poet, novelist, farmer, environmental activist, and cultural critic. In the past 50 years, he has spoken out for family farmers, their land, and their small towns which have fallen into disrepair and been labelled by hotshot experts as “nowhere.” His lyrical and pensive essays reveal his deep loyalty to place and to the humble virtues of family and community. His most memorable poems show a reverence and respect for the natural world and the beauty of everyday life.

In this remarkably rich documentary, Laura Dunn and Jef Sewell convey the insights and truths Berry has shared with the world. His reluctance to be interviewed on camera has resulted in the use of clips and photos, talks and poetry readings, and conversations with Berry’s wife Tanya and daughter Mary, who serves as executive director of the Berry Center which advocates sustainable farming and land conservation. Now streaming on Netflix.


Jack's Garden by Henry Cole

“Building on a rhyme that will be familiar to many children, author-illustrator Cole creates an enticing guide to creating a garden. ‘This is the garden that Jack planted…’ The final illustration presents a satisfied-looking boy surrounded by a lush, bird-filled flower garden….A concluding page of gardening suggestions serves as a springboard to books with more specific guidelines.”–Horn Book. Find it on Amazon or at your favorite bookstore. Watch a reading of Jack’s Garden on YouTube.

I Took a Wak by Henry Cole

Have you ever sat quietly near a stream, or in a meadow or a wood, and just looked and listened? Well, now is your chance-come walk with Henry Cole in this delightful follow-up to Jack’s Garden. Vibrant, die-cut flaps fold out, inviting young viewers to observe the many forms of wildlife and plants found on land and in the water. Turn the pages for an interactive and fun exploration into nature. You’ll be surprised by how much you see! Find it on Amazon or at your favorite bookstore. Watch a reading of I Took a Walk on YouTube.

Our House Is on Fire: Greta Thunberg's Call to Save the Planet by Jeanette Winter

Our House Is On Fire

With charming artwork and straightforward language, this picture book, aimed at children aged 3 to 8, uses the inspiring life story of the young climate activist Greta Thunberg to help kids understand climate change — and to give them a sense of what they can do about it. By following Thunberg’s story — of a girl who at 15 decided she wasn’t going to be complacent about the crises she kept hearing about — young people can see how powerful an individual can be when they decide to act. Though it’s aimed at informing and motivating, the book, like Thunberg, is also about urgency. Her dramatic words guide the tone: “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic … I want you to act as if our house is on fire. Because it is.”

My Friend Earth written by Patricia MacLachlan and illustrated by Francesca Sanna

My Friend Earth

My Friend Earth is a wonderful, interactive book by the Newberry Award-winning author of Sarah, Plain and Small. Readers of all ages will pore over the pages of this spectacular book. Its enticing die-cut pages encourage exploration as its poetic text celebrates everything Earth does for us, all the while reminding us to be a good friend in return. The New York Times chronicled it with these words:  “An Interactive format and kid-friendly art will engage both toddlers and young readers. . . A celebration of the natural world and rallying cry for positive action for Planet Earth . . . Great opportunities to share life science concepts and amazing facts about the environment with children.


The Danger of a Single Story TED Talk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Quote from ChimamandaOne of the 25 most popular TED Talks of all time, Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie explains why we must never let a single story define a person or culture. Find the video here.

Funny in Farsi: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America by Firoozeh Dumas

Funny in Farsi book coverIn this hilarious, heartwarming memoir, Firoozeh Dumas shares the story of her immigrant family and how the experience of being Iranian in America has changed over the years. Find this book at your favorite bookstore or at Amazon.

Foreign to Familiar by Sarah A. Lanier

Foreign to Familiar book cover

This is a quick read to help people begin to understand cultural differences. Sarah Lanier’s framework of hot- and cold-climate cultures is a very useful overview, with plenty of stories to illustrate each issue. Find this book at your favorite bookstore or at Amazon.

Learn more geography

Want to improve your knowledge of geography? Suitable for both children and adults. Find the resources here.

Each of the following resources follows up on the theme introduced in the TED Talk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie that there is a danger to having a single story attached to any person, group, or region. They are focused on life in the land known by the names Israel and Palestine.

Habibi by Naomi Shihab Nye

Habibi, a young adult novel by acclaimed San Antonio author Naomi Shihab Nye, tells the story of a teenage girl from an Arab American family who experiences life and love in the West Bank. Find this book at your favorite bookstore or at Amazon.

Side By Side: Parallel Histories of Israel-Palestine edited by Sami Adwan, Dan Bar-On, Eyal Naveh, and Peace Research Institue in the Middle East

Side By Side: Parallel Histories of Israel-Palestine was edited by university professors hoping to teach Palestinian and Israeli students the history of their own land from “the other side.” Those of us watching from a distance probably have even more to learn. Find this book at your favorite bookstore or at Amazon.

The Lemon Tree by Sandy Tolan

In The Lemon Tree, journalist Sandy Tolan, chronicles the complicated friendship of Dalia, a young Jewish woman whose family fled Europe after the Holocaust, and Bashir, a 25-year-old Palestinian journalist, who longs to visit his childhood home, now owned by Dalia’s family. Find this book at your favorite bookstore or at Amazon.

Arab Labor, an Israeli TV sitcom

Arab Labor, a sitcom shown on Israeli TV, is an often hilarious, sometimes more serious look at an extended Palestinian family’s daily joys and struggles. Find the Season 1 DVDs at Amazon.

Diana has all the books and the first season of Arab Labor on DVD. (Seasons/episodes are also available to rent at