What should I be reading?

A question for my readers, but first a confession. I am a painfully slow reader. Books anyway. I retain what read I very well, but only because I read at snail’s pace. So I’m declaring an amnesty for myself for all half-read books by my bed and desk and want to start fresh.

So readers, what five significant, useful and inspiring works ought I to read? And be warned, I’ve never been very warm to fiction.

Please comment.

By Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 46, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.


  1. “Three cups of Tea” if you haven’t read it. Non-fiction, inspirational, topical. Significance? Significance is almost always as much projected as not. Significant to whom?

  2. @ogre. Thanks. Someone else also mentioned that one, so I’ll see if the library has it. And to answer your question: significant to me, presumably. My interests are a matter of record.

  3. Books I’ve read recently that I found interesting include:

    – ‘Velvet Elvis’ by Rob Bell

    – ‘Suicide of the West’ by Richard Koch and Chris Smith

    – ‘The Quakers: A Very Short Introduction’ by Pink Dandelion

    – ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’ by Mark Haddon (fiction, but an interesting snapshot of special educational needs / autistic spectrum disorder)

    I’m currently trying to read ‘Judaism: A Very Short Introduction’ by Norman Solomon but it might get replaced by ‘Soul Cravings’ by Erwin Raphael McManus. Books from the Very Short Introduction series are generally very interesting though and I would recommend them to anyone who enjoys non-fiction / knowledge-gathering type reading.

  4. Just now, I’m enjoying:
    Restless Souls: The Making of American Spirituality from Emerson to Oprah.

    Of late, I’ve enjoyed:
    The Cellist of Sarajevo
    Songs for the Missing
    Mr. Pip
    —all novels, but still I think worth a look.

  5. I’m quite a slow reader as well, and as a student, I struggle with that at times. I’m very aware that the usefulness of my reading declines precipitously as I try to increase my reading speed. I suspect that my 20 years as a computer geek have greatly reinforced my slow reading habit — there’s no point Reading The Fine Manual if one is not going to do it carefully enough to retain the information one needs. Maybe you too?

  6. I read like lightning and retain NOTHING, so I’m envious of your slower pace and amazing retention. I echo the endorsement for Mountains Beyond Mountains by Paul Farmer. I also wish you’d read the latest on heaven by N.T. Wright. I think it’s called Reason For Hope. I’ve picked through it and find it utterly baffling because my own views about the afterlife are so totally unformed and basically rationalist, more’s the pity.

  7. Phylis Tickle’s The Great Emergence

    Jeff Gordinier’s X Saves the World: How Generation X Got the Shaft but Can Still Keep Everything from Sucking

  8. I second Hank, at least as far as Phyllis Tickle’s The Great Emergence is concerned. It’s one of the best religion books I have ever read in terms of the religion/culture/society/21st century connections, and I don’t think I’m saying that just because I think she’s an amazing person.

  9. Goodness — if both of you think it’s that important, I’ll add it to the list. (And X Saves the World keeps coming up in my Amazon suggested list.)

    But these days, all new books have to come from the library.

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