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  • Writer's pictureRichard A. Jones

Dead Authors and Favorite Books

As much as I dislike seeing the term notification on my phone or email, In some sense that is what the first part of this post is. I have decided to re-name this section of A Whispered Hope. Instead of Reflexions of Faith, It will now be titled Footprints of a traveler. It will still be about my journey of faith, but I hope that the title will be a little more accurate description of the process.

The title comes from ideas expressed in two quotes from a couple of my favorite authors. The first is from philosopher and Christian apologist, G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936), The tourist sees what he has come to see, the traveler sees what he sees. My desire is to be a traveler, not a tourist. I want to attempt to lay aside as much bias and borrowed information as possible and simply see what I see as I experience life and faith.

The second quote comes from Eugene Peterson’s (1932-2018) book,  A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, A monument says, ‘at least I got this far.’ A footprint says, ‘This is where I was when I moved on.’ My intent is not to defend or take a stand on what are considered “monuments,” of orthodoxy and sound doctrine, but rather to embrace human fallibility and realize that nothing I think or say is a final conclusion.

As Scripture says, and as I have expressed in my post titled When the Manna Stops and the Serpent Dies, human knowledge is both incomplete and poorly known, and therefore final conclusions are not part of the human domain.

There will always be some overlap and repetition because some threads of thought run through many areas of my life. I also at times tend to review, which is probably more for my benefit than yours. Although these vignettes of my journey are in print, I have left them with some of the nuances of the spoken word. I hope this will not be a distraction.

As with my ideas I have already posted in this section, as well as the ones to come, my hope is to simply share a few “footprints” of my thought as I have navigated life. And so, to all who enter these pages, I say to you what I use to say to my congregation. “I preach to myself. If you show up, you deserve whatever you get. So, enter at your own risk."

Someone may wonder why most of my favorite authors are dead. It may be partly because of something that C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) said: “It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones....Old books help correct the blind spots we modern people don’t realize we have."

I probably have reversed this process. I usually read three old books for every one new book. In fact, several years ago, I loaded up about 80% of my library, took the books to church, and told people to take whatever they wanted. I mainly kept books that seemed, to me, to be timeless: They weren't trendy, bound to current cultural norms, or running after the desire to be popular.

To expand on this, I am listing some of my favorite books and authors. Many of these have been influential to my journey of faith. Three of the fourteen authors are still living. Several years ago, I had the privilege of visiting Wendell Berry and his wife, Tonya, at their home at, Lanes Landing Farm, on the Kentucky river in Henri County Kentucky.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963): The Chronicles of Narnia, God in the Dock (Essays on Theology and Ethics), Surprised by Joy, Mere Christianity, (Also a few biographies about Lewis)

J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973): The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings Trilogy

George MacDonald (1824-1905): Sir Gibbie, Unspoken Sermons, Diary of an Old Soul, Lilith, Annals of a Quiet Neighborhood, The Seaboard Parish, The Vicar’s Daughter

G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936): The Everlasting Man

Wendell Berry (1934- ) : Hannah Coulter, Fidelity, The Gift of Good Land, The Unsettling of America

Annie Dillard (1945- ): Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, The Writing Life, For the Time Being, Teaching a Stone to Talk

Virginia Stem Owens (1941- ): And the Trees Clap Their Hands (Faith, Perception, and the New Physics)

Henri Nouwen (1932-1996):  In the Name of Jesus, Gracias, The Road to Daybreak

Eugene Peterson (1932-2018): A Long Obedience, Working the Angles

Phillip Mauro (1859-1952): The Gospel of the Kingdom, Things Which Soon Must Come to Pass

Madeleine L'Engle (1918-2007): A Wrinkle in Time, A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet

Wallace Stagner (1909-1993): Angle of Repose

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963): Brave New World

Mark Twain: (1835-1910) The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Prince and the Pauper, Life on the Mississippi

Note: British author C.S. Lewis, 35th U.S. president John Kennedy, and English writer and philosopher Aldous Huxley all died on the same day: November 22, 1963.

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