A Little Embarrassed…

It’s no secret, I love to read.  One of my goals for 2019 is to read sixty books.  I’ve read thirty-seven, so far.  I’ll reach my goal if I read at least one book per week for the remained of the year.  I may need to pick up some comic books!

It’s also not a secret that I enjoy quoting my favorite authors in my preaching, teaching and writing.  The right quote, in the right place, adds texture, credibility, and depth.

For the last several years – after being challenged at a Pastor’s conference, by a Korean-American, female pastor – I’ve intentionally broadened my reading to include more female authors, as well as authors of different cultural experiences, ethnicities, and nationalities.  Doing so has broadened my perspectives, deepened my appreciation for others, and added much-needed texture to my spirituality, theology, and political leanings.

To be entirely honest, as a white man, I’ve mostly read white men.  I never chose white male authors intentionally.  They were the authors I was exposed to in school, or were recommended by friends, or were more prominent on the bookstore shelves.  While many of those white men are brilliant, inspired, and gifted writers, only reading people like me – white, male, university-educated – is undeniably narrow.  There’s a wealth of knowledge, perspective, wisdom, and insight to be gained from authors who are NOT like me.

But, after a recent sermon, a member of my congregation kindly commented, “There sure were an awful lot of white men quoted in your last sermon.”  It’s true.  There were.  And, I already knew it.

A number of years ago, I met a pastor who kept the most recent books he’d read on his desk, so that he could reference them as he prepared his sermons.  I liked the idea, so I did the same.  Thus, as I write a sermon, I’m most likely to draw from literature I have consumed in the last six months, or so.

As I wrote that particular sermon, I realized my recent reading hasn’t included many women.  In fact, I had to confess, it hasn’t included many non-white-men, either, for almost six months!

I’m embarrassed.  I’d been so intentional, previously, in the authors I chose to read.  But, I’ve been sloppy in my selections, recently, and white men have taken over my bookshelves, again.

As I look over the list of thirty-seven books I’ve read this year, six were authored by women, and a seventh was co-authored by a woman and a man.  One of those women is Chinese-American.  One of the male authors is Vietnamese and Buddhist, another is African-American.  Other wise, they’re all white, American or European, men.

If you would like to see the list, you can find it here.

Now that I’m aware of this unfortunate white-male-bias on my bookshelf, thanks to a gentle nudge, I intend to shift the remainder of my reading, for the remainder of 2019, toward authors who are women and/or authors of color.

I’m currently reading…

  • Brandon Sanderson’s Legion: The Many Lives of Stephen Leeds (White male)
  • Bernard of Clairvaux’s The Love of God (White Male)
  • Joan Chittester’s The Time is Now (White Female)

I’ll soon be reading…

  • John Kotter’s A Sense of Urgency (White Male – I just assigned it to my staff)
  • Georgia Harkness’ Mysticism (White Female)
  • Pope Francis’ Praise be to You (Latin American Male)
  • Laura Hartman’s The Christian Consumer (White Female)
  • Lyndsay Moseley’s Holy Ground (White Female)
  • Angela Duckworth’s Grit (White Female)
  • Alice Walker’s Anything We Love Can be Saved (African American Female)
  • The Dalai Lama’s Stages of Meditation (Tibetan, Buddhist Male)
  • Sue Monk Kidd’s The Invention of Wings (White Female)
  • Mari Messer’s Pencil Drawing (White Female)
  • Thomas Colchie’s A Hammock Beneath the Mangoes: Stories from Latin America (a collection of Latin American authors)

Even as I read this intentionally diversified selection of books and authors, I recognize how anglo-centric it is.  I’ll work on that.

I’m curious what you’re reading, and if there are authors you’d recommend to diversify my reading list.  Whatever you’re reading, I encourage you to diversify your reading list, as well.

10 thoughts on “A Little Embarrassed…

  1. I’ve almost finished reading Cutting for Stone, about Siamese twins who were separated AR birth after their father (as it turned out), a doctor, delivered them, and their mother(as it turned out) was a young nun and skilled surgical asst in his hospital. Ethiopia during revolutionary times, is the setting, and it covers at least 20+years of the twins lives. That’s all I choose to reveal, except to add there’s a lot of detailed surgery and medical descriptions in it!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. How can you read 3 books at one time? Doesn’t it interrupt your concentration on the subject? I usually read one at a time. I once somehow ended up with two at once and it was nutty. I finally stopped one because it lost out on my interest.


    1. I actually read more than that, usually. I didn’t mention two I’m reading for class, or the Bible, of course. I’m always reading something spiritual, a novel, something about leadership, and usually something very random (I just finished one on architecture). I find that reading a variety of topics and authors simultaneously feels like a conversation. I enjoy that.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hey Vance! I’ve been trying to diversify my reading this year as well. A few favorites (not all are theological, but help perspective nonetheless):

    Educated, Tara Westover
    Everything’s Trash But It’s Ok, Phoebe Robinson
    Holy Envy, Barbara Brown Taylor (She spoke at Duke’s Pastor’s School last year and I LOVED it)
    Braving the Wilderness, Brene Brown
    The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas

    I’d highly recommend each of these! And I always love hearing about what you’re reading. Thanks for sharing with humility, Vance. Many pastors wouldn’t even acknowledge this, let alone try to grow. So grateful for you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Two others I read last year but also HIGHLY recommend:

      Everything Happens for a Reason, and Other Lies I’ve Loved; Kate Bowler
      Liturgy of the Ordinary; Tish Harrison Warren

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Pastor Vance!

    I’m glad to see your reading lists again. I will see what my next book will be from your list. For now I am reading 3 books by Toni Morrison: Beloved; A Mercy; and Song of Solomon and Voyager (Outlander Series) by Diana Gabaldon. Last month I finished Max Lucado’s Anxious for Nothing and Brad Meltzer’s The First Conspiracy: The Secret Plot to Kill George Washington. So, men and women authors although I don’t really choose my books by male/female or ethnicity. My goal was to read 33 books this year and only completed 13 so far. I don’t think I will hit my goal.

    Liked by 1 person

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