17.5.11

Books for Pastors - List 2: Essential Fiction

Make sure you read the first post in this series for disclaimers and explanations and links to the full series.




Yes, you read that title correctly. I think there are some important works of fiction that pastors ought to read, and here are my top 5. 


1. "Les Miserables" by Victor Hugo. The classic tension between law and grace is depicted nowhere so well as in this work. Hugo's insight into the human condition, the compassion he arouses within the reader, and his depiction of the utter destitution of our world without God are all unmatched in literature. 

2. "The Brother's Karamazov" by Fyodor Dostoevsky. Anything by Dostoevsky is worth reading, and this book is, perhaps, his best. The exposition of the problem of evil/pain/suffering offered by Ivan within these pages has yet to be matched in my opinion; the new atheists could learn a thing or two here, and all pastors ought to consider the force of the arguments and objections offered in these pages.

3. "Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlifes" by David Eagleman. This is a book of 40 short stories. In each one, Eagleman has some kind of strange and new idea about what the afterlife is; the rest of the short story works out the logical consequences. We live in a world with an extremely impoverished vision of the afterlife. Most individuals do everything they can to avoid thinking about death at all. Meanwhile, we read a book of scripture which was written in a context of rich, imaginative, and terrible visions of the afterlife. That alone makes Eagleman's book worth reading. There is more imagination, hopelessness, and bitter irony than you will likely find anywhere else in thinking about the afterlife. It will help pastors appreciate what we hope for, and understand the need to speak well about the eternal life Jesus offers us. 

4. "Life After God" by Douglas Coupland. We live in a post-Christian west and it is high time for many pastors to get a glimpse of what that culture, and that life, can look like. Coupland offers just such a view, brilliantly written as usual. 

5. Something by Charles Williams. No, I didn't forget the quotation marks. I don't think he has a book called 'something.' It is just that I have only begun to read his works, so I am not confident which one to recommend to you. They are very enjoyable, and he is a favorite author of several people I deeply respect (such as Dr. J.I. Packer and my friend Jeremy). 


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