There is a memorable scene in the film adaptation of Nick Hornby's book High Fidelity in which the main character, played by John Cusack, is asked by a reporter to list his three favorite albums of all time. It pains him to answer. Over the next several days he calls the reporter incessantly, constantly updating his "top 3."
When Helen Gray, the religion editor for the Kansas City Star called me to ask for me to list three recommended "spiritual" books, I did not find the request nearly as agonizing. I was instructed that my suggestions should be "summer reading material" and not overly academic. I guess this was my "high fidelity" moment, especially understanding that the word "fidelity" means "faithfulness."
If you caught today's Kansas City Star faith section, you will see my picture there (in color!) as well as the three books I recommended:
Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lammott
Jamesland a novel by Michelle Huneven
Breakfast at the Victory: The Mysticism of Ordinary Experience by James P. Carse
Seven other religious leaders, including a Baptist pastor, a retired Catholic Bishop, an Imam, a Rabbi, and a religious studies professor, offered their suggestions. A few observations:
1) Only one other religious leader (Rabbi Jacques Cukierkorn) recommended a novel.
2) None of the 8 of us recommended a book of poetry.
3) By my count, only 7 of the 24 recommended books were written by women. The Baptist pastor and I each recommended 2 books by women.
4) 7 of the 24 titles seem to carry a strong social justice message. If I were a little bit more like the character played by John Cusack in High Fidelity, I might have called the editor and changed my list.
5) I really NEED a new picture of myself. I am still using a photo of me that was taken during my first year in Kansas City, 5 years ago.
In case you were wondering, here are some other books I considered recommending:
Love & Death: My Journey Through the Shadow by Forrest Church
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell
Here If You Need Me by Kate Braestrup
Practical Gods by Carl Dennis
Waking Up the Karma Fairy by Meg Barnhouse
Instructions in Joy by Nancy Shaffer
A Generous Orthodoxy by Brian McClaren