Faculty & Staff Summer Reading Ideas: Schrum Edition

By Steven Schrum

  • Kenda Creasy Dean, Almost Christian.  I heard a pastor mention this book in a sermon a few years ago and wanted to read it for myself.  Dean asks why so many young people lose their faith after high school.  The problem, she argues, is that many young people who identify as Christians actually hold beliefs which are closer to deism than orthodox Christianity.  These “Christianish” believers have a shallow faith that values niceness rather than holiness.  Dean concludes that if we want young people to keep their faith, churches and parents need to teach orthodox Christian theology rather than hollow niceness.
  • Hillary Mantel, Wolf Hall.  This has fast become one of my favorite novels.  Mantel tells the story of Henry VIII’s marriage troubles from the perspective of Thomas Cromwell.  Today Cromwell is best remembered as one of Henry’s cronies, persecuting Thomas More in A Man for All Seasons.  Mantel’s Cromwell though is a much more sympathetic figure, a pragmatic politician, but also a sincere Protestant.  Mantel’s work has won numerous awards and been adapted for both stage and screen.  Just before the pandemic I was able to catch a production of Bringing up the Bodies, the sequel to Wolf Hall, in Fort Worth.  Mantel’s novel is not only entertaining, but extensively researched.  Several college professors now use it in their English history classes because of Mantel’s portrayal of Henry’s court.  I would, however, not recommend the novel for our students because some of the content is mature.
  • Giles Milton, Nathaniel’s Nutmeg.  I have spent a lot of time researching the English and Dutch East India companies in the seventeenth century and so was drawn to this book.  In this popular history, Milton tells the story of the fight between the English and the Dutch for control over Indonesia’s Spice Islands.  In the seventeenth century these islands were the only source of nutmeg and cloves, both of which were worth their weight in gold.  Milton’s book is a real page turner and contains a little bit of everything – explorers, pirates, politics, economic history.  
  • Mary Beard, SPQR.  Most of the works I read in my discipline focus on Europe after the fall of Rome, but I wanted to brush up on the Roman Republic.  Beard is a professor at Cambridge University and has produced several documentaries on ancient Rome for British television.  Her book tells the story of Rome from its founding until the end of the Pax Romana.  Early Roman history is particularly problematic because it is hard to separate fact from fiction.  Beard, however, does an excellent job of both extracting facts from Roman legends and explaining why the Romans told them in the first place.
  •  Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile, The Road Back to You.  Although we just wrapped up our Cambridge praxis series on the enneagram, my small group at church has begun reading Cron’s and Stabile’s book on the enneagram.  Stabile, along with her husband a Methodist pastor, is the founder of Life in the Trinity Ministry, which is based here in Dallas.  My church had planned to have them speak to us this spring, but like so many events it was cancelled due to the pandemic.  If you missed out on praxis or want a quick refresher, The Road Back to You is a very accessible introduction to the enneagram.  Stabile’s other book on the enneagram and relationships, The Path Between Us is also a great resource if you find yourself wanting more.