Kevin in a previous comment had asked me for a list of books I’ve read that have influenced my desire to come into Orthodoxy. I certainly didn’t mean to be shy, actually it just seemed like a big task. But, I have completed the reading list for the books that have most influenced me regarding Orthodoxy over the last 2 years. I left off The Abolition of Man, Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer, and Mere Christianity, although they contributed as well.
I put these books pretty close to the order in which I read them. I also have read countless articles on the internet as well, so it is hard to quantify just how many other things I have read, but it probably easily doubles what is presented here. I may find time to collect some of the best of these websites later. I’ve included URLs to summaries of the books, since they will cover subject matter better than I in my comments. My comments are a mere capsule of what I thought. Note that Amazon reader comments can be helpful too.
I know I have left out a few books, but I couldn’t remember them.
Mathews-Green, Frederica. At the Corner of East and Now: A Modern Life in Ancient Christian Orthodoxy. New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher, 1999.
Comment: I found this book very enjoyable, and it introduced me to what life in Orthodoxy is/could be like. My library had it.
Ware, Timothy (Bishop Kallistos). The Orthodox Church, 2nd ed. Penguin Books, 1993.
Comment: This is really where I started learning about the Orthodox Church, and I highly recommend it. Fr. S. probably has it, my library had it.
Mathews-Green, Frederica. Facing East: A Pilgrim’s Journey into the Mysteries of Orthodoxy. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1997.
Comment: After reading the former book, and though a bit of other study, I became convince that it was highly likely that many if not all of the claims of the Orthodox Church were true, and began to realize that I agree with most of her theology already. As I read the preface to this book, I burst into tears at the pure truth of what Frederica was saying, and starting at this point was the strong conviction that Orthodoxy was incredibly desireable to me. My library had it.
Gillquist, Peter E. Becoming Orthodox: A Journey to the Ancient Christian Faith. Conciliar Press, 2002.
Comment: An interesting read about a former Campus Crusade leader and his and 2,500 other Christians quest for the early church which led them all into the Antiochian Orthodox Church. Not incredibly deep arguements here, but a decent, quick read. Also obtained via the library system.
Markides, Kyriacos C. The Mountain of Silence : A Search for Orthodox Spirituality. Image Books, 2002.
Comment: This book is simply awesome. I want a spiritual father like Fr. Maximos!
Ware, Kallistos. The Orthodox Way. New York: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1995.
Comment: An excellent book that begins to get more into theology and experience of the Orthodox Church. Did you know that this was the book the Fr. S. and I used for the catechism in our confirmation class last spring? He probably still has some. I imagine that +Rob would not have approved.
Nouwen, Henry J. M. The Way of the Heart : Desert Spirituality and Contemporary Ministry. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1991.
Comment: Nice readings from the Desert Fathers. I love this stuff. I love the idea of being in their same tradition.
French, R. M. (Translator). The Way of a Pilgrim: And the Pilgrim Continues His Way. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1991.
Comment: A classic from Russia. This little book has taught me a great deal about prayer, and will continue to do so. I highly recommend it, no matter what your christian background, even if you become uninterested with the other books on this list.
Schaeffer, Frank. Dancing Alone: The Quest for Orthodox Faith in the Age of False Religion. Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 1994.
Comment: I didn’t read all of this one. Frank is the son of the famous evangelist Francis Schaeffer, and is an Orthodox Convert. But although he is certain he has found the truth, he seems angry. Interesting and great in places, but he can also be somewhat polemic. One comment here – he is the ONLY convert I have read, and I have read many now, who sounded this way. Still worth reading some of this one.
Mathews-Green, Frederica. The Illumined Heart: The Ancient Christian Path of Transformation. Boston: Paraclete Press, 2001.
Comment: I liked it, although it was not nearly so deep as most of the others on this list. FMG uses a fictional family in the early church and follows them throughout some of their experiences with the church. This may or may not work for you as a concept.
Behr-Sigel, Elisabeth. The Place of the Heart: An Introduction to Orthodox Spirituality. Oakwood Publications, 1992.
Comment: A good book, although a bit academic. I borrowed it from Fr. S. It includes at the end a great little essay on prayer by Bishop Kallistos Ware, The Way of the Heart. This was particularly good.
Mathews-Green, Frederica. The Open Door: Entering the Sanctuary of Icons and Prayer. Boston: Paraclete Press, 2003.
Comment: A great introduction to icons. I had a very interesting experience while reading this one – I was sitting in a ‘huddle’ room at work reading over lunch (1st chapter) and an intense smell of incense came over me – I got up went smelling around the room, and couldn’t explain it. I sat and continued to read, becoming more and more spiritually effected, and eventually the words in the book and the incense had me in tears. This continued for about 20 minutes, and then I went back to work. I couldn’t help myself and went back about 15 minutes later, and it was just and ordinary, stale smelling room. I sat and thanked God for the experience. I can’t claim to understand it fully, but it weas quite a blessing.
I’ve read bits of the following, but they are too meaty to read more than a little bit and then reflect upon them:
Myendorff, John. Living Tradition: Orthodox Witness in the Contemporary World. New York: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1997.
Comment: A collection of essays from Fr. Meyendorf of St. Vlad’s Seminary, and very academically dense in writing style in places. The book is very good. I borrowed it from Fr. S, and have yet to return it, I have another 2 essays to finish.
Palmer, G. H. E; Sherrard, Philip; Ware, Kallistos (Translators) The Philokalia, Volume 1 : The Complete Text; Compiled by St. Nikodimos of the Holy Mountain & St. Markarios of Corinth (Philokalia Vol. I). Faber & Faber, 1983.
Summary (from Amazon):
The Philokalia is a collection of texts written between the fourth and the fifteenth centuries by spiritual masters of the Orthodox Christian tradition. First published in Greek in 1782, then translated into Slavonic and later into Russian, The Philokalia has exercised an influence in the recent history of the Orthodox Church far greater than that of any book apart from the Bible. It is concerned with themes of universal importance: how man may develop his inner powers and awake from illusion; how he may overcome fragmentation and achieve spiritual wholeness; how he may attain the life of contemplative stillness and union with God.
Comment: Wow. Amazing stuff!
Books still want to read, and other inquirers have found helpful:
Gallatin, Matthew. Thirsting For God in a Land of Shallow Wells Conciliar Press, 2002.
Schmemann, Alexander. For the Life of the World: Sacraments and Orthodoxy, 2nd ed. New York: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1997.