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Rev. Abhi Janamanchi's Summer Reading List

July 2, 2019
  • Rev. Abhi Janamanchi

In this month’s column, I resurrect a custom from the early years of my ministry - providing an annotated list of books for summer reading. The following is a list of books I intend to read this summer as well as ones that I have been reading during the year that deserve special mention. Some of these books may end up serving as grist for the sermon mill while others are for one's reading pleasure.

The Cause: The Fight for American Liberalism from Franklin Roosevelt to Barack Obama

Eric Alterman & Kevin Mattson

Bestselling author, journalist, and historian Eric Alterman, together with historian Kevin Mattson, traces the history of liberal ideals through the lives and struggles of fascinating personalities. The Cause offers an epic saga driven by stories of grand aspirations, principled ambitions, tragic flaws, and the ironies of history of the people who fought for America to live up to the highest ideals of its history.

Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life

Karen Armstrong

Armstrong has written an impassioned and practical book that can help us make the world a more compassionate place. She believes that while compassion is intrinsic in all human beings, each of us needs to work diligently to cultivate and expand our capacity for compassion. In this thoughtful and thought-provoking book, she sets out a program that can lead us toward a more compassionate life.

How to Love a Country

Richard Blanco

Richard Blanco is one of the most beloved and influential poets writing today. As a historic presidential inaugural poet , public speaker, teacher, memoirist, and 2019 Ware Lecturer, Blanco invites audiences to reconnect to the heart of the human experience and all of its beautiful diversity. Through the power of his words and presence, he captures the human spirit and condition, in all of its complexities, opening up our hearts and minds, and encouraging us to see beyond our differences to share in the universal experience of our humanity.

A Queer History of the United States

Michael Bronski

A Queer History of the United States describes ways in which LGBTQ people have influenced the evolution of the United States, and how the culture of the US has affected them. The book demonstrates how LGBTQ people have long been vital to shaping our understanding of what the United States is today.

The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are

Brené Brown

In this groundbreaking book, Dr. Brené Brown bolsters the self-esteem and personal development process through her characteristic heartfelt, honest storytelling. With original research and plenty of encouragement, she explores the psychology of releasing our definitions of an “imperfect” life and embracing living authentically. Brown’s “ten guideposts” are benchmarks for authenticity that can help anyone establish a practice for a life of honest beauty—a perfectly imperfect life. Brown is also the author of The Gifts, Daring Greatly, Rising Strong, Dare to Lead, and Braving the Wilderness.

The Cathedral of the World: A Universalist Theology

Forrest Church

Forrest Church was one of the preeminent liberal theologians of our time. His final gift, The Cathedral of the World, draws from the entire span of Church’s life’s work to leave behind a clear statement of his Universalist theology and liberal faith. Giving new voice to the power of liberal religion, Church invites all seekers to enter the Cathedral of the World, "home to many windows but only one Light."

White Fragility

Robin DiAngelo

DiAngelo is an American academic, lecturer, and author working in the fields of critical discourse analysis and antiracism. Her book, White Fragility, has been a bestseller in the US and provoked an uncomfortable conversation about racism and white privilege. She illuminates the phenomenon of white fragility in her book by examining how white fragility develops, how it protects racial inequality, and what we can do to engage more constructively.

21 Lessons for the 21st Century

Yuval Noah Harari

Why is liberal democracy in crisis? Is a new world war coming? What does the rise of Donald Trump signify? What can we do about the epidemic of fake news? Can nationalism solve the problems of inequality and climate change? What should we do about terrorism? What should we teach our kids? Yuval Noah Harari, author of Sapiens and Homo Deus, confronts some of the most urgent questions on today’s global agenda in his latest book.

After the Good News: Progressive Faith Beyond Optimism

Nancy McDonald Ladd

In this engaging book, my colleague the Rev. Nancy McDonald Ladd challenges religious progressives to see how the religious life is not characterized by optimism, hope, and human progress “onward and upward forever,” but by struggle, crisis-management, and pain. She calls us out to greater authenticity and truth-telling with humor and honesty, and invites us to become more open, vulnerable, and accountable in our relationships by reclaiming rituals of lament, confession, and atonement.

This Land is Our Land

Suketu Mehta

In This Land Is Our Land, academic and author Suketu Mehta takes on the issue of immigration head-on. Drawing on his own experience as an Indian-born teenager growing up in New York City and on years of reporting around the world, Mehta subjects the worldwide anti-immigrant backlash to withering scrutiny. As he explains, the West is being destroyed not by immigrants but by the fear of immigrants. He juxtaposes the phony narratives of populist ideologues with the ordinary heroism of laborers, nannies, and others, from Dubai to Queens, and explains why more people are on the move today than ever before. Mehta also stresses the destructive legacies of colonialism and global inequality on large swaths of the world. Impassioned, rigorous, and provocative, This Land Is Our Land is a timely and necessary intervention, and a “literary polemic of the highest order.”

Justice on Earth: People of Faith Working at the Intersections of Race, Class, and the Environment

Manish Mishra-Marzetti & Jennifer Nordstrom, editors

An anthology of fourteen powerful essays by ministers and lay leaders who provide a keen analysis of the climate emergency, revealing ways that capitalism, colonialism, patriarchy, white supremacy, and other systems of oppression intersect with and contribute to ecological devastation. Each essay is accompanied by suggested ways to deepen our awareness and take action.

Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation

Eboo Patel

Acts of Faith is a remarkable reflection about what it means to be a Muslim in the United States and about coming to understand and appreciate religious pluralism. It is a moving testament to the power and passion of young people, and to the notion that we find fulfillment of our identities in the work we do in the world.

I will be working and on study leave during the month of July and on vacation in August.

Wishing you all a relaxing and rejuvenating summer.

In faith and love,

Abhi