In the Middle Ages, crafting a book could take years. Scribes and book owners would write dramatic curses threatening thieves with pain and suffering if they were to steal or damage these treasures.
For readers looking for a stimulating and remarkably timely work of fiction, I recommend Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Told from the perspective of two Nigerians, Ifemelu (if eh MEH loo) and Obinze (oh BIN zeh), Adichie takes her readers on an exploration of US and UK culture—with a particular focus on racism, classism, and immigration—that is at once entertaining and insightfully instructive. As a black immigrant, I find particularly illuminating her depictions of intra-racial interactions between American and non-American blacks. At the same time, Americanah is a love story, one that invites you to travel along on its characters’ Odyssean journey in search of home. – Professor Margaret Aymer
Read about regular subway commuters telling a newcomer “not to sit in that seat” because “that’s where the lady who prays sits.” United Methodist Worship Professor Mark Stamm recounts this and other intercessory prayer stories and reflections in his practical, historical, theological, and congregational-focused book Devoting Ourselves to the Prayers: A Baptismal Theology for the Church’s Intercessory Work. I participate in too many worship services where the prayers of intercession are omitted, truncated, or careless. This book is a means to recover the congregational-vocational ministry of the prayers of intercession. – Professor Jennifer L. Lord
Christianity and Liberalism by J. Gresham Machen. It was helpful for my understanding of the Presbyterian controversies in the early 20th century. For some reason, we didn't cover those in our coursework. Also, Machen wrote our NT introductory Greek grammar. Wanted to know more about him. Very illuminating. – Christopher Donald Drew (MDiv’07)
Sinners Welcome by Mary Karr. Mary Karr is not for the faint of heart. Best known for her gut-wrenching memoirs of her east Texas childhood and adolescence (Liar’s Club and Cherry), Karr is also—and I would argue, first and foremost—a poet. The title is taken from a sign posted on the marquee of a small Catholic Church where Karr worships. A mid-life convert to Roman Catholicism, Karr says that she saw the sign and knew this was the place for her. The story of her journey to faith would make the saints quail—and this slender volume of poems tells that story without shrinking or flinching or covering up, all the while seeing in the grit and grime the tracings of a persistent grace. “Coat Hanger Bent Into Halo” reflects on the coat hanger in her mother’s closet that Karr fantasizes might have been used to abort her and that she prays she might “twist from this black wire/ a halo for my son’s head.” And occasionally, as she does in “Descending Theology: The Resurrection,” she meditates on the sacred stories with an insight that is nothing short of stunning. Don’t read these poems if your idea of theological poetry is the sentiment of a Hallmark Christmas card. On the other hand, if you’re the sort attracted by the edges of ancient maps where the end of the known world was marked by the warning, “Here there be dragons,” this may be just the book for you. – Professor Paul Hooker
Prodigal God by Rev Tim Keller. His use of seeing how Jesus identified legalism on one side and antinomianism on the other provided a great way to hear the Gospel so clearly offered in the parable of the Lost Son. This for lost sons, daughters, dads, and moms. – Ernest L Gardner III (MDiv’00)
Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of Your Fist by Suni Yapa. I picked up this book having heard it might be "definitive of the Millennial generation’s experience.” The story is about protest during the Seattle meeting of the World Trade Organization and it opens up in complicated, moving, beautiful ways. As crazy as this sounds, it definitely felt like it was not written by a Baby Boomer—in a good way. Different, well-written, and an all-around good read with a twist of provocation. —Professor Melissa Wigington
Just finished reading all of Irvin D. Yalom's books. The two that stand out are: The Schopenhauer Cure and When Nietzsche Wept. Yalom’s introspective and intellectually stimulating tales are birthed out of his life-long interest in existentialism and his work as one of the world’s leading psychotherapists. He synthesizes these two schools of thought in a way that leaves readers with a renewed appreciation for both the tragic and life affirming aspects of human existence. The strength of Yalom’s literary style is his ability to be both deeply introspective and academically rigorous. This reader put down Yalom’s books with renewed appreciation for the never-ending pursuit of self awareness and meaning. Through his diverse characters, Yalom demonstrates a model for how to live an artful life of self-affirmation. This act is no doubt worthy of imitation today. I highly recommend all of his books, including, but not limited to: Mamma and the Meaning of Life / Love’s Executioner / The Gift of Therapy / Every Day Gets a Little Closer. – Chad A. Lawson (MDiv’15)
Feeling overwhelmed by the news? A Guide to the Good Life by William B. Irvine shows how psychological techniques used by the ancient Stoics can help us all distinguish between what is within our control and what we is not. All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr is lyrical novel about blindness, war, survival, and radio. – Professor Timothy Lincoln
Carol Howard Merritt's Healing Spiritual Wounds - not only a book by an alum, but also a gentle examination of the ways people have been and are hurt by the church, and questions that allow us to examine those wounds in ourselves, and with others. Good for people encountering wounded people, and for those who have been wounded themselves. – Megan Dosher Hansen (MDiv’09)
The Divine Dance by Richard Rohr. Beautiful book on Trinity. – Paul Burns (MDiv’07)
After preaching a sermon recently titled "A Time to Laugh" (the text was the episode in Genesis in which Sarah laughs at the news that she will give birth in her old age), a congregant gave me a book titled Between Heaven and Mirth: Why Joy, Humor, and Laughter Are at the Heart of the Spiritual Life by James Martin, SJ. It's a delightful book which should be required reading for seminarians, pastors, and everyone who thinks joy is what the Christian life is all about. – San Williams (DMin’03)
Homer, The Iliad. c. 800 BCE. For those of you who read Greek, this is probably the most fun Greek to read that emerged from the ancient world. On the surface, the story seems to be a celebration of the heroic people and moments of the Trojan War. But it is not. It is a powerful and compelling lament on the stupidity and pointlessness of war, where even the most heroic moments have, in part, dark origins and even darker consequences. All war does is ruin the lives of everyone involved, whether they be the conqueror or the conquered. – Professor Lewis Donelson
Books that were penned or conceived behind bars include Don Quixote (Miguel de Cervantes), Pilgrim’s Progress (John Bunyan), De Profundis (Oscar Wilde), and The Prince (Machiavelli).
Books used to be shelved “backwards” with the spine facing the back of the shelf and the fore-edge facing out. Because the spine itself was seen as an unattractive but necessary portion of the book to be hidden, like the hinge of a door. Around the 16th century some books were bound very attractively, including the spine, and books began to be shelved spine-out.
The Penguin paperback was created to make books as affordable as cigarettes, and the first Penguin paperbacks were distributed from a church crypt.
The word for papyrus in Greek is byblos, named after the city with the highest papyrus production (Biblus). This led to the Greek word for book, biblion—from which we get both our words “book” and “bible.”
Give now to make a great library even better!
- In the past year the Seminary Archives responded to 82 archival reference requests, which included making almost 1,300 scans for researchers.
- There are over 1000 digitized images from our collections available on the Portal to Texas History (https://texashistory.unt.edu/search/?fq=untl_institution:ATPS)
- Potentially the coolest thing in the archives is our Apollo 14 Microform Bible, which actually went to the surface of the moon in astronaut Edgar Mitchell’s spacesuit (http://www.austinseminary.edu/page.cfm?p=1695). It was a project of the Apollo Prayer League, started by Rev. John M. Stout (MDiv’57), a chaplain at NASA.
Reference librarians in the nation’s public and academic libraries answer nearly 6.6 million questions weekly. Standing single file, the line of questioners would span from Miami, Florida, to Juneau, Alaska. Academic librarians provide information services for almost 38 million people each year –reaching almost six million more than attend men’s college basketball games.
Americans go to school, public, and academic libraries more than three times as frequently as they go to the movies.
There are more public libraries than Starbucks in the U.S.—a total of 17,566 including branches. Nearly 100% of public libraries provide Wi-Fi and have no-fee access to computers.
Yet, cutbacks in school librarians may be yielding unintended consequences. According to a recent study by Stanford University, more than 80% of middle schoolers cannot tell the difference between sponsored content and a real news article.