My summer reading began early this year. In recent posts, I shared some of the books that inspired me. Now, I am compiling my next round of reading. Of these, one I finished this week, two I expect in today’s mail, one is on a waiting list with the bookstore, and one I will order later today. I am attaching the publisher’s description for each book — to whet your appetite.
What Stars Are Made Of: The Life of Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin by Donovan Moore (Harvard University Press, 2020)
It was not easy being a woman of ambition in early 20th-century England, much less one who wished to be a scientist. Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin overcame prodigious obstacles to become a woman of many firsts: the first to receive a PhD in astronomy from Radcliffe College, the first promoted to full professor at Harvard, the first to head a department there. And, in what has been called “the most brilliant PhD thesis ever written in astronomy,” she was the first to describe what stars are made of. Payne-Gaposchkin lived in a society that did not know what to make of a determined schoolgirl who wanted to know everything. Though welcomed at the Harvard College Observatory, she worked for years without recognition or status. Still, she accomplished what every scientist yearns for: discovery. She revealed the atomic composition of stars―only to be told that her conclusions were wrong by the very man who would later show her to be correct.
Food and Faith: A Theology of Eating, 2nd ed. by Norman Wirzba (Cambridge University Press, 2019)
This book provides a comprehensive theological framework for assessing the significance of eating. Drawing on diverse theological, philosophical, and anthropological insights, it offers fresh ways to evaluate food production and consumption practices as they are being worked out in today’s industrial food economy. Unlike books that focus primarily on vegetarianism and hunger-related concerns, this book broadens the scope of consideration to include the sacramental character of eating, the deep significance of hospitality, the meaning of death and sacrifice, the Eucharist as the place of inspiration and orientation, the importance of saying grace, and the possibility of eating in heaven. Throughout, eating is presented as a way of enacting fidelity between persons, between people and fellow creatures, and between people and Earth.
Earth-Honoring Faith: Religious Ethics in a New Key by Larry L. Rasmussen (Oxford University Press, 2012)
Larry Rasmussen presents a dramatically new way of thinking about human society, ethics, and the ongoing health of our planet. Rejecting the modern assumption that morality applies to human society alone, Rasmussen insists that we must derive a spiritual and ecological ethic that accounts for the well-being of all creation, as well as the primal elements upon which it depends: earth, air, fire, water, and sunlight. He argues that good science, necessary as it is, will not be enough to inspire fundamental change. We must draw on religious resources as well to make the difficult transition from an industrial-technological age obsessed with consumption to an ecological age that restores wise stewardship of all life. Earth-Honoring Faith reminds us that we must live in the present with the knowledge that the eyes of future generations will look back at us.
Rooted and Rising: Voices of Courage in a Time of Climate Crisis edited by Leah D. Schade and Margaret Bullitt-Jonas (Rowman & Littlefield, 2019)
Rooted and Rising is for everyone who worries about the climate crisis and seeks spiritual practices and perspectives to renew their capacity for compassionate, purposeful, and joyful action. Leah Schade and Margaret Bullitt-Jonas gather twenty-one faith leaders, scientists, community organizers, theologians, and grassroots climate activists to offer wisdom for fellow pilgrims grappling with the weight of climate change. Acknowledging the unprecedented nature of our predicament—the fact that climate disruption is unraveling the web of life and threatening the end of human civilization—the authors share their stories of grief and hope, fear and faith. Together, the essays, introductory sections, and discussion questions reveal that our present crisis can elicit a depth of wisdom, insight, and motivation with power to guide us toward a more peaceful, just, and Earth-honoring future.
Women: Icons of Christ by Phyllis Zagano (Paulist Press, 2020)
Women: Icons of Christ traces the history of ministry by women, especially those ordained as deacons. History teaches that women ministered in baptism, catechesis, altar service, spiritual direction, and confession, and anointed the sick, either as deacons or as lay persons. Women: Icons of Christ demonstrates how priestly clericalism effectively removed women’s leadership, voices, and official ministries from the life of the Church by eliminating women from sacramental ministry, altar service, and preaching. Yet, the Catholic Church both really and symbolically excludes half its members. Phyllis Zagano presents cogent arguments supported by history to refute arguments against restoring women to the ordained diaconate.
Q. What’s on your summer reading list?