This is by no means exhaustive, but I thought it may be worth mentioning some of the books I’ve read since I’ve been offline. Some are more serious than others, and some of them I’ll return to again and discuss more fully.

  • William Harmless, SJ. Desert Christians: An Introduction to the Literature of Early Monasticism,(O.U.P., 2004). A friend recommended this book several years ago and although I had it on my mental to-be-read list I thought that it was just another book on the desert fathers. It isn’t. It is absolutely required reading for anyone interested in early monasticism. Unfortunately it only deals with the Egyptian tradition but it manages to present an account that is both scholarly and accessible and gives a balanced account of areas where scholars disagree.
  • Mark Gruber, OSB. Journey Back to Eden: My Life and Times Among the Desert Fathers. (Orbis, 2002). This is based on a journal that the author kept during a year’s stay in various Coptic Orthodox monasteries in Egypt. It has it’s shortcomings as a book in that it was extensively edited several years after his experience, but I was particularly moved by it because I had a similar, although much shorter, experience several years ago and so could identify with many of his reactions and found it very moving.
  • Three books by Father Boris Bobrinskoy, all of which I’ll return to again and discuss further. The Mystery of the Trinity: Trinitarian Experience and Vision in the Biblical and Patristic Tradition (St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1999) is a book that I really should re-read and provide an extensive discussion of, but I fear that for I time being I will have to be satisfied with just posting odd bits and pieces from it. The Compassion of the Father (St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2003) is a collection of essays that falls into the category of “one of the most important books I ever read” and which I do intend to re-read and summarise. And La Vie Liturgique, (Cerf, 2000) which I’m actually still reading, and translating as I read, is an introduction to Orthodox liturgical life and especially the prayer of the hours. I knew that I needed to at least begin to find my way around the Byzantine office – and I really am neither good at nor particularly interested in rubrics! – and this is a book that is both accessible and theologically grounded. I also have Fr Bobrinskoy’s Le Mystere de l’Eglise which I fully intend to read sometime. But I will certainly say more about his work again for it has impacted me deeply.
  • Some biographies and “convert stories.” I must confess that I think that I should probably avoid convert stories as I tend to get irritated by their over-simplications and triumphalism. Perhaps ironically, the convert story that most influenced me was Cardinal Newman’s Apologia Pro Vita Sua (Everyman, 1993), not so much for the conclusions that he came to (it has actually always puzzled me that he never seems to have seriously considered Orthodox claims) but rather for how seriously he was concerned with truth. Having come to certain conclusions he felt obliged to act on them even if it meant tearing his life apart. I also re-read Elisabeth Behr-Sigel’s biography of Father Lev Gillet, A Monk of the Eastern Church (The Fellowship of Saint Alban and Saint Sergius, 1999), which I once more found moving in the way it returned one to that which is most fundamental. Another biography that was particularly worthwhile was Gillian Crow’s This Holy Man, her biography of Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh.
  • I re-read Metropolitan Kallistos’ (Timothy Ware) The Orthodox Church which was a rather fascinating experience. I first read this twenty years ago, shortly after I had become Catholic, and I have realised in recent years that it had in many ways formed the prism through which I interpreted Catholicism, which of course did tend to dovetail with some of the hopes of the “return to the sources” renewal in twentieth century Catholicism.
  • Rowan Williams’ Open to Judgement, a collection of sermons, and Silence and Honey Cakes. The former has parts that are Archbishop Williams at his best and parts that I would want to comment more critically on. The latter is simply one of the best books on the desert fathers that I have ever read. Neither are “comfortable” reading but that is precisely what I appreciate in Williams.
  • Archimandrite Melitios Webber’s Bread & Water, Wine & Oil: An Orthodox Christian Experience of God, which I think is a good book, but I was probably too dislocated at the time to really appreciate it and should go back to it sometime.
  • Enzo Bianchi. Words of Spirituality. Towards a lexicon of the inner life (SPCK, 2002). I hope to do a fuller review of this. Brother Enzo is founder and prior of the monastic community of Bose in Italy and a prolific author. Unfortunately not much of his work (or of the other books that the community publishes) has been translated into English which is a shame as he is one of the most solid contemporary Catholic authors.
  • The Journals of Father Alexander Schmemann (St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2000). I had been wanting to read this book for some years and finally got my hands on it and have read it twice in the last year. And I will probably keep coming back to it. Which is of course not to deny that there are things that one could question, but the spirit that shines through is so refreshing and there is real insight in his observations.
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