The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D., Dean and President of Virginia Theological Seminary, recommends the following books as part of the Bishop Payne Library's monthly series highlighting a faculty member's "picks":
Jonathan Rauch, The Happiness Curve: Why Life Gets Better After 50. (New York: St. Martin’s Press. 2018.)
Countless classes have had to listen to me muse on the happiness curve. The data is well known - the two happiest years of your life is 29 and 69 and the worst is the long low dip in your late-forties through to your mid-fifties. This fabulous book sets out the science, analyzes the reasons, and suggests ways in which the bottom of the curve can be handled. The argument of the book is that the mid-life discontent (which isn’t depression and is completely normal) is analogous to adolescence; it is simply a season that one should live through. It seems to be a global phenomenon and impact both women and men. It is an easy read, but transformative for the pastor and for the mid-career person.
David Brooks, The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life. (New York: Random House. 2019.)
David Brooks is the philosopher journalist. Often his writing in The New York Times transcends the local and the ephemeral and focuses instead on the cosmic and significant. This book makes the argument that often, human lives have two mountains - the first of financial success and power and the second focused on morality and the good life. In between the two mountains is the valley (where one confronts the inadequacy of a life without higher goals). Lots of familiar friends are cited in the text - Charles Taylor, Henri Nouwen, and Soren Kierkegaard. It is, in many ways, an apologetic for the imperative for faith. And his own “conversion” journey towards the end of the book is moving and powerful. A perfect book for a Church book club.
Malcolm Guite, Sounding the Seasons: Seventy Sonnets for the Christian Year. (Norwich: Canterbury Press. 2012.)
Malcolm Guite has agreed to write a set of poems in honor of the Bicentennial Celebration of the Seminary. And this book is perhaps the best introduction to Malcolm Guite’s poetry you can find. This is an amazing set of poems. They take you through the Church year. They are beautiful, moving and compelling.