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Books on Community and Spirituality

The books on this page are ecumenical, because the subject of community is truly universal, crossing barriers of race, religion, and economic class, but united by an emphasis on the importance of "contemplation in action." (A primary statement of this are the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius.)


Celebrate 2000: A Three Year Reader: reflections on Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and the Father, by Pope John Paul II, with Paul Thigpen. Selections from the writings of Pope John Paul II, for the three year period of "Advent" to the Third Christian Millennium. The pope calls upon all Christians to focus on the realities of faith in Jesus, hope in the Holy Spirit, and love of the Father as preparation for the year 2000. An urgent appeal for spiritual renewal. Order this book today!

Reflections on the Holy Spirit, by Pope John Paul II, Paul Thigpen. Selections from the writings of Pope John Paul II on the themes in his 1994 apostolic letter, As the Third Millennium Draws Near. Includes a study guide. Focus is on the Holy Spirit, to whom the year 1998 is dedicated. Order this book today!

Reflections on God the Father, by Pope John Paul II, Paul Thigpen. The year 1999 has been designated by the pope as the year of God the Father. Catholics and Christians of all backgrounds will find direction and benefits from these readings as they prepare for the Third Millennium AD. Order this book today!

Catechism of the Catholic Church. Access to authoritative teaching of the Catholic Church, has sections on the millennium and social justice which particularly apply to Year 2000 preparation. Order this book today!

Following Christ in a Consumer society: the Spirituality of Cultural Resistence, by Fr. John Kavanaugh, SJ. I highly recommend this book. We often hear of an alleged dichotomy between social justice and evangelism, when in fact, they are two sides of the same coin. Shows how authentic faith requires doing the works of justice and peace, and how working for justice and peace requires faith. Order this book today!

Community Technology, by Karl Hess. I was personally acquainted with Karl Hess, I visited him twice in his West Virginia home (where he practiced what he preached), spoke with him on the phone on numerous occasions, and worked together with him on projects. During one of those visits, I had the opportunity to hear one of his students read -- Karl taught literacy. A gentle man, his face glowed with joy as this middle-aged man read his way through a newspaper article as we sat on the porch of his "experimental" home (it was built of a type of wallboard that was made from compressed straw). It was next door to a partially underground passive solar home that he and his wife had built themselves. A former speechwriter for Goldwater (he coined the phrase about extremism in the defense of liberty), he also worked for Humphrey and Nixon, later becoming an anti-war activist and advocate of "community technology". This book tells the story of a community technology project in the Adams-Morgan area of Washington, D.C. in the 1970s. For five years Karl worked with his neighbors to develop a self-sufficient urban community. They raised fish in basements, vegetables in vacant lots and on rooftops, built composting toilets, published a newspaper, and had plans for a methanol plant to produce fuel. This book explains what they did, why they did it, and why it didn't work -- but it also discusses how their experiences can help us today learn how to be more successful at this kind of urban community. Karl was not a man of orthodox Christian faith, yet, he was a very Christian man (he would probably laugh to hear me say this about him). Order this book today!

Reconciliation: Mission and ministry in a changing social order, by Fr. Robert Schreiter, CSSP. An in depth theological discussion of reconciliation in a world of oppression and injustice. Order this book today!

Violence Unveiled: Humanity at the Crossroads, by Gil Bailie. This Catholic author takes the work of philosopher Rene Girard and makes it accessible for most readers. It considers the relationship between violence and social disintegration, and how the example and sacrifice of Jesus provides alternative models for human behavior and the preservation of society. Intriguing, I've just received it and am in the process of reading it. Order this book today!

Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger: moving from affluence to generosity, by Ronald J. Sider. Every day, 34,000 children die of starvation and preventable diseases. A billion people live on less than one dollar a day (World Bank figures). Written for people of faith. Order this book today!

Henri Nouwen: a Restless Seeking for God, by David Schlayer. A biography of this Catholic priest, theologian and servant of the poor. Home, community, ministry, and service are major themes. Has a synthesis of his writings and spirituality. Order this book today!

A Theology as Big as the City, by Ray Bakke. Offers an evangelical Christian perspective on urban ministry. A biblical theology that provides a glimpse of how big God's view of the city really is. Order this book today!

Gaviotas: a Village to Reinvent the World, by AlanWeisman. A 30 year old community on the savannahs of Colombia, that uses the alternative technologies of solar, wind, and bio-gas for lights, phones, water pumps and purification plants. Practical and spiritual inspiration on how a community can thrive without giant electric and natural gas corporations. Order this book today!

Living More with Less, by Doris Longacre. One of the best voluntary simplicity books on the shelf. Discusses reasons for simplicity, and suggests practical alternatives to the consumerist vision. Order this book today!

The Simple Life, edited by Larry Roth. Essays by leaders of the frugality/simplicity movement, including Amy Dacyczyn, about taking control of personal finances, untangling the complications of modern living, re-ordering priorities. Hundreds of tips and resources. Order this book today!

Still Raising Hell: Poverty, Activism, and Other True Stories, by Sheila Baxter. A voice for those living in poverty, Mrs. Baxter describes herself with dignity as a "working-class Cockney woman who is fat, old, and poor." A dedicated community advocate, she has no plans to stop raising hell about homeless, poor-bashing, children and seniors living in poverty. Her frank and from the heart accounts of poor communities, grassroots activismn, and initiatives for change are complemented by current statistics on poverty in Canada. Order this book today!

Disruptive Religion: the Force of Faith in Social-Movement Activism, edited by Christian Smith. It is hard to comprehend the structures of sin that create injustice in our communities, but this anthology offers an encouraging and inside look at how religious faith has influenced social change in such differing scenarios as the civil rights movement, the election of Hitler, the anti-apartheid movement, the Iranian revolution, and workers' strikes in Poland. Works are grouped by categories, such as "religious groups as the only ones in a repressive society with the organization and leadership to act on behalf of the oppressed". Order this book today!

The Kid's Guide to Service Projects: over 500 service ideas for young people who want to make a difference, by Barbara Lewis and Pamela Espeland. Service to others is the essence of community, and those of us who want to rebuild and/or strengthen community should not neglect the young. This book has something for everyone, from simple projects to large commitments. Order this book today!

160 Ways to Help the World: community service projects for young people, by Linda Leeb Duper. Order this book today!

The Good City and the Good Life: Renewing the American Community, by Daniel Kemmis, mayor of Missoula, Montana. Offers a secular vision of renewing the human experience of citizenship in community and political responsibility. Order this book today!

Community and the Politics of Place, by Daniel Kemmis. The mayor of Missoula, Montana continues to offer his vision of renewing community and its government structures. Order this book today!

A Better Place to Live: Reshaping the American suburb, by Philip Langdon. There is a direct correllation between the rise of the American suburb and the many social ills plaguing our communities. Is the suburb to blame? He doesn't lay all the blame at the door of suburbia, but he does see them as creating and reinforcing a sense of apartness among people. He details the many problems and stresses of suburbia, including the long commutes, exaggerated costs of suburban living, a lack of central gathering places, and dictatorial homeowners associations. Suggests ways to redeem such places as more human communities. Order this book today!

Leading Without Power: finding hope in serving community, by Max DePree. The former CEO of Herman Miller and author of two bestsellers (Leadership is an Art and Leadership Jazz), addresses the possibility of managing through inspiration rather than domination by drawing a distinction between organizations and movements. Order this book today!

On Becoming a Servant Leader, by Robert Greenleaf, Don Frick and Larry Spears. Greenleaf retired in 1964 from his job as director of management research at AT&T. His career was in organizational research and development. His ethic is that the role of organizational leader is best fulfilled through service to employees, customers, and community. Order this book today!

It's Our World, Too! Stories of young people who are making a difference, by Phillip Hoose, for ages 9 - 12, stories of 14 teens who are taking a stand against evil in their neighborhoods, reaching out to help those in need, fighting to save the environment, and/or working for peace. Order this book today!

The Circle of Simplicity: Return to the good life, by Cecile Andrews. This book is written in an engaging style and advocates concrete actions that can be taken to simplify one's life. Advocates forming or joining a simplicity circle, as a way of encouraging such transformations of lifestyle. Order this book today!

Small is Beautiful: Economics as if people mattered, by E. F. Schumacher. Offers a "Buddhist economics" that is also influenced by the justice and peace teachings of Catholic popes and bishops. Order this book today!

The Unsettling of America: culture and agriculture, by Wendell Berry. The author sees the environmental crisis as one of character, agriculture, and culture. Because we are divorced from the land and from each other, we mistreat our environment and other people. In order to heal environmental wounds, a return to family values, meaningful work, and happier and healthier lives is necessary. His prose is a graceful walk through the cultural and social history of the second half of the 20th century. He warns against "eating the future". Order this book today!

Gift of Good Land: Further essays cultural and agricultural, by Wendell Berry. Continues the themes of Unsettling of America, reminds us of the importance of good farming to a healthy culture. Order this book today!

A City Year: On the streets and in the neighborhoods with twelve young community service volunteers, by Suzanne Goldsmith. A diverse group of young volunteers in Boston report their experiences in service to the poor and marginalized, at once the book is inspiring yet disheartening. Order this book today!

Myth of the Welfare Queen, by David Zucchino. A Pulitzer prize winning journalist considers the situation of women on welfare in central cities, concentrating on following two families over 12 months. A realistic portrait of life for many poor people. Order this book today!

New Pioneers: The back-to-the-land movement and the search for a sustainable future, by Jeffrey Jacob. Looks at the phenomenon of modern homesteading, which began as a counter-cultural movement in the 1960s. Uses 1300 survey responses, interviews, and case studies of back-to-the-landers, reporting on their values, use of labor, and environmental activism. Considers how sustainable living can be mediated as a concept to the wider society. An eyes-open look for anyone considering moving back to the land. Order this book today!


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