What Are Your Favorite Quaker Books?

I just finished reading Martin’s post about him finally finishing John Woolman’s Journal and it got me thinking about how I enjoyed Woolman’s journal so much.  Then I started thinking more about books (not something that’s all that hard to do, really.)  This reminded me to take “A Description of The Qualifications Necessary to A Gospel Minister??? by Samuel Bownas (the title of the book is pretty self-explanatory) with me on my trip to the Mid-West for vacation (this Saturday).


I got this book and a couple others from our friends Robin and Chris who picked them up for me while at PYM.  I have this great voicemail from Robin calling me from yearly meeting reading a list of books off over the phone wondering whether I was interested in any.  Of course I want them I thought and so I called her back and said, “Robin if you see a book or 5, there you think I need buy them for me and I will write you a check when you get to our house.???  And so they brought me a couple gems for my library.  I really appreciated this because I’d never heard of the books her and Chris picked out and so this gives me more opportunity to stretch my overall knowledge and experience of Friends’ theology.

This essentially is the reason for this post – I want to know from you what books you think are really important to your faith and practice as a Friend. Not only will this have the potential to be a fun exercise but it will also aid me in my research as I am (actually right this moment) working on a bibliography for my research program.

You don’t have to follow my rubric but here’s a simple pattern and if you feel like if you can write why you like it, in fact that may be helpful for me.

A List of Quaker Books (or books by non-Quakers about them)

1. Spiritual Reflection – Woolman, John. 1971. The journal and major essays of John Woolman, Library of Protestant thought. New York: Oxford University Press.

This is a true classic on spiritual devotion and how the silent life leads toward social action, John Woolman’s work among the Native and African Americans still stands as a model for Christians today.

2. Historical Book  – Barbour, Hugh, and J. William Frost. 1988. The Quakers, Denominations in America ; no. 3. New York: Greenwood Press.

I really liked this book not only because it is packed full of history (I spans a huge amount of time) but it is written with little bias (or at least as much as that is possible).  I found this book particularly useful in my writing project for my masters because it was so solid.

3. Theological Book
– Barclay, Robert. 1789. An apology for the true Christian divinity : being an explanation and vindication of the principles and doctrines of the people called Quakers. Philadelphia: Printed by Joseph James in Chesnut Street.

Reading Robert Barclay was a spiritual experience for me.  I kept having “ah-ha’s??? and found myself more and more in love with Quaker theology as understood by one of our finest thinkers.  One sentiment I experienced over and over was, “I’ve believed this my whole life but never knew how to put it!???

4. Other Random Book – Cooper, Wilmer A. 2001. A living faith : an historical and comparative study of Quaker beliefs. 2nd ed. ed. Richmond, Ind.: Friends United Press.

When I read this book I wished I had this as a textbook in undergrad and decided that if/when I teach Quaker theology Wilmer Cooper’s “comparative study??? will be a must.  It’s got all the basics, it’s accessible for introductions to Quakerism, and he covers the different branches pretty fairly (or so I think).

I will be adding this list to my wiki as well:

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Wess

...is the William R. Rogers Director of Friends Center and Quaker Studies at Guilford College in Greensboro, NC., PhD in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary, served as a "released minister" at Camas Friends Church, and father of three. He enjoys sketchnoting, sharing conversation over coffee with a friend, listening to vinyl and writing creative nonfiction.

21 thoughts on “What Are Your Favorite Quaker Books?”

  1. Here are two links to posts with good book lists:

    Claire’s book request post is a good place to start – be sure to look at her reading list down the right side of the home page as well as all the comments, including the link to Liz Opp’s blog on the same topic.

    Here is my list of books I bought for my Meeting’s library – we had a little extra money in our religious education budget and I thought we ought to own a few books written in this century.

    And here is the list of books that Martin, Liz and I put together for the FGC interest group we did.

    Enjoy.

  2. My favorite books are: Lloyd Lee Wilson’s books, The Kingdom of God is Within You by Tolstoy, Christain Anarchy by Ellul, If Grace is True by Phil Gulley, The Message Bible (awesome!!!), Barclay’s Apology, Testament of Devotion by Kelley and a small publication by Dave McKay of the Jesus Christians called “Radical Christain Truths”.

  3. Robin thanks for the comment – I’ve updated the wiki with those links. It’s going to take me some time to plow through that stuff but it’s helpful.

    Craig – I keep hearing Lloyd Lee Wilson’s name, I am not sure where to start with him can you give me some advice? Also the Ellul book sounds interesting is it by a Quaker? It’s funnny but I too love the Message Bible, with all my years of Greek and Hebrew – I love the way it reads because it catches my attention in new ways.

  4. Hey Wess,

    Re: LLWilson, you should start with the book I gave you: Essays on a Quaker Vision of Gospel Order. I would cite it as being a major influence on convergent Friends from the unprogrammed tradition.

    In the Light,
    Robin

  5. Robin writes: Re: LLWilson, you should start with the book I gave you: Essays on a Quaker Vision of Gospel Order. I would cite it as being a major influence on convergent Friends from the unprogrammed tradition.

    She speaks my mind! And I’ll add that LLW’s book also has renewed some Friends’ interest in Conservative Quakerism.

    I also thought of Claire’s post, so I’m glad Robin mentioned it.

    Blessings,
    Liz, The Good Raised Up

  6. “They Loved to Laugh” by Kathryn Worth (not a Quaker) and”Thee, Hannah!” by Marguerite di Angeli (not a Quaker) — two children’s fiction books that brought me to Quakers.

    “Twenty Questions about Jesus” by John Lampen – a thorough analysis of the Christ story and the church’s interpretation of it. I like to read it beside “The Gospel According to Jesus” by Stephen Mitchell, who happens to be a Buddhist, but it’s a compelling read for Quakers.

    “Lucretia Mott: Her Complete Speeches and Sermons” ed. B.W. Palmer — *what* an extraordinary woman!

    Woolman’s journal is a fine read too, not nearly as stodgy as G. Fox’s.

    For fiction, I loved Jan de Hartog’s “Peaceable Kingdom” and “The Lamb’s War” which moved me very deeply.

  7. The first book I ever read was John Punshon’s “Portrait in Grey” which, reflecting back, I’m not sure I’d recommend to a person new to Quakerism, as it’s not an exciting read, but, as I’ve heard, he’s quite the historian.

    “Quakers in America (Columbia Contemporary American Religion Series)” is another one I’d recommend. Again, not much controversial, but an overview of the movement which is more or less scholarly–good for research.

  8. @ Nancy – Thanks for adding a couple children’s books and thanks for the two fiction books, we must not over look these.

    @Chad – I’ve read “Reason for Hope” by Punshon which is a pretty good book, but not the one you mention, is it mainly a history book? The Thomas Hamm book “Quakers in America” you suggest is a solid work of historical analysis and if it was for the cost of the book I would personally use it a Quaker history class.

    @ Rich – thanks I will check out the article.

    @ Martin – I need to get my hands on Drayton’s book, I found it at the FGC bookstore and will order when I get back from vacation, it’s being recommended by many Friends. And the Hamm book is amazing. I used it in my writing project last fall and it provided the underpinnings of the entire argument. It’s worth a few reads because it is really dense with info.

    Also can you give me any more input about the display?

  9. The most important recent book on Quaker faith and practice, in my opinion, is Ben Richmond’s clear and refreshing Signs of Salvation. Friends testimonies are grounded in an understanding of covenant that avoids the shell games of traditional Christian understandings of the atonement, while not at all hiding from realities of evil and imperfection. As I said somewhere else, you’ll never read a more joyful book of theology.

  10. Wess, re: screen problem, if you scroll too far down the page, or write a long comment, then the “submit comment” box dissappears & you can’t see the rest of the comment. I think one of my comments disappeared that way recently…

    I agree about many books already recommended. I just read about Richmond’s book & commented about it on Lisa H.’s blog…

    History and Theology: I recommend Doug Gwyn, Covenant Crucified & Seekers Found for history; and Quakers & the Second Coming by Gwyn, Peat, & Dandelion; The Quaker Peace Testimony by Peter Brock.

    Theological Reflection: A Quaker in the Zendo, Pendle Hill Pamphlet 370, by Steve Smith; Catholic Quakerism by Lewis Benson

    Praxis: (now there’s a good grad student word 🙂 Where Words Come From, Douglas Steere.

    — Chris M.
    Tables, Chairs & Oaken Chests

  11. It’s probably something you’d want to get through the library, as it’s really pricey (unless you can find a cheap used copy), but I strongly recommend:

    Primitivism, Radicalism, and the Lamb’s War: The Baptist-Quaker Conflict in Seventeenth Century England, by T. L. Underwood.

    It crosses your categories 2 and 3, and in a pretty remarkable way. It reviews all of those disputes and pamphlet wars to see how Quakers defined themselves against other Separatists, primarily Baptists.

    If you want to get a clear sense of how early Quakers differed (or not) from more mainstream Christian beliefs, this is an excellent source.

  12. Sorry for not answering your questions sooner, Wess. I was out of town on business and am just getting around to checking out the blogs.

    Friend Rich answered the question about Ellul. There is another book on Christian Anarchy by Vernard Eller (a Mennonite I think). It is an awesome read as well.

    God’s peace,
    Craig

  13. Thanks Craig – no problem. Hey if anyone feels up to adding these books to the wiki (or the one’s you’ve suggested) go for it I realized I don’t have time while I am on vacation.

  14. I’m not a Friend, but became interested in learning more a year ago or so and in my looking around I too really valued Wilmer Cooper’s book. It is fairly short, not a difficult read and is really excellent in introducing the basics and varieties in the Quaker tradition. Anyone interested in this tradition really should read this first, as he also does an amazing job in introducing the key terminology and approaches, which if not understood can lead people to confusion in coming to terms with Friends.

    Maybe I missed it in my quick reading here, or maybe it is my own unique obsession with primary documents, but I think the Journal of George Fox is extremely important. Founders tend to be both passionate and balanced, while followers often take leaps into different directions and may then emphasize aspects a bit differently than the original inspiration.

    Fox’s Journal is not a detailed theology but through his story one gets a real sense of his values, his approaches, his passion, and his boldness. I always wonder what someone like him or Wesley would say if they saw the present day movements.

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