March 31, 2008

Reading "Womens Books"

Like most people I know, I read a lot of books. I rarely browse when I go into a bookstore or visit Amazon, I generally know exactly what I'm looking for. As a woman in ministry to other women, I have to say that I rarely read books written by women for women. That isn't to say that I can't or shouldn't -- after all, I'm working on one of my own for women in the church. But when I do browse in a Christian bookstore, I usually head for the theology or apologetics department to see what's new. I like to check out the latest in the great apologetics methodology debates (which, by the way, seems silent these days). Bioethics books and other reflections on contemporary culture are equally interesting areas to browse. I don't usually end up in the women's Christian living section until right before I head to the checkout. Sometimes I pick something up, but generally I don't. There are wonderful books written by women for women, and I think I own them all (well, almost). Carolyn Custis James, Elyze Fitzpatrick, Elizabeth George--these are solid women writing for women in the church. I hope someday soon I can be added to that list.

Is there a propensity for women in the church to first enter the women's section of the Christian living isles in the bookstore to search for a book? I wish I had some statistics, I just know that of the women I know, many are doing just that. Occasionally I hear someone say how much they loved reading Martin Luther (however, this was a seminary graduate), but what I usually hear is women looking for the right topics, but pursuing the topics through women's authors.

A question recently asked of me is whether I could point a woman to some theology books written by women. I certainly can, but why do they need to be written by women? Do evangelical women think they can only read books written by women? I think many do. For those that lean that way, I hope it isn't because they believe male writers are writing for men and that serious theology books are off limits to women.

I'd like to hear from you, Christian women, on this topic. What are your own reading habits like? What do you read? Who do you read? What about the other women in your ministries? I realize that not every woman is interested in reading Cornelius Van Til's Systematic Theology or Carl F.H. Henry's God, Revelation, and Authority like I am. I just hope at least we're buying books on hermeutics instead of allowing our women's bible studies to provide a short cut through the work of locating context.


Beth said...


What a great question. I have often wondered this myself.

I like to peruse the women's section just to see what's being said. Usually, I am very disappointed. I have not gotten the pulse yet from the new women in my life that includes their reading and learning habits. But the vast number of women I have known generally stick to a narrow number of authors and topics.

My tastes are pretty broad. I devour books on leadership and culture, the church, and women. I also give equal time to secular and Christian perspectives. This week, while attending the Transforming Culture Symposium I picked up a couple I have had my eye on for awhile.

I am not sure why women have limited themselves. But I strongly feel it is part of my calling and responsibility to whet the appetite of women I am in relationship with-to call them to think outside of their comfort levels and bring their thoughts and ideas into a broader conversation.

Deb said...

Bit late for this but I have almost given up with the various women's groups I have. After years of taking along a selection of books I realised that the women I am dealing with just aren't interested. I can occasionally get a woman interested in a more devotional type writer, but that is about all.

So what I try to do is try to incorporate the material I read in the studies that I use. Here are some books I have directly used in the last 6 months and interpreted into popular English for my groups.

Exclusion and Embrace - Miroslav Volf
Simply Christain - NT Wright
Various books - Eugene Peterson
Richard Hays - Conversion of the Imagination
John Stackhouse - Can God Be Trusted? and Finally Feminist

Probably a few others that I haven't actually quoted.

I feel a bit like Sarah - trying to help the women I am in contact with broaden their horizons. But it is pretty frustrating work. I quite often hear them discussing books written by women on being parents and wives - often they are written by North American women (I am in Australia) and I can hardly read the books - they are so culturally specific, often use Scripture out of context and promise happy endings. But they seem to enjoy them and as long as they are reading ...
These are my initial thoughts.


Anonymous said...

Glad you are writing but watch the pride statement "I hope someday to be added to that list." Careful with your motivation. Sorry, it is just an observation from a stranger that stumbled on your blog.