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Summer 2014 Novel Theologies Reading List: Getting Started

This guide details the Divinity School Library's recommendations for good novels that include theological themes.

Novel Theologies in the Duke Libraries

Home by Marilynne Robinson

Hundreds of thousands were enthralled by the luminous voice of John Ames in Gilead , Marilynne Robinson's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. Home is an entirely independent, deeply affecting novel thatnbsp;takes placenbsp;concurrently in the same locale, this time in the household of Reverend Robert Boughton, Ames's closest friend. nbsp; Glory Boughton, aged thirty-eight, has returned to Gilead to care for her dying father. Soon her brother, Jack--the prodigal son of the family, gone for twenty years--comes home too, looking for refuge and trying to make peace with a past littered with tormenting trouble and pain. nbsp; Jack is one of the great characters in recent literature. A bad boy from childhood, an alcoholic who cannot hold a job, he is perpetually at odds with his surroundings and with his traditionalist father, though he remains Boughton's most beloved child. Brilliant, lovable, and wayward, Jack forges an intense bond with Glory and engages painfully with Ames, his godfather and namesake. nbsp; Home is a moving and healing book about families, family secrets, and the passing of the generations, about love and death and faith. It is Robinson's greatest work, an unforgettable embodiment of the deepest and most universal emotions. nbsp; Home is a 2008 National Book Award Finalist for Fiction. 

A Thread of Grace: A Novel by Mary Doria Russell

Set in Italy during the dramatic finale of World War II, this new novel is the first in seven years by the bestselling author of The Sparrow and Children of God. It is September 8, 1943, and fourteen-year-old Claudette Blum is learning Italian with a suitcase in her hand. She and her father are among the thousands of Jewish refugees scrambling over the Alps toward Italy, where they hope to be safe at last, now that the Italians have broken with Germany and made a separate peace with the Allies. The Blums will soon discover that Italy is anything but peaceful, as it becomes overnight an open battleground among the Nazis, the Allies, resistance fighters, Jews in hiding, and ordinary Italian civilians trying to survive. Mary Doria Russell sets her first historical novel against this dramatic background, tracing the lives of a handful of fascinating characters. Through them, she tells the little-known but true story of the network of Italian citizens who saved the lives of forty-three thousand Jews during the war's final phase. The result of five years of meticulous research, A Thread of Grace is an ambitious, engrossing novel of ideas, history, and marvelous characters that will please Russell's many fans and earn her even more.

Food for Thought & Starting Out Small: Talks on Training the Heart  by Ajaan Lee Dhammadharo (Author), Thanissaro Bhikkhu (Translator)

This book is an introduction to the Buddhist practice of training the heart. It is taken from the talks of Phra Ajaan Lee Dhammadharo, a teacher in the Thai forst tradition of meditation, and is called "food for Thought: because it invites the reader to fill in the spaces suggested by the talks--to reflect on how the images and teaching they contain relate to one another and to one's own situation in life.

Damascus Countdown by Joel C. Rosenberg

"Christian Retailing's Best" award finalist! All eyes are on the Middle East. Israel has successfully launched a first strike on Iran, taking out all of their nuclear sites and six of their nuclear warheads-and causing The Twelfth Imam to order a full-scale retaliation. U.S. President William Jackson threatens to support a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning the Jewish State for unprovoked and unwarranted acts of aggression.Meanwhile, CIA operative David Shirazi has infiltrated the Iranian regime and intercepted information indicating that two Iranian nuclear warheads survived the attack and have been moved to a secure and undisclosed location. In danger not only from the ongoing missile strikes on Iran but also from the increasingly hostile and suspicious governments of multiple countries, David and his team are in a race against time to find the remaining nuclear warheads before disaster strikes.

The Good Muslim by Tahmima Anam

After years away from her family, Maya Haque is on the journey home to Dhaka. But what if, as Maya discovers, everything you once knew has changed beyond recognition? What if you must re-learn what it means to be a good daughter? And how do you begin to understand a brother who has taken a path so different from your own? Maya faces these questions and many more in The Good Muslim, an extraordinary novel about faith, family and the long shadow of war.

The Testament of Mary by Colm Tóibín

Shortlisted for the 2013 Man Booker Prize, Colm Tóibín's provocative, haunting, and indelible portrait of Mary presents her as a solitary older woman still seeking to understand the events that become the narrative of the New Testament and the foundation of Christianity. In the ancient town of Ephesus, Mary lives alone, years after her son's crucifixion. She has no interest in collaborating with the authors of the Gospel-her keepers, who provide her with food and shelter and visit her regularly. She does not agree that her son is the Son of God; nor that his death was "worth it;" nor that the "group of misfits he gathered around him, men who could not look a woman in the eye," were holy disciples. Mary judges herself ruthlessly (she did not stay at the foot of the Cross until her son died-she fled, to save herself), and is equally harsh on her judgement of others. This woman who we know from centuries of paintings and scripture as the docile, loving, silent, long-suffering, obedient, worshipful mother of Christ becomes a tragic heroine with the relentless eloquence of Electra or Medea or Antigone. Tóibín's tour de force of imagination and language is a portrait so vivid and convincing that our image of Mary will be forever transformed.

The Chosen: A Novel by Chaim Potok


"Anyone who finds it is finding a jewel. Its themes are profound and universal." THE WALL STREET JOURNAL It is the now-classic story of two fathers and two sons and the pressures on all of them to pursue the religion they share in the way that is best suited to each. And as the boys grow into young men, they discover in the other a lost spiritual brother, and a link to an unexplored world that neither had ever considered before. In effect, they exchange places, and find the peace that neither will ever retreat from again.... From the Paperback edition.

In Search of Our Sisters Gardens edited by Marica Williams

A compilation by great woriters such as Zora Neale Hurston, Gertrude Mossell and Gerrude Dorsey Brown, these stories a live with truths about black life of that period and today.

The Guardians by Ana Castillo 


From American Book Award-winning author Ana Castillo comes a suspenseful, moving new novel about a sensuous, smart, and fiercely independent woman. Eking out a living as a teacher's aide in a small New Mexican border town, Tía Regina is also raising her teenage nephew, Gabo, a hardworking boy who has entered the country illegally and aspires to the priesthood. When Gabo's father, Rafa, disappears while crossing over from Mexico, Regina fears the worst. After several days of waiting and with an ominous phone call from a woman who may be connected to a smuggling ring, Regina and Gabo resolve to find Rafa. Help arrives in the form of Miguel, an amorous, recently divorced history teacher; Miguel's gregarious abuelo Milton; a couple of Gabo's gangbanger classmates; and a priest of wayward faith. Between the ruthless "coyotes" who exploit Mexicans while smuggling them to America and the border officials who are out to arrest and deport the illegal immigrants, looming threat is a constant companion on the journey. Ana Castillo brilliantly evokes the beautiful, stark desert landscape and creates vivid characters with strong voices and resilient hearts.

Little Scarlet by Walter Mosley 

"Easy Rawlins returns to solve a mystery set amid the flames of the hottest summer L.A. has ever seen." "Just after devastating riots tear through Los Angeles in 1965 - when anger is high and fear still smolders everywhere - the police turn up at Easy Rawlins's doorstep. He expects the worst, as usual. But they've come to ask for his help." "A man was wrenched from his car by a mob at the riots' peak and escaped into a nearby apartment building. Soon afterward, a redheaded woman known as Little Scarlet was found dead in that building - and the fleeing man is the obvious suspect. But the man has vanished." "The police fear that their presence in certain neighborhoods could spark a new inferno, so they ask Easy Rawlins to see what he can discover. The vanished man is the key, but he is only the beginning. Easy enlists the help of his longtime friend Mouse to break through the shroud. And what Easy finds is a killer whose rage, like that which burned in the city for weeks, is intrinsically woven around deep-set passions - feelings echoed within Easy himself." "Rawlins's hunt for the killer reveals a new city emerging from the ashes, with the promise of a new life for Easy, Mouse, and his old friends Jackson Blue and Jewelle."--BOOK JACKET.Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Title summaries provided by provided by Syndetic Solutions, Inc. and Amazon.com

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