Between the Covers:
Finding Faith through Reading
by Marcia Ford
Crossroad Publishing, 2005
you’re a spiritual person looking for affirmation of
your bibliomania or your hyperlexia, then you’ll find
what you’re seeking in Marcia Ford’s new book.
Based on the premise that there’s no safer or more satisfying
route to enlightenment than the practice of book reading, Ford
charts the books that have most impacted her faith journey.
freaks like Marcia Ford know that a good book is akin to a
character in a biblical genealogy, begetting not one other
book, but a whole library. And like the wanderings of Abraham
or the Israelites in the desert, bibliophiles understand that
a spiritual journey based on books is one where the promised
land is often present (provided one is in the midst of a good
book) and always just one more trip to Barnes & Noble or
have been spiritual memoirs written by alcoholics, criminal
politicians, and professional football stars, but this is perhaps
the first written by a professional book reviewer. I mention
this because God
Between the Covers is
more than just an annotated index to spiritual must-reads—it
is the confessions (in the Augustinian sense) of a woman who
has never ceased to find faith, guidance, and a sense of the
divine in books. Speaking of the piles that
clutter her home in Florida, she writes,
in this mass of several thousand books are an untold
number of works that have truly helped me in my personal
and spiritual formation. I will never know exactly how
many have influenced my life in a significant way. Who’s
to say how much Little Women influenced
me, though today I only remember it as an enjoyable read?
Maybe Jane Austen’s books have affected me on some
deep spiritual level more than I know, though I’ve
never enjoyed them much at all.
begins her spiritual journey with the “Hound of Heaven” (a.k.a.
Jesus)—who tracked her down through the famous poem by
Francis Thompson when she was an atheist undergraduate—and
moves through her shelves to reflect on her affinity for another
restless pilgrim, Bob Dylan.
between, she writes of her affiliation with the Evangelical
movement and the authors from that tradition, especially Josh
McDowell, A.W. Packer, and A.W. Tozer. She tells about her
awakening to the social justice movement through reading James
Baldwin, Malcolm X, and Anne Frank. Finally, she lumps her
discovery of Christian feminism and high-church liturgy into
one chapter on Kathleen Norris, Anne Lamott, and The Book
of Common Prayer.
small pleasure of this book (for me) were the reviews of
numerous books I have not read, much less heard of. For
example, I was pleased and surprised to learn of a spiritual
autobiography by Josef Stalin’s daughter, Svetlana
Alliluyeva, called Only One Year. I never knew
that Stalin had a daughter who defected to the United States
and wrote a memoir about her struggles and faith journey.
I also learned some interesting tidbits about the Christian
Charismatic movement. Ford, who for a time was associated
with the group, writes this about the books that came out
the early 1990s, my friend Rita invited me to look through
several boxes of Christian books she planned to give
away, so I could see whether there were any titles that
I wanted. I was familiar with…at least every author
represented in the three cartons. I couldn’t find
a single one I wanted…. They were all written by
authors who were leaders in the charismatic movement,
which was characterized in part by an emphasis on what
was called God’s “now” word….
I guess that’s why so few books from that era have
held up well.
several years ago when I stumbled across a short article in U.S.
Catholic magazine that recommended rereading your favorite
books as a viable spiritual practice, I thought I knew everything
there is to know about books and the spiritual journey. Now,
thanks to Marcia Ford, I have a new practice to try out—book
journaling. For, as much as God Between the Covers is
a memoir and a collection of interesting and unusual book reviews,
it also represents a model that book lovers who are looking
to deepen their experience of God can put to use immediately.
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