This post is in celebration of National Read a Book Day and is part of our #BeTransformed series.
As publisher and executive director of Herald Press books, Amy Gingerich has a passion for the intersection of faith and life and helping people of all ages make sense of how they fit together. Born in Montana, raised across Iowa and Indiana, and having spent her 20s on both coasts, Amy and her family now make their home near Cleveland, Ohio.
Amy holds a bachelor’s degree from Goshen (Ind.) College and an MDiv from Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, California. She loves spending time her husband and their two daughters, gluten-free baking, running, and, of course, curling up with a good book. To glimpse the books Amy read on her sabbatical this summer, click here.
One of the toughest packing decisions for a vacation or long weekend involves which books to take. I choose to err on the side of too many books at the expense of enough clothes. Clothes can be washed, I figure, but it’s best not to run out of books.
While some prefer to read a book cover to cover before starting a new one, that’s not my preferred method of reading. This means there are always half-finished books around the house or in the library app on my phone.
Yesterday was a pretty eclectic reading day and it looked like this:
- Early morning Bible reading: 15 minutes of reading from the book of Romans
- Midday reading in a dentist’s waiting room: 20 minutes of reading Katelyn Beaty’s new book “Celebrities for Jesus: How Personas, Platforms, and Profits Are Hurting the Church”
- Evening reading time with my family: 30 minutes reading “Black Cake,” a novel by Charmaine Wilkerson
- Audiobook listening time while canning salsa in the evening: One hour listening to the nonfiction book “The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race” by Walter Isaacson
I read fiction and nonfiction alike, as reading has the power to shape our stories and impact how we live. Reading books by authors who have a different point of view is a way to enter into their story and experience and expand my horizons. It’s a way to glimpse how others work out problems, build relationships, and experience life.
For some months of 2020, I found myself unable to concentrate enough to read a book. Spending time reading is supposed to boost one’s concentration, but what about when you can’t concentrate on the book? With a pandemic unfolding around me and its subsequent pressures on work and life, I could not muster enough concentration to read a book. I would stare at a book’s pages, read a bit, and put it down. When I’d come back, I had no memory of what had been read, so I would have to go back and reread the same thing. Ultimately I put books aside for several months.
I restarted slowly with fiction that made me laugh or fiction that felt easy, titles often recommended by others at MennoMedia during our Zoom staff break times. I also spent lots of time in those months reading books aloud to my two daughters. By fall 2020, I was dipping back into reading nonfiction again, specifically reading Herald Press books for work.
This summer I had the opportunity to take a three-month sabbatical shaped largely around reading. There are so many competing titles, Anabaptist-adjacent titles, and interesting books that have been published in the last few years that I thought would strengthen my leading of MennoMedia and also allow me to decompress from day-to-day work.
Just as MennoMedia publishes books on a wide range of topics, I too decided to shape my sabbatical reading around a wide range of topics, including fiction, leadership, racism, faith formation, spiritual practices, Christian living, food and faith, and more. It was my goal that the reading, reflecting, and study I undertook in my sabbatical would allow me to personally “go deeper with … [reading, reflecting, and study] to enrich [my own] Christian faith in a complex world,” to paraphrase our MennoMedia mission statement.
It was a glorious three months, and I’m tremendously grateful to MennoMedia’s board and staff for making this happen. Spending significant time reading, reflecting on what I’ve read, and also engaging in a couple online classes helped me recenter my priorities, set better boundaries around technology in the morning (Bible before phone was a spiritual practice I picked up from a book this summer), and connect me with so many ideas.
National Read a Book Day is Tuesday, September 6. I recommend the following 12 Herald Press titles if you are looking for a good book:
- “What Is the Bible and How Do We Understand It” by Dennis R. Edwards
- “The Bible Unwrapped: Making Sense of Scripture Today” by Meghan Larissa Good
- “The Land Is Not Empty: Following Jesus in Dismantling the Doctrine of Discovery” by Sarah Augustine
- “Peanut Butter and Dragon Wings: A Mother’s Search for Grace” by Shari Zook
- “The Space Between Us: Conversations about Transforming Conflict” by Betty Pries
- “Not Quite Fine: Mental Health, Faith, and Showing Up for One Another” by Carlene Hill Byron
- “On Love and Mercy: A Social Justice Devotional” by Stephen Mattson
- “Disarmed: The Radical Life and Legacy of Michael ‘MJ’ Sharp” by Marshall King
- “Translating Your Past: Finding Meaning in Family Ancestry, Genetic Clues, and Generational Trauma” by Michelle Van Loon
- “To Be Made Well: An Invitation to Wholeness, Healing, and Hope” by Amy Julia Becker
- “Upside-Down Apocalypse: Grounding Revelation in the Gospel of Peace” by Jeremy Duncan
- “Grace Can Lead Us Home: A Christian Call to End Homelessness” by Kevin Nye
The views and opinions expressed in this blog belong to the author and are not intended to represent the views of the MC USA Executive Board or staff.
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