Of Books and Brownies


I work with a collegiate ministry at a big Midwestern university with groups of graduate students and faculty. I love this work because of the intelligent people I get to interact with.  (I often wonder what I am doing in the room!). One of our favorite traditions in the grad fellowship is our Books and Brownies Night. It really is just about that simple. Invite people to bring their favorite brownie recipe (or equivalent) and books they’ve enjoyed or found significant in their lives. Add milk, and off you go. I kept a list, and I think you will agree there are some interesting and unusual choices, including a couple textbooks! (These are grad students after all!). So, without further ado, here is the list:

Jonathan StrangeJonathan Strange & Mr Norell, Susanna Clarke. New York: Bloomsbury USA, 2005. Historical fiction set in 19th century England where two magicians meet up to change history. This looked like a ridiculously long book that our grad student read in a ridiculously short period of time, so it had to be good. I understand BBC has turned it into a TV series.

Great DivorceThe Great Divorce, C. S. Lewis. New York: Harper Collins, 1945. Recommended as a great rendering of theology through story about the choice between heaven and hell and Lewis’s contention that the people in hell are there because they have chosen it.

If on a winters nightIf On a Winter’s Night a Traveler, Italo Calvino. New York, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1982. This is actually of book of ten novels, alternating with a male and female reader. Sounds different, but was loved by the math grad student who shared it!

Principles of BiochemistryLehninger Principles of Biochemistry (6th edition), David L. Nelson and Michael M. Cox. New York: Macmillan Learning, 2013. One of our biosciences grad student thought this was simply the best basic text on biochemistry and one he kept as a reference.

Wright BrothersThe Wright Brothers, David McCullough. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2015. The story of these two Dayton, Ohio men (and their sister Katherine). Determined, intellectually curious and rigorous experimentalists who had the “(W)right stuff” to be the first to succeed at powered flight, while risking their lives in the process.

On Such a full seaOn Such a Full SeaChang-Rae Lee. New  York: Riverhead Books, 2014. A dystopian novel set in future urban America heavily populated with “New Chinese.”

parable discoveryThe Parable Discovery: First Century Discipleship, Jeffrey L. Curry. Roanoke, TX: See Again Press, 2004. The student recommending this book said it made the parables of the gospel of Matthew come alive as a discipleship manual.

Galactic DynamicsGalactic Dynamics (2nd edition), James Binney and Scott Tremaine. Princeton: Princeton, 2008. Recommended by one of our graduate astrophysics students. It is described on the publisher’s website as “the most widely used advanced textbook on the structure and dynamics of galaxies and one of the most cited references in astrophysics.”

Paradise LostParadise Lost, John Milton (edited and introduced by John Leonard). New York: Penguin Classics, 2003 (originally published 1667). Fascinating retelling of the Eden story and the conflict between Satan and God. An annotated version is important for getting the most out of Milton’s epic poem.

Change of HeartA Change of Heart, Thomas C. Oden. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2014. One of the prominent theologians of the late 20th century describes a conversation with a Jewish friend that changed the whole trajectory of his life and scholarship.

Blind Man's BluffBlind Man’s Bluff, Sherry Sontag and Christopher Drew. New York: PublicAffairs, 1998. A narrative drawn from hundreds of interviews of American submarine espionage during the cold war.

QuietQuiet, Susan Cain. New York: Broadway Books, 2013. Cain writes about the gifts introverts bring and the ways the differences between introverts and extroverts are rooted in our neurophysiology. The book stands out as, not a complaint against an extrovert-oriented society, but as an affirmation of the gifts introverts are to their friends, family, and communities.

Well, that’s the list. To be honest, I think I might like to read anything here I haven’t read, including the textbooks!

A few disclaimers:

  • I should note that the editions in this post may not match those shared.
  • Also, where possible, the links to the books are to the publisher. I prefer not to direct people to a particular online bookseller unless I cannot find a publisher website for the book.
  • Finally, in a post like this, I am simply passing along the recommendations of individuals. These books are not endorsed by Bob on Books, or the graduate fellowship of which the students are part.

With that, I hope you will have fun checking out some titles of which you may not have heard. And maybe think about having your own version of Books and Brownies!

2 thoughts on “Of Books and Brownies

  1. It sounds like an interesting group, and you have added a number of books to my reading list. I am currently reading Surprised by Hope, N.T. Wright and Innocent Eréndria and Other Stories, Gabriel García Márquez. As a retired pharmacist, I enjoy reading in genres I had to bypass while keeping up my professional studies, so I will leave the biochemistry textbook to others.

    Liked by 1 person

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