This post is the third in a series that begins with Pilgrim Pages 1 and 2. It might make a bit more sense if you read those first…
Before I get into the business of making recommendations I need to say that I do not expect that, just because Robert Benson’s books have been formative for me, everyone else will have the same positive response. My wife is a case in point…she read some of one of his books and declared that it did nothing for her, that she found the whole thing heavy going, boring and “only read a little because I just couldn’t get into it”.
But in the hope that some of you might be tempted to ‘have a go’. Here are a few suggestions.
Having been introduced to Robert Benson’s work by reading ‘In Constant Prayer’, I used the list on his website www.robertbensonwriter.com/bookshelf to go right back to the beginning and read everything he’d written in chronological order. The current list is not quite up to date, with three additional books having been written since it was last updated, so you may have to do a little extra spadework yourself. Part of the fun for me was actually sourcing the books…I remember an interesting email conversation with the American publishers of the prayer book and DVD resource ‘Daily Prayer’.
In a letter introducing his latest book, Robert Benson relates how he answers people who ask which books they should read first, to get to know his work:
“I have always said the first one, ‘Between the Dreaming and the Coming True’ is first, ‘The Echo Within’ is next, a happy accident that seemed the other part of that first and favorite book, though there were twelve years and a dozen books in between.
‘Dancing on the Head of a Pen’ seems the third part. If you want to hear what it is I have been trying to say over and over for my whole writing life, then these are the three to read.”
Alternatively, you could choose to read thematically…there are two books based on elements of the ‘Rule of Benedict (‘A Good Life’ and ‘A Good Neighbor’) or his books on prayer (‘Living Prayer’ and ‘In Constant Prayer’).
You might prefer to try his less overtly spiritual books (‘The Game’, ‘Home by Another Way’, ‘Digging In’ and ‘Moving Miss Peggy’) or even use his two personally compiled Daily Office books (‘Venite’ and ‘Daily Prayer’…I treasure the second of these as my major alternative to Celtic Daily Prayer, from the Northumbria Community).
There’s even a coffee-table book, full of beautiful illustrations, to help us prepare for Christmas during the Advent season (‘The Night of the Child’). There are a few more gems that I haven’t chosen to mention.
Whatever way you choose to begin, I would encourage you to make the effort…if the books resonate with you it will have been worth it.