If you have decided to relinquish your favourite television programmes or other time-wasting activities for Lent in order to free up time to catch up on some reading but, like me, you only manage to sit down to read when the day is done and your brain is tired. Heavy tomes of theological argument and theorising may not quite float your boat. With that in mind, I’ve listed some easy-to-read but thought-provoking books which may just tick the right boxes for you. Mostly they are old favourites (some very old) which are good to re-visit.
The Chronicles of Narnia C S Lewis: a must for young and old alike and always worth reading again. They are also good to read aloud with the children/Grandchildren (preferably before they see any film or television versions). C S Lewis was known as a ‘Translator’, that is, he took complex theological concepts and made them accessible to all. I know most will know these stories but C S Lewis has the ability to enable the reader to glean a deeper understanding on each reading.
The Screwtape Letters C S Lewis: I make no apology for including another C S Lewis book in the list, indeed it was hard to stick at just two! The ‘Screwtape Letters’ is perhaps less well known but great fun and tells about our faith, our weaknesses and our failures through the eyes of a senior devil named Screwtape and his somewhat useless nephew and junior devil Wormwood. It will bring a smile to your face whilst pricking your conscience and teaching us something more about the nature of God: you can always rely on a devil to fully understand God’s nature!
Finding Sanctuary Father Christopher Jamieson OSB
This book followed the television serious of the same name about ordinary men from different backgrounds and with very different life histories who entered a Benedictine Monastery for a short retreat. The series clearly tapped into a spiritual need as the abbot was overwhelmed with requests from people who had seen the programme seeking to learn more. The result was this book which, whilst it refers to the participants of the programme the focus is on how we as individuals can find the inner peace which so many of us yearn for.
The Dwelling of the Light: Praying with Iconsof Christ Rowan Williams
Now I know the mere mention of Rowan Williams may suggest that a book written by him will go way over the heads of mere mortals but trust me, that is not the case. Perhaps the mark of a truly great and clever person is that they can make the most complex of subjects accessible to all of us. Rowan Williams, like C S Lewis is just such a person. His explanation of various icons opens up meaning and understanding way beyond simple appreciation of a picture. Indeed, icons are said to be written rather than drawn. A concept completely lost on me before reading this book and Rowan’s other book about icons: ‘Ponder these things: praying with the icons of the Virgin’. If you have time, read them both. You won’t regret it.
Jesus: a pilgrimage James Martin SJ
A somewhat longer book than my other suggestions and one which may occupy the whole of Lent but this is absolutely the right time in the Church’s year to read it. Not that it wouldn’t be good at any other time of year. Part travelogue, part history, part commentary on scripture this book takes you on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land without leaving your house. If you have already been to the Holy Land, it will bring back wonderful memories and leave you wanting to return to see things through a different lens. If you haven’t been, you will certainly want to go but if unable to this book will transport you there through its pages.
James Martin and friend set off to the Holy Land on a pilgrimage, something he had resisted doing for many years. The book follows our Lord’s life chronologically, describing the geography and explaining the context and substance of the scriptures. One section is dedicated to that time of our Lord’s life so often glossed over in our liturgical calendar. That is, the years Jesus spent simply growing up. The author provides the reader with a fascinating insight into what our Lord’s life would have been like for thirty of his thirty-three years. After reading this section, you can’t help but feel you understand a lot more about the man called Jesus. A beautifully written book. If you can only squeeze one book in this Lent, I highly recommend you make it this one.
My top 5 Easy Reads for Lent