The Roscoe Library has started a book club, Reading with Spiritual Eyes, based on works of fiction. Aligning with school terms, the idea is to explore four books per year, with your group of friends, work colleagues, or parishioners. Generic questions are provided below to assist with your discussions. Although we’re hoping that groups will gather to discuss their insights, individuals are not precluded from being involved. Toward the end of term, there will be an opportunity to gather at the Roscoe Library for further discussion, refreshments and to ‘launch’ the next book.
Alison Sampson captures the essence of why we believe this will add value to people’s lives when she writes:
“Why read fiction? It’s often thought of as an escape, and sometimes it is; but good fiction is much more than that. A well-crafted story takes you into the mind of another; it gives you a different perspective; it holds up a mirror to yourself; it reveals the society we live in; it invites the reader to find compassion, or possibility, or hope.
… Unless we make conscious decisions to spend time with all sorts of people, we can easily assume that our way of life is the norm; other lives become invisible. Worse, when everything is going swimmingly, we can become complacent, even cruelly indifferent, towards others whose lives are not so easy.
A good piece of fiction is a powerful antidote. Immersed in a story, I find myself living another life. I might get a glimpse of what it is like to work alone at night, or lose a child, or have a differently wired brain. I might see, for a moment, through the eyes of a sex worker, or an asylum seeker, or a lowly hospital orderly who must exercise a moral choice. I might recognise myself in a story, and find it challenging.
When I raise my eyes from the page, things look a little different: sometimes bigger, sometimes bleaker, sometimes more hopeful. My place in the world shifts, too, because when I see through the eyes of another as I read, it becomes easier to see through the eyes of those I encounter every day; when I recognise myself in a story, I may feel compelled to live differently. A really good book can help heal my heart of stone, show me the path to compassion, and stir me into love.” [Alison Sampson, “A Good Book Can Stir Us into Love,” Zadok Perspectives, no. 121 (2013): 3.]
Chris Glaser suggests reading as one way of experiencing spiritual community outside of church in an article Spiritual Community:
“I enjoy the most diverse, stimulating, informed, and wise spiritual community on my bookshelves! Fiction and non-fiction, sacred and profane, fantasy and factual—you name it, all connect me to other people, places, and things with whom and with which I may feel a spiritual kinship. Newspaper and magazine human interest stories, op-eds, obits, and news stories also open me to relationships often more spiritually intimate than possible in ordinary life. All are opportunities for witnessing spirituality at work for those who have eyes to see, fingers to feel Braille, or ears to hear recorded versions.”
Questions you may choose to guide your group’s discussion …
- Is this a book that you would have chosen to read had it not been suggested by this book club?
- Do you identify strongly with any of the main characters and, if so, why?
- How do you feel the characters responded to the situations with which they were presented?
- Did you find this book related to any of your own life experiences?
- What key events stood out to you, and why?
- Where is God in this book?
- Do you consider that this book provides opportunities for spiritual growth and reflection?
- Are there any theological themes present? If so, what did you think of their use?
- What, if anything, did you find confronting?
- How did you feel about the ending of the book? Satisfied? Frustrated? Irritated? Disappointed? Inspired?
- To whom would you recommend this book?
On Tuesday, 19 June at 5:30pm, join us for a book chat exploring Term 2's book, The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin. For more details, and to register, click here.
Term 1 2018: Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie.
Term 4 2017: The Barrier by Shankari Chandran.
Term 3 2017: A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman.
Term 2 2017: A Hundred Small Lessons by Ashley Hay.
Term 1 2017: The Museum of Modern Love by Heather Rose.
Term 4 2016: Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil by Melina Marchetta.
Term 3 2016: Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave.