Preaching MagazineBook of the Year (2022) Hearts & Minds Best Books List (2022) Christianity Today Award of Merit in Church & Pastoral Leadership (2023)
It’s time to give pastors permission to read books besides the Bible.
Six months into his first senior pastorate, Austin Carty sat in his office reading—not the Bible, not a commentary, not a theological tract, but a novelby Fyodor Dostoevsky. As the minutes turned to hours, while he sat engrossed in this book, he noticed something: he began feeling uneasy. And then anxious. And then guilty. What would someone think if they opened the door and caught him reading fiction?
For busy pastors (is there any other kind?), time spent reading feels hard to justify, especially when it’s not for sermon prep. But what if reading felt less like a luxury and more like a vocational responsibility—a spiritual practice that bears fruit in every aspect of ministry, from preaching to pastoral care to church leadership?
Austin Carty believes that this is exactly how pastors ought to think about reading. The Pastor’s Bookshelf shows how worthwhile reading is more about formation than information and how, through reading, a pastor becomes a fuller, more enriched human being with a deeper capacity for wisdom and love, better equipped to understand and work for God’s kingdom.
Table of Contents
Foreword by Thomas G. Long Introduction: Permission to Read Freely Section One: All the Reading We Don’t Remember 1. On Formation 2. Formation versus Information 3. On Information 4. Developing Wisdom 5. Learning to Love Part Two: Not Just a Luxury 6. Reading for Preaching 7. Reading for Pastoral Care 8. Reading for Vision Casting 9. Reading for Leadership Part Three: For Whatever Reason 10. Reading as a Pastoral Visit 11. Reading as a Spiritual Discipline 12. Reading with a Proper Spirit 13. Choosing What to Read 14. How to Mark and File What You’ve Read 15. Reading Scripture as a Pastor-Reader Postscript Notes Index
Austin Carty lives and pastors in Anderson, South Carolina. He is the author of?High Points and Lows: Life, Faith, and Figuring It All Out.
“One remarkable feature of Carty’s writing in this volume is how much of it is done in conversation with others, particularly parishioners and others who are on the receiving end of ministry. Carty hopes to encourage pastors who read, but not merely as a form of gratuitous self-improvement, but reading done among, with, and for the people of God.” — Thomas G. Long from the foreword
“Christians are a people of the Word, yet we are formed more and more today by wanton, careless words. Those who will lead the church well will be those who are formed by good words—those who know the power words have over our hearts and minds. Those who read good books well will be such leaders. Pastors who read and live by the wisdom in this book will be changed, as will their ministries and the people to whom they minister. This book belongs on every pastor’s shelf.” — Karen Swallow Prior author of On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life through Great Books
“Reading is crucial for ministry, not as a mine for anecdotes and illustrations, but as an apprenticeship of the imagination. In this warm and wise book, Austin Carty invites pastors to develop capacious reading habits, as wide and curious and wonderful as the world in which they serve. I hope this book is an occasion for many pastors to build new shelves of poetry and fiction, biography and memoir, all of them adventures in understanding humanity.” — James K. A. Smith editor in chief of Image journal author of You Are What You Love
“I am gobsmacked by this book’s threefold beauty: its writing, its erudition, and the author’s deep commitment to what true reading can give not only pastors, but us all.” — Maryanne Wolf author of Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World
“Time and again in my ministry I’ve been rescued from despair by a book. Partnering with novelists, poets, and scholars has stoked, funded, and fueled my ministry. Just last week Dostoevsky saved me from committing a boring sermon. That’s why I so enjoyed Austin Carty’s The Pastor’s Bookshelf and found it to be full of such wonderful, wise, invigorating guidance for pastors needing to read themselves through ministry.” — Will Willimon professor of the practice of Christian ministry at Duke Divinity School author of Preachers Dare: Speaking for God
“Austin Carty writes with great conviction on a truly significant topic: the need for pastors to be avid readers. He also writes with clarity, consistency, and grace. The church needs this vital book.” — Cornelius Plantinga author of Reading for Preaching
“The complications and tensions of pastoral ministry can make it a lonely business, both personally and intellectually. One of the most important antidotes to the perplexing loneliness of pastoral ministry is to read. Not as busywork or even distraction, but as communion with those dead and alive. All pastors need a community, obviously a community of persons, but also of authors, of people the pastor is thinking alongside, who are speaking into her or his ministry. Austin Carty is the perfect guide into this community of authors and texts. Austin is a faithful pastor who reads all sorts of texts with insight and depth. The Pastor’s Bookshelf puts this all on display. It’s a treasure.” — Andrew Root author of The Congregation in a Secular Age: Keeping Sacred Time against the Speed of Modern Life
“All of us need the encouragement Austin Carty offers fellow pastors in this elegant invitation to reconsider reading. Good reading practices, he reminds us, help us preach, converse, reflect, find connections, offer lively analogies, enjoy each other, and love more richly and effectively. The book is full of stories and surprises offered with a warm collegiality that reminds us as we turn its pages of the sheer pleasure of reading a good book.” — Marilyn McEntyre author of Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies and Speaking Peace in a Climate of Conflict
“The Pastor’s Bookshelf is an invaluable resource for members of the clergy, though its bookish enthusiasm is even farther reaching than that.” — Foreword Reviews (starred review)
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