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The Pastor's Bookshelf
Why Reading Matters for Ministry
Austin Carty
Foreword by Thomas G. Long

PAPERBACK; Published: 4/5/2022
ISBN: 978-0-8028-7910-3
Price: $ 19.99
182 Pages
Trim Size, in inches: 5.5 x 8.5
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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 novel by 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


Hearts & Minds Best Books List (2022)

Christianity Today Award of Merit in Church & Pastoral Leadership (2023)

“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)
The Englewood Review of Books
“Carty’s book is not simply memoir or personal reflection, though it includes much of both. Rather, his argument is framed and well-informed by current findings from neuroscience and the best writings on spiritual formation, and what we are learning about how commitment to deep reading forms the inner life. Not only is this crucial for the general health of an individual pastor, but leaders that are formed in this way are more and more needed in our fragmented and increasingly anxious culture.”
The Rev. Samuel Adams in The Living Church
“The real gift of the book is Carty’s sheer delight in and passion for reading. After spending just a few minutes with The Pastor’s Bookshelf, I began to look at my bookshelf of half-finished and not-started books, and I felt a renewed eagerness to pick up one and dive in.”