Must-Read Books on Orthodoxy

Both Chris and Margi and indubitably many others have recently posted lists of Books On Orthodoxy One Must Read. I’m limiting my list to five entries. Here is my contribution:

1.) The Lives of the Saints

2.) The Lives of the Saints

3.) The Lives of the Saints

4.) The Lives of the Saints

5.) The Lives of the Saints

(I think one might detect a pattern there.)

10 Replies to “Must-Read Books on Orthodoxy”

  1. Why, sir, I am nearly entirely unsurprised! Your own selection is admirable in its clarity.

    The realization is dawning on me that people think too much, and that this thinking too much leads us to think that all this thinking and thoughtfulness and thoughtful books are objectively good. But they’re not.

    Certainly we have any number of books that deals with any number of abstruse subjects (I am certainly not immune to their siren call, as you well know), and these may play their role in a kind of high-level apologetics, the kind of thing that properly belongs to our bishops, the successors to the Apostles, but which apologetics are typically usurped by internet Orthodox apologists of one stripe or other. But this is a rarified and mostly solipsistic endeavor.

    But what is the way of the Church? What are the readings that moved the Saints, where they have mentioned it? Which books led them into Sainthood? In addition to an active prayer life and full participation in the liturgical life of the Church, the only books I’ve seen regularly mentioned in such a context are Lives of the Saints.

    I think it would be a fine thing to hand the Life of a Saint to an interested visitor and say, “Here, this is the heart of Orthodoxy.” It would be particularly helpful to be able to hand him or her a Life of a Saint that has some bearing upon their own lives, a Life which answers questions they have, or points the way out of troubles that they may be seeking. In any case, these are always a good thing for us to be reading.

    I say, “Stand back and let holiness do its work.”

  2. How about The Lives of the Saints? Have you read that one? I’ve heard it’s excellent and I was thinking about reading it, but no one has suggested it to me. Any thoughts on The Lives of the Saints?

  3. Right, Nick! I forgot that one! Add that to the list!

    Even better are: The Lives of the Saints.

    It’s a multivolume series that puts even a science fiction writer to shame.

    Collect them all! And as Aaron says, make sure to read them!

  4. There is something better than reading the lives of the saints. You should read less and go on otpust (pilgrimage) more. Go to St Tikhon’s in South Canaan and stand before the grave of St Aleksei Toth… go to San Francisco and stand before the tomb of St john Maksimovich… go to Mayfield PA and worship at St John the Baptist on Russian Hill (one of the oldest parishes in the lower 48)… go to Jordanville and stand before the tomb of Blessed Laurus Skurla, the Great Unifier… go to NYC and light a candle at St Nick’s on East 97th (between Fifth and Mad, on the left as you go towards Broadway) and thank St Nikolai the Tsar-Martyr, who made that church possible…

    Our faith is NOT based on paper and ink… it is based on flesh and blood… Orthodoxy is incarnational, heterodoxy is didactic… therefore, the less reading and the more living that we do, the better off we shall be.

    Why did you provide a link to Orr’s dreary little list of dreck? We all know that he is an opinionated and ignorant toddler who just regurgitates the SVS party-line. Why do you persist in encouraging the peanut gallery? It DOESN’T help the poor boy, you know.

    Any road… LIVE your faith… Reading? It’s nice… it can be fun… as Chukcha would say, “However… God wants full hearts, not swelled heads!”


  5. Well, of course, Vara, Orthodoxy is not a bunch of books. But the lists people were setting out there were focused on books, so that’s my little contribution, bringing it back to Orthodox books rather than books about Orthodoxy, which is an important distinction. And it was meant to poke some gentle fun at the kinds of books being chosen by some other people, which were certainly leaning toward the intellectual rather than the faithful. I didn’t see the Lives of the Saints mentiones by any of them.

    A Greek Archimandrite friend, when I was in the process of converting, told me when I mentioned I was reading some book about prayer: “Stop reading about it and do it!” It’s better advice than most that I hear!

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