Books on topics relating to the 2019-20 programme

These are some of the books we of the Engaging Issues committee and friends have been enjoying and find relevant to the 2019-20 programme.

Being Mortal: Illness, Medicine and What Matters

Atul Gawande, 2015

When I was handed this to read, I was expecting a grim, depressing book about illness and death, however this is a fascinating read. In Being Mortal, Atul Gawande has dealt with the subject with honesty and compassion. It is an informative book but is also emotional and challenging.

Atul is writing about a subject that most of us avoid thinking about, our mortality. He explores the conflict between a medical practicioner’s purpose to heal and extend life and the desires, wishes and hopes of those with life limiting conditions. He asks interesting questions about the decisions we make while we are able to do so. What is important to us? What are we willing to give up to achieve our aims. Do we have a choice in how we live in our last days, how we are cared for and how we die? Can we do so with dignity and purpose?

Atul Gawande is an American surgeon and author and has written extensively on public health. His research for the book has been wide ranging and the people and stories he recounts are introduced with kindness and humanity. Highly recommended.

Review by Carol Griffin

Available to borrow from Church Stretton library

The Jihad of Jesus: The Sacred Nonviolent Struggle for Justice

Dave Andrews, 2015

Given that more than half the world is Muslim or Christian, the future of our world depends on Muslims and Christians finding a good way of getting on. So starts Dave's book on the points of commonality and conflict between Muslims and Christians.

The first chapter of the book is given over to a brief history of Christian violence against Muslims. Chapter two is a summary of Muslim violence against Christians. Depressing reading, but important context for anyone thinking about Christian and Muslim relations today.

Dave then goes on to develop his thesis: if Christians and Muslims were to look to what is at the core of their beliefs rather than what is at the edges, we would find we have a lot more in common than we think, especially in terms of how we are to treat each other. For this, Dave examines the Bismillah at the heart of Islam, and the Great Commandment at the core of Christianity. Dave then appeals to Islam’s concept of jihad — struggle and striving — and the long-established Islamic tradition that true jihad is the moral struggle of the individual against the darkness within us. A concept not unfamiliar to any Christian who has taken a baptismal promise to fight against sin, the world, and the devil.

Dave is an experienced Christian pastor and a respected Islamist. He is held in high regard by many within the Muslim community in his native Australia and in the UK. In 2018 Dave joined forces with Julie Siddiqi (Engaging Issues speaker on 29 October 2019) for a UK speaking tour, visiting church halls and mosques across the country. Dave knows his stuff.

The book is marred by some grammatical errors, repeated sections, and other problems for lack of a good editor. But overall it is a useful contribution to the ongoing conversation about what unites and divides the great monotheistic faiths, and it presents a practical vision for better Muslim-Christian relations at an individual and global level.

Review by Steve Aze


Vicky Beeching, 2018

Vicky Beeching’s achingly honest autobiography is one of those books that people will still be talking about twenty years from now. It was recommended to me by a friend, who had it recommended to them by a friend, who had it recommended to them by a friend... It's a book that gets people talking.

Vicky is a prodigious musical talent, song writer, and performer. If you've been to a modern evangelical church, you've probably sung one of her songs. She was the darling of the evangelical churches in the USA — until she came out as gay.

In this disarmingly sincere account, Vicky takes the reader through her joys and struggles as a child, teenager, and into adulthood, in trying to reconcile who she is with what her church wanted her to be.

Vicky is a talented professional communicator and writes with clarity and vividness, with the result that the book is easy to read and hard to put down. A theological treatise it is not, but as an insight as to what it is like for a same-sex-attracted person to be in today's church, it is gripping, enlightening, and in places poignant and disturbing. Vicky's gift is to make you, the reader, see it through her eyes and feel how she feels.

A must-read for everyone, wherever you are on any spectrum of gender, sexuality, and faith.

Review by Steve Aze

Expected to be available to borrow from Church Stretton library from autumn 2019

Where to borrow

The more mainstream books are available to borrow from Church Stretton's wonderful library. Probably not on the shelves, but ask and they'll get them in for you.

Where to buy

Available at all good book stores, and we think that Burway Books in Church Stretton is one of the best. A small independent bookshop that is well stocked, and what Ros doesn't have in stock she can get for you in a day or two. We don't get paid for saying that, and we do like to support all efforts to shop locally.

More books

See also the more books page for more reviews of books on thoughtful topics that members and friends of Engaging Issues are enjoying at the moment.