Foreword Reviews

Starred Review:

The Pastor's Bookshelf

Why Reading Matters for Ministry

Though reading is sometimes maligned as an indulgence, Austin Carty insists that it is a necessity for those in the ministry. In The Pastor’s Bookshelf, he gives tips on what and how to read, promising that “reading will make you a better person.”

Carty remembers feeling guilty for reading Fydor Dostoevsky’s The Idiot in his church office. Before attending seminary, he’d taught high school English; he maintained a literature student’s close reading habits, with a voracious appetite across genres. Nowadays, he considers himself a “pastor-reader,” with the insight and compassion he gains from reading finding their way into his sermons.

The book spotlights memorable reading experiences and conversations with fellow ministers. It makes a convincing case for reading as a way of learning to love one’s neighbors. For instance, books on race were pivotal to Carty in 2020; and, to better understand the situation of the homeless, he read hard-hitting books like Evicted and Dopesick. He’s found equal wisdom in a Leo Tolstoy short story about injustice.

As literature encourages curiosity, humility, and a sense of wonder, the book recommends a “balanced reading diet” of varied novels and simultaneous nonfiction. As to practicalities: an hour in the office and an hour at home daily, minimal online reading, a pencil in hand, a personalized notation system, and an open mind are suggested.

The Pastor’s Bookshelf is an invaluable resource for members of the clergy, though its bookish enthusiasm is even farther reaching than that.

Reviewed by Rebecca Foster

Disclosure: This article is not an endorsement, but a review. The publisher of this book provided free copies of the book to have their book reviewed by a professional reviewer. No fee was paid by the publisher for this review. Foreword Reviews only recommends books that we love. Foreword Magazine, Inc. is disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

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