Friday, June 25, 2010

Sustained Silent Reading

When my kids were in elementary school one of their favorite parts of the curriculum was SSR: sustained silent reading. They still both love to read, and much of their discretionary income goes to acquiring new books to read (come to think of it, that's where mine goes, too). The Boy is reviewing books for the local children's book store this summer, and Crash is in the midst of God is Not One.

Robin of Metanoia and I have started a blog dialogue about Into the Silent Land (see the first posts here and here), which turns out not to be the only book that's on both our reading lists.

I'm reading about silence in a sustained way this summer - partly to prepare for a course that I might (or might not) teach in the fall of 2011. So for what it's worth, here is what I'm reading - silently. If you have other suggestions for me, I 'd love to hear them...or if you're reading some of these, let me know what you think.

  • Into the Silent Land by Martin Laird, OSA. Reflections on the contemplative Christian life.
  • A Book of Silence by Sara Maitland. Travels to literally silent lands (the Sinai, a hermitage on a remote island). Read the NY Times review.
  • Virgin Time: In Search of the Contemplative Life by Patricia Hampl. Another travelogue, this one goes on pilgrimage to trace the steps of saints Francis and Clare and to a monastery in California.
  • In Pursuit of Silence: Listening for Meaning in a World of Noise by George Prochnik. A look at the sonic landscape from many perspectives, including the scientific.
  • Being Still by Jean-Yves Leloup. An Orthodox theologian looks at the early roots of the contemplative Christian tradition. The opening stories of a young monk's training on Mount Athos which set the stage for the rest of the book are marvelous reflections in themselves.
  • Earthen Vessels by Gabriel Bunge OSB. A Benedictine hermit reflects on the contemplative life, richly interwoven with bits from the desert fathers. Its subtitle — The Practice of Personal Prayer According to the Patristic Traditions — says it all.
  • The Power of Pause by Terry Hershey. Practical suggestions for just stopping. Less academic and more advice driven.

The photo is of my reading spot of choice - in my freshly weeded back yard.


  1. Listening Below the Noise: The Transformative Power of Silence by Ann LeClaire is one I read this summer. I think I posted it on my blog.

    Also am also finished with Pilgimage of a Soul by Phileena Heuertz which you may enjoy

  2. Oh, Cathy, thanks for both suggestion and reminder! I did see "Listening..." on your blog and thought I'd like to read it!

  3. And - I just watched Bergman's The Seventh Seal, also about the silence of God.

  4. Two of my own favourites, here - Laird and Maitland. Just starting John Lane's The Spirit of Silence, which looks excellent. The first two quotes are from Thomas Merton and Richard Rolle - seems like a good start to me!

  5. Sigh...I am the Kool-Aid mom. There is no silence to be had around here.

    I think I'll pick up one of these and save it for when school starts and I actually get some silent time! Only 10 more weeks...