Suggested Books

These books or other material help readers better understand scientific discoveries about creation, how these relate to finding the mystery we call God present in our  time and place, and how we are called to respond.

Please consider sharing a review of material you found helpful. Contact Terri MacKenzie, SHCJ (



Braiding Sweetgrass, Robin Wall Kimmerer, Milkweed Editions, 2013.
I am certain I posted a review of this book immediately after reading it. My apologies for evidently not updating the page correctly, thus delaying your finding a review here. I relish(ed) the author’s skill in weaving observations, insights, and inspiration about members of our Earth family with whom she is obviously well acquainted. This is the result of her being an Indian American, a botanist, a poet, and a mother. The chapters — read singly, in sections, or straight through — pulse with passion, reverence, and expertise that will enrich your relationship with life. If you’re looking for the beauty that will save the world, be sure to check out this book. 

An Astonishing Secret: The Love Story of Creation and the Wonder of You, Daniel O’Leary, Columbia Press, 2017. O’Leary begins by quoting Steve Taylor’s words about making “a sacred space inside … for the secrets to flow through and reveal themselves to you.” That’s just what is required for each of these 49 brief reflections on quotes from Pope Francis (primarily from Laudato Si’). Readers of this site will be both affirmed and challenged; evolutionary realities and mystical dimensions are standard. The concluding Notes double as a valuable guide for further reading of authors like Teilhard de Chardin, Ilia Delio, and Richard Rohr. You might rush to acquire this book, but you won’t be able to rush reading it. 

The Overstory, Richard Powers, W.W. Norton, and Company, 2018. 
Powers’ “gigantic fable of genuine truths” (Barbara Kingsolver) received lavish praise from literary reviewers and ecologists, but only the encouragement of a dear friend (who gave me the book) would entice me to read a 502 page tome. The encouragement of two friends was needed for me to persevere. We three found the beginning discouragingly dense — in my case, because I didn’t understand that the initial nine chapters weren’t intended to create a flowing story at that stage of the novel. When those nine eventually interact, I was both hooked and enraptured – and grateful I had
taken notes to help me keep track of who was who. The characters and the prose are outstanding, but I post my views here because it is by far the most moving book I have found on the interconnections of all life, “plant personhood,” and the inestimable worth of old-growth forests. You will mourn the loss of them, you will grieve the stupidity of our species in sacrificing their contributions for short-term gain, and you will never miss an opportunity to act in the defense of the old-growth forests that remain. (The lack of a unified definition of “old growth forest” contributes to their lack of legal protection by humans blindly obsessed with destroying them.) 

Prayers for Progressive Christians: A New Template, Kelmore Publications, 2018. Michael Morwood’s latest book offers wisdom for those who “have moved considerably in their theological and doctrinal thinking” and who experience problems with prayer as a result. I recommend it enthusiastically for those in that group. Part One, a comprehensive overview of “key aspects of progressive theological thinking,” is a helpful affirmation to those who might wonder if they are alone. Morwood clarifies and affirms the shifts in belief that come from living within the cosmic context. Such shifts often leave faith explorers puzzling over how best to pray. Part Two addresses this situation by giving thirty-two examples, each titled to suggest times for use. If age-old prayer styles no longer speak for you, don’t miss this book.  

It’s Not Necessarily So: A Senior Priest Separates Faith from Fiction and Makes Some Sense of Belief, Father Richard G. Rento, STL, Caritas Communications, 2016 – My site is based on the conviction that humanity has left a former, not-accurate cosmology, and that it is necessary to move our faith from the old worldview into the new. While doing this might not entirely stem the swelling numbers of “Nones,” I believe it would at least calm those who find those departures distressing — and perhaps ease their own faith journeys. I often hesitate to make the case for transition lest I upset anyone not ready to leave the security of long-held beliefs. Besides, I realize that my lack of degrees limits my credibility.

That explains why I was so happy to discover It’s Not Necessarily So. Written by a priest I greatly admire, its message comes with his authority, clarity, and trademark gentleness. His book affirms and assists those who question, and are moving beyond, former beliefs. Using conversational prose, Dick is “not in any way trivializing or discrediting the bible … [but is] urging my fellow Catholics [applicable to all Christians] to summon the courage to use their intelligence, their God-given powers of reasoning, their common sense, in their approach to what is called the written word of God.” Those suspicious of the cosmology that underlies ecospirituality, as well as those grounded in it, will appreciate these wise chapters — and the “Starter” Reading List Dick includes.

LIVING COSMOLOGY: CHRISTIAN RESPONSES TO JOURNEY OF THE UNIVERSE, edited by Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim. Having gifted us with their amazing video Journey of the Universe, Mary Ellen and John sponsored a conference at Yale Divinity School where experts in various aspects of Christian studies gathered to reflect on this message. This book includes the 31 papers given at that conference. It is dedicated to Miriam Therese MacGillis and “all those Sisters and Brothers of Earth who have been inspired by Thomas Berry …. ” His call to participate in the Great Work lives on in these essays.

Your Atomic Self: The Invisible Elements That Connect You to Everything Else in the Universe, Curt Stager, Thomas Dunne Books, 2014 – I’ve had a hard time finishing this book. Not that it’s difficult reading; quite the contrary. One of the blurbs on the cover praises Stager as “a gifted scientist with the eyes of an artist and the heart of a poet.” Therein lies my reluctance to get past the first chapter, “Fires of Life.” When I open the book, I want to remain, yet again, in those pages. I believe this book can help readers “nurture that sublime fraternity with all creation which St. Francis so radiantly embodied.” (Laudato Si’, par. 221) Given the focus of my ministry, I cannot ponder often enough passages like this:

To look into the night sky is to survey distant gardens in which the elements of life are ripening, and your body is a composite harvest from those cosmic fields. Throughout history, people have spoken of the earth as our mother and the sun as our father … In an atomic sense, however, it would be more accurate to think of the earth and the sun as our siblings, because they both formed from the same star debris as the elements of life within us. Earth is indeed a kind of surrogate mother to us in that our bodies are derived from it, but we exist today only because our true celestial star mothers died long ago ….

What a feast! The book’s text concludes on page 246 with this sentence: Now take another breath, if you please, not only because you must but, wonder of wonders, because you can. To quote from Laudato Si’ again: “… the world is a joyful mystery to be contemplated with gladness and praise.” (par. 12) Stager helps me do that!

Universe Story Trilogy, Jennifer Morgan. Those seeking the Universe Story in a version for children must get a look at Jennifer Morgan’s Universe Story Trilogy! Jennifer, Deep Time Journey Network president, wrote these three books in the form of a letter from the Universe to her son. All readers, children and certainly this adult, can enjoy Earth’s story in a form that captures the imagination and is accompanied by beautiful illustrations by Dana Lynn Anderson. These books inspire awe, wonder, and hope. Each book contains pages at the back for adults needing more detailed scientific information and photos, glossary, and resources:

Born With a Bang:

From Lava to Life:

Mammals Who Morph:


Maureen Welsh, SHCJ, sends this suggestion excerpted from Amazon: 
 Don’t Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change, George Marshall, Bloombury USA, 2014 – What is the psychological mechanism that allows us to know something is true but act as if it is not?  George Marshall’s search for the answers brings him face to face with Nobel Prize-winning psychologists and activists of the Texas Tea Party; world’s leading climate scientists and people who denounce them; liberal environmentalists and conservative evangelicals.  What he discovered is that our values, assumptions, and prejudices can take on lives of their own, gaining authority as they are shared, dividing people in their wake.

With engaging stories and drawing on years of his own research, Marshall argues that the answers do not lie in the things that make us different and drive us apart, but rather in what we all share:  how our human brains are wired — our evolutionary origins, our perceptions of threats, our cognitive blind spots, our love of storytelling, our fear of death, and our deepest instincts to defend our family and tribe.  Once we understand what excites, threatens, and motivates us, we can rethink and re-imagine climate change, for it is not an impossible problem.  Rather, it is one we can halt, if we can make it our common purpose and common ground.

Thomas Berry: Selected Writings on the Earth Community, Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim, Orbis Books, 2014 I think I have read (though I don’t pretend to have mastered) just about everything Thomas Berry ever wrote, starting with manuscripts he generously shared whenever I visited the Riverdale Center in the 1970’s. In spite of that, when reading the excerpts selected by Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim in this book, I felt the same joy of discovery that I did at the very beginning. In addition, I was awed as I read each of the introductions to the 12 chapters they have compiled. Here is a book that feels inspired — not just by Thomas’ always-inspiring messages, but by the beauty and lucidity of the arrangement of excerpts as well as the deft and warm words that introduce each chapter. Few people have better background than Mary Evelyn and John to attempt this book, and they do not disappoint. The New Story, the Great Work, the role of religions, humans’ role in the story — it’s all here. No one can miss the sacred in these pages. Read and rejoice!

Teilhard’s Mysticism: Seeing the Inner Face of Evolution, Kathleen Duffy, SSJ, Orbis, 2014 – In 126 pages (plus Bibliography and Index), this book compels re-reading and contemplation. Kathleen explores five “circles” that drew Teilard de Chardin into ever deeper exploration of the Divine Mystery dwelling there: Presence, Consistence, Energy, Spirit, and Person. The final chapter synthesizes Teilhard’s spiral journey. In each chapter, Kathleen braids Teilhard’s search, current scientific updates, and his mystical conclusion. You might experience joyful tension: wanting to read the next pages, yet wanting to savor what you just read. Whether or not you are familiar with Teilhard de Chardin, if you care about evolution, science, theology, or spirituality you will appreciate this book.

Ecology and Religion – Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim have published another winner! Those who made Mary Evelyn’s EcoSpirituality Group retreat June 2013, and anyone who wants basic guidelines for approaching Religious Ecology, will be happy with the second chapter: “The Nature of Religious Ecology: Orienting, Grounding, Nurturing, Transforming”! Chapters are lucid and practical, scholarly yet easily comprehensible. Questions for discussion begin on p. 171; Appendix A through G are icing on the cake. Copious Notes and ample Bibliography add to this book’s usefulness. Island press, 2014.

Nature is a Heraclitean Fire – In only 44 pages, David S. Toolan’s informative and poetic essay covers the essentials of faith in an ecological age. Free pdf. copy available here:

Franciscan Prayer – Many people have questions about responding in prayer to the new spirituality. Although Ilia Delio calls this “Franciscan,” it has insights for anyone.

Befriending The Earth: A Theology of Reconciliation between Humans and the Earth – This book contains highlights from a dialog Thomas Berry and Thomas Clarke had in 1991. Their insights are still relevant and provocative.

Roots and Wings is a kind of ‘toe-print’ into the waters where science meets spirituality and mind makes room for heart. Margaret Silf reflects on what the life of Jesus Christ means in the light of the universe story.

Books by Denis Edwards help one to understand the role of the Incarnation in the new cosmology. This review includes several of his books.

Journey of the Universe – Mary Evelyn Tucker and Brian Swimme’s acclaimed film and book tells our story from the beginning. Awesome and inspiring. The following review includes the three parts of the Journey of the Universe trilogy:

Christ in Evolution – Ilia Delio addresses the question: How does Jesus Christ fit into the New Universe Story? Highlights of her answer are included in this review.

Field of Compassion – Judy Cannato’s book delivers on its subtitle: How the New Cosmology Is Transforming Spiritual Life.

Natural Saints – How People of Faith Are Working to Save God’s Earth – Mallory McDuff uses her background in science and faith to share examples of people making a difference and fostering hope.

Awakening Universe, Emerging Personhood: The Power of Contemplation in an Evolving Universe -Mary Conrow Coelho’s book is often cited in footnotes. Our reviewer went to the source to let us know why it is worthy of being so often quoted.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals – This book by Michael Pollan tells about the food we eat, where it comes from, and how we can deepen our religious appreciation of the sacred connections involved.

Quantum Theology: Spiritual Implications of the New Physics – Diarmuid O’Murchu seemed to intuit our desire for education in the new science as it relates to finding God living and acting in us and in our world.

Children Praying A New Story: A Resource for Parents, Grandparents and Teachers – Kathy Gibbons shares what she found helpful in this insightful and practical book.

Books by Teilhard de Chardin, S.J.
(1959), The Phenomenon of Man, New York: Harper.
(1960), The Divine Milieu: An Essay on the Interior Life, New York: Harper.
1964), The Future of Man, New York: Harper and Row.
(1965a), Building the Earth, Wilkes-Barre: Dimension.
(1965b), Hymn of the Universe, New York: Harper and Row.
(1968), Science and Christ, London: Collins.
(1969a), How I Believe, New York: Harper and Row.
(1969b), Human Energy, London: Collins.
(1970a), Activation of Energy, London: Collins.
(1970b), Let Me Explain, London: Collins.
(1971), Christianity and Evolution, New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
(1974), On Suffering, New York: Harper and Row.
(1975), Toward the Future, London: Collins.
(1979), The Heart of Matter, New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
(1980), Early Man in China, New York: AMS Press.


9 thoughts on “Suggested Books

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  2. I’ve been surfing online more than 3 hours today, yet I never
    found any interesting article likee yours. It’s pretty worth enoughh for me.
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  3. I was trying to follow the link to Franciscan prayer …it brought me to the SHC web site, but I couldn’t find what I was seeking. Can you help? Thank you for all of this great work in one place! Mary Pendergast,RSM


  4. Oops, right you are, Mary! The SHCJ site was recently changed, and the eco-material there has gone on to eternal space. Happily, I did save the original of the review you’d like, and am emailing it to you in pdf. I have altered the “Suggested Books”
    page to alert readers that the reviews are no longer on the shcj site, but they can ask me for them — as you did. Not ideal, but the best for now. Thanks for your interest!


  5. Pingback: Creation Care Tips from the Synod Lutherans Restoring Creation Team | Connections

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