Do You Have a Book Group? Some Book Ideas — by Mary Ann Weber

A soldier returns to the United States after the worst day of his life—a day when a fierce battle took the lives of some of his friends. A young woman finds herself working at a police precinct and is mesmerized by the recent hire of a young woman who seems to lead a much more glamorous life. An Indian Catholic sister working in Ethiopia dies while giving birth to twins, one of whom grows up to be a physician.*

These brief plots are from books I’ve read for the book group I meet with each month. Aside from the fact that I love to read, one reason to be part of such a group is that I read books that I might not have chosen on my own. We’re assured of a variety of genres and writing styles because we take turns choosing books.

Thinking about book selection led me to wonder what would happen if a book group read only MennoMedia titles? Keeping in mind a variety of books, what would I recommend?


1. Shine On: A Story Bible. This book might not, at first glance, seem like a good book for adults. In this volume, numerous Bible stories are written and illustrated with children in mind. Yet, the stories are skillfully told and the illustrations are captivating. Each story contains ideas to help readers explore the story further and connect with it. Choosing some of them would generate excellent group discussion.

Extending the table rev

2. Extending the Table. Cookbooks are not traditionally circulated among book groups. But what if everyone prepared their favorite recipe from the book and brought it along to the group? From Afghanistan to Zambia, Extending the Table includes recipes from all over the world. Perhaps some foods will be new, while others will remind group members of travels and of living in places outside of their own context. What a tasty meeting!

recon3. Reconcile by John Paul Lederach. Lederach has worked in conflict situations around the globe and he takes seriously that reconciliation is a central part of the Bible. Using personal stories and Scripture, Lederach illustrates how Christians work toward resolving conflicts peacefully. Practical ideas and resources are included, as well as a study guide for group discussions.


4. Chasing the Amish Dream by Loren Beachy. Amish fiction is quite prolific these days and is written by outsiders. So how about getting the authentic voice by picking up this book? Beachy is a member of the Amish church with a gift for both writing and humor. Book groups will learn about real Amish life from someone on the inside.


5. Making Friends with the Taliban by Jonathan P. Larson. This true story about Dan Terry, who worked as a peacemaker in Afghanistan, is both inspiring and challenging. What does it mean to work for peace in a world of conflict? How do we learn to understand cultures and people? Are we ready to give our lives for peace? This book provides many conversation topics for book groups.


6. Radical Jesus edited by Paul Buhle. Most book groups don’t read graphic novels, and that’s too bad. Many have good things to say in the way they use both words and pictures to tell a story. This book highlights the life and teachings of Jesus, and then features those who have lived by those teachings throughout history. Many elements of the book will spark good conversations and a study guide is available at:

What are some books you recommend to a book group?

I wish to also remind you that most books MennoMedia sells are available at a
25 % discount with the “Study Shelf” discount. See details and book ideas here.

Happy reading!


*Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain, The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell, Cutting for Stone by Abraham


Mary Ann Weber, Managing Editor, Curriculum

Grab a book and hit the beach

It was a hot, steamy day on the sandy beaches of Costa Rica back in May 2009.

Photo by Jarle Naustvik

Photo by Jarle Naustvik

The ocean felt cool and refreshing after spending the morning in a beach chair reading Engaging Anabaptism, an anthology edited by John Roth.

I’d engaged Anabaptism, and then the Pacific Ocean. Now it was time to pick up another Herald Press book. Which one would I choose? My vacation reading stack still included Conrad Kanagy’s Road Signs for the Journey (now out of print), Peter and Elfrieda Dyck’s Up from the Rubble, and others. Plus I was doing morning and evening prayers with Take Our Moments and Our Days, volume 1.

Honestly, I can’t remember the order, but I ended up reading (or skimming) about 10 Herald Press titles that week. You see, immediately after returning from my Costa Rican vacation I was to have an interview for a position as editorial director of Herald Press. So my husband and I went horseback riding, rode ziplines, hiked a volcano, and in between each and every activity I packed in some Herald Press reading.

I admit that wasn’t the kind of reading I typically enjoy on vacations. I often look for lighter fare. But it made for a memorable vacation!

Have you dived in to your summer or vacation reading yet? Here are books to soak up all summer. Most books here are 30% off until July 14!

  • Laugh, cry, love. Repeat. Laughter is Sacred Space: The Not-So-Typical Journey of a Mennonite Actor, by Ted Swartz, is funny, vulnerable, honest. A backstage trek through an artist’s life combines side-splitting reminiscences, heart-rending stories of loss, and hopeful stories of restored faith and love. 30% off on hardback brings the $24.99 book to just $17.52.


  • Caring for a loved one? Relentless Goodbye: Grief and Love in the Shadow of Dementia, by Ginny Horst Burkholder, is a searingly honest journey as Ginny and her husband struggle with his Lewy Body dementia. If you know anyone going through this difficult journey, you or they need this book, applicable for any long-term serious illness or mental diminishment. 30% off.



  • Not that Fifty Shades. Fifty Shades of Grace: Stories of Inspiration and Promise is a collection of inspiring stories about experiencing God’s grace in the midst of everyday life. Each of the fifty uplifting stories explores what grace looks like in action, even in a world jaded by violence and unforgiveness, and how grace can triumph over great tragedy with mercy and hope.


  • Cook it up! Simply in Season cookbook, part of our World Community Cookbook series, is perfect summer reading as well. Last week my CSA package included garlic scapes. A perfect time for me to pull out Simply in Season and get creative with seasonal cooking.


All the best to you this summer!

Amy Gingerich, editorial director

Amy GingerichP.S. You won’t find me again here until October. My family is in the midst of a season of joyful expectation, with a baby due to arrive in mid-July. We’ll reconnect again in October!

Poetry for Tuesday: Dantri, friend among the Taliban


Dan Terry_BAF
Dan Terry

*Dantri was the name of affection people in Afghanistan gave to Dan Terry, whose life story is told in Making Friends among the Taliban, written by storyteller Jonathan Larson; it was published by Herald Press, Fall, 2012 and the subject of a documentary, Weaving Life, produced by college students at Eastern Mennonite University in cooperation with MennoMedia during 2012. The documentary aired on ABC-TV fall and winter of 2012-2013.

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For something very different in this blog space, we’re sharing a poem by John Alter, the poet-chaplain at Christchurch School (Episcopal secondary school). Storyteller/author Jonathan Larson visited Christchurch School earlier in May, sharing the Weaving Life documentary and from Making Friends among the Taliban. Christchurch School is an Episcopal secondary school. This poem gives insights as to how the students at Christchurch were affected and Jonathan is eager to inspire other teens and college students. Contact us at MennoMedia for information on how to get in touch with Jonathan, or visit his webpage for the book. To preview a video clip from the documentary, check here.



For my final theology exam I assigned
Who is my neighbor?  Designed

To allow each student to refine his or her sense
In whatever tense of what

We have learned together over this year.  Nobody
Shut down.  No shoddy answers.

A few swerved, a few perhaps dozed off a little, some
Mumbled, stumbled, fumbled, sure

And the moments of pure intellectual elation…
Well, vacation threatens, but

More than a few before they shut down for the year said
That Dantri the Taliban

Christian had unraveled their turbans gotten into
Their heads forced them to redo

Some obvious assumptions, an act of merciful
Sabotage long overdue.

The pull of the gospel in other words, what is true,
What is also beautiful,

And, Larson, you pulled on the rope and the great bell of
Mercy rang in the steeple.

Reminded of love the people who are my students
For a moment abandoned

What is merely prudent and self-serving, wondered what
Else they could do, might do, in

This life.  Before they shut down for the summer, looked in-
Ward a little even, knew

For a moment even that the only sin is to
Overlook your neighbor.  Here

At this school what is abundantly clear is that we
All live in a watershed

That is our history fate and good fortune.  Dantri
Got into heads already

To some extent primed perhaps, persuaded that life
Is a great journey.  The knife

That cuts through the ego’s knot is love of self neighbor
And place.  Leave the door of your

Caravanserai ajar then, knowing that more and
Less are arbitrary terms,

Understanding the great river of mercy.  Students
Squirm when reason overrides

Curiosity, is how we would like to decide
The curriculum.  Go out

Side, when pressed on the matter express some doubt that in
And out are meaningful terms.

Students squirm when sin is confused with rule-breaking, unless
The golden rule is at stake.

Then they confess to having taken some liberties
As Dantri did.  A sweet breeze

Moves through the apricot trees.  Who is your neighbor? Some
Mumbled a little, stumbled,

Nobody grumbled, and the story of Dantri claimed
A major part.   They named him

As somebody they might like to know: whimsical, sure
Footed, addicted to pure

Water, and, Larson, fire-starter, elemental tall-
Tale tiger-shooting story

Teller—we know the glory.

–for Jonathan Larson

Query: If you’ve seen Weaving Life or read Making Friends among the Taliban, how did either impact you?