recommended reading according to John Dempsey Parker

People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn

Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation by Parker Palmer

A Sacred Voice is Calling: Personal Vocation and Social Conscience by John Neafsey

The Holy Bible (NRSV)

Tao te Ching, Red Pine translation

Building Communities From the Inside Out: A Path Toward Finding and Mobilizing a Community’s Assets by John Kretzmann and John McKnight

Manna and Mercy: A Brief History of God’s Unfolding Promise to Mend the Entire Universe by Daniel Erlander

Helping Children Succeed: What Works and Why (among other titles) by Paul Tough

Community: The Structure of Belonging by Peter Block

The Abundant Community: Awakening the Power of Families and Neighborhoods by John McKnight and Peter Block

Jesus and the Disinherited by Howard Thurman.  Really, anything by or about Howard Thurman

Progressive Community Organizing: Transformative Practice in a Globalizing World by Loretta Pyles

A Testament of Hope:  The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr.

An Invitation to Celtic Wisdom: A Little Guide to Mystery, Spirit, and Compassion by Carl McColman

Restoring the Kinship Worldview: Indigenous Voices Introduce 28 Precepts for Rebalancing Life on Planet Earth by Wahinkpe Topa and Darcia Narvaez 

The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching: Transforming Suffering into Peace, Joy, and Liberation by Thich Nhat Hanh


Infinite Circle: Teachings of Zen by Bernie Glassman

Wabi Sabi: Japanese Wisdom for a Perfectly Imperfect Life by Beth Kempton

Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

Yours, Mine, Ours: Unraveling the Doctrine of Discovery by Intotemak

Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire

Atlas of the Heart by Brene Brown

Anything by bell hooks, Howard Thurman, Ched Myers, Red Pine, Gary Snyder, Thich Nhat Hanh, Richard Horsley, Walter Brueggemann, Margaret Wheatley, Wendell Berry, Brene Brown, and Henri Nouwen as well as on

Ordinary Places, Sacred Spaces by Evelyn Mattern

Why Not Become Fire? Encounters With Women Mystics by Evelyn Mattern and Helen David Barnacle

Blood Done Sign My Name by Tim Tyson (particularly for Southerners and residents of North Carolina)

Celtic Christianity: A Scared Tradition, A Vision of Hope by Timothy Joyce

Earth Prayers from Around the World: 365 Prayers, Poems, and Invocations for Honoring the Earth edited by Elizabeth Roberts and Elias Amidon

Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit by Parker Palmer

I’ve Got the Light of Freedom: The Organizing Tradition and the Mississippi Freedom Struggle by Charles Payne

Parting the Waters, Pillar of Fire, and At Canaan’s Edge (The King Years Trilogy) by Taylor Branch

Stamped From the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram Kendi

Take Back the Economy: An Ethical Guide for Transforming Our Communities by J.K. Gibson-Graham, Jenny Cameron, and Stephen Healy

The Third Reconstruction: How a Moral Movement is Overcoming the Politics of Division and Fear by William Barber II with Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove

A More Perfect Union: A New Vision for Building the Beloved Community by Adam Russell Taylor

Who Moved by Neighborhood?  Leading Congregations Through Gentrification and Economic Change by Mark Strong

     I am happy to recommend additional good books and resources, depending on your interests.  Here are some additional titles I’d recommend for engaged Christians:

Unsettling the Word: Biblical Experiments in Decolonization edited by Steve Heinrichs

The Character of Virture by Stanley Hauerwas

Smaller Churches: Real Possibilities for Hard Times by David Ray

Slow Church: Cultivating Community in the Patient Way of Jesus by Christopher Smith and John Pattison

A Nazareth Manifesto: Being With God by Samuel Wells

“Come Out, My People!” God’s Call out of Empire in the Bible and Beyond by Wes Howard-Brook

The New Testament: Introducing the Way of Discipleship, edited by Wes Howard Brook and Sharon Ringe with multiple commentaries

Covenant Economics: A Biblical Vision of Justice for All by Richard Horsley

Sabbath and Jubilee by Richard Lowery

Preaching as Local Theology and Folk Art by Leonora Tisdale

Christ Wisdom: Spiritual Practices in the Beatitudes and the Lord’s Prayer by Christopher Page

The Prayer that Jesus Taught Us (about the Lord’s Prayer) by Michael Crosby

Spirituality of the Beatitudes: Matthew’s Vision for the Church in an Unjust World by Michael Crosby

Matthew and the Margins: A Sociopolitical and Religious Reading by Warren Carter

Rewilding the Way: Break Free to Follow an Untamed God by Todd Wynward

Christianity, Wilderness, and Wildlife by Susan Bratton (for those environmentally inclined)

Food and Faith: A Theology of Eating by Norman Wirzba

Shalom and the Community of Creation: An Indigenous Vision by Randy Woodley

Calling on God: Inclusive Christian Prayers for Three Years of Sundays by Peter Bankson and Deborah Sokolove

Faith-Rooted Organizing: Mobilizing the Church in Service to the World by Alexia Salvatierra and Peter Heltzel

Ambassadors of Reconciliation, Vols 1 & 2 by Elaine Enns and Ched Myers (and others by Myers)

Buffalo Shout, Salmon Cry: Conversations on Creation, Land Justice, and Life Together by Steve Heinrichs

The Vinedresser’s Notebook: Spiritual Lessons in Pruning, Waiting, Harvesting, and Abundance by Judith Sutera

Between Cross and Resurrection: A Theology of Holy Saturday by Alan Lewis

Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help, And How to Reverse It by Robert Lupton

When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor and Yourself by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert

Transforming Power: Biblical Strategies for Making a Difference in Your Community by Robert Linthicum