Broadening her world view...with books!
July 1, 2012 6:51 PM   Subscribe

Non-religious book recommendations for my very conservative mother?

My mom desperately wants me to read the book "The Harbinger".
She's quite religious and really into the book. I'm not religious or into it.

Rather than fight about why I wouldn't believe a word of the book I said I'd read it if she reads a book I mail to her.

So now i need to figure out the book I'm sending to her.

I'm avoiding "atheists rule! creationism is stoopid" books even though that would be amusing.

I'm concerned about the environment, try to make healthy food choices, work with legal/illegal immigrants and practicing Muslims on a daily basis, and in general all of these things are strange/scary to my mom.

Anyone know of books that could somehow gently get her to consider the other side of things?
posted by Etta Hollis to Society & Culture (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Are you looking for fiction or non-fiction? One of Michael Pollan's books might be a good choice?
posted by brainmouse at 6:59 PM on July 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Would Carl Sagan's The Demon-Haunted World be too "in your face" for her? Sagan himself was an atheist, and the book is written from that standpoint, but it was not in any way an anti-religious polemic-- it was more about scientific and critical thinking in general.
posted by deanc at 7:00 PM on July 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Riffing on the "healthy food choices" thing -- you could try "The Omnivore's Dilemma." The third chapter of the book is written about an organic farmer who is very religious and is motivated, in part, by the desire to be a good shepherd of the earth in accordance with his Biblical worldview. It's also very well written and was a big part of me radically changing how I eat, and talks a lot about environmentalism as well.
posted by KathrynT at 7:01 PM on July 1, 2012 [4 favorites]

Barbara Kingsolver's "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life" might cover your concerns about healthy food choices and, to a lesser extent, the environment. It's accessible and a good read.
posted by MonkeyToes at 7:01 PM on July 1, 2012

OH, here's another one -- "Galileo's Daughter." Galileo's daughter was a cloistered nun, and she collaborated extensively with him and replicated a lot of his work, as well as re-copying his papers for submission in her own extremely good handwriting and correcting his math along the way. His letters to her are lost, but he saved all of her letters to him. They are, again, both very religious people, but there is a lot of discussion in the book about how the church is making it hard for Galileo to do his work.
posted by KathrynT at 7:02 PM on July 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I would prefer non-fiction, since my mom considers her book non-fiction.

Brainmouse and KathrynT, I like the idea of Michael Pollan!
posted by Etta Hollis at 7:03 PM on July 1, 2012

Response by poster: Sagan's book sounds great, but maybe a little too intense for now. If this book-swap trend continues I can use it further down the line.
posted by Etta Hollis at 7:07 PM on July 1, 2012

Along similar lines to the Pollan and Kingsolver suggestions, maybe Hal Herzog's "Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat: Why It's So Hard to Think Straight About Animals."

Alternately, there's a lot of classic nature writing, like Aldo Leopold, Annie Dillard or Wendell Barry, that might be worth considering.
posted by box at 7:15 PM on July 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

I was thinking about Wendell Berry but I'm not entirely certain what book would be good. If you're interested in people with Christian backgrounds who also espouse things that seem closer to your values you might consider something like William Sloane Coffin's The Heart is a Little to the Left in which he makes a compelling Christian case for tolerance, peace and a very active stance against homophobia. It's a great read and I'm a fairly areligious person and I found it very relevant to my interests.
posted by jessamyn at 7:29 PM on July 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

These three books are considered to be eye opening for American Christians willing to understand that there is a need for social justice. Jonathan Kozol's Amazing Grace, describing the livesof children in urban America. Mark Kramer's Dispossessed, describes life in urban slums around the world. Ronald Sider's Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, while a bit dated in the statistics presented makes the reader face the disparities and injustices in the world. These three are written by Christians, but have teeth.

Steve Jones' Darwin's Ghost is a decent book on evolution. Easy enough to read, but a serious presentation of the various topics, from natural selection to comparative anathomy.
posted by francesca too at 7:39 PM on July 1, 2012

This is a weird left-field suggestion, but I'm enjoying re-reading some books I had as a kid: A Comic History of the Universe, books 1, 2, and 3. They're not "atheist" books per se, but they (literally) illustrate the very human origins of all the major world religions without casting anybody as divine.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 7:47 PM on July 1, 2012

Michael Pollan's Second Nature, about gardening, is nonthreatening but has some interesting thoughts about nature and our place in it. If your mom has any interest in gardening it might be a good first Pollan book for her.
posted by restless_nomad at 7:52 PM on July 1, 2012

I guess you've shot down my recommendation of "The Greatest Show on Earth"", by Richard Dawkins, but I also tho Fast Food Nation and The Omnivore's Dilemma to be excellent. If I could read only one of the latter two, though, I'd pick Fast Food Nation.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 9:40 PM on July 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Honestly, if anyone I knew was buying into that Harbinger garbage, I'd send them a copy of Dominion Theology: Blessing or Curse? by H. Wayne House and Thomas Ice, two Christian theologians who critique this stuff from an Evangelical perspective.

Serve God, Save the Planet by Matthew Sleeth is an argument for environmentalism from a conservative Evangelical perspective.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:02 PM on July 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

Or, oooh, Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism by Bishop Spong.
posted by KathrynT at 11:28 PM on July 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

I haven't read it, but perhaps she'd be more open to Michael Gerson's "Heroic Conservatism: Why Republicans Need to Embrace America's Ideals (And Why They Deserve to Fail If They Don't)" by the former Bush speechwriter.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 7:37 AM on July 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

The first book that came to my mind was The Reason-Driven Life by Robert M Price. While I haven't read it myself, I am a frequent listener to the author's podcast, The Bible Geek. Dr Price is an evangelical minister turned atheist, and thus is able to speak to evangelicals with considerable understanding. He isn't as angry or confrontational as the "New Atheists," and retains a love of the Bible and some Christian ritual. He strikes me as someone who might be able to help your mother see things from a different point of view.
posted by Perodicticus potto at 3:08 PM on July 2, 2012

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