Reading Buechner: Exploring the Work of a Master Memoirist, Novelist, Theologian, and Preacher, By Jeffrey Munroe

Reading Buechner

Exploring the Work of a Master Memoirist, Novelist, Theologian, and Preacher

by Jeffrey Munroe
Foreword by Makoto Fujimura

Reading Buechner
  • Length: 232 pages
  • Dimensions: 5.5 × 8.5 in
  • Published: November 19, 2019
  • Imprint: IVP
  • Item Code: 4580
  • ISBN: 9780830845804

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Frederick Buechner is one of the most gifted writers of his generation, and his legacy casts a long shadow over Christian letters today. As a memoirist, he opened up an entirely new way to think about the genre. As a novelist, he was a finalist for the Pulitzer. And as a theologian and preacher, he pioneered the art of making theology accessible for a popular audience.

Yet for all Buechner's enormous influence, many readers today are unfamiliar with his work, or have read him only in one genre. In this book, Buechner expert Jeffrey Munroe presents a collection of the true "essentials" from across Buechner's diverse catalog, as well as an overview of Buechner's life and a discussion of the state of his literary legacy today.

Here is Buechner in all his complex glory, ready to delight and inspire again.

"Bringing his lifetime of grappling faithfully with all things Buechner, the inestimable Jeff Munroe proves a winsome and trustworthy guide to the essential works of Frederick Buechner. If you've always wanted to read Buechner but didn't know where to start, Reading Buechner is the introduction you've been looking for. And if you're a longtime reader, Jeff does a lovely job of finding new ways to appreciate and celebrate the richness of Buechner's works."

Jennifer L. Holberg, Calvin University professor of English and codirector, Calvin Center for Faith & Writing

"I am one who wonders why so many Christians spend so much time talking about and writing about Christianity. Instead of the Word becoming flesh, it becomes more and more words. Jeffrey Munroe, in his masterfully clear and insightful Reading Buechner, opens up about why Frederick Buechner devoted his career to, yes, more words. Why? Because incarnation is at the heart of Buechner's faith. His great hope is that his words, like all effective literature, will become flesh, in his work Christian flesh. Munroe, in a voice that feels as if he is sitting with you on the porch, reveals that Buechner writes out from the 'flesh' of his inner life hoping to connect with the inner life of anyone struggling within God's love-endangered world. Even if you've already read Buechner's work, read Jeffrey Munroe's informative and invigorating Reading Buechner, then get on it and read Buechner again, perhaps for the first time."

Jack Ridl, author of Broken Symmetry, Losing Season, Practicing to Walk Like a Heron, and St. Peter and the Goldfinch

"Jeff has listened to the depth and more significantly to the breadth of Buechner's work in a way no one else ever has. His work enables each of us now to listen further to Buechner's remarkable literary voice for ourselves. Moreover this book comes at a crucial time, providing the next generation with a badly needed introduction to one of the most important theological writers of our time."

Michael Card, Bible teacher, songwriter

"With a personal appreciation for Frederick Buechner's words and a thoroughly researched knowledge of the experiences that formed them, Jeffrey Munroe's Reading Buechner is a deft combination of biography and reading companion. I had only known Buechner from Telling the Truth; this book has inspired me to seek out so much more."

Josh Larsen, author of Movies Are Prayers and editor/podcast host for ThinkChristian

"Reading Buechner gives us exactly what the title promises. These are a fan's notes, based on many years of reading and reflection, aimed at fellow Buechnerites but also readily accessible to newcomers. Unpretentious but deeply versed in his subject, Jeffrey Munroe is a winsome guide."

John Wilson, contributing editor, Englewood Review of Books

"A much-needed spiritual biography of the minister-writer who has found himself walking the borders (to quote visual artist Makoto Fujimura) of faith and literature, never truly at home in either. Jeffrey Munroe invites us to listen not only to Frederick Buechner's books but also to his life. And in turn, we listen to our own."

Sarah Arthur, author of A Light So Lovely

"Reading Buechner offers a lively, insightful overview of Buechner's life and work. It also models the kind of engaged reading that completes and amplifies the work of a worthy writer. Drawing on a range of others' observations, Munroe's own reflections come from long, deep, intelligent reading fueled by delight and informed by theological training and faith. For those new to Buechner, this book offers an enticing introduction. It also invites longtime fans to return to Buechner's work with reawakened appreciation for the rich, life-giving legacy of a man for whom imagination has been a vital dimension of the life of faith."

Marilyn McEntyre, author of Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies and Word by Word

Read an Excerpt


Foreword by Makoto Fujimura
Introduction: How Reading Buechner Changed My Life

Part I: Frederick Buechner as Memoirist
1. The Sacred Journey: The Universal Particular
2. Now and Then: Forrest Gump's Feather
3. Telling Secrets: A Deeper Honesty
4. The Eyes of the Heart: Remembering the Lost and Found

Part II: Frederick Buechner as Novelist
5. Godric: A Twelfth-Century Sinner-Saint
6. The Son of Laughter: Heels, Laughter, and the Fear

Part III: Frederick Buechner as Popular Theologian
7. Wishful Thinking: Renewing Tired Words
8. Peculiar Treasures: People We Thought We Knew

Part IV: Frederick Buechner as Preacher
9. Telling the Truth: Tears with Great Laughter
10. Secrets in the Dark: The Wonder of Words
11. Reading Buechner Today
Appendix: An Annotated Bibliography of Frederick Buechner's Books


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Jeffrey Munroe

Jeffrey Munroe is executive vice president at Western Theological Seminary, where he also teaches writing. He was a charter member of the advisory board of the Buechner Institute of Faith and Culture, and is an ordained minister in the Reformed Church in America.