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 Jeff 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."
"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."
"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."
"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."
"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."
"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."
"These lively reflections on Buechner's writing and life, laced with well-told anecdotes and theological insights, offer readers a valuable guide and a capacious story of grace. Jeff Munroe brings his own considerable skill in storytelling, his deeply informed admiration for a monumental life and work, and his deep faith to bear on the happy task of helping the rest of us read Buechner—with fresh appreciation for the way he continues to speak into a new historical moment with truths that emerge 'from below time.'"
Introduction: How Reading Buechner Changed My Life
Part One: 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 Two: Frederick Buechner as Novelist
5. Godric: A Twelfth-Century Sinner-Saint
6. The Son of Laughter: Heels, Laughter, and the Fear
Part Three: Frederick Buechner as Popular Theologian
7. Wishful Thinking: Renewing Tired Words
8. Peculiar Treasures: People We Thought We Knew
Part Four: 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