Quaker Reading List 

 Image of books spiral
Interested in learning more?  The below list of books may help answer some questions:

Book Cover Title Synopsis or Review
(Click ► to open description)  
The Quakers - The History Book The Quakers: The History and Legacy of the
Religious Society of Friends

“I was plain, and would have all things done plainly; for I did not seek any outward advantage to myself.” – George Fox Since its fruition, Christianity has faced an unremitting string of conflicts, critics, and challenges. As the number of Christian converts grew, the growth in clashes on ideologies and control was only natural. In the same vein, more and more of those who called themselves Christians seemed to be straying further and further away from God's light. Drunkenness, heresy, and immorality were on the rise. The Middle Ages was especially rife with rape, incest, adultery, and other obscene sexual behaviors, which were well-recorded by medieval chroniclers. The English scholar, Alcuin, lamented that civilization had become “absolutely submerged under flood of fornication, adultery, and incest, so that the very semblance of modesty is entirely absent.” Towards the 17th century, the Puritan-raised George Fox became increasingly discouraged by the worsening moral conditions of society. George was unable to fill the spiritual void inside of him, until one day, he discovered his inner “Light.” Next came the godly visions. George began to preach about the “true” Word of God, and soon, amassed a following – the Religious Society of Friends, later known as the “Quakers.” Few today know much about the Quakers. Whenever the subject of Quakerism slips into conversation, most picture a rosy-cheeked fellow in a simple black overcoat, and a wide brim hat atop his thick, cloud-white hair, inspired by the famous logo of the Quaker Oats company. In spite of the stereotype, Quakers today come in all colors, shapes, and sizes, with the more liberal folk sporting trendy haircuts, tattoos, and various piercings. They call themselves “Friends,” a starkly different but very devout following of God. They strive for a world empowered by peace and acceptance, an ambitious mission fueled by diversity, blind to race, gender, or creed. As amicably harmless as the Friends might appear, there was once a time when being a Quaker was at the very best an instant conviction, and at the very worst a death sentence. Their unorthodox ideals were considered poisonous and potentially dangerous by authorities, who would fight time and time again to stamp out the flames of their movement, but still, they weathered storm after storm. And while the peace-loving followers of Christ were famed for their views of harmony, by no means were they feeble opponents. Not only would they persevere in the face of persecution, theirs is a movement that is so powerful, it stands strong centuries later, with a following more rich and diverse than ever before. The Quakers: The History and Legacy of the Religious Society of Friends profiles the life of George Fox, examines the origins of Quakerism, and looks at the Quaker utopia the community attempted to establish in Pennsylvania. This book also covers both the praise and criticism the unusually liberal Christian order has attracted over the centuries. Along with pictures of important people, places, and events, you will learn about the Quakers like never before.

Abe Books
The Quakers - A Very Short Intro - Ben Pink Dandelion The Quakers
A Very-Short-Introduction  

The Quakers: A Very Short Introduction charts the history of Quakerism and its present-day diversity, and outlines its approach to worship, belief, theology and language, and ecumenism. It explains the origins of the Quakers: how they emerged from the social unrest of the English civil war and constantly adapted themselves thereafter to new theological insights and new social settings. It examines their influence through their continued stance against war and the pioneering work for penal reform and against slavery which emerged from their idea of spiritual equality. Quakers' distinctive methods of worship are explored, by which they believe they achieve a direct encounter with God. The perfect introductory guide to this varied and growing worldwide faith Places Quakerism in the wider religious picture and outlines what the future may hold for the group Explains the origins and history of the Quakers: how they emerged from the social unrest of the English civil war, and how they have since gone on to have an influence way beyond their numbers Examines their continued stance against war and their pioneering work for penal reform and against slavery Illuminates the distinctive methods of worship, and how Quakers believe they achieve a direct encounter with God Author: Ben Pink Dandelion Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA (2008)

FGC Quaker Books
Quaker Book of Wisom - Robert Lawrence Smith A Quaker Book of Wisdom:
Life Lessons In
Simplicity, Service,
And Common Sense

Smith, a lifelong Friend and retired headmaster of Sidwell Friends School, offers personal reflections on the values and lessons absorbed from his Quaker childhood and in later years. Chapters on Silence, Worship, Truth, Simplicity, Conscience, Nonviolence, Service, Business, Education, and Family provide an informal but revealing inside look at what Quaker faith has meant in one person's life, while providing a general introduction to Friends practices and principles. "The most valuable aspect of religion," writes Robert Lawrence Smith, "is that it provides us with a framework for living. I have always felt that the beauty and power of Quakerism is that it exhorts us to live more simply, more truthfully, more charitably." Taking his inspiration from the teaching of the first Quaker, George Fox, and from his own nine generations of Quaker forebears, Smith speaks to all of us who are seeking a way to make our lives simpler, more meaningful, and more useful. Beginning with the Quaker belief that "There is that of God in every person," Smith explores the ways in which we can harness the inner light of God that dwells in each of us to guide the personal choices and challenges we face every day. How to live and speak truthfully. How to listen for, trust, and act on our conscience. How to make our work an expression of the best that is in us. Using vivid examples from his own life, Smith writes eloquently of Quaker Meeting, his decision not to be a pacifist but to fight in World War II, and later to oppose the Vietnam War. From his work as an educator and headmaster to his role as a husband and father, Smith quietly convinces that the lofty ideals of Quakerism offer all of us practical tools for leading a more meaningful life. His book culminates with a moving letter to his grandchildren which imparts ten lessons for "letting your life speak." Some of the lessons Robert Smith espouses Lesson One Seize the present. Lesson Two: Love yourself, whatever faults you have, and love the world, however bad it is. Lesson Three: Stop talking and listen to what you really know Lesson Four: Play Soccer! (Or whatever team sport you love) Lesson Five: Accept the fact that our lives are only partly in our hands. Lesson Six: Believe in the perfectibility of yourself and society. Lesson Seven: Make your love visible in the world through your work. Lesson Eight: Seek justice in the world, but not in your own life. Lesson Nine: Look for the light of God in every person. Lesson Ten: Let your life speak. Author: Robert Lawrence Smith Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks, 1999

FGC Quaker Books
Being Quaker - Geoffrey Durham Being a Quaker:
A Guide for Newcomers

"So what do you believe?" It's the question Quakers are always asked first and the one they find hardest to answer, because they don't have an official list of beliefs. And Quakerism is a religion of doing, not thinking. They base their lives on equality and truth; they work for peace, justice and reconciliation; they live adventurously. And underpinning their unique way of life is a spiritual practice they have sometimes been wary of talking about. Until now. In What Do Quakers Believe? Geoffrey Durham answers the crucial question clearly, straightforwardly and without jargon. In the process he introduces a unique religious group whose impact and influence in the world is far greater than their numbers suggest. What Do Quakers Believe? is a friendly, direct and accessible toe-in-the-water book for readers who have often wondered who these Quakers are, but have never quite found out.

ABE Books
Living the Quaker Way - Philip Gulley Living the Quaker Way: Discover the
Hidden Happiness
in the Simple Life

In Living the Quaker Way, Gulley shows how Quaker values provide real solutions to many of our most pressing contemporary challenges. We not only come to a deeper appreciation of simplicity, peace, integrity, community, and equality, we see how embracing these virtues will radically transform us and our world.

FGC Quaker Books
The Quaker Way - Rex Ambler The Quaker Way:
A Rediscovery

This book is an attempt 'to explain the Quaker way, as far as that is possible'. It is a distinctive way and, though perhaps no better than others, it has its own integrity and effectiveness. Although it is fairly well known, Quakerism is not well understood, so the purpose of this book is to make it intelligible, to explain how it works as a spiritual practice and why it has adopted the particular practices it has. It is aimed primarily at non-Quakers, who may nonetheless be interested to know what Quakerism is about. ABOUT THE AUTHOR Rex Ambler was a lecturer in theology at Birmingham University for over thirty years, and is retired. He now works mostly with Quakers, giving talks and workshops on Quaker faith and practice, traveling to many parts of the world to teach 'Quaker meditation' and to help people set up their own 'light groups' to practice it. He lives in Lancashire, UK. Publisher: John Hunt Publishing Publication Date: April 2013

FGC Quaker Books
Call to Radical Faithfulness -  Douglas Gwyn The Call to Radical Fiathfulness: Covenant in Quaker Experience

By Douglas Gwyn. Reviewed by Steve Chase. Plain Press, 2017, 104 pages. $10/Paperback; $5/eBook.Buy from QuakerBooksIn this inspired collection of short essays, sermons, and half-hour talks on the Bible, Quaker pastor and historian Doug Gwyn highlights an important truth about Liberal Quakerism today. According to Gwyn, our current status as a tiny, theologically jumbled, post-Christian, religious sect that hopes against hope for peace is a far cry from what we used to be: a rapidly growing, revolutionary, spiritual movement of friends and followers of Jesus who threatened to turn the world upside down with a powerful vision of radical faithfulness.

In The Call To Radical Faithfulness, Gwyn offers us a glimpse into this very different Quaker world by boiling down his many scholarly books on the “radical Christian faith of early Friends” to 104 pages of accessible stories and inspired ministry about both famous early Quakers, like George Fox and Margaret Fell, and lesser-known early Friends, such as James Parnell and Sarah Blackborrow. Each of these stories shines a light on the depth of the early Friends’ mystical and life-changing encounter with the Spirit of God, the very Spirit they believed inspired the life and ministry of Jesus, as well as “the prophets and apostles of the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures.” The early Friends, according to Gwyn, “began living the biblical stories as their own story.”

This is a rarity among Liberal Friends today, and may be why much of modern Quakerism seems so muted and tame. Many Liberal Friends are disinterested or ignorant of the Bible and see the main characteristic of modern Quakerism as a mysticism cut-off from the collective responsibilities and historic mission of the prophetic religious tradition. As Gwyn notes, from the perspective of early Friends and the most faithful Friends today:

Quaker faith and practice is a prophetic spirituality…. Like mysticism, it is grounded in firsthand experience. But that experience leads us to speak and act in the world, not simply to enjoy a sense of oneness with God and everything.

Another difference between then and now is that early Friends embraced social conflict, instead of fearing it and hoping it would go away. As Gwyn points out, they fought to win what they called “the Lamb’s War” for the Peaceable Kingdom. In this struggle, they used the nonviolent revolutionary means of protest, noncooperation, and disruptive interventions in social life. While they refused to wage the Lamb’s War through the use of carnal weapons; violent conspiracies; or even dishonest, behind-the-scenes parliamentary maneuvering, they were not quietist, “nice,” or hesitant to challenge authority or take sides in a social conflict between the oppressed and the powerful. That cultural shift among Friends came later.

Early Friends were much more radical and rebellious than most of us are today: both in their social vision of the Peaceable Kingdom and in their chosen means of fostering their social revolution. Gwyn actually finds it ironic that most Quakers in the twentieth century had to learn about nonviolent direct action for social justice from Gandhi and King, when it was a central part of the faith and practice of early Friends in the mid-1600s.

In drawing lessons for today, Gwyn is wise not to say that deepening radical faithfulness will require us simply to rekindle the visionary and nonviolent revolutionary fighting spirit of early Friends. While this is true, he suggests we also need to avoid reproducing how early Friends misread the signs of their times and held fevered delusions of achieving a quick and total victory in the Lamb’s War. This delusion led many early Friends to give up their spiritual vocation as nonviolent revolutionaries in despair and settle instead for a quietist “hedge against the world” approach to spiritual life, if only the government would grant them religious toleration and end its violent repression of them.

I do have one disagreement with Gwyn. In this book, Gwyn agrees with James Nayler, one of the most revolutionary of early Friends, who said we should not know what we are going to do on any given day and we should not “compass a kingdom to power over sin.” By this, Nayler (and Gwyn) means that if we are to “live faithfully,” we should not seek to be strategic: carefully building coalitions with our neighbors or setting our objectives thoughtfully. This is the one off-note in this otherwise profound and wise book.

Given the failures of early Friends as faith-based, nonviolent revolutionaries, it might be wise to learn as well from more strategic, prophetic revolutionaries like Gandhi, King, and Doloros Huerta.

FGC Quaker Books