Student Voice


June 16, 2024


This week in books: Religion

February 16, 2019

Last spring semester, I began to recognize that the best way I could fulfill my academic desires of a strengthened education was by reading. Reading frequently, reading often, and reading on a variety of subjects. There are many reasons to pick up the habit of reading and I believe reading offers a lot to the human experience.

Reading has become increasingly enticing to me as it offers opportunity to explore subject matter that is not covered in the classroom, while increasing my personal vocabulary. While I prefer non-fiction, I have even come to enjoy reading fiction and the emotional empathy you can gain from choosing the fiction genre.

I have found these reasons to be compelling enough to read, I fear some of my fellow peers may not quite see the benefit of reading in their lives yet. Thus, this reading journey and my desire to encourage my fellow Falcon peers to read is what has led me to writing this column on books.

I’d like to kick it off with the biggest thing that has changed in my life since returning to UWRF this Spring: my religion. I am in the process of converting to Catholicism. While I have “researched” the Catholic Church at various points in my life, I was never propelled into full conversion with such confidence in my decision as I have been now. That can be fully accredited to my exploration of books on the Catholic faith. Subsequently, this month’s books suggestions will focus on religion.  

This month’s suggested reading on exploring faith and questioning your belief system is “Surprised by Truth” by Patrick Madrid. Madrid did not write a full book on why you should convert, rather he offered up eleven personal stories of Protestant converts to the Catholic Faith and he compiled it into one easy read. Students, regardless of religion, can find this book helpful to exploring what they truly believe as this book follows the process of 11 different people questioning what they’ve been raised to believe their entire lives. I personally found this book extremely compelling as it articulated and answered questions I was beginning to ponder during my own faith journey. Despite the specificity of the book, it offers valuable practices to implement in your own life when exploring new ideas. Since reading has the opportunity to open your eyes to a variety of different thoughts and ideas, and the undergraduate experience is really meant for students to explore the world from outside the comfort zone of their home, why not take the time to read up on your own faith or spirituality?

On the other hand, if you’re interested in learning more about the Islamic faith, or differing cultures, “I Should Have Honor” by Khalida Brohi is my most highly recommended work this month. Students interested in global and women’s issues will especially like this book, as Brohi tackles the awful practice of honor killings in her culture. This book follows her journey to change this practice, and offers major insight to the issue on a firsthand basis.

I picked up Brohi’s memoir while browsing at Dotter’s Books in December, the kind of indie bookstore that really encourages the exchanging of different perspectives, and boy did I learn a lot from Brohi! Reading “I Should Have Honor” not only opened my eyes to her culture but also her faith, which is something I did not expect when purchasing this book.

Brohi gives a personal look at her relationship with God, and how her faith plays an important role in her activism work. I especially appreciated this book for how much insight it gave me on Islam, a religion I knew little about before picking it up. Brohi discusses common misconceptions of Islam that not only outsiders may believe, but those within her culture do as well. If other readers are anything like me they will surely be more intrigued to learn more about Islam after putting it down!

My “in-the-middle of” read this month is “The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America” by Frances FitzGerald. This is a history book I would like to recommend, that I have found quite compelling on the topic of religion in America. This book is an extremely detailed account of the history of Protestantism in America, and the conservative Christian movement that aligns with these denominations. I have found this book to teach me a lot about the roots of my own faith in America and how specific denominations have come to believe what they do. The lack of bias in this very well researched, secular book makes reading it all the more appealing to those interested in finding out more about how American churches were formed.  If you’re interested at all in the Religious Right or how American Protestantism has developed throughout the history of the United States, I highly recommend you pick up this 2017 National Book Critics Circle Award winning book.

Hopefully, this month’s column gives you something to read! Or, at the very least, encourages you to pick up new books on new topics or something on your to-read shelf. If not, check out next month’s column tackling a different subject of suggestions!

Melanie Meyers is a student at UW-River Falls.