To wrap up the final installment of Pitts Theology Library’s Summer Reading Blog for 2021, Pitts reached out to a beloved faculty member of the Candler community, Dr. Ellen Shepard, for the top resources she turned to during quarantine. Dr. Shepard recently retired from Candler as Assistant Professor in the Practice of Practical Theology and Director of the Women, Theology, and Ministry Program. Students, staff and faculty will dearly miss Dr. Shepard’s joyful presence on campus this fall, but her legacy of service continues to inspire the Candler community and beyond!
Dr. Shepard describes her transition into retirement this summer as a “hard, but good, stretching season.” In the midst of a diﬃcult season of change and grief in the ongoing pandemic, Dr. Shepard leaned on these resources for hope and inspiration.
Dr. Shepard’s ﬁrst recommendation is New York Times Bestseller The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy (HarperOne, 2019), which she describes as “a simple, yet beautifully deep story of life, loss, and love.” You can read it front to back, or simply open to a random page for inspiration! “I carried this with me for weeks,” she says, “It is so important.” She also recommends Mackesy’s youtube interviews for writing inspiration.
Dr. Shepard’s next recommendation is the podcast, Meditative Story by Wait What Productions (https://www.waitwhat.com). She describes this podcast as a collection of “lovely ﬁrst person stories from ordinary and some famous people that are punctuated with meditative pauses.” Another podcast she recommends is Unlocking Us., during which researcher and New York Times best-selling author Brené Brownunpacks and explores the ideas, stories, experiences, books, films, and music that reflect the universal experiences of being human, from the bravest moments to the most brokenhearted.
Dr. Shepard’s fourth recommendation is a book in her library that she returned to for comfort in this season titled Brother to a Dragonﬂy by Will D. Campbell (University Press of Mississippi, 2018). The Honorable John Lewis reviewed this book, writing, “Will Campbell’s life has been one of helping us lay down the burden of race … His spirit and his superb writing make Brother to a Dragonﬂy stand out among memoirs of the Movement.” Find this book at a library near you, or online for purchase!
Prof. Shepard’s ﬁfth recommendation is Dancing with Elephants: Mindfulness Training for Those Living with Dementia, Chronic Illness, or an Aging Brain by Jarem Sawatsky (Red Canoe Press, 2017), which she was recommended by Mona Pineda, a Candler graduate currently working in hospice care. Dancing with Elephants is an excellent resource for anyone serving in ministry or chaplaincy.
One book Dr. Shepard keeps on her coﬀee table is Stories of the Saints by Carey Wallace – former distinguished guest speaker for the 2019 Annual Women’s Forum sponsored by Candler’s Women, Theology, and Ministry program! Through beautiful illustrations, this book tells the stories of lesser known saints. While it’s technically for children, it’s also for the child at heart in all of us. Another illustrated read she loves is Mostly True, Collected Stories, and Drawings by Brian Andreas. Brian is an artist, sculpture, and storyteller whose mission is building community, and you can check out his work at https://ﬂyingedna.com.
Lastly, Dr. Shepard has enjoyed Emily Henry’s Beach Read (Jove, 2021). You guessed it – it’s a perfect ﬁction escape for a day at the beach! Find this book at your local library, or for purchase at https://www.emilyhenrybooks.com/books/beach-read.
We hope you enjoyed Dr. Shepard’s recommendations as much as we did! Thank you to all our contributors this summer who provided their favorite finds from quarantine. Looking for more recommendations? All summer reading blog posts are archived at pitts.emory.edu/summerreading.