I gave this book to my dad for Christmas, with half a mind that I might read it myself although it’s not my usual sort of reading material.
Prior to retiring in 2014, John Pritchard was Bishop of Oxford, having previously held the office of Archdeacon of Canterbury, amongst other roles. He’s written a lot of books concerning the Christian faith, of which ‘Something more’ is the latest. What drew me to this book, after a recommendation on Amazon, was its easy-to-read style and lack of religious jargon.
John Pritchard asks a number of fairly straightforward, sometimes deceptively simple, questions about life and how we experience the world, and offers thought-provoking responses rather than direct answers. I was brought up in a strict Christian household and, having drifted away from the religion in my adult years, I tend to find anything too overtly Christian rather off-putting. The author’s attempt to avoid making assumptions about his readers’ religious beliefs was something I appreciated.
The first few chapters drew me in, somewhat to my surprise, and it wasn’t until I was about a third of the way through that I began to feel slightly uncomfortable. I didn’t make notes as I went along, so I’m not entirely sure what caused this reaction, but I suspect my mood changed when the book began to deal more specifically with the Christian faith. There were one or two chapters that struck me as a bit preachy, and they put me in two minds about finishing the book. I persevered, however, and am glad I did because the last few chapters made a good summing up of the whole book.
Each chapter is quite short, at around five pages of discussion about a certain topic (e.g. what our longings tell us, questions of suffering, a need for answers). Following the main discussion there is a key question relating to the foregoing text, a short story or poem and a list of suggestions for ways in which the reader might investigate the issues further.
At the end of the book, in a section headed ‘Questions for group discussions’, each chapter is covered in summary with a number of bullet points containing questions for debate. I read through them all, and although quite a few were of no interest to me, there were others that struck me in some way. For example, for chapter 5 (entitled ‘Earth’s crammed with heaven: the meanings of wonder’) the first bullet point reads: ‘Share your most breathtaking experiences. Are they all to do with nature? Why?’
When I had finished the book my dad asked me what I’d thought of it and I mentioned having been a bit put off part of the way though. To my surprise, he had experienced something similar. My dad has read and digested more religious material than anyone else I know, and I think of him as having an unquenchable thirst for the stuff. Having come at the book from very different standpoints, I found it interesting that we’d each had this similar reaction. I suspect he enjoyed the whole book more than I did, but I believe I got more out of it than I thought I would.