Before launching into the mountain of reading that you’ll take on over the next 2-4 years, we’ve put together this short list of recommended books (some fun, some resourceful, and some just downright inspirational). We asked our faculty a simple question: “What is the one book a student has to read before starting at The Seattle School?” We also decided to pitch in some books we wish we had read before we started graduate studies!

Remember, none of these are required readings. Be sure to also give yourself plenty of time before the school year starts to rest and enjoy your summer—you’ll have plenty of reading come fall!


Faculty Recommendations

Lake City by Thomas Kohnstamm
Recommended by Dr. Stephanie Neill, Associate Professor of Counseling Psychology:
“For newcomers to the Seattle area, it has interesting tidbits about Seattle history and captures a sense of place. The author provokes contemplation of economic inequality, the impact of power and privilege, and the cultural impacts that occur as a result of technology and the influx of wealth—a story not unique to just Seattle.”
2 Wisdom of Stability by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove
Recommended by Dr. Dwight Friesen, Associate Professor of Practical Theology:
“This is one of those books that sticks with you long after you’ve read it—at least it did for me. This book is all about what it means to be a neighbor, which is essentially our mission. It’s also short and cheap!”
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
Recommended by Dr. Doug Shirley, Assistant Professor of Counseling
“A lovely testament (fiction) to the power of relationship to heal. A combination of a quirky relationship and some not-so-good therapy (my assessment) is still enough for Eleanor to heal.”
gilead Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
Recommended by Dr. Chelle Stearns, Associate Professor of Theology:
“This novel has it all—the main character is a pastor who is writing letters to his young son. Along the way he digs up his family history, relational issues with friends and their families and, of course, a smidge of theology to make it just right. It is a slow read at first, but once you are into it, it is a great read.”
His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman
Recommended by Dr. Kj Swanson, Affiliate Faculty and Assistant Instructor Supervisor
“Earning your masters degree will involve LOTS of reading. And while this reading will galvanize, inspire, and inform, you may find it cuts into pure pleasure reading time. So before you boldly step into the depths of new academic disciplines, this is a great time to immerse yourself in a richly rewarding narrative universe found in a fantasy trilogy such as Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials. This critically acclaimed and now-classic metaphysical adventure will take you beyond places and feelings heretofore imagined. Gift yourself this journey as you prepare to start your own.”
What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami
Recommended by Dr. Pat Loughery, Affiliate Faculty
“A beautiful meditation on daily practices. Contrary to the title, this isn’t really a book about running. It’s more a book about rhythms and disciplines. Running and racing in triathlons, sure, but it’s more about the rhythms of living and writing that Murakami has wound into his life. It’s a deeply impactful book wrapped up in a delicate little package. Very spiritual in the broad sense of the word, and a light read that’s great for summer and transitions. It’s fantastic in audiobook form, too.”
Educated by Tara Westover
Recommended by Dr. Doug Shirley, Assistant Professor of Counseling
“A brutal and beautiful memoir. Westover described what it was like to grow up in the midst of a family system rife with mental illness and religious dogmatism, on the way to earning her doctorate but even more so her ‘education’ in life.”

Admissions Staff Recommendations

7 Soul Making: The Desert Way of Spirituality by Alan Jones
Soul Making is a deep, insightful book. It will shake up your understanding of spirituality in a graceful and kind way and will broaden your definition of what it means to walk humbly with God.
8 The Gift of Therapy by Irvin Yalom
Reading Yalom’s reflections on his years as a seasoned therapist offers a rare glimpse into the many different facets of the therapeutic relationship. The Gift of Therapy is an essential read for beginning counselors, offering inspired and heartfelt advice, wisdom, and guidance rooted in experience and curiosity.
9 The Elements of Style by William Strunk and E. B. White
As if the amount of reading wasn’t enough, you’ll also have to write what might feel like hundreds of papers! The Elements of Style is a great primer for writers and lays a basic foundation for grammar and composition. You can read it in an afternoon, and it will be a book you return to often!
10 Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms by Stanley Grenz, David Guretzki, and Cherith Fee Nording
It’s easy to get lost in those large theology words (eschatology, soteriology, and ecclesiology are just a few) but don’t worry, this Pocket Dictionary will help you decipher them. Whether you’re an incoming MDiv with a background in biblical studies or you’re taking your first theological classes, you’ll want a copy of this book.
The House of Belonging by David Whyte

It can be easy to bog yourself down with your studies and miss the beauty and awe found in the particularities of language and words. Let this book serve as a practice in finding beauty spoken and written in the everyday. David Whyte is a writer who lives in the Pacific Northwest on Whidbey Island and can sometimes be spotted at coffee shops or wandering beaches nearby!

Image result The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben
Having lived a life in trees, Peter Wohlleben teaches us what it is like to live amidst nature and grow closer to our own humanity.
14 Holy the Firm by Annie Dillard
Written by Dillard during a two-year retreat right on the Puget Sound, this beautiful book is sure to inspire your understanding of creation and worship. It’s also a great intro to the Pacific Northwest for those new to the area!
16 Thou, Dear God by Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.
A collection of prayers by Martin Luther King, Jr. that are arranged thematically in six parts—spiritual guidance, special occasions, times of adversity, times of trial, uncertain times, and social justice. These prayers also serve as a journal for King as he worked tirelessly to overcome adversity. They’re sure to stir your soul as well.