An Annotated List of Readings on Relationships

By Johnny Lin

Compiled for the "Clear Mystery" Retreat workshop on "Relationships." Sponsored by the Chinese Churches of Colorado. October 5-7, 2001. The lists are alphabetical, by author.

Must Reads

Clark, Ross: "Talk Down: Preparing for singleness when you’d much rather be preparing for marriage." URL:

What does singleness have to do with relationships? Quite a bit, since how we understand and deal with singleness can greatly influence how we understand and deal with dating and marriage. Unfortunately, some of the messages the church has given regarding singleness have not been very helpful to singles. This article is an honest look at struggles singles have regarding singleness, and is filled with a pastoral heart for dealing with these struggles.

Kass, Amy A. and Leon R. Kass, 2000: Wing to Wing, Oar to Oar: Readings on Courting and Marrying, Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 636 pp.

This book is one of the most unique and wisdom-filled books on relationships. Unlike most books on the topic, which focus on dispensing advice, this book is an anthology of readings from a variety of authors (fiction and non-fiction, Christian and non-Christian) and times, offered "in the wisdom-seeking–rather than wisdom-delivering–spirit." Authors/works include: Jane Austen, Miss Manners, the Bible, Thomas Aquinas, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Plato, and C.S. Lewis. Before each reading, the Kass’s provide a brief introduction as well as questions for the reader to ponder while reading the text. Admittedly, this selection of readings is not for the intellectually lazy. The wisdom to be gained from a thorough wrestling with the ideas presented, however, is priceless.

Since this is a large book, here are some selections I’d recommend: The Introduction; Bailey, From Front Porch to Back Seat; Meilaender, "Men and Women–Can We Be Friends?"; Martin, Miss Manners’ Advice on Courtship; Austen, Pride and Prejudice: The Courtship of Darcy and Elizabeth.

Nouwen, Henri J. M., 1998: The Inner Voice of Love: A Journey Through Anguish to Freedom, New York: Image Books, 118 pp.

This is not a book about male-female relationships per se, but rather is the story of one man’s journey to find hope in a time of deep despair. I offer it as a "must read" because it has helped encourage me to grow in love, during times when I felt unable to, and the lessons Nouwen shares are particularly appropriate for those who experience the hurt of broken relationships.

Purnell, Dick, 1995: Becoming a Friend and Lover, Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 263 pp.

Biblical, easy to read, and practical, Purnell does an admirable job of covering a host of issues and concerns regarding courtship and dating. One strength of this book is its focus on building balanced relationships, where two people pursue healthy and appropriate growth in all five areas of relating (spiritual, social, mental, emotional, and physical).

Shedd, Charlie W., 1968: Letters to Philip: On How to Treat a Woman, New York: Jove Books, 128 pp.

Shedd wrote the letters in this small book to his son Philip when Philip got married, with advice on how to build a healthy marriage (Shedd wrote a similar volume to his daughter after her marriage, and is entitled Letters to Karen). I cannot recommend this book highly enough. The advice is spot on, encouraging, and convicting at the same time. Even though this book is addressed to a husband, many of Shedd’s observations apply in a courting context. After all, how a man treats his girlfriend, and a woman her boyfriend, reflects how they will treat each other when they become husband and wife.

For Background

Kass, Amy A. and Leon R. Kass: "Proposing Courtship," First Things, No. 96, October 1999, pp. 32-41. URL:

Using a reading from Erasmus, the Kass’s argue for "classical courtship" as a model for male/female romantic relationships. An insightful discussion of the nature of being male and female, human sexuality, and the role of marriage.

Kass, Leon R.: "The End of Courtship," The Public Interest, No. 121, Fall 1995. URL:

Kass provides a diagnosis of the current state of courtship and marriage in American society, and suggests possible responses to strengthening courtship.

Gallagher, Maggie: "Why Marriage Is Good for You," City Journal, Vol. 10, No. 4, Autumn 2000. URL:

Pithily written, Gallagher provides a quick summary of current research as to the benefits of marriage (not just cohabitation) for the husband and wife.

Lewis, C. S., 1971: The Four Loves, New York: Harvest Books, 141 pp.

Lewis discusses four different types of love: affection, friendship, eros, and charity. The chapter on Charity is particularly excellent, devastatingly exposing the perils of self-protection.

Lewis, C. S., 1980: "The Weight of Glory," The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses. Revised and Expanded Edition, New York: Collier Books, pp. 3-19.

This essay I think is one of the most brilliant writings on the God endowed majesty of being human, and the implications of that for how we treat each other (which I think has huge implications for our dating and marital relationships).

© 2001 by Johnny Lin <email address>. This article may not be altered or edited in any way. This article may be reproduced for any legal purpose, as long as it is reproduced in its entirety, and this notice is included.