Inspiring Books: The choices of two cathedral deans

Two cathedral deans kindly give us their choices of inspiring books in our Inspiring Books series.

First of all we have the choice of Andrew Nunn, the Dean of Southwark. Andrew writes:

“My choice is The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams.  This book for children was published back in 1922 and has remained a classic ever since.  I didn’t read it as a child, however, but was introduced to it in a sermon that I heard preached at the Community of the Resurrection in Mirfield when I was training to be a priest.  The story is all about a little boy and his toy rabbit, and the rabbit’s desire to be ‘real’.  On a surface level it’s a cute and sentimental tale but like many stories written for children there is deep truth there.  The inner process of becoming our real selves is often about realising that all the knocks we receive in life are what make us who we are, and in God’s sight we become more precious, if that is possible.  There are many lovely passages but one of the most famous is the conversation between two of the toys – the Velveteen Rabbit and the Skin Horse – “Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’  This book is the real ‘Toy Story’!”

Our second Dean contributor is Peter Atkinson, the Dean of Worcester. Peter writes:

“Out of the thousands of books one could choose … one I go back to every year is Helen Waddell’s Peter Abelard. It was published in 1933 and was a best-seller at the time.

The book was meant to be the first of a trilogy of novels on the life of Peter Abelard, but dementia overtook Helen Waddell, and it remains a single-volume fragment, but still beautifully written and deeply moving – a probing of faith, prayer, orthodoxy, authority, sensuality, and the problem of pain, told through the love story of Abelard and Heloise.”

Thank you to Andrew and Peter for these choices.

This post is the sixth in our ongoing series in which different people share their Inspiring Books, for the first post, the choices of two University Librarians,  click here. and for the second, the choice of two students, click here. In the third post two women priests gave their choices here.  We crossed the sea to the US for our fourth post the choice of  two young ladies – here. Our fifth choice was from two local children and teachers.

About stchrysostoms

St Chrysostom’s is an Anglican (Church of England) parish church in Manchester, UK. We’re an inclusive, diverse and welcoming faith community rejoicing in our Anglo Catholic tradition, where people of many differing backgrounds make friends. Find our Facebook group at
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