Recommended Reading

On this page, we do our best to recommend books that explore Bonhoeffer’s life, thought, work, and legacy. We also suggest books that may help you appreciate or understand Bonhoeffer better, or, examine him from different perspectives. And, finally, we also include books that, in “Bonhoefferian” fashion, help us all to engage in responsible action!

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BIOGRAPHY

Quick, simple reads:

THE LIFE AND DEATH OF DIETRICH BONHOEFFER BY MARY BOSANQUET

A biography of the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. smile.amazon.com

 

 

DIETRICH BONHOEFFER: A BRIEF LIFE BY RENATE BETHGE

His life became a symbol of Christian resistance to Hitler. His thought ushered in a new era of worldly Christianity. His personal struggle for authentic moral and religious stance became a beacon for a distracted world. Accompanied by family photos, the dramatic life, evolving thought, and perilous times of Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) are sketched in this short volume, which also features short excerpts from his writing. This slim volume captures in a compelling and personal way the religious and political odyssey of one of the last century’s great religious beacons. smile.amazon.com

BONHOEFFER: A BRIEF OVERVIEW OF THE LIFE AND WRITINGS OF DIETRICH BONHOEFFER BY JOHN W. MATHEWS

Dietrich Bonhoeffer s life spanned four decades of the early twentieth century and was shaped within the crucible of two European wars and an economic depression. Born in 1906 and raised in an upper middle class German family, he was educated to be a pastor, further trained as a theologian, involved in a plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, and was finally hanged by the Nazis only days before the end of World War II. His life story is more than one more tragic episode in the history and horrors of the Holocaust.

Bonhoeffer s life cannot be simply summarized as only one of trauma and tragedy. His was also a life filled with great blessing, even when requiring great courage and incredible sacrifice. His relationships were life-giving and his experiences were rich. The authenticity of Bonhoeffer s Christian faith and the integrity of his theology continues to inspire people. During that time when most people understandably struggled to protect their own lives, as well as the lives of those they loved, he often ventured by faith into uncertain territory,risking his reputation and life to advocate for others. Rarely does one encounter an individual whose inner convictions and outward actions so consistently and courageously match-up. smile.amazon.com

THE STORY OF DIETRICH BONHOEFFER: RADICAL INTEGRITY BY MICHAEL VAN DYKE

You’ll be inspired by this story of a German pastor and theologian who gave his life to oppose Adolf Hitler and his Nazi regime. Born into a prominent German family, Dietrich Bonhoeffer died in a Nazi prison camp, hanged for his plot against the man who’d plunged the world into war. Find out what made Dietrich Bonhoeffer the man he was—compassionate minister, brilliant thinker, opponent of the heresies of Nazism and Aryan superiority. This easy-to-read biography details both Bonhoeffer’s life and his powerful theology—of “cheap” versus “costly” grace. smile.amazon.com

DIETRICH BONHOEFFER: A SPOKE IN THE WHEEL BY RENATE WIND

Vividly and concisely written, critical as well as appreciative, and containing material never before published in English, this new biography paints a memorable portrait of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the great German theologian hanged by the Nazis in 1945. Portraying the complexity of Bonhoeffer’s personality and the difficult, lonely course his life took, Wind especially brings out Bonhoeffer’s early realization of the horror of Nazi treatment of the Jews, and despite misunderstanding by fellow church members, his brave involvement in the resistance against Hitler, his resolve to become “a spoke in the wheel.” smile.amazon.com

Medium, enjoyable reads:

STRANGE GLORY: THE LIFE OF DIETRICH BONHOEFFER BY CHARLES MARSH

In the decades since his execution by the Nazis in 1945, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German pastor, theologian, and anti-Hitler conspirator, has become one of the most widely read and inspiring Christian thinkers of our time. Now, drawing on extensive new research, Strange Glory offers a definitive account, by turns majestic and intimate, of this modern icon.

The scion of a grand family that rarely went to church, Dietrich decided as a thirteen-year-old to become a theologian. By twenty-one, the rather snobbish and awkward young man had already written a dissertation hailed by Karl Barth as a “theological miracle.” But it was only the first step in a lifelong effort to recover an authentic and orthodox Christianity from the dilutions of liberal Protestantism and the modern idolatries of blood and nation—which forces had left the German church completely helpless against the onslaught of Nazism.

From the start, Bonhoeffer insisted that the essence of Christianity was not its abstract precepts but the concrete reality of the shared life in Christ. In 1930, his search for that true fellowship led Bonhoeffer to America for ten fateful months in the company of social reformers, Harlem churchmen, and public intellectuals. Energized by the lived faith he had seen, he would now begin to make what he later saw as his definitive “turn from the phraseological to the real.” He went home with renewed vocation and took up ministry among Berlin’s downtrodden while trying to find his place in the hoary academic establishment increasingly captive to nationalist fervor.

With the rise of Hitler, however, Bonhoeffer’s journey took yet another turn. The German church was Nazified, along with every other state-sponsored institution. But it was the Nuremberg laws that set Bonhoeffer’s earthly life on an ineluctable path toward destruction. His denunciation of the race statutes as heresy and his insistence on the church’s moral obligation to defend all victims of state violence, regardless of race or religion, alienated him from what would become the Reich church and even some fellow resistors. Soon the twenty-seven-year-old pastor was one of the most conspicuous dissidents in Germany. He would carry on subverting the regime and bearing Christian witness, whether in the pastorate he assumed in London, the Pomeranian monastery he established to train dissenting ministers, or in the worldwide ecumenical movement. Increasingly, though, Bonhoeffer would find himself a voice crying in the wilderness, until, finally, he understood that true moral responsibility obliged him to commit treason, for which he would pay with his life.

Charles Marsh brings Bonhoeffer to life in his full complexity for the first time. With a keen understanding of the multifaceted writings, often misunderstood, as well as the imperfect man behind the saintly image, here is a nuanced, exhilarating, and often heartrending portrait that lays bare Bonhoeffer’s flaws and inner torment, as well as the friendships and the faith that sustained and finally redeemed him. Strange Glory is a momentous achievement. smile.amazon.com

DIETRICH BONHOEFFER 1906-1945: MARTYR, THINKER, MAN OF RESISTANCE BY FERDINAND SCHLINGENSIEPEN

A new comprehensive biography of this hugely important Christian martyr, 60 years after his execution at the hands of the Nazis

Bonhoeffer has gained a position as one of the most prominent Christian martyrs of the last century. His influence is so widespread that even 60 years after his execution by the Nazis, Bonhoeffer’s life and work are still the subject of fresh and lively discussion. As a pastor and theologian, Bonhoeffer decided to resist the Nazis in Germany, but his resistance was not solely theological. He played a key leadership role in the Confessing Church, a major source of Christian opposition to Hitler and his anti-Semitism and was principal of the secret seminary at Finkenwalde in Pomerania.

It was here that he developed his theological visions of radical discipleship and communal life. In 1938, he joined the Wehrmacht’s “Abwehr”, the German Military Intelligence Office, in order to seek international support for the plot against Hitler. Following his inner calling and conscience meant that Bonhoeffer was continually forced to make decisions that separated him from his family, friends, and colleagues, and which ultimately led to his martyrdom in Flossenbürg concentration camp, less than a month before the Second World War came to an end. His letters and papers from prison movingly express the development of some of the most provocative and fascinating ideas of 20th century theology.

Sixty years after Bonhoeffer’s death and forty years after the publication of Eberhard Bethge’s ground breaking biography, Ferdinand Schlingensiepen offers a definitive new book on Bonhoeffer, for a new generation of readers. Schlingensiepen takes into account documents that have only been made accessible during the last few years – such as the letters between Bonhoeffer and his fiancée Maria von Wedemeyer. Schlingensiepen’s careful narrative brings to life the historical events, as well as displaying the theological development of one of the most creative thinkers of the 20th century, who was to become one of its most tragic martyrs. smile.amazon.com

Long, comprehensive reads:

DIETRICH BONHOEFFER: A BIOGRAPHY BY EBERHARD BETHGE

Eberhard Bethge’s exhaustive biography of Bonhoeffer is recognized throughout the world as the definitive biography. Victoria Barnett has now reviewed the entire translation for this edition, correcting hundreds of mistakes and omissions, and adding in sections from the German, for example, on Bonhoeffer’s childhood, that have never before appeared in English. smile.amazon.com

BONHOEFFER: PASTOR, MARTYR, PROPHET, SPY BY ERIC METAXAS

WHO BETTER TO FACE THE GREATEST EVIL OF THE 20TH CENTURY THAN A HUMBLE MAN OF FAITH?
As Adolf Hitler and the Nazis seduced a nation, bullied a continent, and attempted to exterminate the Jews of Europe, a small number of dissidents and saboteurs worked to dismantle the Third Reich from the inside. One of these was Dietrich Bonhoeffer—a pastor and author. In this New York Times best-selling biography, Eric Metaxas takes both strands of Bonhoeffer’s life—the theologian and the spy—and draws them together to tell a searing story of incredible moral courage in the face of monstrous evil. Metaxas presents the fullest accounting of Bonhoeffer’s heart-wrenching decision to leave the safe haven of America to return to Hitler’s Germany, and sheds new light on Bonhoeffer’s involvement in the famous Valkyrie plot and in “Operation 7,” the effort to smuggle Jews into neutral Switzerland. In a deeply moving narrative, Metaxas uses previously unavailable documents, including personal letters, detailed journal entries, and firsthand personal accounts, to reveal dimensions of Bonhoeffer’s life and theology never before seen. smile.amazon.com

THEOLOGY
Introductory

BONHOEFFER FOR ARMCHAIR THEOLOGIANS BY STEPHEN HAYNES

This latest volume in the ever-popular WJK Armchair series turns its sights on contemporary theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945). Born in Breslau, Germany, Bonhoeffer led quite an intriguing life. This book, with dozens of illustrations by artist Ron Hill, highlights Bonhoeffer’s background and theological education; his time at Union Seminary in New York City; his involvement in the resistance movement against Adolf Hitler; and his participation in the plot to assassinate Hitler.

Written by experts but designed for the novice, the Armchair series provides accurate, concise, and witty overviews of some of the most profound moments and theologians in Christian history. These books are essential supplements for first-time encounters with primary texts, lucid refreshers for scholars and clergy, and enjoyable reads for the theologically curious. smile.amazon.com

THE CAMBRIDGE COMPANION TO DIETRICH BONHOEFFER BY JOHN DE GRUCHY

Bonhoeffer’s theological brilliance, committed discipleship ecumenical insight and courageous participation in the struggle against Nazism have profoundly shaped contemporary Christian understanding and action. Although his early death at the hands of the Gestapo prevented him from providing us with a full and systematic theology, his writings are remarkably extensive and have become increasingly influential. This volume concentrates on the key texts and ideas in Bonhoeffer’s thought. It presents the essential Bonhoeffer for students and the general reader. smile.amazon.com