Theology and Religion recommends

Before you join us for your Theology and Religion undergraduate degree you may be wondering if there is anything you could do to prepare.

Amy Daughton and Katherine Brown

The first year modules will provide a thorough introduction to your course, but if you do find that you have some spare time beforehand, here are some recommendations from some of our lecturers to really get you thinking and to further add to the excited anticipation of your future studies:

Dr Amy Daughton recommends:

Naomi Novik’s Spinning Silver is a charming book, drawing on fairy tales to tell a story about bargains and their consequences.  What makes it fascinating as well as beautiful, is that there are prompts here to think about the nature of exchange: of money and goods and services, but also of love and loyalty, and the way that these all interplay to balance and disrupt relationships and community.  All while grappling with gender inequality and anti-semitism!  Like all the best stories, it’s about how we live, together.

Generally you should try to engage with culture – read novels, watch films, those stories are shaped by and are trying to communicate ideas, as well as events and feelings.  Enjoy them and think about them!  Read the newspapers and see what else is going on in the world outside our current UK situation.  Don’t feel like you have to prepare only by reading serious texts introducing you to different disciplines.

Having said that, a great place to start for those interested in religion and politics would be The Study of Religion: An Introduction to Key Ideas and Methods. Similarly, if you’re interested in religion and politics you could try Political Theory: A Guide for the Perplexed.

For some short pieces by current Philosophers thinking about Religion and Politics you could look at The Power of Religion in the Public Sphere  – you’ll likely find these harder going, but they’re worth having a try at even at this early stage of your studies.

I'd also recommend watching to The 2018 Cadbury Lectures from José Casanova [right], who gave some talks at Birmingham on religion and secular life.  There are also some lectures from previous years that you might try. Finally, the 'Very Short Introduction' series is often very good, see David Miller’s on political philosophy.

We've created a playlist of some of our favourite podcast episodes on Spotify. 

Dr Katherine Brown recommends:

Studying Religion, a free online course by the Open University which is useful in bridging the gap between A Levels and Undergraduate study. 

You may also want to try one of the free online courses created by Harvard Univeristy.  

Screenshot from the Open Learn website showing the Studying Religion course homepage

I would also recommend: The Routledge Handbook of Religion and Politics edited by Jeff Haynes and Johnathon Fox’s Introduction to Religion and Politics.

Reading lists

Incoming first year students often ask us if there is any reading they can do before the course starts, so we provide these lists, which relate to our first-year compulsory modules. You do not need to buy every book on the lists or read them all (or any!) before you come to Birmingham, but if you come across any of these in a library or available cheaply you’ll find them very useful for your future studies.

Theology and Religion reading list

Introduction to the study of Religion
  • Plate, B. (2014) A History of Religion in 5 ½ Objects. Boston: Beacon.
  • Rodrigues, H. P. & Harding John S. (2008) Introduction to the Study of Religion. London: Routledge. Available here.
  • Chryssides, G. & Geaves, R. (2007) The Study of Religion: An Introduction to Key Ideas and Methods. London: Continuum.
Lived religions in Birmingham and beyond
  • Davie, G. (2013) The Sociology of Religion, A Critical Agenda. London: Sage.
  • Harvey, G. (2012) Food, Sex and Strangers, Understanding Religion as Everyday Life. Durham: Acumen.
  • Woodhead, L. & Catto, R. (eds.) (2012) Religion and Change in Modern Britain. London: Routledge.

 See also the 'Faith in Birmingham' project at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.

Other related web resources to explore
  • The Birmingham Cadbury Lectures are public lectures given by leading scholars in Theology and Religion, and are great for exploring areas of specialism and wide interest.
  • The Religious Studies Project features a very interesting series of podcasts from leading scholars in the field talking about current issues.  

 

Web resources curated and developed for free access: MERLOT Religious Studies Materials
OER (Open Educational Resources) Commons area for Religious Studies 

Philosophy, Religion and Ethics reading list

Introduction to the study of Religion
  • Plate, B. (2014) A History of Religion in 5 ½ Objects. Boston: Beacon.
  • Rodrigues, H. P. & Harding John S. (2008) Introduction to the Study of Religion. London: Routledge. Available here.
  • Chryssides, G. & Geaves, R. (2007) The Study of Religion: An Introduction to Key Ideas and Methods. London: Continuum.
  • The Religious Studies Project features a very interesting series of podcasts from leading scholars in the field talking about current issues.  
Problems of Philosophy
  • Blackburn, S. (1991) Think: A Compelling Introduction to Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Nagel, T. (1989) What does it all mean? Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Singer, P. (1993) Practical Ethics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Philosopher's Toolkit
  • Law, S. (2011) Believing Bullshit: How Not to Get Sucked into an Intellectual Black Hole. Amherst, New York: Prometheus.
  •  A Mini Guide to Critical Thinking
  • Cohen, A. & Wellman, C. H. (2005) Contemporary Debates in Applied Ethics. Oxford: Blackwell.
  • White, J. (2000) (6th edn) Contemporary Moral Problems. Belmont: Wadsworth.
  • Cahn, S. (2009) Exploring Ethics – an Anthology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Politics, Religion and Philosophy reading List

Introduction to the study of Religion
  • Plate, B. (2014) A History of Religion in 5 ½ Objects. Boston: Beacon.
  • Rodrigues, H. P. & Harding John S. (2008) Introduction to the Study of Religion. London: Routledge. Available here.
  • Chryssides, G. & Geaves, R. (2007) The Study of Religion: An Introduction to Key Ideas and Methods. London: Continuum.
  • The Religious Studies Project features a very interesting series of podcasts from leading scholars in the field talking about current issues.  
  • See also the online news journal Religion and Politics
Problems of Philosophy
  • Blackburn, S. (1991) Think: A Compelling Introduction to Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Nagel, T. (1989) What does it all mean? Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Singer, P. (1993) Practical Ethics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Understanding Politics
  • Hay, C., Lister, M. & Marsh, D. (2005) The State: Theories and Issues. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Marsh, D. & Stoker, G. (2010) Theory and Methods in Political Science. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Savigny, H. & Marsden, L. (2011) Doing Political Science and International Relations. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.