Pilgrimpace's Blog

new necn website

We are proud to announce NECN’s new website:



There’s still a little bit to do, but please share this with anyone involved in estate churches.

Please join in the conversation – we are very happy to publish guest blogs and articles

and please let us have any comments or suggestions

The Built Environment, Churches, Transformation, Spirituality

NECN had this enquiry:

 “I’m interested in how the church can facilitate the transformation of the built environment. I’m interested in the psychological effect of social housing on inhabitants and how good design can facilitate the presence of God in a community.

I’ve done a little reading in this area but I was wondering whether you might be able to direct me to any persons, resources, or organisations that you know of who work in this area or are exploring these issues.”

 There have been a good number of comments in different places.  This post is to gather them together.  Please add to this and keep the conversation going in the comments below.


Gosh … Thamesmead. Yes.
Heard a fascinating R4 programme in the summer which describes Thamesmead South (where I am) as being built by architects according to atheist principles … ie if you meet purely physical needs, you have met all human needs.
Issues like beauty / social spaces / spiritual inspiration were ignored.
The built environment therefore directly militates against everything a church aims for.
Still working out a cohesive approach … other than picking up the spiritual bits which the environment causes.


Headspace – the psychology of city living” by Dr.Paul Keedwell is a helpful read. It deals with aspects of the built environment and how it impacts…


Tim Gorringe The Built Environment


David Walker: “Reading my book, God’s Belongers may be a start. I’m also part of the NHF Great Places Commission and we’ve seen churches in real anchor roles.”


Anne Power Estates on the Edge


“It is also worth following current housing discussions following government releasing cap on council borrowing for new building and following Grenfell wish to avoid some of the errors of the past. How the church can influence these discussions nationally is a challenge as it has not been a major player since days of Faith in the City. However in many local areas housing associations were begunChristians, and still have significant involvement. See recent tributes to Michael Eastman or Richard Farnell.”


Les Crossland: Principalities, Powers and Social Structures



Foxes have holes. Christian reflections on Britain’s housing needs” ed Andrew Francis available through Ekklesia.


“I would suggest looking at work by Stephen Hill and also the latest publication by CSAN (Catholic Social Action Network) called ‘Abide in Me’ http://www.csan.org.uk/…/2018/11/Abide-in-Me-CSAN.pdf. Suggests more Catholic parishes should be exploring this area…”


“I wonder if the communities that engaged with the Grenfell Tower fire 18 months ago have reflections to share.”


“My tuppenny worth is that the key to an environment in which people can thrive, even a not very beautiful (to some eyes) brutalist one, is some sense of collective ownership, neighbourliness, love and attention. Even so called “sink” estates can be great places to live when there is a sense of community safety, good regular maintenance and upkeep, some green planting and well used children’s areas. These things can be helped by design but don’t depend on it. Look at privately run tower blocks like those of the Barbican. The only difference between them and a council run Tower block is a concierge type service and good maintenance. A small but committed Christian presence in a community can be the catalyst for this kind of regeneration.”


“A very practical one is the offer of non commercial meeting / conversation space – in areas of vast “urban sprawl” with no high street etc they are one of the few “public” spaces”


“Minimising sensory hell and adding some ownership.”

Urban Congress 2018 – Seeking the Kingdom in the City

More than 70 people from Church of England Birmingham’s inner city and outer estate parishes gathered for the day to reflect together on our life and mission as disciples within the city.


This year, the Congress had a very dialogical and conversational character – people spent a lot of time talking to each other in small groups, with those from the Diocese listening.  It felt very much that this was a living example of Robert Schreiter’s concept of The Community as Theologian.  We had fun, we worshipped, we ate together.  We watched these films about mission and the kingdom in some of our parishes.

St Thomas, Garretts Green

St John and St Peter, Ladywood

Hodge Hill Church

The Church and the Estates

Paula Gooder introduced some biblical images of mission for us and got us thinking hard about which most excite us in our mission.  Here are our reflections:

Go! Matthew 28: 19 – 20

– ‘go’ and ‘come’ are both encompassed in this.

– relational

– comforting

– journey through life

– who we touch


Seek the welfare of the city, Jeremiah 29: 7

– welfare

– shalom


Freedom, Luke 4: 18 – 19

– it is easier to be a giver than to receive

– the importance of being broken

– issues of Church v Kingdom

– people we know

– “difference”

– mission at home.


An Uncomfortable Kingdom, Luke 13: 19

– weed

– untidy

– what our church does

– plant on purpose?

– symbolic tree

– abiding place

– how do we accommodate it?

– is the Kingdom like Japanese knotweed?


Care for the Stranger Luke, 10: 33

– receiving help


Parable of the Talents, Luke 19: 12

– little brings a lot

– put it to use


The Ethiopian Official Acts 8: 26

– explaining scripture

– our lives challenge others

– instant results vs long journey


Touching Jesus’ Cloak, Luke 8

– we want more!


Workers in the Vineyard, Matthew 20

– God’s nature – rewarding last minute workers the same fair wage and dignity


Yeast and Leaven, Matthew 13

– don’t fiddle with it or you will break it

– doing things at the right time

– doing things in God’s time



– scared

– terrified

– obedient



– turned away

– no one listened


Widows and Unjust Judges, Luke 18

– persistence


God loves the world, John 3: 16

– love for everyone

– God loves us first


Jesus and the Lepers, Luke 17

– tending wounds


Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5

– social justice


Sending out: Luke 10

– why I am here

– things happen


Chosen by God to Bear Fruit, John 15


Sowing Seed, Matthew 13

– not knowing what soil we have

– prodigality

– it is up to God






– to see everyone welcomed

– our communities changing

– bringing people and communities together

– encouraging one another in mission

– looking inside – what is my purpose? what can I give?

– making Jesus accessible for all

– people coming together to share

– seeing God’s grace at work

– wanting Church to be different

– being joyful

– working with schools

– blessed are the poor




– the community working together

– including young people in church

– theology and suffering – called to engage and respond

– intergenerational learning, reverse mentoring





– “how to” guides

– more social media

– recognising the gifts that are already there

– mentoring / small cell groups

– sustaining with prayer

– working as churches together

– calling and releasing gifts

– working with all agencies


Simon Heathfield responded at the end of the day:

What are the things that matter?

What is God saying?

  1. Where is God’s sweetness?

– our parish

– our identities in God – this means seeing gift before deprivation

– let’s believe God’s identity in this place

– God has given us our identity, the authentic thing God calls us to be

– “there is treasure when you find what people have to give”

– what is the treasure in your place?


  1. Is your Church ‘come’ or ‘go’?

– building a culture of invitation

– ‘go’ = being changed


  1. Messiness

– how comfortable are you with mess?

– suffering?

– mustard seed

– Jean Vanier “I am struck by how sharing our weakness and difficulties is more nourishing to others than sharing our qualities and successes.”

– the conversation today has been really positive


  1. Who is driving the agenda?

– where is the agency?

– the agency, the initiative, the power come from outside

– giving you the vision God has for you


  1. How do you deal with issues of timing that you cannot control?

– mission as not-knowing

– taking the long view

necn news


  1. A Worshipping Community on Every Estate

It was great to be part of the NECN London Gathering last week where the Church of England’s Estates Evangelism strategy was launched, and to see so many friends there.

The strategy is ambitious.  This catches a glimpse of the vision:

Imagine a thriving, loving, serving, worshipping Christian community on every significant social housing estate in the country.

 Imagine a church which has really grasped the truth that renewal comes from the margins and is happy to invest imagination, resources and its best leaders there.

 Imagine new leaders, ordained and lay, from and for the estates churches, an army of Caedmons who can speak the Gospel in a language people understand.

 Imagine priests, new and experienced, longing to serve in estates and finding in that ministry inspiration, support and a profound sense that they are changing lives.

 Imagine estates residents, church leaders and theologians in rich dialogue to discern together the Good News of Jesus Christ on our estates.

 Imagine even more people who live on estates finding in their local church a voice for justice, a place of service and a community of love and in so doing discover their true dignity and beauty in Jesus Christ.

There is a great film accompanying this.  Watch it here:

The CofE issued this Press Release:

The Church of England is “coming back” to the estates, reversing a trend where over decades, services like shops and children’s centres have withdrawn, the Bishop of Burnley has said.

In a speech delivered at the National Estate Churches Network, the Rt Revd Philip North spoke of how outer estates are to be a key priority for the Church, with the publication of a new Commitment to Action to share the Christian faith on some of the country’s most deprived estates. He also launched a new film outlining the work.

The plans have been prepared by the Church’s Estates Evangelism Task Group, which is chaired by Bishop Philip, and is part of the Church’s Renewal and Reform programme.

Addressing the conference at St Francis at the Engine Room in Tottenham Hale, London, Bishop Philip said: “We want to have a thriving, growing, loving church on every significant estate in the country.”

The group is also committed to training estates residents to become future church leaders and to supporting existing Christian communities on estates, which may see collaboration with other denominations.

Speaking about the work of existing estate churches across Dioceses, some of which have been supported by the Church’s Strategic Development Funding, Bishop Philip said: “The Church is coming back. The Holy Spirit is doing amazing things on the estates of this nation.”

Birmingham Diocese’s Urban Estates Mission Enabler, Revd Andy Delmege, who is chair of the Estates Network and vicar at St Bede’s, Brandwood in Birmingham, said: “As a priest who ministers on estates, I am very excited about these plans.

“I pray it will continue to stimulate fresh energy, vision, and resources in our existing estate churches, as well as inspiring new initiatives.”

The Revd Helen Shannon, vicar of church@five on the Strawberry Estate in East Finchley, London, said: “The Church of England’s vision is ‘A Christian presence in every community’ that means no forgotten people; no forgotten places, even in some of our toughest estates.

“I’m so excited that the Church has a growing commitment to the revitalisation of estate churches, plans to launch new estate churches where none currently exist, and a vision to raise up local people from the estates to achieve this.”

Debbie Clinton, Director of Renewal and Reform, said: “Estates ministry is vital to the growth of the Church. I am delighted that as well as encapsulating the vision for estates evangelism, these new plans build on the wonderful work already being undertaken on estates churches by clergy and lay people, who are committed to meeting the spiritual and social needs of estate residents.”

and you can read a good article about it in the Church Times here:


There will be more detail about the strategy and how it is being implemented as we go on.  It is an attempt to put into practice the Four Strands (https://www.churchofengland.org/sites/default/files/2017-11/Estates%20Evangelism%20Commitment%20to%20Action_0.pdf), which come from a great deal of consultation with estate churches and other partners.

I pray that this is something we can all get behind and that it will make the difference on the ground that we are crying out for.

NECN is one of the key partners in this (and members of our Exec are on the Estates Evangelism Group and vice versa).  Our task is to help keep the energy going, to represent estate churches, to ensure things are bottom up, and to keep ecumenical perspectives at the centre.  None of this can happen without your support and prayers.  We will do our best to include you all and to keep you informed as things develop.


  1. London Gathering

One of the things that has come out of the London Gathering is that there are a number of issues that make estates feel a bit different to the rest of the country.  These include

– a marked ethnic mix in populations

– rich and poor living in extremely close proximately

– a complete lack of affordable housing

– an assault on social housing

– particularly sharp issues around gangs and knife crime.

It therefore makes sense to have a Conference especially for the London Region.

If you would like to be part of the group organizing this, or if you are interested in a local NECN Group, please contact Andy.Delmege@estatechurches.org

More news on this soon.


  1. NECN will have a new website very soon.


  1. Don’t forget our National Conferences in Bradford on June 18th and Birmingham on June 20th. More details to follow.


  1. If you want to be on the NECN Mailing List, please contact Andy.Delmege@estatechurches.org


please share this widely!


love and prayers





sharing justly

I was interviewed this morning on BBC Radio 4’s Sunday Programme, calling for a just sharing of historic assets between dioceses so that mission and ministry at the sharp end can be supported.  You can hear the interview here (it is towards the end of the segment that begins at 6 minutes).

This is a vital and urgent issue.

Here are some further thoughts to try to take the issue further and deeper.

The situation we are in is that there is a huge disparity in wealth between the different dioceses.  Some (particularly the newer urban dioceses in the north and midlands like Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and Birmingham) have very little in terms of historic assets and reserves.  Other dioceses are in comparatively very comfortable situations.

Why should ministry be harder in these places because they are newer dioceses, formed without historic assets?

This is not posturing.  My greatest concern as someone who is a parish priest and who visits and supports a lot of housing estate parishes around the country is that this directly affects mission on the ground.  There is clear evidence that dioceses in more economically deprived areas with less historical assets have fewer stipendiary ministers per head of population.

This has a clear effect on our parishes and their ministry. If you have to pay more Parish Share, or your parish is larger, or your diocese is concentrating on reorganization, or you are affected by all the fear and stress that this can bring, this is going to affect your capacity for imaginative and creative mission.

The Church is investing in estate churches and estate evangelism at the moment – something which is wholehearted Good News – but the lack of fair assets in some place endangers this.

What does the Gospel say?  well, it certainly does not advocate a Postcode Lottery where if you live in one place, the historic assets of the Church mean you pay less for more ministry; while if you live in another (which may well be more economically deprived), you pay more for less.

We need urgently to work out ways of justly sharing our historic wealth.  Bishop Philip North reminds us clearly that The first Christians dealt with their wealth in so daring and counter-cultural a way that it proved powerfully attractive (Acts 2.44). Property and income was pooled so that there was no distinction between rich and poor, slave and free. (Read his full Church Times article here).  We can do this for dioceses – we are Christians, we are part of the Church of God, we are generous.

Can we find ways of tackling this in a root and branch way, or – at the very least – with wealthier dioceses funding some things in those with least.  Bishops and Diocesan Secretaries – over to you!

And the rest of us – pray, share this issue, and keep the pressure on.

thoughts on estate ministry

reflecting on grenfell tower

It is harrowing watching and reading the evidence from the Grenfell Tower Inquiry.

The 72 deaths and the destruction of lives that we see in the Enquiry is dreadful.  We see how the eroding of the fabric of our society has led to tragedy for those who have been least able to defend themselves.

It is important to be silent – to allow space for the survivors, to make sure we don’t grandstand.  It is vital that we lament, that our raw and our considered emotions can be brought before God.

It is also important that we campaign.  Campaign and agitate so that this will not happen again to anyone else.  Professor Ann Power has an excellent blog here on ten lessons we can learn from Grenfell that must be put into action.  She knows more about this than anyone else.

We are also in a housing crisis.  We must continue to be unwavering in getting into the heads of the political class that decent housing is an urgent right for everyone.  As John Boughton reminds us in his excellent Municipal Dreams, it would be even more of a disaster if Grenfell were used in our social policy to further undermine social housing.

Teresa of Avila reminds us sharply, “Can there be an evil greater than that of being ill at ease in our own house?  What hope can we have of finding rest outside of ourselves if we cannot be at rest within?”  Good homes for all people are at the heart of what it is to be human and are at the heart of God.

May 20, 2018, 7:33 pm
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This has been a week.  In amongst all the good, “ordinary” local things in Brandwood and in Birmingham, some wonderful travelling.

A trip to south London to work with the folk at the Church Plant at Ackroydon Hall on the estate in Southfields.  A great time exploring the possibilities of Jesus Shaped People together, and for me some deep learning about other communities, other estates, other churches.  And beer.  And food.

Some time off in Rochdale with Mark and Wendy.  A couple of walks in the South Pennines


and time reflecting together on ministry, faith and life.

And then this morning to London again.


a visit first to Haringey to the Bernie Grant Arts Centre for the Churches Together Pentecost Service


and then to the very special Church on the Farm on Broadwater Farm to preach, to learn about this Church and its work and presence on this estate, to experience such vibrancy and love, and followed by the best goat and rice and chicken I have had the pleasure to eat.

Time now to catch up with myself and to reflect and pray properly on all this.

Laurie Green – bibliography

(As part of the NECN Estate Church Toolkit I am putting a number of resources on this blog that the Toolkit will link to)

Bishop Laurie Green has asked us to share the Bibliography from his excellent book Blessed are the Poor? Urban Poverty and the Church, SCM 2015 (if you have not read this, do – it is extremely good).


The Bibliography is here as a document:


or here:

Aldridge, Hannah, Kenway, Peter, MacInnes, Tom and Parekh, Anushree, 2012, Monitoring Poverty and Social Exclusion, York: Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

Anderson, Gary A., 2013, Charity: The Place of the Poor in the Biblical Tradition, New Haven: Yale University Press.

Applebee, Elaine, 2003, ‘Shaping a Changing Society’, in Vincent, J. J. (ed.), 2003, Faithfulness in the City, Hawarden: Monad Press, p. 164.

Bamfield, Louise and Horton, Tim, 2009, Understanding Attitudes to Tackling Economic Inequality, York: Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

Barrett, Al, 2013, Asset-Based Community Development: A Theological Reflection, London, CUF.

Barrett, Al and Delmege, Andy, 2011, Strengthening Estate Ministry – Thriving in Mission, Birmingham: Birmingham Diocese.

Baptist Union of Great Britain, Estates Group, 2000, Estate Gospel Agents.

Baptist Union of Great Britain, with Methodist Church, Church of Scotland and United Reformed Church, 2013, The Lies We Tell Ourselves: Ending Comfortable Myths about Poverty, a report.

BBC, 2012, ‘The growing demand for food banks in breadline Britain’, BBC Newsnight Blog, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-19468697.

Big Issue, 16 July 2012, p. 19

Bochenski, Michael, 2000, Sent into All the World: Good News for the Housing Estates of Britain – a Journal, Published by the author.

Boerma, Conrad, 1979, Rich Man, Poor Man – and the Bible, London: SCM Press Ltd.

Bonino, José Míguez, 1983, Toward a Christian Political Ethics, London: SCM.

Brown, Wallace and Mary, The Hidden Poor, undated Report to the Diocese of Birmingham.

Browne, James and Hood, Andrew, 2012, A Survey of the UK Benefit System, London: Institute for Fiscal Studies.

Charlesworth, Martin and Williams, Natalie, 2014, The Myth of the Undeserving Poor: a Christian Response to Poverty in Britain Today, 2014, Guildford: Jubilee Plus Ltd & Guildford: Grosvenor House Publishing Ltd..

Church Urban Fund, 2011, ‘Area-Based Poverty’, Church Urban Fund Research Papers.

Church Urban Fund, 2012, ‘Bias to the Poor?’, Church Urban Fund Research Papers.

Church Urban Fund, 2012a, ‘Growing Church Through Social Action: a national survey of church-based action to tackle poverty’.

Coles, Bob, with England, Jude, with Ruff, Julie, 1998, Working with Young People on Estates: The Role of Housing Professionals in Multi-agency Work, York and Coventry: Joseph Rowntree Foundation & The Chartered Institute of Housing.

Dey, Gordon, 2014, Jesus Shaped People, www.jesusshapedpeople.net.

Field, Frank, and Thompson, Timothy, eds, 2014, Feeding Britain, a strategy for zero hunger in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. London: Children’s Society

Franks, Christopher, 2009, He Became Poor: The Poverty of Christ and Aquinas’ Economic Teachings, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.

Fitzpatrick, Suzanne and Stephens, Mark (eds), 2009, The Future of Social Housing, London: Shelter.

Green, Laurie, 1987, Power to the Powerless: Theology Brought to Life, Basingstoke: Marshall Pickering.

Green, Laurie, 1990, Let’s Do Theology: A Pastoral Cycle Resource Book, London: Mowbray.

Green, Laurie, 1995, ‘The Body: Physicality in the UPA’, in Peter Sedgwick (ed.), God in the City: Essays and Reflections from the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Urban Theology Group, London: Mowbray, pp. 105ff.

Green, Laurie,1997, Jesus and the Jubilee – the Kingdom of God and Our New Millennium, London & Sheffield: Jubilee 2000 & UTU Press, New City Special No 11.

Green, Laurie, 2000, The Challenge of the Estates: Strategies and Theology for Housing Estate Ministry, London: Urban Bishops’ Panel & NECN Press.

Green, Laurie, 2003, Urban Ministry and the Kingdom of God, London: SPCK.

Green, Laurie, 2009, Let’s Do Theology: Resources for Contextual Theology, London: Mowbray.

Green, Laurie, 2013, ‘Liberation Theology and Urban Theology’, in Rowland, Chris and Vincent, John (eds), Liberation Theology for Church and Nation, Sheffield: UTU.

Green, Laurie and Baker, Chris (eds), 2008, Building Utopia? Seeking the Authentic Church for New Communities, London: SPCK.

Grindrod, John, 2013, Concretopia: A Journey Around the Rebuilding of Postwar Britain, Brecon, Old Street Publishing.

Hanley, Lynsey, 2007, The Estates: An Intimate History, London: Granta Books.

Hasler, Joe, 2006, Crying Out for a Polycentric Church: Christ Centred and Culturally Focused Congregations, Maidstone: Church in Society.

Hayes, John, 2007, Sub-merge: Living Deep in a Shallow World, Delight, AR: Gospel Light Publications.

Hazlehurst, Benny & Chapman, Chris, 2002, Do It Yourself Estate Kit, London: Southwark Anglican Diocese for NECN.

Hills, John, 2007, Ends and Means: The Future Roles of Social Housing in England, CASEreport 34, London: ESRC Research Centre for Analysis and Social Exclusion (CASE), London School of Economics.

Government, 2013, Social Security Benefits and Expenditure, January 2013, House of Commons Library paper SN/SG/2656.

Jones, Colin and Murie, Alan, 2006, The Right to Buy: Analysis and Evaluation of Housing Policy, Oxford: Blackwell.

Kilpin, Juliet and Murray, Stuart, 2007, Church Planting in the Inner City, Cambridge: Grove Booklets.

Keeble, Paul, 2004, ‘Gang Violence’, in Eastman, Michael and Latham, Steve (eds), 2004, Urban Church: A Practitioner’s Resource Book, London: SPCK.

Lockwood, Trevor, 1993, The Church on the Housing Estate: Mission and Ministry on the Urban Estate, London: Methodist Church Home Mission.

Lupton, Ruth, et al., 2009, Growing up in Social Housing in Britain: A Profile of Four Generations from 1946 to the Present Day, London: Tenant Services Authority and Hoseph Rowntree Foundation: York.

Mealand, David, 1980, Poverty and Expectation in the Gospels, London: SPCK.

Murray, Stuart, 2004, Post-Christendom: Church and Mission in a Strange New World, Carlyle: Paternoster Press.

Murray, Stuart, 2016, A Vast Minority, Carlyle: Paternoster Press.

Myers, Bryant, 2011, Walking with the Poor: Principles and Practices of Transformational Development, Maryknoll: Orbis.

NECN, 2003, Worship for Housing Estate Ministry: Singing the Lord’s Song in a Strange Land?, from National Estate Churches Network.

Oxfam, The Perfect Storm: Economic Stagnation, the Rising Cost of Living, Public Spending Cuts, and the Impact on UK Poverty, London: Oxfam.

Power, Anne, 1999, Estates on the Edge: The Social Consequences of Mass Housing in Northern Europe, London: Macmillan Press Ltd..

Purnell, Derek, 2003, ‘Urban Presence. Newton Heath, Manchester’, in John Vincent (ed.), Faithfulness in the City, Sheffield: Urban Theology Collective, Monad Press.

Sentamu, John, ed., 2015, On Rock or Sand: Firm Foundations for Britain’s Future, London, SPCK.

Somerville, P. and Steele, A., 2002, ‘Race’, Housing & Social Exclusion, London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Thompson, Anna, 2012, ‘Holy Sofas: Transformational Encounters between Evangelical Christians and Post-Christendom Urban Communities’, Practical Theology 5:1, pp. 47-70

Tunstall, Rebecca & Coulter, Alice, 2006, Twenty-five years on Twenty Estates – Turning the tide?, LSE and Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Cambridge: The Polity Press.

van Kempen, Ronald, et al. (eds), 2005, Restructuring Large Housing Estates in Europe, Bristol: The Policy Press.

Winter, Jane, 2014, ‘Why does the church appear to ignore the potential for indigenous ministry in areas of social housing?’, unpublished paper.

Wood, Martin, 2008, Strategic Planning or Piecemeal Development? A Study of the Establishment of Church of England Parishes and Their Churches in the New Town of Basildon between 1949 and 1964, MA Thesis, University of Wales, Lampeter.


top 10 books about council housing
April 26, 2018, 8:54 am
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There’s a list of the top 10 books about council housing in the Guardian here.

What’s missing?  What do you recommend I should read?