A friend who saw yesterday’s Expository Songs announcement asked what resources I use to learn more about hymns and hymnwriters. It might be of general interest, so I’ll post it here as well:
Books of hymn stories are typically targeted to a popular (non-academic) audience.
- Then Sings My Soul Vol. 1, Robert Morgan: Morgan’s books are the bestsellers for a reason; they’re not too detailed for a general audience, and they’re well-written and engaging.
- Then Sings My Soul Vol. 2, Robert Morgan
- Then Sings My Soul Vol. 3, Robert Morgan
- Amazing Grace, 366 Hymn Stories, Kenneth Osbeck
- Our Hymn-Writers and their Hymns, Faith Cook
- Cyber Hymnal: Even though the website looks like it hasn’t been touched since 1995, there are a massive number of hymn stories for well known and obscure hymns. This site also has many forgotten verses omitted by hymnal editors who limit any hymn to four verses.
Hymnology books tend to involve more rigorous academic research. Often they’re more focused on an era or on a broad overview than on individual hymn stories. Some are easier reading than others.
- A Dictionary of Hymnology, 2 volumes, John Julian: This 1957 book is the authority in the field. It’s not that it has zero mistakes, but it was certainly far and away the most accurate up to that point and to this day most of it still holds up fairly well.
- Hymnary.org: This website is a modern-day successor to Julian.
- Abide With Me: The World of Victorian Hymns, Ian Bradley: Focuses on England, with only one U.S. chapter; it’s a moderately slow-paced but fascinating read.
- The English Hymn, J.R. Watson: I haven’t read this one all the way through yet.
- Sing with Understanding, Harry Eskew and Hugh McElrath: This is fairly academic and, I think, was it’s intended as a textbook.
- A Survey of Christian Hymnology, William J. Reynolds and Milburn Price: This must have been a textbook, because it’s rather dry and a rather plodding read.
- Her Heart can See: The life and Hymns of Fanny J. Crosby, Edith Blumhofer
- Dianne Wilkinson: The Life and Times of a Gospel Songwriter, Dianne Wilkinson and me
- Long Journey, Kyla Rowland
- The Rest of the Song, Squire Parsons
- The Legacy of Buck and Dottie Rambo, Buck Rambo
- Driving Ms. Dottie, Larry Ferguson
- It’s More than the Music, Bill Gaither and Ken Abraham
- I Almost Missed the Sunset, Bill Gaither and Jerry Jenkins
- Something Beautiful, Gloria Gaither