Favorite reads in 2009...
Continuing a theme I started yesterday re: the best of 2009, I wanted to share a list of books that I found valuable, insightful or just plain fun and satisfying. They are in no particular order - which is the way I read them - and are all over the map. Although, as often happens, once I put the list into writing, a theme may emerge. Happy reading.
+ Snow by Orhan Pamuk: a fascinating story of love, ideology and cultural change in Turkey
+ Prague by Arthur Phillips: a hipster's journey through ex-pats living in Budapest in the 1990s
+ Eagle Pond by Donald Hall: a New England poet explores the seasons of life in New Hampshire
+ Lies My Teacher Told Me by James Loewen: a history prof walks through the heart of many of the lies and ugly truths that Americans hate to own - or have never known - in a brilliant and helpful way (I loved this book on many levels)
+ Perdido Street Station by China Mielville: part sci-fi fantasy, part political rant and part thriller, this may have been the most creative book all year in its challenging boldness
+ Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson: the book of hope for me in 2009 as he describes a way of sharing compassion in practical and culturally appropriate ways in Afghanistan
+ Netherland by Joseph O'Neill: a post September 11th story of one international family's collision with a post-modern, multi-cultural NYC
+ The City by China Mieville: this wild ass Brit give the mystery genre a taste of his unique cultural critique
+ You or Someone Like You by Chandler Burr: another favorite that looks at what it might mean for a modern inter-faith couple to raise a post-modern child in a world polarized by fundamentalism's of all types
+ Mary Through the Centuries by Jaraslov Pelikan: the best history of the most important woman in the Bible I have read to date
+ Truly Our Sister: A Theology of Mary in the Communion of Saints by Elizabeth Johnson: a very engaging and intellectually sound look at both the biblical story of Mary and what that might mean for the body of Christ
+ Tribal Church by Carol Howard Merritt: my favorite "church" book of 2009 - as a 30 something person of faith, Merritt talks about making the old mainstream work in new ways so that we embrace the blessings of intergenerational congregations and more
+ Life Work by Donald Hall: the aging poet speaks about living into his calling and what that means for the creative life
+ American Primitive by Mary Oliver: an older collection of poems finding the holy in the mundane realities of nature
+ Sinners Welcome by Mary Karr: a new collection of poems by a witty, hard-hitting woman who came to faith after hitting rock bottom
+ Evidence by Mary Oliver: her newest collection of poems grounded in grief, healing and the blessings of real life after the death of her beloved
+ The Trouble with Poetry by Billy Collins: a loving collection of humble and human poems filled with gentle, self-deprecating humor that always points to grace
+ The Death of Adam by Marilynne Robinson: a series of penetrating essays that go beyond the sound-bite bickering that currently passes for analysis into wisdom and authentic tolerance
+ The Fidelity of Betrayal and How (Not) to Speak of God by Peter Rollins: the hippest and most literate of the emerging church philosopher theologians speaks of living with paradox and never overstating what we can know (and experience) of God in Christ Jesus
+ Home by Marilynne Robinson: a thoroughly literate continuation of the life of people we first met in Gilead - the twist is that Robinson looks at what it would be like if the Prodigal Son really did come home
+ Becoming a Blessed Church by N. Graham Standish: this book provided my church council and leaders with a framework for going deeper; the goal is to become a living faith community committed to finding God, Christ and the Spirit in our life together. Very practical and theologically helpful, too.
+Who's Afraid of Post-Modernism by James K. A. Smith: a clear, thoughtful and energizing review of the wisdom of three French post-modern philosophers - Derrida, Lyotard and Foucault - and why it matters to the church of the 21st century.
+ Censoring an Iranian Love Story by Shahriar Mandanipour. A brilliant love/politics story that uses the physical print of the page to evoke the chaos and dysfunction of current life in Iran.
So... is there a theme? What I can discern is the careful use of time for professional reading - practical with regards to church renewal and cutting edge re: philosophy and theology - a variety of New England writers to better understand my new world - poetry that is simultaneously humble and holy and a few fiction writers that use words well who are able to push the edge of my understanding of life in these strange times. Twenty three serious reads and throw in a few dozen English/Scottish mysteries and that about wraps it up for a pretty good summary.