Saturday, January 2, 2010

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.


Chandler Burr said...

Hey, RJ.

Glad "You Or Someone Like You" made your list. And also glad to see "This site supports marriage equality."



RJ said...

You are very welcome. Thanks for a GREAT read!

Black Pete said...

May I suggest Trevor Herriot's Jacob's Wound for 2010? Ecological Christianity and just plain fine writing.

And the pic of you and your daughters here was well worth the price of admission.

Happy 2010!

RJ said...

Yes, Pete, I have that on my list after you mentioned it once before. It looks GREAT. Thanks. And being with the girls is always a treat. Happy New Year to you, too.

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