Bookshelves occupy a sacred place in my life. In her autobiography, The Long Loneliness, Dorothy Day says that liturgy keeps the church from being overrun by the ‘oligarchy of the living.’ Books serve a similar purpose for our own hearts and our whole societies. If we let them, stories keep “the facts” honest. The ‘way it’s always been’ gets turned topsy turvey. Stories make a fiction of reality. In stories, we, like the arguably icky Polonius in Hamlet, by indirections find directions out.
Books of the Moment:
Love in the Ruins, by Walker Percy
Percy engages thoughts about the South, life, death, love, and race through the life and hard times of Dr. Tom More. It is beautiful in a sad, resonant sort of way. If you’re from the American South it will capture you. If you are not from the South, you need to read it anyway. It is beautiful, thoughtful and well worth your time. Percy’s characters’ interactions with the ideas of confession and absolution/ forgiveness stand out in my mind for further reflection. (As in: there might be a post coming up on that shortly!)
Hannah’s Child, by Stanley Hauerwas
I literally could not put Hannah’s Child down once I read the first few pages. It is not only thoughtfully and carefully written, it’s a good story. All the other things I have read by Dr. Hauerwas seemed to come alive as I got to eavesdrop on his formation and peek at his reading list. More than that: Hannah’s Child details the importance and interconnectedness of worship, learning, and friendship at the heart of the Christian life.
We Wish To Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families,
by Philip Gourevitch
This recommendation comes out of Dr. Katongole’s course, (if you’re a Duke Student, take it) and was offered by a few friends of mine. When our allegiance to the flag (or our cultural identity) overcomes our allegiance to the Cross and Christ’s kingdom genocide is a short step away. In this chilling account, Philip Gourevitch offers both an account of the Rwandan genocide of 1994 and an exploration into the history and politics of the small central-African nation. The one thing lacking was any religious or theological commentary, but to be fair, that wasn’t Gourevitch’s project. Coming Soon: “Mirror to the Church” by Dr. Emmanuel Katongole, a theological reflection upon 1994 Rwandan Genocide.
Brother to a DragonFly, by Will Campbell.
I’m only half way through Brother to a Dragonfly, but so far, I am more than impressed and edified. Campbell draws out the subtleties in the Southern system and exposes them to examination in the light of Christ. More to come.
Pilgrimage of a Soul, by Phileena Heuertz
I’m only a chapter in, but so far this account of the importance of pilgrimage as a spiritual discipline that frames our Christian life offers helpful insight. It also thoughtfully engages questions of gender I also have struggled with: How is one both a woman and a Christian in the twenty-first century Church? How does my identity as a Christian change the self-depricating tendencies I’ve inherited from generations of women operating in a patriarchal system? Well in short: what’s the difference between a doormat and a servant? And I’m only on chapter one.
Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, by Eric Metaxas
People of the Book, Geraldine Brooks
Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested: that is, some books are to be read only in parts, others to be read,
but not curiously, and some few to be read wholly with diligence and attention.
-Sir Francis Bacon