A congregant asked me recently which books I have found useful recently. She reminded me that people look for guidance going down the cereal aisle that is modern publishing. Thinking I am a thoughtful fellow whose ideas she respects, she asked me.
Fewer things could be more flattering than to be asked what to read. And more humbling. So as the news has fallen silent this evening and this task has been on my mind, now seems a good moment. I confine myself to books read in the last 18-24 months.
Colored People - A memoir by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. a window into a world most do not know is even there.
The Souls of Black Folk - W.E.B. DuBois, the opening word in the 20th century race (1903) conversation. And still pertinent.
Chronicle of A Death Foretold & One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Who knew brains could work like than and not burst.
Austerlitz - W.G. Sebald - makes despair noble without diminishing its dreadful power.
Great Expectations - C. Dickens. Wild, woolly, hokey, and yet utterly realistic and true.
What Paul Meant - Gary Wills. Redeems Paul the way Paul redeemed Christ.
The Courtier and the Heretic - Matthew Stewart. One of those new pop history books that brings two world changing geniuses together in one book and makes both of them approachable.
The Republic of Suffering - Drew Gilpin Faust. How the Civil War shaped America's attitude toward death and life. Unique idea with rich insights grounded in solid facts.
I judge a book great by how often I find myself lost in thought instead of reading. Each of these made me pause and think often, raising ideas and questions I never considered before. They made me different for reading them.
There is one more, but I am not sharing it with you. That one I have read twice this summer, and still find myself pondering almost every page. It is so challenging to me personally, that I find it hard to read without questioning my faith, my calling, and my courage. Once I have read it probably for the third or fourth time, I shall tell you. (Some already know, but keep you mouths shut) But likely I shall ask my church to read it with me and see if they find it as scary as I do.