I love lists, and every year I resolve to read some of the top picks from the New York Times Book Review list of “ten best.” I am usually a year or two behind on these “best of” books (as you'll see below), and I don’t read nearly enough to justify generating my own list of top ten recommendations. But here are the ones that resonated with my year. (I feel churlish, of course, leaving out some of the best fiction, but in terms of influence on my life, this is where I was this year. . .)
The beginning of 2007 was marked by a number of deaths, many of them tragic, touching me, my congregation, and my clergy colleagues.
Joan Didion’s memoir of her husband’s sudden death and the ensuing grief is the best window I’ve seen into what death does to the heart and mind of a mourner. Absolutely a must read for anyone trying to understand the grieving.
The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, by Michael Pollan
I’ve long been a fan of Michael Pollan’s journalism on food production and its political and environmental implications, but this book blew me away. I learned more than I ever wanted to about what is wrong with our relationship with food and farms in this country, but I also felt affirmed in taking a basically human approach to what I personally eat. Yes, what we eat is political. But we are cultural, social beings as well, and Pollan never loses sight of the many roles food plays in our lives. This book was a tremendous comfort as I sorted through some new health issues in my life and experimented with some nutritional solutions for them. Pollan has some spirited defenses of food as food (which I expect we’ll hear more of in his new release in January), not as a list of nutritional elements, and his writing kept me from feeling like I’d stepped out into a netherworld of supplements and ingredient lists.
What can I
say? Our high school youth mission trip departed the morning after Book 7 was
released, and I spent a week with teenagers absorbed in a 700-plus page
book. I didn’t get around to reading it
myself until August, but I enjoyed it and look forward to the day my own kids
will read these books. Rowling is no
J.R.R. Tolkien, but ultimately her tale is also one of redeeming love. What’s
not to like?
itchy at work lately, trying to move my congregation to think about its mission differently,
and struggling to help Baby Boomers understand that their own issues with faith
don’t necessarily resonate with younger generations. Sara Miles’ memoir of her
own conversion to Christianity and involvement in food pantries is one I’ve
been passing around. For socially concerned Christians who usually find
themselves reacting against the fundamentalisms of their own childhood, Miles’
fresh lens on the church brings new clarity about the treasures and the
pitfalls of life in community that we so take for granted. Here is a woman who
wasn’t put off by Holy Communion, but actually drawn to Christianity by it, and saw in it a calling to share bread with all God’s children. Her account of her marriage to her partner at
What's next for 2008? Expect to see more fiction (I have a sabbatical coming up!) and something about China, where I'll be traveling in July.