Friday, January 30, 2015

5 favorite reads in January

what I read in January

-- 1 --

1  Lila by Marilynne Robinson (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, October 2014. 272 pages.)

Reading challenge category*:  a book published this year

I've followed Marilynne Robinson ever since reading Gilead with the IAM Reader's Guild back in 2010. Her understanding of the characters she writes completely charms me.  I love the people.  And I love Lila the same as all the others.  Maybe even more.  I did find myself wishing for two things as I read, though: a bit more action with a bit less eavesdropping on Lila's thoughts about things and chapters.  I really struggle settling in to a book without the ebb and flow of chapter openings and closings.  

Still, I am fond of Lila.  I am glad she exists -- even though she is, technically, a fictional character.  Oh for more Lila's in the world keeping the religious on their toes, reminding us all of the simple beauty of existence.

-- 2 --

2  On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes by Alexandra Horowitz (Scribner, 2013. 265 pages) 

Reading challenge category*:  a nonfiction book

Full disclosure: this book is not what I hoped it would be.  I'm not sure why, exactly.  I'm completely sold out on the idea of paying attention, really looking at the world we live in day in and day out.  But this was a bit tedious for even me.

-- 3 --

3  The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene (240 pages.)

Reading challenge category*:  a book at the bottom of your to-read pile

This book has been on my "to read" list for years -- basically ever since I first read Brennan Manning's description of the "whiskey priest."  For whatever reason, I had the hardest time tracking the book down until I helped myself to my friend Jeffrey's bookshelves.  It took me a while to get into the pace of the novel but about two chapters in I became engrossed in the story.  Maybe more than the story as the voice.

Here's the Amazon blurb:
In a poor, remote section of Southern Mexico, the paramilitary group, the Red Shirts have taken control. God has been outlawed, and the priests have been systematically hunted down and killed. Now, the last priest is on the run. Too human for heroism, too humble for martyrdom, the nameless little worldly “whiskey priest” is nevertheless impelled toward his squalid Calvary as much by his own compassion for humanity as by the efforts of his pursuers.
Here's one of several favorite excerpts:
"A voice said, 'You are the priest, aren't you?' 
'Yes.' It was as if they had climbed out of their opposing trenches and met in No Man's Land among the wires to fraternise. He remembered stories of the European war - how during the last years men had sometimes met on an impulse between the lines. 
'Yes.' he said again, and the mule plodded on. Sometimes, instructing children in the old days, he had been asked by some black lozenge-eyed Indian child, 'What is God like?' and he would answer facilely with references to the father and the mother, or perhaps more ambitiously he would include brother and sister and try to give some idea of all loves and relationships combined in an immense and yet personal passion...But at the centre of his own faith there always stood the convincing mystery - that we were made in God's image. God was the parent, but He was also the policeman, the criminal, the priest, the maniac and the judge. Something resembling God dangled from the gibbet or went into odd attitudes before the bullets in a prison yard or contorted itself like a camel in the attitude of sex. He would sit in the confessional and hear the complicated dirty ingenuities which God's image had thought out, and God's image shook now, up and down on the mule's back, with the yellow teeth sticking out over the lower lip, and God's image did its despairing act of rebellion with Maria in the hut among the rats. He said, 'Do you feel better now? Not so cold, eh? Or so hot?' and pressed his hand with a kind of driven tenderness upon the shoulders of God's image."

-- 4 --

Image Journal: Issue 83 

I'm so glad to subscribe again after missing out the last couple of years!  Especially enjoyed Wayne Roosa's contribution "The Avant-Garde and Sacred Discontent: Contemporary Performance Artists Meet Ancient Jewish Prophets"

Here's a follow-up interview:  A Conversation with Wayne Roosa

-- 5 --

5 The Art of Neighboring: Building Genuine Relationships Right Outside Your Door by Jay Pathak & Dave Runyon (Baker Books, 2012. 184 pages + study guide.)

Reading challenge category*:  a book you own but have never read

I've had this book on my nightstand for a while and love that our church is reading it together this winter.  The book was born out of a gathering of 20 Denver pastors in 2009.  They invited the local mayor to join them and asked him this simple question:  "How can we as churches best work together to serve our city?" At the end of a conversation including all the usual suspects of social problems cities face, the mayor surprised them with this summary:

"The majority of the issues that our community is facing would be eliminated or drastically reduced if we could just figure out a way to become a community of great neighbors."
The authors confessed a bit of embarrassment that the mayor was basically asking them to follow the second half of the Great Commandment.  "In a word, the mayor invited a roomful of pastors to get their people to actually obey Jesus."

Online resources:

The Art of Neighboring website (includes resources and map of participating churches across the U.S.)

Download a Block Map (if you read nothing else, complete this exercise!)

Download the Block Party Kit

*This year, I'm using a fun challenge checklist with a Facebook group of friends (and sisters!).  You can find the checklist here:  Take Our Ultimate Reading Challenge  If you'd like to join our Reading Challenge 2015 group on Facebook, let me know and I'll send you an invite! 

*Go to my Book Pile page to see my reading lists from 2014 and previous years.*

What are you reading right now?

*Linking up with Jenna today

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