Thursday, February 10, 2011

Readin' and writin'

The more I spend time writing, the more I see how much reading enhances my writing, but the harder it is to make time to read. I love to read. I grew up around books. My parents had a personal library in most of our houses growing up, they were in the bookstore business for half of my life, and I affectionately recall weekly trips to the library as a kid. As I've grown older, however, I'm horribly guilty of talking about my love for reading more than I actually read. For instance, it's not unusual to find four books of mine lying around the house that I'm in the midst of reading, of which I'll finish one, if I'm lucky. If I'm not excited about a book in the first twenty pages or so, I'll ditch it, unless I have some motivation to persevere.

That said, I got to thinking about the books I've read in the last year. Maybe we'd better make that the last two years. Of those, which have been the most rewarding reads? Hmmm, let's see.

1. Mountains beyond mountains - Tracy Kidder. It's the story of Dr. Paul Farmer, whom I see as the Mother Teresa of Haiti. I not only love the tireless devotion and passion that drives Dr. Farmer to champion for free health care for the poorest of the poor in Haiti (and other countries), but as a writer with an affinity for memoirs and narratives, I love the way Tracy Kidder tells the stories of others in writing. He's a masterful storyteller, and he does so without the reader hardly knowing he's there. Beautiful.

2. Room of Marvels - James Bryan Smith. I read this book right after I read The shack (which, controversial as it is, I really loved and appreciated for specific reasons), and the two had a lot of similarities, though different stories and styles. Having just lost my Dad, this book spoke powerfully to me of life beyond here, of the mystery and creative purposes of God in weaving the stories of our lives, of the impact that we may have on our world, regardless of what we can see. It made me wonder about the life that my Dad is continuing to live with God in heaven. Smith reminded me a lot of C.S. Lewis.

3. unChristian - David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons. This book challenged me in so many profound ways as a follower of Christ in the culture I live in. It's a must-read, in my strong opinion, for any Christian who really cares to love people from all different backgrounds, belief systems, etc, and it starts with putting aside defenses and actually listening to what a large demographic of our culture has to say about their perceptions of Christians.

4. I'll lump these all together, for efficiency: Blue like Jazz, A million miles in a thousand years, and Searching for God knows what - Donald Miller. I've just got to say, I deeply appreciate Don Miller. I've got a writer crush on him - I love the way he communicates. I loved different things about each of these books of his, and some of his books more than others, but the thing that remains the same throughout is his refreshing, bumbling candidness about himself and life. He never tries to make himself look great, only to be honest and real, which of course, is endearing.

5. Writing to change the world - Mary Pipher. She got me at the title. I am passionate about writing for a greater purpose. And she offers some very practical tips and perspectives for writing in such a way.

6. God never blinks - Regina Brett. Another refreshingly real writer, sharing about what she's learned through life's detours. Short chapters with great insights. From a faith perspective without being "churchy" (though I don't agree with everything she says, I appreciate her authenticity). Her style reminded me of Anne Lamott.

7. Jesus through Middle Eastern eyes: Cultural studies in the gospels - Ken Bailey. I'm still working through this one, to be honest, but I don't want to fly through it too quickly. It's packed, and I mean packed, with insights and historical treasures. Already it's shaping the way I read the gospels and also how I see Jesus.

8. Strength in what remains - Tracy Kidder. Ok, I already have him on this list, but he's just so good. This book was one of my favorites of the year. An amazing, amazing story of strength and resilience and perseverance, of someone who harnessed his pain to do incredible things for others with his life.

9. Eating animals - Jonathon Foer. I knew I was forgetting a really important one. The book that educated me immensely about the factory farm industry and some philosophy about why we eat animals, and certain ones at that. What I loved about this book: It was not directly a case for vegetarianism, but with the facts he presented in the passionate but objective manner I so appreciated, it ended up being a slam dunk case for me. Extremely well researched, well-thought, well-articulated, provocative book. I haven't been the same since.

I think that's all I have time for at the moment, but it's a good start. Looking at the list, though, I can see I need to get a' readin'. I read most of these books months and months ago.

No comments:

Post a Comment