I really thought this year would be different and I’d manage to maintain my excellent January rate of reading. Lots of things have got in the way and I find myself once more out of the reading habit. I’m hoping that by writing these notes down I’ll remember that I love reading and just do it some more. Here, as ever, in no particular order are the books I’ve read over the last 3 months.
Michelle Obama- Becoming.
This is definitely one of those which is going to be high on the best reads of the year. I loved reading about this very driven compassionate woman and her journey through life. As much as I hate to admit it, I did get more interested once she and Barak got into the White House (it’s just so fascinating seeing how people deal with living at that high level of being known and watched all the time). I read it whilst we were in America for a week and felt fairly overwhelmed by the need to live a good life, to make a difference in the place we live in, to care about the systems around us. Being me I haven’t really translated that into much action but it did stir me to want to make more of a mark on this world and get involved in making life better for the people around me. It also made me pretty proud of the projects our church runs seeking to do just that.
Let Me Lie- Claire Mackintosh
Another one of those suspense novels, pretty good for a flight and engaging enough to wonder what’s going on and being marginally surprised at the ending.
Shadow Doctor- Adrian Plass.
This is one of the most opaque books I’ve ever read by him. It felt like a story about the agonies of ministry, of pastoral work, of the complexities of actually being Jesus to people in their lives. I think I need to read it again to really understand what’s going on it. It felt incomplete and I think that was the point. Anyone fancy reading it with me and chatting about it over a pint?
The Sin of Certainty- Peter Enns
This book felt like a breath of fresh air. His basic premise seems to be that God desires our trust rather than our ‘correct’ beliefs. I loved it. Having joined, and now working for, a church from a very different tribe of Christian faith than I’ve been used to, I’ve become really aware of the shibboleths we all hold, regardless of the tribes we belong to. I’m tired of people talking about the right answers to massive complex issues as if we all have to ascribe to the right set of beliefs before we are ok in God’s eyes. Peter Enns points out that God is much more mysterious than we give God credit for, that we are called to trust rather than working everything out. After all no-one in 2000 and more years has really got this God thing all tied up and sorted. God seems to be ok with that (or the narrow road really is incredibly narrow). I would rather spend the rest of my life living in relationship with God, learning to trust rather than learning all the ‘right’ answers to all the issues surrounding this faith thing. That’s just me though. A book which made me breathe deep and love God all over again. I’m not sure you can argue with that too much…
The Bible Tells Me So- Peter Enns.
Another one along a similar vein as above (yep he’s one of those writers that really only has one idea and says it in a very eloquent way) and made me want to read the Bible again. Another win.
(It should be noted that these are two books about God written by a man. I’m not sure I’ve read many of those in the last 6 or so years, but he’s pretty good. I realised I love him because he writes like the women authors that I love, like a person who is wrestling with this stuff and who has a personality, not like a dry person who has figured everything out and has no personality.)
Uncommon Type- Tom Hanks
Some short stories by the lovely Tom Hanks, all with some mention of a typewriter (I had to be told that by a review I read). Some were good, some I skipped over. It’s probably on the whole worth a read.
Shameless- Nadia Bolz-Weber
OOoooo I loved this. It’s billed as a radical book on sex but actually doesn’t offer much in the way of a new sexual ethic which I was a bit sad about. BUT what it does offer is honesty about a topic, all too often, not talked about in churches at all. We have to start talking about these things. I had a brilliant chat about it with some lovely women I know, it was unbelievably refreshing to talk about all the things raised in the book. It’s worth reading to start the conversations, to bring reality into any chat about sex, to start to wrestle with what on earth the Bible says about sex, to enjoy her love of the Bible and God, to maybe not even necessarily come to similar conclusions but to at least start the honest chat. And it’s most of all worth it for the grace and love that drip through it.
The Immortalists- Chloe Benjamin
Best novel I’ve read this year. Four siblings get told their date of death by a medium style lady. The book follows them one by one until their deaths and shows how their stories are shaped by the knowledge they have been given. The characters are really interesting and it was wonderfully written.
Becoming Friends of Time – John Swinton.
A beautiful book that I want to read again. An exploration of time God’s way, of the slowness of God, of the beauty of the discipleship of people who have no words or memories to express how we usually understand what ‘Christians’ look like. A wonderful book to help us all think through how we express our lives together as the community of God’s people and how we wrap everyone into that regardless of how they express themselves, their circumstances, illnesses or disabilities. It made me realise how much I have been given and also how utterly different being a child of God looks for each one of us. It broadened my awareness of the scope of God’s work and made me want to slow down so I can pay attention to what God is up to and not just plough on with my own agenda.