Mary Oliver wrote this lovely poem that I discovered in December.
Wherever I’ve lived my room and soon
the entire house is filled with books;
poems, stories, histories, prayers of
all kinds stand up gracefully or are
heaped on shelves, on the floor, on
the bed. Strangers old and new offering
their words bountifully and thoughtfully,
lifting my heart.
But, wait! I’ve made a mistake! how
could these makers of so many books
that have given so much to my life–
how could they possibly be strangers?
I’m going to have it printed and framed just like the poem in our bathroom (which is “The Genius” by Billy Collins, in case you were wondering). I love to read and I love books on shelves; we just added some more shelves in our home. I don’t aim for a certain number of books every year and I don’t force myself to finish books that I don’t like, but I do read intentionally and I keep a record. For the past few years, I’ve kept my reads in an Instagram highlight and I’m still doing that this year. But I’m also recording them in the back of my planner (a Get to Work book– this is the sixth year I’ve used one and I love it) and I’m going to catalogue them here every month.
When 2020 ended, I looked over the years’ books and decided I wanted to sprinkle in some variety. But I don’t make a reading list for the year; I read what I feel like reading. In order to navigate this tension, I decided that every month, I would aim for some poetry, fiction, and/or essays along with my nonfiction. In an effort to relieve my stress about deciding on fiction (and since we still aren’t hanging out at the library) I splurged on a subscription at The Bookshelf and will get a new fiction book every month, picked out by Annie Jones. Yes, it’s a treat and it will be a delight.
And now, on to January’s reads.
I finished up several books this month that I started in December (or last March as you’ll see).
The Habit of Being is a collection of Flannery O’Connor’s letters that I finished shortly into the new year. It’s a massive 596 page tome that I had been reading since last March. I absorbed a few pages each night before falling asleep and I just don’t think our social media posts will have the same effect for the upcoming generations.
Getting Involved with God by Ellen Davis was recommended by my teaching assistant in my New Testament class in seminary. It’s a thought-provoking book and I especially love her work with wisdom literature and the ending section with a more practical/devotional application.
Leonardo da Vinci was also a big read. I bought it at the beach last September, read 100 pages, and set it aside. I don’t know why I did because it’s well-written and Leonardo is fascinating. He was obsessive, endlessly curious, and would have been known as the father of so much science if he had only published his work. But he didn’t care about that.
Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership was one I also mostly read last year. I’m always working through a book after my time in the Bible and this was it for a while until I was drawn to the comfort of my beloved Eugene Peterson. But this challenges leaders to do the work in themselves in order to lead with integrity. Her book Invitation to Solitude and Silence is on my list for this year (I know I said I don’t make a list but I do keep track of things I want to read). I also read Sacred Rhythms for a seminary class and it was a great introduction to spiritual disciplines.
On the Incarnation is by the church father Athanasius. I had never read it but had bought it at some point and it was shockingly easy to read. It was full of depth and is on the list for book club this year. Plus, C.S. Lewis wrote the foreword.
How to Fight Racism by Jemar Tisby came out just this month and I preordered it so that I could have it as soon as possible. Tisby also wrote The Color of Compromise which I recommend right and left to help believers understand how racism in wound in the church. This one is a practical manual, full of ways to live out gospel reconciliation. I cannot recommend it enough.
I also picked up Mystery and Manners, a collection of nonfiction by Flannery O’Connor. It’s a smaller volume of her speeches at universities or introductions for books. I loved this; I’ll refer to it over and over. It’s especially great for writers.
Parable of the Sower is a dystopian novel by Octavia Butler. I didn’t realize it was a dystopian novel or I wouldn’t have picked it up the week of the insurrection. It was jarring and absorbing. If you’re into dystopia, it’s for you.
What Kind of Woman is a slim book of poetry by Kate Baer. If you follow her on Instagram, you know what to expect. It’s gorgeous and pointed and even included one of the blackout poems she crafts with messages she receives on the internet.
That’s an excessive amount of reading because so much of it was read last year. Check out this post if you’re interested in how I read. Happy reading in February, friends!