For me, reading and ministry go hand in hand. I read fiction to feed the creative beast that is always hungry and always demanding more so that my preaching continues to be relevant and engaging. I read poetry to ground myself in the wonder and beauty of ordinary things. I read sociology to feed my curiosity because as a pastor I find the way people connect, form community and engage endlessly fascinating. I read leadership books because I am always looking for new metaphors to teach people old truth about how we gather and care for one another with integrity and authenticity. I read memoir to keep the human tendency of judgement at bay and to learn from viewpoints and experiences that differ from my own. And I read for the pure delight of discovering the beauty of a well turned phrase or being introduced to a new perspective.
As the leaves finally change colors and the temps begin to turn I have been hunkering down to get some reading and learning done this fall. Here are some of the books I have taken specific delight in this fall.
Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman
This book was a delight in so many ways. First of all I particularly love a sibling coming of age story that spans decades especially if there are three or more siblings because I love complicated family dynamics in a story. But what I loved the most about this story is that Hoffman explores the complexities of fate, choice, love and grief. Think Chloe Benjamin’s The Immortalist but less dark and more hopeful about the human condition. For you preacher types out there this book gives you several stories and quite a few liftable quotes about love that is neither flat or rote. Hoffman’s dealings on the subject acknowledge the complexity of human relationship, the ways in which we get in our own way and how life and death are complicated in how we make meaning of them.
Southernmost by Silas House
I checked this book out from the public library and when I finished it I felt compelled to slip a $20 bill in an envelope with a thank you note and mail it to House. This story about a southern preacher in rural Tennessee changing his beliefs on homosexuality and the fall out personally and professionally that ensues was done so well. Sometimes with topics like these writing can be like pie crust–over work it or over do the point and its tough and indigestible. Instead House creates a lovely and thoughtful and complicated story about family, love and change without being overwork or cliche. If you are a church leader looking for suggestion for the next church book club read, this might be an interesting way to open up thoughtful discussion.
Risking Everything: 110 Poems of Love and Revelation by Roger Housden
I love reading full volumes by poets. It’s like listening to the full album of a musician, you really get a feel for what they are trying to accomplish and communicate. However, on occasion I find an edited collection that pulls together a lovely selection of poems and I can discover several new poems or poets in one simple volume. A dear friend recommended this volume when we were browsing the collection at the Urban Abbey and I immediately purchased it and tucked it in my suitcase to bring home. One of my favorites in this selection is Marge Piercy’s To Have Without Holding which opens “Learning to love differently is hard/live with the hands wide open, love/with the doors banging on their hinges,/the cupboards unlocked.” A good word to hear any day.