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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

What's On Your Nightstand?


Those who know me, know that I am an avid reader (to put it mildly). I have a very Rory Gilmore (for reference see the episode entitled "Like Mother, Like Daughter") way of reading: meaning that, I tend to read numerous books at once depending on what I'm in the mood for. Typically, I am reading a book that is a biography, one that's theology, one that's poetry, and one that's fiction. So voracious reading keeps my mind nimble and always working, always considering, always pondering and dreaming. It also makes me open to the view-points of others because reading forces one to see things from the perspectives of not only the authors, but, as is the case in great fiction, from the point-of-view as the characters. Years ago, when I worked in a bookshop, one of the other clerks commented that she was going to begin reading in the same manner that I did with fiction. "What's that?" I asked her, unsure of what she meant. "I notice that you will read a work of modern fiction and then read one of classic literature," she replied and, to tell you the truth, I didn't even know that I was doing this.  I guess that's why I love authors like Dickens and Dostoevsky alongside Toni Morrison and Marilynne Robinson.

When I was asked by someone, "What's on your nightstand reading?" I decided to answer the question by showing you.

The books are either ones I am currently reading or are next up to bat, so to speak.


It should come as no surprise that, since I am a voracious reader, that I love books about books and about reading (Eudora Welty's One Writer's Beginnings, 84 Charing Cross Road by Helne Hanff and Carolyn Weber's Surprised by Oxford are two of my favorites). Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me by Karen Swallow Prior is all about loving words and ideas and stories, but also about how those books can both shape who we are and help us to understand who are or are becoming. Like Prior, a Professor of Literature, I love reading and some of her favorites (Charlotte's WebGreat Expectations and Jane Eyre) are some of my own cherished books.


Now, let's go through the rest of the books . . .

On the top of the pile is Georges Bernanos' novel The Diary of a Country Priest. While I saw the film by Robert Bresson in film school, I had yet to read the work that it was based on. Like all of the books in this pile, it was one of the many books I received as a Christmas present from family and friends.  This work of fiction deals with a young Priest who is sent to a provincial parish. Written int he form of a diary (something I have always enjoyed reading), it tells of his struggles with failure, insecurity and, ultimately, faith.

Beneath that is The Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius translated by Anthony Mottola, Ph.D. This book is part of my spiritual reading that I undertook when I started this blog to understand the different forms of Christian thought and practice. It is broken into four weeks worth of reflections and four key meditations. I plan to undertake each one as if I were part of a retreat.

This is followed by Walter Brueggemann's monumental work The Prophetic Imagination. I love that Brueggemann, who is a leading scholar in the Old Testament, approaches the prophets as also being poets. 

Frederick Buechner's The Eyes of the Heart is part of a memoir series that he's written. What drew me to this particular one is that he invites us in to his library and writes about his beloved books, his friendship with the poet James Merrill, and about his family. It is part reflection, part meditation. 

One of my favorite theologians is Eugene Peterson (who's translation of the Bible, The Message, I am also reading daily along with my ESV translation). His book Run with the Horses should go along nicely with Brueggemann's since Peterson is writing about the prophet Jeremiah. 

Love, Henri: Letters on the Spiritual Life by Henri J.M. Nouwen is a collection of letters written by Nouwen over the course of his life on subjects ranging from vocation to solitude to prayer to suffering.

Words Under The Words is a collection of poetry by  Naomi Shihab Nye.

An author I have loved ever since I read her novel The Patron Saint of Liars is Ann Patchett. This past summer, when our family went to Nashville, I had to make a pilgrimage to her bookstore Parnassus Books. Unfortunately, Ms. Patchett was not there but I did find a lot of great books. This is her latest and is currently up for the National Book Critics Circle Award.

Those are the books currently on my bedside table. What's on yours? 

Please share and let me know because I am always looking for new ones. 







1 comment:

  1. I also tend to read a number of books at one time. (The way I see it, I might have stew for supper tonight, but I don't want it for breakfast, lunch, and supper tomorrow, too.) You have a really nice mix of books here. I have read a number of Nye's poems but never a whole collection. A friend in my writing group lent me a book of poems by Brian Doyle (I think Doyle himself calls them "proems") The Kind of Brave You Wanted to Be, so I look forward to savouring that. I have found in the last few years I read a lot less fiction than nonfiction. I think I am getting really, really picky about the fiction I read; last year I finished one novel I disliked because someone close to me had given it to me, but normally I would not finish it if I didn't like it. If I walk past the book during the day and think, "I suppose I really should read a little more of that book" instead of "I just HAVE to sneak a few pages more while I have a minute," then clearly it isn't working for me. So I would welcome any good fiction recommendations; please let us know how you find Commonwealth! (I loved her novel Bel Canto as well as her book of essays, This is the Story of a Happy Marriage.) Thanks again for posting.

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