A Walk in the Woods, by Bill Bryson. Interesting, funny, and informative – all at once. Why can’t I write like Bryson? For those interested in backpacking or thinking about backpacking, you will enjoy it.
The Crusoe of Lonesome Lake, by Leland Stowe. This out of print book was loaned to me and while the language is a bit quaint and at times too simplistic, it was interesting to read of this man’s adventures settling in the harsh landscape of Canadian wilderness. He make Crusoe look like a whiner.
Lincoln’s Melancholy: How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled His Greatness, by Joshua Wolf Shenk. It is part history and part psychoanalytical. Overall it is a good book although I think the author stretches in a few places (as I suppose every author does when making a case). He does a decent job in creating an empathetic picture of unipolar depression and I found it helpful in not only better understanding depression, but its suggested influences on Lincoln.
A Moveable Feast, by Ernest Hemingway. This is a marvelous memoir and quintessentially Hemingway. If you like Hemingway, this is a must read.
Neither Dog Nor Wolf, by Kent Nerburn. This book is an important read for anyone interested in a better understanding of Native Americans and their plight in modern America. At places this book was tedious, but I found the narrative wove a poignant picture that is too important to ignore.
In the Wake of the Jomon: Stone Age Mariners and a Voyage Across the Pacific, by Jon Turk. A gripping telling of Turk’s retracing by way of kayak the ancient coastal route of the Jomon people. He tells his story well and he has a good story to tell. It is also filled with interesting history concerning geography and anthropology.
52 Loaves: One Man’s Relentless Pursuit of Truth, Meaning, and a Perfect Crust by William Alexander. As a bread baker I was intrigued with the title of this book and was entertained from beginning to end with the author’s near obsessive interest in baking the perfect loaf of peasant bread. This was certainly no “how to” book, yet I learned much more about the art of bread baking including yeasts, flour, and a good oven.
A Place of My Own: The Architecture of Daydreams, Michael Pollan. I read this during my sabbatical leave it coincidently complimented by visual journey it Rome. Part memoir and part journalistic, Pollan reflects on the purpose and aesthetics of a shelter.
The Snow Leopard, by Peter Matthiessen. This is a classic piece of modern nature writing first written in the 1970s. It is the interior reflection of one man’s journey – sojourn? – in the foot of the Himalayas for the snow leopard as well as the search for the self.
Iron John, by Robert Bly. Minnesotan poet Robert Bly wrote this insightful text which literally fueled a “men’s movement” in the 1990s. I first read this book twenty years ago and picked it up again this summer. What a difference it is to read something through the eyes of an older man. Filled with Jungian typology, it is still a relevant classic in the area of masculinity.
Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, by Jared Diamond. One of my sons was assigned the Pulitzer Prize winner and I decided to read it along with him. It is more than a study of world history; it is thoroughgoing exploration of how and why some societies evolved according to geography, climate, and plant/animal domestication.
Shop class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work, by Michael B. Crawford. The author holds a PhD in philosophy from the University of Chicago and has chosen to repair motorcycles “for a living.” It was a wonderful read on, as the subtitle implies, the value of work (and by implication how many have little value for what they “do”).
Over the Edge of the World: Magellan’s Terrifying Circumnavigation of the Globe, by Laurence Bergeen. I picked this book up while pursuing the book store and I am glad I did. It is well written history Magellan’s own tenacity as well as the event itself. I will never hear the name Magellan again I think of a GPS!
Bringing it to the Table: On Farming and Food, by Wendell Berry. I have to read at least one book per year by Wendell Berry, one of my favorite authors. This book is a collection of previously published essays dealing with the topics of farming, food, and eating in sustainable ways.
An Alter in the World, by Barbara Brown Taylor. This is one of my favorites by Brown. I have to confess I had very conflicting thoughts regarding
God and the Art of Seeing, by Richard Kidd and Graham Sparkes. The authors selected several paintings from six artists and compiled essays reflecting on art’s contribution to the journey of faith. While the essays tended to be redundant and some of the observations seemed to be a bit forced, it was an overall good treatment of the nature of faith and art.
Sun of Righteousness, ARISE! God’s Future for Humanity and the Earth, by Jurgen Moltmann. He is my favorite theologian but this collection of lectures lacks cohesion, which made it a bit cumbersome to read in places. Nonetheless it is laced with his usual insight that remains remarkably current.
The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See, by Richard Rohr. This is a very readable book, somewhat in the same vein of Thomas Moore. Disarmingly simple, he writes poignantly and at times challengingly of a contemplative way of living for all. While not the deepest book on the subject of spirituality, it is worth the investment of time in reading (and in practice).
The Prison Meditations of Father Delp, by Alfred Delp, S.J. I read this during Advent 2010 for my devotions. He says things simply and succinctly and it is made all the more powerful because of his imprisonment in Nazi occupied Germany. The book was written on scraps of paper smuggled out to the waiting world. Sadly he was executed months after its completion.
The Help, by Kathryn Stockett. If I remember correctly, this is Stockett’s debut novel. She is a good storyteller about a painful part of the South’s recent past. While not a book I would necessarily go out of my way to read, I did so because many church members were reading this book and while not my favorite on this list, it was certainly worth my time.
The Life of Pi, by Yann Martel. I am late reading this novel (it was first published six years ago) but now I see why it is so popular with so many. Thought-provoking, entertaining, and highly imaginative! This is a book to be read, discussed, and perhaps even reread.
Metamorphoses, by Franz Kafka. Ah Kafka – disturbing and a bit twisted. I read this on a flight overseas and sort of wished I would have chosen something a bit more light hearted.
Sons and Lovers, by D. H. Lawrence. This book has been around about one hundred years and was at one time banned for obscenity, which by today’s standard is “PG” rating at best. Beautifully written, which is part of the reason of its classic status, it is also a bit tiresome in its character development and elongated plots.
The Violent Bear it Away, by Flannery O’Conner. What can I say? I love Flannery O’Conner because her fiction can be read on several levels: theological, philosophical, or just well-written fiction that is entertaining. This is one of only two completed novels that O’Conner published before her death at the age of 39. The rest of her work are short-stories that carry equal weight in the literary world.
Morning Poems, by Robert Bly. Bly is the author of the well-known book Iron John, a book I read and thoroughly enjoyed first in 1989 and again this year. He is first and foremost, however, a poet. His free verse style is laced with Jungian themes and images, which can make for some wearisome reading at times. Nonetheless there were lines beautiful and simple and in many places quite profound.
Swan, by Mary Oliver. Her poetry is nearly always simple, succinct and profound. I have never been disappointed with Oliver’s writing and insight. Her attentiveness to the simplest of details is the embodiment of “wakefulness.”
The Best American Nonrequired Reading, edited by Dave Eggers. I picked this book up from a clearance rack at the Mercer University bookstore. It was the best one dollar I have ever spent, hands down. Eggers assembles a class of AP students to select short stories and compilations for a wonderful and eclectic collection.
Breast Cancer: Reduce Your Risk with Food You Love, by Robert Pendergrast, MD. This was written by one of our church members and while I wanted to read it because of the author, I was also interested in its content. My assumption was that what is good in helping to prevent breast cancer will probably be good for you in other ways too. It is the kind of book that should be shared with those you love and who are serious in taking care of the whole body – physical, social, emotional and spiritual.
This New Century, Dan Reeder. A German artist/singer/songwriter that is at times crass and certainly beyond category
To The Sea, Jack Johnson. Okay, I admit it, I like Jack Johnson.
Above the Bones, Mishka. Okay, I admit it, I like Reggae, at least Mishka anyway.
180 South, Soundtrack to movie “180 Degrees South.” This was a fantastic documentary with an equally fantastic soundtrack. Artists such as Ugly Casanova, James Mercer and Mason Jennings contribute.