A few years ago I was given a book of Anne Fadiman’s essays, Ex Libris, and was smitten. Last year, while I was recuperating from hip surgery, a friend gave me another of her collections, At Large and At Small. Her essays are so interesting, amusing and wise that I find reading one of them a perfect way to begin the day.
What book would you recommend to someone eager to learn more about Christianity, someone who is just coming alive to the faith and to the power of the community of faith—the church—and who is full of questions about these matters?
If the economic recession has made people more receptive to spiritual concerns and theological insights, that interest has not translated into sales of religion books (see Marcia Nelson’s report in this issue).
Conventional wisdom holds that when times get bad, people turn to religion. But that’s not the case in religion publishing. Like other business executives in the current economic doldrums, religion publishers are cutting expenses in the face of declining sales.
When unusually balmy weather occurs after a season of cold and snow, some of us cannot resist thinking about baseball. As I write, pitchers and catchers are packing up for their spring training—an event that for baseball fans is like the first Sunday in Advent for Christians. Like sap rising in the spring, hope again rises in our hearts.
“How do you develop such rich metaphors for your speaking and writing?” I asked my colleague, a stylist whose images stick with listeners and readers. “I read as widely and talk to as many diverse people as I can,” my friend replied. I was disappointed in the reply, for I was hoping I would discover a clever technique that would help me write and speak with greater eloquence.
I’m always interested in what my friends are reading, and I find that people tend to ask me about what I’ve been reading. So, to continue that conversation, here are three books that have meant something to me recently.
What books compel a second—or third or fourth—reading? How is the second reading different from the first, and what does the difference reveal about the book or the reader? We asked ten writers, including Margaret Miles, Gordon Atkinson, Mary Doria Russell, Diana Butler Bass and David Cunningham, to name a book that they chose to reread, and to share their reactions "the second time around."
A. M. Stroud III, a former prosecutor in Louisiana, expresses regret for the role he played in sending Glenn Ford to death row in 1984. “I was 33 years old. I was arrogant, judgmental, narcissistic and very full of myself. I was not as interested in justice as I was in winning.” Stroud says he presented dubious evidence from a forensic pathologist, precluded black jurors from the trial (Ford, since exonerated, is black), and ignored the fact that the appointed defense attorney had never before tried a criminal or capital case. “I . . . hope that providence will have more mercy for me than I showed Glenn Ford,” Stroud said in a letter to the editor of the Times of Shreveport. “But, I’m also sobered by the realization that I certainly am not deserving of it” (ABA Journal, March 25).