For several weeks I’ve toted around Bruce Chatwin’s book The Songlines, on the off chance of having more time for it. Before he died at 48, Chatwin wrote a handful of brilliant travel books, this perhaps the most brilliant—a funny and fascinating account of the Aboriginal songlines. Invisible to Western eyes, the songlines crisscross Australia, charting every rock and hollow.
This issue’s emphasis on books exemplifies one of the things I have most liked about the Christian Century over the years: it has helped me to decide what books to purchase and read. I’m still relying on it to do that. For example, I’d like to read all eight recommendations in the field of New Testament.
Postville: A Clash of Cultures in Heartland America
Stephen G. Bloom
The Dignity of Difference: How to Avoid the Clash of Civilizations
Baseball and Philosophy: Thinking Outside the Batter's Box
Eric Bronson, ed.
Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game
Truth and Beauty: A Friendship
Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers
Father Joe: The Man Who Saved My Soul
Scattered Shadows: A Memoir of Blindness and Vision
John Howard Griffin
Resurrecting Empire: Western Footprints and America's Perilous Path in the Middle East
Martin Marty once noted that there comes a time when you confront the depressing reality that you’re probably not going to read all the books you hoped and planned to read. Your stack of books-to-be-read will outlast you.
An Open Book: Coming of Age in the Heartland
So Many Books, So Little Time: A Year of Passionate Reading
There are some of us who read more than we pray. We know we should pray more. We mean to pray more. But something happens to us when we read that does not happen when we pray. We find our lives by losing them. We enter into communion with people whom we have never met, some of whom never existed in the world we call real.
A stretch of two weeks at the beach allows me to do something I’ve never able to manage during the working year: read more than one book at a time—maybe six or seven—and experience the literary and intellectual synergy that results. This year I found myself reading, more or less at the same time:
How often do clergy read? And what are they reading? In a project commissioned by Pulpit & Pew, clergy from eight denominations reported spending an average of four hours a week reading beyond the reading done for a sermon or teaching lesson. Episcopal clergy were highest at five hours per week; Nazarenes were lowest at two hours.
I am mostly a utilitarian reader. For 40 years I have been writing and preaching sermons weekly, and I have come to rely on the almost exact relationship between the quality and quantity of my reading and my ability to create a sermon that has some life and energy to it.
I grew up with books. My parents valued books and taught me to treat books with respect and affection. One of the unexpected pleasures of college was going to the bookstore to purchase the texts I needed and could afford, and carrying them back to my room—my own books. I still have some of them. And I still love the feel of a newly purchased book in my hands.