Century Marks

Century Marks

Best of the decade

Literature professor Everett Hamner has selected the following works appearing from 2000 to 2010 as the best fiction reflecting religious themes: 1. E. L. Doctorow, City of God (2000); 2. Yann Martel, Life of Pi (2001); 3. Brian K. Vaughan, Pia Guerra and José Marzán Jr., Y: The Last Man comic series (2003–2008); 4. Joe Sacco, Palestine (2002); 5. Richard Powers, The Time of Our Singing (2003); 6. Marilynne Robinson, Gilead (2004) and Home (2008); 7. Cormac McCarthy, The Road (2006); 8. Paolo Bacigalupi, The Windup Girl (2009); 9. Ralph Ellison, Three Days Before the Shooting . . . (2010); 10. Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, 36 Arguments for the Existence of God (2010). Hamner, who teaches at Western Illinois University, predicts that Robinson's books will show up in future American literature courses (Religion in American History blog, June 29).

Mr. Rogers’s blessing

When Fred Rogers received a Lifetime Achievement Emmy award in 1998, he asked the celebrity audience to take ten seconds of silence to think about people who had loved them into being and helped them become who they are. Within seconds weeping and sobs could be heard throughout the audience. Then Rogers said, "May God be with you," and sat down. Eliot Daley, a Presby­terian minister who had worked with Rogers, says it is significant that Rogers didn't say "God bless you." Rogers knew that the people were already blessed by God. He wanted the people in the audience to be aware that God was with them (Huffington Post, June 30).

A law against that

Three activists from the Orlando Food Not Bombs organization were arrested for feeding about 40 people in an Orlando park. An ordinance requires groups to have a permit if they are feeding more than 25 people in a park, and only two permits can be granted each year per group and park. Orlando Food Not Bombs contested the ordinance in court, but it was upheld (News-Press, June 3).

Best-read cities

Cambridge, Massachusetts, is the best-read city in the country, according to an Amazon.com list based on cities' sales data since the beginning of the year. Cambridge residents also ordered the most nonfiction books. Boulder, Colo­rado, lived up to its reputation as a health-conscious city—its residents ordered the most books in the cooking, food and wine category. Florida is the only state with three cities in the top 20, including Miami (6), Gainesville (8) and Orlando (12). The top five are Cam­bridge; Alexandria, Virginia; Berkeley, California; Ann Arbor, Michigan; and Boulder.

Discuss this

In On What Matters, philosopher Derek Parfit asks this question (according to reviewer Peter Singer): "If a massive asteroid hit Earth tomorrow, ending human history, would it have been a good thing that humans existed at all?" (TLS, May 20).