the first dozen books of 2021

Yes, I started the 2021 list on December 12, 2020. I’m okay with that.

I should note that four of these first dozen titles are required reading for a Doctor of Ministry class I begin in a few days; there will be one more particular to this category added to the list shortly. I have waffled between including these books and omitting them–but why not include them, particularly when they’re interesting and challenging.

I try to find balance in what I read, and doctoral work will throw this out of balance now and in June, one assumes. However–four works of fiction (The Idiot, The Awakening, Great Expectations and The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao) and four works for ministry (Sustainable Youth Ministry, Sustainable Children’s Ministry, Just Faith and Nonviolent Communication) balance each other out. I’ll refrain from brief reviews of Reality, Grief, Hope; You Are My People; Challenging Prophetic Metaphor and The Prophets at this time.

  1. The Idiot: I started this book way back in October, and stalled on it hard, relegating it to the nightstand where I’d hit a few pages before joyfully going to sleep. It got much, much better once the characters were firmly established, and once the nicknames became more obvious.
  2. Sustainable Youth Ministry: I bought this book when it came out in 2008. I am not sure I’ve ever read it entirely. I recommended it, and continue to do so, wholeheartedly. I wonder what the state of youth ministry is now, twelve years later, and almost a year after COVID-19.
  3. Sustainable Children’s Ministry: This is the book with actual steps and appendices full of checklists and calendars, which makes sense in the big difference between youth and children’s ministry. The former is more philosophical, the latter is more provocative. I read this book in crisis a few years ago; a more intentional reading was enjoyable.
  4. The Awakening: I read this as a way to get red ink off my intellectual ledger; I remember clearly hating this book in my senior English class in high school. I did not trust this era’s fiction after The Yellow Wallpaper and I remembered nothing from this book, which explains why I got a C on a paper I turned in after mining the book for quotes the day it was due. A longer review may be forthcoming, because the controversy of the story–a young mother and wife realizes she is living a life she does not want, so she exits–is enticing, and it really draws one in with elegant prose and evocative characters. So I’m sorry, Mr. Hopkins, it turns out it is a good book.
  5. Great Expectations: It’s been a long while since I’ve read any Dickens. I still like him, but I like him less. I can’t shake the trivia that he was sometimes paid by the word. Pip continues to live into the better life without great expectations. And I will admit, I did laugh out loud at parts.
  6. Just Faith: Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons has put together a perfect primer for the progressive wing of the Church, and makes bold claims that I cannot argue with–the progressive church should not define itself on evangelicals’ terms (with evangelical terms); there is no such thing as a movement that includes everyone. My friend Spiff and I got to talk to Guthrie on our talk show and podcast, Two on One–if you don’t mind major The Mandalorian spoilers, check it out!
  7. Non-Violent Communication: everyone should read this book. I’m talking to the Elders board at the church about this at our next meeting; it is amazing and game-changing.
  8. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao: This is good. This deserves every bit of reputation it has. It is manic and meticulous, rhythmic and metered. What do we owe our people–ancestors, legacy, family, progeny–and how do we move through this world? I probably annoyed B. by reading out-of-context, beautiful lines of prose from this novel. I was sad to finish it!

Next up on the docket, at least, what I got from the library and what’s in my queue: Les Miserables, The Lesser Bohemians, The Corrections, Ambiguous Loss: Learning to Live with Unresolved Grief; and El Norte: The Epic and Forgotten Story of Hispanic North America. To begin with, of course. Here’s hoping the next dozen aren’t posted in ten months!

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