The year is winding down, and it's almost time for the end-of-year reading lists. I don't know how many more books I'll finish, but here's the latest:
Book #53 of the year was Lay It on My Heart, by Angela Pneuman. I was in college with Angela and was pretty excited to see her new book favorably reviewed in O Magazine. I found it riveting, disturbing, and unforgettable. The book skewers the evangelical world in a way that is both uncomfortable and compelling. The last scene, especially, will stay with me.
Book #54 was a reread, Mystical Paths, by Susan Howatch. I wrote a bit about the series in this post.
Book #55 was Soul Keeping: Caring for the Most Important Part of You, by John Ortberg. This is largely a tribute to Ortberg's friend and mentor, Dallas Willard, who died recently. It is a quick but deep read, worth going back to.
Book #56 was another reread, Mansfield Park, by Jane Austen. The link is to the audio version I listened to while exercising. It is read by Maureen O'Brien and is wonderful.
Book #57 was Rob Bell's new book on marriage, written with his wife, Kristen. It's called The Zimzum of Love: A New Way of Understanding Marriage. I read it aloud to my husband, and while it may not be "a new way of understanding marriage," which is rather a large claim, the zimzum idea is interesting and cool. We enjoyed thinking and talking about it. The zimzum could be used to talk about the space between people in any relationship, really, but the Bells focus on marriage in their definition of it as responsive, dynamic, exclusive, and sacred. I liked the conversational way the book was written, with Rob and Kristen both contributing. The examples from their relationship were fun. Probably most of my readers already know what they think of Bell. Some wouldn't pick up anything he writes. (Full disclosure: I love to hear him preach. He's a poet and a master communicator.) But if you're seeking evidence for his defection from your average evangelical party line, look no further than the first chapter, where we are told: "Marriage has the uniquely powerful capacity to transform you both into more loving and generous and courageous and compassionate people. Marriage - gay and straight - is a gift to the world because the world needs more - not less - love, fidelity, commitment, devotion and sacrifice." That is the last time the g-word is mentioned, and the pronoun use throughout is exquisitely careful. Other than that one line, I really don't think there's much here that any evangelical would quibble at. The book doesn't go into gender roles at all, and given how dreadfully other marriage books have done at that one, I say, hooray! It doesn't go much into the gospel, either, though there's a reference to John 3:16, concluding: "Divine love is the kind of love that does something." Next we're going to read aloud Tim Keller's marriage book that he wrote with his wife (that's a thing right now, apparently, writing a marriage book with your wife - maybe my husband and I will try it!). I'll let you know how that one goes.
Book #58 is the eighth - yes, eighth! - in a serious of massive books. And the series isn't over yet! I borrowed Written in My Own Heart's Blood, by Diana Gabaldon, from a library in the States (I've recently figured out how to do this on my Kindle), but I found the two weeks allotted to read it were not sufficient during a busy time of the school year, and I ended up buying it so I could finish it. At the time I purchased it, there was a deep discount on it. I remarked when I read the seventh book (post here) that I kind of had to force myself to finish it, feeling that I'd invested so much of my life in these characters that I was obligated not to give up now. I didn't feel the same about this one. It was enjoyable, and I hope it doesn't take five years for the next one to be published!
There are a couple more I'm working on that I might finish before the end of the year. We'll see!
6 hours ago