Thursday, December 07, 2006

Friday Review . . . End of Year Best of Lists

I love the kind of end-of-year best of lists that every periodical and reviewer seems to feel the need to produce. It isn't that I am generally all that interested in what made first place on So and So's list, as it is that I am fascinated by the things that make the same list.

Today, on Christianity Today's web page John Wilson posted his top ten list and named his Book of the Year. Any list that includes a novel by Richard Powers (The Echo Maker), a collection of poetry in translation (Tomas Transtromer, translated by Robin Fulton) and The Solzhenitsyn Reader: New and Essential Writings, 1947 - 2005, ed. by Edward E. Ericson Jr. and Daniel Mahoney you know is going to include unusual books heavy with detail.

Some of the books on Mr. Wilson's list seem to me to be a little too heavy with detail. Mapping Paradise: A History of heaven on Earth, by Alessandro Scafi is described as tracing the efforts of various people throughout history who tried to locate the Garden of Eden. That strikes me a a subject I would prefer as a densely written magazine article.

Of course, the nice thing about no longer being in graduate school in English Literature is that I can skip the Solzhenitsyn.

On the other hand, Atchafayala Houseboat: My Years in the Louisiana Swamp, by Gwen Roland may have to make it onto my reading list for 2007. Generally, books with titles I can't pronounce written by authors I have never heard of don't grab me. This book is described as catching, "the spirit of a certain time and place" -- life on a houseboat in a Louisiana swamp. Even in the South we are losing the quirky, individualized cultures that once added so much of the "local" to the concept of "local culture". I'm afraid the last few years' hurricanes have hastened the homogenization of rural life in the South. If this is as rich with detail as the contents of Mr. Wilson's list suggest, this book could provide a last look at a passing world.

Then, there is Wilson's book of the year, Crisis of Doubt: Honest Faith in Nineteenth-Century England, by Timothy Larsen. This is a book that follows the experiences of people in 19th Century England who moved from doubt or skepticism to genuine Christian faith. This one, also, might make it onto my list for next year.

Mr. Wilson's list is varied and interesting including both a book on 9/11 and a biography of a 19th Century spiritualist. What will make your reading list for 2007?



John Shuck said...

Hi Justice Seeker. Pretty profound works. I was going to spend 2007 thumbing through my old Mad Magazines.

In addition, I am going to finish my collection of Tom Robbins novels. I have finished 6 with two left. Robbins is a wild man, but I think, very enlightening on issues of life and meaning.

I am going to catch up with the buzz on Mary Magdalene. I will read Jean-Ives Leloup's Gospel of Mary and the new Secrets of Mary Magdalene, edited by Dan Burstein and Arne J. De Keijzer. The contributors to this work include Tori Amos, James Carrroll, Bart Ehrman, Karen King, Elaine Pagels, Anna Quindlen. It is a look at Mary from all kinds of perspectives.

Also on my list is Nigel Leaves, The God Problem.

I just love the title. That's me--a guy with a god problem!


JusticeSeeker said...

Ok, you caught me. I've got my own pile of things to read and not blog about. Hey, this ain't my ring. Miranda invited me to fill this slot -- I gotta try to keep the closet dark , if not shut!

My introduction to Tom Robbins was Still Life With Woodpecker. Am I dating myself?

The Magdalene book you describe looks interesting. I may have to look around for it.

Thanks for reading.


Stushie said...

Strangers and Neighbors
What I Have Learned About Christianity by Living Among Orthodox Jews

By Maria Poggi Johnson

The compelling, insightful, and challenging memoir of a Christian woman's exploration of her faith while living in community with strictly Orthodox Jews. As Maria Johnson explains: "I knew that Christianity is rooted deep in Judaism, but living in daily contact with a vital and vibrant Jewish life has been fascinating and transforming. I am and will remain a Christian, but I am a rather different Christian than I was before."

Teri said...

on the fictional Mary-Magdelene front, I highly recommend "Mary Called Magdalene" by Margaret George. She's known for writing biographies, but this obviously is a novel (it even says so on the front cover!)...but it's a really well-written and moving story.

for churchy books, I have to say that I enjoyed the Secret Message of Jesus in a suprising way. McLaren's description of disciples (us) as "secret agents of the gospel" makes me feel cool. :-)

stpetric said...

"Of course, the nice thing about no longer being in graduate school in English Literature is that I can skip the Solzhenitsyn."

Sheesh! Did graduate school drive out of you any sense of reading for pleasure? Or has the Presbyterian Church driven out of you any moral sensibility?

Solzhenitsyn is worth reading on either score.