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Reading in 2013: The Sacred Journey, Sinners Welcome, Time and Materials & MORE!

I'm reading faster than I'm writing these days, so here is a snapshot of May-July's books:

The Sacred Journey by Frederick Buechner. A fantastic spiritual memoir that my friend Aimee lent me back in October. I delayed reading it, because I knew I wouldn't want to finish it. Then I read it slowly and in pieces, and I loved it. Here are my 3 favourite excerpts:
 Listen. Your life is happening. You are happening. You, the rooster, the clock, the workmen, your stomach, are all happening together. A journey, years long, has brought each of you through thick and thin to this moment in time as mine has also brought me. Think back on that journey. Listen back to the sounds and sweet airs of your journey that give delight and hurt not and to those that give no delight at all and hurt like Hell. Be not affeard. The music of your life is subtle and elusive and like no other - not a song with words, but a song without words - a singing, clattering music to gladden the heart or turn the heart to stone, to hanut you perhaps with echoes of a vaster, farther music of which it is part. 
Nor is it only the joy of God and the comfort of God that come at unforeseen times. God's coming is always unforeseen, I think, and the reason, if i had to guess, is that if he gave us anything much in the way of advance warning more often than not we would have made ourselves scarce long before he got there. 
I knew that with words I could make at least some kind of bridge across the vast distance that separates the inner solitude of each of us from the inner solitude of everyone else. 

Sinners Welcome by Mary Karr. A random library find, I enjoyed this book of poetry - covered topics of faith, love & relationships, and motherhood. My favourite part was the closing essay on her mid-life conversion to Catholicism, as I'm always super-fascinated to hear people's stories. If ever I am to study literature in the States, I would like to study under her.

Time and Materials by Robert Hass. Another library poetry find - to be honest, I don't recall anything specific about this collection, although I did purchase another anthology by the author since then, so I must have enjoyed it somewhat. He has ties to Mary Karr and Czeslaw Milosz and Tomas Transtromer, which predisposes me highly towards liking him and his work. We'll see how I feel after The Apple Trees at Olema.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. Completely different train here. Non-fiction story of an African-American woman whose DNA was taken and used, without her knowledge, in countless medical studies and cures and has become one of the most widely used human DNA strains. This tells the story of her family, particularly the daughter who was only 4 when she died of cancer, talks of the ethics of medical science and studies, and illuminates the reality of racism and treatment of African Americans in the mid-to-late 20th century. Highly recommended.

Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. First read for the book club I just joined. A light summer read, interesting for what it taught me of the Greek classics. (I supplemented this learning with a series of Wikipedia pages on the main characters/original plots). Predictable in most ways, not particularly profound, but it was nice to read something easy.

Say You're One of Them  by Uwe Akpam. A collection of fictitious short stories told from the perspective of African children. Upsetting and tragic, but sharply told and more than plausible. I felt distressed and disturbed, but that is, I believe, an appropriate response to the atrocities and dangers facing many young people today. Written by a Franciscan priest, it is clear that his compassionate perspective is not one of naivete. Highly recommended with the caveat that it will unsettle you. 

Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith by Barbara Brown Taylor. I finished this one last Sunday, as I lay in my hammock. I had tears in my eyes, and spent a little time with Jesus, processing what it is that I fear and what it is that I'm grateful for as I plan my career and navigate shifts in my faith. Barbara's memoir of the move from a busy Atlanta church to a quiet pastoral community in Georgia and then leaving church ministry to teach at a community college resonated with me on many, many levels. Our stories are different, but not entirely. Grateful for my new friend Trischa, who recommended this one. Wondering when and how I can find myself a place to live outside of any city limits.


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