In the back of my journal, I keep a little list of the books I read. I don’t do this as a kind of score-keeping exercise; more as an aid to reflection. Here’s the list for 2014, in the order in which they were read:
Joanna Trollope: Sense and Sensibility
Stella Gibbons: Cold Comfort Farm
John D. Roth: Beliefs
Philip Yancey: The Question that Never Goes Away
Wendell Berry: Jayber Crow
Brian Zahnd: Beauty Will Save the World
Tom King: The Inconvenient Indian
Wendell Berry: A Place in Time
Val McDermid: Northanger Abbey
Arthur Kroeger: Hard Passage
Brian Zahnd: A Farewell to Mars
Wendell Berry: Andy Catlett: Early Travels
Wally Kroeker: An Introduction to the Russian Mennonites
Wendell Berry: The Mad Farmer Poems
Rudy Wiebe: Of This Earth
Michael Harris: The End of Absence
Richard Rohr: Breathing Under Water
Rowan Williams: Being Christian
Stephen Cherry: Beyond Busyness
Alexander McCall Smith: Emma
Walter Brueggemann: Sabbath as Resistance
Philip Yancey: Vanishing Grace
James Runcie: Sydney Chambers and the Shadow of Death
James Runcie: Sydney Chambers and the Perils of the Night
Bruce Cockburn: Rumours of Glory
A few reflections and explanations, in no particular order:
I’ve been following ‘the Jane Austen Project’, in which contemporary authors are writing modern retellings of Austen’s six classic novels. Of the three I’ve read so far, Joanna Trollope’s version of Sense and Sensibility was actually quite good. The other two, by Val McDermid and Alexander McCall Smith, were very disappointing.
I tend to have trusted authors, and I read everything they’ve written. Philip Yancey is definitely in that category, and so is Wendell Berry. Marci and I have gradually been working our way through all of Berry’s novels, and we’ve got a collection of his stories that we’re reading right now. Quietly, over the last couple of years, he has become my favourite author, and also one of my most trusted spiritual guides.
Marci and I read together a lot; I enjoy reading books aloud, and she enjoys having books read aloud to her. Both of us read individually too, but when we find an author we both like, we tend to read his or her books together. All the Wendell Berry books on this list were read together, as was Tom King’s Inconvenient Indian and Rudy Wiebe’s Of This Earth.
I continue to be quite interested in Mennonite/Anabaptist history and spirituality. I read a couple of books this years about the Russian Mennonite experience and the saga of their immigration into Western Canada. I also re-read John Roth’s Beliefs, which is a primer on Mennonite faith, along with Rudy Wiebe’s memoir of his ‘Mennonite Childhood in the Boreal Forest’ Of This Earth, and two books by the pacifist Pentecostal pastor (try saying that fast!) Brian Zahnd.
Best new discovery of the year: definitely Walter Brueggemann’s Sabbath as Resistance. Somehow I’ve managed to ignore Brueggemann up till now, but I am definitely going to read more of his books in 2015. Also, Marci and I watched the ‘Grantchester’ mysteries and this prompted me to read the two James Runcie story collections, featuring his fictional amateur sleuth, Canon Sydney Chambers. I thought they were great.
I ended the year with Bruce Cockburn’s autobiography, which I found surprisingly enjoyable, given that I’m not such a big Cockburn fan any more.
I note the almost complete absence of works of academic theology on this list. In my twenties I read a lot of that sort of thing, but nowadays I have very little patience for it. I like stories (real or fictional). I was surprised, however, to notice that I hadn’t read any complete books of poetry this year, as I quite enjoy poetry. I’ve dipped into a few; I just haven’t finished any.
I note that thirteen of the twenty-five books on this list were read on my Kindle.
I should also say, of course, that I read the Bible daily as well, mainly with Marci, although I may do another ‘read the Bible in a year’ project by myself in 2015. I last read the Bible all the way through in 2011, in the King James Version, to celebrate its 400th anniversary. I may read through the 2011 NIV this year, but I haven’t decided yet. When I do that, I don’t use any of the available reading plans; I simply start at the beginning and go straight through, reading for fifteen minutes a day. I find this works better than having a set number of chapters or pages per day.
So – into a new year of reading! My first book for 2015 is going to be Malcolm Gladwell’s David and Goliath.