One of the many reasons I love the writing of Wendell Berry…

…is paragraphs like this:

When he lets himself out through the lot gate and into the open, past the barn and the other buildings, he can see the country lying under the sun. Nearby, on his own ridges, the crops are young and growing, the pastures are lush, a field of hay has been raked into curving windrows. Inlets of the woods, in the perfect foliage of the early season, reach up the hollows between the ridges. Lower down, these various inlets join in the larger woods embayed in the little valley of Shade Branch. Beyond the ridges and hollows of the farm he can see the opening of the river valley, and beyond that the hills on the far side, blue in the distance.

Or how about this:

A water thrush moves down the rocks of the streambed ahead of him, teetering and singing. He stops and stands to watch while a striped woodpecker works its way up the trunk of a big sycamore, putting its eye close to peer under the loose scales of the bark. And then the bird flies to its nesting hole in a hollow snag still nearer by to feed its young, paying Mat no mind. He has become still as a tree, and now a hawk suddenly stands on a limb close over his head. The hawk loosens his feathers and shrugs, looking around him with his fierce eyes. And it comes to Mat that once more, by stillness, he has passed across into the wild inward presence of the place.

Yes, I think if I could write paragraphs like that, I would call myself a writer.

By the way, both of these paragraphs are taken from a story called ‘The Boundary’, found in the collection entitled ‘That Distant Land: The Collected Stories‘ (published in 2004 by Counterpoint).

More about Wendell Berry here.

Berry

A New Beginning (sermon for January 11th on Mark 1:9-11)

Question: how many of you here today have actually read Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings? I don’t mean ‘how many of you have watched the movies?’ – I mean actually read the book – all three volumes of it?

The first time I tried to read The Lord of the Rings I was about fourteen; a lot of people were talking about it at the time, and I decided to try it out. I went to the local library to look for it, but the first volume, ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’, was out, so I just borrowed the second volume, ‘The Two Towers’. Now, there was a very short summary of the plot of ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’ at the beginning of this second volume, but even with that help, it was very difficult to get into the flow of the story, and in fact I think I gave up after about fifty pages. It wasn’t until a few years later that I read ‘The Lord of the Rings’ all the way through, and then the story made sense to me, because I started at the beginning.

I want to suggest to you that a lot of people who are interested in the Christian faith get into trouble for this very same reason – they don’t start at the beginning. Where do they start? Well, the most obvious thing that Christians do these days seems to be ‘going to church’, so people who are interested in learning about Christianity start coming to church. After a while people notice them, and they get added to a parish list and get a set of envelopes. Someone finds out that they’re good at a particular job that needs doing around the church, and before you know it they’re on a list of volunteers. They get involved in all the activities, but deep down inside there’s this nagging doubt, “Where’s God? I wasn’t really looking for more social activities, or more work to do – I was looking for God? How can I find him?”

The problem is that they haven’t started at the beginning, and so their Christian story isn’t making any sense. Not that there’s anything wrong with going to church, but churchgoing is meant to take us right back to the heart of the Gospel, to the central truths that give us a good start in the Christian life. And we find these truths in our gospel reading for today which tells the story of Jesus’ baptism. What does Jesus’ baptism have to say to us about our own baptism and how we start out in the Christian life?

Let’s think about baptism for a minute and what John the Baptist was doing here by baptizing people. In the ancient world a number of religions baptized people. Jews did it to Gentiles who wanted to become Jews; they baptized them all as a sign of the washing away of ritual uncleanness before God, and then the men were circumcised, which was the covenant sign God had given to Abraham. But before John the Baptist came, no one had suggested that people who were born as Jews needed to be baptized; they were seen as being clean enough already! But now John came, preaching that the Kingdom of God was near; people were excited about that, and thousands of them flocked to hear him. If they wanted to sign up for the new kingdom, he told them to repent – to turn away from their old way of life – and to be baptized as a sign of this. Baptism was an obvious sign for repentance; sin has often been seen as making us dirty in some way, and repentance and forgiveness are a sort of cleansing.

But now Jesus comes to the river to be baptized, and according to Matthew’s version of this story, John is a bit confused about this. “I need to be baptized by you”, he says to Jesus, “and do you come to me?” (Matthew 3:14). Baptism is about repenting from sin, but Jesus has nothing he needs to repent of, so why does he need to be baptized? Makes perfect sense to me! But in fact Jesus disagrees: “Let it be so now”, he says to John, “for it is proper for us in this way to fulfil all righteousness”(Matthew 3:15).

But in fact baptism is about more than washing from sin. There are whole layers of meaning in the act of baptism in the New Testament, and the baptism of Jesus has a lot to teach us about this. Let’s take a closer look.

One thing we see in the baptism of Jesus is an assurance to him that he is God’s Son. We read in verse 11 that when Jesus was baptized ‘a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased”’.

What a wonderful thing for a son to hear from his father! I suspect that there are many adult children today who are walking around with a big empty space inside, because they just aren’t sure whether or not their parents are pleased with them. In some cases those parents have been dead for years, but it doesn’t matter: that big, empty space is still there. But here we have God the Father, right at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, before he had healed anyone, or told any parables, or done anything out of the ordinary at all, saying, “You are my beloved son, and I’m very pleased with you”.

Baptism speaks to us about becoming God’s children. And just as Jesus received the affirmation of his sonship before he had done anything spectacular to earn it, so too God declares that we are his children as a free gift – what Christians call an act of pure grace – which we don’t have to earn.

Here’s the way it works. In that act of grace, Jesus gave his life for you and me and everyone else, so that our sins could be forgiven and we could be brought back into God’s family. That’s God’s great rescue operation for the world. That great rescue operation is applied to your life and mine in the act of baptism. Through our baptism, God’s forgiveness and adoption are offered to us, like a hand of rescue reaching out to a drowning person. We respond to that free gift by faith, which means trust. “Ah!” you say; “There is something I can do!” Yes, there is – but let’s be clear about what it is. If you’re drowning and a person reaches out their hand to save you, you don’t save yourself by clasping their hand; you simply take advantage of their strength and skill. Faith is our hand reaching up to take the hand of God and receive the gift he gives us in our baptism. Or if you like, in your baptism God says to us “You are my son or daughter” and in faith we reply “Yes: I am God’s son or daughter”.

So ‘starting at the very beginning’ is all about grace, which means God’s love for us that we don’t have to deserve. Most of us here were baptized as children, when we’d done absolutely nothing to deserve it. Some of us here were baptized as adults, after we’d done lots of things not to deserve it! Whenever we were baptized, in our baptism we were made the children of God, and when we came to Jesus in faith and welcomed him into our hearts we accepted that for ourselves; we began to enjoy the special relationship with the Father that he’s given us.

So the first thing we notice about the baptism of Jesus is that it was God’s assurance to him that he was indeed God’s beloved Son. The second thing is that it was the beginning of a new life for him. Up until that time, he’d lived quietly in Nazareth with his family. But now, at the age of thirty, he came to the Jordan and was baptized by John. From that point on, he left his old way of life and plunged into three years of public ministry, in which he announced that God’s kingdom was coming, and showed by his actions what God’s kingdom was all about.

When we look at the different pictures that are used for baptism in the New Testament, they all include the idea of a new beginning. We’re told that being baptized is like being born again; it’s like dying and rising again with Jesus; it’s like being adopted into a family. And at the end of Matthew’s gospel Jesus says “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). To be baptized, Jesus tells us here, is to begin a new life as his disciple.

So you’re not only a child of God, adopted into his family by a gift of his grace; you’re also a disciple of Jesus. Disciples of Jesus have taken a long hard look at the world around them and concluded that, even though it’s full of voices wanting to give us advice, no other voice seems to get it exactly right. Disciples of Jesus realize that in the life and teaching of Jesus they can see God more clearly than they can see him anywhere else in all of creation. And so they come to Jesus day by day, with a prayer something like this: “Lord, will you help me to see life as you see it and live life as you taught it?”

Baptism is the beginning of this life of discipleship. The true Christian idea of infant baptism is that Christian parents who are themselves following Jesus want their children to follow him too, so they have them baptized because they believe it’s never too early to start learning to follow Jesus. Adults who are baptized are putting their faith in Jesus, leaving the old way of life behind and starting a new life as followers of Jesus.

So when we were baptized we were set down at the beginning of a new way of life. And as we try to learn this new way of life we aren’t left to our own resources either. Let’s look at the third thing Jesus’ baptism teaches us about ‘starting at the very beginning’. In his baptism Jesus had a special experience of God’s presence and power as the Holy Spirit came down on him. In today’s gospel we read, ‘And just as (Jesus) was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him’ (v.10).

It’s a striking phrase, isn’t it? ‘He saw the heavens torn apart’. If you had been a Jewish person hearing these words in the first century just after Mark wrote them, you’d immediately have been reminded of Isaiah chapter 64. In chapter 63 the prophet was talking about how the people felt abandoned by God because of all their sins; they were going through the suffering of exile from their land and longed for a sense of God’s presence with them. Then in chapter 64 he goes on to say to God:

“Oh that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence – as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil – to make your name known to your adversaries, so that the nations might tremble at your presence! When you did awesome deeds that we did not expect, you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence” (vv.1-3).

This is what we need, isn’t it? We need the sense that we aren’t alone, that God is with us, walking with us through the difficult times in our lives, giving us the strength we need to do the things he asks of us. “Show me a sign, God?” we ask; “Please let me know that you’re near! Tear open the heavens and come down!” And now in Jesus’ baptism God answers that prayer: ‘He saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him’ (v.10)

This experience of the Holy Spirit shines through the pages of the New Testament. Nowadays if you’ve had a powerful encounter with the Holy Spirit you’re looked on as being an unusual person, but in the Book of Acts it was the other way around. In our epistle for today we read of Paul meeting some people in Ephesus who claimed to be disciples of Jesus. But reading between the lines, we can see that Paul noticed right away there was something different about them, and after a few minutes he put his finger on it. “Tell me”, he said,

‘“Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” They replied, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit”. Then he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They answered, “Into John’s baptism.” Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, in Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied – altogether there were about twelve of them (Acts 19:2-7).

Sadly, I think many people today would be just as mystified as these Ephesian disciples; we may have heard that there is a Holy Spirit, but he doesn’t play a very big part in our daily Christian experience. Yes, the gift of the Holy Spirit is given to us in our baptism, but many of us have never turned to Jesus in faith and asked him to fill us with the Holy Spirit. This is a gift we grow in, you see. When we are baptized God lights the pilot light of his Holy Spirit in us, but you can’t heat a house with the pilot light; you need to turn up the thermostat so that the whole furnace lights up. And so it is with the Holy Spirit: we’re told in the New Testament to go on and on being filled with the Holy Spirit, so that we can truly be in tune with God’s presence and experience God’s power for the tasks he’s called us to do.

Let’s go around this one last time. The baptism of Jesus tells us about our baptism – about what it means and what it says about us. In the world today there are many voices wanting to tell you who you are, and what you should be doing. But the most important truth about you is what God says about you, and in your baptism God says to you, “You are my beloved child; I am pleased with you”. In your baptism God tells you that the most important thing you have to do in your life is to learn to follow Jesus. And God puts the Holy Spirit into you to give you a sense of his presence and power.

This is where we have to start if we are to understand the Christian life. These are the things we need to be sure about before we go on to the next stage in our Christian journey. We are God’s children, we are called to follow Jesus, and we are offered the gift of the Holy Spirit to help us do it. These are the basic things, the things we start with, and we don’t have to earn any of them. They all come to us as a free gift: a gift of God’s grace.

The Poems of Wilfred Owen

In my post about my 2014 reading list I noted my surprise that I had not actually finished any books of poetry all year long. I actually quite enjoy poetry, but I tend to dip into it rather than reading through complete volumes. This year I intend to change that.

UnknownThus, my first book of the year is the slim volume of ‘The Poems of Wilfred Owen‘, in the Wordsworth Poetry Library series; it was a gift from one of my children, and I’m very grateful for it. I’ve been familiar with some of Owen’s more famous poems (‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’, “Dulce et Decorum Est’ etc.), but not with the broad sweep of his work. This volume gives a really good overview of his poetic genius; it’s incredible to think that almost all of his most important poems were written in the space of one year, and very sad to think of him being killed by a sniper one week before the Armistice. But then, that is the tragedy of war that Owen wrote about so eloquently: the shattered lives and wasted talents.

A few brief words about the poet (adapted from the Wikipedia article, which is worth reading in full). Wilfred Owen was born in 1893 near Oswestry, Shropshire. He worked as a pupil-teacher in a poor country parish before a shortage of money forced him to drop his hopes of studying at the University of London and take up a teaching post in Bordeaux (1913). He was tutoring in the Pyrenees when war was declared, and he enlisted shortly afterwards.

In 1917 he suffered severe concussion and trench-fever whilst fighting on the Somme and spent a period recuperating at Craiglockart War Hospital, near Edinburgh. It was here that he met Siegfried Sassoon who read his poems, suggested how they might be improved, and offered him much encouragement.

He was posted back to France in 1918 where he won the MC before being killed on the Sombre Canal a week before the Armistice was signed.

I will give a couple of samples of his poetry. In the first, ‘Strange Meeting’, the poet finds himself face to face, after death, with the enemy he killed the day before:

It seemed that out of the battle I escaped
Down some profound dull tunnel, long since scooped
Through granites which titanic wars had groined.
Yet also there encumbered sleepers groaned,
Too fast in thought or death to be bestirred.
Then, as I probed them, one sprang up, and stared
With piteous recognition in fixed eyes,
Lifting distressful hands as if to bless.
And by his smile, I knew that sullen hall,
By his dead smile I knew we stood in Hell.
With a thousand fears that vision’s face was grained;
Yet no blood reached there from the upper ground,
And no guns thumped, or down the flues made moan.
‘Strange friend,’ I said, ‘Here is no cause to mourn.’
‘None,’ said the other, ‘Save the undone years,
The hopelessness. Whatever hope is yours,
Was my life also; I went hunting wild
After the wildest beauty in the world,
Which lies not calm in eyes, or braided hair,
But mocks the steady running of the hour,
And if it grieves, grieves richlier than here.
For by my glee might many men have laughed,
And of my weeping something has been left,
Which must die now. I mean the truth untold,
The pity of war, the pity war distilled.
Now men will go content with what we spoiled.
Or, discontent, boil bloody, and be spilled.
They will be swift with swiftness of the tigress,
None will break ranks, though nations trek from progress.
Courage was mine, and I had mystery;
Wisdom was mine, and I had mastery;
To miss the march of this retreating world
Into vain citadels that are not walled.
Then, when much blood had clogged their chariot-wheels
I would go up and wash them from sweet wells,
Even with truths that lie too deep for taint.
I would have poured my spirit without stint
But not through wounds; not on the cess of war.
Foreheads of men have bled where no wounds were.
I am the enemy you killed, my friend.
I knew you in this dark; for so you frowned
Yesterday through me as you jabbed and killed.
I parried; but my hands were loath and cold.
Let us sleep now … 

This poem is a good example of Owen’s style. He’s not an easy writer to follow, and ideally his poems should be read over three or four times, slowly, so that the metaphors can be explored to the full. But to me the mark of genius in this poem is that, although a discerning reader might already have guessed it, Owen does not explicitly reveal the identity of the one who ‘sprang up, and stared with piteous recognition in fixed eyes’ until close to the end.

Another piece, ‘Disabled’, is a snapshot of the life of a dismembered veteran of the war.

He sat in a wheeled chair, waiting for dark, 
And shivered in his ghastly suit of grey, 
Legless, sewn short at elbow. Through the park 
Voices of boys rang saddening like a hymn, 
Voices of play and pleasure after day, 
Till gathering sleep had mothered them from him. 

About this time Town used to swing so gay 
When glow-lamps budded in the light blue trees, 
And girls glanced lovelier as the air grew dim – 
In the old times, before he threw away his knees. 
Now he will never feel again how slim 
Girls’ waists are, or how warm their subtle hands. 
All of them touch him like some queer disease. 

There was an artist silly for his face, 
For it was younger than his youth, last year. 
Now, he is old; his back will never brace; 
He’s lost his colour very far from here, 
Poured it down shell-holes till the veins ran dry, 
And half his lifetime lapsed in the hot race 
And leap of purple spurted from his thigh. 

One time he liked a blood-smear down his leg, 
After the matches, carried shoulder-high. 
It was after football, when he’d drunk a peg, 
He thought he’d better join. – He wonders why. 
Someone had said he’d look a god in kilts, 
That’s why; and maybe, too, to please his Meg;
Aye, that was it, to please the giddy jilts 
He asked to join. He didn’t have to beg; 

Smiling they wrote his lie: aged nineteen years. 
Germans he scarcely thought of; all their guilt, 
And Austria’s, did not move him. And no fears 
Of Fear came yet. He thought of jewelled hilts 
For daggers in plaid socks; of smart salutes; 
And care of arms; and leave; and pay arrears; 
Esprit de corps; and hints for young recruits. 
And soon, he was drafted out with drums and cheers. 

Some cheered him home, but not as crowds cheer Goal. 
Only a solemn man who brought him fruits
thanked him; and then enquired about his soul. 

Now, he will spend a few sick years in institutes, 
And do what things the rules consider wise, 
And take whatever pity they may dole. 
Tonight he noticed how the women’s eyes 
Passed from him to the strong men that were whole. 
How cold and late it is! Why don’t they come 
And put him into bed? Why don’t they come?

Wilfred Owen looked up to Siegfried Sassoon, but in my view, Owen was the greater poet. His work is firmly situated in the Great War, but needs to be read over and over again in these modern times when we continue to send young people off to the slaughterhouse with depressing regularity. I conclude with the incomplete preface he himself wrote for his poems:

This book is not about heroes. English poetry is not yet fit to speak of them.

Nor is it about deeds, or lands, nor anything about glory, honour, might, majesty, dominion or power, except War.

Above all, I am not concerned with Poetry.

My subject is War, and the Pity of War.
The Poetry is in the pity.
Yet these elegies are to this generation in no sense consolatory. They may be to the next. All a poet can do today is warn. That is why the True Poets must be truthful.

If I thought the letter of this book would last, I might have used proper names; but if the spirit of it survives – survives Prussia – my ambition and those names will have achieved themselves fresher fields than Flanders…

Happy birthday Nic Jones

A very happy birthday to one of my great musical heroes Mr. Nic Jones. Here’s a traditional song from his magisterial 1980 CD ‘Penguin Eggs’.

Note: If you like this music, please buy it to support the artist.

Penguin Eggs at Molly Music (Nic and Julia’s company)

Penguin Eggs at iTunes

Penguin Eggs at Amazon.ca

To find out more about Nic, go to his website here. Interesting biographical information is here and here. I would also highly recommend the new documentary ‘The Enigma of Nic Jones‘.

More information about ‘Courting is a Pleasure’ (also called ‘Meeting is a Pleasure’ and ‘Handsome Molly’) here and here.

‘They gather like an ancestry…’

The sixth in a series of poems by the great Wendell Berry, from his collection ‘This Day: Collected and New Sabbath Poems’.

They gather like an ancestry
in the centuries behind us:
the killed by violence, the dead
in war, the “acceptable losses” –
killed by custom in self-defense,
by way of correction, in revenge,
for love of God, for the glory
of the world, for peace; killed
for pride, lust, envy, anger,
covetousness, gluttony, sloth,
and fun. The strewn carcasses
cease to feed even the flies,
the stench passes from them,
the earth folds in the bones
like salt in a batter.

And we have learned
nothing. “Love your enemies,
bless them that curse you,
do good to them that hate you” –
it goes on regardless, reasonably:
the always uncompleted
symmetry of just reprisal,
the angry word, the boast
of superior righteousness,
hate in Christ’s name,
scorn for the dead, lies
for the honour of the nation,
centuries bloodied and dismembered
for ideas, for ideals,
for the love of God!

– Wendell Berry, This Day: Collected and New Sabbath Poems: 2005 (II)

Books I read (or re-read) in 2014

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.