Autumn is for Reading

Whenever the days get shorter and the nights longer, I want nothing more than tea after dinner and to wear wooly socks. I bought a puzzle from the 1960s at a thrift store for one dollar and twenty-five cents last week and it is 1500 faded, musty pieces. We began working on it a few nights ago, with intermittent trick or treaters, and it will probably take us all winter if we let it. Another short day, long night pastime I love is reading, which I suppose is no secret. Here are some we've been enjoying in our home: Hannah Anderson sent me the manuscript for this last spring and I read every word then, but having the real book in my hands made me want to give another go at her new book, Humble Roots. Attention to creation, the care of it and the learning from it, is something I think we in the church need more of. A pivotal time in my faith was when a friend taught a four week class at my church in New York on creation, the New Heaven, New Earth, God's role in it, and our role in it. It was deeply formative for me. Writers like Wendell Berry, Michael Pollan, Alice Waters, Walter Bruggemann, and more began to inform my concept of the land, the food we eat, the way we produce it, and the care we give to the people walking on it. Hannah's new book is now added to that section of our bookshelves because she takes lessons from the earth, much in the same way Jesus taught through parables, and teaches her readers about humility, peace, worship, and community—all through the lens of the gospel and scripture. When I wrote my endorsement for it, I said, "This is the book I've been wanting on the shelves of Christians everywhere," and I meant every word. If you have a longing in you for roots and a certainty in you of the hope of the new earth, I highly recommend reading Humble Roots.

Until my friend Katelyn Beaty sent me her new book, A Woman's Place, the book I most recommended to men, and male pastors particularly, was Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In. Now I will add A Woman's Place to my list. Katelyn was specific in her research, articulate in her communication, and impassioned with her cause in this piece and I love this book. She not only showcases the various ways every woman works, she makes a case for a "cross-shaped ambition" much needed in the work of women today. "The ambition God invites us to is a cross-shaped ambition: to embrace our inability to have it all so that he be our all. Likewise, the contentment to which God invites us is a cross-shaped contentment: to choose to say "thy will be done," to willingly embrace our own constraints, because it is often through human weakness that God most clearly displays his power and glory." If you care about women and want to see the work of women flourish—both inside and outside the church—I recommend reading A Woman's Place.

Another thing we love to read are novels, particularly long ones. Nate had recommended a series to me which, based on the covers, I had no interest in. Call it snobbery, call it whatever, they looked like cheap beach reads for nerds. But they were also thick, 600+ pages, and that's my favorite quality in a novel, so I picked up the first one. It is called The Passage, by Justin Cronin, and I couldn't put it down. For the next few weeks I read all three every night before bed and during our Sunday sabbath time. The writing was captivating, the story was surprisingly good, and the character development was solid. I was sold. I've had a few people ask if these are "clean" and to be honest, I don't know what that means. If you want a book without any coarse language or the brokenness of humanity, these aren't the books for you, but if you want to read a compelling story of good versus evil where every good is touched with evil and every evil began as good, this is a solid series. The conclusion at the end of the third novel had me in tears. It was, without question, the best last 100 pages of a story I've read in a long time. There are three in the series: The Passage, The Twelve, and The City of Mirrors.

Happy reading!

book recommendations

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Eat the Words

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset I cut my teeth on L'Engle and Dillard, mulled over O'Connor and Greene, struggled though four semesters of Shakespeare, found myself in the pages of Berry and Kingsolver. Good writing has carried me along. Good writing taught me more theology than six semesters ever did.

In the attention deficit world of the blogosphere, it can be easy to subsist on the crumbs. Comments back and forth, public discussion and debate, he saids/she saids, commentary on every public event that happens and quickly dissipates. This is the oil that keeps the machine running, greasy stories and grimy bits that catch our fancy for a moment and flee just as quickly.

I want the slow meal. The feast prepared with wooden cutting boards and whole foods, the juices of meats flavoring the whole. The spice. The wine. The tablecloth and the candles. Shoulder to shoulder, leaving the dishes for later, much later. The slow food.

Spotlights, whether by association or viral fame, do not a good writer make. Good writing is made in the kitchen, with the dashes and pinches, the taste-testing and stirring, ruminating and storing, aging and serving. Good writing sits and satisfies from the first bite to the last. It is a chocolate cake with a dollop of homemade ice-cream, from which only one bite is needed—because it satisfies.

When I lived in Central America the close of the meal was signaled by the head of the home saying, "Satisfecho." It was a statement. I am satisfied. He would lean back in his chair, push back his plate, and we would sit there still, until all were satisfecho.

This is the writing I want to read. The kind that satisfies, that isn't clamoring for more attention, for commenting, for debate, for the spotlight. It simply is. And is beautiful.