Our friend Barnabas Piper relinked to one of his old posts this morning on why men should read stories. Since I'd asked Nate last week to compile a list and a few sentences on his favorite five (he picked six) fiction/poetry reads of the year, I thought today would be a good day to post them. I've also given you my favorite five fiction/poetry books I read this year.
Before we begin though, I'd like to add a few words to Barnabas's, namely that reading stories is important for all of us, not just men. We are becoming more and more of a sound-byte culture, basing our opinions, facts, and even fiction, on quick hits of beauty, truth, or goodness—or not. Stories help us listen again.
A friend of mine told me yesterday she reads fiction faster than non-fiction and I think most of us might find that true of us too. Once we are engrossed in a story—especially a well-told one—it is difficult to stop. And I think this is actually what more of us need, to listen and to keep listening until the story is finished, and then to think, for days or weeks afterward if we can. Yesterday I wrote about listening with the intent to listen on my Facebook page and I think some of what I wrote there might apply to how we approach fiction and poetry (Don't forget poetry!).
Now, below, are Nate and Lore Wilbert's favorite fiction/poetry reads of 2017.
The Buried Giant. Kazou Ishiguro (author of Remains of the Day and Nobel Winner) wrote a story that left me incredibly satisfied. Many of his themes such as aging, bitter memories, forgiveness, and family hit me close to home, and I appreciate how he dealt with them.
My Name is Asher Lev. Chaim Potok gets into the intersection of faith, family and a calling that did not fit the norm of a conservative religious community in mid 20th century New York City. It's a coming of age story I found moving, challenging me both cognitively and emotionally.
Peace Like a River. Leif Enger writes with a rhythm about miracles and tragedies, faith and its leadings, childhood and maturity. His characters form a family from the Dakotas and the story is driven by one act of the oldest son which changes everything for them.
Underground Railroad. Colson Whitehead mingles truth and fantasy to show us a life under the severe affliction of American slavery. He describes many aspects of this terrible sin of our history weaving them all into a haunting story.
The Day the Angels Fell. Shawn Smucker brings us a young boy who has tragically lost his mother and would do anything to get her back. The story darkens even more when a fantastic, spiritual battle is revealed.
Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel, was something Lore and I listened to on our trip to the East Coast this fall. I love post apocalyptic stories but finding one with good writing can be challenging. This one has it all, including a recognition that survival alone is insufficient.
The Moviegoer by Walker Percy. Friends told me for years to read this one and this year I finally did. It was more than I could have imagined and left me marked. It was the kind of book one holds their breath reading, not because it is edge of your seat action (the contrary), but because time slows in a deep south crawl.
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. I honestly haven't known where to put this book in my mind. I cannot tell if it normalizes the Nazis or not. I think what it does most is show us the conflicted nature of every human to do right and good and wrong and evil, regardless of nationality or party. We are complex individuals and this book is nothing if not complex.
Lila by Marilynne Robinson. I have just finished Lila and I have found it to be the most perfect of Robinson's Gilead stories. I choked up several times while reading because it is just a story but it is also the story of the gospel, and therefore the story of all of us if we will let it be.
New and Selected Poems by Mary Oliver. Never forget poetry when you veer from academic and informative reading, and into creative writing. Oliver, in particular, will always be a favorite of mine and this collection is brimming over with reasons why.
New and Collected Poems by Richard Wilbur. Richard Wilbur has died. It pains me to write those words because he has always been my favorite poet and I am sad the world has only what marks he left with it and no more. I supposed none of us could ask for more, though, so I recommend you start with this volume and move around within it until you find a poem that reads you thoroughly, as poems are wont to do.