My Journey of Spiritual Reading

Hold the Applause…

Well, this was, perhaps, my greatest year of reading.  Having accomplished a goal I failed to reach last year, I triumphantly come to the end of 2012 with 28 books under my belt.  Pretty good for a spiritual midget like myself.  As usual, it is a mixed bag, so let’s just dispense with it.

I read me some classics this year.  I know, that’s terrible.  I just wanted to type it and to read it to myself out loud.

Despite its syntax, it is a trustworthy saying.  I did read some classic books this year.  Some were re-reads from my past and some were brand new.  My favorite classic book this year was Walden by Thoreau…hands down.  No other book comes close.  It was great.  I blogged about earlier in the year.  I will probably read it again.  Thoreau is a great writer.  It was so good, in fact, that I went ahead and read Civil Disobedience as well.  It was good too, but 2012 is memorialized in my memory as the year I first read Thoreau’s Walden.  Do yourself a favor and go get a copy.  They’re free online, for crying out loud!  You are without excuse.

My least favorite book (also known as the I wish I had the past two days of my life back award) goes to Mocking Jay by Suzanne Collins.  I’ve blocked most of it from my memory so there is not a whole lot to tell.  Worst.  Trilogy.  Ending.  Ever.

Best Surprise in my reading this year:  A Stone of Hope: Prophetic Religion and the Death of Jim Crow.  I really enjoyed this book.  It is a scholarly look at the role of prophetic Christianity in the civil rights movement.  Well researched and well written, the book takes a hard look at the civil rights movement in the South and how true Christianity was a great and important part of it as well as a look at how religion was used by both segregationists and anti-segregationists to defend their positions.   I guess the best surprise of all was learning that Southern Baptists were one of the first groups to de-segregate their seminaries.  I was proud of my denomination.  That was another surprise.  The book is not an easy read, but it is worth it.  Check it out.

Worst surprise in my reading this year: Raven: The Untold Story of Rev. Jim Jones and His People.  This book screwed me up psychologically for about three weeks.  I am not the kind of guy who sees demons or angels everywhere I look (this might be a flaw rather than a good thing) but as I made my way through this book, I felt like I was being let in on a very demonic and evil situation.  There is evil in the world, too, Virginia, and Jim Jones is one of the worst.  Perhaps the most troubling aspect of this story is that the people who fell prey to Jones were not necessarily the poor and the ignorant and those whose lot in life makes them more susceptible to the demagogues and the cult leaders.  Some of the people were college educated.  Some of them came from good homes.  Some of them were girls with dads who loved them very much.  That was a bad surprise, indeed.  God, be with my daughters…

I also rowed down the river with Lewis and Clark (Undaunted Courage), got a little too close for comfort to the underbelly of New Orleans (A Confederacy of Dunces), spent much of my Summer praying the offices (The Divine Hours), and learned a little (a lot) about citizen-community from a homeschooler that went to Yale (On Common Things).  I returned to Middle Earth (The Hobbit and The Fellowship)  and to the Abbey of Gesthemani (The Seven Storey Mountain) and dwelt there for a while with these good, old friends.  I even journeyed out to the field of Arbol and talked with the eldila (Out of the Silent Planet and Perelandra).  I found grace in an unlikely place (Bonhoeffer) and in a most likely place (Testament of Devotion).  And I was brought to the Truth in fresh and powerful ways through a couple of really great teachers (Unspoken Sermons and Purity of Heart).

All in all, it has been a good year, nay, a great year.  I wonder what adventures there are to have, what truths there are to learn, what love there is to give and to receive in 2013.  Time will tell.  I am thankful for all of the reading I did in 2012.  Maybe I am starting to grow up a little, after all.

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