Six books I'm excited to read


1. Malcolm Guite, Sounding the Seasons.

I've been reading Malcolm's poetry bit-by-juicy-bit over the past four years. First introduced to his work
in the summer of 2009, when we partnered with Jeremy Begbie on behalf of the Center For Reconciliation's Summer Institute, I now read it weekly. His blog routinely teases us with one poem at a time. Now, thank God, we get the whole lot in one book. If ever there were poetry that was "good for food" and "pleasing to the ears," in the spirit of Donne and generous to a broad audience, it is Malcolm's. You'll certainly enjoy reading these on your own, but you'll enjoy them even more if you read them aloud with friends or, dare I say, from the pulpit on Sunday morning.

2. Marjorie Garber, Patronizing the Arts.

I first thought about the question of patronage at length in the summer of 1996. That was the year I began my work as "arts pastor" with Hope Chapel in Austin, Texas. I asked myself, if we weren't rich (like the Medici or Rockefeller families) and if we weren't in the business of producing monumental works of art (museums and cathedrals, for example), what did patronage looks like for a small community? What could it look like? And might it look like a whole host of activities, not always monetary, which we'd yet to imagine and which, quite possibly, fostered a long-term culture of patronage? Garber's book is a promising theoretical and practical introduction to arts patronage and a place to begin answering some of these questions.


3. John Trapani, Jr., Poetry, Beauty, & Contemplation: The Complete Aesthetics of Jacques Maritain

If you want to understand the current relationship between Christianity and the arts, you need to understand the early twentieth-century French Catholic philosopher Jacques Maritain. The French ambassador to the Vatican from 1945-1948, he taught at the Institut Catholique de Paris, Columbia University, the University of Chicago, the University of Notre Dame and Princeton University, yet finished out his years as a member of the Little Brothers of Jesus in Toulouse, France. Perhaps more important than his impressive resume, he's arguably the single most influential thinker on Catholic artists of the late twentieth century (and perhaps Protestant ones too). Trapani offers a significant introduction to his life and work.

4. Robert Charles Wilson, Spin.

In 2012 I read science fiction. In fact, it's the only sort of literature I read during the small window of time before I turned my night light off. Fifteen minutes here, an hour there, I read my way through Asimov, Clark, Dick, Heinlein, Stephenson, Stross, Gaiman, Burroughs, Frank, Atwood, Walton, Butler, Miller, Verne and, well, many others. 2013 will continue the trend. My aim is to read enough of it -- 300 works at the least, including of course short stories -- in order someday to teach a small seminar on the genre. Naturally, I'd approach the works from a theological standpoint, but it's impressive how these literary and cinematic stories, with their "alternate" or "parallel" realities, both interpret contemporary life and propose a different sort of humanity for contemporary life. In some cases, it's an enthralling vision of human society; in other cases, it's a discomfiting, even creepy, vision.

I recently finished Robert Charles Wilson's Bios. I immediately placed him at the top of my "interesting ideas and good writing" list, which unfortunately rarely characterizes works of speculative fiction. Spin won the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 2005, and after a hundred pages, I'm fully hooked.

5. Alan Fadling, An Unhurried Life: Following Jesus' Rhythms of Work and Rest.

Intervarsity Press has kindly put me on their "free books" list. This means, practically, that it feels like Christmas every time I receive a package with an "IVP" embossed on the top left. I've gotten everything from Crystal L. Downing, Changing Signs of Truth: A Christian Introduction to the Semiotics of Communication to Patty Kirk, The Easy Burden of Pleasing God to Living Without Enemies: Being Present in the Midst of Violence by Samuel Wells and Marcia Owen. Both Shapers of Christian Orthodoxy: Engaging with Early and Medieval Theologians (ed. by Bradley G. Green) and Are You Waiting for 'The One'?: Cultivating Realistic, Positive Expectations for Christian Marriage by Margaret and Dwight Peterson look intriguing. But the one book I'm most eager to read right is Alan Fadling's debut work. If book titles are marketing spells, capturing our attention before we've even had a chance to reason why, then a title like An Unhurried Life by an author I've never heard of wins the Hogwarts prize. I never tire, ironically perhaps, of reading books about "sabbath" rhythms of life.

6. John Calvin's New Testament Commentaries. I just bought the whole lot (for a steal of a price) and I'm looking forward to reading through the interstices of Calvin's thinking on the work of the Spirit to constitute the humanity of Christ and our own humanity too.

Here's, then, to a good summer of fun reading projects. If you've discovered any exceptional art-related books, I'd love to hear about them.



Comments

Tamara Murphy said…
Looks like a great collection!
Jon said…
I am good friends with Alan Fadling. I worked with his boys when they were in junior high and high school and spoken with him periodically as he worked his through his book. Because of Alan's friendship, words of wisdom, and time spent in exploring the rhythms of Jesus, I have been given encouraged to explore on my own time what sabbath and appropriate ora/labora rhythms might mean in busy southern California. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on his work, Mr. Taylor.

And I'm hoping your beard is still savage.
Thanks, Tamara.

Jon: good to hear that, and thanks for saying hi.

My beard is still savage, you'll be glad to know. :)

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