Thursday, January 1, 2015
Late at night: My Top Ten Book List for 2014:
Embrace the Unforeseen by Dennis Plies • Even if you don't know Dennis Plies, a professor of music and jazzist at Warner Pacific College, this is a remarkable book--thoughtful and hopeful, it invites the reader to go on a journey of enlightenment. Enlightenment is defined as living open to the universe, holding loosely and lovingly those ideas and practices we hold dear, with a significant expectancy that the life of faith will always bring newness into a pilgrim's life. If you do know Dennis Plies, then, you will want to read this.
Leading From Within, Poetry That Sustains the Courage to Lead, and Teaching With Fire, Poetry That Sustains the Courage to Teach, Sam M. Intrator and Megan Scribner, eds. • Both of these poetry collections (with commentary) are rich with beautiful selections—some old that I’ve treasured for years or longer and some very new to me (but now becoming familiar companions. Worthy reads for anyone interested in understanding leadership, teaching, or poetry.
Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, A Righteous Gentile vs. The Third Reich by Eric Metaxas • I’m aware that this book has played to mixed reviews (and sometimes I understand that), yet I found it an engrossing and challenging read. It helped me to understand and fill in some important gaps in my understanding of Bonhoeffer, the church in Germany before and during the war, the rise of the Confessing Church--and most importantly the process that brought Bonhoeffer to the participate in the various efforts to undermine and defeat Hitler and his abhorrent Reich.
The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman • Powerful...relentless...mesmerizing...want to avert your eyes but cannot...even though the end was known, could not keep from reading. an amazing wonderfully awe inspiring homage to the human spirit against insurmountable odds--the power of mother love and the refusal to be bound or defined by gender, culture, set dogma. Grateful that there are such book in the world.
The Great Bridge, The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge by David McCullough • Such a great large great book! More information than I would ever need (or want) to know about one of the most amazing construction projects in our history--perhaps world history. A celebration of the creative intelligence of thoughtful men and women. A tour de force reflection on a particular heroic epoch. I'm very glad I read it; I am very glad I have at last finished it.
Neither Wolf Nor Dog, On Forgotten Roads with an Indian Elder by Kent Nerburn • One if those can't put down but want it to go on forever. Moving and challenging. My responses were all over the place: Laughter. Jealousy. Crying. Defensive. Guilt. Dan is a great character. Nerburn's honesty and vulnerability are very impressive.
A Hidden Wholeness, The Journey Toward An Undivided Life by Parker J. Palmer • As always, Palmer challenges me at some of the deepest levels of my life and vocation. A thoughtful, creative, illuminative philosophical, "how to" book that everyone engaged in working with people—teachers, pastors, social workers, managers—should read and contemplate. It is a distinctly compassionate book that invites us to think about the power of trust in relationship, the practicality of love as a way of life, how to live peacefully and holistically in a world that constantly seeks to divide and conquer--to keep us apart from our true selves so that we make little difference and the profoundly entrenched arrogance of powerful people is allowed free rein (reign). (A second read.)
To Serve Them All My Days by R. F. Delderfield • A remarkable novel. A clear evocation of an era long gone by; sentimental in the best sense of that word—honest about what matters, valuing it, and figuring out how to live in it. The story takes place between two wars, the first and the second--the big ones, as they are often characterized--and follows the career of a veteran of the first who comes to this lonely outpost for healing. He finds himself here—a teacher‚ and grounds himself. It is a nostalgic book; at times, a very sad book--I read often with tears in my eyes, especially as I neared the end.
A couple of others that would belong in a best 12 books:
Wild, From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed • There are moments in this book of sheer agony—deep physical and spiritual pain. There are moment of such great beauty that I found myself holding my breath until I was aware I was in need of oxygen. There are moments of such truthfulness in this book that I was almost embarrassed to be looking over her shoulder—even though, clearly, I was welcome. I’m too old, I imagine, to hike this trail, although I’ve been on parts of it around Mt. Hood and further north on the Washington side of the Bridge. This book makes me want to pull on my big boots and head out—even as it warns me away.
Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry • How I ever missed this, I’ll never figure out, but I am so grateful to Sam Collins for loaning it to me. A wonderfully funny and terribly sad story. Characters are strong and real and vital. The view of the West and its impact on people is both moving and frustrating. It is rich with local color; the language is vernacular and, at times, cringe worthy, but reflective of the terrible ideas and attitudes about people, especially first peoples. I found myself moved to tears at times and, finally, experienced a deep loss as wonderfully human men and women struggled against the wideness of the world, marveling at the generosity of some, the cussedness of others, and the deep, damned meanness of a few. What a wonderful book!
For Whom the Bells Tolls by Ernest Hemingway • I thought this was going to be a re-read but, no; once I began to read, I realized that I'd never read this one. I’ve seen the movie so many times that I think I just assumed I’d read it. Glad I found it.