“…an honest comparison is not always in our favor.”

The tendency to hold certain practices in ancient Israel up to idealized modern Western norms is pervasive in much that passes for scholarship, though a glance at the treatment of the great class of debtors now being evicted from their homes in America and elsewhere should make it clear that, from the point of view of graciousness or severity, an honest comparison is not always in our favor.

Marilynne Robinson, “Open Thy Hand Wide” in When I Was a Child I Read Books (2012).

on the night stand

In the days before we adopted our son I asked those of you book-loving parents to chime in with your reading tips.  I was particularly interested in how you find time to read with the (wonderful) addition of children.  You had some great suggestions and as we near the seven month mark as parents I’m happy to report that books continue to be read in the Swanson home.  Some of these books represent a genre previously unrepresented on our bookshelves: kids books of all kinds and sizes.  And while some of you might appreciate Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late!, here are a few recent reads more suited to adult tastes.

home-marilynne-robinsonMaggie brought home Marilynne Robinson’s most recent novel, Home, for me a couple weeks back.  Home is loosely intertwined with Robinson’s previous novel (and Pulitzer Prize winner) Gilead, though each work can easily stand alone.  It’s a testimony to the author that backwater towns, old preachers, downtrodden families, and the occasional theological reflection are turned into such captivating and humane stories.  I’ll reread both Gilead and Home one day and discover all sorts of treasure missed the first time.  (As an aside, a good friend whose taste in books I trust, gave Gilead a try and didn’t make it even halfway.  A reminder that all suggestions are subjective.)

bright-sidedI was sent a copy of Barbara Ehrenriech’s latest non-fiction, a book with a bright yellow cover and long name: Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promostion of Positive Thinking Has Underminded America.  Ehrenriech is probably best known for her 2002 book about America’s working poor: Nickel and Dimed.  I’ve written a full review of Bright-Sided to be published elsewhere, but I’ll say that this book surprised me.  The author does a fantastic job showing how prevalent the positive thinking movement is in America.  You can probably tell from the title that she doesn’t think this bodes well for our country.  After reading this book I’d agree and, as a Christian, also lament the impact the  movement has had on many individual churches and the collective Christian witness.

I’m also dipping into a collection of essays by Barbara Kingsolver, Small Wonders, written in the days following the 9/11 attacks in 2001.  I’m most impressed by the author’s ability to ask big questions and make long observation at a time when most had a hard time seeing the forest for the trees.

I heard professor Charles Marsh speak movingly about Dr Martin Luther King’s understanding of “beloved community” a couple of years ago and have his book, The Beloved Community: How Faith Shapes Social Justice from the Civil Rights Movement to Today, on my night stand.

Finally, I’ve mentioned Welcoming the Stranger a few times on this blog.  Rather than write a standard review of a book I hope many of you might read, I’ve emailed a few questions to one of the authors that I’ll post on the blog.  Stay tuned.

How about you?  Any noteworthy books on your night stand?