The best of the best of the best...

For the end of the year, each of us is offering our “best” read book of 2019.

This seemed like an easy task at first...but what really is “best”? Nowadays, “best” in many contexts means no more than “most popular,” or even what has been made to appear most popular. Then there is the question of where taste and value lie. “Best” might mean what one person thought best according to their predilection, or what another judged best according to an abstract standard. Then one gets into varieties of “best”—“level best,” “second best.” “The best we can do.”  

The French Carmelite St Elizabeth of the Trinity famously said her favorite book (livre) was “the soul of Christ, because it delivered” (se livre) to her “all the Father’s secrets.” Our aim is a little less cosmic and witty; these offerings are only “favorite,” or “best,” in the context of this past year and of the many books we each read.

 

Palm-of-the-Hand Stories

Kawabata Yasunari

Kawabata was a twentieth century Japanese writer and 1968 Nobel Prize winner. Some of these extremely short stories are only a paragraph long. But with luminous clarity and wise, quiet reserve, Kawabata opens up Reality, human and otherwise, in all its beauty, folly, fragility, baseness, endurance, perfection, and ephemerality. 

 

When We Were Very Young

AA Milne

These poems for children hold both memories and new appreciation for grown-up children: being read to, reading to, and then just reading for pleasure and admiration (aided by Ernest Shepherd’s drawings). “James James...” “King John was not a good man,” etc produce delight over and over.

 

It Keeps Me Seeking: The Invitation from Science, Philosophy, & Religion

Andrew Briggs, Hans Halvorson, & Andrew Steane

Published by OUP, this is a beautiful book in every sense: tactile, visual, intellectual, editorial...Not apologetics, but “how science both enriches and is enriched by Christian faith.” Keen science accompanied by art, humanity, “a high bar on what constitutes good argument,” and inquiry that does not insist on providing certainty.

 

The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life

David Brooks

Two major periods in one’s life: first, the realization of aspirations and hopes—school, job, family, etc. Then—the “second mountain”— a nagging sense of unfulfillment and the transformation begins: a deepening of a moral sense, concern with profounder matters than money and social standing.  An insightful paradigm of human life.

 

Morals and the Meaning of Jesus: Reflections on the Hard Sayings

Nicholas Peter Harvey

"The will of God has to do with the calling and nurturing into full, vibrant life of people used to being at most half-alive, so that any awakening is liable to be drastic and the call for it shockingly at odds with what normally passes for morality." (p.31)

 

Honorable Mentions:

The Shattering of Loneliness       Erik Varden

A Tour of Bones                        Denise Inge

Spiritual Letters                         Wendy Beckett

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