"When it comes to discerning what to read, watch or listen to in the precious time we have, it is always helpful to have the suggestions of people who read and experience new information as part of their living. Some of our faculty share here monthly the books they are reading, as well as the electronic media they are listening to or viewing. Most of us have a stack of books at our bedside, while some of us have stacks near our reading chair, our cocktail table and any other horizontal surface capable of supporting weight. Most of us also have long lists of films we want to see or music groups we hope to experience. When it is possible, some of the faculty will give you a few words of evaluation of what is occupying their leisure time.?
In a world with too many options for reading and watching, we hope faculty suggestions will help you in your discernment process about what to read on your journey." ?
My reading since the end of the fall quarter has focused on several writing projects or upcoming courses. ?I have read several things that deal with the fear that so dominates contemporary American life, including David Rothkopf's National Insecurity: American Leadership in an Age of Fear, which I recommend. ?(I have also agreed, just this past week, to publish a book on the theme of fear and what religions have to say about it with Westminster/John Knox Press. ?Our hope is to publish it during the 2016 presidential campaign, when fear-mongering will be rampant.) ?I am working on my chapter for a book that is being written by the entire STM faculty on the theme of "welcoming the stranger." ?Books I recommend from this research include Amos Yong's Hospitality and the Other and Gesa Thiessen (editor), Ecumenical Ecclesiology: Unity, Diversity, and Otherness in a Fragmented World. ?I am also trying to keep up with the explosion of fiction from other countries in preparation for my spring course, Literature from Around the World. ?One recent novel that I recommend is Nayomi Munaweera's Island of a Thousand Mirrors, which is set within the context of the Sri Lankan civil war. ?Two other recent reads that fall in no particular category but which I recommend are Marilynne Robinson's Lila, and John Casey's wonderful book about the art of writing fiction, entitled Beyond the First Draft.
Over break I read Eowyn Ivey's The Snow Child (2012). I enjoyed this adaptation of several myths from various countries (e.g. The Snow Queen, Little Daughter of the Snow). Simply, it is a story of a couple who "adopts" a child. Of course, stories are rarely simple. There are several mysteries: Who is the child? From where does she come? Can she stay? One of the factors that shape the relationships in the story is the sense of place, the Alaskan wilderness. Cold can be a metaphor for distance, and a signal for the need of warmth. A sense of time and place is grounding, but it also cannot limit us to mysteries in life, to becoming our real selves. I recommend this story to you (you may want to have a cup of very hot tea nearby!). It made me miss my snowy homes of Michigan, New Jersey, and Kansas (although at this point, I have some friends who would be very willing to share some of their snow with me).
Dr. Michael Reid Trice?
What I'm Reading These Days:
Aspiring to Fullness in a Secular Age: Essays on Religion and Theology in the Work of Charles Taylor, edited by Carlos D. Colorado and Justin D. Klassen (University of Notre Dame, 2014).
The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker (Random House, 2012).
The Doors of the Sea: Where Was God in the Tsunami? By David Bentley Hart (Eerdmans, 2005).
Disruptive Christian Ethics: When Racism and Women?s Lives Matter by Traci C. West (Westminster Press, 2006).
What I've been reading through late December and January:
JRR Tolkien, The Hobbit. My son-in-law is a Tolkien fanatic and a quarter of the time I miss or barely catch the meaning of his allusions in conversation. This is the first time I've read The Hobbit since I was in high school and I forgot what a captivating and multi-layered work it is. ?
Stephen Nachmanovitch, Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art, Tarcher-Penguin. This is one of the most popular required texts in jazz schools throughout the U.S. Nachmanovitch integrates many spiritual traditions into the neuroscience of play and practice and the spiritual traditions of east and west. A great text for anyone who would like to understand why jazz musicians (and other artists) often like to explain what they do as an exercise in "spirituality."
Heather Hendershot, Shaking the World for Jesus: Media and Conservative Evangelical Culture, University of Chicago Press. The conservative evangelical movement has had a remarkable sophistication with the use of technology, which is ironic since the movement often has been highly resistant to modernity and post-modernity. Hendershot gives a good, non-judgmental evaluation of the meaning systems this part of Christianity has created through its engagement of culture.
Gerald R. McDermott, One Holy and Happy Society: The Public Theology of Jonathan Edwards, Penn State Press. One of the most famous and arguably impactful public theologians in the United States is arguably Edwards. Despite the common error in reducing this important thinker to his most famous sermon, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God," this text is a good companion to a much more detailed analysis of Edwards and his very nuanced thought found in George Marsden's, Jonathan Edwards: A Life.
What I've been Listening to:
Pharoah Sanders, "Journey to the One." ?These are some classic tracks from one of the most famous saxophone players in the world. ?Sanders mixes very mellow soft improvisation with grittier bebop sounds. ?While part of a theological education research consultation with Auburn Seminary, our group had the great opportunity to see 74-year-old Sanders perform at Dizzy's Club at the Lincoln Jazz Center in New York City, one of the most famous jazz clubs in the U.S. ?
Jesse Cook: "The Blue Guitar Sessions." ?A famous Canadian jazz/rock/pop guitarist with Latin influences. ?The album was a Christ gift from my daughter and son-in-law, along with a print of Pablo Picasso's famous painting, The Old Guitarist, one of my favorite paintings. ?I also received an original copy of Wallace Stevens', The Man with the Blue Guitar.
What I've been watching:
The Good Lie. ?I saw this movie on a long plane ride, a tale of four Sudanese refugee siblings trying to adjust to American culture after a hideously traumatic childhood and adolescence, which included the genocidal murder of their parents and a decade in a refugee camp. ?Great cross-cultural humor mixed with profound demonstrations of the way character and spiritual grounding can empower the human spirit to rise above virtually any challenge. ?