Reading without caring about time remains at the top of my list of indulgent behaviors. When I can crack a good book and just read late, late into the night I know I’m relaxing.
I’m learning this concept of “Total Work” that we live under especially in the western world. A philosopher named Pieper wrote about how people are transformed into workers and nothing else. As I read about it, I realized how much I live in this reality of feeling like I always need to be productive even in rest. Reading is one activity that combats this tendency for me, especially reading fiction.
Every night I read fiction. There are so many books out there about our world and how to live in it (see that total work thing in play?) but fiction inhabits my nightstand as a means to just enjoy life. Good fiction hopefully!
So, what good books can I recommend these days? Oh so many!
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens:
I ended my year with some Dickens, which I have not read for 20 some years. He’s just a lot, you know? But A Christmas Carol felt like an appropriate way to put my heart into the holidays. It did not disappoint or fail to convict either! If you haven’t read this one, I’m sure you can pick it up for a song at the used bookstore or on Kindle. Set it aside for Christmas 2022.
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles:
How do you make a life within the walls of a hotel? Sounds a little too familiar, doesn’t it? The main character is sentenced to live out his days within a luxury hotel. He ends up leading a very full life within those walls, impacting many lives through some tumultuous times in Russian history. A delightful read.
Imperial Woman: The Story of the Last Empress of China by Pearl S. Buck:
This telling of Chinese history from the imagined perspective of the Empress enthralled me. Some of the themes of grievances are still in play today in world events. If you want to understand some of the tension between China and the west now, this is a more engaging method than some others. The loss of position and prominence for this empire and the efforts to regain a footing on the world stage explain so much of what we see in the news today. Maybe it can be seen with a little more empathy after reading this book.
Letters to a Young Pastor by Eugene Peterson and Eric Peterson:
Ok, this one is not fiction. It’s more a memoir but its so good I can’t keep it a secret.
Eric Peterson compiled these letters his dad sent him at his request to learn more about his dad’s interior thoughts on pastoring. Eugene fleshes out so very personally what it means to live out the unique role of shepherding others spiritually in this day and age when so much is so impersonal. Each chapter takes us into Eugene’s mind, heart, and struggles to form out in real time how to live as a “faithful failure.”
Every time I read the sign off at the end of each chapter, I think of my own dad who was also so proud of his kids and so invested in our lives and life work. Sitting with Eugene is a little bit like sitting with dad again.
The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles:
What can I say? When I read one book by an author and resonate deeply with it, I look for other books they’ve written. My kids gifted me this book for Christmas and I enjoyed it. An almost modern day hero’s journey, the story follows two brothers as they strive to make a life of their own in the world. Who do they need to keep in their lives? What does loyalty look like? It is a worthy read!
Beyond these books, I read quite a bit of suspenseful fiction of the unreliable narrator sort. Trying to figure out what the heck was going on was pretty entertaining for a good chunk of this past year. They are edgier and may keep you up at night but sometimes that’s pretty fun.
Was it good fiction? I’m not sure! The Death of Mrs. Westaway and One by One by Ruth Ware are my top recommendations in that category.
I’m stumbling back into writing on my blog so if you got this far, you get a gold star for plodding through my rusty, low bar attempt to just get words out again. Thank you!
Leave any book recommendations you think I should check out in the comments please.