I finished 4 books in February! A long vacation in California led to many fun adventures outdoors and not as many days with my nose in a book.
I finished my first book of the month while I was on the plane to California, The Hermits of Big Sur by Paula Huston. I purchased this book at the end of 2021 in preparation for my visit to the New Camaldoli Hermitage in Big Sur. I didn’t know much about the book before starting it and I was pleasantly surprised by the captivating nonfiction writing. Huston covers a long period of history both local to the Big Sur region and also including relevant world events that influenced the founding of the hermitage. This was definitely a 5 star read for me, even though it might not be interesting for everyone. Reading this book helped me gain a deeper appreciation for my stay at the hermitage, truly one of the most beautiful places in the world!
When I was getting ready to pack for my vacation, I was looking through various bookshelves at my home and office. I put together a few stacks of books that I might want to read and a few days before the trip I finalized my selections. I had a copy of Take this Bread: A Radical Conversion by Sara Miles on my shelf for a few years. I suddenly realized upon re-examining the book that my friend I would be visiting worked at the church where Miles had her “radical conversion” and where Miles began a food pantry ministry in San Francisco. Obviously, I knew I had to read this book during my California trip! Sara Miles’ storytelling reminded me a little bit of Nadia Bolz-Weber and Bolz-Weber’s early book, Pastrix. Take this Bread was published in 2007 and there were some sections that showed their age in the slightly insensitive way people in need were discussed. I can’t say I would recommend this book to everyone, but I am glad that I read it.
At the end of 2021, I listened to the audiobook of Willie James Jennings first book, The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race. While I struggled a little bit with the audio format for the dense theological arguments he presented in that book, overall I really enjoyed the book and appreciated Jennings’ groundbreaking theological reflections. I was determined to read/listen to The Christian Imagination before reading/listening to Jennings’ newest book, After Whiteness: An Education in Belonging. The Christian Imagination is a dense 384 page book, contrasted with a slim 175 pages in After Whiteness. Both books serve a different purpose, but I am glad that I read them only a few months apart from each other. After Whiteness is heavy on personal storytelling from Jennings and focused primarily on the future of theological education. He is a brilliant scholar and I recommend his books for professional clergy or other faith leaders who want to dig into the history and future of race and the church.
My fourth and final read for February was a book that served as a companion during my retreat time at the hermitage. I started reading The Cloister Walk by Kathleen Norris while I was at New Camaldoli Hermitage in Big Sur. The chapters were short and perfect for devotional moments. I was introduced to Norris’ writing a few years ago when I read her 1993 book, Dakota: A Spiritual Geography. I love her poetic writing style and especially enjoyed her reflections on Benedictine spirituality. I highly recommend both The Cloister Walk and Dakota for anyone looking for spiritual writing to inspire their own faith reflections.
I am still on track for my reading goal of finishing 100 books in 2022. Happy reading!