People are valuable but broken.
We can never be whole if we refuse to believe we are broken.
Denying sin is the luxury of the privileged.
Accepting our sinfulness gives hope and health to our relationships.
“Big changes happen in small rooms” -Jenn Wilkin
If you live by praise you will die by criticism.
Be faithful to the end.
I know that some people only read fiction. But, overall, I am convinced people should read more fiction. Over the years I have had many people I respect tell me that fiction is a waste of time. I get what they were saying. Why read a bunch of trashy romance novels when you could read an inspiring biographies or a captivating account of history?
There are many great reasons to read fiction. In these times, I wish more people would read fiction to gain greater empathy. Most of us live very compartmentalized lives. We often hang out with people of the same race, economic status, religious belief or political persuasion. This has not produced a more caring society. We are a society that has become a stranger to ourselves.
Let me give one example. In the NFL protests, many players were “taking a knee” during the national anthem to protest the injustices that African-Americans were experiencing. I heard many, many opinions about these acts of protest. One thing that stunned me was this… not one person that disagreed with them showed much curiosity. I never heard something along these lines: “I am really shocked by this act, it feels so wrong to me. I really need to ask an African-American why they feel this is the right thing to do.” There was such a glaring lack of curiosity to truly understand one another.
We need less of, “What is wrong with those people?!” and more of, “What don’t I understand about their perspective?” It is not so much about having to agree with someone. I wish we had more curiosity which leads to empathy. Empathy is better than outrage when it comes to our disagreements.
May I just put it forward that reading more fiction books that tell of stories, lives and worlds that are different to our own can be one small way we can bridge this divide.
If you feel mystified or shocked at the viewpoints of another, fiction could be a great way to gain empathy and understanding. Even if you don’t agree, a good story might at least help you say, “I don’t agree but I do understand how they got there and I get it”
Here’s some recommendations from my reading in 2017:
Half of a Yellow Sun and Americanah:
by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
I loved Half of a Yellow Sun, the tale of a family experiencing the struggle for independence in Nigeria in the 1960’s. If you’ve heard of the many wars in Africa, this book will place you on the inside to taste, feel and experience what it is like with all it’s complexities. Great characters, great story. If you haven’t already, though, you could start with the author’s other book, Americanah. This is an absolute must read, I couldn’t put it down. It is the tale of a Nigerian couple immigrating to America. One makes it, the other doesn’t. Their journeys are captivating.
The Underground Railroad
by Colson Whitehead
This is the tale of an escaped slave girl in pre-abolition America. I loved this book because it was creative and you become very invested in the characters. The book has won multiple and well-deserved awards. Gripping, emotional and can’t put down.
The Round House
by Louise Edrich
I found this one by looking up National Book Award Winners. The setting is a Native American Reservation in North Dakota. A crime on the Ojibwe Reservation forever changes a family. This is the story of a young boys journey for justice and understanding. You will be immersed in a culture not your own. It is well worth your time.
My 12-year-old son was assigned this book in English class. I could tell it impacted him because he brought it up day after day. I decided to join him in reading it. It is fiction but based on true accounts of the authors family life. It is not an easy read at times. You see the reality of life for African-Americans during the Great Depression. It is well written, lovely characters and can really open up some interesting conversations if you happen to read it with your child. A good book read without your child too!
I’m so thankful I found a love of reading as a young girl and it has carried through my life. I do love reading but I also discipline myself to do it because I value how it shapes me. Early in my marriage I read a fair amount, averaging 30-40 books a year. The arrival of babies decimated that and, honestly, the internet happened. I found myself reading a lot more short articles, blogs, etc.
The last 4-5 years my kids have gotten older so I can now stay awake longer to read. I also have found that internet reading is not as helpful or enjoyable as reading books. I’ve had a goal for about 4 years to get back up to previous reading habits. I read 30 books in 2017 and enjoyed so many of them. A friend recently encouraged me to post them. Perhaps it will give you some ideas of books you might want to read. So, here is the list.
Just briefly, I have put in parenthesis the type of literature of each book. You will see that I read a pretty wide variety of styles. I have also put an asterisk by any book that I loved and would highly recommend. I plan to release a few more posts in the coming week on some highlights.
- Freakonomics by Levitt & Dubner (Finance)
- How to Rob a Bank by Levitt & Dubner (Finance)
- Shoe Dog by Phil Knight (Biography)*
- Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance (Memoir)*
- Brave Companions by David McCullough (American History)
- Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places by Eugene Peterson (Spiritual Theology)*
- Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (African/Historical Fiction)*
- You Are What You Love by James K.A. Smith (Christian-Teaching)
- Born A Crime by Trevor Noah (Memoir- South Africa)*
- The Bertie Project (44 Scotland Street Series) by Alexander McCall Smith (English Fiction)
- Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry (American Fiction)
- Ruthless by Ron Miscavige (Memoir, American)
- News of the World: A Novel by Paulette Jiles (American Fiction)
- Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist (Christian Living)
- The Round House by Louise Edrich (American Fiction)*
- Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right by Arlie Russell Hochschild
- The Amish by Steven M. Nolt (History/Current)
- The Way of the Dragon or The Way of the Lamb by Jamin Goggin and Kyle Strobel (Christian Teaching)*
- The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (African-American Fiction)*
- Growing Young by Powell, Mulder & Griffin (Christian Teaching)*
- What’s Wrong with Religion, by Skye Jethani (Christian Teaching)
- My Italian Bulldozer, by Alexander McCall Smith (English Fiction)
- Evicted, Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond (Non-Fiction/Current Events)
- Immeasurable by Skye Jethani (Christian Leadership)*
- Where’d You Go Bernadette? by Maria Semple (American Fiction)
- Crossing Over by Ruth Irene Garrett (Amish Memoir)
- My Amish Childhood by Jerry s. Eicher (Amish Memoir)
- The Perils of “Privilege”, Why Injustice Can’t be Solved by Accusing Others of Privilege by Phoebe Maltz Bovy (Non-Fiction/Current Events)
- White Working Class by Joan C. Williams (Current Events)*
- Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor (African-American Fiction)*