4. What was the best book you read?
I love this question and I will not do it justice tonight, at the end of a non-stop day spent catching up from the 2 delightful snowdays that kicked this week off. But in short order, my favorite books of 2013 were:
Christian Wiman, My Bright Abyss
Far and away the best book I read all year. Any words I tried to use to describe his descent into a cancerous hell and clawing ascent back into faith would belittle the beauty of his own. Mystic poet, bright-eyed observer of life and death, alum of Washington & Lee here in the Commonwealth. Just go read it.
Ruth Ozeki, A Tale for the Time Being
"Is it young adult fiction?" That's what I asked Kristine, the former youth group member who recommended it to me (I read an awful lot of young adult fiction these days, to keep up with my kids...dystopian literature is totally forming our young people today - be aware). It looks like young adult fiction, and the main character is a teenage girl. But it's not dystopian, or vampiric, or built on fantastic magical powers. It's about the tsunami, Buddhism, depression, and survival. And it is gorgeous.
Jill McCorkle, Life After Life
I'm not talking about the book with the exact same title, released the exact same year, by Kate Atkinson. That one was more popular, so I didn't read it. This one, though: shew. The main character volunteers in a small-town nursing home, and tells all those old people's stories. I could sit at the knees of octogenarians for weeks on end in real life, listening to their memories and probing for wisdom. That's what Jill McCorkle must have done, sometime in her life, to hit such a perfect tone of wistful humor in this one. I like McCorkle, I loved this book.
Sarah Coakley, God, Sexuality and the Self: An Essay on the Trinity
Woefully negligent in my reading of theology this year, I'm not even finished with Coakley's first volume of her systematics. But y'all: if she does in these volumes what she's setting out to do, then I think every theological question I have left will be handily dispensed with, answered. She comes at systematics wielding the concept of "theologie totale," intending to incorporate life - art, music, bodies, theory, intuition, practice - all of life into her theology. Read the book for the early theological outline of gender alone. Ordained as an Anglican priest after working for years in the heady world of the academy, Coakley's trying to orient us back toward a theology meant to be lived, practiced, embodied, incarnated. I love it.