Sunday, February 1, 2009

Happy Reading Trails to You

Books. Can’t read all of them. Can’t part with them either.

I thought as I moved books from my nightstand to the bookshelf, I could say a word about the book itself or its effect on me.

Carolyn Jourdan’s Heart in the Right Place came at the right time to meet my own anxieties about ambition and place. What should a person settle for when it comes to the dreams for which one has spent years preparing? Where exactly should a person settle in terms of all the geographic possibilities? Can a life of service to few people you actually know account for more good than work done on behalf of millions of people you don’t know? Carolyn's story shows how those questions got answered in her life; she left the heady, rarified political environment inside the Beltway and settled back home in the hills of East Tennessee, working as a receptionist in her father’s medical practice. This story highlights both landing in the right place and a person’s right heart. 

It’s All Too Much by Peter Walsh walks you through the steps needed not just to declutter your house but also to rid your life of the unnecessary burden of keeping up with all this stuff. “It is not about the stuff … it’s people lives hinge on what they own instead of who they are.” Peter unearths the problem of people’s relationship to their stuff and how it robs them of the life they want to live. It’s all too much to quote, but a couple I repeat every day. “If you don’t start piles they can’t grow” and “Make your bed. You’re not in High School anymore.”

Kate Braestrup tells her story in Here if You Need Me. As a young widow, she went to seminary—an attempt to carry out her husband’s dreams­— explaining to those who asked her, “I’m here because Drew isn’t.” Left with four young children after her husband was killed in an automobile accident, she could never have envisioned a career as chaplain to game wardens in Maine. The life-or-death situations she describes, the way her theological education and her own life experience trained her to respond—her ability to empathize with those in crisis—makes a compelling read. Because she declares herself a “Unitarian Universalist,” readers should expect to question some of her surmising about God. But it will remain hard to question her tender heart.

The book most difficult for me to discuss is Greg Mortenson’s Three Cups of Tea. I stared at the cover photos of young girls every time I picked up the book, especially into the face of a girl on the back. A fantastic story, yes, everyone should read this book, on the NYT bestseller list for 102 weeks and counting. American Mortenson’s failed ascent of K2—what climbers consider the world’s deadliest mountain—landed Greg in a remote village in Pakistan. Among these Moslem people the bonds of gratitude, respect and friendship resulted in his making a promise to come back to build a school. An extraordinary story both in its vision and panorama of human needs, Mortenson avoids any explanation of what spiritually sustains him. Something more than humanitarian impulse though has to account for the good works, especially life changing for girls. Schools constructed on the other side of the world bear witness to who or what more than why. 

Remember, a book is only as good as it is timely. 

1 comment:

Ender said...

And now you've added at least two more titles to my ever-growing books-to-read list!