The only things I like better than reading books are talking about books and writing books. That’s what made my first book-length writing project, Besides the Bible: 100 Books that Have, Should, or Will Create Christian Culture (InterVarsity Press, 2010), which I co-wrote with a couple of friends, so much fun. It gave me a chance to do all three. Our goal was simple: to get Christians talking about really good books. Besides the Bible was a collection of 100 essays about 100 books we think every Christian should read. My co-authors and I wrote 70 of the essays. The remaining essays were written by 30 of our favorite writers, thinkers, pastors, and artists, including the authors of Blue Like Jazz and The Shack.
C.S. Lewis said, “We read to know that we are not alone.” Anne Lamott echoes this sentiment in Bird by Bird when she says that writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation, while deepening and widening and expanding our sense of life. Reading, writes Lamott, gives us “a shot at dancing with, or at least clapping along with, the absurdity of life, instead of being squashed by it over and over again. It’s like singing on a boat during a terrible storm at sea. You can’t stop the raging storm, but singing can change the hearts and spirits of the people who are together on that ship.”
Now that the Besides the Bible project is over, I’m still reading and writing books – my second book, Slow Church, will be published by IVP in 2013 – but I miss talking about them with friends. I miss singing together on the ship, so to speak. Suspecting I might not be alone, I recently talked to the elders about starting a book club.
The Besides the Bible Book Club (so named because it shares the same goals and spirit of the book) will be a conversation about really good books, and about reading and the power of language. Though the books we discuss will vary in kind – fiction, nonfiction, essays, and poetry; explicitly Christian and not – what they have in common is that they will be books of substance, with the power to surprise, delight, challenge, and change us.
Here are the logistics: We’re going to meet the third Saturday of every month from 8:00 to 9:30 a.m. at Gear-Up coffee shop. Our first gathering will be June 16, when we will be discussing Marilynne Robinson’s profoundly beautiful novel, Gilead. The second gathering will be on July 21 and the book will be Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, by Annie Dillard. Bring your book ideas to the June 16 gathering; that morning, we will vote on books for the rest of 2012. I’m also going to provide the church library with two copies of each month’s books.
All this information will appear again as a flyer in this week’s bulletin, along with a short excerpt from Gilead. If you have questions, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Happy reading! – John Pattison