Top Ten Books of 2009, Number One

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Wendell Berry, Leavings: Poems

For years, I’ve read one of Wendell Berry’s “Sabbath Poems” every Sunday afternoon. I rarely stop thinking about it throughout the week.

I’ve said earlier that this list of ten books is in random order and, for the most part, that’s true. But this one deserves to be number one on my list (even though it is technically copyrighted 2010).

This collection of poems is reflective, a looking back on a life lived, and a reaffirmation of the things Mr. Berry has long been about: place, land, community, fidelity, mystery. Some of the poems are explicitly thoughtful. Some of them are playful. Here’s an example from Mr. Berry’s poem “On the Theory of the Big Bang as the Origin of the Universe”:


What banged?


Before banging

how did it get there?


When it got there

where was it?

My favorite poem in the collection, I think, is “An Embarrassment” about what it would be like to really, truly pray. The poem prompted me to think about the nature of the “Abba” cry, and what it would look like to pray like that, without shame or fear of man.

I’m going to review this book longer elsewhere, but let me commend it to you for 2010. These poems are true, good, and beautiful. They seem to be written by a man who can’t help but be a covert Trinitarian, in spite of it all (or maybe because of it all).

The culture is changing but it can be good news for the church.


Onward cover

About Russell Moore

Russell Moore

Russell Moore is president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, the moral and public policy agency 
of the nation’s largest Protestant denomination.

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