What I’m Reading

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Selected PoemsJohn Updike. (Amazon|B&N)

This is a collection of poetry across the life of the famous writer. My favorite ones are from the later years, near Updike’s death, where he is unusually nostalgic and reflective of home. Updike once wrote, “Perhaps we meet heaven at the start and not the end of life.” Of course I disagree with him there, but I do think our start teaches us to long for the things we find at the end.

sarahGod or Nothing: A Conversation On Faith With Nicholas Diat, Robert Cardinal Sarah. (Amazon| B&N)

This series of interviews with a prominent African cardinal is particularly instructive given the Catholic church’s recent synod on the family. Cardinal Sarah is stout and unambiguous on issues of marriage and sexuality, as well as the need to maintain and emphasize the supernatural.

The Work of the Dead, Thomas Laqueur (Amazon|B&N)

This is morbid, I know. Nonetheless a Christian view of the present age must include an understanding of the body and the culture’s response to death. Reading this book reminds me of Hebrews 2:15: Apart from Christ we are all held in lifelong captivity through fear of death. The issues in this book range from questions about burial and cremation to cemeteries.

The Art of Memoir, Mary Karr (Amazon|B&N)

One of the leading lights of the contemporary memoir genre writes about her craft.

lyndonLady Bird and Lyndon: The Hidden Story of a Marriage That Made a President, Betty Boyd Caroli (Amazon|B&N

I listen about once a year to the recordings that President Johnson made in the Oval Office. Most intriguing to me about these recordings are the times when Lady Bird Johnson makes an appearance. She is, to me, one of the most fascinating First Ladies, and he President at one of the most complex times in US history.

My Life on the Road, Gloria Steinem (Amazon|B&N)

It’s hard to think of anyone in American life with whom I have sharper differences than Gloria Steinem. She is, of course, one of the pioneers of the modern feminist movement and its accompanying abortion rights movement. The book is dedicated to the abortionist who took the life of her child when she was 22. The book is a sad autobiography but one that points out, in one life, much of the cultural tumult we have experienced over the last fifty years.

Quack This Way: David Foster Wallace and Brian Garner Talk Language Writing (Amazon|B&N)wallace

This is a very good conversation between two thinkers on what it means to write, communicate and create. One fascinating anecdote for me is David Foster Wallace’s noting why he does not read reviews of his books. He says, “No, no, only because they make insane. Even if it’s a nice review, I’ll focus only one the one or two bad reviews.”

Jack Kemp: The Bleeding Heart Conservative Who Changed America, Morton Kondracke and Fred Barnes (Amazon|B&N)

I have this book marked up from cover to cover. Kemp was a great conservative catalyst, and one who persistently called on his party to be the party of Lincoln, standing up for civil rights against racial dogwhistles and immigrant bashing. Kemp was also deeply committed to the Christian faith, a theme that shows up often in this book. One anecdote I found particularly inspiring takes place when Kemp is running for president in 1988 and speaks at a fundraiser in my home state of Mississippi. Kemp is warned to avoid references to Lincoln and race, given the crowd in the room. As can be expected, Kemp spent the entire speech calling for a convictional embrace of civil rights and Lincoln’s ideas.

russell kirkRussell Kirk: American Conservative, Bradley Birzer (Amazon|B&N)

This book follows the life and thought of one of the most important thinkers of the last century. Kirk was a complicated figure. He was a political writer who distrusted ideology and wrote ghost stories. The book weaves between personal biography and history of ideas in a helpful way.

J.I. Packer: An Evangelical Life, Leland Ryken (Amazon|B&N)

Packer is one of my heroes. He is one of the brilliant lights of contemporary evangelicalism, who has demonstrated throughout his life a genuine, personal, close walk with Christ, and a refusal to see himself as anything other than a sinner saved by grace. I love the man, and so far, I love this book.

The Givenness of Things, Marilynne Robinson (Amazon|B&N)

Robinson is one of the most adept writers of the modern age at crafting beautiful truths beautifully. Her collection of essays stimulates my thought almost as much as her fiction, especially her collection The Death of Adam. I have just started this book and look forward to profiting from it.

Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights, Salman Rusdhie (Amazon|B&N)

This book is by the controversial author of The Satanic Verses, who became an international symbol of religious freedom and free speech after a fatwa was put on his life by radical Islamic authorities due to his depiction of the prophet Mohammed. This book is quite different; it is based on the imagery of 1,001 Nights. Rusdhie explores the interactions of the jinn, spirit beings from Arabic mythology and Islamic lore, with human beings from contemporary America. I find the book fascinating even though I am not far into it yet, because it comes from a committed atheist who nonetheless shows a longing for something supernatural, even if it is not God.

Only when we see how lost we are, we can find our way again. Only when we bury what’s dead can we experience life again. Only when we lose our religion can we be amazed by grace again.


About Russell Moore

Russell Moore is Editor in Chief of Christianity Today and is the author of the forthcoming book Losing Our Religion: An Altar Call for Evangelical America (Penguin Random House).