Love Is an Orientation by Andrew Marin – If I could pick one book I’ve read this year to have everyone I know read, it would be this one. The Church desperately needs this book and Marin’s message of love for the LGBT community. I can’t think of a way the American evangelical community has failed more completely in recent decades than in the treatment of gays and lesbians.
The first question any of us have (and this applies to both sides) when we hear about a book on this topic is, “Does he think it’s a sin or not?” Marin never says. He intentionally avoids answering this, because it sidesteps the central issue - we need to love these individuals regardless. I think he has an opinion on this, but he withholds it because an opinion either way would alienate part of his audience. His point is that whether you think same-sex activity is always sinful or not you still need to be showing love, listening better, and forming relationships with individuals in the LGBT community.
Regardless of where you stand on homosexuality as a sin, please read this book. There is really no context in which Marin’s ideas would not be beneficial.
Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf – Virginia Woolf’s writing is what I imagine sex to be like in old age. When it works for you it’s great and you feel rather buoyant and proud of yourself afterwards. When it doesn’t work for you it’s frustrating and you can’t shake that vague feeling of inadequacy and the suspicion that it was your own fault for not being up to the task. To the Lighthouse and A Room of One’s Own fit into the former category for me. Mrs. Dalloway fit into the latter. I will now go feel inadequate and try to figure out what went wrong. Maybe I was just tired. Maybe I mixed up the pill bottles again.
The Moviegoer by Walker Percy - You’ve probably heard this angsty, narcissistic anthem along the lines of Salinger tossed around as one of those books you just have to read, related to you in gushy tones by your college roommate or brother-in-law who has read it 13 times. Well, I did, and it was good. It wasn’t Salinger good, it wasn’t read-it-13-times good, but it was good. If you want Salinger’s cynicism, detachment and sarcasm wedded with a Tennessee Williams cast and setting, check it out. You will be amused, if nothing else.
Paul: in Fresh Perspective by N.T. Wright – About half way through this book I texted a friend to point out that Wright is somewhere between 10 and 20x’s smarter than I am. I’ve never read Wright, and I made the mistake of starting with one of his most cerebral and academic books. Paul is a sweeping overview of Paul’s theology across all his epistles, and what it excises for length it more than makes up for with depth. Every time I sat down to read this relatively short book (174 pages) I found myself having to reread certain paragraphs 2 or 3 times to fully grasp what Wright was getting at. He focuses upon the major themes of Paul’s work and illustrates how these themes are firmly rooted in -and in conversation with – first century Judaism. The most interesting chapters were those dealing with election, in which Wright puts forth the idea of election (if I understand him correctly) as primarily vocational rather than soteriological, though I need to read his books on justification and eternity to really flesh this out. This one is not for the faint of heart, but it was definitely a stimulating and rewarding read.
Quitter by Jon Acuff – I work at a bank. I want to sell books full time instead. Jon Acuff wants me to do this too. He’s here to help. For those of you familiar with the Stuff Christians Like blog Jon Acuff’s silly but effective humor will be familiar to you. I was surprised though to find his writing much more engaging in the book than his blog posts typically allow. He is still funny, but also makes some very practical and helpful suggestions for evaluating when and how to go from day job to dream job.