Things have been pretty quiet over here at the blog lately. Between end-of-summer festivities and the start of a new school year, it’s just been awfully busy around here lately. But I decided to take a little time and write about some of what I’ve been reading and listening to this summer.
City of Mirrors by Justin Cronin
If you’re into post-apocalyptic fiction, then you’re probably already aware of Cronin’s masterful Passage series. I picked up a copy of The Passage a few years ago during a weeklong intensive course in Abilene and I devoured it in a week (all 700+ pages of it). City of Mirrors is the long-awaited conclusion to Cronin’s centuries-spanning trilogy in the wake of a viral epidemic (and I mean “viral” quite literally). I won’t give away any of the plot details but this final installment was satisfying on so many levels. Cronin swings for the fences here, aiming at a narrative that works at a meta-level while still delivering epic action and a gratifying end for our favorite characters. In my opinion, he nailed the ending. A great summer read that poses thoughtful questions about life, myth, civilization, and our deep-seeded narratival nature.
The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss
A couple of good friends recommended this series to me after I wrapped up City of Mirrors. Rothfuss’s tale of Kvothe, a valiant adventurer narrating his story to a young scribe, has more of an “old world” feel to it, much like Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. But it’s everything you want in a good story. I just completed the second entry in the trilogy and I can’t wait for the final chapter to be released. If you’re a fan of Martin’s work, you should slip seamlessly into Rothfuss’s fully alive universe.
Sabbath as Resistance: Saying No to the Culture of Now by Walter Brueggemann
So far, my favorite non-fiction read of the summer. Brueggemann has loomed large in academic theological circles for decade. But this highly accessible little volume deftly weaves biblical insight with pastoral sensibility to produce a prophetic word for an anxious, over-worked culture. Brueggemann gives the Sabbath back to us, not as a commandment so much as an invitation to life:
“The way of mammon (capital, wealth) is the way of commodity that is the way of endless desire, endless productivity, and endless restlessness without any Sabbath. Jesus taught his disciples that they could not have it both ways.”
Elsewhere, Brueggemann notes, “Moses knows that prosperity breeds amnesia.” We see, then, the practice of Sabbath rest as an act of resistance and remembering, keeping the deity of commerce and produce at bay as we embrace the Lord of rest. The book itself is not cumbersome either, an embodiment of the rest toward which Brueggemann directs us. Read these life-giving words.
Up, Up, and Away: The Kid, The Hawk, Rock, Vladi, Pedro, Le Grand Orange, Youppi!, The Crazy Business of Baseball, and the Ill-fated but Unforgettable Montreal Expos by Jonah Keri
You’ll have to forgive the clunky title. Keri, of Grantland and Baseball Prospectus fame, compiles an oral history of baseball’s red-headed stepchild, the doomed-from-the-start Montreal Expos. This thorough expose (sorry) is immersive and completely fascinating. This was my baseball read this summer and I wasn’t disappointed. Hardcore baseball fans need to read this one.
A Moon Shaped Pool by Radiohead
I’ve always followed Radiohead from somewhat of a distance. I liked their 90s stuff, but somewhere around Kid A, they kind of lost me. I just struggled to “get” their turn-of-the-millennium stuff. I loved In Rainbows; not so much King of Limbs. But this is the first Radiohead release I consumed in “real time” and I’m pretty sure it’s my Album of the Year. First, the music. This is some of the most beautiful music they’ve produced to date, accented by Jonny Greenwood’s haunting string arrangements. But the real draw here is the message. Filled with evocative allusions to paranoia and panic (what else would you expect from Radiohead), “Burn the Witch” is the most prescient song of 2016. No other set of songs so perfectly encapsulates our collective angst and fears more than this one.