December Books

These are the books that I completed reading in December.

  • In the Shadow of Memory by Floyd Skloot: This is one of those books that caught my attention while I was browsing through the library one day.  This book is a collection of essays telling Skloot’s story of living life after a virus had attacked his brain in 1988 and reads much like a memoir.  Skloot is a gifted writer, though he makes it clear that the work of the virus makes writing (and any number of routine tasks) anything but easy.  Skloot’s memory: of his history or the ability to remember what he was doing from one moment to the next – forms the backdrop for the questions that he asks of himself and about what it means to be human.  I really enjoyed reading this book and found it compelling, even if it stems from a very difficult past and present.  One thing really grabbed my attention:  “Chance is in charge.”  This conclusion of his life brought me great sadness, because it is not true.  Furthermore, Skloot does not really act like it is.  And yet, it is hard for some who have suffered greatly to not feel this way.
  • Whatever It TakesGeoffrey Canada’s Quest to Change Harlem and America by Paul Tough:  I was attracted to this book by an episode of This American Life.  Tough looks at Geoffrey Canada and the organization the Harlem Children’s Zone.  The book contains an interesting overview of various approaches to poverty that have been tried in the past and Canada’s approach to change Harlem.  Very good book.
  • Safe at Home by Richard Doster:  Richard Doster is the editor of ByFaith magazine (the official magazine of my denomination: Presbyterian Church in America).  This novel takes place in a generic southern town during the 1950’s and the plot centers around the integration of the local minor league baseball team.  Because it is hard for me to understand or imagine the kind of institutional racism (not to say it doesn’t still exist) that was present at this time, this was a very helpful book just from that point.  The story was also enjoyable, with characters that root for and empathize with.  My only complaint is that the story felt a little long and could have been brought to a conclusion sooner – though this may be in part due to my discomfort with the descriptions of racism and knowing that it wasn’t that long ago that “whites” were afraid to mix with “blacks”.
  • Meditating On the Word by Dietrich Bonhoeffer (-translated by David McI. Gracie):  The strength of this book is in Bonhoeffer’s encouragement to meditate upon God’s Word in the first portion of the book.  I had a harder time with the sermons which made up a large portion of the book – partially due to the style.  Still an encouragement me in my study and meditation of God’s Word.

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