It’s fairly plain lately that the book du jour is Frank Viola and George Barna’s Pagan Christianity: Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices… at least that’s what everyone is talking about. My review copy arrived the other day and I leafed through it, but pressed ahead to finish Elizabeth Hay’s Late Nights on Air, which won her the Giller Prize last month. Today as I finished the novel, two more books arrived in the mail, The Books of the Bible (a reorganized TNIV), and the tantalizingly-titled Life After Church: God’s Call to Disillusioned Christians by Brian Sanders. My first thought was that it should make a nice companion to Pagan Christianity.
Around Christmas time — Christmas eve, to be exact — I set aside Conrad Gempf’s excellent Mealtime Habits of the Messiah: 40 Encounters with Jesus and William Duggan’s Strategic Intuition: The Creative Spark in Human Achievement (Columbia Business School), both of which I had started into and was rather enjoying. I also set aside a stack of about 15 other books I wanted to be or should have been reading, and picked up John Grisham’s Playing For Pizza: A Novel. I told my wife it was for medicinal purposes. That only lasted a day, and I was on to Peter Mayle’s A Good Year, which I’d been meaning to read for a while, but, well, it was just a novel. Next it was Joanne Harris’ Blackberry Wine: A Novel, and only then did I progress to Elizabeth Hay’s latest, cashing in a gift card I got for Christmas.
I got onto a bit of a roll with all the fiction, and I must say the therapy has been great. Sometimes I get bogged down, and these days I’ve been reading a fair bit more than usual from dead trees rather than off the LCD screen. I’m looking at some of the aforementioned nonfiction again though, and I think I’ll be headed that direction next, despite Yann Martel’s Life of Pi is taunting me (winner of the Booker Prize), and my wife hasn’t yet returned the borrowed copies of The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns that everyone keeps saying, “Oh, you haven’t read that yet? Oh, you have to read it…” Then too, there’s Miriam Toews’ A Complicated Kindness: A Novel tucked away in one of those piles… it won the Governor General’s Award for Fiction a couple of years ago.
You may notice a trend in my current list of fiction works… apart from the “medicinal” volume that got me going, they all represent good writing, prize-worthy in many cases. I’m hoping to absorb some good writing ability by osmosis. I expect I’ll slow down again as the year progresses, but one of my best reads of 2007 was in a January flurry of reading, and the book I already suspect of being one of my top reads for 2008 is on the above list… and it may not be the one you think it is.