Here are two seasonal reading items. The first is for Lent, a time for reflection and thinking about faith. The second is for National Poetry Month, which is April, but I have to read ahead to have time to get the reviews up. I have to say that both of these topics are tricky for me. I consider myself a Christian, but find a lot of thinking on the topic grating and narrow-minded and sometimes downright creepy. Poetry, too, I like in theory, but often have trouble getting into. In fact, I gave up on the first poetry book I tried for this review. However, both of these books are excellent, highly enjoyable and easy to get into, even if they aren’t your usual genre.
Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott In this collection of highly personal essays, Lamott explores what it means to be a Christian who believes in peace, love, and caring for the poor in an America involved in an unjust war in Iraq and on the poor. There’s also a number of thoughts on parenting a teenage boy. Although the attitude on politics and religion is much the same at my own church, seeing a published author who differs so from the vocal right-wing Christians is highly reassuring. Lamott’s writing is simply masterful. Like tupelo, she is able to write about a depressing topic in a way that is still laugh-out-loud funny. Her honesty in talking about the difficulty of living up to her own ideals – as in the essay “Loving the President: Day Two” – is both laudable and deeply touching. She’s reached that magical place where feelings are so personal as to be profoundly universal. This isn’t hair-splitting theology, and it’s not just for Christians. Read it.
The Trouble with Poetry and other poems by Billy Collins Do you know who the current Poet Laureate of the United States is? I don’t, so perhaps I shouldn’t be too surprised that I didn’t know that Billy Collins used to be, a couple of years ago. Anyway, after reading this book, I think he deserved it. The poems are lovely to listen to (at least inside my head), small reflections on the oddities of life that are beautiful without requiring a lot of effort to understand. Which I think might be considered good poetry, but is not the kind of thing that I have energy for. My favorite poem, I think, was “The Lanyard”, where he reflects on a lanyard he made for his mother in summer camp, naively considering that the small gift would repay the work she had done for him. “Here are thousands of meals, she said/ and here is clothing and a good education. /And here is your lanyard, I replied,/which I made with a little help from a counselor.”