This Week’s Reading (July #4)

Last week I wrote how humans are made for beauty. This week I’m reading three books that explore this idea further.

life

  1. The Writing Life—This is Annie Dillard’s well-known meditation on the ironies and agonies of a writer’s work. Dillard’s words ring so true that this book constantly appears on lists of “best writing books.” Not only does Dillard speak the truth, she speaks it beautifully. Her style is sinuous and sensuous, full of rounded muscle.

  1. Though specifically about writing, Dillard’s insights apply to anyone trying to live a life that matters. In fact, rereading the first chapter was the impetus to write last week’s post about beauty. What Dillard says about writing applies to all areas of human creativity.
  2. “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives…There is no shortage of good days. It is good lives that are hard to come by” (32).

  3. Dillard isn’t interested in speculation. She cares about living well and writes in order to learn what this means. (Amazon: Print, Kindle)

between

  1. The In-Between: Embracing the Tension Between Now and the Next Big Thing—We often think that our lives are measured by successes and achievements, which are few. All the other days of our lives are spent getting ready for the big event.  Jeff Goins’s book is about living a good life in these “in-between” days.
  2. Goins explains the “in-between” through a comic book.  We all want our lives to look like the panes in a comic book—full of color, action, and exclamation points. But what happens between the panes? That’s where we spend most of our lives. Is it possible to live a good life in the “in-between”? Can we live fulfilled lives apart from the limelight and its frenetic punctuation?
  3. Goins explains that the good life—the beautiful life—is the one lived in the “in-between.” This is where life happens. If we try to escape it, we miss out on life. I haven’t read beyond the second chapter, but it looks promising. (Amazon: Print, Kindle)

seasons

  1. Sounding the Seasons—Malcolm Guite is a poet, Anglican priest, literature professor, and rock musician. He looks a bit like Gimli and writes poetry like Aragorn. He also happens to be my favorite living poet.
  2. I was more than pleased when he published a new book of poetry. Sounding the Seasons is a lengthy sonnet sequence arranged around the Church calendar. The entire sequence centers around a shorter group of fifteen sonnets on the Stations of the Cross—which alone are easily worth the cost of the book.
  3. Earlier this year several of my friends faced serious and sudden health problems. Guite’s “Stations” poems gave them great comfort. One poem in particular taught me more theology than a shelf of commentaries:
  4. Jesus Falls the Third Time
    He weeps with you and with you he will stay
    When all your staying power has run out
    You can’t go on, you go on anyway.
    He stumbles just beside you when the doubt
    That always haunts you, cuts you down at last
    And takes away the hope that drove you on.
    This is the third fall and it hurts the worst
    This long descent through darkness to depression
    From which there seems no rising and no will
    To rise, or breathe or bear your own heart beat.
    Twice you survived; this third will surely kill,
    And you could almost wish for that defeat
    Except that in the cold hell where you freeze
    You find your God beside you on his knees.

  5. I can’t recommend this book enough. Guite is a master of the sonnet form, and his poetry rings with wisdom.
  6. Read Dillard’s book to improve your work. Read Goins’s book to bolster your everyday living.  But read Guite’s book to make your soul fat. (Amazon: Print, Kindle)

(Note: The links in this post are affiliate links. So if you click through this post and order the book, Amazon will send me a half-penny of their profit. If you click through, thanks!  Even more, thanks for reading!)