A significant portion of my reading time this summer will be consumed with working toward completing the “Required Reading List” to become in fellowship with the Unitarian Universalist Association. At last count, I have approximately 38 more books to go! I’ll try to post about some of the more interesting ones on this blog.
In the meantime, however, I do plan to squeeze in some fiction this summer, hopefully at least the following two titles:
Golden Boy: A Novel by Abigail Tarttelin:
The Walker family is good at keeping secrets from the world. They are even better at keeping them from each other. Max Walker is a golden boy. Attractive, intelligent, and athletic, he’s the perfect son, the perfect friend, and the perfect crush for the girls in his school. He’s even really nice to his little brother. Karen, Max’s mother, is a highly successful criminal lawyer, determined to maintain the façade of effortless excellence she has constructed through the years. Now that the boys are getting older, now that she won’t have as much control, she worries that the façade might soon begin to crumble. Adding to the tension, her husband, Steve, has chosen this moment to stand for election to Parliament. The spotlight of the media is about to encircle their lives. The Walkers are hiding something, you see. Max is special. Max is different. Max is intersex. When an enigmatic childhood friend named Hunter steps out of his past and abuses his trust in the worst possible way, Max is forced to consider the nature of his well-kept secret….
Blasphemy: New and Selected Stories by Sherman Alexie:
A bold and irreverent observer of life among Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest, the daring, versatile, funny, and outrageous Alexie showcases all his talents in his newest collection, where he unites fifteen beloved classics with fifteen new stories in one sweeping anthology for devoted fans and first-time readers
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In anticipation of Eboo Patel delivering the prestigious Ware Lecture at the Unitarian Universalist General Assembly in Louisville, KY later this month, I plan to read his new book Sacred Ground: Pluralism, Prejudice, and the Promise of America:
Patel shows us that Americans from George Washington to Martin Luther King Jr. have been “interfaith leaders,” illustrating how the forces of pluralism in America have time and again defeated the forces of prejudice. And now a new generation needs to rise up and confront the anti-Muslim prejudice of our era. To this end, Patel offers a primer in the art and science of interfaith work, bringing to life the growing body of research on how faith can be a bridge of cooperation rather than a barrier of division and sharing stories from the frontlines of interfaith activism. Patel asks us to share in his vision of a better America—a robustly pluralistic country in which our commonalities are more important than our differences, and in which difference enriches, rather than threatens, our religious traditions. Pluralism, Patel boldly argues, is at the heart of the American project, and this visionary book will inspire Americans of all faiths to make this country a place where diverse traditions can thrive side by side.
Additionally, I’ve been so impressed with the book Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Gunaratana that my congregation’s Buddhist group has been studying that I plan to read the sequel Beyond Mindfulness in Plain English: An Introductory guide to Deeper States of Meditation:
Gunaratana, a monk from Sri Lanka and venerated teacher of Buddhism, presents levels of concentration with the same simplicity and humor that made the previous book so successful. The focus here is on the Jhanas, those meditative states of profound stillness and concentration in which the mind becomes fully immersed and absorbed in the chosen object of attention. Using the Jhanas to guide readers along the path to joy, happiness, equanimity, and one-pointedness, the author provides all of the instruction necessary to utilize meditation as a tool for building a more fulfilling life.
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In discussing this list with my beautiful and talented wife, who will graduate in August with a M.F.A. in Creative Non-Fiction from Goucher College, she recommends the following two books for your summer reading pleasure:
Dandelion Hunter: Foraging the Urban Wilderness by Rebecca Lerner:
In this engaging and eye-opening read, forager-journalist Becky Lerner sets out on a quest to find her inner hunter-gatherer in the city of Portland, Oregon. After a disheartening week trying to live off wild plants from the streets and parks near her home, she learns the ways of the first people who lived there and, along with a quirky cast of characters, discovers an array of useful wild plants hiding in plain sight. As she harvests them for food, medicine, and just-in-case apocalypse insurance, Lerner delves into anthropology, urban ecology and sustainability, and finds herself looking at Nature in a very different way. Humorous, philosophical, and informative, Dandelion Hunter has something for everyone, from the curious neophyte to the seasoned forager.
Fairyland: A Memoir of My Father by Alysia Abbott:
After his wife dies in a car accident, bisexual writer and activist Steve Abbott moves with his two-year-old daughter to San Francisco. There they discover a city in the midst of revolution, bustling with gay men in search of liberation—few of whom are raising a child. Steve throws himself into San Francisco’s vibrant cultural scene. He takes Alysia to raucous parties, pushes her in front of the microphone at poetry readings, and introduces her to a world of artists, thinkers, and writers. But the pair live like nomads, moving from apartment to apartment, with a revolving cast of roommates and little structure. As a child Alysia views her father as a loving playmate who can transform the ordinary into magic, but as she gets older Alysia wants more than anything to fit in. The world, she learns, is hostile to difference. In Alysia’s teens, Steve’s friends—several of whom she has befriended—fall ill as AIDS starts its rampage through their community. While Alysia is studying in New York and then in France, her father tells her it’s time to come home; he’s sick with AIDS. Alysia must choose whether to take on the responsibility of caring for her father or continue the independent life she has worked so hard to create. Reconstructing their life together from a remarkable cache of her father’s journals, letters, and writings, Alysia Abbott gives us an unforgettable portrait of a tumultuous, historic time in San Francisco as well as an exquisitely moving account of a father’s legacy and a daughter’s love.
What are you looking forward to reading this summer? Or what else should I be reading? I welcome your feedback in the comments section.
The Rev. Dr. Carl Gregg is a trained spiritual director, a D.Min. graduate of San Francisco Theological Seminary, and the minister of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Frederick, Maryland. Follow him on Facebook (facebook.com/carlgregg) and Twitter (@carlgregg).
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