Read These Books To Survive These Times

Read These Books To Survive These Times October 14, 2017

Certain books written in this season are especially well-suited to survival. They’re the proper mix of readable, inspiring, and strategic. These days, it’s essential to see things as they are, and discover the tools necessary to overcome the anxiety born of responsibility stripped of agency.

My favorite by far is Al Franken’s Giant of the Senate. Not only is it sidesplittingly hilarious, it also will teach you more about political strategy than any serious tome. Learn about “the pivot,” political cover, campaigning, bipartisan strategy, with an extra helping of backstory on Saturday Night Live.

After Franken, take time to read Hillary Clinton’s What Happened. You’ll be caught off-guard by her humility and self-searching analysis of “what happened.” She’s written the book to inspire those who read it with practical steps forward from here.

I listened to both Franken and Clinton on Audible, and I highly recommend listening to the books, as they are read by their authors.

Next, I recommend you read writers on writing. My favorites of late are Toni Morrison’s The Origin of Others and John McPhee’s Draft No. 4: On the Writing Process. Morrison analyzes the themes in her own works, which will be of interest to everyone who has read her novels and wonders how she has accomplished so much that resonates with readers. McPhee is simply glorious in his prose, and will inspire you at every turn. You’ll want to write better, which in an era when great prose is in short supply, is crucial.

I tend to believe some of what is exhausting progressives in this era is their erroneous assumption that world is ineluctably moving forward and improving. It isn’t. False forms of hope often protect oppressive structures, and De La Torre argues that we must “mess with” the structures themselves by Embracing Hopelessness.

This also means all of us, leaders in faith communities, needs to discover better avenues for Caring for Souls in a Neoliberal Age. Many previous forms of soul-care, seelsorge, pastoral ministry, were designed for a church that no longer exists, in a historical period that we’ve moved beyond. Today instead we’re trying to figure out how (not) to be secular, which is a different assignment altogether.

We’re also trying to figure out how to “not die” (see The Lego Movie). For that reason, we need books like Leah Schade’s on Creation-Crisis Preaching, because we need a way of talking about the faith sensitive to eco-feminism, a language of faith committed to creation care and lifting strengthening women in community.

Finally, I recommend pre-ordering Faith In Action: A Handbook for Activists from the Faith in Action Writing Collective. Just in time for Christmas, it will offer practical direction for action by advocates, allies, and activists.

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