My Top Five Books of 2019 (Nathan Carr)

Thank God I still read because I want to read.  I’m sure it’s the best kind of pressure—the pressure to read, that is.  But if ‘positive’ peer pressure had its way, I fear I would drown in leadership books about how to accomplish more by doing less (or some such).  My own ideas for books on leadership 14 school-years later are closer to:  Launching a Christian School in Classics:  It Might Kill You (and in case you think I haven’t had a blast doing it, the post-script would be:  All Loves Excelling:  How Easily we Decided Against the Winter Solstice Celebration in favor of the Feast of the Incarnation While Maintaining a Love for the Yule Log).  Would that every decision had been that easy such that I could recommend everyone starting a school.

Either way, I read some stuff this year.  Here goes:

  1. Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann

First given to me by a child at my school (whose own grandfather is featured in the book), this darker chapter of Oklahoma’s past is given its due from New York author David Grann in Killers of the Flower Moon. His dynamic prose keeps pace with the anxious unfolding of its subject—the abject mistreatment of an already displaced people. Small glimmers of redemption shine through, as they always do; persons of moral courage whose sense of justice flies in the face of greed. I’m glad I read it, and will be excited to see the film when it is released.

  1. The Sickness Unto Death by SØren Kierkegaard

This chipper classic (ha) takes Denmark’s most grumpy churchman and proves his enduring value to the likes of Karl Barth.  You should read this book.  It’s bleak, but not in the way you’re expecting.  Sin’s displacement of the self creates a narrative of despair that is both a gift and a psychosis.  Kierkegaard knows this first-hand, and while his prose is difficult (philosophical), his diagnosis is chillingly accurate and clear.  You may need to go to a candy store after each reading and buy several pounds of bubble gum out of beautiful glass jars for a little retail therapy.

  1. The Complete English Poems by George Herbert

Is he the single greatest English poet?  Well don’t ask me while I’m reading this volume, because I will answer ‘yes’ without hesitation.  Here are a few favorites: Prayer 1, The Agony, Love 3, Jordan 2, and Bunch of Grapes.  And speaking of chipper, Herbert has the ability to give a soaring sense of love and hope without sounding naïve or simplistic.  His feet are on the ground, even if his quill has mapped heaven itself.  It’s been said in a hundred ways, but people not reading poetry are distancing themselves unnecessarily from the kind of writing best representative of the world, the way it’s made, and the way it works.  Join the dance by reading slant.

  1. Cur Deus Homo by Anselm

It was such a good reminder for me that Anselm’s Proslogion was not written in symbolic logic.  It’s a prayer.  And it helped me pray.  In fact, it reminded me, oddly enough, of some old Hauerwas quips about Christian ethics flowing from Eucharistic practice and prayer.  Perhaps our ‘proof’ of God comes from the same?  Either way, Anselm is to be first remembered as a doctor of prayer before he is debated as a syllogistic God-defender.  Oh, and Anselm as a crushing Penal Substitutionary Atonement theorist who’s ready for some Divine child abuse to get fired up already?  Overkill.  He does want the wrath of God addressed, but not because God’s head might explode if he doesn’t unload it already.  His argument lies well within the Divine character that is both without parts or passions.

  1. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J. K. Rowling

Are you kidding me?  Dumbledore’s Army?  I’m a sucker for HP, and the Harry on the other side of Cedric’s death always grips me in a unique way.  The Phoenix as a central character (and therefore metaphor) makes her comfort with a theme of redemption all too obvious.  She pokes at both sides of human (church) entrapment as well:  Pharisaism and Gnosticism.  Twin pet-sin sisters that help us escape the intensity of love when it stings.  Unfortunately, they also lead to horror, and Rowling (thankfully) knows this.  And yes, Harry is not always obedient.




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