(IF you’re looking for our “other” landing page this month, Interfaith Heroes, with the 31 daily stories through January — then Click Here and you’ll jump over now.)
Through the holidays, we accumulated quite a backlog of reader recommendations and now that we’ve reached the new year — let’s share some of these suggestions while we’ve still got a few holiday dollars left in our pockets, shall we?
You can purchase any of the following recommended titles by clicking on the covers to jump to our store. But, even if you’re not shopping today, you’ll enjoy hearing what other readers are thinking, reading and watching. So, here is our first “What are YOU reading?” of 2008:
Len W in Chicago emailed twice to ask when we were going to get around to highlighting Dr. Robert Millet’s new book with the Rev. Gregory Johnson, “Bridging The Divide: The Continuing Conversation Between a Mormon and an Evangelical.”
“I just can’t believe a lot of things I’m hearing people say about Mitt Romney’s faith — both his supporters and his opponents … and, try flipping on the TV for help? I don’t think so. … I’m saying this, not even because I’m Mormon myself. I’m Anglo-Catholic, but I’m a purist, I guess, for trying to be truthful when it comes to explaining religion.”
I agree completely with Len on this point. Popular media generally does a poor job in exploring the nuances of faith — and, when it comes to a subject as complex as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, well, there simply aren’t enough sound bytes on TV news shows to patch together an accurate portrait.
Last year, I met Dr. Millet in Utah and spent an afternoon interviewing him about his scholarly work. ReadTheSpirit is not affiliated with any religious denomination — but I can affirm that Millet is a brilliant man of great integrity. This nearly 200-page book is wisely designed by Millet and his co-author so that, as readers, we can sit back over several evenings and immerse ourselves in the gaps and in the connections between Mormon and evangelical Protestant theology.
What’s especially timely about this book in early 2008, in the midst of a national election year, is that it also serves as a revealing window into the complex efforts to try to find a common ground between these two movements that hold such influence over regional politics in the U.S. Take a look at some of the prominent evangelical names lined up in the opening pages of the book to endorse this effort. It’s a fascinating array of voices!
This is a rare and important book — a “must read” for anyone who is closely watching American faith, culture and politics.
Then, to prove that we’re not anti-television here at ReadTheSpirit, several readers have urged us to put in a good word, in advance, for a major, three-part PBS-television series debuting on January 9, called, “The Jewish Americans.”
“Teachers are going to want to record this one … I’ve got my machine all ready,” said Marilyn Holmes of Philadelphia. “This looks like it will be like so many of the other great PBS series.”
Well, you could record it. Or, this time, PBS is wisely putting the entire series up for sale in a DVD set (for under $30), which will ship to customers as soon as the three-week, six-hour series ends late this month.
“You ought to include just an item about this … People know so little about what’s really going on in people’s lives,” a grandmother who says she is proud of her “religiously blended family” near Seattle, wrote to us just before Christmas. “When we watch ‘White Christmas’ and ‘Holiday Inn’ with the family, do most of us even know the story of the Jewish immigrant who wrote all that great American music?”
Irving Berlin also wrote one of our nation’s signature songs, “God Bless America,” and his story is included with dozens of others in the series by David Grubin. Plan ahead now to watch it starting Wednesday night, and think about clicking on the title or the cover to check out the DVD set, as well.
PLUS — stay tuned to ReadTheSpirit. We plan to feature an interview with Grubin before the series debuts next week.
Finally, a reader who calls herself “Bixie” emailed to remind us that we promised to write more about comics and graphic novels — and Bixie, for one, felt we weren’t snappy enough about delivering.
“You were right in what you wrote in your articles about graphic novels and comics — everybody’s saying it now,” Bixie wrote. “The New York Times has gotten on the bandwagon now. … They’re recommending graphic novels pretty regularly.”
And, Bixie suggested a half dozen titles we should review, but especially one that also won the praise of the Times recently: Rutu Modan’s “Exit Wounds.”
“It’s not religion. That’s not what Rutu draws and writes about. It’s hope, really, and the kind of faith in people that, even though they may break your heart sometimes — there’s always this underlying love,” Bixie wrote.
Despite the praise by the Times, which also employs Modan occasionally, it took a while to get a copy of Modan’s graphic novel.
Meanwhile, I discovered that Modan has a wonderful collection of very unusual comic strips posted online in a Times Blog — http://modan.blogs.nytimes.com/ If you click on the link, you may need to fill out a free registration to the Times’ online site to view her blog. (My own personal favorites on her blog at the moment are: “How I Learned to Relax” and “The Queen of the Scottish Fairies.”)
Now, if you like what you see on Modan’s blog, envision “Exit Wounds” as bigger, deeper and far more spiritually subversive than anything that appears on her blog. I won’t spoil the final chapter of “Exit Wounds,” which is subtitled “Resurrection,” by giving away the overall direction of the plot. But, the graphic novel is billed as the story of a cynical Israeli taxi driver who sets out to discover the truth about his wayward father — after he hears that his down-on-his-luck Dad was murdered in a terrorist attack.
The graphic novel takes us into territory we never expect from the opening pages. And — word of warning — the book is not for young readers, even though it’s a graphic novel and Modan’s blog work looks quite heartwarming and family oriented.
Nope. I won’t tell you any more about “Exit Wounds” except to say — Bixie’s right. Get a copy. You’ve never read anything like it in the spiritual realm.
PLEASE TELL US: “What are YOU reading?” Or, “What are you seeing that inspires you?” We always welcome your suggestions of books, films, even TV shows or other media that move you spiritually.
THINK ABOUT FORMING a ReadTheSpirit discussion circle in the new year! Click Here to read our earlier “how-to-form-a-circle” story.
CLICK on the Comment link at the bottom of our online story to leave a Comment for all of our readers. Or, Click Here to email me, ReadTheSpirit Founding Editor David Crumm.