This past year I read around the same number of books that I read the year prior. I mention this only because it indicative of the way that the pandemic has impacted my time and ability to focus. These last two years I have read far less than at almost any other point in my life. I am hoping that will shift this year. I have a sabbatical planned for June through August and the pandemic has entered a new phase. It isn’t less stressful, for me at least, or less tragic or contentious but I have noticed that in the last couple of months I have been able to focus more successfully.
As is usually the case, an awful lot of my reading was work related. I did read some graphic novels and a couple of works of fiction that were not related to either preaching, my ministry, or my scholarship, but not a lot.
I didn’t read anything particularly bad this year. So, I don’t have any suggestions on what people shouldn’t be reading. As for what folks should read, I loved the opportunity to work with Libuse Jarcovjakova on an article in the Danish magazine KATALOG about her photography. Her images are powerful and I highly recommend her books.
I found Steven Hanh and Nancy Fraser to both be helpful in my ongoing work on populism. Frances Ellen Watkins Harper’s Iola Leroy is very much a Unitarian novel. I appreciated both how present classical Unitarian Christianity was present within it and how she engaged with the tradition and challenged it from her perspective as an African American woman and abolitionist. I plan to write about her a little in my forthcoming book on contemporary Unitarian Universalist theologies, particularly as I engage with the work of Chris Cameron and Mark Morrison-Reed.
Elaine Pagels, Karen King, and Mary Shelley all either guided or made direct appearances in some of my preaching. Peter Gomes’s work helped with think about how I craft a sermon.
In response to feedback I got from my reading list last year I made a concerted effort to read more by women and non-binary people. I was somewhat successful in this effort but ran into the problem that a large amount of the work on populism that exists has been written by men. I did try to balance this by being intentional in my choices for fiction and graphic novels. That helped some, though I could have done better in that department as well. I think that this year I will probably achieve a bit more of a balance since most of my scholarly reading will not be on populism but on contemporary Unitarian Universalist theology. I plan to devote substantive portions of my book to folks like Sharon Welch, Thandeka, Rebecca Parker, and Tisa Wenger.
The book group I lead at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Houston is focused between now and December on the question: What is Unitarian Universalism? Next month we will be looking at An Introduction to the Unitarian and Universalist Traditions by Andrea Greenwood and Mark Harris. Then in March and April we’ll be turning to recent work by Sharon Welch and Tony Pinn before turning to a novel of some kind in May. In October, November, and December I plan to invite people to read chapter drafts of my book in progress. Contact the church office if you would like to join us. Everyone’s welcome.
Preacher, Book Five, Garth Ennis
The Betrothed, Alessandro Manzoni
A Nation Under Our Feet: Black Political Struggle in the Rural South from Slavery to the Great Migration, Steven Hanh
Reading Judas: The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity, Elaine Pagels and Karen King
The Fire Next Time, James Baldwin
Iola Leroy, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper
Continental Philosophy and Theology, Colby Dickinson
Hellblazer: Original Sins, Vol. 1, Jamie Delano
The Gnostic Gospels, Elaine Pagels
Quicksand, Nella Larsen
Deathworld 3, Harry Harrison
Ku-Klux: The Birth of Klan during Reconstruction, Elaine Frantz Parsons
The Hitler Conspiracies, Richard Evans
From Slavery to the Cooperative Commonwealth: Labor and Republican Liberty in the Nineteenth Century, Alex Gourevitch
Apostles of Change: Latino Radical Politics, Church Occupations, and the Fight to Save the Barrio, Felipe Hinojosa
Homegoing, Yaa Gyasi
Creating Capabilities: The Human Development Approach, Martha Nussbaum
At Bertram’s Hotel, Agatha Christie
Braiding Sweetgrass, Robin Wall Kimmerer
Dorohedoro, Vol. 1, Q Hayashida
Dreaming in Cuban, Cristina Garcia
National Populism: The Revolt Against Liberal Democracy, Roger Eatwell and Matthew Goodwin
The Old Is Dying and the New Cannot Be Born, Nancy Fraser
I write you nothing, Libuse Jarcovjakova
Evokativ, Libuse Jarcovjakova
Worlds of Dissent: Charter 77, The Plastic People of the Universe, and Czech Culture under Communism, Jonathan Bolton
Once Upon a Time in France, Fabien Nury
Batman: The Long Halloween, Jeph Loeb
Communist Czechoslovakia, 1945-1989: A Political and Social History Kevin McDermott
All the Kings Men, Robert Penn Warren
Radical Chic & Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers, Tom Wolfe
The Vinyl Underground: Watching the Detectives, Si Spencer
Love Beyond Belief: Finding the Access Point to Spiritual Awareness, Thandeka
Monstress, Vol. 6, Marjorie Liu
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, fiction, Philip K. Dick
War Against War: The American Fight for Peace 1914-1918, Michael Kazin
Sermons: Biblical Wisdom for Daily Living, Peter Gomes
The Day the Klan Came to Town, Bill Campbell
Frankenstein, Mary Shelley
Dune, Frank Herbert
The Populist Vision, Charles Postel
Dominique Laveau, Voodoo Child Vol. 1: Requiem, Selwyn Seyfu Hinds
Phoolan Devi, Rebel Queen, Claire Fauvel
Grassroots Garveyism: The Universal Negro Improvement Association in the Rural South, 1920-1927, Mary Rolinson
John Constantine, Hellblazer Vol. 4, Jamie Delano, Neil Gaiman, and Grant Morrison
Residence on Earth, Pablo Neruda
Letters written in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark, Mary Wollstonecraft
Father Christmas Goes on Holiday, Raymond Briggs
Africa: Gems and Jewels, Carrie Mae Weems