Word from Winkler — Summer reading

What are you reading these days? I confess that at any given moment I am reading too many books at the same time. Reading is hugely important to me and has been since I was a little boy. I've taken a book with me just about everywhere I go since I was five or six years old. I can't stand the idea of being stuck somewhere without something to read. Here are a few books I am still reading or have recently completed:

  • Christianity for the Rest of Us: How the Neighborhood Church is Transforming the Faith by Diana Butler Bass. The book is Bass' record of and reflection on her travels across the United States visiting Episcopal, United Methodist, Disciples of Christ, Presbyterian, United Church of Christ, and Lutheran churches. I was looking for and expecting more insights than Bass delivers. Nevertheless, Bass draws interesting profiles of many congregations. She likes how they work across ideological lines and serve the communities in which they are based, as do I. I also appreciate the fact that Bass reminds us there are good, solid congregations doing wonderful ministry that are not Religious Right mega-churches.

  • Our Endangered Values, by Jimmy Carter. The best ex-President in American history has written a fine refutation of the fundamentalists' distorted understanding of the teachings of Christ and has provided us with a ringing defense of common sense.

  • The Great War for Civilization: The Conquest of the Middle East, by Robert Fisk. The magnum opus of the great British war reporter, Fisk combines accounts from decades of first-hand reporting with an encyclopedic knowledge of the history of the MIddle East to reveal the Western world's determination to impose its will on the people of the region in order to satisfy its thirst for oil and domination.

  • Forgetfulness: A Novel, by Ward Just. Just has lived many years in France. Here he writes of an American expatriate painter whose wife is murdered by terrorists. It is a complex novel that yields no easy answers.

  • The Shipping News, by Annie Proulx. I'm not always trying to read the latest book to hit the stores, but in this case, I wanted to read at least one of the novels my daughter read during her high school senior year English class. I haven't seen the movie version of this novel and have been told by my daughter I ought to stick with the book. It is haunting and wonderfully written. It's about Quoyle, a newspaperman rearing his two daughters on the Newfoundland coast, an area I know nothing about. He writes the shipping news for the local paper. The book is filled with a peculiar cast of characters. I recommend it.

  • The Plot Against America: A Novel, by Philip Roth. There are times when I find this novel so intense and disturbing I have to put it aside. Roth, of course, is one of  America's most famous writers. Here, he posits an America in which the famous pilot and isolationist, Charles A. Lindbergh, defeats Franklin D. Roosevelt for the presidency in 1940 and forges an alliance with Nazi Germany. Roth's message about the majority's treatment of immigrants and religious and ethnic minorities rings all too true in today's United States.

  • State of Denial, by Bob Woodward. After writing two obsequious accounts of the Bush Administration's disastrous response to the tragic events of 9/11, Woodward has shifted with the winds and finally made use of his amazing inside sources to deliver the goods on the incompetence and cruelty of the Bush/Cheney regime.

Next week, I'll be reading on the beach. I can't wait!

Grace and Peace,

Letter to the Editor