Fall Reading

You would think that I would be reading a whole lot more, given that I have so much discretionary time! I want to share what’s on tap for me in the next few weeks. I have started all but one of the books, and am close to finishing the first one!

Hunger for Hope: Prophetic Communities, Contemplation, and the Common Good by Simone Campbell, SSS (Orbis, 2020)

 I highly recommend this book. Put it at the top of your list, and read it in the next few weeks.

One of the organizers of the “Nuns on the Bus” campaign shows how faith supports action in a world in great need of both. The chaotic individualism of these times demands a prayer practice that summons a prophetic response in community with those who are marginalized in our fractured economic system and broken world. Hunger for Hope explores the quest for a justice that works for all, and explores what it means to be “holy” in today’s world.

Back-Pocket God: Religion and Spirituality in the Lives of Emerging Adults by Melinda Lundquist Denton and Richard Flory (Oxford University Press, 2020)


Back-Pocket God explores continuity and change among young people from their teenage years through the latter stages of “emerging adulthood.” Melinda Lundquist Denton and Richard Flory find that the story of young adult religion is one of an overall decline in commitment and affiliation, and in general, a moving away from organized religion. Yet, there is also a parallel trend in which a small, religiously committed group of emerging adults claim faith as an important fixture in their lives. Emerging adults don’t seem so much opposed to religion or to religious organizations, at least in the abstract, as they are uninterested in religion, at least as they have experienced it. Religion is like an app on the ubiquitous smartphones in our back pockets: readily accessible, easy to control, and useful-but only for limited purposes.

Querida Amazonia: The Beloved Amazon by Pope Francis (Our Sunday Visitor, 2020) Available at the Vatican website:

http://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20200202_querida-amazonia.html

In his new apostolic exhortation, Querida Amazonia, Pope Francis offers a response to the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon held in Rome in October 2019 and its final document The Amazon: New Paths for the Church and for an Integral Ecology. The pope writes this exhortation to all the faithful calling us to the task of addressing the serious social, environmental, and spiritual issues facing the region, sharing his four dreams for the people of the Amazon: a social dream, in which we fight for the dignity of the poor in the region; a cultural dream, in which the riches and beauty of the Amazonian culture is preserved; an ecological dream, in which we all strive to preserve the natural beauty of the Amazon; an ecclesial dream, in which the faithful boldly create paths of inculturation. So that the goodness of the Amazonian culture is brought to fulfillment in light of the Gospel, Pope Francis asks: “How can we not struggle together? How can we not pray and work together, side by side, to defend the poor of the Amazon region, to show the sacred countenance of the Lord, and to care for his work of creation?”

The New Wilderness: A Novel by Diane Cook (Harper Collins, 2020) (on the short list for the Booker Prize)

Bea’s five-year-old daughter, Agnes, is slowly wasting away. The smog and pollution of the City—an over-populated, over-built metropolis where most of the population lives—is destroying her lungs. But what can Bea do? No one leaves the City anymore, because there is nowhere else to go. But across the country lies the Wilderness State, the last swath of open, protected land left. Here forests and desert plains are inhabited solely by wildlife. People are forbidden. Until now. 

Bea, Agnes, and eighteen others volunteer to live in the Wilderness State as part of a study to see if humans can co-exist with nature. Can they be part of the wilderness and not destroy it? Living as nomadic hunter-gatherers, this new community wanders through the grand country, trying to adhere to the strict rules laid down by the Rangers, whose job it is to remind them they must Leave No Trace. As the group slowly learns to live and survive on the unpredictable and often dangerous land, its members battle for power and control and betray and save each other. The farther they roam, the closer they come to their animal soul.

To her dismay, Bea discovers that, in fleeing to the Wilderness State to save Agnes, she is losing her in a different way. Agnes is growing wilder and closer to the land, while Bea cannot shake her urban past. As she and Agnes grow further apart, the bonds between mother and daughter are tested in surprising and heartbreaking ways. Yet just as these modern nomads come to think of the Wilderness State as home, its future is threatened when the Government discovers a new use for the land. Now the migrants must choose to stay and fight for their place in the wilderness, their home, or trust the Rangers and their promises of a better tomorrow elsewhere.

This Mournable Body: A Novel by Tsitsi Dangarembga (Greywolf Press, 2018) (on the short list for the Booker Prize)

Anxious about her prospects after leaving a stagnant job, Tambudzai finds herself living in a run-down youth hostel in downtown Harare (Zimbabwe). For reasons that include her grim financial prospects and her age, she moves to a widow’s boarding house and eventually finds work as a biology teacher. But at every turn in her attempt to make a life for herself, she is faced with a fresh humiliation, until the painful contrast between the future she imagined and her daily reality ultimately drives her to a breaking point.

In This Mournable Body, Tsitsi Dangarembga returns to the protagonist of her acclaimed first novel, Nervous Conditions, to examine how the hope and potential of a young girl and a fledgling nation can sour over time and become a bitter and floundering struggle for survival. As a last resort, Tambudzai takes an ecotourism job that forces her to return to her parents’ impoverished homestead. It is this homecoming, in Dangarembga’s tense and psychologically charged novel, that culminates in an act of betrayal, revealing just how toxic the combination of colonialism and capitalism can be.


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