The initial weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic absorbed much of the time and energy that I would give to reading. But it has been four months now, and, like many, I’ve settled into a “new normal” that has afforded many good opportunities around the world of books:
- Reading a history of the Latina/o church in the Americas, Brown Church, and then doing an online interview with the author, Robert Chao Romero, a gentle and thoughtful scholar.
- Discovering the life of Nathaniel R. Jones, an African-American attorney and appellate court judge from Youngstown, and going on to his memoir that is opening my eyes to what my hometown was like for the African-American community and his courageous resistance.
- Evenings reading Hilary Mantel’s The Mirror and the Light, while listening to the piano concertos of Rachmaninoff.
- A conversation with a college ministry work team on The Jesus Creed, reminding me both how clear Jesus was about what really matters–loving God and neighbor–and how challenging it is to really live that day.
- Trying to figure out why the characters and plots of Kristin Hannah get into my head. It happened with The Nightingale. It happened again with The Great Alone.
- Revisiting forty years of memories going back to the Jesus Movement as I read To Think Christianly, and sat in on a webinar with the author.
- Revisiting the difficult memories of fifty years ago through Derk Backderf’s Kent State: Four Dead in Ohio. I grew up 35 miles from Kent, and the deaths of students, including a girl from my own town, stunned me as a high school student. I can never hear Ohio by Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young without it catching me up.
- Amid all of this a relative of my sister who follows the blog and Facebook page sent me a lovely book facemask. I wear it proudly. I’m not only Bob on Books but Bob Behind the Books!
- I discovered Octavia Butler. Perhaps it was not the best time to read The Parable of the Sower, set in a dystopian America in the not-to-distant future, but it left me hungry to read more of her work.
- I also discovered the world of Three Pines, and I have fourteen more Louise Penny’s (with another in September). The anticipation alone gladdens the heart.
I’ve been fortunate to have publishers who have kept me stocked up with books. All the news and fuss around the pandemic don’t add to my understanding of how we should live during this time. My Bible, my church (online), my family and friends, and my books help far more, and it is to these I want to give my time. I’ve concluded that the best thing I can do is to share the hope nurtured by my faith, and the goodness I find in books. Both will be around long after the pandemic is in the rear view mirror!