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Winter books

Right now, I am packing lots and lots of books as I prepare to move to North Carolina. The process should be quick: just fill the box, tape, label, repeat. I find, though, that my books are more than objects — they document my life’s journey, the seasons in and out of formal education, the phases of my ministry, moments of revelation and large turns in my thinking. Some of them remind me of particular people — teachers, mentors, family and friends. In the mix now are a few with my name on the spine, not exactly Tolstoy, but words carefully written and prayerfully offered nonetheless. I love my books, perhaps sinfully so. I write in my books. I have colleagues for whom such markings are anathema. I understand the urge to keep the pages pristine, but I cannot help myself. I underline and make notes in the margins. I keep a running list of ideas to remember, page numbers documented on the title page. I know there are knocks against book learning given its boundedness to the page, but I cannot think of a single time when reading made things worse. Even when I read and disagreed, read and did not fully understand, read and wanted to toss the book across the room, I learned something and my world expanded.

Hence, this packing of books becomes a practice of prayer. I praise God for theologians and poets, novelists and nonfiction writers. I give thanks for those who recommended a title or invited me to endorse their words. I recall and rejoice in the classrooms and libraries, professors and colleagues connected to these varied covers. I set aside the books recently added to the collection so that they will be readily accessible as soon as the dust from the moving truck settles. As I contemplate much change, I give thanks that my books will remain a consistent presence reminding me that the Word made flesh still speaks, sometimes through our books.

May you find this to be so in the books reviewed in our winter book issue. Happy reading!