Introducing Amy Pagliarella, Outlook’s new book review editor

Tell us about yourself and your sense of call. What led you to apply to be our book review editor?

When a friend suggested I apply, I couldn’t believe someone would hire me to read and discuss books for a living! I quickly realized that joining the Outlook team would allow me to serve Presbyterian leaders more broadly by sharing resources for preaching, teaching and living faithfully.

My sense of call is expansive. God called me to ministry as a pastor, and that’s an enormous privilege. At every church I served, people invited me into their lives in rich and meaningful ways, which helped to mold me into who I am. God also calls me to be a good neighbor, an active and loving mom and a supporter of my community’s food pantry where I volunteer. I also studied journalism, and when I edit, I feel like I’m back at the William Fremd High School “Viking Logue” newspaper! Once again, God is expanding my sense of call to guide me into that “just right” spot.

What do you love about this work? What are your goals for the Outlook’s book reviews?

There’s so much to love! I love checking the mailbox because it frequently holds an advance copy of a book that I’m eager to read. I received Kate Bowler’s AND Rachel Held Evans’ upcoming books in the mail last month, and it felt like Christmas morning! I also have a fantastic reason to reach out to colleagues old and new and to recruit curious and thoughtful people to read and review books. I’m fortunate that so many interesting people say “yes.”

My goal is to curate reviews of only the most relevant and timely selections among the thousands of books being published. I hope that Outlook subscribers and friends will find the same high quality insights in our reviews, and that they will enjoy the “gems” that we pluck from the worlds of fiction and secular non-fiction. We need fresh perspectives on this brave new world in which we live now; I’m recruiting new voices – seminarians, new pastors and leaders of color in particular – to help us see the world in different ways.

What’s the best book you’ve recently read?

This summer I was fascinated by Kazuo Ishiguro’s “Klara and the Sun.” Ishiguro often writes about what it means to be fully human, either literally, as in a book about cloning, or figuratively, as he explores class differences in books like “The Remains of the Day.” “Klara” envisions a world in which Artificial Intelligence robots are created as companions to children. There’s a foreboding tone that keeps you turning the pages, but also an underlying curiosity about how far AI can go to mimic (or even replace?) humanity. This book lies right in my fiction “sweet spot” — thought-provoking and well-written but easy to read.

Besides books, what are your other interests and passions?

I have an amazing family – my husband and two tween/teen boys – and spending time with them is my greatest joy! My husband and I take long bike rides along the Chicago River, and we love biking
the lakefront with our boys. We’re also a family of skiers — I’m the slowpoke, so I often trail my kids as they duck in and out of trees and delight in that patch of untouched powder. And travel — we love to visit new places and to take it all in at a leisurely pace. In 22 years of marriage, I’ve learned how nourishing it can be to adopt my husband’s more relaxed approach. Instead of packing it all in, I gaze at the views, chat with strangers and always stop for coffee … or a glass of red!

If you were to write a book about your life, what would the title be?

“Easy Like Sunday Morning?” For ten years, I served as a pastor to children and families at a vibrant and supportive church. I loved the work, but there was nothing easy about Sunday mornings — I imagine this is true for many pastors, parents, and those trying to balance both roles! Even with teenagers, I still find myself in the pew whispering, “do I need to sit in between you two or can you agree to stop hitting each other during the sermon?”