Goodreads Reading Challenge: Update

It’s the middle of April, and I am behind schedule by 5 books. I’m not pleased with this because I’m not sure I’ll be able to catch up at this rate, but I’m also not giving up hope either. So far, like the normal train of my thoughts, the books I have read this year are an eclectic hodge podge.

  • A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin
    • I am now about halfway through A Feast for Crows. Martin tells a good yarn!
  • Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson
    • I laughed so hard when I was reading this book, which I mostly read in various coffee shops while on vacation. I’m sure people thought I was weird.
  • Forever by Chanda Hahn
    • Finally wrapped up this YA series!
  • A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin
    • Recommended during my thesis courses. I thought it was great!
  • The Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks
    • Also recommended during my thesis courses since I have an assassin character and this book revolves around special assassins (called “wetboys” in Weeks’ world). This was a good read but also a difficult one. Like Martin, Weeks doesn’t shy away from the gritty reality of human nature.
  • Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin
    • I have a love/dislike (not strong enough to “hate”) relationship with this book. Gaskin has a ton of experience in childbirthing, but she holds what feels like a pretty biased perspective on natural birth vs. hospital birth.
  • The Martian by Andy Weir
    • Again, laughed out loud a lot while reading this book, and the last quarter of the book held me riveted.
  • Overrated: Are We More in Love with the Idea of Changing the World Than Actually Changing the World? by Eugene Cho
    • Cho writes about social justice from a Christian perspective and lays out the pitfalls of good intentions. Although I thought I knew a lot about this topic, I still felt convicted to change some of my own approaches to justice.

So that’s where I am. Currently, I’m also actively in the middle of these books:

Any books you would recommend that I read this year?

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Something to think about on this Sunday:

“Famous” by Naomi Shihab Nye*

The river is famous to the fish.

The loud voice is famous to silence,
which knew it would inherit the earth
before anybody said so.

The cat sleeping on the fence is famous to the birds
watching him from the birdhouse.

The tear is famous, briefly, to the cheek.

The idea you carry close to your bosom
is famous to your bosom.

The boot is famous to the earth,
more famous than the dress shoe,
which is famous only to floors.

The bent photograph is famous to the one who carries it
and not at all famous to the one who is pictured.

I want to be famous to shuffling men
who smile while crossing streets,
sticky children in grocery lines,
famous as the one who smiled back.

I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous,
or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular,
but because it never forgot what it could do.

naomi-shihab-nye*If you want to read more of Nye’s poetry, I strongly recommend her book of poems Transfer. Alternatively, you can check out this list of poems, articles, and more at the Poetry Foundation.

“Christian Fiction”

I’ve wrestled with this topic for awhile now mostly because I’m trying to figure out my niche as a writer. I am a Christian, and I write fiction. Does that mean that I need to write “Christian” fiction? Or, can I be a fiction writer who also happens to be a Christian?

You probably understand what I mean when I differentiate between these two labels. It’s the same as “Christian music” versus musicians who are Christian. When I think of “Christian music,” I think about musicians like Steven Curtis Chapman, Kutless, Third Day, Jars of Clay, and the like. There’s nothing wrong with the way that these artists create their music. They have a very specific audience. Some would argue that their work is not creative, that contemporary Christian music all sounds the same, etc. When I’m in a bad mood, I tend to agree with extra doses of cynicism. When I’m in a better mood, I realize that a lot of people enjoy and appreciate this kind of music, and it fits a specific purpose. There’s nothing wrong about it; it’s just not my cup of tea most of the time.

However, there are also musicians who are Christian who write music very differently. Some representative examples from this camp are Sufjan Stevens, members of U2, Mumford & Sons, Denison Witmer, etc. Inevitably, their faith bleeds into their music, but their music is also open to a much wider audience because their honest expression appeals to people who fall within and without of the circles of religion. Let me note here that I am not saying that contemporary Christian musicians are not being honest in their musical expression. It’s just different. (Please don’t get your knickers in a twist.)

Growing up in an evangelical home, I read more than my fair share of Christian fiction. Frank Peretti, Brock and Bodie Thoene, Janette Oke, Francine Rivers, Gilbert Morris, and many more were common staples in our household library. I haven’t read any books by any of these authors in years, but I have good memories of their vivid storytelling. Honestly, a lot of their writing inspired me to write. So again, I can’t really knock Christian fiction.

At the same time, I’m just not sure that I have it in me to follow in these authors’ footsteps. I feel like too often, Christian authors (not necessarily those named above) are under pressure to produce feel-good stories that don’t really capture the reality of life around us. Honestly, life is hard, and it frequently sucks. (Yep, great descriptor, I know.) For me, even though I have a penchant for writing fantasy which is decidedly “non-real”, I still don’t see the point in sugar-coating the human experience. The Bible doesn’t, so why should I? Perhaps this is a general trend within the American church that is impacting its artists–the idea that we want comfort and don’t want to deal with harsh or painful matters.

Anyway, there is so much more to be said on this topic, and it’s something that I’ve been muddling through for years, really. I’ll be posting more about this topic in the near-ish future.

What are your thoughts about Christian fiction?