Sunday, September 30, 2018

Middling 1.3: Books

I was excited recently to read a novel called Meddling Kids. (That title, I'm now realizing, might be what put the word middling in my head.) I was sold on the elevator pitch: What if Scooby Doo and the gang were all grown up and had to return to the scene of their greatest mystery? This fan fiction premise evolved into something different enough to avoid a lawsuit, but I'm not so Gen X that I'm impervious to appeals to my sense of nostalgia. So I ran out and bought it.

The author, Edgar Cantero, does a great job of maintaining humor and developing character throughout. He was particularly effective at solving the Dog Problem: not only how does the dog talk (he doesn't ... or does he?!?) but also, um, how is the dog still alive fifteen years later?!? (It's the grand-dog of the original.) There's a real sense of urgency in this book that makes its length legitimate, and there are some spectacular descriptions of hair, of all things. But I was not prepared for the darkness—necromancy and other aspects of the occult play a central role. I'm no prude, but I don't read a lot of stuff involving the Dark Arts, and frankly, Harry Potter this ain't. Creeped me out a LOT. Also a little conveniently of-the-moment in some character decisions, even though the book is set in the early 90s.

The other book I ran to get recently was When the English Fall by David Williams. Again, credit the elevator pitch: Apocalyptic Amish—a celestial event fries the electrical grid, sending Western civilization into chaos. Nearly all the calamitous fallout takes place offstage in this found journal of an Amish carpenter. The gentleness and complexity of the simple life is evident throughout, and the costly moral imperative of loving your neighbor is on full display. I was regularly moved by this book, and while it can rightly be called a quick read, I read it slow.

Beyond leisure reading, I've edited a bunch of books recently. A couple of personal high points:

Whole, by Steve Wiens. Steve is a fabulous writer, and Whole is a heartfelt book about Shalom as a lifestyle and brokenness as a collective sigh.

When the Soul Listens, by Jan Johnson. This book was first released more than twenty years ago, when contemplative prayer still scared the bejeezus out of evangelicals. Jan's now thoroughly revised it, and it's a lovely primer on a way of praying that's life- and faith-giving.

Drawn In Bible Studies. I also had the opportunity this year to develop a set of Bible studies, featuring the text of The Message (the Bible my company publishes) and art for coloring. They're adorable!

You can get these titles at www.navpress.com or wherever you like to buy books. #shoplocal #saynotodrones

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Every three or four months I send out a long missive to friends and family members. (If you'd like to get these missives, give me a shout.) I thought I'd post portions of those newsletters here. The theme of the newsletter is life in middle age, with a focus on what I'm reading, what I'm listening to, and how I'm living. This post is from last fall's newsletter. I hope you enjoyed it.

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