Dear Folks,

Sarah and I drive to the Adirondacks after church on Sunday, sharing space in the car with bike helmets, bathing suits, and two big, curly-headed dogs. Our bedroom faces east in Westport, where the sun lifts my eyelids most mornings before six. I tiptoe downstairs, letting sleeping dogs lie for another hour or so, put on a pot of coffee made with beans roasted five miles down the road in Wadhams, and settle into a corner of the front porch. There are three perfect places to read in our place, by my count, and our days tend to organize around books… then a walk, a bike ride and a run, more reading… then a hike, food with friends, and maybe a couple more chapters before bed. Our bodies buzz with all the exercise, and our minds stretch, too, thanks to the stack beside the chair and time.

You don’t need to change locations to wander where the spirit leads you, just a comfortable chair, a few challenging books, and the willingness to see in a new way.

Here’s what I will be reading:

The Light of the World, by Elizabeth Alexander. Alexander’s young husband dies suddenly in this aching memoir, a meditation on the blessings of love and loss. A graduate of Sidwell Friends School in Washington, DC, poet and playwright Alexander now leads the Mellon Foundation.

The Good Hand: a memoir of work, brotherhood, and transformation in an American boomtown, by Michael Patrick F. Smith. In the wake of the 2008 economic crash, Smith arrived in Williston, North Dakota, homeless and desperate for a job. According to the L.A. Times, this is a “rambling honky-tonk of a book, with the soul of a songwriter, and the ache of a poor white boy who grew up rough.”

The Cross and the Lynching Tree, by James Cone, a “powerful and painful song of hope.” Cone shows that the thousands of black men and women who died on lynching trees were the body of Christ, “crucified all over again.” (Jim Douglas) Cone was a professor of systematic theology at Union Theological Seminary, NY.

Wayward Lies, Beautiful Experiments, by Saidiya Hartman. Deeply researched, Hartman examines the revolution of black intimate life that unfolded in Philadelphia and New York at the beginning of the twentieth century. Recommended by my daughter as she works on her college senior thesis, the book wrestles with the question of what a free life is for many young black women, “indifferent to the dictates of respectability and outside the bounds of law.”

The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood… so I can know what everyone watching the TV series is talking about.

A Theology in Outline: Can These Bones Live, by Robert W. Jenson. Based on a series of lectures delivered to undergraduates at Princeton in 2008, the essays present the basics of Christian faith “with a clarity unmatched in the English-speaking world.” (Willie James Jennings)

The Antiracist, by Kondawani Fidel. Born and raised in West Baltimore, gifted storyteller Fidel offers a glimpse into not only the survival required of one born here, but how we can move forward to tackle violent murders, police brutality, and poverty.