I hope you have all stayed bundled up during this past cold week. Unlike most people in Michigan, my work actually kicks in to overtime during cold spells like this, so my reading/watching time was a little abbreviated this month.
Here’s hoping to more reading, watching, and listening time in February!
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
This was a literal and literary monster of a book. Most people may be more familiar with Tartt’s earlier work, The Secret History, which I also highly recommend, and this novel followed similar themes of gray morality and forbidden desires. It features a young boy, a famous painting, and the sneaking suspicion that we can’t always get what we want, but we’ll die to get our hands on it, anyway.
The Invisible Library Series by Genevieve Cogman
I have one more book to go in this series that’s already been published, but I trust that it will be just as excellent as the first four. Imagine there’s a hidden library with special Librarians who hunt rare and endangered books across the parallel universes, and that’s this series. Plus there’s dragons?? Infinitely fun, entertaining, and witty, I definitely cannot wait until somebody over at SyFy gets off their butt and makes this into the television series we all deserve.
How a Church Can Care for Former Prisoners by Mark Casson
I saved this article for several reasons, the most poignant of which is the fact that above all, it’s a success story. Here in the middle America, we can get far too comfortable with our cultural version of Christianity, where everything is white and clean and we don’t have to deal with the consequences of our sin even in this life. Some good thoughts and advice on the nature of grace and forgiveness here.
Why Christian Movies Are So Terrible by Jared C. Wilson
We’ve been saying it for years, folks – a good perspective not just on the Christian film industry, but on effective storytelling as well.
The Real Roots of American Rage by Charles Duhigg
Last week after a slew of technology problems, I asked one of my coworkers, “Why am I so angry this week? Why am I so angry all the time?” Again, another useful reflection on what we sometimes label as “righteous” indignation and how it’s shaped our country as we know it today.
Pastor Piper and the Microphone by FighterVerses
This is a niche video in an already niche post, but please enjoy this supercut of John Piper wrestling with his church microphone over the years. I know I did!
Music and Podcasts
2019 Playlist – Leave It Better
As I’ve traded texts with friends over the first month of this new year, one phrase/concept that keeps coming up for me is that old saying every mom uses to guilt us into acting better in public: “Leave this place better than it was when you found it.” That’s my new mantra this year: I want to leave every place, every person, every conversation feeling like I did my best to “leave them better.” Here’s the music that inspires me to do that(and don’t worry, I’ll be adding on to it all year).
Land of the Free by The Killers
This has been a banner year for protest songs. While not quite as nuanced as, say, Childish Gambino’s “This Is America,” it has the feel of a classic 1970s antiwar anthem with the melody of a modern-day hit. I’ve been listening to it nonstop since it came out.
It’s been a while since I’ve listened to a podcast as it was coming out, and this series does not disappoint. If you remember the news story about the two moms with six black children who intentionally drove over a cliff in California, this is an in-depth look at their lives and the culture around them, especially at the foster care system.
Another narrative podcast I’ve enjoyed recently, following the fictional investigation of serial murders in Appalachia in the 1990s. It carries heavy themes of doubt, shame, and forgiveness – there’s even a bit a Bible trivia thrown in there, too, if you like that sort of thing mixed in with your gritty crime stories.
Film and Television
Two documentaries about the same disastrous festival came out this month, one from Hulu and one from Netflix. I enjoyed both of them – the Netflix production featured more personal stories for the crew, while the Hulu doc was more of a thinkpiece on the Millennial generation in general. I highly recommend watching both of them to get a full picture of the crimes and chaos that ensued.