This past year I (re)discovered the beauty and power of well written biography, autobiography and memoir.
It began with Philip Yancey’s ‘Where the Light Fell’, a bracing and refreshingly unsentimental articulation of especially the childhood of one of my favourite Christian authors.
Then it was the astonishing, ‘Faith, Hope and Carnage’ by Nick Cave. His way with words, particularly in speaking of unimaginable pain and grief, and hope discovered in the midst of it, is breathtaking. This is faith formed by the God we meet in the whirlwind. My favourite read of the year.
Next was ‘Surrender’ by Bono. As a long term U2 tragic, I loved this book, long on wordy detail, written with typical Irish lyricism. Bono’s faith shines through.
Demonstrating my eclectic influences, I enjoyed Connie Dawson’s, ‘John Wimber – His Life and Ministry’, a man whose impact on today’s church is immeasurable.
From the same era, and in many ways about no less impactful a leader, Gregory Thornbury’s, ‘Why should the Devil have all the Good Music’, a biography of Larry Norman, the ‘grandfather’ of Christian Rock, is beautifully written. This is no hagiography, laying out this complex man’s flaws, as well as his idealism and unquestionable innovative creativity. For me, ‘Only Visiting this Planet’ is still one of the all time great albums, full stop.
Collin Hansen’s biography of Tim Keller’s literary and theological influences was next cab of the rank. A little dry at times, still I came away with a much clearer picture of the voices that formed such a significant leader in the 21st century global church.
‘Killing for Country’ by David Marr was the most disturbing of all the books I’ve read this year, of any year for that matter. Written about two of Marr’s 19th century ancestors, this is the history of the genocidal ‘frontier wars’ I was never taught in school. Every one of my generation should read it.
Finally, I’m about 740 pages into Andrew Robert’s remarkable biography of Winston Churchill. It reads like a rollicking thriller, except it’s real history.
All in all, reading a good swag of biographies and memoirs this past year has fed, educated and challenged me profoundly. I’m going to keep on doing so in the New Year, recognising a real need to read the stories of those often pushed to the margins of history – the stories of women and minorities. I have so much more to learn, and so much more growth to experience!