I challenged myself to finish my two Reading BINGO cards by the end of the summer. And, I did!
At the beginning of the year I made my own Reading Bingo card (see below) and chose two themes to explore somehow through the squares on the cards. The first theme is “Expressions of Faith,” and the second theme is “Race Relations in the U.S.” I updated readers on my progress just one time earlier in the year. Looking back, only a few of the books I mentioned in that post actually factor into the final results here. I definitely read more than these ten and in most cases I read several that didn’t really fit into a square. The purpose was not to limit my reading to these squares but mostly to ensure that I was engaging with these topics with myriad voices, perspectives, and genres. Without further ado, here are the ten books that allow me to give an internet “BINGO” scream two times.
EXPRESSIONS OF FAITH
Biography or Memoir: Dream with Me by John Perkins
If you haven’t read Let Justice Roll Down by John Perkins, start there. His is an astonishing story of unfathomable forgiveness and commitment to the life of Christ. Both of these books would fit in either Bingo category, but his story is one of the most humble and challenging narratives I have read about the cost and commitment to living a life of Christian faith.
A Children’s Book: When God Made You by Matthew Paul Turner
With thrilling rhymes and breath-taking illustrations, Turner paints the wonderful story of God’s joy and delight in who we are. It is expressive and full and good. The full review is here.
A Book Written by a Local Author: Hundred Story Home by Kathy Izard
Izard’s remarkable journey leaving her comfort zone in order to house the homeless of Charlotte, NC is inspiring, graceful, and intimate. She is honest and allows readers to see the connections her experience made between her personal life and her life of faith. The full review is here.
A Book With a Number in the Title: The Seven Deadly Virtues by Todd E. Outcalt
I read and reviewed this book for our church bookstore, The Grounds at Meck. My review was mixed. The chapters as individual commentaries on the seven “virtues” Outcalt describes are solid on their own, but grouping them together as virtues caused some unintended and unnecessary confusion, I thought. The full review is here.
A Book of Poetry: Leavings by Wendell Berry
Berry always has something for my mind to ruminate on. This was my first collection of his poetry, and I found several that stopped me in my reading to consider.
RACE RELATIONS in the U.S.
A Banned Book: Beloved by Toni Morrison
I wasn’t sure what to expect with Beloved. Her work doesn’t need me to send accolades, but I will say if you have not read anything by her, Beloved is a powerful narrative of oppression, obsession, safety, courage, and so much else. Beloved is eerie and heart-wrenching but Morrison writes with such a depth of insight into the human condition and particularly the ugly dynamics of slavery that you keep reading to know the story better, yourself better, and the world better.
A Book that “Everyone” but You Has Read: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
That’s right. Didn’t read it until I was 35-years-old. That’s a long time to live without this classic. I read Go Set a Watchman first, and definitely didn’t like it as much as her beloved classic.
A Book of Fiction: Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
Janie Crawford is now one of my all-time favorite protagonists. She isn’t a sentimental sap or an ambitious self-promoter. She is complex and firm and pursues her own path. She is restless, patient, and smart. This narrative tells her story through three relationships engaged through various necessities, endured at times, and ultimately woven into the fabric of her identity in a way that does not diminish or hide her nature, but complements and develops it. Though she grows through her experiences, makes mistakes, and struggles, the reader does not doubt her self-possession.
A Book Written by a Female Author: Reading with Patrick by Michelle Kuo
Michelle Kuo explores her time teaching at a school in the impoverished Arkansas Delta. One student in particular would capture her attention and challenge her throughout the years to come. After two years of teaching she followed her parents’ ambitions for her and pursued law at Harvard. Learning that the student, Patrick, had been accused of murder and was sitting in jail compelled her to return again to the Delta. Her efforts to tutor, to examine the relationship between what we read and what we know and what we express, as well as to navigate with humility and honesty the racially-induced realities of her background in the context of the racial inequality of the area make this narrative accessible and direct.
A Book That Takes Place in Another Country: Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
Gyasi takes readers from the origins of the slave-trade to modern America and Africa. Each chapter is one generation further in the heritage and history. Some have criticized Homegoing for lack of character development; however, it seems obvious that any effort to cover such a span of history would necessitate some editing. This approach, I would argue, allows readers to better consider how history itself is a character influenced by and influencing the decisions and realities of the times.
I believe I succeeded in exposing myself to a range of voices and genres on these subjects, and I know I will continue to do so. I haven’t decided if I’ll do it again next year, but there’s a good chance that I will. For now I have half a year to think about what themes I might pursue.