2019 was an interesting year in reading for me. I continued to try and find points of connection between faith and learning. I tried to revisit favorites like Lewis and Tolkien while also diving a little deeper with thinkers like Smith and McLuhan. I discovered the work of Andrew Root, which kind of demands some quality reflection over Christmas break. And I found a great thread of fiction: the Rivers of London novels by Ben Aaronovitch. Seven novels and two novellas over the course of the year. All of them British editions (a small but cool thing for me), with three of them bought while traveling abroad (the two novellas and the most recent novel).
2020 is just around the corner, and there are four books that I’m particularly interested in reading as they drop over the next few months.
Steven Garber’s A Seamless Life has a January release date, though I’m hoping to get a copy in late December. Garber’s The Fabric of Faithfulness has been one of the most providential books of my life. I read it in college on a lark as I was “delivering” it from one faculty member to another. His Visions of Vocation has also been a significant read for me . . . and was a book that I gifted quite a bit a few years ago. A Seamless Life is more of a collection of different pieces than it is a total work. If nothing else, that will make it a different kind of read.
Late January will see the release of Yuval Levin’s A Time to Build. I read Levin’s Fractured Republic a few years ago based on recommendations and found it to be a thoughtful, sincere read. Levin, the editor of National Affairs, has a good sense of what is best about the American Experiment and remains hopeful even seeing what he sees happening in the world around us. A Time to Build looks to be about recommitting to and rebuilding our basic cultural institutions.
Ross Douthat’s The Decadent Society: How We Became Victims of our Own Success will be available at the end of February. His last two books, Bad Religion and To Change the Church, were both significant reads for me. Bad Religion served as a great catalogue of religious thought in America for me. To Change the Church was a great way for me to engage in thinking about the Catholic church and Pope Francis, who has been something of an enigma all around. I appreciate Douthat’s humor as well as his incisive observations about the way the world seems to be working. I imagine it will be a good companion to Levin’s book, too.
And then there’s the promise of a new Rivers of London novel at the end of February, too. Now that I’m all caught up, it’s a hardback buy for me. I can’t say too much without giving away spoilers of one kind or another. I will say that the last novel, Lies Sleeping, brought a number of plotlines to decent conclusions. And the most recent novella, The October Man, did a nice job of opening up the world beyond England. So I’m curious to see where Aaronovitch takes Peter Grant next. I’m doing my best to avoid spoilers for False Value, though I am pretty excited that this is my first Rivers of London novel to drop that I can buy on release day. It’s the little things, I suppose.
I think that’s a pretty good way to start the year. It’s nice to have books in mind like this. Beyond simply having something to read, it’s good to have the promise of interesting intellectual engagement with the bigger world.