The view from the gate of the year

“I lived a hundred different lives in 2015”

“Yessss!” I all but yelled at the screen as I read Lily’s opening words on her new year post over at Such Small Hands. And my mind went racing back through the year, seeing it all again in an instant in my mind’s eye.

There I was – the voiceless vicar, the exhausted colleague, the happy holidaymaker, the burglary victim, the courtroom witness, the proud mother, the grateful wife, the desperate daughter, the house-move manager and so much more.  And, as I relived those days and weeks and months of 2015, I felt the emotions all over again – joy and elation, despair and desolation, fear and sorrow, love and loss.

And as I saw and felt it all over again, I found myself, above all else, thankful – thankful that that year is now past, thankful that a new year lies open before us. But grateful also for so much that was good in 2015, and perhaps most of all grateful that, as can so often be the case in human experience, good things have come out of the rubble of pain and loss.

And so I stand here, looking out from the gate of the year. 2016 is a week old already.  Where will it lead? What lies ahead? Who or what will I be this coming year? Will there be another 100 lives to live? Only time will tell . . .

My Year in Books: 2015

Just thought I’d take a moment to summarise last year’s reading. I set myself an informal goal to add real diversity to my reading – mixing both fiction and non-fiction from a range of authors and settings. See if you think I achieved that goal . . .

Fiction

Of the 33 books I read, 13 were fiction with geographical settings as diverse as Afghanistan, Africa and America with plenty of locations in-between! In fact, only three of these novels were set in my home country – and one of those dealt with growing up in a family with immigrant parents and grandparents! The historical settings included the Biafran war, WW2, the Turkish invasion of Cyprus, the Taliban years in Afghanistan, 19th century Canada, the civil rights era in the US southern states and early 20th century Ireland. Most were stories of family life – some based on real-life and others more fictional – and, to single just one of them out, Elizabeth is Missing was a fascinating exploration of living with dementia and its progression.

Here’s the list of fiction titles: Half of a Yellow Sun, Perfect, Stone Diaries, Almost English, A History of Loneliness, Kabul Beauty School, All the Light we Cannot See, Little Coffee Shop of Kabul, The Sunrise, Elizabeth is Missing, Gone Girl, The Secret Life of Bees, Ghana must Go

Non-fiction

So, 20 of my books of 2015 were non-fiction. Of these, 11 were real ‘vicar’s books’ – books I read either to help me grow in my Christian faith and personal discipleship or to help me become a better vicar. The other 9 included 3 personal memoirs/autobiographies, 1 language, 4 were about life/culture/history of other countries, and 1 taught me how to doodle creatively and productively.

So this is the non-fiction list: Outcry, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Ishmael’s Oranges; Lingo; Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking, The Year of Living Danishly, 1989 The Berlin Wall, The Warmth of Other Suns; The Doodle Revolution; Leaping the Vicarage Wall, The Contemplative Pastor, Storytelling, Ignatian Lent, The Journey, Supervising a Curate, Forming a Missional Church, We Make the Road by Walking, Re-ignite, Soul-Keeping, The Meaning is in the Waiting

Thoughts on this list . . . 

As I’ve typed up this summary, I’m struck by several things:

  • Unsurprisingly, non-fiction wins out over fiction
  • Other countries, cultures and languages figure prominently
  • A third of my reading was faith-related
  • Just four of these books belong to my favourite narrative non-fiction genre about lives in other times and places
  • Almost all of my favourite reads of 2015 are on the non-fiction list
  • I only read 33 books and my to-be-read shelves continue to groan under the weight of all that remains unread – and the new gifts and purchases!

Book of the Year

imageI usually struggle to whittle the list down to just one – but I so loved Isabel Wilkerson’s Pulitzer-prizewinning The Warmth of Other Suns, that I’m making an exception for this year.

So, time to get on with reading through 2016 then . . .