Some Books of 2016

Most of this past year’s books were recommendations from friends. I very much enjoy benefitting from the literary horizon-broadening of great people in my life and wish I had more time for reading in general. Here are my highlights of books read in 2016 (in a somewhat chronological order):

  • Lament for a Son (Nicholas Woltersdorff, 1987)
    • It sounds weird to speak of my favorite book when it comes to literature on grief and loss. But if such a category exists, this book is the stand-alone in it.
  • Boundaries (Henry Cloud/ John Townsend, 2002)
    • Exploring the meaning, dynamics, and effects of the two most basic words in the Western (dare I say human?) vocabulary: yes and no.
    • Should. Be. Read. By. Every. Human. Being. Period.
  • The Book of Revelation & Gospel according to John
    • We studied these two books in our Bible Study group. Fascinating, utterly fascinating. There is spiritual as well as intellectual, aesthetic, social, and literary meat on there for a long long time to chew on while getting personally filled in regards to daily worship.
  • Attached. The New Science of Adult Attachment and How it Can Help You Find – and Keep – Love (Amir Levine, 2012)

    • A good and helpful overview of attachment types in romantic relationships. Solid introduction into attachment theory which is useful for other relationships as well.
  • The Sabbath (Abraham J. Heschel, 1951)
    • A classic. A must read for believers who observe/keep the Biblical Sabbath, but also for non-believers who observe the world around them and don’t mind a little stretching of their mind.
  • Der einsame Mensch: Petter Moens Tagebuch (The Lonesome Man. Petter Moen’s Diary; publication & foreword by Edzard Schaper; 1950)

    • “It is the secluded life of the lonesome human, who – in order to not have to drown in his loneliness – starts humbly to praise the One, in whose image and likeness he has been created, while, nevertheless, ceaselessly trying with a proud urge to enshrine himself.” (my translation)
    • This diary is a witness to the somber depths of human loneliness and the sanity-threatening tension between trustful surrender and fearful self-preservation. The story of how this diary was written and discovered is breathtaking in itself.
  • Can Love Last? The Fate of Romance over Time (Stephen A. Mitchell, 2002)

    • Thought-provoking to various degrees. Induces curiosity for the potential of bearing the tension between potential risks and rewards of openness for one’s partner.
  • Night (Elie Wiesel, 1960)

    • Biographic bestseller of Holocaust-survivor Elie Wiesel. Read it!
  • The Course of Love (Alain de Botton, 2016)

    • As I said to a friend: This book seems to be the child of a university education and a two-week summer vacation to Southern Italy. An acutely pleasant way of writing, transporting authentic information generated by a keen observer of romantic relationships. Putting (finally!) many aspects of a modern committed relationship into words that could hardly be chosen better. Though I don’t agree with all de Botton writes, I agree with a critic of his attesting him an “unwavering deadpan respect for the reader’s intelligence” (Francine Prose, The New Yorker). This experience alone makes the read well worth the time spent. Highly recommended. (Or be it only for the broadening of one’s vocabulary and sense of wit.)

Which book(s) broadened your horizon this past year? Would you mind sharing them with me?

Love is not a victory march

Christmas. So much of it is about giving and receiving. Essentially, in the best case scenario: About loving and being loved. And all the joy, risks, confusion, and pain that comes with that. Goes much deeper than anything else in life. It goes under your skin and straight to that place between heart and kidney, where all the hope, suffering, and satisfaction sits and warms and hurts. Yes, that place. Love kills and makes us, makes me, feel alive again, at the same time. How weird.

Life and death. The manger and the cross. Love being manifested because of these two. Or, as a prophet and a poet have put it:

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John

“Love is not a victory march; it’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah.” Leonard

No receiving without giving. No true giving without sacrifice. No warm Hallelujah without the empty tomb.

Merry Christmas.

The Clandestine Banalities of Love

Some things need to remain secret in order to remain.

Some things, dragged into the gaze of more than two people, loose their beauty.

Some things, whispered or yelled into the ears of more than one person, become a clanging cymbal.

Some things, smelled by the multitude, turn from fragrance to stench.

Some things, tasted by more than four lips, transform savor into sourness.

Some things, felt by other skin than the familiar, loose the magnificence of touch.

These things are the big and little and ridiculous banalities that bring plenty to my life with you, my love to you, and your love to me.

They belong to us – or they are not.

(A.K. Sept 2014)

The Closure of the Eternal City

Roma aeterna. The eternal Rome. So much history, so much life, so much death. Whoever says, New York is the City that never sleeps, has clearly not been to Rome… or simply narrows the meaning of sleeping.

Six months. Six months did I live and study Italian in Rome. Six months did I roam its museums, its parks, streets, markets, and churches (more than 900 are there). Listened to the chatter (il chiacchiericcio) of its students, shop owners, bus passengers, and tourists. A wonderfully unique time, without a doubt. Yet a tense time as well. Increasingly the pressure in my mind and on my heart “to make the most of it”. Considering Rome’s historical, ecclesiastical, political and, last but surely not least, artistic and cultural importance, my relaxed natural curiosity turned quickly into a sheer panting after the city’s glories, the city’s treasures, the city’s character. “Don’t miss a thing! Now you have the chance to see R.O.M.E!” No day was long enough to see enough. There was so much to discover, to learn, to admire, to reflect on, to soak in. And after a short while a subtle but stable feeling of guilt became part of the package.

The nostalgia that crept over me whenever I thought back on that time surpassed each “typical” nostalgia that I normally have for the past. This nostalgia was more. A Life-nostalgia. Having become for me a parable for life in general, these six months in Rome opened up thought perspectives and questions on all areas of being, mostly not offering an accompanying answer. These six months were Continue reading