seriously, where else would these three books be reviewed together?
Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool’s Guide to Surviving with Grace, by Gordon MacKenzie
several years ago, when i became the president of youth specialties, mcnair wilson suggested i needed to read this book. it’s one of very, very few books i’ve ever read three times (the current time was because i assigned it as reading for my youth ministry coaching program cohort, and had to re-read it to be prepared for the book discussion). it is such a brilliantly unique little book. the very form of the book models the point of the book (and how rare is that!?). mackenzie spent most of his adult life working at hallmark cards, where he moved through a variety of creative roles, ending in a strange “listening” role with a title he gave himself: creative paradox (seriously, that was his job title). at its core, the book is about creativity. but it’s central theme is that all organizations (and believe me, you church workers will resonate with this) naturally become ‘hairballs’ of policy, procedure, expectations, rules, assumptions, and org charts. in order to maintain creativity while being part of a human organization, one must move into orbit. the orbit has a gravitational pull that keeps you connected to the organization. getting pulled into the hairball isn’t good; but shooting off on your own trajectory — breaking with gravity — isn’t good either. more inspirational than practical, the book will stir your imagination, and get you longing for those days when you live into the creative being you were made to be.
Bite Me: A Love Story, by Christopher Moore
chris moore is, hands down, no competition, absolutely, without question, the funniest novel writer living today. i like funny books. and i’ve read a bunch of ’em, by a bunch of authors. there are many funny authors. but no one comes close to chris moore. the other day, my son asked me what some of my all-time favorite books were, and the first one i mentioned was moore’s lamb: the gospel according to biff, christ’s childhood pal. max asked why it was on my list, and i responded that no other book is both so insightful and so drop-dead hilarious. all that said, even moore — who in his less-than-best books is still hilarious — can’t get 5 stars on every book. he’s written a couple vampire stories in a row, and i sincerely hope it’s not a lazy rut, brought on by our current national obsession with all things fanged. set, again, in san francisco, but narrated by a teenage girl who is a shockingly annoying proto-goth wannabe vampire (and, for a few chapters, a shockingly annoying proto-goth actual vampire), moore invents wonderfully unique characters and re-introduces characters from previous books. he regularly introduces plot turns and turns-of-phrase that leave my head spinning with “how did he ever come up with that!?” so, not moore’s most inventive work, since it follows the same basic formula and setting as his last (without actually being a sequel). but, even a not-as-inventive chris moore book is wildly more inventive and hilarious than most.
Angry Conversations with God: A Snarky but Authentic Spiritual Memoir, by Susan E. Isaacs
isaacs has written one of those rare spiritual memoirs — like anne lamott and others — that are completely jesus-y, but still fall outside the mainstream of what would be published by most evangelical book publishers. it’s a jesus-y book with a massive dose of snarkiness and a smattering of swearing. unlike lamott, isaacs is a cradle christian wrestling with holding onto a faith (and an association with the church) that is simply not working for her — one in which she blames god for the series a deep frustrations she’s experiencing in life. she weaves the tale, primarily, through a series of scripted marital counseling sessions, with three primary voices: her own, that of her therapist, and the voice of god (and occasionally the voice of jesus). she admits, and her therapist regularly reminds her, that the voice of god is not really the voice of god, but the voice of her interpretation of god. as isaacs slowly, in fits and starts, moves toward a new kind of re-engaged and sustainable faith, her voice of god seems to come more and more into alignment with what god would actually say. she’s a very funny writer (with a background in acting, screenwriting, and improv comedy). and she pulls no punches when taking swings at the parts of the church that mislead, abused, or annoyed her. the resolve is somewhat to-be-expected, but still a good reminder of truth. maybe i don’t need to read books that confirm my own snarkiness; but maybe it’s a good mirror.