Books for spending God’s gifted time

Mennonites are having a literary moment

Kate Bowler in her off-campus office, where she produces her “Everything Happens” podcast. — Yonat Shimron/RNS Kate Bowler in her off-campus office, where she produces her “Everything Happens” podcast. — Yonat Shimron/RNS

Mennonites are having a literary moment. Here at Anabaptist World we had no idea how timely our Books Issue (Oct. 29) would be.

In recent weeks, you didn’t need AW to find reviews of a book by an ­acclaimed Mennonite novelist ­(Miriam Toews’ Fight Night) or a book with a leading character from a Mennonite background by one of the most highly regarded novelists writing today ­(Jonathan Franzen’s Crossroads). All you had to do was pick up The New Yorker or The Wall Street Journal or one of several other national publications.

While it’s always fun to see Mennonites hit the big time (yes, we’re rooting for Girl Named Tom on The Voice), this issue of AW mainly recognizes work by writers who won’t make a national best-seller list.

But their books caught our eye, because they had a great story to tell or something important to say to Anabaptists today. Or just because they looked unusual and interesting. In other words: Not every review is necessarily an endorsement. And also: This isn’t a compilation of all the good Anabaptist books published this year — although you’ll find a list that includes some of the books we’ve reviewed previously.

One more new book I enthusiastically endorse is No Cure for Being ­Human (And Other Truths I Need to Hear) by Kate Bowler. One might call it Anabaptist-­adjacent; in this memoir and her previous one, Every­thing Happens for a Reason (And Other Lies I’ve Loved), Bowler doesn’t identify as Mennonite, ­although she is married to one (from Manitoba) and seems to enjoy our company.

Bowler, who teaches at Duke Divinity School, writes of facing probable imminent death after a diagnosis of stage-4 cancer at the age of 35. Now, six years later, with her cancer in “durable remission,” she continues to write and produce a podcast.

Forced to face her mortality, Bowler explores the big questions of faith and meaning with wit and theological insight. She accepts that life is both beautiful and terrible — and always unfinished.

As Mennonite pastor Conrad L. Kanagy writes in an excerpt from his new book, A Church Dismantled, a Kingdom Restored, we are all living on God’s gifted time. Some of us are just more aware of this than others. Reading a book like Bowler’s, which inspires mindful and purposeful living, is a good way to spend some of our preciously limited time.

Paul Schrag

Paul Schrag is editor of Anabaptist World. He lives in Newton, Kan., attends First Mennonite Church of Newton and is Read More

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