Spring is here and summer is fast approaching, so now seems as good a time as any to offer some suggestions for reading, preferably outdoors. Since Rod Dreher’s The Little Way of Ruthie Leming has been on my mind, I’ll let it inspire my choices. The following works are frequently different, sometimes disagree, but complement Little Way and add other voices to its conversation about place, family, faith, and community.
For fiction lovers, the obvious choice is Wendell Berry, the godfather of literary localism. Remembering is a short work, among his most tightly crafted and multifaceted. But I would more highly recommend any of the novels of Marilynne Robinson (Housekeeping, Gilead, and Home), which dive even deeper into the difficulties of being at-home in the only place one can truly call “home.” Joshua Henkin’s The World Without You tells the story of a family’s grief, divisions, and love in the aftermath of a son’s death in Iraq, and is the best new novel I’ve read in the past year. However, if you still insist on reading something by a Kentuckian who came of age during the 1960s, let me direct you to Gurney Norman’s tale of a very different prodigal son’s return home, Divine Right’s Trip.
A.E. Stallings is a poet who has traveled far from her place of birth, Georgia, to her current home in Greece. Her poems are “small” in their focus but of a tremendous depth and beauty—which they grant to the individual and domestic lives that are frequently their focus. I was delighted to find her most recent volume, Olives, several weeks ago and have been savoring these delicious works since then. (You can sample several of her works on the First Things website.)
And in case you insist on “true stories” in your summer reading, I’ll repeat my earlier recommendation of Robert K. Massie’s Nicholas and Alexandra and add a second title. David Treuer’s Rez Life is part memoir, part study of life of Native American reservations today. The son of a Holocaust survivor who married an Ojibwe woman, Treuer grapples with the personal and societal dynamics that define his relationship with his, and his tribe’s, home.
If you have your own recommendations, thematically related or not, feel free to offer them to fellow readers in the comments section below.