• #2-Survival is a Style-Heartlands 2020 Best Reads

    #2-Survival is a Style-Heartlands 2020 Best Reads

    Like Jesmyn Ward at #3, Christian Wiman is a three-time visitor to the annual Best Reads list, having been here in 2018 for his exquisite memoir, He Held Radical Light: The Art of Faith, The Faith of Art, and in 2019 as editor of the collection, Joy: 100 Poems. In 2020 Wiman published a solo […]

  • #3-Men We Reaped-Heartlands 2020 Best Reads

    #3-Men We Reaped-Heartlands 2020 Best Reads

    OK. I’ve gushed over Jesmyn Ward enough in the past three years. Her novel Sing, Unburied, Sing made the Best Reads list in 2017. Salvage the Bones, her Hurricane Katrina novel, was on the list last year and is on my all-time Top Ten. So, it’s not surprising that this Mississippi writer finds her way […]

  • #4-One Long River of Song-Heartlands 2020 Best Reads

    #4-One Long River of Song-Heartlands 2020 Best Reads

    I like to keep a magical writer by my morning reading chair. For a few blessed months this year and last it was Brian Doyle, whose brief essays in the collection One Long River of Song: Notes on Wonder sing. His observations have the attention of a nature writer and the lilt of an Irishman […]

  • #5-As I Lay Dying-Heartlands 2020 Best Reads

    #5-As I Lay Dying-Heartlands 2020 Best Reads

    Part of my return to the classics this year included another run at William Faulkner. I had only ever gotten through an audio version of A Light in August, which I listened to on a drive across the South a few years ago. The Sound and the Fury seemed impossible, but I started this year’s […]

  • #6-A Prayer for Orion-Heartlands 2020 Best Reads

    #6-A Prayer for Orion-Heartlands 2020 Best Reads

    Memoirs were big in my 2020 reading. But I would have read anything Katherine James put out after her debut novel, Can You See Anything Now? James is not one of those Christian writers who submerges harsh reality beneath a pious gloss. She combines an artist’s eye with brutal honesty and yet suffused throughout is […]

  • #7-One of Ours-Heartlands 2020 Best Reads

    #7-One of Ours-Heartlands 2020 Best Reads

    I got to Willa Cather late. Despite encouragement through the years that I would find her a fellow traveller, I only got to My Antonía a few years ago. But it was enough to get me primed for more, and when a New Yorker article suggested that her 1922 novel One of Ours made a […]

  • #8-North Toward Home-Heartlands 2020 Best Reads

    #8-North Toward Home-Heartlands 2020 Best Reads

    Another memoir at #8–Willie Morris’s North Toward Home, written in 1967. I read this in the summer of Black Lives Matter and there are plenty of jarring moments as Morris describes growing up white in segregated Mississippi. But he makes it out, first to Texas and then to New York City, and when he does […]

  • #9 – The Yellow House–Heartlands 2020 Best Reads

    #9 – The Yellow House–Heartlands 2020 Best Reads

    Sarah Broom earned rave reviews in 2019 with The Yellow House. It’s a memoir of one Black family’s experience in New Orleans East, built around the frame of a shotgun house that did not survive Katrina. It’s a dreamy sort of book, and by that I mean elusive. But the storytelling and the characters are […]

  • The Heartlands Best Reads for 2020! #10—Nothing Happened

    The Heartlands Best Reads for 2020! #10—Nothing Happened

    For the last four years, I’ve been producing a list of Best Reads to end the year on Heartlands. It’s an eclectic collection and should not be mistaken for one of those Top Ten lists of books that actually appeared in print during the current year. Especially this year when the pandemic sent me back […]

  • Going Somewhere with Jesus: The Lexham Geographic Commentary

    Going Somewhere with Jesus: The Lexham Geographic Commentary

    In her 2019 book, The Absent Hand:Reimagining our American Landscape, (our Heartlands favorite read last year), Suzannah Lessard described the place where we are just now as atopia, a realm in which place has lost its old meaning because the kind of things that used to define our world, primarily our work, shape our physical […]

  • Another Way of Knowing – Reading A Book of Luminous Things

    Another Way of Knowing – Reading A Book of Luminous Things

    “I would have nothing against calling my anthology a book of enchantments.” (xx) –Czeslaw Milosz Czesław Milosz not only has a difficult name for English speakers to get their tongues around, his poetry is also difficult. But in 1996 he edited a collection of poems that is full, as he says in the introduction, “of […]

  • The Unseen Skeleton That IS the Closet—Reading Caste

    The Unseen Skeleton That IS the Closet—Reading Caste

    “With an old house, the work is never done, and you don’t expect it to be. America is an old house.” (15) 2020 has been the year for a lot of divisive debates, but one of the most interesting for students of history has been the one about dates. Is the United States fundamentally a […]