This is the second of three posts from this site’s current contributors, about our favorite books, music, and movies of 2009—not necessarily made in 2009, but consumed, pondered, enjoyed and treasured by each of us during the past year. Yesterday we heard from Nate Barksdale; tomorrow we’ll close the series with Andy Crouch’s recommendations.
Two of the movies that moved me most in 2009 deal with human suffering and hope in the midst of despair: Courtney Hunt’s Frozen River, a haunting story of survival and the sometimes blurry lines between right and wrong, and Scott Blanding/Brad LaBriola/Greg Heller’s documentary, Women in War Zones, which tells the story of two survivors of sexual violence in the Congo. I was also surprisingly touched by Kenny Ortega’s This is It, a film documenting the last few months of Michael Jackson’s life, rehumanizing The Gloved One and presenting him as the phenomenally talented, humble and generous, albeit broken, entertainer he was.
After years of reading mostly non-fiction, I read several novels in 2009 that had a tremendous impact on me. One was My Name is Asher Lev, by Chaim Potok. Its insight into the mind of a visual artist was very helpful to me as someone who is trying to understand how visual artists see the world. I also appreciated the author’s profound insight into Christ’s crucifixion from the perspective of a Hasidic Jew. Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead was very moving to me on several levels, not the least of which was the way the main character was awakened by tender eros in his twilight years. But the book I read in 2009 that I was most stirred by was actually an unpublished manuscript by a very promising author practicing law near the University of Virginia. Corban Addison’s A Walk Across the Sun deals with the issue of human trafficking in both the US and India. It was the first time in a while I have had serious trouble putting a book down; I was riveted from page one.
My non-fiction treasures of 2009 include Michael Card’s A Sacred Sorrow: Reaching Out to God in the Lost Language of Lament, Nicholas Wolterstorff’s Art in Action, Dan Siedell’s God in the Gallery, Eugene Peterson’s A Long Obedience in the Same Direction (a pastorally-guided exploration up the Psalms of Ascents), and Lewis Hyde’s The Gift, required reading at International Arts Movement as we seek to approach the arts not in terms of commodity, but rather in terms of gift.