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John Ames

John Ames

My Kindle Paperwhite, has arrived.

I don’t fancy liturgy, but with my books and reading devices I take a peculiar distinction. What books do I upload in the Kindle cloud and sync with my device? What books should I read first?

I decided on the following:

— Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead, a letter of a 70-year old pastor from a small town in rural America, to his seven-year old son. I always treat Ms. Robinson’s works—Homecoming, Gilead, Lila—with a kind of sacrosanct awe. Her prose is topnotch. Relevant things happen that remain unwritten, a bit hidden from the narrative, which makes the imagination run wild. There’s a certain kind of peace and stillness to her fiction, as well, as if one can hear cicadas in the background as Reverend John Ames, after whom I’ve named my Kindle, settles himself in his chair to relieve his anginal pains. This is the second time I’ve read Gilead, but my appreciation for it has more than doubled. Maturity, or so I hope, gives a person a wider, deeper understanding of things—like grace, hope, kindness, and forgiveness.

— John Calvin’s The Institutes of the Christian Religion Volume I, a masterpiece of theological writing, penned by one of the forerunners of the Reformation, whose 500th anniversary we’re celebrating this year. Calvin was an exceptionally gifted, intelligent man; he was only around my age when he had written the Institutes—a voluminous work that reflects his lofty view of the Word of God and his passion for the Lord’s glory.

— Lauren Collins’s When In French, an American woman’s journey into the study and application of French, an inevitable chore she needed to do partly out of duty (she and her French-speaking husband Olivier have moved to Geneva, Switzerland) and out of love, in a sense, so she could understand and get to know her husband more. I’m self-studying French myself, just for the fun of it, to kill time, as if I have any to butcher.

— Tim Challies’s Do More Better, a guide to productivity, centered on the goal of glorifying God by doing good in whatever we do. Published by Cruciform Press, it’s a short book that will benefit anyone who struggles with procrastination, busyness, and unproductivity. I look to Tim Challies for his efficiency and wisdom. I visit his blog daily and have taken many of his recommendations on which apps to use (Ulysses, for distraction-free writing; Kindle, for reading; Evernote, for note-taking; and many more).

— Life Stories: Profiles from The New Yorker, edited by David Remnick, a collection of the best profiles published in one of the world’s best magazines written in English.

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami. I haven’t taken on running yet, but the title seems so interesting. Many colleagues from the hospital run along Roxas Boulevard—why they do this, apart from the cardiovascular benefits derived from physical activity, remains a mystery to me.

I carry John Ames anywhere now. Its battery lasts for four to six weeks without charging. It’s lighter than my phone. I adore the screen, whether I read it in broad daylight or in between my sheets at night, because it does not have the glare of my iPad but feels a bit like paper itself. I’ve become more active in Goodreads, which is a friendly community for readers, to which I’ve linked the Kindle account so I can keep track of my reading habits.

I showed it to friends from work.

“Where’s Harrisons*?”

“It’s not here,” I said, partly because the Kindle is not optimized for reading PDFs, partly because I want John Ames to be my repository of non-academic reading.



*Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine—our textbook in residency.

Many thanks to Hannah for getting this for me!

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