What to Read for Insight on this Uncharted Journey

Contributing Editors Michael Buma and Peter Schuurman share the books that they're reaching for these days.

Mike Buma writes

Although it isn’t by any means the most comforting or reassuring novel for the current moment, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven. It’s the story of a post-apocalyptic world in which most of the population has been decimated by a flu pandemic. The narrative focuses on a group of actors and musicians known as the Travelling Symphony, who journey around what’s left of the Great Lakes region keeping hope and culture alive by performing the classics. This sounds trite as a quick summary, but it’s beautifully rendered in the novel and feels especially poignant in the current moment when bands, orchestras, and even the general public are finding ways to unite and inspire by playing and performing together over video conference.

One of the characters in Station Eleven, a musician, yearns for the sound of electric guitar – which he hasn’t heard in 20 or so years since the pandemic occurred. I keep coming back to this throwaway detail in my mind. I always told myself that when I got a “real” job and a bit of extra money, I’d buy an electric guitar. But for some reason I never got around to it. Now that I’m stuck at home social distancing, I really wish that I had. While I don’t think that COVID-19 will be the end of civilization as we know it, I do think this experience will change us, both collectively and individually. One of the small personal changes I’m planning to make when we get through this is to finally buy that electric guitar.

Peter Schuurman writes

I’m nourished by the clear and concise thinking of Andy Crouch. Veritas Forum held a webinar with him, Lydia Dugdale, and David Brooks, focused on the big questions raised by COVID. Super! Jamie Smith’s On the Road with Sanit Augustine is a delightful meditation on our life as emigrants, from our old country to God’s new city. Provocative!

I’m also reading Let Dogs Be Dogs, looking to monks to help me understand our puppy. The book begins: “In a fractured world of broken relationships dogs can teach us the meaning of devotion and fidelity.” Let animals be our teachers (as Jesus commanded!)

Read more of our writers’ recommendations:

These are atypical times, and we thought it fitting to publish an atypical review section in this issue. Instead of our normal format, we’ve gathered some reflections from regular contributors on what’s helping them through social distancing, social upheaval, and, well, just the strange state of affairs in which we find ourselves. Music, books, TV, and film are such great helps in trying times. They help us escape to new worlds and far-off places, while also offering wisdom and insight to help us understand this sad and beautiful world. All that and more. Maybe you’ll find something here that’ll help you, too! – Brian Bork, Reviews Editor

  • Peter is Executive Director of Global Scholars Canada, a transnational guild of Christian scholars. He preaches, teaches and writes – having written columns, editorials, news and features for CC since 1997. His book The Subversive Evangelical: The Ironic Charisma of an Irreligious Megachurch (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2019) is an ethnographic journey into the life of a megachurch and its “irreligious” charismatic leader. He loves stories that cross boundaries while maintaining integrity.

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