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There’s an old book by Henry Zylstra, Testament of Vision, that contains a assertion that I come back to again and again: literature should give us “more to be Christian with.” How do the stories we tell, the stories we listen to, the stories we honor or reject–how do these make us more capacious in our faith, more gracious in our lives?

So I’m always on the look-out for good stories. Luckily, part of my job as co-director of the Calvin Center for Faith and Writing is to identify writers who are working smartly at the intersection of belief and storytelling, be that in podcasts or novels, poems or picture books, film or memoir.

As we approach the 30th anniversary of the CCFW’s signature event, the Festival of Faith and Writing, I’m excited to share some of the creative people who will be joining us. We’re still planning and still inviting, but we’ve recently released a partial list to get you started here. There’s still time for summer reading–but actually, this is a list that could guide you over the next year and then some. All the way to the Festival! Perfect for book clubs, classrooms, adult education at church.

If you’d like a place to start, I’ve been recommending Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko for months. It’s a beautifully told, carefully researched, utterly gripping multi-generational tale of Korean immigrants in Japan. It’s history you probably don’t know with characters with whom you will definitely want to spend time. Casey Cep’s non-fiction work, Furious Hours, about Harper Lee and the book she worked on (but never published) is masterfully crafted, interweaving true crime with authorial mystery. Definitely worth a read just to see how well-written it is. But the story’s amazing, too.

And there’s so much more! I could highlight more (and maybe I will in coming blogs), but do have a look and discover old favorites and new friends.

And when you need a break from reading, you might want to check out the series of video “conversation starters” the Center has produced, called Marginalia. These brief (about 2 minutes) clips showcase a writer or artist we’ve hosted at the Center, talking about a topic sure to get you thinking.

One of my favorites is Christian Wiman, who is returning for FFW2020:

So happy reading, watching, thinking–and finding more to be faithful with!

Jennifer L. Holberg

I’ve taught English at Calvin College since 1998–where I get to read books and talk about them for a living. What could be better? Along with my wonderful colleague, Jane Zwart, I am the co-director of the Calvin Center for Faith and Writing, which is the home of the Festival of Faith and Writing as well as a number of other exciting endeavors. Given my interest in teaching, I’m the founding co-editor of the Duke University Press journal Pedagogy: Critical Approaches to Teaching Literature, Language, Composition and Culture (and yes, I realize that that is a very long subtitle). I also do various administrative things across campus. As an Army brat, I’ve never lived anywhere as long as I’ve now lived in Grand Rapids. I count myself rich in friends and family. I enjoy kayaking and hiking. I collect cookbooks (and also like to cook), listen to all kinds of music, and watch all manner of movies and tv shows. I love George Eliot, Jane Austen, Marilynne Robinson, Dante, E.M. Delafield, Tennyson, Hopkins, and Charlotte Bronte (among others). And I have a bumper sticker on my car that says: “I’d rather be reading Flannery O’Connor.” Which is true.

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