I recommend Ian Rankin, young Scottish mystery writer. Curl up on the couch and read one of his John Rebus novels. I recommend Black and Blue (1997) in particular. You’ll get to know Inspector Rebus, his battle with the bottle, his curmudgeonly yet magnetic personality. You’ll get to walk the streets of Edinburgh be on an oil rig in Aberdeen while investigating the connection between a string of recent murders and a true 1970s Scottish serial killer, Bible John. The only problem with this recommendation is that you’ll be tired for work the next morning because you won’t be able to put it down.
I recommend Gilead (2004) by Marilynne Robinson. In 1956 the Reverend John Ames, knowing that his days are numbered, begins to write a letter to his young son. It is an account of his life, his family and his lifelong friendship with “old Boughton.” More than this, though, it is a meditation on the human condition, sin and repentance, and the bonds of family. It might start slow, but much like the setting for the book, the flat plains and corn fields of Gilead, Iowa, you’ll find yourself gripped by its majestic beauty. If you like Gilead, you’ll have to pick up Robinson’s next novel, Home (2008), which recounts the same piece of Gilead history through the eyes of other characters.
I recommend George Eliot’s Middlemarch (1874). You’ll need blocks of time to immerse yourself into this doorstopper Victorian novel. What I love about this book, other than the fact that it’s simply a story well-told, is that it captures the deep psychology of its characters. You’ll be able to enter deep within the complex relationship of two sisters, the resistance of a small town community to the advances of medical science, the gut-wrenching decisions facing these unmarried women in the mid nineteenth century. For the political buffs among you, you’ll get a glimpse of the turmoil created by the Great Reform Bill, the advance of the railways, and the death of King George IV. Along the way, you’ll want to stop and read sentences over and over again, just to appreciate Eliot’s masterful prose.
Anna Bonta Moreland is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Humanities at Villanova University. She received her B.A. in Philosophy at the University of Maryland, College Park, and her M.A. and Ph.D. in Systematic Theology from Boston College. Her areas of research include faith and reason, medieval theology with an emphasis on Thomas Aquinas, the rise of modern atheism, and the theology of religious pluralism. Her first book is entitled Known by Nature: Thomas Aquinas on Natural Knowledge of God (Herder & Herder, 2010). She has also edited a collection of essays in contemporary theology, New Voices in Catholic Theology (Herder & Herder, forthcoming, Spring 2012).