Family Best

Sharlet: It’s a New Year’s treat to have my book, The Family, included on the top 10 list of 2008 books featured on “The Writer’s Voice,” a smart program based in Massachusetts and broadcast in some of the far nooks and crannies of the country, from Anchorage to Gainesville. All the more so because I’m in the company of two writers who made a big impression on me when I began writing (and still do), Louise Erdrich and Terry Tempest Williams. I think of both as religion writers, though they’re not normally considered as such, in part because they’ve been stuck with other, less revealing labels — Native American for Erdrich, who writes as often and as well about European Americans, and naturalist for Williams, whose best book, I think, is Leap, a long meditation on Hieronymus Bosch. Erdrich’s Plague of Doves was already on my must-read list for 2009; now it’s joined by Williams’ new Finding Beauty in a Broken World, which, despite its self-help title, is about prairie dogs, Rwanda, and Italian mosaics. Sounds like new scripture to me.

The Family was savaged a few times over by liberals who thought I was too mean to evangelicals, so it gives me some satisfaction to report that the book ended the year in the good graces of two of smart evangelical writers: the emergent church leader Tony Jones (author of The New Christians), who calls The Family “the finest religion book of 2008, far and away” on Beliefnet; and evangelical satirist Becky Garrison (author, most recently, of The New Atheist Crusaders and Their Unholy Grail), who picked The Family for her “best-of-08” on Jim Wallis’ God’s Politics.