Book Recommendations for 2021

Books worth reading this coming year

Here are a few books that have challenged and inspired me this past year. I pray they might do the same for you this coming year!

Book Recommendations for 2021

These are the best reflections I’ve read about Coronavirus and the Christian faith. Both N.T. Wright and Walter Brueggemann are two of my favorite theologians.

Not only are we facing a pandemic, but a lot of political unrest. Please, please, please take the time to read Lee Camp’s political manifesto for Christians. It might just change your life (as Kingdom thinking does).

I have been reading and re-reading St. Augustine for years. I have also been following the work of James K. A. Smith. In this book I found much more than I imagined! This was this year’s most spiritually forming book for me. I highly recommend it!

I love reading biblical theology by scholars who strive to condense their longer and deeper works into tomes for a popular level. This book by Richard Bauckman is absolutely brilliant!

In addition to reading theology, I enjoy reading novels and poetry for spiritual formation. This year during quarantine I spent time with Rainer Maria Rilke and T.S. Eliot. I always love reading Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky. Check out these anthologies that will help you better discover the spiritual writings of these two Russian giants!

This past year I have taken a greater interest in Patristics. If you would like to read writings from early Christian theologians, the Philokalia is a great place to begin!

In addition to Patristics, I discovered Alexander Schmemann and his work, For the Life of the World. I started learning about sacramental theology in regards to storytelling in Catholic literature (for ex. Flannery O’Connor) and now I’ve found one of the classic works on the topic and it has revolutionized my thinking.

Check out this anthology of short stories by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. These stories can help you reflect on interracial relationships and what it means to be a part of the same community with people who are radically different than you are. Also check out Chimamanda’s fellow Nigerian author, Chinua Achebe, especially his work, Things Fall Apart.

In the area of pastoral theology, I could not leave out a title by Eugene Peterson. This book is not to be read straight through but to be read little by little for deep reflection. This book is a part of a larger series on pastoral work.

Even before I saw his painting “The Garden of Earthly Delights” in person, I have been fascinated by the person and work of Hieronymus Bosch. So I thought I’d end this list with a book by one of my favorite publishing houses, Taschen.

Let yourself be challenged by people who are different than you, people who lived in other times and places. Dare to become not only better informed, but spiritually transformed.

Meet Pablo Alaguibe

Pablo Alguibe is the first poet we have translated and published for our online and on-demand print journal, Hagioscope. We have published three of his poems:

The Inside of a Whale

Holes in wool socks

The rotund man and the presumably young man

Pablo Alaguibe created Ediciones del Altillo in Mar del Plata, Argentina

I first met Pablo in a coffee shop in Vicente López, Buenos Aires this last year. He had been in a very long and tedious meeting for a local publishing house. Despite the long day and the bus that was awaiting him, he generously accepted the invitation for a cup of coffee with friends and I tagged along.

After the formalities of Argentine greetings, he said something like, “tell me about you — I want to get to know you”. I said a few things about myself without providing too many details. Nevertheless, he insisted that in our brief time together, he really wanted to get to know me. Pablo is not only good at telling stories, he is good at asking questions that lead others to tell their stories.

Pablo’s sensitivities to nature and life make him a keen observer of the human experience. He not only exposes the dangers of two-faced hypocrisy, he proposes through his life and poetry an alternative way of being human.

Frankly, I am fed-up with poets who provoke just to provoke. It is no surprise that it is mostly young souls that most enjoy provocation. I, like many others have long been witnesses to irreverent provocations and yearn for something more.

I long not only for fingers that point out hypocrisy, but fingers that point towards hope, towards alternative ways of being human and living together as one big family. After years of working with poor and immigrant populations, after years of reading poignant literature that artfully analyzes the human condition, I now read to discern better ways of being human. I read in order to see the beauty in the middle of the mess that is human existence.

Pablo helps me see that beauty and truth are not far off.

Pablo publishes his books in his workshop at his home in Mar del Plata, Argentina. For more information, visit:

Ediciones del Altillo

Ediciones del Altillo on Facebook

Poeta osado y valiente

Pablo Alaguibe, nuestro primer poeta publicado en la Revista Hagioscope, es un poeta osado y valiente.

Osado porque se anima a indagar e incomodar a sus lectores con preguntas pertinentes que muchas veces revelan la hipocresía o apatía de los seres humanos.

Valiente porque no se queda sólo preguntando y perturbando, sino que se esfuerza para explorar en qué consiste la buena vida como miembro de una comunidad.

Pablo es el fundador de Ediciones del Altillo en la ciudad del Mar de Plata, Argentina. Sus libros son publicados artesanalmente en su taller casero.

Les comparto dos poesías, una osada y otra valiente.

Salmo de desorientación

¿Por qué insiste Dios en los jazmines
cuando en Nigeria tantos niños
han quedado tendidos para siempre
en el piso de la escuela?

¿Por qué se despereza la semilla
y nace el brote por la noche,
mientras suenan las alarmas,
los gritos y disparos en el barrio?

¿Sonríe Dios cuando la flor florece?
¿Se olvida de lo otro?

De algo se olvidan los que son felices.

Es necesario no saberlo todo.

¿Cómo se puede ser Dios,
saber lo que ha pasado, 
y seguir pintando amaneceres,
seguir imaginando calabazas,
colores de moluscos,
niños posibles, lunares en mejillas,
formas de nubes,
perfumes de manzana?

¿Está contento Dios o llora?

¿Llora la historia humana cada noche
y vuelve a inspirarse en las mañanas?

Mientras no lo sabemos,
tenemos hijos, los mimamos
y jugamos con ellos en el patio,
como si nada. 
Sabemos del horror que los acecha.
Les damos a probar frutillas
dulces y ácidas. 
Disfrutamos su asombro. 
Reímos de sus caras.

Cuaderno Rojo, Ediciones del Altillo, 2018.

Seremos tu familia

Seremos los que abraces y te abracen. 
Los que no siempre te entiendan.
Seremos los primeros
a quienes quieras contar tus novedades.
Y con los que querrás ir a llorar corriendo.

Te veremos crecer,
y nos verás cambiar de ideas.
Descubrirás de a poco nuestra inconsistencia,
el triste abismo
entre lo que quisiéramos ser y lo que somos. 
Perderemos el rumbo cerca tuyo.
Perderemos el tiempo. 
y comeremos lo mismo muchas veces,
en ocasiones dulces y saldas.
Soñaremos mundos parecidos,
aunque no idénticos.
Nos reiremos de los mismos chistes.
Compartiremos los vinos y los panes,
los resfríos y las pestes. Y luego los remedios.

Intentaremos controlarte y,
con la ayuda de Dios, jamás lo lograremos. 
Tendremos que aprender a disfrutar
de que hagas lo contrario a nuestros planes,
y para lo cual estabas hecho. 
Tomaremos distancia.
Diremos cosas feas unos de otros.
Nos perdonarás y nos reencontraremos.
No reemplazaremos a la familia de tu sangre.
Solo seremos una más. Pero una que se elige. 
Tendrás con quienes caminar
cuando te duelan las rodillas.
Llegarás a la última puerta rodeado
por un montón de inevitables compañeros.
Les dirás hasta luego con la mano,
y te dirán: ¡NOS VEMOS!

Cuaderno Verde Limón, Ediciones del Altillo, 2018.

The Divine Image

Jean Vanier reminds us that “toute personne est une histoire sacrée”, every person is a sacred story. However, in today’s world, people are treated as mere patients, clients, and consumers. Luigi Zoja in his book, La morte del prossimo, writes that our neighbor is dead to us as a direct consequence of the death of God.

This leads me to believe that the desacralization of the world has much to do with our loss of humanity. In our aim to create secular states in order to avoid sectarian oppression, we have also eliminated sacred space and often denied the sacred nature of other human beings.

William Blake (1757–1827) reminds us from the not so distant past that the value of human beings is intrinsically related to the nature of the divine image.

The Divine Image

by William Blake

To Mery, Pity, Peace and Love
All pray in their distress:
And to these virtues of delight
Return their thankfulness.

For Mercy, Pity, Peace and Love
Is God our father dear:
And Mercy, Pity, Peace and Love
Is Man his child and care.

For Mercy has a human heart,
Pity a human face:
And Love, the human form divine,
And Peace, the human dress.

Then every man of every clime,
That prays in his distress,
Prays to the human form divine
Love, Mercy, Pity, Peace.

And all must love the human form,
In heathen, turk, or jew.
Where Mercy, Love & Pity dwell
There God is dwelling too.

Songs of Innocence and of Experience, William Blake

Toute personne est une histoire sacrée, Jean Vanier

La morte del prossimo, Luigi Zoja

The Power of Words

If literature is a metaphor for the writer’s experience, as mirror in which that experience is at least partially reflected, it is at the same time a mirror in which the reader can also see his or her experience reflected in a new and potentially transforming way. This is what it is like to search for God in a world where cruelty and pain hide God, Dostoevski says – “How like a winter hath my absence been from thee”; how like seeing a poor woman in a dream with a starving child at her breast; how like Father Zossima kneeling down at the feet of Dmitri Karamazov because he sees that great suffering is in store for him and because he knows, as John Donne did, that suffering is holy. And you and I, his readers, come away from our reading with no more proof of the existence or nonexistence of God than we had before, with no particular moral or message to frame on the wall, but empowered by a new sense of the depths of love and pity and hope that is transmitted to us through Dostoevski’s powerful words.




Words written fifty years ago, a hundred years ago, a thousand years ago, can have as much of this power today as ever they had it then to come alive for us and in us and to make us more alive within ourselves. That, I suppose, is the final mystery as well as the final power of words: that not even across great distances of time and space do they ever lose their capacity for becoming incarnate. And when these words tell of virtue and nobility, when they move us closer to that truth and gentleness of spirit by which we become fully human, the reading of them is sacramental; and a library is as holy a place as any temple is holy because through the words which are treasured in it the Word itself becomes flesh again and again and dwells among us and within us, full of grace and truth.


– Frederick Buechner, A Room Called Remember.