During my adult years, I’ve been a reader. I had a lot of assigned reading while in seminary – most (but certainly not all) of which I completed. Upon finishing graduate school, I thoroughly enjoyed the freedom of reading what I wanted. This freedom lasted for some twenty years. While I do read fiction, I’m an incorrigible non-fiction devotee. Taylor Branch’s Parting the Waters, Dee Brown’s Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, Paul Johnson’s Modern Times, Richard Rhodes’s The Making of the Atomic Bomb, and Daniel Yergin’s The Prize are but a few of the captivating books I delved into over those twenty years. Reading a book is akin to having a conversation with another human being: a deep, meaningful, and thought-out exchange that as the reader I am able to conduct on my time. (Yes, I’m that person who carries a book around most everywhere.)
In the summer of 2011, the twenty-year run of potpourri non-fiction reading came to an end. A crazy idea which I had never entertained started to take hold: write a book. Not just any book, but a book that responded to the fallout associated with the economic swoon that started with the housing market crash of 2007-08. As the details emerged, once again our society was dealing with the aftereffects of the inordinate love of money and misplaced trust in an economic system still prone to collapses. The so-called experts had been telling us that we had entered a new era of stability. They were wrong. Hadn’t we seen this before in the run-up to the Great Depression?
I started reading – by my own assignation – all I could that covered the topics of how the economy crashed once again: banking, history, economics, commentary. I talked with colleagues and friends about my idea. Most were enthusiastic and responded with further suggestions. The idea of what I wanted to write began to form . . . something along the lines of societal excess, inequality, and over-consumption. As I researched, I kept looking for the book that I wanted to write – to see if someone else had already written it. In those first number of months of heavy reading, I didn’t find it. I started writing. My reading and research continued as I wrote. All the while, I still spied for the book I was writing. I came across some that were close to it, covering similar territory. I never found it, however.
Just a Little Bit More: The Culture of Excess and the Fate of the Common Good was published in May 2014. In it, I stated my case: American society, increasingly stratified economically, was losing touch with an egalitarian-fused common good. Now in 2020, it’s even more so the case. I’ll be eternally grateful to Greg Pierce, publisher and owner of ACTA-Chicago, for picking up my self-published book for national distribution.
During 2017, I took a “self-imposed sabbatical” from church work. I had served dual-language congregations in Texas for more than twenty-five years and wanted to write another book. The end result of a fifteen-month sabbatical was There is a Balm in Huntsville. I’m grateful to my spouse, Denise Anderson, for supporting our household while I researched and wrote for all of 2017 and a few months into 2018. I’m also grateful to principal character in the book who shared his heart and soul with me over a two-year period – his transformation (and many others’) made possible by crime victim survivors who shared their stories and criminal justice professionals who dedicated their skillsets to the goal of rehabilitation.
Balm‘s been out for a year now. I’ve heard from many readers, who have become participants in a meaningful conversation about second chances, retribution and rehabilitation, forgiveness, and making amends. I trust these conversations will continue for some time. I’m grateful.
I’ve started to think about my next book, based on some thoughts and convictions I’ve shared before in this very blog space – a “Jesus book.” You wouldn’t expect anything less from a preacher, would you? Like my two previous books, this one will advance the conversation in our society about this crucial topic: How do people in a society who are divided ideologically find common ground (or can they?)
Keep reading, friends.
T. Carlos “Tim” Anderson – I’m a Protestant minister and Director of Community Development for Austin City Lutherans (ACL), an organization of a dozen ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) congregations in Austin, Texas. I’m also the author of There is a Balm in Huntsville: A True Story of Tragedy and Restoration from the Heart of the Texas Prison System (Walnut Street Books, 2019).