On My Shelf: Life and Books with James K. A. Smith

Matt Smethurst | September 30, 2015

On My Shelf is a series that helps you get to know various writers through a behind-the-scences glimpse into their lives as readers.

I corresponded with James K. A. Smith—professor of philosophy at Calvin College, editor of Comment magazine, and author of several books including Desiring the Kingdom (Baker Academic, 2009); Imagining the Kingdom (Baker Academic, 2013) [review]; and How (Not) to Be Secular (Eeerdmans, 2014) [reviewinterview]—about what’s on his nightstand, books he re-reads, his favorite biographies, and more. (And yes, that’s an actual photo of Smith’s nightstand below.)

What’s on your nightstand right now? 

Well, my nightstand stack is huge. But on top right now is Jonathan Franzen’s new novel, Purity. Franzen is one of those authors people seem to love to hate, but I just think he’s one of the “obligatory” novelists of our generation—what John Updike was for an earlier generation. I just finished Adam Gopnik’s book The Table Comes First: Family, France, and the Meaning of Food. It’s really a philosophical meditation dressed up as a book on food and eating. Really fantastic. And Gopnik is an exemplary writer. I have the same response reading him as I do reading David Foster Wallace: he makes me aspire (“I want to write…

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