I normally save my book recommendations for the end of the year, but I’ve read so many good ones this summer, I decided to do an intermittent list. My book preferences are a mix of fiction (typically YA or suspense, especially with an unreliable narrator), theology, biography, and memoir.
This summer in particular has focused more on theology.
Inspired by Rachel Held Evans
My new obsession is Christian writers who delve into Jewish traditions when it comes to reading and interpreting Scripture. Evans does just that with the Jewish tradition of Midrash, also known as “Bible fan fiction.”
How did Sarah feel when Abraham took their only son to be sacrificed? What were Isaac’s thoughts when he was being lead up the mountain by his father, with no sacrificial lamb in sight? Is it okay to be disturbed by depictions of genocide and rape in a holy, sacred text?
This is the kind of book to have on hand if your reading of the Old Testament feels a little dry.
Speaking of Midrash, Wilda Gafney’s Womanist Midrash was another excellent read, in the same vein as Evans’ book (actually, I only discovered this book because it was listed in the notes section of Inspired). This book, as the title implies, focuses exclusively on women, including some lesser known ancient queens, and the not-so-reputable figures, such as Jezebel and Athaliah. I love how Gafney attempts to humanize each figure, even the ones with tarnished reputations.
If you’ve ever felt angered by the Bible writers’ treatment of women, you’ll find comfort in this book.
Texts of Terror: Literary-Feminist Readings of Biblical Narrativesby Phyllis Trible follows the same trajectory of the previous two books (and, coincidentally, was discovered in the notes section of Inspired). Another great read (and surprisingly brief) that humanizes the Bible’s “fallen women”: Tamar, the raped daughter of King David; Hagar, who was abused by her mistress; the raped and dismembered concubine, and others.
Moving away from unsettling biblical history, I highly recommend I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown. It provides an overdue look at the ways that evangelical culture is catered to the needs of white Christians, and tends to ignore the experiences of black people by smoothing them with platitudes like “I don’t see color,” or “There is no black or white in Christ.”
Unfortunately, the audience who needs to hear this message the most may be put off by the implication that some of their theology is racist. Nevertheless, if you can open your mind long enough to hear Brown out, this is an eye-opening book that should be studied in evangelical churches everywhere.
Undivided: Coming Out, Becoming Whole, and Living Free from Shame by Vicky Beeching
Since I didn’t grow up in evangelical culture, I didn’t hear of Beeching until fairly recently. This book is both devastating and uplifting as it documents Beeching’s childhood in the evangelical world of the UK, and coming to terms with her identity as a lesbian. She ended up sacrificing her career as a Christian artist after coming out, and suffering multiple health issues, but is now a spokeswoman for the rights and dignity of LGBT Christians. Another necessary read for anyone who is unconvinced that anti-gay rhetoric is poisonous fruit from a poisonous tree.
Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus by Nabeel Qureshi
Modern Loss: Candid Conversation About Grief by Rebecca Soffer and Gabrielle Birkner
Educated by Tara Westover
The View from Flyover Country by Sarah Kendzior
Is the Bible Good for Women? by Wendy Alsup
Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
Radical Integrity by Michael Van Dyke
Crazy Christians by Bishop Michael Curry (yes, the one who preached at the Royal Wedding)
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (I’m experiencing withdrawal after the end of season 2)
Next on my list:
The Book of Essie by Meghan Maclean Weir
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
The Gifts of the Jews by Thomas Cahill
A Brief History of the Episcopal Church by David L. Holmes
The Cross and the Lynching Tree by James H. Cone
Looking forward to:
A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult (releasing October 2nd, 2018)
Almost Everything: Notes on Hope by Anne Lamott (releasing October 16th, 2018)
Holy Envy: Finding God in the Faith of Others by Barbara Brown Taylor (releasing March 12th, 2019)
The Dangers of Christian Practice: On Wayward Gifts, Charismatic Damage, and Sin by Lauren Winner (releasing October 23, 2018)
A River Could Be a Tree by Angela Himsel (releasing November 13, 2018)
See more of what I’ve read/am reading by adding me on Goodreads!