It’s that time again. In no particular order, here are some of the best books I’ve read this year, broken down by category.
Seeking Peace by Johann Christoph Arnold
This book about seeking true peace and contentment that doesn’t rely on circumstances is written from a Christian perspective, but still incorporates thoughts from different religious traditions throughout. If you’re fed up with the shallow, “Girl Wash Your Face” kind of “peace” that is so prevalent in our culture and largely dependent on privilege, I highly recommend this book.
The Battle for Bonhoeffer by Stephen R. Haynes
This is the book you need any time a Christian claims that Trump is God’s answer to make American Christian again…or something to that effect. It points out the ways that Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s legacy (the Lutheran preacher who was executed for treason by the Nazis) has been co-opted by evangelicals with a craving for power and authority — and what Eric Metaxas’ biography gets wrong about this faithful hero.
A Light So Lovely by Sarah Arthur
I didn’t read Madeleine L’Engle growing up, I’m sorry to say — science fiction isn’t really my thing. But I did love her series on Genesis, as well as her work about art as an expression of faith. Arthur’s book captures the charm, depth, and the controversies of L’Engle’s work, which made her somewhat of a scandalous figure in her own time as well as today. I love how Arthur portrays her as a woman of devout faith who also wasn’t afraid to ask questions, even if, at times, it lead to questioning matters of Orthodoxy.
Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again by Rachel Held Evans
Finally, a book that incorporates Jewish techniques of reading the Bible: asking hard questions, incorporating the use of midrash (Jewish “fan fiction”) to better understand a story, imagining stories from the perspectives of different characters, and more. This is a perfect book for anyone who feels their Bible reading has become dry, and needs a little re-invigoration.
The Cross and the Lynching Tree by James H. Cone
If you’ve ever wondered how #BlackLivesMatter could be considered a Christian movement, then read this book. If you’re fed up with the whitewashing of Jesus in many churches, read this book. If you’re a white Christian, period, read this book. Read it slowly. And take good notes.
Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes by E. Randolph Richards
Everyone has biases when it comes to reading Scripture. This book analyzes different cultural lenses that can lead to misinterpretations, emphasizing the importance of historical context. Not all promises or commands in the Bible were actually meant for us — I’m looking at you, Christian Instagrammer with the coffee mug quoting Jeremiah 29:11.
The Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Harrison Warren
For every person who feels bad about living an “ordinary” life, where each day is marked by clocking in to work, or cleaning the house, caring for small children, or anything else that doesn’t seem like it makes a huge impact. This book helped clarify what it means to do all — literally all — things for the glory of God.
That’s Not What Happened by Kody Keplinger
This book was likely inspired by the two students at Columbine who were allegedly asked about their belief in God before being shot. This book is about a student, Lee, who survived a school shooting, while her best friend Sarah didn’t. A rumor spreads about her Sarah’s last moments, which brings hope and renewed faith to many…even though Lee knows it didn’t happen.
I loved this book for the ethical questions it raises: Does Lee tell the truth, or does she allow everyone — namely, her friend’s grieving parents — to believe a comforting lie?
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
You wouldn’t expect a novel about a young, innocent black man killed by a white cop to be funny and heartwarming, and yet, somehow, this book is. Starr’s relationship with her parents, in particular, is genuinely funny and endearing. Her friends’ interactions with her white boyfriend felt genuine and realistic. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I hope to one day.
The Book of Essie by Meghan Maclean Weir
This is basically a novel about a make-believe version of the Duggar family, but focuses on just one daughter, who finds herself pregnant out of wedlock. For anyone who’s ever been burned by legalism, Essie and Libby are relatable characters, and the plot is fast-paced. It took me only two days to finish this.
Last but not least, what kind of shamelessly self-promoting author would I be if I didn’t plug my own books? The memoir that launched my writing career, Confessions of a Prodigal Daughter, was an Amazon bestseller in the “personal growth” category. Things You Can’t Un-see, a collection of my best essays, was published earlier this year, and was an Amazon bestseller in the “essays” category.
What books have you read and loved this year?