A few years back I set the goal of reading at least the same amount of books as I had read the year before. For a while I was able to accomplish this objective, but things changed this year in one significant way. Needless to say, I wasn’t able to hit my 2018 goal and my blog writing became more focused on reflections for my church and personal poetry. That said I did read some books this year, and so in what has become sort of a tradition for me, and as a way to remember what I read, what follows is a recap of the books I finished in 2018.
I’ve noted my favorite books of the year with three of these ***. Also, I’ve included an amazon link and a brief sentence or two recap for some context. This list is only includes books I’ve finished and does not include the many, many books I’ve referenced or utilized in part for personal or professional purposes. For an explanation of my process here is my introduction from 2016.
2018 Book List:
A Baby Makes Three, John & Julie Schwartz PHD
So many practical and helpful tips for couples who’ve added another member to their family.
Barking to the Choir, Father Gregory Boyle***
Loved this book. Fr Boyle started what is widely recoginized as the most effective program working with gang members in the nation. Boyle’s anthropological and theological insights are many and this book should be read by everyone.
21 Lessons for the 21st Century, Yuvel Noah Harari***
I’ve finished a few books by Harari and this one was the most fun of them all. Basically, Yuvel makes predictions about the future and explores the many ways the forthcoming decades will look way different than those already past.
The Kingdom of God is Within You, Leo Tolstoy
Classic Tolstoy theological pontifications. This work is specifically in the vein of contemplation/introspection and how the divine is revealed within us. A little dense, but still a decent read.
Holy Luck, Eugene Peterson
Eugene Peterson, one of my favorite pastors/authors, passed away this year. This book was a collection of his poetry and contains some of his most powerful literary explorations. Eugene’s work has always been good for my soul, and that’s an understatement.
Building a Disciplining Culture, Mike Breen
One of the areas folks in my line of work often miss the mark in is in their focus on church attendance rather than deeper engagement. . This book reflects on the ways we can better help people orient their life around Jesus in a way that is truly transformative and moves folks from being spectators to participants in the work of Christ’s love, mercy, and grace.
Cultural Literacy For Religion, Mark Berkson
Recently Oak Life had a “Question and Conversation” series where folks asked various questions and we did our best to facilitate spaces for deeper engagment. One of the questions that came up was in regards to Christianity’s relationship to other religions. As part of my research, this book was a great refresher in some of the basics of the great faiths of the world.
Short Stories By Jesus, Amy Jill Levine
So good. Levine’s work explores Jesus’ parables and some of the contextual interpretations that reveal the ways these stories are way more subversive and disruptive than many of us ever thought. Anyone interested in Jesus and his teachings would find this book interesting and worthwhile.
So You Want to Talk About Race, Ijeoma Olue
Over the past few years I’ve been committed to continued reflection on racial injustice and my own place within American racial dynamics. This book is a great 101 introduction to the common vocabulary and concepts commonly utilized in our current discourse. If you’re just starting the journey of understanding the magnitude of race and racism in America, this is a great resource.
Braving the Wildernness, Brene’ Brown
Brene Brown is sort of a cultural thing right now. Her reflections in Wilderness are largely about acceptance and self discovery. Good book.
Inspired, Rachel Held Evans***
A great read for folks trying to reconcile the nature of the Bible with their scientific/historic/modern disposition. Basically, Rachel is able to find the deeper value and truth in the Bible as she explores what exactly it is all while being free to ask questions and consider its problematic characteristics. We actually had a book club at our church that read Inspired together and it was super fun to see folks deconstruct their oversimplified views of the Bible and reconstruct a more robust, nuanced, and reverent understanding.
Mans Search for Meaning, Victor Fankl***
A classic existential exploration of life, suffering, and meaning. Frankl writes as a holocaust survivor and his wisdom is timeless and precious. Everyone should read this book at some point.
Bitten by a Camel: Leaving Church and Finding God, Kent Dobson
A really fun deconstruction/reconstruction journey from the guy who took over Rob Bell’s pulpit. I highly respect his process, honesty, and faith.
Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God, Brian Zahnd***
For anyone who has a view of the Divine as a cosmic Zeus who looks down on humanity with a frown judging each of our actions, this book is an urgently needed offering. Basically, Zahnd starts and ends his view of God with how God is revealed in Jesus- a God of endless mercy, inclusion, and love.
Heretic: An LGBTQ-Affirming, Divine Violence-Denying, Christian Universalist’s Responses to Some of Evangelical Christianity’s Most Presssing Concerns, Matthew J. Distefano***
I’m not sure how I stumbled upon this title, but man was it enjoyable. In this work Distefany basically does a catechism style Q&A in defense of his theological positions which would be considered by mainstream American evangelical culture as heretical. Fun read for anyone coming from that context looking to broaden their framework.
Watch For the Light: An Advent Devotional , Assorted Authors
I was given this book by a mentor of mine and I’ve thouroughly enjoyed it. It’s a daily devotional for the Advent season that includes authors like Bonhoefer, Barth, L’Engle, and more. Lots of great insights and fresh/old perspectives on the eternal significance of Christmas.