2021 Book List

A while back I started an annual habit of listing the books I’ve read at the end of the year as a way to reflect and remember – as well as to push myself to read more (and more broadly). This past year was sort of unique (aren’t they all) because I took a 3 month sabbatical and had a little more spaciousness to crack open some pages. That said, still being a new parent amidst all that’s been going on in the world has left me feeling like I could/should be reading more, which may or may not be a voice worth listening to…. I’ll talk it over with my counselor.

Anyways, below are the books from 2021. The ones with asterisks are my favorites of the year. Maybe more than years past, a majority of my reading was in the spiritual/contemplative genre, I think next year I’ll expand my categories a bit and seek some more diverse material.

For an introduction into my process click here.
For last years book list click here.

The Experience of God, David Bentley Hart
Sort of an apologetics work from an Orthodox scholar. Hart was attempting to portray a more nuanced and generous God than is often characterized in the new-atheists versus Christian debates. I found this one good but not great.

Meditations of the Heart, Howard Thurman
It cannot be stated enough how much of a gift Dr. Thurman is. This book is a collection of meditations written for his church and were a part of my daily reading/devotionals.

*Confessions of a Guilty Bystander, Thomas Merton
I LOVED this book. It’s a collection of Thomas Merton journals and random thoughts. It was super interesting to see his reflections on the current events of his time and also get a window into his psyche.

The Way of Chuang Tzu, Thomas Merton
This was a super fun read where Merton shares his interpretations of many of the spiritual teachings of Chuange Tzu, a Taoist teacher/leader.

The Book of Hours, Thomas Merton
This was a collection of Thomas Merton’s writings organized in a litany of the hours- a set of daily prayers and reflections. I read this daily on my sabbatical and found it profound, inspiring, and deeply formative.

*Letters to a Young Therapist, Mary Pipher
In this book therapist Mary Pipher writes to her younger self sharing the lessons she’s learned along the way. As a pastor who does a good amount of pastoral care work, I found so many of her ideas encouraging, affirming, and helpful. This is a great read for anyone in helping professions- especially in any sort of counseling role.

Naming the Unnameable, Mathew Fox
This poetic and beautiful work is a reflection/collection of 89 metaphors/names for the Divine. Centered in the Jesus tradition, but borrowing from other great faiths, Fox paints a picture of God that is wonderful, expansive, and loving. So good.

*Julien of Norwich, Wisdom in a Time of Pandemic and Beyond, Matthew Fox
This may have been the most impactful book of the year for me, not because if was perfectly written but because it contextualized our current pandemic in global history and centered me on the things beyond the things. In this book Matthew Fox reflects on Julien of Norwhich’s life during the great plague and where we find our hope, purpose, and connection in times of uncertainty and isolation. If you’re a person of faith- I highly recommend this book. Even if you’re not it’s a quick read and worth consideration.

What is God Like? Rachel Held- Evans
While theoretically a children’s book- this one is a beautiful work of theology and inspired our first sermon series at Oak Life back in person. God is love and any portrayal that misses this mark might lead us down a dangerous path. In my opinion these pages capture graduate level theology and are a great response to the question, What is God like?.

*The Ohlone Way, Malcom Margolin
An excellent introduction to the culture and history of the original communities that lived in what we now call the Bay Area. Books like these are must reads for modern inhabitants of land that was colonized and stolen.

*Dusk,. Night, Dawn, Anne Lamott
In classic Anne Lamott fashion this book was funny, sincere, and profound. In this effort Anne explores how we can keep moving through life even after difficulties and trials. I found this book especially relevant and encouraging in light of the pandemic and general state of the world.

Who Are We?, Henri Nouwen
An reflection on identity as beloved children of God.

Postcards from Babylon, Brian Zahnd
This was a really fun journey through Zahnd’s theology and critique of modern American Christianity which in his mind is more Babylon than Promised Land. I loved his critique of things like nationalism, militarism, and other toxic isms that have infected Christianity. I highly recommend this one to anyone in a deconstructive phase.

A Desert in the Ocean, David Adam
This is a contemplative work that focuses on the inward journey of solitude and reflection. The main metaphor is that the life of faith is a journey of discovery that is both deep and wide- like finding a desert in the ocean.

Modern Kinship, David & Constantino Kalef
I came across this while doing pre-marital counseling for a queer couple. Each session we read through some of the author’s lessons on relationships and talked through how to have a healthy marriage. I found David and Constantino’s offering helpful and accessible. Definitely a resource for LGBT+ folks exploring marraige

18 years of journals, Chris Scott
During my sabbatical I read through my journals from the past 18 years, something I hadn’t done before up until that point. The experience was both weird and encouraging. As I read I saw many of the ways I’ve grown as a person but also noticed some of the ways I’m still the same. This was a good mid-life-ish practice that was overall positive and affirming.

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