A few years back I set the goal of reading at least the same amount of books as I had read the year before. After having a child in 2018, I wasn’t able to keep up the pace last year (for really good reason). This year I’ve found a rhythm with my literary exploits again. We’ll see how long it lasts…
I’ve noted my favorite books of the year with 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.
2019 Book List
Activist Theology, Robyn Henderson-Espinoza
I had the chance to meet and hear from Dr. Henderson-Espinoza at a recent conference and found their journey and perspective super engaging, challenging, and inspiring.
Talking to Strangers, Malcom Gladwell
Classic Gladwell. This book is basically about why we don’t understand one another. Lots of sad stories, but overall an important contribution to pop-discourse.
Maybe You Should Talk to Someone, Lori Gottieb
Super fun read that exposes the audience to what it’s like to be a therapist. Lots of helpful nuggets, and as a pastor, I can relate to a lot of her experience.
The Moment of Lift: How empowering women changes the world, Melinda Gates
I’m a fan of her work and her perspective, but this felt like a knock off of Half the Sky. Again, I’m 100% in support of the work, just skeptical of billionaries doing good and becoming cultural heroes for what should be the expected lifestyle if you have that much $$$
The Religion of Tomorrow, Ken Wilbur
Long and academic overview of where Religion has come from and where it’s going. I agree with like 45% of his predictions/prescriptions.
There There, Tommy Orange ***
Awesome storytelling which portrays the experience of Native Americans in contemporary times. Also a plus: it takes place here in the Bay.
Monk of Mohka, Dave Eggars
True story of a Yemeni-American who discovers his cultures rich history with the coffee. This one also takes place in the Bay Area, at least in part.
Said I Wasn’t Gonna Tell Nobody, James Cone***
A memior from the man often known as “the father of Black Theology”. This is a must read for folks doing ministry today.
Learning to Speak God from Scratch, Jonathan Merritt
Easy to read and engaging theological reconstruction. This paired with a series we did at Oak Life called Big Words where we chose different faith-words and unpacked them.
Wild Mercy: Living the Fierce and Tender Wisdom of the Women Mystics, Mirabai Starr
An engaging and thought-provoking read that explores the divine feminine and mystical voices from various religious traditions including Christianity. I like both of those.
Holy Envy:Finding God in the Faith of Others, Barbary Brown Taylor***
I always enjoy Taylor. This was a really strong contribution to the conversation around ecumenism. Maybe one of the better books on this subject.
Utopia for Realists, Rutger Bregman
Bregman caused a stir at Davos recently and that’s what perked my fancy. This book is a great exploration of Univeresal Basic Income and other society-shifting ideas that are worth considering. Andrew Yang and Bregman must be buds.
The Universal Christ, Richard Rohr***
So good. This is Rohr’s attempt to create a more expansive, all inclusive Christianity. He put words to what many of us have been sensing for a long time. Def worth picking up.
How the Bible Actually Works, Peter Enns
An extremely well done work on the nature of the Bible including discussions on historical context, proper ways to interpret, etc. Everyone who teaches the Bible should read this.
Shameless, Nadia Bolz Webber
Nadia’s attempt to create a broader sexual ethic within Christianity. While I really enjoyed this book I felt it lacking in convincing arguments even though it had great stories.
Journey of The Universe, Brian Thomas Swimme, Mary Evelyn Tucker
Super fun and simple read which tells the story of how everything came to be, at least to the best of our current scientific understanding. I found a lot of the language really beautiful.
Dare to Lead, Brene Brown
Classic Brene Brown. This is essentially a pop-leadership book with lots of useful interpersonal wisdom.
Twain’s Feast, Nick Offerman
Super fun book on Mark Twain’s culinary escapades. Super fun. Like really fun. And you should eat white listening…
The Asian Journal of Thomas Merton, Thomas Merton
As a journaler, a frequent traveler to Asia, a Christian, and a fan of Merton, I found this one super interesting. Essentially it’s Mertons personal journals from his final few months in Asia before he suddenly passed. Reading his dreams, and the subsequent internet rabbit trail I found myself on, actually convinced me that his death wasn’t accidental.
The Art of Travel, Alain De Botton
Very enjoyable and creative philosophical musings about travel- how to do it well, and what it does to us.
A Brief History of Thought, Luc Ferry
Easy to read overview of all Western thought/philosophy including religious. While I enjoyed it, I found his take on Christianity a bit reductive.
Failure of Nerve, Edwin Friedman
A mentor/friend gave this to me. It’s basically a therapists take on relationship systems. While I was skeptical at first, I actually got a lot out of it.
Science and the Spiritual Practices, Rupert Sheldrake****
So fun!!! Dr. Sheldrake is a bit out there to some, but I found his integration of science and spirituality to be really imaginative, practical, and helpful.
Invitation to Love, Thomas Keating
Classic Keating. Lots of contemplative musings about love and it’s beauty.
Imitation of Christ, Thomas a’ Kempis
I had never read this classic Christian devotional. I started my mornings off with it and found it really enriching.
The Beatitudes, George Hunsinger
This was a fun and fresh take on the Beatitudes which was really helpful when our church did a series on them called “Blessings on Blesssings”
Healing Spiritual Wounds, Carol Howard Merritt
An important resources for anyone who’s been hurt by the church or religious institutions. Our church has a “spiritual trauma support group” and I know first hand how deep these wounds can run.
Love, Henri, Henri Nowen
A collection of letters between Henri and his readers. Really fun, inspiring, sincere, and encouraging.
Almost Everything, Anne Lamott
Classic Anne Lamott but this time she writes about hope. One of my most favorite descriptions of Anne is “a feminist C.S. Lewis”. Rock on Anne.
Dark Night of the Soul, St. John of the Cross
I know I’ve used the word “classic” a lot, but this is the profound and timeless classic by the Spanish Mystic. Should be core curriculum for any theology sojourner.