I read 25 incredible books this year, so this list was extremely hard to narrow down. The top five books were released in 2017, while the subsequent five were released in previous years.
I’ve been a sucker for Rob Bell’s work ever since his 10th NOOMA film, Lump, had me in tears at a church in Phoenix in the winter of 2006. Since then, I’ve consumed all of his films, all of his books, seen him live five times and even got the chance to record a conversation with him last year. Rob is, by far, my favorite communicator on the planet – and in my opinion, the best too. He has a way of communicating ancient truths in approachable, creative, exciting and loving new ways. His spiritual gift is making you feel like you’re not crazy. 4 years ago, he started posting a blog series called What Is The Bible? They were so good that many times I considered printing them all out and throwing them in a binder just so I had a hard copy of them. No need. He compiled it all, edited and reworked it and released it as his longest book to date last May. No matter where you stand with your faith, if the Bible makes you curious, question or wrestle, you’ll probably love this book. I sure did.
2. Adam And The Genome: Reading Scripture After Genetic Science
by Dennis R. Venema and Scot McKnight
Genomic science points us towards humans descending from a large population, not from an individual couple like scripture’s Adam and Eve. This “problem” is in good hands with geneticist Dennis R. Venema and theologian Scot McKnight. Venema offers his science in the first four chapters (I’ll admit: I had to read them twice), while McKnight offers his theology in the last four chapters. They tie together beautifully and offer a rich new way of looking at science and scripture.
3. The Lucky Few: Finding God’s Best In The Most Unlikely Places
by Heather Avis
I first heard Heather talk about her then-upcoming book on The Liturgists Podcast
in February of last year. This is the beautiful story of her and her husband’s journey of adoption of their three children, two of whom have Down syndrome. It’s challenging, inspiring and full of hope.
4. Why I Left, Why I Stayed: Conversations On Christianity Between An Evangelical Father And His Humanist Son
by Tony Campolo & Bart Campolo
I read this book on a flight from Houston to Ottawa two months ago. When my parents picked me up from the airport, I was telling them about the book and I mentioned that, although I’d been a fan of Tony’s for almost a decade and a half, I’d never seen him speak in person. The very next morning, Tony tweeted that he was speaking in Ottawa that coming Sunday. My parents and I went to see him and I got to thank him in person for writing this book with his son, who left his Christian faith and became a secular humanist.
My spiritual deconstruction started almost three years ago largely to do with the supposed violence of God in the Old Testament. Pete Enns‘ book The Bible Tells Me So jumpstarted my reconstruction, but I still need reminders of God’s stubborn love. Brian’s book is a great reminder as he answers the questions “is God wrath/is God love?”
6. Original Blessing: Putting Sin In Its Rightful Place
by Danielle Shroyer
This was the most life-changing book I read all year. It helped rearrange some major theological furniture in my brain and brought my heart much hope. In it, Shroyer challenges the doctrine of original sin, which is found nowhere in scripture. With respect for scripture and tradition, she explains the historical development of the doctrine, highlighting missteps and providing alternative ways of looking at certain passages of scripture. This book is an absolute must read… you know, if you like freedom and stuff;)
7. New Seeds Of Contemplation
by Thomas Merton
This was one of the books I read on my spiritual retreat last May, and man it was a great companion. If I was the highlighting type, every word in it would be yellow.
8. The Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo
by Amy Schumer
What I expected was comedy. What I got was comedy and heartbreak. Schumer holds nothing back in her collection of hilarious and brutally honest essays on her teenage years, family, relationships and sex, among other topics.
9. Too Heavy A Yoke: Black Women And The Burden Of Strength
by Chanequa Walker-Barnes
Walker-Barnes is Assistant Professor of Pastoral Care and Counseling at McAfee School of Theology, a licensed psychologist and a candidate for ordination in the United Methodist Church. I’d recommend her book to anyone, but I’d especially recommend it to anyone pastoring and/or counseling African American women. This book is a valuable gift.
10. The Gift
This instantly became my favorite book of poetry. It’s a beautiful collection of 250 of Hafiz’s most intimate poems, often ecstatic love songs from God to the world, translated by Daniel Ladinsky.