In introducing my ‘Best Christian books of 2015’, I have to add a huge caveat: in selecting the best ones, I was not only looking for excellent writing and insightful content, but I was particularly looking for books that would ideally suit the readership of my blog – i.e. books on the particular topics I cover here: the spirituality of suffering, doubt, relating to God in hard times, chronic illness, social justice and others. I had to exclude a number of really excellent books because they just don’t cover the topics on this blog. So if your favourite book of 2015 isn’t covered here, it’s probably because a) it doesn’t really cover these topics or b) I haven’t read it!
If you’re looking for some last-minute Christmas-present ideas, here they are, the best 11 books (for this blog community) in no particular order:
- Embracing the Body – Tara M Owens. This is an elegantly-written book exploring the theology of the body, and how our body can help us connect with God. Amongst my friends, this is the book that people have been talking about, recommending, passing to friends. It’s a game-changer. I would recommend this to anyone who has a mixed relationship with their body, including those with chronic illness. It’s one to read slowly, engage with the creative exercises, and savour the stories and paradigm-shifting theology. Get it for $12.58 from Amazon.com, £11.29 from Amazon.co.uk
- Wearing God – Lauren F Winner. I loved the premise for this book: a thoughtful exploration of the lesser-used biblical metaphors for God. We are so used to seeing God as ‘shepherd’, ‘king’, ‘light’ – but what about those other, more neglected but equally biblical metaphors? What does it mean for us to see God as our clothing (think ‘clothe yourself with Christ?’) Like Tara Owens, Lauren Winner is that rare species who combines beautiful writing with razor-sharp theology, so that the thoughtful observations are easily absorbed. This made me see God afresh and I absolutely loved it. Get it in hardback and keep forever. Get it for $18.10 (HB) or $12.23 (PB) from Amazon.com, £14.99 (Hardback) or £4.99 (kindle) from Amazon.co.uk
- Searching for Sunday – Rachel Held Evans. Part memoir, part-reflection, part-essay, this is a beautiful, vulnerable book about finding church again when you feel like you’ve lost it. This is a book for those who’ve grown up in the church, but are now questioning their faith, or considering walking away from the church altogether. Rachel Held Evans doesn’t try to ‘fix’ her reader, but invites people to walk with her awhile, which is why, to me, it felt like sanctuary. I wholeheartedly recommend Searching for Sunday: beautiful, insightful and funny, this book will be a healing balm to many who doubt. Get it for $10.69 from Amazon.com, £10.99 from Amazon.co.uk
- Night Cycles – Beth Morey. In this collection of poems, Beth Morey perfectly and beautifully articulates the emotions that accompany a dark night of the soul. Raw, evocative, powerful, and (what I most appreciate in a poetry collection) intelligible rather than obscure – I thoroughly recommend this book of beautiful words. Get it for $7.99 or kindle $1.49 from Amazon.com, £6.00 or kindle £0.99 from Amazon.co.uk
- Wild in the Hollow – Amber Haines. This is a beautiful, lyrical memoir about finding God in brokenness, and searching for a home. In some senses her story is a classic one (lost girl finds God, tries to be good, fails, finds God again), but it is the poetry of the writing, the depth of the truths, and the Spirit-filled energy that makes this a classic. Get it for $12.15 (hardback) from Amazon.com, £10.99 from Amazon.co.uk
- Coming Clean – Seth Haines. This is a stunningly written, theologically rich, compellingly told memoir of a journey from alcoholism to sobriety, and from anger with God at unanswered prayer to a surrender to mystery. What Seth Haines does superbly is deal with big questions of miraculous healing, what happens when prayers for healing go unanswered, and what it is like to live, suspended, in a state of chronic suffering. This is not just a book for those struggling with addiction, but for anyone who has ever struggled with unanswered prayer or a request for healing that was never answered. Get it for $11.72 from Amazon.com, £10.49 from Amazon.co.uk
- Nonviolent Action: What Christian ethics demands but most Christians have never really tried – Ronald J Sider. This is a fascinating, inspiring and engaging book by the author of ‘Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger’ on the history of non-violent action in the twentieth century onwards. His analysis is thoughtful rather than sensational – he’s not afraid to outline the limitations of nonviolent action – but its his ability to tell a story so well that makes this book so readable. At the end, he makes a case for Christians – both pacifists and Just War Christians – to engage seriously with non-violent action, and I found myself wanting to discuss this book with everyone I saw. Get it for $17.48 from Amazon.com, £12.08 from Amazon.co.uk or £8.43 from Wordery (UK)
- Outside In: 10 Christian Voices We Can’t Ignore – Cindy Brandt. I thoroughly enjoyed this intelligent, thoughtful book on the voices that are so often excluded from church for being ‘too doubtful, too sad, too old, or too disabled etc’. The whole book is full of great quotes and insight. Get it for FREE from her website.
- Out of Sorts – Sarah Bessey. If you are in a wilderness of a faith crisis, and wondering where you belong, this book acts as a sort of a pit stop – not so much a map for the way out as it is a companion for the journey. Not exactly a theology book or a straight memoir, it is as if someone is sitting beside you, chatting to you over a cup of tea, sometimes telling her own story, sometimes offering theology, sometimes just describing how you’re feeling, and sometimes praying with you and for you. Get it for $9.97 from Amazon.com, £9.99 from Amazon.co.uk
- Pray, Write, Grow – Ed Cyzewski. In the first chapter he says this: “If you want to improve your prayer life, try writing. If you want to improve your writing life, try praying.” The rest of the book explores how both of these things can be spiritual disciplines and how they combine to make us more whole and healthy. It’s engaging, encouraging, and easy to read, and I wore out my highlighter with all the memorable quotes. Get it for $6.99 from Amazon.com, £3.99 from Amazon.co.uk
- Just Show Up – Kara Tippetts and Jill Lynn Buteyn. Written by terminal cancer sufferer Kara, and her friend Jill Lynn, this is about how friends and family can support people going through suffering. The reason this gets on the list is not so much for the writing, but for the sheer usefulness of this book – I can’t think of another like it. It is short, easy to read, and especially useful for its practical tips of how to offer help when someone is suffering. As someone who has been a recipient of help, I found myself nodding at all the suggestions with a hearty amen. Get it for $7.99 from Amazon.com, £9.99 from Amazon.co.uk
[And… of course, I ought to cheekily mention my own little book, Coming Back to God When You Feel Empty, which intertwines my own story with the biblical book of Ruth, offering a path back to God after disappointment and loss. You can get it for FREE here as a pdf or kindle file, or in paperback for £3.99 from Amazon.co.uk or $5.50 from Amazon.com.]
Over to you:
- What were your favourite Christian books of 2015? (coming tomorrow – Best fiction of 2015).
This post contains Amazon affiliate links, which means if you click through to Amazon.co.uk Wordery.com or Amazon.com from this site and buy absolutely anything in the world, you help this site, at no extra cost to you. I received a free advanced copy of some of the books above in exchange for my honest review, which these all are.