For your summer reading pleasure, here are full reviews for 6 Christian books, and mini-summaries of a further 6 books. Tomorrow: FICTION!
1. Soul Bare – Stories of Redemption – ed. Cara Sexton.
I may be biased, because I’m one of the 37 contributors to the book, but I thought this book on authenticity and honesty during hardship and struggle was beautiful. A little like my ‘God and Suffering’ series, it has many voices talking about how they dealt with hard times. The first section is Letting Go, the third section Hope and Healing, and the second section is the most raw, called Leaning In (guess where I am??) This is the kind of book that you can just dip in and out of, and read the stories and writing styles that most resonate with you. Some of my favourites were Angie Hong, Kris Camealy, Jennifer J Camp, Seth Haines – and I positively sobbed my way through Tammy Perlmutter, Karissa Knox Sorrell and Joy Bennett’s contributions. SO good. I’m proud to be part of this project – do check it out. Pre-order it for $11.99 from Amazon.com, £10.92 from Amazon.co.uk, or £10.61 from Wordery (UK)
2. Book of Hours: In Shadow and Sun (2nd Edition – poetry) – Jamie Wright Bagley.
This book is pure balm for the soul. Taking on the idea of the liturgy of the hours where you pause for prayer and reflection throughout the day, it has a few offerings of unassumingly wise, beautiful poetry for each ‘hour’ (e.g. Matins, Prime, None). I love the way it makes me pause, and think of each segment of the day as precious, but also reflect on the seasons of life. The poetry is both easily accessible and refreshing – it feels like an arm around you, supportive and gentle. I have been known to be reading it while dabbing tears from my eyes. If you are too weary or soul-weary to pray, this might just be the perfect thing for you. Short, but oh-so-sweet. Highly recommended. Get it for $7.99 from Amazon.com, £5.46 from Amazon.co.uk
3. Invitation to a Journey – M Robert Mulholland Jnr.
This is (relatively) short introduction to the concept of spiritual formation, and it does it really well. I found his emphasis on practising spiritual disciplines in a way that builds up the church as a whole rather than being ‘self-indulgent’ a refreshing one, and the part on the Myers-Briggs analysis of what spiritual pathways your personality will suit you best was really helpful. Recommended as a short, intelligent guide to the concept of spiritual formation – best read fast as a manifesto. Get it for $9.19 from Amazon.com, £6.95 from Amazon.co.uk, or £9.38 from Wordery (UK)
4. Longing for God – Seven Paths of Christian Devotion – Richard J Foster and Gayle D Beebe.
This, providing a guide to the classic writers on spirituality, is best understood as a primer and reference book, but with a devotional edge. Written by two giants of spiritual formation, this seeks to encompass many centuries of wisdom, summarising the thought of theologians as wide-ranging as Augustine of Hippo, John Bunyan, Thomas Aquinas, Francis of Assisi, Julian of Norwich, Gregory the Great, and Teresa of Avila. Its chapters are brief, describing the theologian in question, the theology of their approach to intimacy with God, and a reflection at the end. A major appeal of this book is that it has seven sections, each representing different pathways to God, and groups the theologians under these themes. The seven pathways describe the spiritual life as:
- The right ordering of our love for God
- Recovery of the knowledge of God lost in the Fall
- Intimacy with Jesus Christ
- Right ordering of our experiences of God
- Action and contemplation
- Divine ascent.
Because it’s summarising deep theology in a few pages, it’s best read slowly, but for anyone new to the subject of spirituality or these Christian classics, it’s a great reference book to have. Highly recommended. Get it for $7.95 from Amazon.com, £15.96 from Amazon.co.uk, or £13.32 Wordery (UK)
5. The Myth of the Undeserving Poor – Natalie Williams and Martin Charlesworth
This was an unexpected jewel, and a timely book considering all the press and TV programs that vilify the poor as benefit-scrounging scum. The book is short, and presents intelligent, statistical analysis of poverty and faith in the UK and a reasoned biblical and theological response to poverty without being emotive. This makes it essential reading for Christians of all political persuasions, to challenge their assumptions and check they are basing their opinions on fact rather than myth. I found it inspiring – in a world that is so often dark and depressing, it makes me glad that there are people like Natalie Wiliams and Martyn Charlesworth. They give me hope.
Through the authors’ research (which was of a high standard and moderated by an independent researcher) I was shocked to discover these facts:
- “Children living in poverty were twice as likely to come from a working household than one in which no adult works”
- Academic analysis of media coverage of the poor shows “a thinly veiled attitude…that poverty is a character defect.”
- Under Thatcher’s government, welfare spending (as a percentage of GDP) was higher than Blair’s, which was lowest since 1950s. Now lower still.
- “Inequality between richest and poorest has risen faster in Britain that in any other developed country since 1975.”
- When Christians were asked about the morality of economic inequality the answers split according to which political party they supported.
- Conservative-voting Christians were significantly less sympathetic to poor than Green or Labour-voting Christians.
There were so many other brilliant facts and observations that my book is worn out from all the underlining. Highly Recommended. Get it for $10.00 from Amazon.com, £4.07 from Amazon.co.uk, or £6.97 from Wordery (UK)
6. Broken Hallelujahs – Learning to Grieve the Big and Small Losses of Life -Beth Allen Slevcove
“We can’t grieve until we’re able to recognise our love for what is lost. Then comes the process of learning to love what remains” – Beth Allen Slevcove
This book is remarkable – a book about grief that’s personal yet intelligent; rigorous yet highly readable; honest about grief yet positive. She writes engagingly, interweaving her own experience with good psychological and emotional wisdom, and because she’s a qualified Spiritual Director, her creative exercises and prayer suggestions at the end of each chapter are incredibly helpful and transformative. It’s good for people who’ve experienced any loss at all (e.g. job, hopes, health etc), not just the death of a friend or relative. She’s someone who has been into the pit and out the other side, and it drips with gentleness and heavenly wisdom. Highly recommended. Get it for $12.91 from Amazon.com, £6.07 from Amazon.co.uk, or £8.85 Wordery (UK)
Also – best of my 2016 reads so far:
7. Night Driving – a Story of Faith in the Dark – Addie Zierman. Brilliant memoir linking a crazy winter road trip round America with finding faith in a dark season. Get it for $10.32 from Amazon.com, £10.34 from Amazon.co.uk, or £8.16 from Wordery (UK)
8. Finding God in the Ruins – Matt Bays. Really good exploration of the toll that suffering takes, the honest expression of anger, and the way back to God after heartbreak and abuse. Get it for $6.29 from Amazon.com, £4.74 Amazon.co.uk, or £8.08 Wordery (UK)
9. The Imitation of Christ – Trans. James Watkins. Love this for devotions – some wise words from a classic Christian text, with a very readable translation. Get it for $12.45 from Amazon.com, £11.20 Amazon.co.uk, or £9.59 Wordery (UK)
10. Malestrom – Carolyn Custis James. Exploring how patriarchy is not only bad for women, but bad for men, and how the Bible reveals a different vision for men. Get it for $9.46 from Amazon.com, £6.99 Amazon.co.uk, or £9.73 Wordery (UK)
11. Looming Transitions – Amy Young. Brilliant practical wisdom, with thought-provoking questions, on how to finish well when you come to the end of a job or project, applied to those leaving cross-cultural. Get it for $7.41 from Amazon.com, £7.28 Amazon.co.uk, or £8.03 Wordery (UK)
12. Assimilate or Go Home – D L Mayfield. Really looking forward to this hotly-anticipated memoir about being a failed missionary, and discovering a new mission at home. Coming out August 2016. Pre-order it for $8.92 from Amazon.com, £10.99 Amazon.co.uk, or £9.78 Wordery (UK)
Over to you:
- What are your recommendations for Christian books 2016?
This post contains Amazon and Wordery 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.