SO many good books this year – here’s my round-up of my favourites.
Top Five Christian Books
These were my top five for general Christian books.
1. Out of Control – Natalie Collins
This is a hard but essential classic on domestic violence and how the church should respond. Thorough, engaging, practical, excellent – every Christian should read it.
2. Image of the Invisible – Amy Scott Robinson
Beautiful devotional looking at the metaphors for God – a poet’s perspective. I was delighted to endorse it.
3. Invited: The Power of Hospitality in an Age of Loneliness – Leslie Verner
Thoughtful and motivational book on the hows and whys of Christian hospitality. Readable, engaging and encouraging – I have recommended it to many.
4. Raging with Compassion – John Swinton
An accessible pastoral theology of suffering caused by evil, and how to deal with it. Lucid, engaging and practical.
5. The View from Rock Bottom: Discovering God’s Embrace in our Pain – Stephanie Tait
I was delighted to endorse this Christian book to help those undergoing suffering. Written by a fellow chronic illness sufferer, so she gets it.
Top Five Memoirs
A really outstanding collection of memoirs this year.
1. The Making of Us – Sheridan Voysey
This pilgrimage of the saints of Northern England while dealing with calling and midlife crisis is an absolute treasure. Sheridan Voysey writes memoir like a good novel – loved this.
2. Once We Were Strangers – Shawn Smucker
The story of an American Christian’s friendship with a Muslim refugee could fall into sentimentality, preachiness or patronising – this defies all these traps and produces a haunting story and moving story. If you need hope in this world, read this.
3. A Girl Behind Dark Glasses – Jessica Taylor Bearman
If I could make everyone read this, I would. A really vivid, page-turner memoir of hope and happiness despite desperate ill-health and abuse by the NHS. This Myalgic Encephalomyelitis made me cry, but it also filled me with deep respect and warmth – written by an incredible woman who spent much of her teens and twenties trapped in a dark room. Incredible writing.
4. Learning to Breathe: My Journey with Mental Illness – Rachael Newham.
This is another important book for our time – a memoir of young people’s depression and suicidal ideation and how Jesus found her in it. Essential reading for parents and the church
5. Glorious Weakness – Alia Joy
Lyrical theology entwined with memoir about weakness, suffering, poverty, race and other brilliant things. Alia Joy is a beautiful writer, and this is thought-provoking and true.
Top Five Fiction
I didn’t have as rich a selection as I usually do, but these five are definite winners.
1. Holes – Louis Sachar
A boy is arrested for a crime he didn’t commit and has to dig a hole in the desert every day as his punishment. But are the holes just punishment, or are the jailers looking for something in particular? This children’s Pulitzer Prize-winner is an absolute poignant, perfect treasure – not one word is wasted. A little piece of magic.
2. Light from Distant Stars – Shawn Smucker
A man finds his father’s body in a pool of blood, but doesn’t tell the police. He hated his father – did he kill him? Or his guilt from another source? Shawn Smucker is a master-storyteller, and this story of anger and forgiveness, cinematically told, has haunted me ever since.
3. Milkman – Anna Burns
A woman in Northern Ireland is being stalked – but her family won’t believe she’s not having an affair with him. A darkly black comedy about the trauma and absurdism of terrorism. Not perfect, but definitely worthy of the Man Booker Prize 2018.
4. Circe – Madeline Miller
Circe’s always been portrayed as a witch – but what turned her into a man-hating sorceress, and what became of her afterwards? The writing is the real star here, conjuring fairy tale elements with feminism to produce a deeply moving book of substance.
5. The Man Who Saw Everything – Deborah Levy
This is a great example of literary fiction with a unique voice. A Jewish man going to East Germany to critique communism is hit by a car as he crosses Abbey Road. What follows is an exploration of who is bad and good, guilt and art and everything in between. The strength is its dreamlike writing and Paul Auster-like confusion. It was a close call between this and Rooftoppers, though I must confess I enjoyed Rooftoppers more.
Honourable mentions –
Katherine Rundell’s Rooftoppers is another children’s story which is an instant classic – a baby, the only survivor from a shipwreck, is adopted by a quirky Victorian guardian as they try to find her mother in the streets of Paris. Perfectly written, with a tear-jerker poignant ending. Not just for teenagers.
J A Andrews’ Pursuit of Shadows and Siege of Shadows complete her excellent Tolkien-esque fantasy trilogy.
Dr Bex Lewis’ Keep Calm and Carry On: The Truth Behind the Poster is a fascinating short history lesson.
Carol Newsom’s Book of Job is a great academic theology of Job.
What were your favourites of 2019?
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