One would think that a global pandemic would be conducive to lots of reading. This was not the case for me this year, as I often found myself behind on my reading goals. I still managed to read a number of quality books.
As I wrote here, each year I try to read a number of books across board categories (though books often fit in multiple categories). This year one of my top goals was to read more books from diverse authors and not just white men. In years past I provided a standout and runner-up for each category. This year I thought I would try providing a short annotation for each book. Books are listed in alphabetical order by author.
Go Tell It On The Mountain by James Baldwin. This story about the son of a Pentecostal preacher in 1930s Harlem was a beautiful introduction to the writings of Baldwin.
The First Man by Albert Camus. Reading this unfinished autobiographical novel allowed me to catch a glimpse behind the curtain at both the author and the writing process.
The Seagull by Anton Pavlovich Chekhov. One’s own success never satisfies, and the success of others can be fatal.
American Dirt by Jeanine Cummings [Audiobook]. This gripping journey of a mother and son fleeing for their lives and seeking refuge in America provided us with hours of engagement as we drove across the country.
The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Maybe the most accessible of Dostoyevky’s major novels, The Idiot fascinates with the story of naivety and love.
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. A creative and ambitious concept carries the lasting weight of the slave trade through multiple generations.
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. Reading this gave some mild laughs, but really just left me wanting to rewatch all of M*A*S*H.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. It may be too late to rewrite my grade 11 English exam, but I am glad to finally have read this classic novel.
Paradise by Toni Morrison. Another introduction to a noted author, this work was engaging while also discomforting.
Dogmatics in Outline by Karl Barth. These theological sketches based on the Apostles’ Creed were a good way to dip my toes into the writing and theology of Karl Barth.
The Prophetic Imagination by Walter Brueggemann. Easily one of the most impactful theological books I have ever read, this book informed and expanded my understanding of the prophets and the prophetic.
Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition by Daniel Castelo. For those who struggle to reconcile their pentecostal identity with current evangelicalism, Castelo provides an interesting alternative perspective.
Liturgical Theology: The Church as Worshiping Community by Simon Chan. Reading this during the early stages of the pandemic helped me ask better questions of what the church is.
Reading While Black: African American Biblical Interpretation as an Exercise in Hope by Esau McCaulley. This rich, deeply biblical book enlarged my perspective and guided me on how to approach many of the racial issues we face today while also making me a better student of the bible.
Can “White” People Be Saved?: Triangulating Race, Theology and Mission ed. by Love L. Sechrest, Johnny Ramírez-Johnson, and Amos Yong. Broadly informative, this collection included a number of interesting historical and theological perspectives from a wide variety of authors.
Praise and Lament in the Psalms by Claus Westermann. What I would consider a bulwark in the study of the Psalms, Westermann provides an excellent analysis of the movement between petition and praise in the life of Israel.
The Politics of Jesus by John Howard Yoder. A strong survey of the political implications of Jesus’ life and message that invites further study.
God Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Most of this short devotional comes from the editor which took away from the power and strength of the quotes from Bohnoeffer’s own writing.
Teaching College: The Ultimate Guide to Lecturing, Presenting, and Engaging Students by Norman Eng. Simple, clear, and deeply practical, this book has already impacted my teaching.
The Dangerous Act of Worship: Living God’s Call to Justice by Mark Labberton. A steady, if reserved, look at the act and leadership of worship as a call to justice, this book left me wanting more.
Toward a Pentecostal Theology of Worship ed. by Lee Roy Martin. I appreciate collections like these for introducing me to new perspectives and writers, and this collection has some great contributions in it.
The Spirit of the Psalms: Rhetorical Analysis, Affectivity, and Pentecostal Spirituality by Lee Roy Martin. Exceptional biblical scholarship combines with lived and historical pentecostal experience for this collection of essays on the Psalms and Pentecostal spirituality.
Prophetic Lament: A Call for Justice in Troubled Times by Soong-Chan Rah. A feet-on-the-ground commentary on the book of Lamentations that illuminates the grave need for lament in the church today.
The Psalms as Christian Lament by Bruce K. Waltke, James M. Houston, and Erika Moore. This is the first of these historical commentaries on the Psalms that I have read, but if it is a good indication of the others, each will be a good resource to have for future study.
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. A truly moving retelling of the first part of Angelou’s life story with childlike wonder and vulnerability.
The Story of Christianity (Volume 1): The Early Church to Dawn of the Reformation by Justo L. González. An accessible and comprehensive survey of 1500 years of church history retold in a compelling fashion.
Just As I Am: The Autobiography of Billy Graham by Billy Graham. This lengthy autobiography meticulously chronicles the ministry of this giant of faith, revealing a life lived for the singular purpose of preaching the gospel, even at the expense of his family.
Becoming by Michelle Obama. A welcoming read, this memoir brings humanity to a larger-than-life figure.
Susies: The Life and Legacy of Susannah Spurgeon, wife of Charles H. Spurgeon by Ray Rhodes Jr. Beyond support for her famous husband, Susannah had an impactful ministry of her own, all while dealing with chronic health challenges.
The Color of Compromise: The Truth About The American Church’s Complicity in Racism by Jemar Tisby. This excellent survey of American church history works to debunk the myth of a perfect or ideal christian heritage by presenting a history of the church compromising with racism.
Educated by Tara Westover. Emotionally haunting, this story repeatedly left me in disbelief and drew me back in to see what would happen next.
Waging Heavy Peace: A Hippie Dream by Neil Young. This memoir was equal parts interesting and frustrating as Young would move from random memory to rant with no particular structure.
Disunity in Christ: Uncovering the Hidden Forces that Keep Us Apart by Christena Cleveland. In a time of deep divisions, Cleveland uses social psychology to reveal what separates us from other christians and compels us toward what could bring us back together.
Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don’t Know by Malcolm Gladwell [Audiobook]. This podcast style audiobook was engaging and fascinating, provoking new conversations on how we see others in the world.
Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam M. Grant. Finally, a book that outlines the benefits of procrastination (among many other things) to a life of creating.
Surprised by God: How and Why What We Think about the Divine Matters by Christ E.W. Green. While this book may be shorter in length, it is absolutely packed full of rich theological content.
Becoming a Just Church: Cultivating Communities of God’s Shalom by Adam L. Gustine. A good place to start if you’re looking for how to move beyond slactivism toward embodying the community of God in a broken world.
Trouble I’ve Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism by Drew G.I. Hart. One of the best books I have read on racism and the church, Hart provides life-changing perspective and guidance that fosters healthy discussion on these vital topics.
How To Be An Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi. Looking at racism as systems of self-interest, Kendi’s book motivates the reader beyond claiming to be ‘not a racist’ to actively opposing racist systems and patterns.
The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You by John C. Maxwell. This classic leadership book has some solid leadership lessons.
Self-Compassion; The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself by Kristin Neff. Recommended to me based on my Birkman assessment results, this book has left a lasting and positive impact.
Stewards of Eden: What Scripture Says About the Environment and Why It Matters by Sandra L. Richter. Biblical and inviting, this survey points to a number of directions worth studying further.
The Good and Beautiful God: Falling in Love with the God Jesus Knows by James Bryan Smith. From time to time it can be beneficial to get back to the basics of christian discipleship.
What are some of your favourite books from the last year? What should be on my list for 2021? Comment below.