2021 top 10 books

The annual tradition of posting my top 10 book list continues. As of today, December 17th, I have read 93 books, so I will certainly finish the year under 100. As usual, the majority of the books I read dealt broadly with the topic of spirituality. I read disappointingly few fiction books this year. Apart from favorites that I read every year (i.e., the Harry Potter Series, the Wingfeather Saga, and The Great Divorce), I only read two fiction books–The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Dear Evan Hansen. I also read Letters to the Beloved, the book I published earlier this year, no less than four times, but I probably should not include that book in my top 10 list; however, feel free to include it in yours.

Shalom and the Community of Creation: An Indigenous Vision by Randy Woodley
Woodley’s book was a welcome addition to my library in my ongoing study of wholeness and shalom. He explores the similarities between the biblical concept of shalom and the Native American “Harmony Way.” I have so much to learn from those outside of my limited background and this “indigenous vision” is a beneficial invitation.

Grounded: Finding God in the World. A Spiritual Revolution by Diana Butler Bass
In Grounded, Diana Butler Bass provides a well-integrated understanding of science and faith to explore why many people leave traditional religious beliefs and practices. Using metaphors like soil, water, and ground, she weaves a compelling tale of faith.

Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith by Barbara Brown Taylor
One of the common themes you will discover in this list is how much I enjoy “memoirs of faith,” stories about how people come to understand God and themselves better. In Leaving Church, the author described her journey into the priesthood, pastoring in the church, and her journey away from it into a more expansive faith. She has proven to be a great storyteller in each of her books, and Leaving Church is no different.

Rage by Bob Woodward
Although I primarily read books about spirituality, I also have an unhealthy compulsion to read books about politics. Woodward is a Pulitzer Prize-winning author who has written best-selling books on the last nine presidents. Rage is Woodward’s second book about President Trump and deals with his relationships with key staff members and world leaders and his unconventional ways of leading a nation.

No Cure for Being Human: And Other Truths I Need to Hear by Kate Bowler
Bowler is a witty professor of Christian history at Duke University. In No Cure for Being Human, she tells the story of being diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer at age 35 and reckoning with life and mortality as a wife, mother, and female professor. However, her book is, not surprisingly, about being human. It is a readable memoir that will stir you.

After Evangelicalism: The Path to a New Christianity by David Gushee
After Evangelicalism was the first of three books by David Gushee that I read this year. One of the foremost Christian ethicists globally, Gushee has been a reasoned voice for sincere Christian faith in a post-evangelical world. I have been uncomfortable with the label “ex-vangelical” and “post-evangelical” more accurately captured my self-understanding.

Wholehearted Faith by Rachel Held Evans
In 2019, Rachel Held Evans died following an allergic reaction to a medication for an infection. She was 37 years old. The author of four books before she died, she was a robust online presence and capable communicator. Before her untimely death, she began Wholehearted Faith, and her friend Jeff Chu finished it. It is a beautiful exploration of spirituality and wholeness. Before this year, I had never read any of her books, but the two I have read are on my top 10 list this year. I guess I will need to find the other four.

What God is Like by Rachel Held Evans and Matthew Paul Turner
The second posthumous book on my top 10 list by Rachel Held Evans is the first children’s book I have ever included in my top 10. It is a wonderful, delightful, beautiful invitation into the presence of a gracious and welcoming God. *By the way, it is not only for kids.

Faith After Doubt: Why Your Faith Stopped Working and What to Do About It by Brian McLaren.
McLaren is one of those authors Christians warned me about. For many years, I understood that McLaren and those like him represented “liberal Christianity,” which I further came to believe was not “real” Christianity. However, in Faith After Doubt, I found a spark of hope that I haven’t had for a while in the writings of a person who shows a deep understanding of the spiritual journey and a willingness to say provocative things to encourage his readers toward growth.

In the Shelter: Finding a Home in the World by Padraig O Tuama.
Hands down, In the Shelter by Padraig O Tuama was my favorite book this year. O Tuama is an Irish poet and theologian. He also advocates for peace and inner work, which clearly and beautifully comes across in this stunning work. Pieces that give me a glimpse into the inner work of the writer are profoundly inviting. O Tuama discusses his journey and his relationship with God and himself.

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