One of the most meaningful gifts I’ve ever been given was the Sabbatical that Houston Mennonite Church offered me this summer. At the core of my Sabbath from the rigors of daily ministry was reading and writing. I read countless articles, the New Testament, the Psalms and several prophetic books, some of Poe’s short stories, some great novels, and a ton for my writing project. My upcoming book, tentatively titled A Gospel-Formed Imagination: Seeing (& Joining) Who and How God is in the World, is about what Jesus’ gospel action looks like when it intersects with communities, churches, and neighborhoods.
Reading for this was a true joy and curiosity! Here’s my book reading list from the summer. The first book in each category is the one most meaningful to me.
Books about The Gospel: Who and How God is
This section was awesome, and complimented so well the several dozen books already read in prep for my writing. I can’t say enough about Randy Woodley’s capacity to help us re-image faith, Darrin Belousek’s detailed approach to atonement and its connection to shalom, or the shock I found in reading about two committed Christians who proved to be devastating Cold Warriors in Kinzer’s book. I’d recommend all of these, but particular these three.
Shalom and the Community of Creation: An Indigenous Vision, Randy Woodley.
Birmingham Revolution, Edward Gilbreath.
Peace, by Walter Brueggeman.
Atonement, Justice, and Peace: The Message of the Cross and the Mission of the Church, Darrin Belousek.
Just Spirituality, Elise Mae Canon.
Empire of the Summer Moon, S. C. Gwynne.
Slow Church, Jon Pattinson and Chris Smith.
The Brothers, Steven Kinzer. (Read more about this in my post here).
Surprised by Hope, NT Wright.
The Change of Conversion, Alan Kreider.
King Jesus Gospel, Scot McKnight.
Books about the Imagination:
This was one of the several surprising turns that my research and writing took for me. The more I delved into the “glorious splendor of God’s kingdom (Psalm 145)” the more I realized how much my imagination needed redeeming. These books helped to move me off center and get me hoping again.
Imagine, Jonah Lehrer.
I believe I’ll testify, Cleo Larue.
A Whole New Mind, Daniel Pink.
Your Creative Brain, Shelly Carson.
Creativity, Mihaly Csikszenmihalyi.
Detective Novels (And a book about detective novels!):
Another absolute surprise was discovering detective novels! I’d never read one in my life until a group of pastors and I decided we would explore together the theological qualities of the detective genre. This is the kind of project that suits me and brings out my pastoral nerdiness! Why just enjoy a book, when you can analyze it, debate the genre, dissect the implications of how it has changed, and try to understand what it’s rise and potential downfall says about our culture??? Robert Paul’s book is about detective murder mysteries, the rest are all novels. Louise Penny’s book is a psychology marvel, but I couldn’t stop entering the broken cultural landscape of Sweden and the Henning Mankell novels. For subversive fiction, I’d recommend his Kurt Wallender books highly.
What ever happened to Sherlock Holmes? Robert Paul.
The White Lioness, Henning Mankell.
The Fifth Woman, Henning Mankell.
Before the Frost, Henning Mankell.
The Man from Beijing, Henning Mankell.
The Ravens Eye (Sherlock Holmes Prequel for young adults).
Still Life, Louise Penny.
Red Means Run, Brad Smith.
These two are a return to old favorites. MaddAddam I wrote about already it was so good. And Percy’s creation of the “stethoscope of the soul” is brilliant comedy and scathing social critique. Love love love them both!
MaddAddam, Margaret Atwood.
Love in the Ruins, Walker Percy.