- When We Were on Fire: A Memoir of Consuming Faith, Tangled Love, and Starting Over by Addie Zierman
From the author of the blog How to Talk Evangelical, Addie shares a poignant story of growing up in the Christian bubble and sliding from enthusiastic Jesus Freak missionary into alcohol-fueled depression. It’s an engaging and honest confessional on faith that’s much needed today. It also strongly resonated with me because so much of her story is growing up in the teenage evangelical culture of the 1990s, which is where I was. She even relates going to an Insyderz concert, and I can’t count how many of those I’ve been to (ska! ska! ska!).
- Help Thanks Wow: The Three Essential Prayers by Anne Lamott
This trippy Jesus follower breaks down prayer in a way that only she could. Short, sweet and a nice kick in the pants. It’s been really nice to read stuff from Lamott that’s not just a bunch of essays complaining about George W. Bush.
- Tell Me a Story: Finding God (and Ourselves) Through Narrative by Scott McClellan
Looking at life as story and finding the inspiration, encouragement and motivation to be worthy storytellers. A great little book that condenses a lot of disjointed thoughts about story that have been floating around in the past few years. I reviewed it for Church Marketing Sucks and it certainly resonates with that crowd, but it’s just been a good, encouraging book.
- Freedom’s Daughters: The Unsung Heroines of the Civil Rights Movement from 1830-1970 by Lynne Olson
An eye-opening, transcendent account of the civil rights movement, punctuated with the power of women. I was impressed with the transparent account that didn’t shy away from the movement’s failings. It’s stronger when we don’t whitewash everything to be perfect and squeaky clean. This book did take a while to get through because it was such an all encompassing overview, but it also inspired me to do a lot more reading on the civil rights movement and introduced me to several new heroes.
- Our Last Option: How a New Approach to Civility Can Save the Public Square by Andrew Marin
It took me a few chapters to get used to the academic approach—I almost gave up—but I’m glad I stuck it out. This book is so needed today. Andrew Marin proposes (and lives out) a way to get beyond the all-or-nothing form of discourse that dominates religion and politics. It’s a lot to wrap your head around and I’d need to do some serious study to learn how to implement it, but as progressives and conservatives clash over everything, from health care to gay marriage, we need a new way forward. Or maybe an old way. But we need something that can work in today’s polarized climate. Actually making it happen is another matter, but I think Andrew is one of the rare voices that is interested in progress without the polarization.
I tend not to read a lot of nonfiction, mostly because it slows me down, but these were some of the year’s real gems.
If you want to do more reading, be sure to check out 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading Again.