Another year is coming to a close and it’s a good opportunity to review the reading highlights for 2017. (You can review 2016’s list here.) I have to admit that I spent much of my year in a reading dry zone, especially as I took on a new professional opportunity, got turned on to podcasts, and joined my Faith Builders group at church in reading the 1000-page The History of Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years.
My reading was decidedly more serious than enjoyable this year and it was also memorable. So while the amount of my reading did not keep pace with previous years, there were some life-changing, perception-altering reads in the mix. Without further ado, I offer my Best of 2017:
New Ways of Seeing
In 2016, I was introduced to the ideas of Rene Girard and in 2017, I took a deeper dive. Michael Hardin’s edited, Reading the Bible with Rene Girard, was a life-changer. It offers a contextual framework for reading the Bible as humanity’s long struggle to free itself from the oppression of violence and endless cycles of “othering” and scapegoating. Girard can be dense and difficult stuff, but this treatment – a transcript of a long conversation between Steven E. Berry and Girard focused on the Bible – is especially accessible to read and focuses on his most relevant ideas for Christians.
I also read Michael Eric Dyson’s Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon for White America. It’s a challenging book for white Christians that sets aside social science to make its points and instead, gets to the heart of the matter for black Americans and how they see the legacy and perpetuation of racism all around them. Still. We are a long ways from being a post-racial society and most of us white folks are complicit in keeping it that way.
Why I am Not a Feminist: A Feminist Manifesto by Jessa Crispin is another challenging book and most of the ways upper middle class white women think about feminism comes under fire. Crispin wants women to move beyond their own goals to gain equality with men in the worlds in which men have made all of the rules. She offers a bigger view of feminism, much bigger goals, and more urgency.
New Ways of Being
I consider myself a novice student of the Enneagram. I’ve been studying it with regular bursts of enthusiasm for the last seven years. I’ve read Riso and Hudson, Richard Rohr, and Helen Palmer on this topic, but this year, I discovered three new books that have taken me deeper and led me to understand myself as residing in the two space on the Enneagram. The books are: The Spiritual Dimension of the Enneagram by Sandra Maitri, The Complete Enneagram by Beatrice Chestnut, and The Sacred Enneagram by Christopher Heuertz. Each of these makes valuable contributions to the study of the Enneagram, but if you are new to it and curious about it, I might recommend Heuertz’s book as a good starter. He comes at it from a Christian perspective and offers a good case for the value of Enneagram work.
The Fight for Love
Living a soulful life is how I define my own struggle to let love and compassion persist over other stances I could take in the world. Brene Brown’s new book, Braving the Wilderness, and Gary Chapman’s The 5 Love Languages are both excellent guides in this struggle. Both of these books gave me important boosts in this past year, which at times, seemed to be drifting too far from the reaches of love.
The fight for love can’t happen unless we fully understand love and all of its shades and textures. Reading exposes me to more shades and textures of love. Two books that I read in 2017 that were especially delightful in this regard were Louise Penny’s latest, Glass Houses, and A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman. I’m a huge fan of Penny’s Inspector Gamache series and thoroughly enjoyed the latest installment. I was late-to-the-party in reading Ove, but what a delight – warmly funny and full of love!
I hope you all enjoyed your reading in 2017 and will take a little time to reflect about it. Then, onward! I’m sure there are plenty of reading delights in store for us in 2018 as well. Happy reading!