Some books you just might love


by Rachel Held Evans Read Distraction Free

I’ve been so busy traveling and writing, I’ve barely made time to blog, but I have found some time to read. Here are my top recommendations from 30,000-feet!: 

The Bible Made Impossible by Christian Smith—Consider adding this one to you Christmas list because I’m planning to write a series of posts about it beginning in January.  Smith, a Catholic sociologist, wisely and  graciously deconstructs Biblicism, an approach to reading the Bible common among American evangelicals that “emphasizes together the Bible’s exclusive authority, infallibility, clarity, self-sufficiency, internal consistency, self-evident meaning, and universal applicability.” If Biblicism worked the way its proponents say it should, he argues, there would not be the vast variety of interpretive differences that Biblicists themselves reach when they actually interpret and apply the Bible. I loved this book, and finished it on a single plane ride. Rather than discounting the authority and inspiration of Scripture, Smith provides better, more constructive and honest ways of reading it that put Christ at the center of our faith as the Word made flesh. 

Ancient-Future Bible Study: Women of the Torah and Women of the Gospels by Stephen J. Binz—I’ve been asked on several occasions if I could recommend material for a women’s Bible study that isn’t either a) Beth Moore, or b) terrible. I always flounder a bit in my response…but no more! Now I can heartily recommend Stephen J. Binz’s Women of the Torah and Women of the Gospels. Part of his Ancient-Future Bible Series, the books highlight the fascinating women of the Torah and the Gospels in short chapters that are beautifully written, insightful, and empowering. The series incorporates contemporary Bible study with the church’s most ancient way of reading Scripture, lectio divina, and moves the reader from study (lectio), to reflection (meditatio), to prayer (oratio), to discernment (contemplatio), and action (operatio). I really liked Binz’s approach. For example, of the healing of the with a hemorrhage in Mark 5, Binz notes, “the healing takes place solely at the woman’s initiative and follows immediately upon her touching Jesus’ garment, the only healing in the Gospels that occurs without the expressed intent of Jesus.” I’d never noticed that before!Whether you’re meeting with a group of conservative evangelicals or feisty, progressive women (or a mix!), this study will work for anyone engaging with an open heart and mind. It’s not cheesy, and it’s not patronizing. I promise. In fact, I'll be referencing these books in A Year of Biblical Womanhoodif I ever finish the darn thing. 

Not Alone: Stories of Living with Depression, edited by Alise Wright—When our journeys take us down dark and unfamiliar paths, we don’t need leaders with all the answers; we need friends with open arms. Not Alone brings together the voices of many such friends in essays that are alive with wisdom, honesty, humor, and grace. With a forward by Elizabeth Esther, and contributions from folks like Joy BennettTravis Mamone, and Kristin Tennant, you’ll find many familiar faces in these pages. What makes this book so powerful is the diversity of the stories shared within it. No two journeys through depression are exactly the same, and yet no one needs to travel alone. What a joy it is to see such an impressive assemblage of smart, talented, and creative writers speaking words of hope into the world!

Down We Go: Living Into the Wild Ways of Jesus by Kathy Escobar—I had the privilege of hearing Kathy present her material from this book at Soularize last week, and it blew me away. Based on the “downward mobility” model of the Beatitudes, Kathy’s approach to “church” is radically different than what we’ve come to accept in our consumer-driven Christian subculture and focuses instead on following Jesus into the hard places of suffering, inequality and justice in order to experience hope, beauty, justice, equality, generosity and healing. Kathy’s the kind of person who reminds me of why I follow Jesus in the first place! I wish all of you could meet her and learn from her story. (Check out the video above to get a little taste of what Kathy has to offer in this inspiring and challenging book.) 

Raised Right: How I Untangled My Faith From Politics by Alisa Harris—If, like me, you knew what abortion was before you knew where babies came from, you’ll love this funny and insightful book about finding faith outside of politics. (I read it on the treadmill and nearly fell over a few times with laughter.) I believe Harris speaks on behalf of a generation of culture warriors who are longing for a more peaceful way forward. Those of you who grew up in the trenches will definitely relate. (My only critique is that I wish Harris had organized the book a little differently so that her story flowed more naturally. Sometimes it feels like each chapter has to end with a "lesson.") 

Note: All of these books were complimentary copies from the publisher. 

So, what have you been reading lately?

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