Monthly Archives: August 2022

Favorite Faith-Based Nonfiction

(“…if she were not possessed of a fury.”)*

Continuing the Best of EatReadSleep Ten Year Celebration series!

I have been, as Dan Koch** would say, on a complicated faith journey, and whenever something significant (or truly miniscule) is happening in my life, I have to read all about it. This list contains titles that have been among the most impactful for me, although there were plenty of them that I read before this blog began, and others that I read when I was in a place of fear and kept to myself (see Pete Enns, below). There are also faith-based titles in the “Anti-Racist Reads” section, already posted. Bear in mind that I read many of these when I was deeply searching, somewhat depressed, or furious.

Click on the title for the full review.

Out of Sorts, by Sarah Bessey. Number one, no doubt about it. I read this and Bessey’s Jesus Feminist around the time of my mother’s passing and other global disasters, and it was exactly the right timing. This is sort of a long and complicated review.
Tell It Slant, by Eugene Peterson. I saw this one in a photo of Jon Foreman’s piano and brought the book with me on a family vacation to Virginia. Since it was a relaxed vacation, it got passed around to rave reviews.
Abba’s Child, by Brennan Manning. A deeply contemplative volume for those of us who need assurance of God’s love.
The New Copernicans, by David Seel, Jr. A different and more positive understanding of the faith of Millennials, those of us who think like Millennials, and why. To use a hackneyed phrase, a true paradigm shift.
Jesus and John Wayne, by Kristin Kobes Du Mez. She writes with a flaming sword. Since I reviewed this book, I have heard it mentioned all over the place, and for good reason. Essential.
Thin Places, by Tracey Balzer. A foray into the Celtic understanding of spirituality for this old Celt. I want to go on one of her trips to Iona!
The Divine Conspiracy, by Dallas Willard. A classic on discipleship and kingdom living now.
Surprised by Hope, by N.T. Wright, and also pretty much everything else he wrote. He is my go-to guy for solid teaching.
Running Scared, by Ed Welch. I read it myself one year, and then David and I taught it a few years later. If you are anxious or worried, I hope it helps you as much as it helped me.
Finding God in the Waves, by Mike McHargue. Science Mike threw out everything about faith, and then, spurred on by a divine vision, re-examined each little element and decided what he could truly believe. Tearing it down to bare bones.
What If Jesus Was Serious? By Skye Jethani. A radical little devotional for adults and families with teens. Cuts away religious trappings to get down to what Jesus really said (although I am confident that Jesus understood the subjunctive mood).
The Benedict Option, by Rod Dreher. Not that I agreed with him on everything, but we had a little book group on my back porch to discuss this one, and I have such fond memories of that group of ladies that the book warms my heart.
I blogged about Peter Enns’s book The Sin of Certainty, but this Bible professor’s book that really impacted me was How the Bible Actually Works, which I was probably afraid to write about at the time. A definite must-read.

Disclaimer: I own all of these books, which is not typical for this librarian, so you can see where I’m putting my book money. Opinions expressed are solely my own and may not express those of my employer or anyone else.

* Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing. Benedict is speaking of Beatrice, whom he despises, and with whom, therefore, he falls madly in love.

**Dan Koch is the host of the You Have Permission podcast and is pursuing a Ph.D. in psychology, focusing on spiritual abuse. One of my favorite podcasts.

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American Reboot, by Will Hurd

Who’s ready to rally for a passionately moderate candidate? Will Hurd is a former U.S. congressman and CIA operative. He is razor-sharp and forward-thinking. While he is truly conservative and believes in a strong national defense, a position he can back up from his years of traveling some of the world’s toughest areas on the field with the CIA, he has some scorching criticisms of our current brand of politics on both sides.

Will is the son of a Black father and a White mother, and he hails from the U.S. congressional district with the longest Mexican border: the Texas 23rd district. He is solidly pro-immigration. He is also pro-life, which means that he believes that all Americans deserve health care, but not as issued by the ACA, which gives Americans health insurance that makes it too expensive to actually get the care. He is a feminist and in favor of LGBTQ+ rights. One of his greatest concerns is that our leaders, and Americans in general, are not paying enough attention to the threat of Chinese supremacy, and he has the facts to make his point. He also thinks that climate change is being used as a political football, while it should be on everybody’s front burner.

Hurd plays to the middle. He posits that we all have more in common than we think, and that good laws come from the center 80%, not the ten percenters on either extreme. Thanks to Covid’s effect on transportation, he once had a multi-day, completely unplanned road trip with Beto O’Rourke from Texas to D.C. that was livestreamed on social media to huge audiences. At first, even Beto and Will thought it would be one long, exhausting argument, but then they were able to prove the point that if people would get together and talk seriously about issues, rather than posing for the cameras in photo-op soundbites, real compromise and progress could be made.

The last couple of chapters about our federal government’s complete failure to keep up with technology will scare you so badly that you will be staring at the ceiling at night, sleepless. Will has a computer science degree and ran a technology startup, so he understands tech right down to the bits and bytes. If you have ever watched with dismay and embarrassment as our senators and congressmen interview social media moguls, you will know that we’re in trouble. Our political leaders are incredibly ancient, and even those who are not have “people” who take care of their technology needs and social media accounts (which is not always a bad thing, as we’ve witnessed in the last few years.) Hurd believes that World War I was fought in the trenches, World War II was fought in the air, and World War III will be fought in cyberspace—and we are absolutely not ready. It is a bit of relief that our leaders have finally recognized that we have to start with chip production at home, but that it just a baby step forward. Hurd has plans.

The subtitle of this book is An Idealist’s Guide to Getting Big Things Done. Of course, Hurd will probably throw his hat into the ring for the 2024 presidential contest, and yes, this is his requisite autobiography to launch his campaign. However, this is not at all a bad CV for president, and I, for one, am completely exhausted by the shrieking power mongers at both ends of the spectrum and would be happy to welcome a super-smart, really nice person into the position. We don’t know the slate of candidates yet, but let’s hope that there are some rational, energetic moderates we could all get behind.

Disclaimer: I read a library copy of this book after watching Will Hurd on Book TV and other long-form interviews. Opinions expressed—oh, my goodness—are solely my own and may not reflect those of my employer or anyone else.

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The Best of EatReadSleep, Part 2

General Adult Nonfiction and Anti-Racist Reads

I love nonfiction so much that I am going to divide it up into categories. I read widely across the Dewey Decimal System (a little library lingo) because I am omnicurious. If you don’t see your interests in general nonfiction, I have a couple of specialized categories coming up in this post and the next.

Click on the title links for the full review.

General Nonfiction and Memoirs

Think Again, by Adam Grant. The review on this title has been very popular, with continuing interest over the past year or so. Grant examines the value of changing our minds in both business and personal decisions.
Deep Work, by Cal Newport. The most creative people guard their uninterrupted time. This book has brought about positive innovation in many lives and organizations.
Stolen Focus, by Johann Hari. A fantastic title that did not get enough love. Listen to the audio. Important and engaging.
Dr. Bernstein’s Diabetes Solution, by Dr. Richard Bernstein. This famous doctor is a pioneer in the field of diabetes research. Anyone with diabetes, type 1 or 2, should own this book.
A Craftsman’s Legacy, by Eric Gorges. I have a longer, related post on TheReaderWrites, and both have received tons of hits from mechanics to knitters. I think we humans love to create with our hands.
Salad Love, by David Bez. Of all the many cookbooks I’ve reviewed, this simple, thorough volume with a crystal-clear layout is still a favorite in our house after 7 years.
Educated, by Tara Westover. This harrowing memoir of a woman raised in the fundamentalist Mormon church was on the bestseller list for years. Riveting.
Vincent and Theo, by Deborah Heiligman. A young adult biography of the famous artist and his brother that won all the awards and is perfect for art-loving adults.
The Dark Queens, by Shelley Puhak. Two wild women of the Dark Ages whose stories had been nearly erased. Think Brunhilda and Circe Lannister.
Hillbilly Elegy, by J.D. Vance. A difficult American story out of Appalachia, honestly revealed by one of its favorite sons. Oh, I had such hopes for Vance before he sold out.

Anti-Racist Reads

A few years ago, David and I looked around at our very white world and realized that we lived in a bubble. We started intentionally reading as many books as we could on race in America. I began with White Fragility, which was a complete mistake, since I found it elitist and ridiculous. It is one of the very few negative reviews I’ve ever written. However, things improved greatly after that, and many of these books have been influential in our lives. Some are aimed at the white evangelical church and its members. These are all adult nonfiction, but many fiction titles in the blog, especially children’s and young adults’ banned book reviews, are also anti-racist.

Click on the title link for full reviews.

Caste, by Isabel Wilkerson. This is the most scholarly and thoroughly researched of all the anti-racist books we own. A must-read for everyone.
Rediscipling the White Church, by David W. Swanson. Written by a pastor for other church leaders, really. Wisdom for those seeking to be part of the solution.
Be the Bridge, by Latasha Morrison. This was the best book we read by a black Christian leader, compassionately targeted to white Christians. She has a network of discussion groups all over the country.
So You Want to Talk About Race, by Ijeoma Oluo. The best-organized anti-racist book we read. It is set up in question-and-answer format to make it easy to navigate and understand.
How the Word Is Passed, by Clint Smith. Learning racial history by geography. Very effective, and filled with surprises.

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