When I go into someone’s house or apartment for the first time, I find myself especially drawn to their bookshelves. I want to see the books that they read and the ones they have on display. I like to know which ones have mattered enough to keep, which ones are dogeared and worn, and which are on the stack to be read next.
Every year I make it my goal to read 100 books. The following are my favorite books of the year. These are the ones that made me laugh, cry, and think the most. They are in no particular order except for the first book. Enjoy!
Topping my list this year is Radical Reinvention: An Unlikely Return to the Catholic Church by Kaya Oakes. This was, by far, my favorite book read this year. It really inspired me, comforted me, and made me laugh out loud. This is a wonderful memoir, well-written with a ton of wit and heart. Loved it.
People of the Book: A Novel by Geraldine Brooks tells the story of a Haggadah that has been passed down through the centuries. The book shifts in time as various people handle, use, and hide the book. I loved Brooks’ characters and the way the story spanned centuries. A really lovely story.
Robert Goss’ Jesus Acted Up: A Gay and Lesbian Manifesto is a bit dated, but still a valuable and important read. He does some basic apologetics work around the Bible and gay and lesbian issues, but then goes much deeper with a powerful, political reading of the text. I think every queer Christian should read this book.
Divergent (Book 1) by Veronica Roth is a book that I debated putting on my list. It’s the first book in a trilogy and I was really disappointed by the second book. Also, Roth has some weirdly conservative religious overtones in some of her work and her use (and I use the word “use” on purpose) of queer people is really crappy. HOWEVER! I did really enjoy this book on the series. I found the characters to be interesting and nuanced and the world that she created was fascinating. It’s a book about choices and control. I highly recommend this one, but be wary of continuing in the series.
I found Stagestruck: Theater, AIDS, and the Marketing of Gay America by Sarah Schulman in a used bookstore and bought it on a whim. I am so glad I did! Schulman talks about the musical RENT and how much of the story was stolen from other queer writers. She highlights the shows on Broadway and off around the same time that dealt with AIDS and queer identity and how the ones the were headed up by straight people got more press than those done by queer folks. The book highlighted so many of the things that continue to happen today; Queer folks are marketed by straight folks. It’s all about “acceptable” discourses from “acceptable” people. Eye opening and enraging, but a very important read.
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain gave me a lot of comfort and hope. It’s both a sociological look at how the world is wired for extroverts and a manifesto for introverts to claim their power (and accept their personality). I found such recognition of myself in her words and was comforted to know that I am not alone in often feeling like I don’t belong. A must read for introverts (and those who love them).
The Normal Heart and the Destiny of Me are two plays by Larry Kramer. The both follow the same character as he deals with coming out and the AIDS crisis. I found both of the plays to be incredibly moving (although I liked “The Normal Heart” a bit better) and so much of what they had to say about speaking up and activism still resonates today.
Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon is a great little book about creativity. It’s a book about giving yourself permission and doing great things.
I’m a huge “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” fan and have been so excited that Joss Whedon has continued the story with a series of comics. The first volume of “season nine” is collected in Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 9 Volume 1: Freefall and it’s really wonderful. If you are a fan of BTVS you should really check out the comics.
I am a complete sucker for religious thrillers. Sanctus by Simon Toyne was my favorite of this year. It’s the first in a trilogy. I’m loving the characters and the mythology he is creating. It’s well-written and fast paced. If you are a fan of religious thrillers, check this one out!
By far Church Unique: How Missional Leaders Cast Vision, Capture Culture, and Create Movement (Jossey-Bass Leadership Network Series) by Will Mancini has been the most helpful book on my journey of church planting. His book is all about crafting a vision and mission for your church (or organization) that highlights the uniqueness of what it is you do. It’s about creating a framework for all of your ministries so you can focus on what it is you are best equipped to do. Having worked in lots of churches with no clear mission or with the tendency to add on lots and lots of programs, this book has been a wonderful antidote to that kind of ministry.
Binding the Strong Man: A Political Reading of Mark’s Story of Jesus by Ched Myers revolutionized my reading of the Gospel of Mark. So many amazing insights. I think this has been on of the most crucial commentaries I’ve read.
Torture and Eucharist: Theology, Politics, and the Body of Christ (Challenges in Contemporary Theology) by William T. Cavanaugh is a powerful study of how the Eucharist can be used as an act of resistance. This book was incredibly helpful as I tried to reimagine my understanding of and my relationship to the Eucharist. There was so much power and beauty in this book and it helped me to understand the Eucharist in a whole new way. I wrote a bit about that in this post, but I would really recommend reading the whole book.
So those are my favorites of the year! I hope some of them make it onto your stack for this coming year. What were your favorite books of the 2012? Are you setting any reading goals for 2013? I’ll be doing my “100 books in a year” challenge again.
*All links go to my Amazon affiliate page. If you purchase something I get like a buck.*
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