Instead of waiting till years end and choosing what books to review, I’m picking five books each quarter to highlight. Here’s my top five favorite books I read in the first quarter of 2017.
Out of my collection of Bible commentaries, I pull out two more than any other: Joel Green’s The Gospel of Luke (from the New International Commentary on the New Testament series) and Gustavo Gutiérrez’s On Job: God-talk and the Suffering of the Innocent.
After reading Rah’s Prophetic Lament, a commentary on Lamentations, I have a new commentary to add to the short stack, and I wish I could make this one required reading for evangelicals. Rah delivers an insightful commentary on Lamentations paired with a brilliant critique of American Christianity, and running through the critique is a beaming thread of hope.
Back in January, feeling churning anxiety due to the political climate here in the U.S., I hungered for some practical (and simple) disciplines to help face the fears and find God in the midst of my everyday life. I needed to reckon with my anxieties and shadow self, and so I picked up a bunch of books on contemplative prayer. Rohr’s Everything Belongs was the highlight of the bunch, and I found myself jotting down quote after quote in the margins of my bullet journal — even going so far as to Instagram a few. Rohr challenged me on extending grace and welcome to myself, which is not something this perfectionist has ever done well.
As I wrestle with insecurity and shame over a life that didn’t turn out the way I planned, How to Survive a Shipwreck helped me name elements of my experience. I found tremendous in comfort in being able to say “me, too!” along with his experiences. I needed reminding that I’m not abandoned in the midst of uncertainty. I laughed. I texted J and my dad quotes. And most importantly, I found breathing room and hope.
Stories are so vitally important to the way we view the world and others. In this bitterly divisive political climate, awareness of the stories we tell about ourselves and others is crucial. As Vance shared his stories of family and childhood, he humanized people I might be tempted to oversimplify or judge. Hearing stories helps me practice empathy. If we’re going to work constructively together, we have to find ways to engage and listen to people whose backgrounds and assumptions differ from our own.
Over the past few months I’ve been scouring through crochet books looking for patterns and tips to grow my skills and hook my way through my yarn stash. Eckman’s book goes beyond teaching a pattern or particular stitch to offering practical tips for designing and arranging your own projects, and I find the possibilities intriguing. I’m excited to use it as a reference tool in the future.
So, what about you? What’s been your favorite book(s) so far this year?