In good time for Christmas giving, here’s my annual selection of ten books for the coming year to broaden and deepen the faith and vision of disciples of Jesus. They’re books I’ve read in the last year which I recommend to Christ-followers. I hope there’s something here to nourish and nurture women and men who want to grow as missional disciples of Jesus. (They’re not in any order of preference).
- Sarah Yardley’s More Change
This is a great little book, full of rich reflections on change and how to navigate it. Change, says Sarah, is inevitable; from our experiences and expectations, to longings, love and loss. For many of us life can feel like one big time of transition and it’s so easy to feel adrift when so much in society is screaming we should be settled. So MORE > Change invites you to seek the Bible’s wisdom on experiencing change, viewing our shifting circumstances in light of the perspective and protection of an unchanging God. I know Sarah lives what she writes about, which makes the book all the more powerful and practical.
2. Eugene Peterson’s A Long Walk in the Same Direction
If you want to grow as a disciple, read this book. I’ve been meaning to read it for ages, and only got round to it this year – and I was not disappointed. Subtitled ‘Discipleship in an Instant Society’ Peterson offers wisdom on how to practice daily discipleship as we learn to grow in worship, service, joy, work, happiness, humility, community and blessing. I read a little each day for a month or so, and found it a great devotional read, with its reflections on the Psalms of Ascent. This is the book that got people’s attention to Peterson’s writing, and I can certainly see why. While probably not the first book I’d give a new believer, I highly recommend it, especially the 20th anniversary edition which includes a fascinating Epilogue.
3. Dale Ortlund’s Gentle and Lowly
I read this book about Jesus when it first came out, and since then I’ve been doing what most others have been doing – recommending it to everyone! Most Christians know what Jesus Christ has done – but who actually is he? What’s he like? What is his deepest heart for his people, weary and faltering on their journey through life? Jesus said he is ‘gentle and lowly in heart.’ This book reflects on these words, opening up a neglected yet central truth about who he is for sinners and sufferers today.
4. Stephen Cottrell’s Dear England
Inspired by a conversation with a barista who asked him why he became a priest, this is the Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell’s extended answer to that question – as well as the letter he’d like to write to a divided country that no longer sees the relevance or value of the Christian narrative. This book is written less for the church and more for a general audience, and those who might call themselves spiritual seekers – as well as anyone who is concerned about the life and unity of the UK. The book’s subtitle of ‘Finding Hope, Taking Heart and Changing the World’ is a fine summary of what it’s about.
5. Ruth Valerio’s Say Yes to Life
If you want some help in how to respond as a follower of Jesus to the climate emergency, read this book. As people made in the image of God, humanity is entrusted to look after the world God has created: to share in God’s joy and ingenuity in making a difference for good. Ruth Valerio imaginatively draws on the Days of Creation (Genesis 1) as she relates themes of light, water, land, the seasons, other creatures, humankind, Sabbath rest and resurrection hope to matters of environmental, ethical and social concern. Foundational to Saying Yes to Life is what it means to be human and, in particular, to be a follower of Jesus. Voices from around the world are heard throughout, and each chapter ends with discussion questions and a prayer to aid action and contemplation.
6. Makoto Fujimura’s Art and Faith
World-renowned painter Makoto Fujimura believes what he does in the studio is theological work as much as it is aesthetic work. In this thoughtful and stretching book, Mako offers a broad and deep exploration of creativity and what it means to be people called to ‘making.’ In between pouring precious, pulverized minerals onto handmade paper to create the prismatic, refractive surfaces of his art, he comes into the quiet space in the studio, in a discipline of awareness, waiting, prayer, and praise. This poignant and beautiful book offers the perspective of, in Christian Wiman’s words, ‘an accidental theologian,’ one who comes to deep questions always through the prism of art.
7. Kate Humble’s A Year of Living Simply
I found this book about stripping-back by TV presenter and general encourager Kate Humble to be uplifting and inspiring. She’s not a follower of Jesus, but her message about simplicity is timely and important, summarised well in the subtitle ‘The Joys of a Life Less Complicated.’ You may not agree with everything she says, but her challenge to Western materialism, and desire to find happiness in the small and everyday things is compelling.
8. Preston Sprinkle’s Embodied
I commended this book on social media earlier this year, finding it so helpful. Here’s what the blurb says: ‘Compassionate, biblical, and thought-provoking, Embodied is an accessible guide for Christians who want help navigating issues related to transgenderism. Preston Sprinkle draws on Scripture as well as real-life stories of individuals struggling with gender dysphoria to help readers understand the complexities and emotions of this highly relevant topic.’ Written for leaders, pastors, and parents, Embodied speaks into many of the complexities, confusions and emotionally charged questions surrounding the transgender conversation.
9. Mark Batterson’s Win the Day
Mark Batterson’s writes like he speaks – in an engaging, thought-provoking manner. As something of a contemporary Christian take on Stephen Covie’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, this book says it offers 7 Daily Habits to Help You Stress Less & Accomplish More, and it does! It unpacks seven habits to live not someday down the road, but now. Seeking to transform your perspective of a single day, you’ll be encouraged to discover the potential waiting to be grasped at the beginning of each new sunrise.
10. The Bible
I always highlight this book to everyone – particularly to disciples of Jesus – for why wouldn’t you want to read Scripture? For as we pick up the Bible and read, so God speaks. In all reading, I recommend that we read prayerfully. That, of course, should particularly be the case as we read the Bible – so as you read, you might want to use this collect (prayer) written by Thomas Cranmer, that has stood the test of time and is still used in many Anglican churches today: ‘Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.’
Enjoy your reading in 2022!