Our final magazine issue (to be released in early 2020) will feature some of the best books of the 2010s, roughly the same timespan as the life of the magazine…
As I am prepping for that issue, I pulled together the following list of our Books of the Year from our start in 2008 to the present… If you are looking for an important and thought-provoking book to read over the holidays or in the new year, you might want to browse this list.
Our criterion both for selecting books to review and for honoring the year’s best books is to choose books that are “for the life and flourishing of the Church” – i.e., books that energize us to be the local communities of God’s people that God has called us to be and that nurture our mission of following in the way of God’s reconciliation of all things (in all its broadness!).
2014 Book of the Year
In a year marked by public outcry against violence toward black men, this powerful memoir is a stark reminder that such injustice and violence is nothing new. Stevenson not only tells his story of defending the cases of those wrongfully convicted due to race and/or poverty, but his stories hold a mirror to American culture, reminding us of our brokenness and prophetically calling for the transformation of not only individuals, but also society.
“This story reminds all of us that justice matters. It matters in terms of life and death and it matters for all members of our communities. For those inspired by the vision of the kingdom of God as it comes to us in Jesus of Nazareth, who himself did not receive justice in dying as a criminal, Just Mercy calls its readers to act for justice leavened with grace.”
2015 Book of the Year
A Fellowship of Differents
This important book wrestles with the questions:
Do we love like God? How diverse is our love? Does it embrace the “differents” or are we determined to make carbon copies of ourselves? Our sordid church history shows that we have often failed in this vision. But if we refocus on how the love of God seeks the fullness of individuality and sees it as a blessing, we would begin to catch the Kingdom-vision of true love.
Fellowship of Differents never avoids our collective warts, but encourages us from cover to cover to not let imperfection hinder joy. This alone makes it a breath of fresh air. The Apostle Paul shared a vision of history driving toward the unveiling of a renewed cosmos populated by God’s people. Thus, here and now, the most Kingdom-like place is the church, who he calls “his crown, joy and love (Phil 4:1; 1 Thess 2:19).” McKnight’s constant rejoinder to find joy in, for and with the Body of Christ echoes this exclusively Kingdom framework of good news. We are encouraged to be of like mind and find our joy, not only now but forever, in the presence of God and the fellowship of differents.
- from our review by Jordan Kellicut
(in our print magazine)
2016 Book of the Year
Lisa Sharon Harper
Many Christians, especially in the Evangelical tradition, are quick to identify with the gospel (i.e., good news) of Jesus. But why exactly is it good news that God’s kingdom is coming on earth as it is in heaven? This is the question that Lisa Sharon Harper sets out to answer in her superb new book THE VERY GOOD GOSPEL. Focusing on the scriptural concept of shalom, a Hebrew word that is often translated as “peace,” but is much broader than our typical understanding of peace, Harper explores the fullness of the shalom that God intends for creation and why it is indeed good news. The very good news is that God desires us to have shalom with God, shalom with ourselves, shalom between the genders, shalom with all creation, shalom for broken families, shalom in the midst of racial injustice, shalom between nations, and more.
This is a very accessible book (and it includes reflection exercises to help readers engage with it), and it provides one of the richest depictions of the flourishing life God intends for creation. Lisa Sharon Harper will undoubtedly stir our imaginations with her case for why the gospel is extraordinary news!
– ERB Editor, Chris Smith
- from our review by ERB editor C. Christopher Smith
(in our print magazine)