News, Reading Guides, VOLUME 12

(Some of) The Best Books of the 2010s… and 2020!!!

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!).

2018 Book of the Year

Best Books of 2010s

Learning to Speak God from Scratch: Why Sacred Words Are Vanishing–and How We Can Revive Them

Jonathan Merritt

When you look at the words we use as a society, it’s a little bit like taking your temperature. It tells you about the state of things. We are speech people, and so the things that matter to us, the things that bind us together, they show up in our conversations. So, if you observe these conversations, you can learn a lot about what a society is thinking about, how a society
is behaving, because our behavior and the things we think about are connected to the words we use. Some words are falling out of use, and many of these are important words, words like courage. You don’t have to
be a devout Christian, or even a nominal Christian, to say that courage is an important concept; we want to create a courageous society. Or consider words like patience. There are meaty theological words, like sin
(where there might be some disagreement on whether that is an important word), that are seemingly going away. Why are we as a society apparently less interested in talking about these things?

  • from our interview with Jonathan Merritt
    in our Fall 2018 magazine issue

*** WATCH the trailer video for this book… 

2019 Book of the Year

Best Books of 2010s

The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church’s Complicity in Racism
Jemar Tisby

“The Color of Compromise offers something for those who are only beginning their journey of racial awareness as well as readers who have been walking down this road for their entire lives. The final chapter, The Fierce Urgency of Now, inspires us to not only wonder how could things be different but then to actually imagine what could I do to help bring that about?

Early on Tisby writes, “This book says, ‘Don’t look away.’ Don’t look away from Christians using the Bible to justify the inferiority of African people. Don’t look away from the political cowardice Christians displayed when they could have changed the laws of the land. Don’t look away from the nation’s bloodiest war, which was fought over the issue of human bondage, and the many Christians who risked their lives to preserve it…. Don’t look away from the horror of the American church when it comes to race.”

With regard to the church, our country, and racism, there is indeed a “fierce urgency of now.” The challenge is before us. How we respond starts with a willingness to not look away but rather to be confronted and grieved by the sins of our past.”


2020 Book of the Year

Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation
Kristin Kobes Du Mez

In an absolutely devastating closing chapter (titled “Evangelical Mulligans”) Du Mez traces many accounts of the all-too-frequent public failings of prominent evangelical leaders, and the knee-jerk efforts of those in similar positions of power to defend them while invalidating the abused. After reading Du Mez’s account of the previous century, the connections become abundantly clear. “Those lamenting evangelicals’ apparent betrayal of ‘family values’ fail to recognize that evangelical family values have always entailed assumptions about sex and power.” (277) For those interested in exposing and dismantling those assumptions, or even those who simply want to understand how they gained prominence in the white evangelical landscape, Jesus and John Wayne is an absolute must-read, a stunning work, and one that deserves serious attention and further conversation.
 – from our review by ERB contributor Joel Wentz

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C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at:

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Reading for the Common Good
From ERB Editor Christopher Smith

"This book will inspire, motivate and challenge anyone who cares a whit about the written word, the world of ideas, the shape of our communities and the life of the church."
-Karen Swallow Prior

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