The Englewood Review of Books
Books of the Year
2017 Book of the Year:
Keeping Place: Reflections on the Meaning of Home
Jen Pollock Michel
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Keeping Place, with the biblical narrative at its center, is clearly written
for the Christian reader. However, Michel’s ideas about the meaning of home, and her probing questions and personal anecdotes, assure that her writing will reach across religious boundaries into a place deep inside readers from many beliefs and cultures. As much social critique and cultural analysis as religious treatise, Keeping Place will appeal strongly both to those seeking alternatives to the culture of fast and disposable, and to all people who want to make home something more than a place to keep possessions. Well-researched, firmly grounded in a variety of disciplines; personal, yet universal in its themes and queries, Keeping Place: Reflections on the Meaning of Home, is a suitable companion for the journey of
spiritual growth and meaning making that is at the heart of being human.
Jen Pollock Michel’s writing is clear and engaging and her tone warm and genuine. I highly recommend this book to anyone encountering their own questions about what it means to be at home—in a place, in a church, or in your soul.
– from our review by Pam Kittredge (print magazine)
* 2017 was a peculiar year in which we did not select a single Book of the Year, but for this retrospective, we decided to feature this book, which was one of our most highly regarded titles of 2017.
2018 Book of the Year:
Learning to Speak God from Scratch:
Why Sacred Words Are Vanishing— and How We Can Revive Them
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Jonathan Merritt: I expected that when I moved to New York, there would be some culture shock. What I didn’t expect was that I would encounter a language barrier, not that I couldn’t speak English … I just no longer could speak God; I no longer felt confident in the vocabulary of faith, and I no longer was having spiritual conversations. For someone who grew up in a religious household, and for someone who has devoted his life personally and professionally to matters of faith, that was jarring and discouraging. To tell this story would simply be a memoir, and I don’t think that the world
needs another memoir from a 30 year-old. In addition to what the Google nGram data tells us—that there is a massive decline in the use of sacred words and moral and ethical words, and religious words, and virtuous
words—people are not having spiritual conversations in America, despite the widespread religiosity, and that to me was stunning because if you love something, you talk about it. And yet about three-fourths of Americans say that faith is part of their lives and they identify as a person of the Christian faith (or another faith), and yet they never talk about this faith. And so, I wanted to explore why it is that we talk about the things we love, but when it comes to this thing, we’re tongue-tied. This became a pressing question for me, and I thought that it was a question that others were missing, that others were not answering, and that’s the point when I decided to pick up the pen and write again.
– From our interview with Jonathan Merritt (print magazine)
2019 Book of the Year:
The Color of Compromise:
The Truth about the American Church’s Complicity in Racism
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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.
– from our review by Dorothy Greco
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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: C-Christopher-Smith.com