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  • Beth Jones

Church Blogmatics top 10 reads from 2022

Even the most dedicated readers have times when it's hard to read, and it's been a light reading year for me, but I still have a few good recommendations to offer. In no particular order (except the last book on the list) and from a hodge-podge of genres, the following are my top 10 books from reading year 2022.


Some links in this post are affiliate links, through which I receive a small payment if you choose to click through and make a purchase.

1


The 1662 Book of Common Prayer: International Edition from Intervarsity Press.

"Almighty God unto whom all hearts be open, all desires known, and from whom no Secrets are hid: clense the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy holy spirit, that we may perfectly love thee, and worthily magnifie thy holy Name through Christ our Lord. Amen."

The volume offers Thomas Cranmer's beautiful liturgical theology, but with enough gentle updating and elision of English nationalism to make it open to more readers. It's a beautiful physical volume, as well.


2


Middlegame (Alchemical Journeys, 1) by Seanan McGuire

“Magic doesn't have to be flashy and huge. Sometimes it's the subtle things that are the most effective of all.”

McGuire is brilliant: a masterful wielder of words, surprising plotter, and witty observer of the world. In the book (sci-fi/fantasy), Roger, who is unbelievably good with numbers, and Dodger, with an over the top felicity with words, must confront enormous evil as they discover who they are and what they are capable of. I don't want to give anything more away. I also immensely enjoyed Seasonal Fears (Alchemical Journeys, 2).


3


How to be an Explorer of the World: Portable Life Museum by Keri Smith

From Smith's experience as an artist, the book is a course in the art of attention. What do we need more--right now--than the ability to give attention? I've given copies to third graders, but I'll also use it in a graduate course on theology of the body. Smith's exercises encourage us to slow down and see the world anew.


4


The Right to Sex: Feminism in the 21st Century by Amia Srinivasan

Sex is no longer morally problematic or unproblematic: it is instead merely wanted or unwanted...In this sense, the norms of sex are like the norms of capitalist free exchange.

It's not even that I really like the book, precisely. It's that Srinivasan is asking new questions and trying out new answers, in a world where we obviously need something new. Is there more to sexual ethics than just consent? What can it mean to transform the world so that women may truly flourish?


5


The Hacienda by Isabel Cañas

“Hacienda San Isidro—my home—was poisoned. It was hurting. Rot like this would spread beyond the house’s walls, leeching life from the earth, blighting the fields, lacing the homes of the village with affliction. It was a sickness. It must be contained, then eradicated.”

What if a mansion were haunted?

By colonialism?

What if the owner's new wife teamed up with a local priest to fight back?


6


The Sentence by Louise Erdrich

I live what can be called a normal life only if you’ve always expected to live such a way. If you think you have the right. Work. Love. Food. A bedroom sheltered by a pine tree. Sex and wine. Knowing what I know of my tribe’s history, remembering what I can bear to remember of my own, I can only call the life I live now a life of heaven.

Erdrich is still immensely underrated, even though she gets a lot of buzz. This novel is:

a pandemic novel,

a black lives matter novel,

a Native American novel,

a book lovers/bookstore novel,

and a ghost story.

Take and read.

7


Beautiful Country: A Memoir of an Undocumented Childhood by Qian Julie Wang

“I put these stories to paper for this country's forgotten children, past and present, who grow up cloaked in fear, desolation, and the belief that their very existence is wrong, their very being illegal...I dream of a day when each and every once of us will have no reason to fear stepping out of the shadows.”

In life-affirming prose, Wang recounts the beauties and pain of her upbringing in China and New York. If the goal of writing is empathy, we need more writing like Wang's in the world.


8


A Body of Praise: Understanding the Role of Our Physical Bodies in Worship by W. David O. Taylor

Taylor's new book is in my sweet spot.

Theology that knows that bodies matter? Check.

Theology that is practical, for the church and the world, and the way we live our embodied lives? Check.

The book will be available in March, but you can preorder now.


9


Heaven and Nature Sing: 25 Advent Reflections to Bring Joy to the World by Hannah Anderson, Illustrated by Nathan Anderson

The same old Christian story, told afresh. Anderson situates the gospel story in its cosmic implications by situating it in the particularities of the world she knows and loves. Beautiful.


10


Everything Sad is Untrue: (a true story) by Daniel Nayeri

Nayeri's memoir, which reads like a novel, was my favorite book of the year. I've already given copies to children, to adults, to students. Everyone should read it. It's gorgeous.


Here's a glimpse of his narration of his mother's conversion to Christianity, which would make them become refugees. Why would his mother embrace this faith? Because:

it’s more valuable than seven million dollars in gold coins, and thousands of acres of Persian countryside, and ten years of education to get a medical degree, and all your family, and a home, and the best cream puffs of Jolfa, and even maybe your life. My mom wouldn’t have made the trade otherwise...You can’t say it’s a quirky thing she thinks sometimes, cause she went all the way with it.

Here's to a happy year of reading for 2023!


Some links in this post are affiliate links, through which I receive a small payment if you choose to click through and make a purchase.


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