As we do each year, we’ve gathered a list of the best book published from January until now. So, here are 10 well-crafted volumes (in no particular order) that stretch our imaginations and challenge us to go deeper in the compassionate and reconciling way of Jesus.
By Chigozie Obioma
The Fishermen, the debut novel from this young Nigerian writer, has earned a hefty load of praise and awards, including being shortlisted for the Man Booker award. It is a simple story that raises profound questions, and in this way, it is reminiscent of ancient mythology.
By Lauren Groff
Fates and Furies is the exquisitely crafted story of a marriage. Telling the story of a single set of circumstances, first from the husband’s perspective and then the wife’s, Groff explores not only the dynamics of a marriage, but also deeper questions about human existence, and how our formation shapes the ways in which we relate.
By Ron Rash
Ron Rash is an Appalachian writer whose gothic stories have drawn comparisons to Faulkner and Flannery O’Connor. His latest novel, Above the Waterfall is a poetic and haunting tale set in contemporary Appalachia. It unfolds around the characters of a sheriff, a park ranger and a poet, who, when a local trout stream is poisoned, must confront not only the one accused of the poisoning, but also the darkness of their own pasts.
By Toni Morrison
The first of Morrison’s novels to be set in the present day, this new work features a young woman who calls herself Bride, whose stunning blue-black skin is only one element of her beauty, her boldness and confidence, her success in life, but which caused her light-skinned mother to deny her even the simplest forms of love. God Help the Child challenges to imagine what healing looks like in our twisted world that so ardently resists neat and easy solutions.
By Ta-Nehisi Coates
This poignant meditation, written as three letters to Coates’ teenage son, is a sad, but vivid depiction of the experience of being black in the 21st century. It deserves every last one of the awards it has earned this year (including the National Book Award). Those of us who are not black would do well to listen well to Coates’ words and to be haunted by them.
By Scot McKnight
Scot McKnight challenges us with the thought that Church is, in its very essence, a community defined by its diversity. A Fellowship of Differents is a convicting book in a year when public conversation has been dominated by questions about race, and when our churches are still vastly segregated. The diversity that McKnight recommends, however, is not just racial or ethnic, but also diversity across age, economics, theology or any sort of barrier that would divide us.
By Soong Chan Rah
2015 has been a year stained by violence–police violence, violence against Muslims and of course, the violence of mass shootings. How do we respond in the face of such pervasive violence in our world? Soong Chan Rah answers this question by turning our attention to the biblical practice of lament. This timely book is indeed prophetic in its call for us to live as the faithful and repentant people of God in our violent age.
By Sherry Turkle
This new book by Sherry Turkle might be the most important book of 2015 for Christians (even though it wasn’t written for a Christian audience). Relearning the art of conversation, and all the related social graces, as Turkle recommends here, will go a long way in helping us be peacemakers following in the footsteps of Jesus. Turkle also helps us critically assess our use of smartphones and reflect on the ways that they inhibit healthy conversation.
By Marilynne Robinson
In this superb and wide-ranging collection of essays, Robinson, one of America’s greatest living novelists, tackles some fundamental theological questions about life in the 21st century. The essay “Fear” is itself worth the price of the whole volume, as Robinson bluntly names the oppressive fear that pervades America, and laments the ways it drives a zealous gun culture.
By Erin Lane
Erin Lane’s Lessons in Belonging chronicles her struggles to belong to a church, a story that will ring familiar to many young readers. Not only is this book a lively and honest memoir of Lane’s experiences with church, but along the way she makes a compelling case for the virtues that make thriving church communities to which we want to belong. Lane paints for us a vibrant image of the wonderful crackedness that church can and should be.
C. Christopher Smith lives and writes as part of the Englewood Christian Church community on the urban Near Eastside of Indianapolis, where he is the Senior Editor of The Englewood Review of Books. Chris is co-author of the award-winning book Slow Church (2014), author of Reading for the Common Good (2016), and is presently finishing a book manuscript with the working title, Conversational Bodies: A Field Guide for the Journey Toward Belonging.