by Rev. Sara Lewis
During my sabbatical this year, I spent a great deal of time reading alone out at my family cabin, and I had time to enjoy some very good books. But I’m still working away at my giant To Be Read pile as well. My goal for 2022 is to read 100 books, and so far I’ve read 37. I’m falling a little bit behind track, but summer is a great time to read. Perhaps some of you may be looking for good summer reads, as well. So, from my teetering books piles to yours, here are some of the books I’ve read so far this year that I recommend to you:
Religious and Spiritual Topics:
My very favorite book I’ve read so far this year is Anchored in the Current: Discovering Howard Thurman as Educator, Activist, Guide, and Prophet, edited by Gregory C Ellison II. Each chapter is written by a different author, all reflecting on the life and work and impact of theologian Howard Thurman. My copy is full of highlighting now, as I found it full of inspiring thoughts.
Another that I loved is an exploration of the Bible by author Rachel Held Evans, Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again. It’s a lovely and thoughtful engagement with the Bible that takes the problems of the Bible seriously but also seeks to find the beauty and truth in it.
Racial Justice Topics:
My top picks for racial justice reading so far this year are for the James Baldwin fans. I read and enjoyed the classic Baldwin work The Fire Next Time, which I followed up with a newer work by Eddie S Glaude, Jr. called Begin Again: James Baldwin’s America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own. Part biography, part literary criticism, part social commentary, this book seeks to connect Baldwin’s work that spanned civil rights and black empowerment with the current state of racial justice work today.
Another that I found quite worthwhile is A Black Women’s History of the United States by Daina Ramey Berry and Kali Nicole Gross. Spanning 500 years of history from the earliest known women of African descent in this hemisphere to now, this is a dense book that tries to tell a lot of stories, and is not a quick or light read. However, as a collection of undertold stories it is eye-opening and very important.
Economic Justice Topics:
I was blown away by the fantastic critique of capitalism offered by How to Be Anti-Capitalist in the 21st Century, by Erik Olin Wright. It is clearly and simply written, but powerful.
A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things: A Guide to Capitalism, Nature, and the Future of the Planet by Raj Patel and Jason W Moore is an ambitious and intersectional work that traces the history of how capitalism has changed our relationship to nature, labor, food, care, and life itself. It’s a longer and more challenging work, but quite interesting and thought-provoking.
Environmental Justice Topics:
The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming by David Wallace-Wells is not a cheerful or fun book to read. It’s a tough book that doesn’t sugar coat the dangers we are facing as our planet warms, but even so it is not advocating giving up. The author takes the view that we always have a choice to make things better, even if we can’t fix it all, and that facing tough truths may be necessary for there to be honest dialogue and choices made.
Sexuality, Disability, Neurodiversity, and Body Positivity Topics:
One that surprised me by being of broader interest than I expected was ACE: What Asexuality Reveals About Desire, Society, and the Meaning of Sex, by Angela Chen. I picked it up to read so that I would better understand asexuality, but this book is actually an important exploration of the entire way our society relates to sexuality and how we conceptualize and navigate relationships. It’s a book that I want to put into the hands of all of our OWL facilitators and anyone else teaching or thinking about sexuality!
And then there is the amazing book The Body is Not An Apology: The Power of Radical Self Love by Sonya Renee Taylor. It’s a beautiful teaching about giving oneself radical self love and then extending that radical love to every Body.
One that is more specific to the experience of neurodivergent women, but still very good, is Divergent Mind: Thriving in a World That Wasn’t Designed for You by Jenara Nerenberg. Neurodivergence is underdiagnosed and not as well understood in women, and this book helps explain.
Brene Brown’s new book Atlas of the Heart: Mapping Meaningful Connection and the Language of Human Experience is a beautiful and helpful guide to anyone who has feelings (all of us!). It would be a good book to just keep on hand and go back to on a regular basis as you are navigating your own heart and mind.