The best books I read in 2023, in no particular order
I read a lot of good books in 2023... I also read a few bad ones, but I just wanna highlight 5 good ones. This is not a ranking, and there are of course other books that deserve to be highlighted, but of all the books I read this year, these are the 5 I'd most highly recommend to you as must-read material:
This one's really short but, like all of Han's works, it packs a serious punch. It is a thought-provoking book that invites a relationship to time and space that allows for the kind of experience where lingering is possible and "scent" is a form of knowledge. It is a diagnosis of and departure from the frenetic culture of achievement and a re-centralization of the vita contemplativa. Written from a sociological/philosophical perspective, this little book has some profound theological import.
Learning to Pray: A Guide for Everyone by James Martin
This is a must-read for anyone interested in thinking about prayer and understanding how prayer works, especially from an Ignatian perspective. Martin writes in a way that is extremely accessible but still theologically insightful.
Innovating for Love: Joining God's Expedition Through Christian Social Innovation by Kenda Creasy Dean
I've written before about my skepticism regarding "innovation," but I trust it in Kenda Dean's hands. This book is really important for anyone who is committed to innovation in ministry and the church. Kenda will challenge assumptions and offer a solid theological starting point for a good vision for ministry.
Odell is not a theologian and her writing style isn't typical for an academic contribution, but she's really fun to read. She has a kind of polemical and artistic approach that I found to be really delightful. She offers a critique of our "attention economy" and the social drive to optimize everything about our experience and identity. As a form of protest against the attention economy, she invites us to do nothing. Nothing is almost impossible in our secular age, but she shows us that nothing is really
something, and it is possible.
When Church Stops Working by Andrew Root and Blair Bertrand
This is one of the more important books I've read in the last 10 years or so. It builds (slightly) on Andy Root's work in his "Faith in a Secular Age" series, but mostly it serves as a sort of distillation of the most profound theological and interpretive elements of those books into something useful and potentially transformative for churches and church leaders. This is one that can be used (in fact, I'll be using it this way in 2024) as a teaching tool for church councils, sessions, and staffs. It has a real chance of shaping a church's ministry and motivation toward divine action and away from anxiety.
God, Sexuality, and the Self: An Essay 'On the Trinity' by Sarah Coakley
The title doesn't give it away, but this book may be the best theology of prayer I have ever read. Written with theological rigor and passion, this book has been formative for me. It's not an easy read, per se, but it's worth the intellectual investment.