I am not a book reviewer (as you will quickly see). I just like what I like and I’ll tell you why! Using affiliate links where I can, here are 10 books I loved this year:


Home By Another Way by Barbara Brown Taylor

“The problem is that people we cannot stand are loved just as much as we are, by a God with an upsetting sense of community.” page 45

This was one of my morning books. I read one short chapter a morning during November and December. It’s a collection of BBT’s sermons, starting with Advent and moving through to the season after Pentecost. Reading it has reminded me all over again why she is one of my favorites.



In The Shelter by Pádraig Ó Tuama

“Hope is a song sung when everything else says you shouldn’t be signing. Hope is joy. Hope is a testimony that says ‘even if it doesn’t come true, I will live like it might.’ Hope is what helps us survive. Hope is little light.” page 178

As a poet, a storyteller, and a theologian, Irish writer Pádraig Ó Tuama writes about finding a home in the world, about saying hello to here, to the beginning, to the imagination, to the body, and to the shadow. This book was a kind companion for me during a time when I desperately needed one. Highly recommend.



Walking in Wonder by John O’Donohue

“There’s a great wisdom in perspective and distance. It is usually when we are myopic and close up to a thing and we can’t see its contour and all, that it totally imprisons and controls us. Whereas when you step back, you get another view, and you pick up a way of relating to the situation which frees you predominately.” page 155

After John O’Donohue died, author John Quinn edited and collected various writings and lectures of O’Donohue’s and complied them into this beautiful book. John O’Donohue has long been one of my favorite voices and this book is a lovely collection of the way the wonder he saw in the world.



Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry

“After she left, the house slowly filled up with silence. [His] absence came into it and filled it. I suffered my hard joy, I gave my thanks, I cried my cry. And then I turned again to that other world I had taught myself to know, the world that is neither past nor to come, the present world where we are alive together and love keeps us.” page 166

My first Wendell Berry read was Jayber Crow and I fell all the way in love with Port William, the fictional town in which the story is set. This is the seventh book in the series and I loved it dearly. Unlike other fiction series, these you don’t necessarily need to read in the order they were released. This may have actually been a good one to start with. It tells the story of Hannah and her life with the men she loved, the land she cultivated, and the losses she had along the way.



Everything Happens for a Reason by Kate Bowler

“Sometimes this ability to live in the moment feels like a gift. My pain feels connected to the pain of others somehow. I notice the look of exhaustion on the young mom’s face at the grocery store and help her with her cart. I give money away more freely, less begrudgingly. I can see now how hard people work to keep it together, but the walls that keep their lives from falling apart are brittle. And I have two months to live. Again.” page 144

I recommend you listen to this one on audiobook if you have that available to you. I always enjoy hearing an author read their own work, but especially when it’s memoir and especially when it’s Kate. At age 35 she was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer and given only months to live. In the years that have followed, she has wrestled honestly with the reality she has been handed and the terrible advice she’s received along the way, like that everything happens for a reason. 

Hers is a voice I never want to stop listening to. She also has a new book that just released, No Cure for Being Human, which is a continuation of her story as she explores the question: what happens when the life you hoped for is put on hold indefinitely? 

BONUS: Listen to my conversation with Kate Bowler on The Next Right Thing podcast here.



Dear White Peacemakers by Osheta Moore

“The either/or thinking of white supremacy culture influenced my anti-racism work as I struggled on both sides of the spectrum: Offering too much grace to White people that did not require them to change or grow. Operating with too much grit toward White people, expecting them to work for change but not offering any space for healing or empathy. It was time for me to forge a third way.” page 81

This book is that third way and Osheta Moore has done us right. She takes all of her wisdom and lived experience as a writer, a Christian, a Black woman, and a person who sees beneath the surface of things and she shares it with us. This is a love letter to God’s Beloved Community where the work is tough but all are welcome to participate and to belong.



Honest Advent by Scott Erikson

“It’s a surprise that nothing can separate you from the love of God. Nothing can separate you from love. Your assumptions believe there must be something that can . . .  But surprise! Nothing can. May you thank God with joyful surprise at how much you have assumed incorrectly.” page 93

It’s written for the season of Advent, but I’m here to tell you I could read this one all year long. You may be most familiar with Scott Erikson as Scott the Painter on Instagram, where his black, white, and yellow artwork tells a powerful story with makes bold and true statements about the nature of God and people and life. What I loved most about this book is the way Scott gets right to it, minces no words, and has zero time for pretense. It’s a beautiful and refreshing take on the ancient story of God.



A Hidden Wholeness by Parker Palmer

“The shadow behind ‘fixes’ we offer for issues that we cannot fix is, ironically, the desire to hold each other at bay. It is a strategy for abandoning each other while apprising to be concerned. Perhaps this explains why one of the most common laments of our time is that ‘no one really sees me, hears me, or understands me.’


How can we understand another when instead of listening deeply, we rush to repair that person in order to escape further involvement?” page 117

Maybe I’m secretly Quaker? Or maybe it’s not such a secret. This book is a goldmine for anyone who wants to learn how to lead groups in listening. It’s re-awakened my age-old complaint that we have communications classes in college and we are always required to take Public Speaking. And old lady Emily raises her hands in the air: Where is the Public Listening class!? Why is communication limited to speaking only?! If I ever teach Public Listening 101, this book will be first on the required reading list.



Out of Sorts by Sarah Bessey

“Your pet gatekeeper isn’t the sole arbitrator of the Christian faith: there is more complexity and beauty and diversity of voices and experiences within followers of the Way than you know. Remember, your view of Christians, your personal experience with Christians, is a rather small sample: there are a lot more of us out here than you might think.


A lot of us on the other side of that faith shift–eschewing labels and fear tactics, boundary markers and tribalist thinking . . . Labels can be helpful. Now, perhaps, they are not. Our particular tradition doesn’t get our loyalty: that fidelity is for our Jesus.” pages 84-85

I missed this book in 2015 when it released. I had my own book release that year (Simply Tuesday) and that was the year we started hope*writers and my kids were in various stages of growing up and I just missed a lot of voices at that time. But I am a firm believer that books find us when we need them most, and that’s how I felt about this one. I knew Sarah’s voice was one I could turn to in the midst of my own personal wilderness season these past two years, and I am deeply grateful she took the time to write down her experience.



Try Softer by Aundi Kolber

“Learning to love my body rather than just asking it to perform has certainly been a journey. It hasn’t happened by accident, frankly. Trying softer in this way has been one of the most foundational aspects of my journey because my body is the home that holds me.” page 158

I read this one slowly during winter last year and found it to be such a practical companion, especially as we began to slowly make tentative plans for the future and tried to dream again. Aundi manages to take complicated psychological concepts and put them into plain language that is accessible for all of us. Try Softer is a fresh approach to move us out of anxiety, stress, and survival mode and into a life of connection and joy.


BONUS: Listen to my conversation with Aundi Kolber on The Next Right Thing podcast here.


If you enjoy this list of books, sign up for my Monthly Letter where I share questions for reflection and a list of books I’m reading all year around.