Saturday, December 28, 2013

Best books of 2013

I love lists. Here, again, are my favorite books for the year just ending. I read a lot, so choosing which books most impacted, encouraged, motivated or delighted me is an exercise I enjoy. (I’d love to hear about your favorite books, too.) These are not books necessarily published in 2013 (although several of them were). They are books I read during the year.

--Minding the Light: Our Collective Journal, West Hills Friends Church (2013): This collection of stories makes me want to do the same thing at North Valley Friends.
--Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo (2012): A beautiful/horrible narrative view of poverty in India. Hard to read, but worthwhile.
--The Gift of Years: Growing Older Gracefully by Joan Chittister (2008):­ These short devotional chapters by one of my favorite nuns almost makes me want to grow old.
­­--Girl Meets God: On the Path to a Spiritual Life by Lauren Winner (2002): I love good memoirs, and this story of Winner’s conversion from Judaism to Jesus is a winner. I also read her more recent Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis (2012).
--A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband “Master” by Rachel Held Evans (2012): This was a favorite. Evans does a great job of poking fun of legalism while at the same time showing the values behind the ancient rules and regulations.
--The God of Intimacy and Action: Reconnecting Ancient Spiritual Practices, Evangelism, and Justice by Tony Campolo and Mary Albert Darling (2007): I love the way the authors bring together the often separated areas of spirituality, evangelism, and work for social justice. Very holistic and healthy.

Fiction and Poetry
--The Whalesong Trilogy (1981-1994) by Robert Siegel:  Adventure combines with the beauty of language. I love it when a poet writes novels.
--The Waters under the Earth by Robert Siegal (2005): Seigel has been my discovery of the year, both his fiction and his poetry. In this collection of poems, “Turtles” alone is worth the price of the book.
--Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2013): A novel of cross-cultural conflict and adjustment (or maladjustment) as the protagonist moves from Nigeria to the USA, and then attempts, after many years, to go home again.
--And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini (2013): This Afghani author again delivers a story set in a complexity of cultures and shows how families navigate (or fail to navigate) those complexities.
--The Book of Dead Birds  by Gayle Brandeis (2003): A dark/light book that weaves intercultural and environmental issues, while telling an unusual mother/daughter story.
--Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie (1990): This fantasy disappointed me, but I mention it because I love the metaphor of the “Ocean of the Stream of Stories,” with the plot of the stories going wrong and the quest to heal them by going to the source. I also like that at the end, “Peace broke out.”
--The Taliban Cricket Club by Timeri N. Murari (2012): More intercultural stuff, with a great story that affirms the creativity and courage of women.
--The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien (1990): A series of short stories, based on the reality of the author’s time in Vietnam. Very moving and insightful.

My two favorite books this years, always a hard decision (and apt to be changed), were Rachel Held Evans’ A Year of Biblical Womanhood (non-fiction) and Timeri Murari’s The Taliban Cricket Club (fiction).


  1. Thank you. I've read a few of these and will get a hold of a few I haven't read. I read God on Mute: Engaging the Silence of Unanswered Prayer by Pete Grieg (2007) twice this past summer and am still pondering the contents--complex, hopeful, true to life, faith-full. You'd enjoy Lauren Winner's little book, Mudhouse Sabbath (2003) in which Jewish and Christian practices make a great combination. I'm currently reading Recovering the Full Mission of God: A Biblical Perspective on Being, Doing and Telling by Dean Flemming (2013). I can't find the non-fiction book I loved but I'll get back to you on that. I loaned it to two friends who read it immediately and one purchased 5 copies for friends. Now I have your attention don't I? Sorry--later. Love you.

  2. Yes, indeed, you have my attention. Thanks for the names. I'll follow through on all of them.