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12 books that might change the way you think...

To celebrate 1 year of my blog and my 12th post (yayyyyy), I thought it would be fun to reflect on 12 books that I've read this year, which have changed the way I think.

(Ok so it's technically a little over a year since I started this blog, because I've been slow to publish this. Some of these books are also ones I've read before, but I've reread them over the past year because they really are worth pondering and chewing over some more.)

These books are a slightly random mixture of genres, but hopefully that means there'll be something you might enjoy whatever sort of reader/ponderer you are. So here we go....(in no particular order...)

1. The Private Patient, P.D. James

This book showed me that beauty and truth can be found in the most unexpected places.

If the screams of all earth’s living creatures were one scream of pain, surely it would shake the stars. But we have love. It may seem a frail defence against the horrors of the world, but we must hold fast and believe in it, for it is all that we have.

I've only just discovered the joy of P.D. James's novels, although joy is perhaps a slightly misleading word.... Her murder mysteries are a far cry from the cosy world of Agatha Christie, and yet they are never brutal in their depiction of humanity. There's a psychological, theological, and philosophical depth to her characters, which I've not often found within the crime-writing genre. James manages to write beautifully about murder, paradoxical though that may seem, and this particular novel by James is one of my favourites so far.

2. Movies are Prayers, Josh Larsen

This book changed the way I watch films.

Films are not only artistic, business, and entertainment ventures, they are also elemental expressions of the human experience, message bottles sent in search of Someone who will respond.

This quirky little book is full of movie references from The Muppets to March of the Penguins. It's a beautiful exploration of the ways movies reveal our deepest longings and feelings. I love the way Larsen breaks down the boundaries between the spiritual and the secular, providing us with a new way of watching films. I have a feeling I may find myself quoting this book in future posts.

3. How to Survive the Apocalypse, Robert Joustra and Alissa Wilkinson

This book helped me to think more deeply about popular culture.

We’d like to help you get started with your own novel, aesthetic, and productive readings of cultural forms that tell us something true about each other, about the world, and about God. We want you to turn on the TV and believe it can prod you and your community into making our culture a better place.

I began reading this book shortly after starting my blog and it reminded me again why pop culture is worth noticing, talking about, and writing about, particularly in relation to faith. If I ever write a book, I hope I can write one a little like this. This book is about so much more than just apocalyptic films and TV shows; Joustra and Wilkinson reflect on the way pop culture reveals our hopes, fears, and beliefs in a supposedly 'secular' age. (More on this in my post about Endgame.)

4. God with Us, Rowan Williams

This book further opened my eyes to the radical nature of the gospel.

We may be used to singing (hymns) about the triumphs of the slaughtered lamb, but there is something almost comic about the Lamb as superhero, and I suspect the writer of Revelation must have known that.

Rowan Williams has to be one of my favourite deep thinkers (in the whole wide world!) And this book is another treasure trove of theological gems of wisdom. Williams writes about the cross and the resurrection in a way that is both accessible and seriously profound. This is definitely one to re-read, ponder, and soak in.

5. Jane and Prudence, Barbara Pym

This book encouraged me to laugh at the little absurdities of life.

'A fine, upstanding man, isn't he?' said Nicholas absently. He was evidently thinking that perhaps they might have a round of golf together on Mondays.

Jane and Prudence is a chuckle-worthy book, but it's also so much more than that, and I feel like this little description can hardly do it justice. Very little happens plot-wise, and yet I wonder if that is perhaps a key ingredient of the Pym magic. Her unique artistry, which has often been underestimated by critics (at least in my humble opinion), captures the comedic moments of everyday life, particularly parish life, and awakens us to the delight of human eccentricity and the beauty of the mundane. (I also wrote part of my 2nd year dissertation on this book...because it's just reeeally great.)

6. The Colour of Madness, edited by Samara Linton & Rianna Walcott

This book has challenged me to listen more.

Utter it . | Pick at the stitches | That have held your tongues, | and kept your lips from flowering | those seamless dances that you so often dream

Tobi Nicole Adebajo

This book has been sat on my coffee table for much of this year in the hope that others will also see it and want to read it too (although it is certainly more thought-provoking than your average coffee table book.) This anthology explores experiences of mental health amongst the BAME community in the UK, including poetry, art, short stories, memoirs and essays. This book is so important and has reminded me again to seek out and listen to the voices that are often missing from the narratives I usually hear, absorb and inhabit.

7. The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, Stuart Turton

This book reminded me why goodness matters.

Every life has such a weight. I don’t know how anybody carries even one.

I won't say much about this book, because I've already verbalised many of my ponderings in one of my previous posts. This book is fun to read and also asks some huge moral questions, which are particularly relevant for our increasingly secular society.

8. Choice, Desire, and the Will of God, David Runcorn

This book helped me to see the beautiful wildness of God.

More important than our own desires is the knowledge that we are desired. The deepest awakening of all is to the discovery that we are loved with a wild, prodigal love - without condition.

I find it so easy to put God in a box (because who doesn't love a neat tidy box?), but this book has been a massive part of my journey in letting go and broadening my view of God. It has stirred me to enjoy the "wildly generous, intoxicating, joyful love" of our Father, and has also played a part in healing the wounds of disillusionment sustained whilst 'growing up'. It's super easy to read, down-to-earth, humorous, and life-changing (at least, it was for me.)

9. Reversed Thunder, Eugene Peterson

This book stirred my imagination and my faith.

The churches of the Revelation show us that churches are not Victorian parlours where everything is always picked up and ready for guests. They are messy family rooms...Things are out of order, to be sure, but that is what happens to churches that are lived in. They are not show rooms. They are living rooms...

I have to admit that I've always found Revelation a bit weird, but Reversed Thunder has given me a whole new love of this epic book of the Bible. Eugene Peterson has a wonderful way with words and reveals the significance of Revelation to both the early and contemporary church. He helps to demystify biblical metaphor, whilst also celebrating creativity and imagination in the life of faith. This has to be one of the most quotable books I've read this year.

10. A Secret Sisterhood, Emily Midorikawa & Emma Claire Sweeney

This book changed my view of creativity.

But, while male duos have gone down in history, the world's most celebrated female authors are mythologised as solitary eccentrics or isolated geniuses.

A Secret Sisterhood gives a fascinating insight into the female friendships of some our most beloved and famous writers: Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, George Eliot and Virginia Woolf. The importance of female friendship within the creative life has often been overlooked, and to be honest, I'd never even thought about it until I read this book. A Secret Sisterhood has made me reevaluate my perceptions of female relationships and has challenged my 'lone wolf' perspective when it comes to my own creativity.

11. Silence and Honey Cakes, Rowan Williams

This book helped me to discover true freedom.

One of the chief sources of the anxiety from which the gospel delivers us is the need to protect my picture of myself as right and good.

Because I love Rowan Williams sooo much, I couldn't resist adding a second book of his onto this list, especially as it's one of my favourites. I've re-read Silence and Honey Cakes several times over the years (and probably within the past year too). This book is deeply challenging and has encouraged me to take a terrifyingly honest look at the state of my own heart, and through this process of self-reflection, I've been able to understand and let go of some of my biggest fears. The gospel truths in this book have brought me into greater freedom, releasing me from the claustrophobic state of living in self-righteousness.

12. Unveiling Paul's Women, Lucy Peppiat

This book empowered and encouraged me.

I love Paul's writings. Some women hate him, and some women just avoid him, but I knew that I loved him.

Despite the potentially confusing title, this book makes a huge amount of sense. It takes a theologically rigorous approach in its examination of one of the trickiest Bible passages written by Paul (about women wearing veils in church.....hence the title.) As someone who believes passionately in gender equality and the importance of female leadership within the church, I'm excited to read more of Peppiatt's writing. It's accessible, intelligent, nuanced and empowering.

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