Eric Fought | December 28, 2015
You may have noticed that I interview a lot of authors. I’m a huge bibliophile and love to dig in to new books. Of course, as a graduate student I get stacks of new books several times a year. And now I get to review several books a month as I consider future guests to enter into conversation with.
This is all to say that I read a lot in 2015. But several titles stand out as my favorites. Here’s a list of five of those, my favorite books of 2015.
How’s Your Faith: An Unlikely Spiritual Journey by David Gregory
Television news is a tough business, something Gregory found out when he lost his job as moderator of the Sunday morning show in the summer of 2014. It was a devastating loss for him and he found himself at a point of personal, spiritual and religious discernment.
The seed for that discernment, it turns out, was planted much earlier. The title of the book, “How’s your faith,” refers to a question posed to Gregory by President George W. Bush on a number of occasions when Gregory was part of the White House press corps. While he pondered the question over and again as he took on more and more responsibility and arose to greater prominence, it wasn’t until later when he began to ask the questions for himself.
So he began to ask questions of faith leaders he respected. In conversations with evangelical megapastors such as Joel Osteen to New York’s Timothy Cardinal Dolan and many others, Gregory began to realize that there were no easy answers to any of the questions.
He began to meet regularly with Erica Brown, a noted Jewish educator and author. You may recall that Erica and I visited about these meetings, which often took place at a Washington Starbucks, when she joined me on Episode #14 of In the Square.
How’s Your Faith offers a tremendous reminder that its never too late to connect with one’s own understanding of God and the journey of faith. It also reminds us that the men and women that grace our television screens, and all people that we consider famous, are people like the rest of us.
The Abbey: A Story of Discovery by James Martin, SJ
I can’t tell you the last time I picked up a piece of fiction. I’m not proud of that fact, it’s just that the stack of nonfiction works that I am required to read and those that I want to read (whether required or not) far exceeds the amount of hours in the day. So, when I opened The Abbey, a novel by Fr. James Martin, SJ, I was a little hesitant.
I was pleasantly surprised, and immediately taken by the excellent prose and moving story Martin offers. The Abbey tells the story of Anne, a divorced single mom who continues to grieve the loss of her son; Mark, a frat boy turned architect turned handyman at a Trappist monastery; and the monks of that Abbey, including its Abbot, Paul. They all somehow encounter each other, and through that process, we might find ourselves and our own journey of faith.
This is Martin’s first novel. And hopefully not his last.
Grounded: Finding God in the World, A Spiritual Revolution by Diana Butler Bass
Christianity, just like the world it finds itself in, is changing. Here’s what we know: fewer people are showing up in church pews on Sunday mornings, more and more Christians are leaving religion altogether, and most of us “professional Christians” have no idea what to do about any of it.
As is usually the case, little is gained by putting up our hands and pouting in the corners of our sanctuaries. Instead, we are offered the opportunity to meet people where they are, even if that means meeting them outside of where we are most comfortable.
Diana Butler Bass writes about these changes and others in her latest book, Grounded. It details the way in which many of us find God, in ways expected and often unexpected. Perhaps most importantly, Butler Bass makes connections with Creation, through the many elements in which the Divine is revealed to us, offering a reminder of the need to not only be in awe of the world around us, but to be eager caretakers.
In Grounded, Butler Bass also shares her own story of faith in a way that is approachable and touching. An independent scholar, she offers expert analysis on current trends that is so important for all of us to grasp.
Rescuing Jesus: How People of Color, Women and Queer Christians are Reclaiming Evangelicalism by Deborah Jian Lee
Just as Christianity is changing as a whole, many denominations and clusters of denominations within denominations are realizing the on-the-ground shifts of that change. This is notably true in Evangelicalism, where a movement of young and diverse Christians are helping to move that segment of the faith in new directions.
Deborah Jian Lee covers this shift in her book Rescuing Jesus: How People of Color, Women and Queer Christians Are Reclaiming Evangelicalism. The book, Lee’s first is an important read for anyone who wants to understand the emerging church of today, trends that are being seen outside of Evangelicalism as well.
Lee tells the story of men and women who have every reason to leave the church due to the hostile atmosphere and harmful politics that have gone on for too long. Yet it is in their brave stance of staying that the church has begun to move at all.
Lee is an accomplished reporter and broadcast journalist and that shows through her excellent reporting here, work which began in 2007. And yet she also offers a personal connection to the story that helps us relate as well.
The Tweetable Pope: A Spiritual Revolution in 140 Characters by Michael O’Loughlin
2015 was full of big stories in the world of religion, and Pope Francis was part of many of them once again. The people of the United States of course welcomed the Holy Father to our shores and was forever changed by the historic visit.
The Pope’s influence is felt throughout the world in many ways. One of those ways is through the Vatican’s use of social media, including Twitter. Michael O’Loughlin, national reporter for Crux writes about this aspect of the Francis pontificate in his book, The Tweetable Pope. O’Loughlin reviewed Francis’ tweets and organized them into categories, from world peace and prayer to sports. And he shares the interesting insights of a reporter covering the Vatican who also happens to be a practicing Catholic and Millennial.
It’s a fun read for anyone interested in the ministry of Pope Francis. And, at this point, who isn’t?