Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Leigh's Favorite Christian Nonfiction

General Market nonfiction has taught me a lot but when I think of life-changing nonfiction, Christian nonfiction has the bigger market share.  

I've highlighted and scribbled my way through my favorites listed below. I turn to them time and time again for encouragement, for a challenge, for a reminder of what faith is all about. These books have helped me grow in my faith- a couple even helped me embrace it.

There can be a temptation to base faith on these books or what a certain author tells us to believe.  However, books on Christian Living were never meant to replace the Bible.  They serve to point us to God. When we read, we should be able to back it up against scripture.  If we can't, it's time to set the book aside and move on.

My favorite Christian nonfiction books:
The Beautiful Ache- Leigh McLeroy The subtitle is Finding the God Who Satisfies When Life Does Not.  This author has a great first name.  But she also has a great way of exploring the tension between the imperfections of earth and the perfection awaiting us in heaven.

Bittersweet- Shauna Niequist The full review. I've since bought copies for friends. I love her words.

The Call- Os Guinness Helpful devotional on finding our true purpose.

The Celebration of Discipline- Richard Foster A wonderful explanation of the spiritual disciplines that gets at the spirit behind the practices without becoming a list of rules.

Crazy Love and Forgotten God- Francis Chan Crazy Love inspired my decision to take a leap of faith and move to Nashville.  Forgotten God solidified my desire to pray crazy, courageous prayers and see how He will use them.

The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective- Richard Rohr I'm grateful to my dear friend The Gat for recommending this to me.  It's more than self-analysis. The Enneagram has a way of moving past ourselves and to the heart of the matter. What makes me tick? What are my tendencies?  Does this sound familiar? I recently posted a series about the good and the bad of being a 4 and what the Enneagram is all about.

Evolving in Monkey Town- Rachel Held Evans In so many ways, I feel Evans' story is my story, from our shared childhood eczema to wrestling with faith. We came up with a few different conclusions but overall I appreciate this memoir and exploration.

God's Politics- Jim Wallis The message behind this book was my saving grace during the 2004 election: "God is not a Republican...or a Democrat." While there's much more dialog on the relationship between faith and politics now, I haven't forgotten the people who told me I was not a real Christian unless I voted for George W. Bush. It was refreshing to find other Christians with a similar point of view. Wallis explores the Christian response on a range of issues, catering to neither side of the political spectrum. It's challenging and thought-provoking, whether you agree with him or not. I was able to hear Wallis speak a couple of years ago, which was amazing.

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years- Don Miller A few thoughts here. Simply inspiring from start to finish.

A New Kind of Christian- Brian McLaren An author that explores Christianity outside of the box. After reading this in college, I finally felt ready to take back my abandoned faith and wrestle with God a bit. It was refreshing to see that there were others out there like me who didn't quite fit into the conservative church we had grown up in.

Radical- David Platt What more can I say about this book?  My thoughts from the Read-Along: 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

Revelations of a Single Woman- Connally Gilliam Without a doubt, the most honest book I've read exploring singleness. Gilliam's book is easy to relate to and she addresses subject matter that is typically taboo in Christian circles. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is single and wants to be engaged in their faith in this season of life.

Sacred Thirst- M. Craig Barnes I often reference Barnes' words here.  I go back to this book whenever I am in need of refreshment.

The School of Dying Graces- Richard Felix I read a few books on loss after Grandma died in 2007 but none spoke to me as much as Felix's experience through his wife's battle with cancer. His examination of the gifts we gain from persevering through suffering was both inspirational and encouraging.

Singled Out- Christine Colon and Bonnie Field A fantastic look at the relationship between celibacy and the church.  Whether you're married or single, it's worth reading just for the history alone. I wrote part 1 of a review but part 2 is still to come.

Traveling Light- Max Lucado I started reading this book on the 23rd Psalm to see if it was appropriate to give to a friend who was struggling with loss. He had unique insights on the familiar verses. It really struck home though when my 22 year old cousin Scott died while I was in the middle of the book. My aunt and uncle chose that same Psalm to be read at his funeral. The words were more comforting because of what I had read in Traveling Light.
Traveling Mercies- Anne Lamott Lamott's writing is not for the faint of heart.  She is irreverent while being reverent.  Her story of conversion does not fall into the nice cookie cutter shape of other conversion stories.  Yet. She is dynamic, and she is honest about her issues. This is a beautiful exploration of faith.

A Walk with Jane Austen-  Lori Smith Yes, I love Jane Austen but that's not why this book is dear to me.  Smith's account of her travels in England retracing Austen's steps directly impacted her faith and her experience as a Christian single.  I couldn't help but resonate with her experience and it definitely made me want to go to England as soon as possible.

Welcoming the Stranger- Matthew Soerens and Jenny Hwang I'd never looked in depth at the issue of immigration before, much less discerned what a biblical response might be. I feel much more informed now. The book has a great many insights and the authors are skillful in examining all sides of the controversial matter. My friend David posted a 2 part interview with Jenny Hwang on his blog, here and here.

What's So Amazing About Grace?- Philip Yancey Yancey makes the concept of grace easier to grasp with a fresh understanding of God's gift to us.

When the Heart Waits- Sue Monk Kidd Encouraging words for times of growth, waiting, and despair. I read Kidd's words and thought, "you too? Me too!" Kidd writes from a place of part mentor, part sojourner.

Stay tuned for more reasons why Leigh Likes Books:

Agree? Disagree? What are your favorite Christian nonfiction books?

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  1. Thanks for sharing this list Leigh. My own shelf of favorite books includes many of the same titles. I haven't heard of the Enneagram book, but I have seen the enneagram widget on lots of blogs. I'll have to check it out sometime.

    I'm sure you've heard of these books, but if you enjoyed God's Politics, you'll really like Claiborn's Irresistible Revolution and Jesus for President. They're a little easier to read since they have more personal narrative and stories. Jesus for President is also beautifully designed, so make sure you read a physical copy of the book. Happy reading!

  2. wow, i've read almost non of these! what's so amazing about grace is a goodie.

    i love jim wallis. i didn't actually get through all of GP, but after reading 4 of his titles previously, it was well-tread ground for me. good ground, tho.

    mclaren's a generous orthodoxy is a big favorite. loved rob bell's sex god. eugene peterson's a long obedience in the same direction is wonderful. receiving the day, girl meets god, blue like jazz, adventures in missing the point, henri nouwen is always good...

  3. Haha I'm with Suzannah! Maybe now that I"m sick of parenting books through and through it's time to make my way through this list. I of course have read Rachel's book and I read Yancey a long time ago.

    I will definitely be coming back to the list. My friend is reading David Platt's right now and she is highly recommending it...might have to borrow.

    I'm working my way through Bruxy Cavey's End of Religion right now, so good! I've enjoyed The Common Prayer so much that all of Claiborn's books are on my to read list.

    I just stumbled upon the whole enneagram thing on Donald Miller's's eerily bang on for me..and I realized my mom might actually be the same number, which is maybe why we have so much trouble relating....

  4. I love how you preface your list with the idea of the temptation to blindly adopt belief systems of authors or the ideas in their books. I think that this is an easy trap to fall into.

    You have a pretty impressive list here. Reading Donald Miller's Blue Like Jazz had a very strong impact on my life (as have all of his subsequent works). I'm surprised you don't have any C.S. Lewis on your list. I love both his fiction and nonfiction.

  5. @Ed, thanks for stopping by! Definitely check out The Enneagram when you have a chance. I find it to be so intriguing and insightful. Claiborne has been on my To Read list for awhile but I may have to bump him up a little higher.

    @Suzannah, I've been meaning to read that Eugene Peterson book for awhile! Same with Blue Like Jazz and more Nouwen. I found A Generous Orthodoxy and Sex God to be very thought-provoking. Probably could've added them here but the list was getting so long!

    @Jenn, Common Prayer brought us together:) Still need to get the book though! Interesting about you and your mom with the Enneagram.

    @John, it's a very easy trap to fall into! I have to remind myself when I'm caught up in someone else's words that this person does not replace God's word in my life. I've been meaning to read Blue Like Jazz since it first came out and finally have a copy in my possession. I'll definitely have it read before the movie comes out. I was thinking about C.S. Lewis, whom I have learned much from, and couldn't identify a particular nonfiction book of his to list. I don't think I've read the biggies (Great Divorce, Mere Christianity) but have gleaned truth from the quotes. Narnia and Til We Have Faces rock.

  6. I loved Donald Miller's Searching for God Knows What - it was an eye opener for me.

    I like reading sermons -- Justice and Mercy by Reinhold Niebuhr is one I come back to again and again.

  7. Of those listed, I've read only Anne Lamott. I love Mary Karr's Lit. I read it at the right time.

    And, though not Christian, Mary Pipher's "Seeking Peace" (subtitle something like Tales of the World's Worst Buddhist) gave me a broader sense of prayer.

    And Kathleen Norris.

    Looking forward to adding a couple of these to my book list!

  8. Ah, I'm glad you mentioned The Great Divorce. I think that may be in my top 5. It's one of those subtle books that I find myself often thinking about and referring to in a variety of situations. If you can find it, Mere Christianity was originally a series of radio talks by Lewis. My library actually had a recording of Lewis giving the talks, which is quite a fun way to "read" it.

  9. @Kristin, I'm planning to work my way through all of Miller's books. I wouldn't have thought of reading sermons! That is an interesting idea.

    @Leanne, I've been meaning to read Lit. I've read other stuff by Popher but not that one in particular, nor Kathleen Norris. I'll be adding those to my list!

    @Ed, Lewis recordings would be awesome! I'll have to see if my library has those.

  10. I'm really late to to the party, but I just LOVE What's So Amazing About Grace. I'm reading on, down your list now!


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