I usually don’t plan out my reading, and this past year was no exception. As I look back, however, I’m happy with my mix of topics and genres.
On average I read or listened to a book a week in 2023, about thirty of them being nonfiction. Of those, twenty covered topics like the Christian life, the church calendar, Christian political involvement, and the New Testament. The other ten were general nonfiction titles including three memoirs and two in American history.
Of the twenty-two fiction titles, the biggest single group (nine books) was SciFi and Fantasy which is a favorite for me. Another three were young adult and the rest general fiction, set mostly during the last hundred years.
Here are some of the best from my year:
Educated by Tara Westover (2018) is the astounding memoir of a woman who grew up in a radically survivalist family in Idaho, who never went to school and was only self-taught till she, amazingly, was accepted into college. The story is almost unimaginable how she managed to extricate herself from the iron grip of this sub-subculture reinforced by its extremist religious beliefs, violence, and emotional intimidation.
Everything Sad Is Untrue by Daniel Nayeri (2020) is another memoir which opens a window into a very different culture. The author (now an adult) writes from the perspective of his young self, forced out of Iran as a refugee and ending up in Oklahoma. He delightfully communicates his obvious love for his native Persian culture even as he, his mother (the book’s hero) and his sister escape the religious persecution of his homeland. A book full of heart and sorrow and hope.
Tell Her Story by Nijay Gupta (2023) carefully unpacks the life and ministry of women in the New Testament that is hidden in plain sight. In everyday prose, he also provides valuable cultural background which the New Testament authors left unsaid because they would have assumed all their readers would have known it. While ancient Jewish, Greek, and Roman cultures were clearly patriarchal, many women of note were exceptions which we likewise see in the earliest Christian communities.
Rembrandt Is in the Wind by Russ Ramsey (2022) offers a wonderful meditation on the worth and importance of beauty in our lives. In nine chapters this consummate storyteller highlights nine artists from the last five hundred years of the Western world. In each he tells the story of the artist, or of a particular artwork, or of the subject of the art. The tales and their backstories are fascinating, engrossing, and sometimes tragic. Ramsey weaves together mysteries, human drama and more into compelling tapestries. A book of wisdom, of grace, and of beauty.
My local library has used the tagline: “Never apologize for your reading tastes.” Whether your reading is fun or serious, long or short, many or few, may your reading fill you in the coming year.