My 2021 Reading in Review

With 2022 well underway (for the past 10 hours or so) it’s time to review my reading in 2021. As usual, my entire reading log for last year is over on Goodreads. This year my reading was influenced by a reading group I joined that focused on books by black, indigenous, and queer authors. (It was a fantastic group, and I’m sad to see it end.)

Running the numbers

I finished 79 books this year, which is in my usual neighborhood. Of those, 34/78 were written by women, but only 17/78 were written by non-white people. As a friend put it when posting his reading lists yesterday, let’s just say that leaves lots of opportunity for reading in 2022!

Top Non-Fiction

Hard to rank these, but some very good ones:

  1. All About Love, bell hooks (RIP)
  2. The Order of Time, Carlo Rovelli
  3. The Unbearable Wholeness of Being, Ilia Delio
  4. Redeeming Power, Diane Langberg

Of these, hooks spoke about love in beautiful ways, Langberg spoke truth about the mess in the evangelical church, and Rovelli and Delio made my mind hurt in the best ways talking about time and quantum theory and evolution.

Top Religion / Theology

This is a big enough chunk of reading to be its own category. Recommended here:

  1. A More Christlike Word, Bradley Jersak
  2. Jesus of the East, Phuc Luu
  3. Latina Evangelicas, Loida I. Martell, Zaida Maldonado Perez, Elizabeth Conde-Frazier
  4. The Making of Biblical Womanhood, Beth Allison Barr

The gentle Canadian Jersak again focuses us on Jesus; Luu explores the similarities between a Jesus-centered Christianity and the tenets of Eastern spirituality; Martell, Perez, and Conde-Frazier write a short systematic theology from a Latina perspective, and Barr writes a challenging history of “Biblical womanhood”.

Top Fiction

This is fiction that I read this year, not necessarily published this year. I always have catching up to do…

  1. The Sparrow, Mary Doria Russell
  2. Transcendent Kingdom, Yaa Gyasi
  3. The Just City, Jo Walton

I could order the first two either way. The Sparrow is broadly about Jesuits sending missionaries to an alien planet and more directly about outsiders assuming they know best and wrestling with what God really wants. Transcendent Kingdom is a stunning exploration of race, depression, addiction, and immigration. And The Just City explores what would happen if a city were set up based on the principles of Plato’s Republic. So much creativity and imagination, so little reading time.

Books that you probably won’t entirely agree with but will challenge you

How to Be an Antiracist, Ibram X. Kendi — Is there a more controversial topic the past couple years in this country than race? Kendi speaks strongly about the need to be actively anti-racist, in a “if you’re not actively with us then you’re against us” sort of way. Challenging.

The Inescapable Love of God, Thomas Talbott — Talbott (an ethics professor and theologian) makes his case for universal reconciliation in Christ. I found his arguments compelling. I read through the back-and-forth that he and John Piper had after the fact; I found Piper’s arguments much less compelling.

The Right to Sex, Amia Srinivasan — Sharp, wonderfully-written essays by a young woman exploring the dynamics and ethics of sex and power in the 21st century.

Queer Theology, Linn Marie Tonstad — I’m sorry to confess that I would’ve been highly unlikely to pick up a book titled “Queer Theology” if my book club hadn’t pushed me to do so. Boy am I glad I did, though. I hope that I have grown enough this year that I would not be put off again.

So that’s my 2021 reading sorted. Pretty sure I could read 80 books in 2022 and still not have my to-read shelf cleared off. Happy reading, friends!

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