My Best Reads in 2022
Plus news about Your Pastor Reads Books podcast!
It’s a shame to read all year and not tell your friends about the treasures you found (or warn them with a bad review or two!) My “best books” of 2022 doesn’t follow many rules. First of all, most of them were not published in 2022. Secondly, I don’t have an exhaustive list of categories, and I’m going to give you more than one rec in some categories. Read on if you want some reading recommendations for 2023!
Fiction-I don’t read much of it, but I tried very hard to diversify my reading diet this year. I am happy to say it paid off with a small little novella by the Irish novelist Claire Keegan. Small Things Like These is one of the most beautiful stories I have read in a long time, about a man who becomes aware of the heinous abuses of young women in a local Irish convent (based on documented historical realities), and wrestles over what to do about it, knowing that it will cost him to upset the status quo. The writing is gorgeous and the development of this man’s conscience and courage is portrayed so well. Here’s a favorite excerpt from the book:
“…he found himself asking was there any point in being alive without helping one another? Was it possible to carry on along through all the years, the decades, through an entire life, without once being brave enough to go against what was there and yet call yourself a Christian, and face yourself in the mirror?”
A second runner-up for me was Revival Season by Monica West, the story of a young woman whose genuine experience of faith contradicts the tradition and doctrine of her minister-father. Embracing the gifts God has given her means questioning some of what she’s erroneously been taught her whole childhood. And that’s a hard but relatable place for many readers.
A cautionary tale: I’m a huge WW2 fiction fan. Loved All the Light We Cannot See and The Nightingale. An independent bookseller recommended the novels by Kate Quinn to me this year and I took him up on it by reading The Alice Network. However, I found the American heroine to be self-absorbed, boring, and melodramatic while on the hunt for her cousin in France. It had redeeming qualities with a parallel storyline about a female spy during WW1, which was riveting, but overall, I’d give it a 6/10.
Memoir—Guys, I spent three years reading only memoir for my MFA in Creative Nonfiction Writing. So, I’m kind of a memoir snob at this point, but I gotta say Phillip Yancy’s Where the Light Fell blew me away. He’s got the precision of a journalist, the spiritual insight of a long-time Christ follower, and the sensitivity of a pastor. His memoir is at once a personal story and the story of a broader social context: a religious South marred by racism and pharisaical legalism. I’m convinced certain readers will resonate deeply with one, the other, or both.
I also revisited Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime for the second time. Noah was born during apartheid in South Africa; there was no acceptable social context for him, a child of one White parent and one Black. Noah is funny, deep, irreverent, yet deeply loyal to the Black women who raised him, and raised him with (however flawed Noah or the reader might find their application) persistent Christian faith.
Social Science—I’m a sucker for statistics, which is why Therese Huston’s How Women Decide was so liberating to read. She was able to collect research findings about how women operate when they are put in charge, examining the stereotypes about women in leadership and debunking stereotypical beliefs about women (such as: they aren’t willing to take risks and therefore aren’t good leaders). She helps make the case for why the presence of at least one woman on any board or executive leadership team helps the company prosper in the long term much better than companies without women.
Books about Prayer—This deserves its own category because I read so many. Ironically, I have four books to share with you divided between two different authors. The first set, by British writer Pete Grieg, is pretty elemental, down-to-earth, and unfussy. Yet, they somehow feel welcomingly fresh. I’d recommend them to a new Christian and to the Jesus follower whose been praying for forty years. These are: How to Pray: A Simple Guide for Normal People and How to Hear God: A Simple Guide for Normal People. Secondly, I fell in love all over again with the writings of Father Thomas Greene this year when I read two of his books on prayer in sequence. When the Well Runs Dry: Prayer Beyond the Beginnings and Weeds Among the Wheat. I’d say both approach prayer beyond “the beginning” and get at some of the deeper mysteries and complexities about communication between God and ourselves.
Christian Leadership—Managing Leadership Anxiety: Yours and Theirs by Steve Cuss is just what it sounds like, with a family systems theory approach. Super practical and has good journaling exercises within to help you evaluate the way anxiety is impacting your leadership. Also, if you preach, A Little Handbook for Preachers by Mary S. Hurst was delightful, easy, and practical.
Literary Theology or Theological Literature?—I don’t know how to classify Dr. Lauren Winner’s Wearing God: Clothing, Laughter, Fire, and Other Overlooked Ways of Meeting God. Winner meditates beautifully on the often “overlooked” biblical metaphors for God, which occasioned some sweet moments in my prayer times when I dwelt on images of God as breastfeeding mother, clothing, and fire. Winner draws on a treasure trove of ancient writers, pray-ers, and thinkers; their words enrich her already rich chapters.
For Women? I was resistant to reading Dr. Cheryl Bridges Johns’ Seven Transforming Gifts of Menopause: An Unexpected Spiritual Journey because the subject of menopause is often reduced to hot flashes and night sweats. But honestly, Johns’ was a refreshing and complex psychological/spiritual take on something half of the human race experiences. This is part of the book’s description: “This book…gets to the very heart of the midlife journey, helping women find their unique voice and speak their truth in an era of #MeToo and #ChurchToo.” See? Refreshing take.
I hope you enjoy a good book over break! And, that reminds me, I have had to do a little switcharoo on hosting the Your Pastor Reads Books podcast. For technical reasons, it’s now on a completely different substack account. If you have been subscribed to Dear Exiles for a while, then don’t worry, I added you as subscriber over there, too. But, if you’ve subscribed to this newsletter just in the last week and want to get the podcast directly to your inbox on January 1, you’ll want to subscribe to that as well. Or, go ahead and subscribe on Apple podcasts or Spotify. Just search “Your Pastor Reads Books”!
God bless you, friends. Merry Christmas. And Happy New Year of Reading!
Heather Weber- Dear Exiles is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts & support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Hey! I’m a book-obsessed pastor, author, and holistic life and leadership coach. Find out more about coaching and my other creative projects at www.heatherweber.org. Subscribe to my Dear Exiles newsletter at heatherweber.substack.com. She is the author of Dear Boy:, An Episotlary Memoir and the host of the forthcoming Your Pastor Reads Books podcast.