What are the top reads of 2018 for you? What books made lasting impressions on your faith, work and home life, or relationships? Did you lean toward popular titles or unknown gems or well-known favorites?
The year 2018 saw lots of big releases, especially for books in the mainstream.
There was former first lady Michelle Obama’s Becoming, which broke all kinds of records within weeks of its Nov. 13 release; Girl Wash Your Face, by entrepreneur Rachel Hollis, which might have gotten a little lift from online criticism; and Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds by David Coggins, published just weeks ago and already dominating charts.
Among the slew of book releases I personally found memorable are ones that take on tough, meaningful subjects that impacted my faith, vocation, and personal curiosity.
White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism
I was most excited when I learned last year that Robin DiAngelo, an academic focused on Whiteness Studies and Critical Discourse Analysis, would be releasing a book titled White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism. When it dropped in June, I immediately began recommending it to people, particularly White people since they are her intended audience. Just under 200 pages, White Fragility gives a great take on the hangups many White people have when it comes to discussions and confrontations on privilege and racism and how to break through them. I find it a great compliment to Daniel Hill’s White Awake: An Honest Look at What It Means to Be White, though his writing is anchored in a Christian perspective.
Raise Your Voice: Why We Stay Silent and How to Speak Up
Another book I was pretty delighted to read was Kathy Khang’s Raise Your Voice: Why We Stay Silent and How to Speak Up. As with DiAngelo in White Fragility, Khang speaks from personal experience and writes frankly about her hangups, missteps, and transition into owning her voice—and shaping it to be effective—and respecting and acknowledging how others choose to speak up. Raise Your Voice has a lot of wisdom and, as I told Khang in our interview, it will likely be a book I return to down the road.
Jezebel Unhinged: Loosing the Black Female Body in Religion and Culture
Have you ever wondered how the Bible’s Jezebel was made into the kind of home-wrecking, sexualized character she’s given in the church (and secular) world? Or what would make a pastor step into the pulpit and call women “hos?” Enter Tamura Lomax’s Jezebel Unhinged: Loosing the Black Female Body in Religion and Culture. Taking on the damaging sexualization of Black women and girls primarily by Black men, Lomax names filmmaker Tyler Perry and preachers T.D. Jakes and Jamal Bryant as instigators and carriers of “the jezebel trope in the [B]lack church and in [B]lack popular culture.” Eary on, Lomax captures the reader’s attention in making the case for her thesis—and doesn’t let women off the hook either for helping to perpetuate, if even in private, the sexual stigmas leveled against Black women.
Pentecostals in America
Although my embraced Christian expression is Pentecostalism, I also view this faith orientation as my heritage; it was how I was introduced to God by my parents and remains the vehicle through which God shapes my faith. I’m the child of Jamaican immigrants, so my perspective on U.S. Pentecostalism both from a foreign aspect and as an insider clashes with certain representations of it in secular and Christian media. Pentecostalism is portrayed almost as the dullard/base/boogeyman of “acceptable” Christian denominations in the U.S. and often treated with suspicion. However, Arlene Sánchez Walsh’s Pentecostals in America (Columbia Contemporary American Religion Series), “treats this Christian movement with the critical eye it has often lacked, and places it in context within the larger narrative of American religious history.” I’m still making my way through it (too many books!), but I highly recommend it to anyone curious about Pentecostalism’s history and potential future in the U.S., and its continued impact around the world.
Unexpected Places: Thoughts on God, Faith, and Finding Your Voice
The final book on my list is Anthony Evans’ (and Jamie Blaine’s) Unexpected Places: Thoughts on God, Faith, and Finding Your Voice. It’s a little gem of a book that gives a refreshing account of one man’s struggle against mostly self-imposed expectations as a preacher’s son to find himself and his place in life. Evans comes across as frank about some of his mistakes, such as chasing away the woman he had intended to marry, and genuinely humble about the career-forming experiences he was able to have essentially right out of college. He also gives insights into some of the workings of the Contemporary Christian Music world, and how some artists like himself will never fit the mold expected of them for “success.” Unexpected Places is a nice, breezy read that manages to lift your spirits and inspire to keep seeking God bigger and better things.