In this list, I want to tell you about the books that expanded my view of Christianity. There are so many books about growing in your Christianity, and I love them too. But these books changed me. They took my smaller view of Christianity and broke it wide open. I began drinking from the cup of Jesus in places I didn't even know existed. Every encounter left me wanting more, so much more, of my Savior.
Girl Meets God (by Lauren Winner)
It started here, with a Jewish woman who converted to Christianity. In this memoir, she writes about what this conversion looked like in real life - in her encounters with friends and family, in finding a church, in letting go of the Jewish traditions she loved that connected her to so much of her past. I've read this book three times, I've loaned this book to others, I talk about it all the time. I promptly bought and devoured her Mudhouse Sabbath as well. So, so good.
Beautiful Outlaw (by John Eldredge)
I had read a couple books by the author and his wife already. They were OK. In my opinion, this book is on a whole other level. We did this one as a summer book club choice in Bible study about four years ago, and we still reference it. It paints Jesus in a whole new life, by walking the readers through several biblical accounts of Him. Then, it goes further and helps us examine how we see Jesus interacting with us on a daily basis. Oh, it made me love my Jesus!
Found (by Micha Boyett)
When I first started blogging, Micha oversaw a blogging community called deeperstory.com. It's since closed its cyberspace doors, but former articles are still available. I loved everything I read from this community. When I got my hand on Micha's book, I saw myself in so much of her story. Born and raised Southern Baptist, but ultimately she ends up on a pilgrimage to a monastery. As I read along, I knew about the communion Micha was longing for, because the same longing resides in me. I love her writing, and I'm waiting for her next book!
Tattoos on the Heart (by Gregory Boyle)
I'm warning you, the stories in this book will make you cry, but you'll laugh too. Father Boyle runs Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles. In this book, he writes about the lives he's invested in, and it makes Los Angeles feel a long ways away from small town Michigan. Reading this book, you'll realize how much you take for granted, you'll be reminded of the power of Christ, and you'll pray for the courage to impact your part of the world even half as much as Father Boyle does.
Searching for Sunday (by Rachel Held Evans)
I like Rachel. I do. I met her briefly at the Festival of Faith & Writing in Grand Rapids, and I've read all of her books. She can be a little brazen for me at times, but this book was her heart. She loves Jesus with such passion, and she passionately loves people, but she can get very mad at the church. This book is about that. It left me in tears at times, when she wrote about the people of God getting things right. There's good lessons in there too, because we aren't perfect.
Out of Sorts (by Sarah Bessey)
If Sarah writes something, I'm going to read it. I love her heart and the words she finds to express it. I got a chance to visit with her briefly at another Festival of Faith & Writing conference, and she's also good at engaging online. This was her second book, exploring how her own faith has expanded throughout her lifetime. She grew up Charismatic, but has since incorporated many liturgical traditions into her faith practice. She is well-read and passionate about empowering women to live into the fullness of Christ.
Out of the House of Bread (by Preston Yancey)
I struggled with which of Preston's books to include here, because they are both about an emerging faith. Go ahead and read Tables in the Wilderness (winner of best book cover) too. I went with this one, because to a certain degree, it's on the other side of some of his deep examining. In this book, he instructs readers about how to explore various faith practices, while exploring the process of baking bread. It's literary genius, and in my opinion, puts him in a class with other theologians before him, who have taught us how to practice our faith through the liturgical calendar, the Sacraments and other spiritual practices. This Evangelical learned a ton from reading this book.
Short Trip to the Edge (by Scott Cairns)
The author, a poet, writes about the various pilgrimages he's taken to Mt. Athos, a Holy Mountain for Orthodox Christians. I loved everything about this book. His descriptions of Greece, and the people he's met on his pilgrimages. His search for a mentor. His descriptions of the Orthodox faith. I wrote a review for this book, which Cairns read. He commented, asking for my mailing address, and sent me a prayer rope that's been blessed by a monk from the Holy Mountain. I treasure it!
What's So Amazing About Grace (by Philip Yancey)
I've read several of Yancey's books, and I consider him a great thinker. I chose this book, because it showed a real struggle with what grace actually means in our world today. If it's amazing as we sing about, why don't Christians show more of it? Yancey is a great storyteller, all the while teaching you lesson after lesson. I'd recommend any of Yancey's books; in fact, I recommend them all the time.
Soil And Sacrament (by Fred Bahnson)
I heard Fred speak at the first Festival of Faith & Writing I attended, and I loved his talk so much, I went right to the conference bookstore and bought the book. The author visits four different faith communities - Catholic, Protestant, Pentecostal and Jewish - and writes about his experiences with each. Along the way, he found deep communion with the people of faith he spent his days with, and also with the land we've been given to cultivate. It's been a few years since I read this one, and writing about it makes me realize, I need to read it again.
I thought long and hard about the books I wanted to label TOP TEN. Then, I kept thinking of others. Here they are, in case you want to keep searching: Fellowship of Differents (Scot McKnight), Take This Bread (Sara Miles), Pray Like a Gourmet (by David Brazzeal), Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus (by Ann Spangler & Lois Tverberg).