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This year I made a real effort to diversify my reading beyond what I've realized has been the default majority all my life: books written by white men. Not surprisingly, it was an especially rich year of reading! I hope you will find something good to read. Here are my favorite ten books from 2020.

The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church’s Complicity in Racism
By Jemar Tisby (2019)

To paraphrase a quote I heard this year: "For every minute you want to discuss racism in America, you need to spend an hour learning the history." This book is an excellent historical primer on race relations in the American church, inviting the reader to reflect on the disturbing syncretism of Christianity and racism that is the story of the white American church. I highly recommend this book to every Christian s as a place to start listening, learning, and lamenting.
Unsettling Truths: The Ongoing, Dehumanizing Legacy of the Doctrine of Discovery
By Mark Charles & Soong-Chan Rah (2019)

Unsettling Truths
digs even deeper down into the roots of white Christianity's unholy alliance with racism. It traces the growth of 'whiteness' as a powerful social construct, from the Pope's 1452 "Doctrine of Discovery" to the present day. Written by Mark Charles, a Navajo Dutch American, and Dr. Soong-Chan Rah, a Korean American, this is Euro-American history as it urgently needs to be told, helping us to understand the roots of the strange fruit we see in today's racist America.
The Next Evangelicalism: Freeing the Church from Western Cultural Captivity
By Soong-Chan Rah (2009)

Professor Rah starts by presenting the facts. First, the American church has become captive to Western individualism, consumerism, and racism. Secondly, this mainstream (white) church largely ignores what has become "the most significant growth edge in American Christianity"—non-European immigrants, urban churches, and multiethnic churches. Despite the powerful ways God is moving among these groups, the declining white church consistently refuses to cede its influence or power (see: a typical conference's speakers list).

Rah presents us with a choice: will we cling to a withering whites-only Christianity—one captive to Western individualism, consumerism, and racism—even in the face of seismic demographic shifts and clear moves of God outside the white church? Or will white Christians cede center stage and join with a new generation of multiethnic leaders who are able to lead the way forward? In his final chapters, Rah helps us sit at the feet of African American, Indigenous, and Korean immigrant churches, giving us an exciting taste of the holistic, multiethnic "next evangelicalism" that I long to be a part of.
The Girl with Seven Names: Escape from North Korea
By Hyeonseo Lee (2015) 

This memoir recounts Lee's winding and dangerous journey out of North Korea and toward eventual resettlement in another country. It is a page-turner, all the more for being a true story. From beginning to end, Lee gives us an eye-opening account of the physical, logistical, mental, and emotional challenges of life as a refugee. Following her long ordeal, with all its complex thoughts and emotions, helped me sympathize with refugees and immigrants in a deeper way.
The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate
By John H. Walton (2009)

The supposed conflict between science and faith generates a lot of noise, but I know many scientists and biblical scholars who don't see any conflict there at all. In this book, John Walton (Old Testament Professor at Wheaton College) makes a compelling series of arguments for why Genesis, like the rest of the Bible, was never meant to teach us science—that reading the first chapter of Genesis like a science textbook, in fact, disrespects the clear intent of the Scripture.

Rather, Walton expounds Genesis chapter 1 as a theologically rich account of God ordering the "heavens and earth" to function as God's temple, the place where He dwells with humanity. This short book (166 pages) is a must-read for anyone interested in Christianity and origins.
White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism
By Robin DiAngelo (2018)

Reading this book was like having a magic trick explained to me. After DiAngelo's skillful dissection and presentation of "white fragility," I began to see its smoke and mirrors at work wherever white people engaged the issue of race. DiAngelo shows how, behind its deceptive façade, "white fragility is not a weakness. In fact, it is a powerful means of white racial control and the protection of white advantage." Understanding white fragility—how it is triggered, the lies it tells, and how we can do better—is crucial to working against racism and its well-rehearsed tricks.
Finding Divine Inspiration: Working with the Holy Spirit in Your Creativity
By J. Scot McElroy (2008)

This book explores the idea of how artists can invite the Holy Spirit into their creative process. McElroy draws wisdom from a pantheon of artists, weaving their quotes throughout the book, and also provides longer glimpses like the amazing backstory to Handel's Messiah.

McElroy complements his ideas by including several interviews with contemporary artists, from Jars of Clay frontman Dan Haseltine to African American painter Thomas Blackshear, providing ample and varied models after which readers can seek to integrate their own spiritual and creative lives.
Reading While Black: African American Biblical Interpretation as an Exercise in Hope
By Esau McCaulley (2020) 

If you're like me, the vast majority of biblical interpretation you've read has been written by white American or European men. In this book, Esau McCaulley, an African American and Assistant New Testament Professor at Wheaton College, gives us a little taste of what happens when we diversify our scholarship—starting with the very questions we ask.

This book was the first time I had ever read (or heard preached) a biblical response to questions like "What does the New Testament have to say about policing?" and "What does the Bible have to say about Black anger?" Sound interesting? Come and see.

(McCaulley also hosts my current favorite podcast, The Disrupters, where he interviews Christians who are disrupting the status quo in important ways. Highly recommended.)
The Poetry Home Repair Manual: Practical Advice for Beginning Poets
By Ted Kooser (2005)

This is a book for people who want to write poems that connect with normal people—poetry that doesn't have to be splayed out and dissected in a classroom to be understood. Kooser, a former U.S. Poet Laureate, brings his renowned conversational style to this book, giving it a light and enjoyable feel, even as he equips the reader with a belt-full of tools for crafting engaging poems. Chock full of practical examples, it stands alongside Mary Oliver's Rules for the Dance (a 2018 favorite) as one of the most helpful nuts-and-bolts poetry books I have read.
Coretta: My Life, My Love, My Legacy
By Coretta Scott King (2017) 

This memoir is a fascinating look at Coretta Scott King's life before, during, and after the Civil Rights Movement. It was inspiring to hear the journey of this courageous, brilliant, and faithful woman of God.

Her first-hand account of the Civil Rights Movement brings out both the inevitable human messiness—such as sexism at the very core of a movement against racism—and the clear and powerful hand of God in this movement so deeply rooted in Christianity.
For more recommendations, check out my previous Best Books lists for 2019, 2018, 2016-17, and 2015. What were some of your favorite reads this year?

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