Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Top Ten Authors I am Thankful for

This was originally a "Top Ten Tuesday" post I wrote in November of 2016, but I am republishing it after updating it now in 2020.
1. C. S. Lewis - I could go on and on about all the ways Lewis has influenced me for the better. I fell in love with Narnia when I was in 2nd grade and read The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe for the first time. I have written briefly about how reading the works of C. S. Lewis "baptized my imagination", to steal Lewis's own phrase. I also wrote about C. S. Lewis for 31 days in 2014. If you spend much time with me at all you will hear me quote or reference C. S. Lewis. It's just the way it is. Pictured below is Douglas Gresham, stepson of C. S. Lewis, pictured with me at the C. S. Lewis Symposium in Montreat, NC in 2019.

2. Rachel Held Evans - I always felt like Rachel was a kindred spirit. We come from very similar backgrounds and she was asking the questions out loud that I was too afraid to voice back in 2008-2012. I am still incredibly sad that she died in 2019. She died about a month before her 38th birthday and I am 37 now... I miss her active presence and voice in this world and it's just so unfair for her husband and two babies to lose their mom and his wife... But her books continue to help so many people who are walking similar roads. I loved all four of her books (Evolving in Monkey Town, A Year of Biblical Womanhood, Searching for Sunday, and Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again). I got to meet her in 2013 when she was speaking at a church in Louisville, and then again in 2018 at the Evolving Faith Conference.
Jennifer with Rachel Held Evans on October 6, 2013
Jennifer with Rachel Held Evans on October 6, 2013

3. Sarah Bessey - I think my favorite book by Sarah Bessey so far was Out of Sorts. I loved Jesus Feminist when it first came out and I loved her latest book, Miracles and Other Reasonable Things: A Story of Unlearning and Relearning God. Listening to Sarah speak or reading her words always has me saying "Yes! Amen!" And "me too!". And her love for Jesus is contagious, so reading her words helps me love Jesus more too. Oh, and her benedictions always make me weep. Here is one she wrote for August 2020. I met Sarah in person for the first time in October of 2017 when she was speaking at a church here in Louisville, then again at Evolving Faith in 2018 and 2019. She's one of those people you really wish you could be real-life friends with. I am so thankful for all the ways her words and work have encouraged me in my own evolving faith journey.

Jennifer with Sarah Bessey on October 15, 2017
Jennifer with Sarah Bessey on October 15, 2017

6. Barbara Brown Taylor - BBT's books have ministered to me deeply, meeting me where I am at the time. I have read An Altar in the World (2009) at least 4 or 5 times now and it never fails to be an encouragement to me in my faith. (We've been discussing this in my Progressive Theology Book Club over the past couple of months.) I've also read Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith (2006), Learning to Walk in the Dark (2014), and Holy Envy: Finding God in the Faith of Others (2019), which was especially good. I loved hearing her speak at Evolving Faith in 2019 and shortly after that at a local bookstore here in Louisville.
Holy Envy: Finding God in the Faith of Others
Learning to Walk in the Dark
An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith
Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith

5. Peter Enns - When I first wrote this post I just re-read The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Doesn't Say about Human Origins for my paper on how to read/interpret Genesis 1-2. I still want to re-read Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament and The Bible Tells Me So: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It. I also enjoyed The Sin of Certaintywhich was published in 2016. Since then Enns has also published How the Bible Actually Works: In Which I Explain How An Ancient, Ambiguous, and Diverse Book Leads Us to Wisdom Rather Than Answers—and Why That's Great News.
Jennifer with Pete Enns and my friend, Trista at Evolving Faith 2018
Jennifer with Pete Enns and my friend, Trista at Evolving Faith 2018

6. Madeleine L'Engle - Reading her words is like a breath of fresh air. I love the Wrinkle in Time series as well as Walking on Water. And I love what I've read of her Genesis trilogy so far also. A Circle of Quiet (Crosswicks Journals #1) was quite good also.

7. Brennan Manning - I love everything I have read by Brennan. His writing exudes the grace and love of God. A few of my favorites are The Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up, and Burnt Out, Abba's Child, and All Is Grace: A Ragamuffin Memoir.

8. N. T. Wright - What Saint Paul Really Said was the first book I read by Wright, way back in 2004 in Dr. Stepp's Biblical Theology class. Several years later I read Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church, which was paradigm-shifting. I wrote a bit about that here. I've also read The Day the Revolution Began: Reconsidering the Meaning of Jesus's Crucifixion. Wright has written so prolifically that there are still so many books by him that I want to read, at some point...

9. Brené Brown has so much wisdom to share with us about belonging and vulnerability and getting free from shame. I need to re-read her books from time to time to keep her wisdom fresh in my mind and heart. If you have not read any of her books and you were to ask me where to start, I always recommend beginning with Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. That's one I have come back to several times already.

10. J. R. R. Tolkien - Without Tolkien's influence on Lewis, Lewis may not have become a Christian! So there's that, not to mention the masterpiece that is The Lord of the Rings!

Bonus: I had Greg Boyd on my original post, but I don't think he's actually one of my absolute top 10 favorite authors. I have been helped by reading some of his books though, such as Benefit of the DoubtIs God to Blame?, and Letters from a Skeptic. I'm not sure that I feel the need to spend much more time reading Boyd's books, but he was very helpful to me at the time when I was reading these books.

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