Jan 09, 2024 | The Rev. Julia Singleton

Those who know me know that I love to read. I may not always remember books in detail, but I absorb them. They become a part of me.

As a pastor, I move a lot. During one of my moves my brother-in-law announced, “This is too many books, I’m not helping you move again!”

I’m sure many of my colleagues have a similar love of books and people in their lives who don’t love moving them from parsonage to parsonage.

When asked to write an article about books of 2023 for our EPA&GNJ media I thought I’d write about the books I found most inspirational in the past year.

  • This Here Flesh by Cole Arthur Riley
    Cole Arthur Riley is the creator of Black Liturgies and this book of meditations reads like poetry. In it she shares stories of her childhood, her family, her faith, and how God is breathing into every corner of our lives. She is a profound storyteller and theologian. These words of liberation and spirituality are a masterpiece.
  • The Lives We Actually Have by Kate Bowler and Jessica Richie
    This is a book of prayers that are real, honest and raw. A modern-day Book of Lamentations– but not just that. While many of the prayers are for hard times, there are also prayers for ordinary days and joyful times too. Some of the prayers you’ll find in the collection are: “For Feeling Like Your Work Matters,” “For When You Can’t Sleep,” “For When You’re Too Tired to Cry,” “For When the Unthinkable Happens,” “For When So Many Are Suffering (and you don’t know what to do),” “For All the Firsts Without Your Loved One.” I’ve gone back to these prayers again and again throughout the year.  
  • My Body Is Not a Prayer Request by Amy Kenny  
    I read in the first week of 2024 because so many named this title when I asked for recommendations. Now I know why. Amy Kenny opens our eyes to the ableism not just in the world but in our churches and in our theology. There was so much I related to as a fellow “spoonie,” who deals with neurodivergence, chronic illness and pain.  But also, there was so much I felt called out or in on as someone who doesn’t have to worry about how I’m going to gain access to a space or communicate with others. Kenny tells us her story and invites us to think more inclusively as a church. This is an important read for the church.
  • The Ever-Expansive Spirit of God for All Who Feel Left Out by Peggy A Johnson
    No matter how many times I tried to write a review for this book, I couldn’t do so without making a whole sermon out of it. So, I’ll just say, read it. It’s important.

There is another book I didn’t finish in time for this article but is currently feeding my soul: What Makes You Come Alive: A Spiritual Walk with Howard Thurman by Lerita Coleman Brown

I always love getting book recommendations. So, I asked other pastors in our conference to share which books they thought were the most inspirational or important this year. Here is the list I received:

The Disabled God: Toward a Liberation Theology of Disability Nancy L Eiesland

It’s OK That You’re Not OK – Megan Devine

Kindred – Octavia E Butler

The Strength to Love – Martin Luther King Jr

Immunity to Change Keagan & Lahey

Painting With Ashes Michael Beck

Praying Like Monks, Living Like Fools Tyler Staton

An Improbable Friendship   Anthony Davis

Mission Rift David Woolverton

And There Was Light John Meacham

The Color Purple    Alice Walker

Hidden Potential Adam Grant

Underground Railroad  Colson Whitehead

I pray that there was a book that touched your soul in 2023. And I pray there will be many, whether on this list or not, that will challenge you, teach you, inspire you, grow you and help you become more yourself in 2024.

*The Rev. Julia Singleton is the pastor of Fox Chase United Methodist Church in Philadelphia and a contributing member of the Eastern PA Conference Communications Committee. Read past articles written by her, including How Does a Weary World Rejoice?

Also read:  Start the new year with a new book
Books can be an encouraging source of guidance in strengthening Christians’ relationship with God. Laura Buchanan has a roundup of devotionals and other new books on discipleship from the United Methodist Publishing House.  Read story