Ten Non-Fiction Books that Helped in a Difficult Year

I read more fiction than non-fiction last year, for obvious reasons. It was the kind of year in which retreating into a fictional world was a relief. However, I still read some very good non-fiction books, and here are ten of them that are worth recommending.

Christians in the Age of Outrage: How to Bring Our Best When the World is at its Worst by Ed Stetzer. This book sneaked in from 2019’s list, but it was an appropriate non-fiction book to read before this crazy year. Stetzer makes a case for Christians to be gracious and kind, behave with love and neighborliness, and to remember that we are ambassadors for God’s kingdom here on earth while interacting on social media.

Red Sea Rules: 10 God-Given Strategies for Difficult Times by Robert J. Morgan. Based on a recommendation, I checked this book out from the library and liked it so much that I bought it. Its rules, like Realize that God means for you to be where you are (Chapter 1) and Stay calm and confident, and give God time to work (Chapter 5) and View your current crisis as a faith builder for the future (Chapter 9), are straightforward and comforting. Morgan uses Exodus 14 as the basis for these ten strategies. The book can be read in a couple of hours or one chapter a day, and it would be time well spent.

The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church’s Complicity in Racism by Jemar Tisby. This is a necessary book to read. Tisby says that Christians in every part of the country have a duty to recognize and fight the church’s complicity with racism. The most helpful part of the book is the chapter about what can be done about racism in the church. Tisby uses “The ARC (Awareness, Relationships, Commitment) of racial justice” (p. 194) to define antiracist actions and he calls every Christian to become aware, develop relationships and be committed to anti-racist attitudes and behavior.

Tramp for the Lord by Corrie ten Boom. I read this book based on a friend’s recommendation, and found it both encouraging and challenging. Corrie ten Boom followed the Lord. Period. She traveled all over the world, speaking and evangelizing, sometimes without knowing how her travels would be funded, but God always worked it out. It’s quite a story. I was encouraged to follow Jesus more closely and challenged that I don’t.

For All Who Grieve: Navigating the Valley of Sorrow and Loss by Colin S. Smith. This short book is very helpful for anyone experiencing devastating loss. Smith brings together Lamentations and five stories of his congregation members to give us biblical assistance in dealing with our grief. Highly recommended.

The Ruthless River: Love and Survival by Raft on the Amazon’s Relentless Madre de Dios by Holly Fitzgerald. It may seem strange to insert this book in the midst of all my theological reading. It probably is, but this was a fascinating book. It’s about a young couple taking an adventure in South America which leads them to rafting on the Amazon River and eventually getting stuck in the middle of nowhere. Their story of survival was intense, and makes our year of staying put in comfortable homes seem a little less trying. It’s a good read.

Rediscipling the White Church: From Cheap Diversity to True Solidarity by David W. Swanson. Swanson is a pastor in Chicago with the goal of building solidarity, beyond multiculturalism, in his church. “White Christianity has been blind to the powerful racial discipleship that has formed the imaginations of white Christians.” (p. 38) Swanson’s book challenges us to expand our imaginations.

The 100-Year Life: Living and Working in an Age of Longevity by Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott. The book begins by saying, “A child born in the West today has a more than 50 percent chance of living to be over 105, while by contrast, a child born over a century ago had a less than 1 percent chance of living to that age.” (p. 1) The authors consider what impact this will have on our lives, particularly in the way we approach our careers. They propose additional life and work stages, more emphasis on intangible assets and taking time for transitions. It makes sense to me.

Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times by Katherine May. A very good book in which the author talks about different ways we “winter.” “Transformation is the business of winter…” (p. 67), she writes. Her husband had an emergency appendectomy and she got mysteriously sick, took a leave from her job and “wintered.” Wintering is a metaphor for any difficult time in life, for they happen in all seasons, but winter brings with it time for rest and retreat. Especially this winter. The book is arranged by month, starting in October and ending in March, and in each month she discusses a topic. Sleep – “first sleep” and “dead sleep,” snow, swimming in the winter, and losing her voice and regaining it are some of the material she covers. I appreciated her humble tone and related to several of her topics. Highly recommended.

The Bible It is no surprise that I read the Bible last year, for I read it every year. In 2020, stories of oppression, like the slaves in Egypt, liberation, as in the Exodus, the desperation of Job, the life of Jesus, his stunning death, thrilling resurrection and everything in between reminded me that life in this world is often troublesome. In fact, much of the Bible is story after story of human difficulty. But, the overarching narrative of the Bible is a story of love, mercy, grace, freedom, transformation and the confident hope of one day being with the Lord in an eternity in which sin, failure, disappointment and tears are no more. God is the central character of the Bible, and he shines through on every page.

It was a tremendous encouragement.

Are there any non-fiction books that expanded your imagination? Did you find any challenge or encouragement from a non-fiction book or the Bible last year?

Photo by Roman Kraft on Unsplash

Posted in Bible, Books, Culture | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments

Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a very un-2020-like New Year!

The year 2020 has become the subject of sadly resonant jokes and funny cartoons. My Far Side loving family got a kick out of the neighborhood ice cream truck that had been changed to a liver and onions truck. Two … Continue reading

More Galleries | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Covid and a Muted Sample of Eternity

This gallery contains 1 photo.

My husband and I just came out of a two week Covid-fog, so the first two weeks of Advent, already offbeat due to the pandemic, were spent sitting in recliners under blankets while waiting for the next symptom to appear. … Continue reading

More Galleries | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

God Breaks into Human History

This gallery contains 1 photo.

When the Iron Curtain in Berlin came down peacefully in 1989 after years of oppression, I thought this must be the hand of God. Communism had seemed like firmly held domination, and I was stunned to watch that wall physically … Continue reading

More Galleries | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

This Thanksgiving

This gallery contains 1 photo.

This Thanksgiving will be different. Tables will be smaller. Too many gatherings will be missing an individual who is struggling with Covid, or worse. Many people will be alone on a day on which they would much rather be with … Continue reading

More Galleries | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Seeking Security

David Brooks’s essay in The Atlantic, “America is Having a Moral Convulsion,” describes America as a far less trusting society than it was twenty-five years ago. As I think about my own sense of trust in government, institutions and media, … Continue reading

More Galleries | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

How’s Your Vision?

This gallery contains 1 photo.

Michael May hadn’t seen anything since the age of three after being blinded in a chemical explosion. He adjusted well, married, had children, took up skiing and founded a business. One day, Michael accompanied his wife to her optician as … Continue reading

More Galleries | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Finding Rest During a Pandemic

This gallery contains 2 photos.

When most of your days are spent at home, are the lines blurred between rest and other activities. Does it matter? This pandemic has played havoc with our rest; we are out of balance. Those who are driven to work … Continue reading

More Galleries | Tagged , | Leave a comment

A Time to be Silent

This gallery contains 1 photo.

It’s surreal walking into a grocery store – one of the few places I walk into these days – and observe everyone covering their mouths and noses with a mask. I don’t find it odd anymore. Masks are necessary, but … Continue reading

More Galleries | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

A Lament

This gallery contains 2 photos.

It was a rainy day. Skimming the headlines, I quickly realized the newspaper was going to make it gloomier. When I sat down to read my Bible I decided to read Lamentations. It seemed appropriate. Lamentations is a short book … Continue reading

More Galleries | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments