Monday, March 21, 2016

Ten Books I Really Love But Feel Like I Haven't Talked About Enough

I'm linking up with The Broke and the Bookish for another Top Ten Tuesday.

This week I'm talking about books I love that haven't ended up on multiple lists on the blog yet. But you should check them out! Top Ten Tuesday lists seem to lean heavily toward fiction, which may be why I haven't talked as much about many of these books that are non-fiction and memoir.

1. Accidental Saints by Nadia Bolz-Weber
I've recommended Bolz-Weber's first book, Pastrix, a bunch of times (here, here, here, and here), but I don't think I've underscored just how good her second book was. I didn't think she could write something comparable to her first, but it was just as funny, challenging, honest, and inspiring. Either one is worth the read (preferably both!).

2. American Gods by Neil Gaiman
I'm very picky about fantasy and don't read a lot of it, but something about this book sucked me in and I've been trying to get my husband to read it ever since. Both the sentence-level writing and the plot kept me hooked so that the 500+ pages flew by. It has elements of mystery and an underlying question about the meaning of life. I'd recommend it to anyone who loves a well-told story.

3. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
I feel like I've talked about What Alice Forgot quite a bit, but I loved this one of Moriarty's just as much. Interspersed with the main linear narrative you get commentary about the investigation into some event or crime that is unknown until nearly the end, so you know everything's building toward something but what it is isn't clear.

4. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
I didn't really appreciate how great this book is until I reread it for book club during the past couple years, after having read a number of other memoirs since first reading it. Walls peels back the layers of her childhood, so that we at first see her parents as merely having alternative philosophies about life (during the time that she herself is still an idolizing child), but we eventually see their sheer negligence and selfishness as their children have to take on more and more of the burdens of keeping the family going.

5. Positive by Paige Rawl
Another excellent memoir, this book is the story of a teenage girl who contracted HIV at birth and underwent terrible bullying and discrimination once her status was made known at her school. You see the lasting effects the bullying had on her even after she got out from the school, as well as the healing experiences that gave her the strength and confidence to move on. It's inspiring, heartbreaking, honest, and well written.

6. The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
There's no way to describe the plot of this book that doesn't sound boring, so I'm just going to tell you to read it. It has the sweetest unreliable narrator at its heart, an English butler whose professionalism masks his deepest feelings, even from himself. I definitely recommend it on audio.

7. The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt
I need to go back and reread this one because it has so much valuable insight that I know I haven't retained it all. Haidt gave me a much-needed framework for understanding how people have come to such vastly different conclusions than I have about politics and morals without demonizing or ridiculing them. While I think his own atheism limited his understanding of religious people, his insights about politics are fascinating.

8. Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs.-Christians Debate by Justin Lee
I talked about this book a ton on my previous blog when it first came out, but I don't think I've talked much about it here. Although Lee does talk about revisiting the Bible passages that are traditionally used to condemn homosexuality, it's within the framework of telling his own story, which makes the tone of this book very open and not argumentative. I'm sure that someday a book like this will seem outdated and unnecessary, but as long as there are still well-meaning Christians out there with misconceptions about sexual orientation, this book is a critical resource for starting the conversation.

9. Urban Injustice: How Ghettos Happen by David Hilfiker
I read this book in college, and it busted open the false ideas I didn't even know I had about poverty, social programs, and life in the inner city. It's a short, clearly written book that lays out the facts routinely overlooked in conversations about eliminating poverty. In particular, Hilfiker addresses head-on the notion that poor people are leeching off the government to avoid work.

10. The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible by A.J. Jacobs
I don't love everything Jacobs has written, but this takedown of the idea of biblical literalism is pretty fantastic. Jacobs has the personality (and the spare time) to make an attempt at following every single one of the Bible's commands, even the obscure ones. The best part for me, though, was when he interviewed other "literalists," from an Orthodox Jew to a fundamentalist evangelical. The takeaway? Everyone picks and chooses; they just have different ideas of what the non-negotiables are.

What are some good books you don't mention enough?

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