If I had to choose…

Choosing a favorite book is like asking me if I have a favorite child, or when I was a pastor, if I had a favorite church member.  Nope. Not happening. Can’t do it.

I’ve written before that books have always been this only child’s siblings. I read a lot and I read widely. I guess you’d say that I have a big, diverse family.

During this wild and challenging season, I’ve read some great books. I’ve noticed that I have not read as many as usual, perhaps because the pandemic has been distracting/traumatic/exhausting.

If I had to choose which books I’ve read since March are among my favorites, I would select the following:

Blue Horses by Mary Oliver      This slim volume of poetry, published in 2014 is disarmingly beautiful in its simplicity. That’s not surprising, if you’re a Mary Oliver fan. “It must be a great disappointment to God if we are not dazzled at least ten times a day.”  A great reminder in any season.

Learning to Speak God from Scratch by Jonathan Merritt   The premise of this good book is the challenge people of this era have in finding a vocabulary for their faith.  A book about faith and words? I couldn’t put it down. Here’s one quote: “Our words may not cause plants to sprout, but they can make hope spring forth in a human heart.”

The Words of Her Mouth: Psalms for the Struggle  edited by Martha Spong    I found this to be a powerful volume of thoughtful reflections based on the psalms written by a diverse group of clergywomen that I enjoyed as part of my devotional practice in Lent. Martha Spong is the former executive director of RevGalBlogPals, a long-standing group with a strong online presence in support of women in ministry. Many contributors to this book are active in RevGals.

Essentials by David Whyte   (Pssst… this is the one. This is my favorite.) Beautiful poems and brief essays by a gifted writer. I loved the backstories included with almost every poem.

“Sometimes it takes darkness

and the sweet

confinement of your


to learn

anything or anyone

that does not bring you alive

is too small for you.”

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption  by Bryan Stevenson   This profoundly moving look at the justice system and systemic racism is unforgettable. Another example of the book being better than the movie, in my opinion, Stevenson’s story of tenacity and hope in the face of a justice system that is stacked against poor people of color is a window into the difference an individual can make and the faith that motivates him.

And there are others.  I haven’t read enough fiction lately that has been enchanting or enough of a diversion from this season but I hope to in the coming months.  What are you reading that has meant a lot to you this year?  Let me know, and we’ll compile a recommended list from PWV readers.