Theoblogy Book of the Year

In the past, I’ve awarded a Book of the Year award, usually to the best book that I’ve read, regardless of the relevance to Theoblogy readers. The 2011 winner is one example. In 2008, on the other hand, I picked a book that should be of enormous interest to you who read this blog.

I’ve read some great books this year. None has affected my day-to-day life more than 52 Loaves: One Man’s Relentless Pursuit of Truth, Meaning, and a Perfect Crust. Since reading it, I’ve made dozens of loaves of peasant bread — at least one per week. (I’m currently reading a book about 19th century cocktails that seems to be having a similar effect.) But, alas, it’s not a new book in 2012, and it probably interests very few of you.

More on topic for this blog is Brian McLaren’s Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?: Christian Identity in a Multi-Faith World. I agree with others that this is Brian’s best book yet (although I’ll always have a soft spot in my heard for Generous Orthodoxy). With this book, I think Brian has shown that he, more than any other figure in Christian leadership today, has both the intellect and the gentleness to walk us into a Christianity that can co-exist with other religions. I realize that’s a bold claim, and I don’t make it lightly. For that reason, Brian’s book gets runner-up.

And now, for the 2012 Theoblogy Book of the Year:

A Year of Biblical Womanhood:
How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband “Master”

by Rachel Held Evans

There are all sorts of reasons that Rachel’s book deserves the notoriety that it’s received. Last year, when all the fuss was about Love Wins, no one was saying that book was funny or well-written or painstakingly researched or intellectually challenging. I would say each of those things about AYoBW.

Both in person and on her blog, Rachel is unassuming. But don’t let that fool you. Her writing is incisive and her background work is breathtakingly thorough. In fact, I envy her work ethic — I know few authors who are as committed to the craft as she.

The result is a book that critics — and she has them on both the left and the right — cannot quickly dismiss. She doesn’t just ask questions (à la Love Wins), she provides answers. To someone like me who grew up in mainline Christianity, ministered to by ordained women, the question of women in leadership in the church doesn’t haunt. But the role of women in the ancient world, inscribed for all time in our sacred text, does haunt. Rachel is the rare author who respects the Bible — loves it, even — without being bound by its prohibitions.

AYoBW was also a touchstone in the religious publishing industry. She was public and honest about the development of her book, about how she pushed her publishing house, Thomas Nelson editorially, and how Thomas Nelson ultimately stood up to Lifeway (Southern Baptist) Bookstores. For authors like me, whose theology and language are sometimes unsavory to the evangelical border guards, Rachel’s stand was a defining moment.

So, for all those reasons, I’m happy to call A Year of Biblical Womanhood the 2012 Theoblogy Book of the Year.


What was the best book you read this year? (If you blogged about it, leave us a link.)

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  • Kelly J Youngblood

    Whoo hoo! Glad you picked Rachel’s book–I personally thought it was fantastic.

  • Steve Knight

    Good picks, Tony.

    Brian’s would’ve been at the top of my list for 2012, I think — in part, because (confession) my copy of Rachel’s is still sitting in a pile of unread books.

    • Lock Ledger

      You and Tony r sporting the same look.

  • Laurie Damberg

    I bought the Kindle edition this morning! Looking forward to it :)

  • Steve Pinkham

    Since I like making noise when we disagree, I will endeavor to make as much noise when we agree. ;-).

    I haven’t read RHE’s book, but McLaren’s book was excellent and I’ve recommended it to people a number of times.

    As with all writers, there’s things in it I disagree with him about, but the core ideas of the book I’m 100% behind.

    Richard Beck’s The Authenticity of Faith is another one on a similar theme that hasn’t gotten the press it deserves. McLaren is definitely better at spinning a positive vision over the harsh reality of the problems that stem from worldview defense, but as a psychologist who has published papers on the topic, Beck is better at fleshing out the problem. My only problem with McLaren’s book is I think some people will dismiss his solution because they don’t quite feel tension of the problem deeply enough.

  • Lock Ledger
  • Rachel H. Evans

    Thank you, Tony! It’s an honor.

  • Valerie

    Good choice Tony! I loved Rachel’s book!
    I would add to the list Justin Lee’s TORN: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays vs Christians Debate.

  • toddh

    And it’s only $1.99 on Kindle (at least for now):

  • Steve Hackman

    Hi Tony,

    Just downloaded Rachel’s book to my Kindle. Will give it a read over the holidays. The book that was my # 1 this year was “Beauty Will Save the World” by Brian Zahnd. I did a review of how it gave me back my “spiritual mojo” :)


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