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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