These are a few of my favorite books

I am terrible at estimating – heights, ages, distances, you name it. (Maybe it’s because people have judged my age by my size most of my life, which has led to wildly inaccurate guesses.) I decided to set a book-reading goal for 2019, and in typical Laura style, I was way off. I reached my number by May. But the goal served its purpose, bringing me back again and again to my library and THE library and reintroducing me to a joy of reading that had gotten lost somewhere between graduate studies and parenting.

Not all of the books were great. But some were fantastic, and I’d love to share the names of those works with you.

Practice of ministry

God, Improv, and the Art of Living by MaryAnn McKibben Dana. Incorporates improv to help readers say a bigger “yes, and…” to life and faith.

How to Lead When You Don’t Know Where You’re Going by Susan Beaumont. Rather than telling what to do, this book focuses on how to be during liminal seasons.


Outside the Lines: How Embracing Queerness Will Transform Your Faith by Mihee Kim-Kort. Pushes against false binaries in places and ways that I’d not considered.

Holy Envy: Finding God in the Faith of Others by Barbara Brown Taylor. Journeys from envy of other religions and their practices to a new perspective on and respect for her own.


Everything I Never Told You and Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. Both books deal in secrets and the desire to run from the past. Gorgeously written.

The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai. A fictional peek into life in the LGTBQ+ community in the early days of the AIDS crisis.


Bringing Columbia Home: The Untold Story of a Lost Space Shuttle and Her Crew by Michael D. Leinbach and Jonathan H. Ward. Lots of details about the recovery and study of remains and debris, but the story is at its best when it examines NASA culture and describes the investment of small communities in the search.

A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II by Sonia Purnell. Brings out of the shadows an American woman whose tenacity and smarts played an essential role in the French Resistance.

Racial justice

I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown. Highlights the microaggressions people of color deal with everyday. Cringe-worthy and convicting.

So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo. Pulls no punches. Highly recommend.


Becoming by Michelle Obama. Former FLOTUS in her own words. Wonderful book that made me long for the days of integrity and focus on public service.

Educated by Tara Westover. Story of a daughter in a Mormon survivalist family who went on to earn her Ph.D. This book would only work as a memoir. As fiction it would seem too outlandish, and as biography it would probably come off as judgy.

Historical fiction

The Other Einstein by Marie Benedict. Horrifying story of abusing and erasing a genius scientist.


The End of White Christian America by Robert P. Jones. The sober hope mainline and progressive Christians need right now.

What have you read lately that you’d recommend?

Photo by Janko Ferlič – @specialdaddy on Unsplash.

2 thoughts on “These are a few of my favorite books

  1. Hi Laura — Holiday blessings to you! 

    Thanks for the list — I ordered Bringing Columbia Home, and am looking forward to reading it. 

    One book that was powerful for me in 2019 was Grace Will Lead us Home by Jennifer Berry Hawes, about the Mother Emmanual massacre in Charleston, SC. 

    Have a joyful and peaceful Christmas! Mary Austin

       Mary AustinMeeting God at the Mall


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