Bethany Suckrow is a food-instagramming, coffee-obsessed writer at bethanysuckrow.com, where she shares both prose and poetry related to life, faith, storytelling and creativity. Her writing has been featured in Prodigal Magazine and Relevant Magazine. She and her musician husband Matt live in the Chicago suburbs. I set out at the beginning of the year with a goal to read twelve books, hoping for an average of one a month. I began this endeavor with a few fiction classics I had always wanted to read---On the Road, A Moveable Feast---and then I plowed through the entire Hunger Games series after my cousin insisted I borrow them (after Twilight, I've grown wary of fiction fads). As the year went on, an unintended proclivity for nonfiction emerged from my choices---memoir-style works on faith, to be specific. Some I had been wanting to read, some were given to me, some I stumbled across. Reflecting back on this unintended theme in my reading life this year, I've realized that my spiritual life was starving for enrichment.
And how better to feed my spirit than to consume the written word?
This list of books has challenged the way that I express my faith, internally and externally. They've given me a better understanding of the Hebrew roots of the Christian faith, the benefit of learning from the authors' faith journeys, and encouragement as a woman when I don't understand the stories found within Scripture.
I'm curious---what do you read to fill your spirit and refresh your faith, whatever tradition you identify with---agnostic, atheist, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist? Are there any fiction books you've read that have fulfilled you spiritually?
by Donald Miller
Originally published in 2003, Miller's Blue Like Jazz is a spiritual memoir subtitled "Non-Religious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality." A lot of my friends read it in college, but I didn't pick it up until early this year. I appreciated this book for Miller's rawness as he wrestles with his belief in God and how he expresses his belief to others.
A quote from the book that explains its unusual title : "The first generation out of slavery invented jazz music. It is a music birthed out of freedom. And that is the closest thing I know to Christian spirituality. A music birthed out of freedom. Everybody sings their song the way they feel it, everybody closes their eyes and lifts up their hands."
by Lauren Winner
After her conversion from Orthodox Judaism to Christianity, Lauren Winner sought ways to incorporate the spiritual principles of Judaism into her Christian faith through the rich traditions and practices that she grew up with. What she shares in this short book is more than ritual, but an invitation to explore eleven Jewish spiritual practices that offer a transformative view of God, the world, and our relationship to both. I have loved uncovering the layers of symbolism found in the Jewish tradition that Christianity has thrown by the wayside. So much of what Jesus did spoke directly to those rituals and the meaning behind them, but Christians don't often understand them because we neither study nor practice them. Rediscovering them has helped me understand Jesus's teachings on a deeper level.
Ruminate Magazine, Issue 25 : Unraveling the Dark
This latest issue of Ruminate Magazine titled "Unraveling the Dark" explores our cultural preoccupation with remaining positive. Having lost my mother early this year, the theme of this edition touched the depth of my sadness in a way that few things have been able to during this season in my life.
Nicole Rollender's poem, "Necessary Work" throws life and death, dark and light, into high contrast with lines like, "the beautiful plum falling / from its long branch, then sweetly decomposing."
It is exhausting to live with the reality of loss, even more so to daily extol the "blessings" of grief that Christians, for some reason, always seem to expect of one another. "Unraveling the Dark" offers relief in its somber reflection on the darkness of life's circumstances. After all, even the psalmists bore lament.
by Rachel Held Evans
I had the pleasure of meeting and dining with Rachel Held Evans at STORY Conference this year, and there I also heard her speak about her new book, released this month, which chronicles her pursuit of "biblical womanhood" over the course of one year, as she explores the literal interpretations of the Bible's instructions for women.
I commend Evans for her grace, humor and valor in challenging what Christians, especially those of the evangelical persuasion, believe about women's role in the home, the workforce, and the Church. Having grown up in a faith tradition that is infamous for repressing diversity and gender equality, I found Evans' book enlightening and empowering. You can read extended excerpts of Biblical Womanhood on Evans' blog.
by Anne Lamott
This one is actually on my Christmas wish-list and so I haven't read it yet, but if it's anything like Bird by Bird or Traveling Mercies, Help, Thanks, Wow will be a great read for continuing my habit of memoir-style spiritual nonfiction into 2013. In Help, Thanks, Wow, Lamott distills our groanings of the spirit to three simple prayers for help, gratitude and wonder. You can read a wonderful excerpt of it on Salon.