The late Justice Antonin Scalia, known for his crystal clear and mind-shaping prose, once said this about what makes for good writing:

“I think there is writing genius as well – which consists primarily, I think, of the ability to place oneself in the shoes of one’s audience; to assume only what the assume; to anticipate what they anticipate; to explain they need explained; to think what they must be thinking; to feel what they must be feeling.”

Herewith, I announce today the Jesus Creed Books of the Year, simultaneously the Tov Unleashed Books of the Year.

These are good books I have read and not some kind of magical survey of everything written. Many of you will know my picks from the blog posts and newsletters, but much thought goes into picking which books become the subject of our conversations.

Jesus Creed Book of the Year

Beth Allison Barr, The Making of Biblical Womanhood: How the Subjugation of Women Became Gospel Truth. A courageous book that “un-quenches” the Spirit and puts the American so-called “biblical” complementarian movement under scrutiny for its own historical situatedness.

My Top Reads of the Year

Winn Collier, A Burning in My Bones: The Authorized Biography of Eugene Peterson. A wonderful, honest journey through the life of one of our favorite writers, Eugene Peterson.

Kirsten Powers , Saving Grace: Speak Your Truth, Stay Centered, and Learn toCoexist with People Who Drive You Nuts. I have said it before: anyone who puts grace in front of political conversations has the opportunity to transform American partisanship and Christian bickering. Powers does that in a personal journey filled with vulnerable stories.

Biblical Studies

Rebekah Eklund, The Beatitudes Through the AgesHow have the Beatitudes of Jesus been read in the history of the church? Read this wonderful book.

Jason Staples, The Idea of Israel in Second Temple Judaism: A New Theory of People, Exile, and Israelite History I have not blogged about this book yet, but perhaps I’ll say something this week. This academic book explains how to explain when “Israel” and “Judean/Jew” is used in the 2d Temple period. Best academic book I read this year.

Mike Bird, Seven Things I Wish Christians Knew About the Bible With his characteristic wit and frolic Bird takes us through seven ideas that will help us put the rigidity of so many views of the Bible in our rear view mirror.

Spiritual Formation

Kellye Fabian , Holy Vulnerability We are hoping to get Kellye on our podcast at Kingdom Roots but until then I want to say this was the best spiritual formation book I read this year. A vulnerable exploration of her own anxieties and what she has learned.

American Issues, Two Views

Raphael Warnock, The Divided Mind of the Black Church: Theology, Piety, and Public Witness Warnock has enlightened me and I thank my colleague Marshall Hatch for pointing me in Warnock’s direction. Here we get a fresh sketch of the history of the Black Church in the USA.

George F. Will , American Happiness and Discontents: The Unruly Torrent, 2008-2020

Just in case you wonder where I line up politically, keep wondering because I want to read all sides. No one writes better political prose than George Will. No one. His The Conservative Sensibility was amazing too, if a bit long.


John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath This was my favorite novel of the year, though I don’t devour novels. I read them a few pages a day. I had not “read” this since high school, if one wants to call what I did then reading, but this time through it was a wonderful story.