Books on Grace, Power, and Faith

By Duane Shank 1-30-2009

Getting time to read is always a challenge, but here are the top 10 books I read this year:

Dreams from My Father, by Barack Obama. A quest for identity -- from a childhood in Indonesia and Hawaii, to community organizing on the streets of Southside Chicago, to a pilgrimage to his father's family in Kenya. Powerful insights of the man who is now president.

Tempting Faith, by David Kuo. A timely reminder of how political power can tempt and seduce faith.

The Lonely Man of Faith, by Joseph Soloveitchik. As people called by God to engage the world and to live in the covenantal community of faith, we face an existential loneliness in which we are at home in neither.

The Last Campaign, by Thurston Clarke. The 82-day campaign of Bobby Kennedy for president in the spring of 1968, and the unprecedented coalition of people in poverty, Latino farmworkers, Native Americans, and Midwest white-working class he built in that short time. A painful reminder of what might have been.

Sin Boldly, by Cathleen Falsani. How can the gift of grace be described? "Through stories and images that illustrate the varied ways grace is experienced," she writes.

The New Christians, by Tony Jones. Subtitled Dispatches from the Emergent Frontier, a good introduction to the theology and practice of what is called the emerging church.

The Ways of White Folks, by Langston Hughes. A collection of short stories on the interaction of black and white cultures in the 1920s and 1930s. Some funny, some tragic, but all shedding light on an era that continues to shape us.

The Turnaround, by George Pelecanos. My favorite crime novelist, with a book that explores themes of history, violence, aging, and redemption.

A Nation for All, by Alexia Kelley and Chris Korzen. How the vision of the common good could move us from a politics of division to a politics and culture that would benefit everyone.

Evangelical Does Not Equal Republican...Or Democrat, by Lisa Sharon Harper. A leading voice in the new movement of young evangelicals combines historical and theological insights with a passion for justice for a new era.

Duane Shank is senior policy advisor for Sojourners.

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