Top 10 Books — What We're Reading at Sojourners | Sojourners

Top 10 Books — What We're Reading at Sojourners

An open book with letters in flight. Image courtesy robert_s/
An open book with letters in flight. Image courtesy robert_s/

We love the latest Facebook “book challenge" going around. It reads something like this: 

"List 10 books that have stayed with you in some way. Don't over-think this — they don't have to be the 'right' books or great works of literature. Just books that have impacted you in some way." 

We at Sojourners are a book-loving bunch, from religion and spirituality to politics; social justice to science; cultural history to historical fiction. Below are 10 favorite or most formative books from several staff here at Sojourners (in addition to books of the Bible, which could take several spots themselves).

See any of your favorites here? Which books do you most love? Share in the comments! 



Rob Wilson-Black, Chief Executive Officer  

1. Sandcastle — Iris Murdoch

2. Eichman in Jerusalem — Hannah Arendt

3. Nothing to be Frightened Of — Julian Barnes

4. Disgrace — JM Coetzee

5. Life is a Miracle (a response to E.O. Wilson's 'Consilience') — Wendell Berry

6. Celebration of Discipline — Richard Foster  

7. Achieving our Country — Richard Rorty

8. Better Angels of Our Nature — Steven Pinker

9. The Gift — Lewis Hyde 

10. Let Your Life Speak — Parker Palmer


Lisa Sharon Harper, Senior Director of Mobilizing 

1. To Kill a Mockingbird — Harper Lee

2. The Kitchen House — Kathleen Grissom

3. The Color Purple — Alice Walker

4. Dances with Wolves — Michael Blake

5. Exclusion and Embrace — Miroslav Volf

6. Let Justice Roll Down — John Perkins

7. Grace Matters — Chris Rice

8. God’s Long Summer — Charles Marsh

9. Rediscovering Values — Jim Wallis

10. A New Kind of Christian — Brian McLaren


Katie Chatelaine-Samsen, Director of Individual Giving    

1. The Brothers Karamazov — Fyodor Dostoyevsky

2. Song of Solomon — Toni Morrison

3. The Harry Potter Series — J.K. Rowling

4. Moral Man, Immoral Society — Reinhold Niebuhr

5. A Wrinkle in Time — Madeline L’Engle

6. The Perfect Mile — Neal Bascomb

7. Breathing Space: A Spiritual Journey in the South Bronx — Heidi Neumark

8. East of Eden — John Steinbeck

9. The Freedom of a Christian — Martin Luther

10. Given Time: Counterfeit Money — Jacques Derrida  


Lisa Daughtry-Weiss, Senior Director of Foundation Relations and Performance Officer

1. Sojourners (Yes, I know — it's a magazine/blog.)

2. Alive Now! (...Also a magazine.)

3. The Fountainhead — Ayn Rand

4. When Bad Things Happen to Good People — Rabbi Harold Kushner

5. Who Needs God? — Rabbi Kushner

6. The Church and the Dechurched: Mending a Damaged Faith — Mary Hammond

7. The 'How to Train Your Dragon' series

8. Anything by Barbara Kingsolver, especially 'Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life' 

9. Anything by Alice Walker

10. Anything by Amy Tan      


Timothy King, Chief Strategy Officer  

1. Living The Good Life — Helen and Scott Nearing

2. Spell of the Sensuous — David Abrams

3. Jayber Crow — Wendell Berry

4. Holy the Firm — Annie Dillard

5. The Four Quartets — T.S. Elliot

6. Zorba the Greek — Nikos Kazantzakis

7. The Brothers Karamazov — Fyodor Dostoevsky

8. Personalism — Emmanuel Mounier

9. The World According to Garp — John Irving

10. Man’s Search for Meaning — Victor Frankel  


Kaeley McEvoy, Campaigns Assistant 

1. Perks of Being a Wallflower — Stephen Chbosky

2. The Alchemist — Paul Coelho


Simon Oh, Office Manager

1. War Is a Racket — Gen. Smedley D. Butler

2. Les Miserables — Victor Hugo

3. The Divine Comedy — Dante Alighieri

4. The Joy of Cooking — Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker, Ethan Becker

5. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave — Frederick Douglass

6. Maus — Art Spiegelman

7. The Bhagavad Gita — translation by Eknath Easwaran

8. Chemical Principles, Sixth Edition — William L. Masterson, Emil J. Slowinski, Conrad L. Stanitski

9. The Official Boy Scout Handbook, Ninth Edition — William Hillcourt

10. Good Omens — Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman  


Julie Polter, Senior Associate Editor

1. The Violent Bear it Away — Flannery O’Connor

2. Their Eyes Were Watching God — Zora Neale Hurston

3. The Autobiography of Malcolm X

4. Killers of the Dream — Lillian Smith

5. Naked — David Sedaris

6. Without End: New & Selected Poems — Adam Zagajewski

7. Brown: The Last Discovery of America — Richard Rodriguez

8. Holy the Firm — Annie Dillard

9. The Hungering Dark — Frederick Buechner

10. Hellfire: The Jerry Lee Lewis Story — by Nick Tosches


Lani Prunes, Editorial Assistant

1. The Sparrow — Mary Doria Russell

2. Oryx and Crake — Margaret Atwood

3. Plan B — Anne Lamott

4. Half of a Yellow Sun — Chimamanda Adichie

5. A Series of Unfortunate Events — Lemony Snicket

6. The Odyssey — Homer

7. How I Live Now — Meg Rosoff

8. Bird by Bird — Anne Lamott

9. The Giver — Lois Lowry  

10. Slaughterhouse Five — Kurt Vonnegut


Sandra Sims, Director of Advertising Sales

1. The Powers That Be — Walter Wink

2. A New Kind of Christianity — Brian McLaren

3. The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger — Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson

4. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy — J.R.R. Tolkien

5. The Poisonwood Bible — Barbara Kingsolver  

6. The Healing of America — T. R. Reid

7. A Thousand Splendid Suns — Khaled Hosseini 

8. The Lathe of Heaven — Ursula Le Guin

9. The Dip — Seth Godin

10. Reading the Bible Again For the First Time — Marcus Borg


Juliet Vedral, Press Secretary

1. The Bonfire of the Vanities — Tom Wolfe      

2. Liar's Poker — Michael Lewis        

3. The Phantom Tollbooth — Norton Juster

4. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire — J.K. Rowling      

5. The Magician's Nephew — C.S. Lewis 

6. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle — Haruki Murakami

7. King's Cross (re-titled 'Jesus the King') — Timothy Keller

8. Nine Stories — J.D. Salinger

9. A Long Way Down — Nick Hornby

10.  Life of the Beloved — Henri Nouwen​      


Sandi Villarreal, Web Editor and Chief Digital Officer

1. Bossypants — Tina Fey

I'm constantly amazed by its completely applicable life lessons. To wit, on women in leadership: "No pigtails, no tube tops. Cry sparingly. Some people say 'Never let them see you cry.' I say, if you're so mad you could just cry, then cry. It terrifies everyone. ... Also, don't eat diet foods in meetings." Do yourself a favor and download the audiobook.

2. Strunk and White (ok, it's called The Elements of Style, but every writer you'll ever meet will call it Strunk and White) — William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White

3. Les Miserables — Victor Hugo

Ultimate tale of forgiveness and redemption.

4. God's Politics — Jim Wallis

Read the summer between junior and senior year at Baylor University. It changed (mostly) everything.

5. Half the Sky — Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn

If you've read it, you know why.

6. The Sh!t No One Tells You: A Guide to Surviving Your Baby's First Year — Dawn Dias

Because who wants to read all of the 8 million parenting books? This one made the prospect of learning what was about to happen to me look not terrible. And, almost one year in, I can testify that she's spot on.

7. The War of Art — Steven Pressfield

This book was blessedly required reading for our online publication team by my indomitable predecessor Cathleen Falsani.

8. Romeo and Juliet — Shakespeare

So hesitant to include, but this challenge requires one to be honest. I was that kid who memorized the balcony scene. And also dressed as Juliet (sans Romeo) for Halloween.

9. Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs — Chuck Klosterman

Because it introduced me to Chuck Klosterman.

10. Tails — Matthew Van Fleet

This probably ranks as the book I've read the most number of times in my life. For a good 3-4 months, it's all my infant daughter wanted to "read" every single night before bed. "Tails rainbow-hued and shiny …" still plays on repeat in my dreams.


Catherine Woodiwiss, Associate Web Editor

1. Einstein's Dreams — Alan Lightman

Invited me to ask not just what and why, but how — especially when it comes to love, memory, faith, doubt, and time. Ten years later, these early questions are still my favorite.

2. After the Locusts: Letters from a Landscape of Faith — Denise Ackermann  

South African Anglican theologian lives incredible (/ly difficult) life, is totally awesome. 

3. Love Thy Neighbor: A Story of War — Peter Maass

Taught me who I want to be, as a person and as a journalist. 

4. The Fiddler in the Subway — Gene Weingarten

This collection introduced me to everything feature writing/creative nonfiction can do, which is quite a lot (including win Pulitzers).

5. Open Letters — Vaclav Havel 

Havel's New Year's Day speech alone is worth it. I read it every January 1.

6. Spiritual Writings — Flannery O'Connor

Flannery is incomparable, and this collection of short stories and personal letters shows just how.

7. The Life You Save May Be Your Own — Paul Elie

Currently reading, already listing it as a favorite. Four of America's most famous Catholics, through the lens of pilgrimage.

8. Kristin Lavransdatter — Sigrid Undset

Some films require you to sit in silence in the theater long after the credits have stopped rolling. This book requires the same.

9. The Last Camel Died at Noon — Elizabeth Peters  

Who doesn't like a turn-of-the-century British caper set in Egypt, full of antiquities thieves, feisty archaeologists, murder, intrigue, and secret cults? ...Just me?

10. Jayber Crow — Wendell Berry

I've underlined so many passages from old Jayber's life the whole book is blue. To quote Billy Collins, "Pardon the egg salad stains, but I'm in love." 


Catherine Woodiwiss is Associate Web Editor for Sojourners.