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Episode Summary

The Yale Center for Faith & Culture is full of readers—and we love sharing what we’re reading, especially when we find books that connect so deeply with our mission and values. We believe actively reading is an essential part of helping people envision and pursue lives worthy of our shared humanity. What you’ll find below are just a few of our favorite books that helped us envision and pursue our own lives worth living in 2023. We hope you’ll read and enjoy them along with us.

The Yale Center for Faith & Culture is full of readers—and we love sharing what we’re reading, especially when we find books that connect so deeply with our mission and values. We believe actively reading is an essential part of helping people envision and pursue lives worthy of our shared humanity (for more on that idea, listen to episode 162 of For the Life of the World). What you’ll find below are just a few of our favorite books that helped us envision and pursue our own lives worth living in 2023. We hope you’ll read and enjoy them along with us.

When Time Is Short

By Timothy Beal

Find it at Beacon Press

“In healthcare for individuals, a palliate approach is not simply about giving up on the struggle to stay alive… It’s about asking what matters most when one realizes that, barring some kind of miracle, one’s time is growing short… It think it’s about time for us as a species to do something similar, to imagine our own finitude, our own end, and to have an honest conversation about it. What might a palliative approach to the human future look like?” (11-12)

We probably have some sense of what it means to come to terms with our individual mortality. But, in the midst of the climate crisis, Christian theologian Timothy Beal thinks its time for us to think about our species’ mortality. Beal proposes that there’s something centering and orienting about this really difficult line of reflection; after all, he argues, what matters most when time is short is what always mattered most. (I’ve been reading this for the course I’m offering for the first time this spring: “The End of the World.”)

—Matt Croasmun


By Kendall Soulen

Find it at Fortress Press

“The importance of the Tetragrammaton is that it expresses God’s nonfungibility in a way that precedes, unifies, and illuminates all the other divine names in the Bible – including the name ‘Jesus.’ If the Christian canon has literary and theological unity at all, it is because of the unity of the God who bears this name, and it can be adequately discerned only in light of this name and the God it identifies.”

Soulen’s book is a deeply compelling account of the nature of supersessionism - the idea that the Church has replaced Israel as God’s covenental partner - and how Christians might re-think the nature of Scripture’s unity in ways that avoid it. Significantly, Soulen doesn’t advocate either for a return to some past perspective or for an entirely novel interpretive stance. Instead, he finds the golden thread that brings together the Old and New Testaments, the Church and Israel, in the very name of God.

—Drew Collins

The Queen Is Dead

By Stan Grant

Find it at Harper Collins

“The Queen reigned for seventy years. She came to the throne at the height of Empire and died with the world at a tipping point. What comes next after the death of what Stan Grant calls 'the last white Queen'?

The Queen is Dead is a searing, viscerally powerful, emotionally unstoppable, pull-no-punches book on the bitter legacy of colonialism for indigenous people. Taking us on a journey through the world's fault lines, from the war in Ukraine, the rise of China, the identity wars, the resurgence of white supremacy, and the demand that Black Lives Matter, The Queen is Dead is a full-throated, impassioned argument on the necessity for an end to monarchy in Australia, the need for a Republic, and what needs to be done - through the Voice to Parliament and beyond - to address and redress the pain and sorrow and humiliations of the past."

Listen to Stan Grant on For the Life of the World, episode 164. “Speaking to the Unspeakable: Catastrophe, Silence, and Respect in Aboriginal Australian Life”.

Saving Time: Discovering a Life Beyond Productivity Culture

By Jenny Odell

Find it at Penguin Random House

From the book description: “In her first book, How to Do Nothing, Jenny Odell wrote about the importance of disconnecting from the “attention economy” to spend time in quiet contemplation. But what if you don’t have time to spend? In order to answer this seemingly simple question, Odell took a deep dive into the fundamental structure of our society and found that the clock we live by was built for profit, not people. This is why our lives, even in leisure, have come to seem like a series of moments to be bought, sold, and processed ever more efficiently. Odell shows us how our painful relationship to time is inextricably connected not only to persisting social inequities but to the climate crisis, existential dread, and a lethal fatalism."

Christianity as a Way of Life

By Kevin W. Hector

Find it at Yale University Press

“The antidote to worldliness … is not to oppose or flee the world but for our relationship to the world to be included in and oriented by our devotion to God.”

Hector combines philosophical precision with a down-to-earth sensibility and deep care for ordinary lives of Christian devotion. This book will encourage you in the lifelong work of living in light of what God has done in Jesus Christ.

—Ryan McAnnally-Linz

Thin Skin

By Jenn Shapland

Find it at Penguin Random House

From the book description: “For Jenn Shapland, the barrier between herself and the world is porous; she was even diagnosed with extreme dermatologic sensitivity—thin skin. Recognizing how deeply vulnerable we all are to our surroundings, she becomes aware of the impacts our tiniest choices have on people, places, and species far away. She can’t stop seeing the ways we are enmeshed and entangled with everyone else on the planet. Despite our attempts to cordon ourselves off from risk, our boundaries are permeable.”

The Rediscovery of America

By Ned Blackhawk

Find it at Yale University Press

“Champlain understood that violence was crucial and showcased his technologies of violence, using them not just to kill but to display French power. Whether welcoming allied Indian leaders with gunfire or beginning holidays with cannon fire, the sound of arms became a growing feature of seventeenth-century life. New audible features also characterized Indian communication. Native trade fairs, diplomatic gatherings, and arrivals to the shoreline now also commenced with gunfire.”

Blackhawk’s The Rediscovery of America updates many familiar tales of US history to include research on the roles of native peoples in both the resistance to and development of colonial systems. The resulting narrative powerfully interweaves the stories of the peoples who were already here with those of the expanding European empires into a rich tapestry of our nation’s founding and its aftermaths.

—Connie Steel

Crossings: How Road Ecology Is Shaping the Future of Our Planet

By Ben Goldfarb

Find it at Norton Press

“Wild animals, the naturalist Henry Beston wrote, are neither our brethren nor our underlings; instead, they are ‘other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time.’ And the road ensnares us both.”

Roads, highways, and freeways are ubiquitous in the United States, which contains the world’s longest road network, but how often are we asked to contemplate roads? For whose flourishing are roads constructed, and for whom do roads prevent flourishing life? Goldfarb’s is an important provocation about the paths we take now and the paths we might choose instead.

—Liz Burkemper

Beyond Homelessness: Christian Faith in a Culture of Displacement

By Steven Bouwma-Prediger and Brian J. Walsh

Find it at Eerdmans Publishing

“We can find our way home only if we are accompanied by the indwelling God, the God who longs to come home to us.”

Ranging across biblical theology, social ethics, and cultural analysis, Bouwma-Prediger and Walsh sketch a Christian account of home in response to multiple challenges of homelessness and homesickness in our world today. A thoughtful starting point for thinking about the real-life implications of God’s homemaking work.

—Ryan McAnnally-Linz

Zero at the Bone: Fifty Entries Against Despair

By Christian Wiman

Find it at Macmillan Press

From the book description: "Few contemporary writers ask the questions about faith, morality, and God that Christian Wiman does, and even fewer—perhaps none—do so with his urgency and eloquence. Wiman, an award-winning poet and the author of My Bright Abyss, lays the motion of his mind on the page in this genre-defying work, an indivisible blend of poetry, criticism, theology, and searing memoir."

The Doctrine of Scripture

By Brad East

Find it at Wipf and Stock Publishers

“The Doctrine of Holy Scripture is a matter of joy.”

This opening sentence of Brad East’s recent book, The Doctrine of Scripture, is perhaps more than any specific claim or contention in this significant and most welcome book, the most controversial, and the most significant. First, it wards off the apologetic and polemical undertones that all too quickly become overtones in so many contemporary Christian accounts of scripture. Holy Scripture is not a battle ground or a site for contestation, it is not a burning building that needs to be salvaged with the cooling waters of contemporary plausibility-structures. For East, it is first and foremost a source of delight. Second, it situates Scripture not primarily in the arid halls of the academy but in the midst of congregational worship and praise of the Triune God.

—Drew Collins

We Could Have Been Friends, My Father and I: A Palestinian Memoir

By Raja Shehadeh

Find it at Penguin Random House

“I had my own immature ideas, based on sentimental Hollywood dramas, of how it should be between father and son, and made no effort to understand my father on his own terms. Now that I know how much we have in common, what I regret most of all, is the fact that we could have been friends.”

From the NYT book review: “With profound humanity, [Shehadeh’s] work maps out the vicissitudes of a life lived in the shadows of Israeli occupation. The result is a quiet and deeply felt book that illustrates how being dispossessed and being occupied are not merely legal or political conditions, but, perhaps more profoundly, psychological and emotional ones too.”

—Liz Burkemper

Transforming Fire: Imagining Christian Teaching

By Mark Jordan

Find it at Eerdmans Publishing

"The authority of… teaching is not secured by certified expertise, voluminous publications, or status in the guild. It is vindicated by the student’s transformation.”

Mark Jordan invites us to focus on the pedagogy of Jesus and the “scenes of instruction” handed down to us from the gospels. How did Jesus teach? How can we read theology so as to be transformed by the living God? (Plus, Jordan structures his book around several of the books he’s taught over the years, so his book is itself an introduction to a whole library of other books one might take up and read.)

—Matt Croasmun

Ordinary Notes

By Christina Sharpe

Find it at Macmillan Press

From the book description: “A singular achievement, Ordinary Notes explores profound questions about loss and the shapes of Black life that emerge in the wake. In a series of 248 notes that gather meaning as we read them, Christina Sharpe skillfully weaves artifacts from the past—public ones alongside others that are poignantly personal—with present realities and possible futures, intricately constructing an immersive portrait of everyday Black existence. The themes and tones that echo through these pages—sometimes about language, beauty, memory; sometimes about history, art, photography, and literature—always attend, with exquisite care, to the ordinary-extraordinary dimensions of Black life.”

Life Worth Living: A Guide to What Matters Most

By Miroslav Volf, Matthew Croasmun, and Ryan McAnnally-Linz

Find it at

Around the world and across human history, the same questions have challenged us: What should we hope for? How should we live? How do we respond to suffering? How do we flourish?

Miroslav Volf, Matthew Croasmun, and Ryan McAnnally-Linz have gathered responses to these and other questions and reflected on the different answers that have informed various faiths and cultures. They have written this book to help you respond to these questions in the context of your own life, because your life is too important to be guided by anything less than what matters most.

"This valuable book is full of the wisdom of many minds and cultures on essential questions ... The questions are ancient, but the book is absolutely timely."

—Marilynne Robinson, Pulitzer Prize winning author of Gilead and Housekeeping

What Is the Good Life? Perspectives from Religion, Philosophy, and Psychology

Edited by Drew Collins and Matthew Croasmun

Find it at Baylor University Press

We have more options and choices to make about how we want to live than ever before. But where do we turn for guidance as we choose how to live? Are we so focused on choosing what we want for our lives that we have forgotten to ask ourselves what is a good life and what is worth wanting? In What Is the Good Life?: Perspectives from Religion, Philosophy, and Psychology, leading scholar-practitioners from nine different traditions—religious and secular—each offer an account of the good life. These accounts explore the distinct visions construed by their respective traditions from within a shared threefold heuristic schema of agency, circumstance, and affect.

"We live in an era dominated by the material, by getting what you want as quickly as possible. This text gathers wisdom from a diverse array of world religions and philosophical traditions on a far more important question: what’s worth wanting. It nourished my soul."

—Eboo Patel, Founder and President of Interfaith America and author of We Need To Build: Field Notes for Diverse Democracy

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