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These are just a few of my musings about faith, formation, culture, and life.


On My Bookshelf for 2018

Jen Michel

I mentioned in my 2017: Year in Review that I read less this past year than years previous. Although I haven't been able to figure out why, I do know it's true that the practice of regular reading requires forethought and intention. You have to keep a good list, order books in advance from the library, and turn deliberately to your book at the end of the day rather than Netflix. Good reading is like good eating: you'll feel better for having done it, but it's always tempting to steal a cookie before dinner. I don't want to be a fundamentalist when it comes to reading, but I do want to challenge myself to read more in the year ahead.

Reading is, of course, an important part of the work that I do, and gratefully, I have a well-established routine of morning reading. (Right now, it's the One Year Bible NLT, the complete collection of letters between Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell, and a book of poetry by Ross Gay.) I am also regularly reading on whatever subject I'm writing about. (Currently, I'm writing on the incarnation for book #3, and I'm reading Chesterton's Orthodoxy, Mark Jones's Knowing Christ, and Graham Cole's The God Who Became Human.)

I suppose that you could say that based on the reading I do in the morning and the reading I do for my writing, I'm READING! But I don't want to just be a practical reader; I want to be a superfluous one. I want to read beautiful, haunting novels. I want to savor poetry. I want to understand the world that's come before me. I want to pratice curiosity, develop keener habits of observation, feel and love deeply. I think reading helps with all of that!

In that spirit, I'm offering you the list of books I'm putting on my proverbial shelf for 2018. Truthfully, I know I won't make it through this list, but at the very least, it's a guide, a rudder in the shifting winds of mood. I'm not resolving to get through this list so much as read everyday. (I'm going to track my progress using this tool from Modern Mrs. Darcy, who's a great resource for the reading life!)


Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude

, Ross Gay

Good Bones

, Maggie Smith

Second Sky

, Tania Runyan

The World’s Wife,

Carol Ann Duffy

Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God

(Translator, Anita Barrows)

The Jubilee

, John Blase


The Rise of Christianity

, Rodney Stark (220 pages)


, David Whyte (247 pages)

Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition

, Christine Pohl (190 pages)

The Patient Ferment of the Early Church

, Alan Kreider (300 pages)

For the Life of the World

, Alexander Schmemann (151 pages)

Secondhand Time: The Last of the Soviets,

Svetlana Alexievich (496 pages)

Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I've Loved

, Kate Bowler (208 pages)

Death by Living

, N.D. Wilson (208 pages)

Winsome Persuasion: Christian Influence in a Post-Christian World

, Tim Muelhoff and Richard Langer (219 pages)

Make a List: How a Simple Practice Can Change Our Lives and Open Our Hearts,

Marilyn McEntyre (208 pages)


Can You See Anything Now?

Kate James (256 pages)

No Great Mischief

, Alistair MacLead (304 pages)

Little Fires Everywhere

, Celeste Ng (352 pages)

Sing, Unburied, Sing

, Jesmyn Ward (304 pages)


, Ali Smith (288 pages)

Love Big, Be Well

, Winn Collier (176 pages)

Peace Like a River

, Leif Enger (320 pages)


Walking on Water

, L’Engle (200 pages)

Words in Air

, Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell (816 pages)

Art and Fear

, David Bayles, Ted Orland (122 pages)


Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jill Franklin

, Jill Lepore (270 pages)

Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder

, Caroline Fraser (515 pages)

Many of these titles come as recommendations from friends. Here are some other great lists to check out:

On My Shelf: Life and Books with Russ Ramsey

(The Gospel Coalition)

Ten Favorite Reads of 2017

(Trevin Wax)

Christianity Today's 2018 Book Awards

Englewood Review of Books

Best Books of 2017

(Fathom Mag)

Did you know that I write a monthly newsletter? I call it Miscellany because it's all the odds and ends of my life and work. If you're interested in subscribing, you can here. It arrives around the first of the month (ish).