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Our Favorite Books of 2023



We're continuing our "Best of 2023" mini-series with top picks for favorite books from Rabbit Room friends and contributors.


 

This is the Year of Every Moment Holy Vol. 3, of course, as well as when my Saint Patrick the Forgiver and Ordinary Saints books came out, but the top books that were not by me, but that I enjoyed the most were "Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell—a book that made me want to believe in Faerie—and Everything Sad is Untrue—one of the best books I ever read.


Rumours of a Better Country by Marsh Moyle. Rumours of a Better Country is a remarkable book written by a dear mentor of mine from L'Abri Fellowship in England named Marsh Moyle. Marsh's experiences in Eastern Europe have given him a unique cultural perspective that makes his insights about moral imagination one-of-a-kind and profound.


American Prometheus: The Triumph & Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer by Kai Bird. American Prometheus is the biography that inspired Christopher Nolan's Oppenheimer this year, and while it is a weighty tome, it's also one of the most gripping and engaging history books I've ever read.


Francis Spufford's Cahokia Jazz: A Novel.




Dave Bruno

I have enjoyed reading Karen Swallow Prior's The Evangelical Imagination. I finally got around to reading Cormac McCarthy's The Road and appreciated it.


Alastair Gordon

Stephen King's Dark Tower series was an epic slog but worth it. Ian Rankin's Inspector Rebus books too. Reading a lot of Neil Gaiman and Iain M Banks as well.


The Chronicles of Prydain series. My nephew lent me his Prydain books and I read the last one during Advent, which makes it especially poignant.


Winters in the World by Eleanor Parker. Winters is a fascinating look at how the Anglo-Saxons thought about time and how they marked the various seasons of the year (I am definitely going to sing to my trees at Twelfth Night now).


My Life in Dire Straits: The Inside Story of One of the Biggest Bands in Rock History by John Illsley. Reading books by musicians reminds you that it's not all overnight success or out-of-the-blue ability. It's hard graft, practice, and slogging it out for little or no money (Dire Straits would play to 10's of thousands and sometimes not earn a penny), more practice and hard graft. Helps me keep going!


My fave was Say Yes by Scott Erickson. The subtitle alone might pull you in: “Discover the surprising life beyond the death of a dream.”


Bringing it to the Table, Wendell Berry.


Faith, Hope, and Carnage by Nick Cave and Seán O'Hagan


Caitlin Coats

Salty: Lessons on Eating, Drinking, and Living from Revolutionary Women by Alissa Wilkinson tells the stories of nine women in history (of varying degrees of fame but equally noteworthy) and their particular beliefs in the power of food as an agent for hope, justice, community, joy, etc. It reads as a dinner party in written form—cozy, inviting, and inspiring.


You Are Not Your Own by Alan Noble The first half of the book unpacks why it is so hard to feel at peace or even human in our modern world. The second half then offers a reminder of the grace available in belonging solely to God. I will be reading this one again.


Macy Laegeler

Reforesting Faith by Matthew Sleeth, MD. It is a book about how trees can remind you of God and His goodness!


Matt Wheeler

How It Went by Wendell Berry. Berry, in his late eighties, is continuing to masterfully tell the story of the Port William membership.


Leslie Thompson


Jo Tinker

The Elliots of Damerosehay by Elizabeth Goudge.


Elly Anderson

East of Eden by John Steinbeck. Here is one of my favorite quotes from Steinbeck's masterpiece, "But the Hebrew word timshel—'Thou mayest'—that gives a choice. For if 'Thou mayest'—it is also true that 'Thou mayest not.' That makes a man great and that gives him stature with the gods, for in his weakness and his filth and his murder of his brother he has still the great choice.” I mean...COME ON. This quote doesn’t even scratch the surface of all the goodness encapsulated in this classic tale. Full of characters you cannot forget, this drama (heavily influenced by the book of Genesis) tells a thought-provoking story of the power of choice, generational curses, and humanity's quest to be great. I don’t know if many moments in literature have clung so hard to my soul than Chapter 24 (a commentary on the Cain and Abel story). I could chew on that chapter alone for a decade. This is required reading, folks!


The Many Assassinations of Samir, the Seller of Dreams, by Daniel Nayeri. We listened to this one twice (the second time as a whole family) and then bought a hard copy. When the characters stopped for rest in the shadow of "two vast and trunkless legs of stone," I geeked out. Such a fun read!


Imaginary Jesus, by Matt Mikalatos. I laughed out loud at the ridiculousness of this story and couldn't put it down. It gives theological discussions flesh and bones in action-packed scenes (like inner-tubing down a ski slope between Meticulous Jesus and Free Will Jesus while being chased by a bear) and leans into hard questions.



 

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