Our pick of books 2017

Politicians ‘doing God’, scientists and theologians in conversation, a compelling biography of Martin Luther, and a fresh take on the Good Book. We look at 10 of the most striking books on the borders of faith and culture published in 2017.

Cover of Unbelievable?

Justin Brierley has hosted the radio show, Unbelievable? for the past 10 years, inviting atheists, sceptics (and believers) to debate arguments for and against the Christian faith. But how have all those years of discussion with Richard Dawkins, Derren Brown and others affected Brierley’s own faith? In his book of the show, Brierley tells the stories of his radio guests, and explains why (to borrow the book’s subtitle) ‘I’m still a Christian’. Published: June 2017

Cover of The Mighty and the Almighty

The Mighty and the Almighty: How Political Leaders Do God
Describing his book on religion and politics, religious commentator Nick Spencer says: ’It is striking how many global political leaders are Christian believers and how far their faith shapes and is shaped by their politics – for better or for worse.’ The book explores how leaders have done God, including Tony Blair, George W Bush, Angela Merkel, Barack Obama, Vladimir Putin, Nicholas Sarkozy and Margaret Thatcher. Published: April 2017

Cover of Martin Luther: Catholic Dissdent

Martin Luther: Catholic Dissdent
The story of Martin Luther is retold in this new biography by Catholic writer Peter Stanford, in the year which saw the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Says Melvyn Bragg: ‘Peter Stanford has written a compelling biography of one of the greatest men of the modern age. He is particularly brilliant on the tensions inside Luther’s private and spiritual life. This is a very fine biography written with a flourish.’ Published: March 2017

Cover of Crimes of the Father

Crimes of the Father
The latest novel by Thomas Keneally, author of Schindler’s Ark (which became the movie Schindler’s List) pits the church’s attempt to cover up cases of child abuse against a young priest who wants to help the victims of abuse to be heard and find justice. ‘It captures the honourable priests determined to expose the outrage and the church hierarchy equally determined to discredit them,’ said the Guardian. Published: June 2017

Cover of Black Sheep and Prodigals

Black Sheep and Prodigals: An Antidote to Black and White Religion
Written by Dave Tomlinson, ‘the villains’ vicar’ who took the funeral of the train robber Ronnie Biggs a couple of years ago, Black Sheep and Prodigals is for people who are on the edges of (or outside) mainstream religion. Tomlinson sets out to present a contemporary approach to faith, drawing on honest doubt, common sense and spiritual experience. Published: April 2017

Cover of The Name of God is Mercy

The Name of God is Mercy
Mercy is an important focus of Pope Francis’ teaching, and his book explores the themes that lie at the heart of his papacy, including reconciliation and the closeness of God. Says Time magazine, ‘Pope Francis shows in this book a compelling way to present God’s love anew to a skeptical world without denying the ancient teachings of faith.’ Published: March 2017

Cover of The Spirituality of Jane Austen

The Spirituality of Jane Austen
Drawing on Austen’s books, including Pride and Prejudice and Mansfield Park, plus her letters, friendships, and the characters she created, Paula Hollingsworth explores Austen’s gentle but strong faith and the effect it had both on her life and her writing. Published: April 2017

Cover of What is the Bible?

What is the Bible?
Controversial Christian author Rob Bell offers a fresh take on the Good Book, taking readers through its highlights and lowlights, and talking about some of the biggest questions it raises for a modern reader. Says Bell: ‘Some people see the Bible as an outdated book of primitive, barbaric fairy tales that we have moved beyond. And then there are the folks who talk about how important and central and inspired the Bible is but then butcher it with their stilted literalism and stifling interpretations. But you, I want you to read the Bible in a whole new way.’ Published: May 2017

Cover of Intimate Jesus: The Sexuality of God Incarnate

Intimate Jesus: The Sexuality of God Incarnate
Andy Angel’s book is apparently the first to open up for general readers key questions about Jesus’ experience of human sexuality and his attitude towards it in himself and others. Theologians and church leaders have historically been extremely reluctant to talk about the sexuality of Jesus at all. The book examines all the sayings and actions of Jesus and others in the Gospels which relate to sexuality, and explores their cultural context in the Jewish, Greek and Roman worlds of the 1st century. Published: May 2017

Cover of Enriching Our Vision of Reality

Enriching Our Vision of Reality
Theologian and scientist Alister McGrath writes to show theology and science in conversation, rather than at each other’s throats. Written for scientists with an interest in theology, and Christians and theologians who are aware of the importance of the natural sciences, the book includes six ‘parallel conversations’ between science and theology, which lay the groundwork for the enriched vision of reality McGrath is proposing. Published: September 2017

Photo: Dara under CC BY-NC 2.0