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Review of the Year 2020: books

by
18 December 2020

WHEN the first lockdown of 2020 was imposed, it was Lent, and Holy Week would be a very different experience from usual. Among the books that were put to the test during that period were the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Lent Book by Ruth Valerio; Saying Yes to Life; My Sour-Sweet Days by Mark Oakley; and The Heart Of It All by Sam Wells.

The issue of climate change in Ruth Valerio’s book was covered in others throughout the year. They included Like There’s No Tomorrow by Frances Ward; Ecopiety by Sarah McFarland Taylor; and Time to Act by Jeremy Williams.

Among other books reviewed in the Church Times during the year were The Church of England and British Politics Since 1900, edited by Tom Rodger, Philip Williamson, and Matthew Grimley; the centenary A New History of the Church in Wales, edited by Norman Doe; Irish Anglicanism 1969-2019, edited by Kenneth Milne and Paul Harron;The Church of England and Divorce in the Twentieth Century by Ann Summer Holmes; Converting Britannia by Gareth Atkins; and Making Evangelical History by Andrew Atherstone and David Ceri Jones.

Books on the Reformation included John Calvin in Context, edited by R. Ward Holder; Providence by Paul Ley; The Puritans by David D. Hall; and The Journey to the Mayflower by Stephen Tomkins.

Anglican identity was explored in A Skilfully Woven Knot by Michael Mayne, and in The Promise of Anglicanism by Robert S. Heaney and William L. Sachs.

In the category of apologetics were C. S. Lewis and the Christian Worldview by Michael L. Petersen; Only God Will Save Us by Simon Cuff; Faithful Living by Michael Leyden; Confessions of a Recovering Fundamentalist by Keith Ward; and Broken Signposts by Tom Wright. Books on the God debate included Richard Dawkins, C. S. Lewis and the Meaning of Life by Alister McGrath; Outgrowing God by Richard Dawkins; Outgrowing Dawkins by Rupert Shortt; and Seeing Ourselves by Raymond Tallis.

Preaching was the theme of Following Christ by Robert Beaken; Preaching Women by Liz Shercliff; Preaching with All Ages by Ally Barrett; and Holy Attention, edited by Frances Ward and Richard Sudworth.

Books by well-known authors included Stories We Tell Ourselves by Richard Holloway; Tragedy by Terry Eagleton; The Life of St Benedict by Rowan Williams; Revolutionary, edited by Tom Holland; History and Eschatology by N. T. Wright; and Morality by the late Jonathan Sacks.

Ageing and retirement were explored in A New Lease of Life? edited by Tony Neal and Leslie J. Francis, and in Making the Most of Retirement by Paul Beasley-Murray. End-of-life issues and the subject of loss were covered in Between Living and Dying by Ruth Scott; Lights for the Path by Madeleine Davies; and Sleeping Letters by Marie-Elsa R. Bragg.

In a year when mental health was a widespread concern, titles reviewed included Giving Up Without Giving Up by Jim Green; Wrestling With My Thoughts by Sharon Hastings; and Depression and the Divine by David C. Wilson. Books offering hope in times of crisis included The Well-Gardened Mind by Sue Stuart-Smith; The Way Under Our Feet by Graham B. Usher; Soulful Nature by Brian Draper and Howard Green; and Humankind by Rutger Bregman.

The issue of racism within the Church of England was explored in the bestselling book Ghost Ship by A. D. A. France Williams, and in Mission, Anguish and Defiance by David Isiorho.

The topics of gender and same-sex relationships were covered in The Book of Queer Prophets, edited by Ruth Hunter; Unorthodox, edited by Séan Richardson; and Why Does God Care Who I Sleep With? by Sam Allberry. Issues of equality were covered in Feminist Theology and Contemporary Dieting Culture by Hannah Bacon; Equality is Biblical by Penelope Wilcox; and Women in a Patriarchal World by Elaine Storkey.

Titles on spirituality included Send My Roots Rain by Christopher Chapman; The Spiritual Formation of Evelyn Underhill by Robyn Wrigley-Carr; Keeping Watch for Kingfishers by Jenny Wilson; and Soul Friendship by Adrian Chatfield and Nigel Rooms.

Books on the Bible included How to Read the Bible by Helen Paynter; Christobiography by Craig Keener; Matthew Within Sectarian Judaism by John Kampen; and Living with the Psalms by John L. Bell.

Theological books included Christ Unabridged, edited by George Westhaver and Rebekah Vince; Richard Hooker by Paul Anthony Dominiak; The Cambridge Companion to Augustine’s “Confessions”, edited by Tarmo Toom; A Profound Ignorance by Ephraim Radner; and Divine Bodies by Candida R. Moss. The works of a celebrated preacher, theologian, and friend of C. S. Lewis were celebrated in Austin Farrer, edited by Markus Bockmuehl and Stephen Platten.

Among titles on liturgy and worship were The Eucharistic Faith by Ralph McMichael; A Rite on the Edge by Sarah Lawrence; and Rooted and Grounded, edited by Steven Croft.

There were biographies of two prominent episcopal figures: John Habgood in Just John by David Wilbourne, and David Sheppard in Batting for the Poor by Andrew Bradstock. Memoirs included Through a Glass Darkly by Alister McGrath and One Word of Truth by Michael Bourdeaux. The Church Times published extracts from the diaries of Alan Don, edited under the title Faithful Witness by Robert Beaken. Novels reviewed included The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel; Jack by Marilynne Robinson; Damascus by Christos Tsiolkas; The Gospel of Eve by Rachel Mann; and The Anointed by Michael Arditti.

Advent titles included Frequencies of God by Carys Walsh; At Home in Advent by Gordon Giles; and The Glorious Journey by Liam Kelly.

Other books of interest reviewed in our columns included Rewilding the Church by Steve Aisthorpe Philanthropy by Paul Vallely; Westminster Abbey, edited by David Cannadine; Seeing God in Art by Richard Harries; A Theory of Everything (that Matters) by Alister McGrath; God’s Church in the World by Sarah Lucas; After Prayer by Malcolm Guite; and The Battle for Christian Britain by Callum G. Brown.

Forthcoming Events

30 January 2021
How to Rage
An online day conference reflecting on theology, activism and the church.

1 February 2021
Lent Books: Discussion and Readings
Mark Oakley takes a look at this year’s selection of Lent books.

9 February 2021
Festival of Preaching: Preaching in Lent, Holy Week and Easter
A one-day, online festival with worship, lectures and reflection.

More events

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