Since I wrote a little bit about my own faith doubts, I’ve sought out a few books on the subject as recommended by friends. Usually I have to write something out to determine how I feel about it, but often reading helps. Reading helps with everything.
When We Were on Fire by Addie Zierman (blogger at How To Talk Evangelical)
If you grew up in the church youth group culture of the 1990’s, this book will almost assuredly resonate with you. It starts on a drizzly morning of See You At the Pole and goes from there. I found myself relating to almost every aspect of this Christian memoir, from the deep and cherished circle of friends to the “called by God” boyfriend(s).
It’s a rarity to read a story that truly feels as if it was written by someone you know (when you don’t), and throughout When We Were On Fire, I frequently forgot that I’ve actually never met Addie Zierman, though we easily could have grown up in the same town.
This book was a second step for me. Over the last few years, I’ve spoken with a lot of the people I grew up with, in equal parts celebrating and commiserating our “on fire for God” pasts and the havoc that wreaked as we matured. Now reading about it from a stranger exploring the same questions brought me some comfort. Not to mention the parts that were funny, or simply a good story on its own.
If you lived this story, and I know many of us did, When We Were On Fire will bring up all kinds of emotion, for better or worse. I'm really glad I read it.
Surprised by Oxford by Carolyn Weber
Again with the comparisons: I studied at Oxford for a short session in college, and even though it was just one summer, it had a profound impact. But that’s where the similarities stopped. The author is Canadian and begins her time in England as an atheist. The book tells the story of the years she spent at Oxford and her slow and hesitant conversion to Christianity.
The writing style didn’t click with me, but I liked where this story went. I especially connected with the authority figures - most bending their stereotypes - who appeared in her life deeply and unexpectedly faith-driven. I also understood the relationships in her family who were not Christian and how that made conversations and eventually her conversion to be a tad bittersweet.
Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker
Perhaps most necessary on this list was Jen Hatmaker’s Interrupted. I read and follow Jen Hatmaker on the internet and I love the wild freedom in her writing voice. It’s refreshing for someone like me who can be more restrained. I read her book 7 last year, and I’ll be perfectly honest that I didn’t totally get it. I felt like I had missed the first act of a play. Several friends suggested that Interrupted was the missing piece, so I downloaded it before the holidays.
Interrupted is an easy read and great summation of what a lot of us are struggling with as American Christians. I’m not in ministry (clearly), so the way this shook out in the Hatmaker family was very different, but the thoughts are the same, the spiritual tension is there.
I also really liked how Jen and her husband Brandon described their marriage. Brandon lends his own voice as clarification in a few of the chapters and while that sometimes might be disconcerting in a book, but I liked it. Jen Hatmaker’s writing style could be called casual, it feels like you’re actually having a conversation with her, something I have no idea how she does and must be harder than she makes it look. Interrupted was a thinker. I wish I had read it a couple of years ago.
If you like the book posts, you can always see what I've been reading lately by clicking on the book page, or the last few are pictured in the righthand sidebar. Here's the full set of book posts and I also talk about one book each month in the HH newsletter that I don't mention anywhere else.
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