The top Outlook book recommendations of 2023

Whether it's in the magazine, on the website or in our monthly book newsletter, Book Review Editor Amy Pagliarella always has a reading recommendation. These are the top 10 books our readers decided to purchase in 2023.

From addressing the challenges faced by church leaders in When Church Stops Working to simplifying parliamentary procedure with Robert’s Rules of Order Fast Track, you were interested in spirituality, governance, parenting, and self-discovery in 2023.

We hope this list can encourage further reading into 2024! Delve into Howard Thurman’s teachings in What Makes You Come Alive, find solace in Meta Herrick Carlson’s Ordinary Blessings for Parents, and explore the holiness of creation with Margaret Renkl’s The Comfort of Crows. Challenge myths in the revised edition of Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality by Jack Rogers, reimagine Scripture with Kat Armas in Sacred Belonging, and connect the Psalms to the essence of Jesus in Barb Roos’s Finding Jesus in the Psalms. Arianne Braithwaite Lehn’s Ash & Starlight offers prayers for the chaos and grace of daily life, rounding off this diverse and enriching selection — picked by our readers for our readers.

1. When Church Stops Working: A Future for Your Congregation Beyond More Money, Programs, and Innovation

What are church leaders to do when church stops working? Philip J. Reed reviews Andrew Root and Blair D. Bertrand’s new book.

2. The Desert of Compassion: Devotions for the Lenten Journey

Rachel M. Srubas invites readers to follow Jesus’ example, retreating for 40 days into the “desert” to emerge as more compassionate, hopeful humans who rely on God. — Amy Pagliarella

2. Robert’s Rules of Order Fast Track: The Brief and Easy Guide to Parliamentary Procedure for the Modern Meeting

Recommended in “Who was Robert and why do his rules rule?”: Attorney and professional parliamentarian Jim Slaughter shares a brief history of Robert’s Rules of Order.

3. What Makes You Come Alive: A Spiritual Walk with Howard Thurman

What Makes You Come Alive is both a history for those who prefer to read about spirituality and a contemplative guide for those who prefer action. — Amy Pagliarella

3. Ordinary Blessings for Parents: Prayers, Poems, and Meditations for Family Life

New parents often discover that the practices that nurtured their faith during their pre-child existence can feel burdensome (even impossible) in the haze of diapers and feedings. Meta Herrick Carlson’s “ordinary blessings” are short and sweet, offering accessible truths and gentle encouragement for milestones ranging from birth or adoption to letting go.  — Amy Pagliarella

4. The Comfort of Crows: A Backyard Year 

“New York Times columnist Margaret Renkl delivers a ‘literary devotional’ that calls us to stop … peer … listen … ponder … consider — all as she describes the holiness of creation without religious language or beliefs,” writes Amy Pagliarella.

4. Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality, Revised and Expanded Edition: Explode the Myths, Heal the Church (Revised, Expanded)

By revisiting Bible passages commonly used against gay people (sometimes known as “clobber” passages) Jack Rogers offers that the biblical witness is more nuanced than we’ve been led to believe.

4. Sacred Belonging: A 40-Day Devotional on the Liberating Heart of Scripture

In Sacred Belonging, Cuban-American writer Kat Armas invites us to reimagine Scripture with new perspectives and by reading in close connection with Indigenous and other cultures. — Amy Pagliarella

5. Finding Jesus in the Psalms: A Lenten Journey

Barb Roos connects six psalms with the ways we understand Jesus – as our shepherd, our hope and strength, and ultimately as our Savior—and she lovingly suggests that the Psalmists’ words can reach us when no one else can. — Amy Pagliarella

5. Ash & Starlight: prayers for the chaos & grace of daily life 

This is referenced in “When I’m longing for peace, within and without: A prayer” by Arianne Braithwaite Lehn, the author of Ash and Starlight.

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