Welcome to the Red Couch Book Club!
The Red Couch is a place for us to gather and discuss the books, ideas, and authors that matter. Our name was inspired by the red couch sitting in Idelette’s living room and it’s a symbol of what we hope this book club will be.
There’s something about reading that brings people together, as we discuss themes, process ideas, and grapple with how or whether it applies to our lives.
We read books that stretch and grow us into understanding. Books that allow us to grapple with hard questions and wrestle with the realities of faith. We read a variety of genres, from fiction to memoir to poetry. We read books by women and global voices and those with diverse backgrounds.
We might not always come to the same conclusions. We might not always agree. Differences of opinion are welcome here because we are with and for each other.
Take a seat and make yourself comfortable. We can’t wait to hear your thoughts.
The Irrational Season– Madeleine L’Engle
Book 3 of L’Engles nonfiction Crosswick Journals, The Irrational Season takes us through the church calendar starting in Advent. Now it might make more sense to start reading this book in December but I like the idea of reflecting on the Advent we just had and then setting the tone for the year we’re going to have.
Between The World And Me– Ta-Nahesi Coates
If you’re not already familiar with Ta-Nahesi Coates’s name, then prepare for your life to change. TNC came onto many more people’s radar after writing The Case For Reparations for The Atlantic. He is a talented writer and journalist, often tackling matters of race. Between the World and Me is his second memoir. Written as a letter to his teenage son, Coates weaves his childhood growing up in Baltimore, attending Howard University, finding his place in the world with the history of racism in America. It is at once an intimate glimpse into the relationship between a father and son and a framework for understanding and discussing one of the greatest issues we face today. We are partnering with Deidra Riggs’ Forward Book Club for this discussion.
Journals can serve as a record of how far we’ve come and as guides for where we want to go. Whether you’ve kept a journal since childhood or barely keep a grocery list, Life Path will help us explore the connection between writing and spiritual growth.
I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up For Education And Was Shot By The Taliban– Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb
Malala did a dangerous thing: she went to school, even after the Taliban took control of her town in Pakistan. They shot her at point-blank range but she survived. She survived and she continues to speak out about the rights of girls in Pakistan. At 16, she was the youngest nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize. Her courage should inspire us all.
Too Heavy a Yoke: Black Women And The Burden Of Strength– Chanequa Walker-Barnes
I first learned about this book through Christena Cleveland (author of our January 2015 book Disunity in Christ.) She wrote, “Meanwhile, the Strong Black Woman identity, which at first glance seems like a positive identity, has wreaked havoc on black women’s emotional, physical, spiritual and relational health. In an attempt to escape one set of racist/sexist stereotypes, black women have run smack dab into another stereotype, one that is also maintained by societal racism and sexism. The Strong Black Woman identity continues to ensnare black women like myself, as we work to disprove the racist stereotypes that society simply refuses to relinquish.”
Cleveland says Too Heavy A Yoke is for anyone who is a black woman or who cares for black women. That is to say–it’s for all of us.
I can’t do better than the Amazon description: “Part Augustine, part Jane Austen with a side of Anne Lamott, Okoro attempts to reconcile her theological understanding of God’s call to community with her painful and disappointing experiences of community in churches where she often felt unseen, pigeon-holed or out of place. At turns snarky and luminous, laugh-out loud funny and vulnerably poignant, Reluctant Pilgrim is the no-holds barred account of a woman who prays to savor God’s goodness and never be satisfied; a daring, insightful and deeply moving field guide for the curious, the confused and the convicted.”
Disunity in Christ: Uncovering the Hidden Forces that Keep Us Apart by Christena Cleveland
Why are divisions an inherent part of the Body of Christ? Why do we tend to stick with those who look, act, and think like us? Why do we tend to distrust or write off those who are different from us? A social psychologist, Cleveland opens our eyes to the reasons behind conflict and division. She gives us the tools for building bridges and exposes why we need more than a heart for unity for it to actually happen. If you’re not familiar with Christena Cleveland‘s work, you’re in for a treat and perhaps a wake-up call.
The book copy says it all: “In 1967, Bashir Al-Khayri, a Palestinian twenty-five-year-old, journeyed to Israel, with the goal of seeing the beloved old stone house, with the lemon tree behind it, that he and his family had fled nineteen years earlier. To his surprise, when he found the house he was greeted by Dalia Ashkenazi Landau, a nineteen-year-old Israeli college student, whose family fled Europe for Israel following the Holocaust. On the stoop of their shared home, Dalia and Bashir began a rare friendship, forged in the aftermath of war and tested over the next thirty-five years in ways that neither could imagine on that summer day in 1967…Sandy Tolan brings the Israeli-Palestinian conflict down to its most human level, suggesting that even amid the bleakest political realities there exist stories of hope and reconciliation.”
What better way to prepare ourselves for Easter than to journey through these pages? The book is structured around the liturgical calendar and the Rule of St. Benedict, which centers on peace, prayer, and work. It’s not just about spirituality or motherhood or prayer. It is all these things but it is really one woman’s journey of discovery. It is about how Micha grew to know God in a whole new way. Her openness and honesty about this process is a gift to us, no matter how similar or different our lives may be.
Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson
Stevenson founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a nonprofit legal practice dedicated to serving the poor, the marginalized, the downtrodden. The book is part memoir, part treatise on the state of the legal system. We follow the story of Walter, a man on Alabama’s Death Row who proclaims his innocence, and meet Stevenson’s other clients as he built his practice in the 1980s and the good work they continue to do to this day. Watch his TED talk and be inspired. We are all more than our worst mistake.
Some of our SheLovelys went to the Simply Jesus conference in April and this book will introduce us to some of what they’ll hear, speak about, and learn. With this book, McLaren invites us to have a new experience of Jesus. We’ll explore the transforming power of the Gospel and what that means for us today.
Embracing the Body: Finding God in Our Flesh and Bone by Tara M. Owens
How often do you meet a woman who is completely content with her body? Women are more likely to focus on their body’s flaws or ignore their body altogether. The start of summer makes this book a timely read. Owens invites us to see our bodies in a new light and to consider how our bodies can help us draw nearer to God. It will be good practice for us to see how the physical and spiritual are irrevocably intertwined.
Silence by Shusaku Endo
Set in 17th century Japan, Silence follows the travels of a Jesuit missionary during a time of great persecution of Christians. I read this with my book club several years ago and the ensuing discussion of faith, apostasy, God’s silence, and persecution was among our most rousing and fascinating. This book is a classic in the best sense.
Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr
This is our first Young Adult selection and it comes highly recommended. We unfortunately often put pastors and their families on pedestals so what happens when you’re the pastor’s daughter and your mom is in rehab due to a DUI? Sam struggles to know whether God exists in light of her circumstances, especially when a local girl is kidnapped. Zarr writes deftly about hope and despair and how to face life when life as you know it has entirely changed.
The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo
A masterpiece, The Alchemist introduces us to an Andalusian shepherd boy who longs to travel in search of treasure. What he finds along the way will surprise him and also offer timely insights for our own lives.
One Church, Many Tribes by Richard Twiss
If you’re not already familiar with Richard Twiss, it’s time to acquaint yourself. Twiss was a member of the Sicangu Lakota Oyate and co-founder and president of Wiconi International, an organization providing education, encouragement, and support to Native American families, up until his untimely death in 2013. In One Church, Many Tribes, Twiss examines the complicated and often broken relationship between the church and Native/indigenous people, while also giving us a vision of what could be. A vision in which the First Nations people play a vital and vibrant role in how we understand God, creation, and community.
Take This Bread: A Radical Conversion by Sara Miles
Miles was not a likely candidate for darkening a church door but she somehow found herself there and the act of eating the bread and drinking the cup transformed her. That first communion changed her and eventually led to her starting a food pantry at that same church, which ultimately changed the food pantry landscape in San Francisco. Miles writes about communion, faith, and poverty unlike anyone else. Hers is an unconventional life and faith and we would do well to pay attention.
A Widening Light: Poems of the Incarnation edited by Lucy Shaw
This poetry collection will help us prepare our hearts for Advent. Instead of a discussion, the Red Couch team will offer a reflection on their favorite poems and we’ll invite you to do the same.
Jesus Feminist by our very own Sarah Bessey.
Bessey offers a thoughtful response and reasoned wisdom regarding the intersection of faith and feminism. Hers is a prophetic voice of what is and what could be for those who want to live out their giftedness and calling.
God Has A Dream by Desmond Tutu
Part letter, part essay, Tutu gives us a vision of God’s dream for humanity and what could be, especially the justice, reconciliation, and love the world so desperately needs.
Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo
Investigative journalist Katherine Boo met with the people of the Annawadi slum in India for years in order to tell their story. The citizens of Annawadi strive for a better tomorrow, in spite of what many of us would call abject circumstances. There are hard stories but there are also beautiful stories. We have much to learn if we will choose to listen.
If you haven’t watched Brené’s TedTalk on The Power of Vulnerability, you should go ahead and do that now. Brown has changed the way we look at and talk about shame and vulnerability.
Getting Involved with God: Rediscovering the Old Testament by Ellen Davis
An accessible, gentle introduction, this is an engaging read for those wanting to better know the Old Testament.
A powerful look at the relationship between food and faith. It is equal parts manifesto and meditation. A perfect read as gardens bloom and produce abounds.
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
We meet Nigerian woman Ifemelu and her first love Obinze over the course of 15 years in this compelling novel. Ifemelu’s studies take her to America but when Obinze is unable to follow her, their lives are forever changed. Americanah raises many questions about race, class, gender, immigration, and worldview.
A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
A story of faith, grief, fate, and friendship, this is by no means a Christian book but it is nonetheless rich with spiritual undertones and Christological references. You’ve never encountered a character like Owen Meany before and chances are you’ll never forget him.
Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion by Elizabeth L. Cline
Just in time for The September Issue to fill up your mailbox! While we consider fall fashion, Overdressed will help us examine the ethics of shopping and the ways clothing affects our economy, our world, and us.
An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor
Taylor shows us how we can find the holy in the mundane and gives us eyes to see the sacred in our every day. It is part memoir, part manifesto and guide. If you’ve never read BBT before, you’re in for a treat.
Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg
Whether or not you call yourself a writer, you’ll be moved and changed by Goldberg’s insights on writing as a spiritual practice.
A month of rest: no book discussion.