The Red Couch: 2019 Book Selections


I don’t know about you but 2018 just zipped by! I can’t believe we’re already announcing our Red Couch selections for 2019. (And, if I’m honest, I’m already thinking about what we’ll be reading in 2020…) The books we read this year were some of my favorites and, as always, I’m amazed at the timing of each. Sometimes I wonder if I’m sorting through the titles well or putting them in the best month and am in awe of how world events, personal epiphanies, and discussions in SheLoves all seem to support and extend the conversation through the titles we read.

This year, we’re trying something new. We’ll be doing six official books as well as our six “off month” books that we’ll discuss exclusively in our Facebook group. We’ll also be reading “six-month books.” These titles are ones that take a little longer to read. They are rich and slow and are meant to be savored. I’ll introduce them in an off-month but we’ll return to the themes throughout the subsequent months, as we take our time.

I really tried to ask the question, Who is telling this story? as I picked the books. Could the same idea be told from the point of view of an Indigenous woman or a person of color? As I thought about themes and ideas, I tried to dig into the gaps in my own point of view and hopefully, this will help us all view stories in new ways.

As we do every year, there’s been some turnover on our contributing team so I want to take a moment to introduce you to our Red Couch writers for this year. I’m pleased that Carolina Hinojosa-Cisneros, Debby Hudson, Jaime Watkins, Liana Norheim, Maya Dean, Melissa Powell, and Nicole Walters are continuing to gift us with their perspectives. Please welcome Sheli Massie, Kathleen Bertrand, Carrie Kuba, and A.J. Smit to our team!

One last note: I’ve linked each title to their Amazon description so you can read the official synopsis there. I’ve decided to tell you a bit about why I’ve chosen each title in the paragraph following. I’ve also made sure that each of these books are available at the library. (At least, here in Denver!) Let me know if you have any questions and I look forward to reading along with you this year!

Without further ado, here are our 2019 books!


Raise Your Voice: Why We Stay Silent and How to Speak Up by Kathy Khang

I wanted to start the year out with Kathy Khang’s powerful words. You’ll remember that she gave an interview with us when this book first came out and after reading it, I knew that it would be the one to frame our year. Kathy invites us to recognize the ways in which our personal voices have been excluded from conversations and encourages women to bravely join the discussion.


The Very Good Gospel: How Everything Wrong Can Be Made Right by Lisa Sharon Harper

I had the honor of joining Lisa on a pilgrimage last month and she preached part of this book from the same pulpit that Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony ignited the women’s suffrage movement. Lisa helps reframe our view of the original message in Genesis. She reminds us that we are not born into a gospel of condemnation but a gospel of goodness. This is the perfect continuation of the conversation started with Original Blessing from this past January.


Love Undocumented: Risking Trust in a Fearful World by Sarah Quezada

This is one of two books written by white women but I think Sarah’s particular perspective is important. Married to an undocumented immigrant, Sarah is able to speak to immigration reform in personal and profound ways. In this highly charged conversation, I think it’s important to bring personal stories and experiences to fill in our political understanding.


The Next Worship: Glorifying God in a Diverse World by Sandra Van Opstal

Writing from the perspective as a worship leader at a multiethnic church, Sandra makes the biblical case for the essential need for multicultural worship. Using the context of the table of hospitality, she walks her readers through the importance of creating space for all “tribes and tongues.” Her reminders go far beyond words for church leaders – this is a message we can bring into our homes and daily lives.


No Other Gods: The Politics of the Ten Commandments by Ana Levy-Lyons

You may remember reading Ana’s interview here at the Red Couch last May. No Other Gods was one of my favorite reads this past year. Ana takes the ten commandments and puts them both in their historical context and in a contemporary context. She breaks down misconceptions that have turned this set of guidelines from ways of connecting with God to ways of living in a black and white world. I came away refreshed and looking for new ways in which I can incorporate these commandments into my own modern life.


Once We Were Strangers: When Friendship with a Syrian Refugee Taught Me about Loving My Neighbor by Shawn Smucker

This memoir of a man and his Syrian neighbor seems especially timely as we lean into discussions about refugees and immigrants. Especially on the heels of No Other Gods, I think this reflection of loving our neighbor will be one that will help guide us into the holidays. How are we keeping our eyes open for everyday connections of the stranger in our land? How do we live out the message of love and belonging?

Some of our off-months include:

Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Walls Kimmerer (This will be our first six-month book.)

Justice and Only Justice: A Palestinian Theology of Liberation by Naim Ateek

The Heaviness of Things That Float by Jennifer Manuel

These are a sampling of our off-month books. Check in with our Facebook group to keep up-to-date on those, as well as any other bookish discussions!

Which books stand out for you? Were there any already on your to-read stack? We look forward to hearing your voice in our discussions!


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