The Red Couch: Books Worth Reading


It’s mid-August and we’ve read some incredible books for the Red Couch this year. We’ve grappled with Original Blessing and Mujerista Theology. We’ve thought about missions and our neighbors with Dangerous Territory and The Power of Proximity. Even though it’s only August, I’ve already started compiling the lists of books that we’ll whittle down for next year.

Since becoming the editor for the Red Couch over a year ago, nearly every book I read, I read through the lens of this community. Will it spark discussion? Will this message deepen our faith? How can fiction help us interact with the world in different ways? A lot of books don’t even make the list but a lot do. It’s harder than I thought to narrow our selections to just 12 books!

I thought it would be fun to share a couple books that didn’t make the cut but which I think you should keep on your radar. There were 19 books that I wrote in my journal that just didn’t make it to the final lineup. These don’t even include books mentioned in passing as our team brainstormed options!

Of those 19 options, I’ve already read 9 of them so I thought I’d share my top 4 of those 9 with you today. These are books that just didn’t work, whether it was simply timing or that the format would have been too difficult to facilitate an online discussion. I hope you’ll check these out of the library, add them to your Amazon wishlist, or dive in right away! And if you’re ever looking for a recommendation, don’t hesitate to reach out to me or the other Red Couch contributors. We always have a stack to recommend!

One bit of housekeeping before I share the books: As we curate our selections for next year, I’d love your feedback on what is working for you in this space. I’ve created a quick survey: The Red Couch Survey. Help us continue to make the Red Couch a dynamic and useful resource for you!

This is Not a Border: Reportage & Reflection from the Palestinian Festival of Literatureedited by Ahdaf Soueif and Omar Robert Hamilton
This collection of essays, poetry, and reflection from both Palestinians and those who have learned from Palestine is a book that changed my life. I read it right after taking a continuing education class about the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and it really brought home the depth, complexity, and heartbreaking reality of what it means to be a Palestinian living in occupied territory. This book reminded me that there are no easy answers and that it is always imperative to listen to the stories of the oppressed.

Hunger: A Memoir of (My Body) by Roxane Gay
Full disclosure: I will read anything by Roxane Gay and most likely love it. After finishing this book, I wrote her a note, thanking her for this incredible memoir. Her writing makes me uncomfortable and makes me confront my biases and assumptions. And yet, Gay makes me think hard about those feelings and I come away from her essays and stories with a deeper understanding of humanity and our culture.

Counting Descent by Clint Smith
I read this stunning poetry collection after reading a series of heavy books about racism and America’s response to black lives. I needed something to help me breathe as I absorbed all I learned. Clint Smith’s poetry helped me process these heavy topics. His poems are a coninuation of the conversation of America’s response to racism and the very nature of poetry gives space for those issues to stretch and breathe. If you’re not in the habit of reading daily poetry, I’d highly recommend this practice.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
This novel follows two half-sisters and their descendants. One sister is stolen from Ghana and sold to the America slave trade. Another sister marries an English colonizer. The subsequent chapters follow the next generation of each sister. Gyasi is able to weave the generational repercussions of slavery and colonization in a vivid and thought-provoking story. This book really reminded me of the historic implications of racism and how knotted our history is.

I wish we had time to read all the books! Did you know I read three books in search of a novel about Palestine for our August read and then ended up choosing a book about immigration in America? I try to balance theology, fiction, memoir, and nonfiction. I want us to read mostly women, though men write incredible books, as well. I want to highlight people of color while remembering all the perspectives. All this to say, there are so many books out there I’d love to put into your hands and across your radars! I hope this sparks some ideas for you as you start your fall reading.

What are you reading right now?

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