Donate to RNS

The most intriguing books on religion we read in 2022

Pushing the boundaries of what faith can and should be, this year’s best religion and spirituality reads offer everything except predictability.

Image by 200 Degrees/Pixabay/Creative Commons

(RNS) — As America’s religious terrain continues to shift, the books we found most provocative or courageous this year explored unexpected ways of experiencing God — for better and, arguably, worse. Some are finding God in the “techtopia” of Silicon Valley, Carolyn Chen warns, while Amy Kenny invites readers to consider a disabled God who uses a wheelchair.

Experts also fleshed out fresh theologies grounded in lived experience, welcoming people of faith to confront what it means to do ministry on stolen land or to honor the divinity of one’s body.

At the same time, 2022 proved to be a year of reflection. Memoirs shared hard-won lessons about everything from Mormon marriage to confronting racism and nurturing Jewish-Christian relations. Pushing the boundaries of what faith can and should be, this year’s best religion and spirituality reads offer everything except predictability.

This post contains affiliate links.

Author Wajahat Ali and the cover of his book, "Go Back To Where You Came From: And Other Helpful Recommendations on Becoming American" (Photo by Damon Dahlen, Huffington Post)

Author Wajahat Ali and the cover of his book, “Go Back to Where You Came From: And Other Helpful Recommendations on How to Become American” (Photo by Damon Dahlen, Huffington Post)

Go Back to Where You Came From
By Wajahat Ali

In this memoir, Ali writes with righteous anger, vulnerability and warmth as he recounts his childhood in an immigrant community and emergence as a kind of spokesperson for students at the University of California, Berkeley, after the 9/11 attacks. He also describes heart-wrenching personal trials, including the cancer diagnosis of his 2-year-old daughter. All the while, Ali writes with abiding affection for his family, his immigrant Pakistani community and his Muslim faith.
Read more about this book.

Author Cole Arthur Riley and her new book "This Here Flesh." Photo and cover courtesy of Riley

Author Cole Arthur Riley and her new book, “This Here Flesh.” Photo and cover courtesy of Riley

This Here Flesh: Spirituality, Liberation and the Stories That Make Us
By Cole Arthur Riley

The creator of the viral Black Liturgies Instagram account — a page dedicated to Black-centered spiritual reflections — published her first book this year. Part memoir and part theological reflection, the book harnesses illuminating family stories to ponder spiritual questions about dignity, belonging, rage and rest.
Read more about this book.

“Work Pray Code: When Work Becomes Religion in Silicon Valley" and author Carolyn Chen. Courtesy images

“Work Pray Code: When Work Becomes Religion in Silicon Valley” and author Carolyn Chen. Courtesy images

Work Pray Code: When Work Becomes Religion in Silicon Valley
By Carolyn Chen

Chen, a sociologist and professor of ethnic studies at the University of California, Berkeley, examines how high-skilled workers have disinvested from organized religion and are instead finding belonging, identity, purpose and transcendence at the office. “Techtopia,” she writes, “is corroding the collective capacity to build and sustain the common good.”
Read more about this book.

“Body Becoming: A Path to Our Liberation" and author Robyn Henderson-Espinoza. Courtesy images

“Body Becoming: A Path to Our Liberation” and author Roberto Che Espinoza. Courtesy images

Body Becoming: A Path to Our Liberation
By Roberto Che Espinoza

An ordained Baptist minister and an activist theologian, Espinoza’s latest book on embodiment aims to take theology to the streets. “It’s important for me as a trans person, as Latinx, to take place and to bear witness, that even someone like me can follow the ways of Jesus and maybe imagine another possible world,” Espinoza, who has come out as Roberto Che Espinoza since publishing the book, told Religion News Service.
Read more about this book.

"Baba Yaga's Book of Witchcraft: Slavic Magic from the Witch of the Woods" and author Madame Pamita. Photo by Chris Strother

“Baba Yaga’s Book of Witchcraft: Slavic Magic From the Witch of the Woods” and author Madame Pamita. Photo by Chris Strother

Baba Yaga’s Book of Witchcraft: Slavic Magic from the Witch of the Woods
By Madame Pamita 

A collection of ancient and modern Slavic magical practices, this compilation — gathered by a witch and member of the Ukrainian diaspora — was released just after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It centers on the figure of Baba Yaga, a witch who lives in a hut on chicken legs in Slavic folks stories.
Read more about this book.

“My Body Is Not a Prayer Request" and author Amy Kenny. Courtesy images

“My Body Is Not a Prayer Request” and author Amy Kenny. Courtesy images

My Body is Not a Prayer Request: Disability Justice in the Church
By Amy Kenny

Kenny, a disabled scholar and Shakespeare lecturer, combines humor and personal anecdotes with biblical reflections to show how disabilities, far from being a failure of nature or the Divine, point to God’s vastness. Abolishing ableism, she concludes, benefits disabled and nondisabled people alike.
Read more about this book.

The Rev. Sen. Raphael Warnock and his new book, "A Way Out of No Way." Portrait by Kevin Lowery; Courtesy book cover

Sen. Raphael Warnock and his new book, “A Way Out of No Way.” Portrait by Kevin Lowery; Courtesy book cover

A Way Out of No Way: A Memoir of Truth, Transformation, and the New American Story
By Raphael Warnock

Warnock’s efforts on Capitol Hill as a U.S. senator, including attempts to expand access to Medicaid and cap the cost of insulin, are rooted in the same faith that charges his vocation as a pastor, he reveals in his memoir. “I do this work because I preach, after all, every Sunday morning in honor of a man who spent much of his ministry healing the sick, even those with preexisting conditions,” he told RNS.
Read more about this book.

Author Graciela Mochkofsky and her new book, "The Prophet of the Andes." Courtesy images

Author Graciela Mochkofsky and her new book, “The Prophet of the Andes.” Courtesy images

The Prophet of the Andes: An Unlikely Journey to the Promised Land
By Graciela Mochkofsky

This new book by Argentine journalist Mochkofsky tells the story of a Peruvian farmer’s spiritual quest through various Protestant groups to Judaism. The deeply reported book also explores the emergence of dozens of congregations of people living as Jews in Latin America, a movement that is singular in the history of Judaism. 
Read more about this book.

“Learning Our Names" Image courtesy of InterVarsity Press

“Learning Our Names.” Image courtesy of InterVarsity Press

Learning Our Names: Asian American Christians on Identity, Relationships, and Vocation
By Sabrina S. Chan, Linson Daniel, E. David de Leon and La Thao 

Amid an unprecedented escalation of anti-Asian hate crimes, these authors invite readers into the richness and complexity of Asian American experiences, all from a Christian lens. Integrating unique elements from their East Asian, Southeast Asian and South Asian backgrounds, the authors combine personal stories with research and biblical texts to provide a powerful tool for discernment.
Read more about this book.

Author Patty Krawec and the cover of “Becoming Kin: An Indigenous Call to Unforgetting the Past and Reimagining Our Future." Courtesy images

Author Patty Krawec and the cover of “Becoming Kin: An Indigenous Call to Unforgetting the Past and Reimagining Our Future.” Courtesy images

Becoming Kin: An Indigenous Call to Unforgetting the Past and Reimagining Our Future
By Patty Krawec

Krawec’s debut book invites readers to “unforget” the history of what is now Canada and the United States from Indigenous and Black perspectives. Drawing on her own Ojibwe roots, she writes about the unexpected resonance between Indigenous beliefs and Christianity and calls Christians to reckon with what it means to preach a gospel of grace on stolen land.
Read more about this book.

"On Repentance and Repair: Making Amends in an Unapologetic World" and author Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg. Courtesy images

“On Repentance and Repair: Making Amends in an Unapologetic World” and author Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg. Courtesy images

On Repentance and Repair: Making Amends in an Unapologetic World
By Danya Ruttenberg

Ruttenberg thinks the work of repentance is sadly lacking in American society. The rabbi’s new book uses present-day examples to unpack the Jewish system of repentance as codified by the 12th-century Jewish sage, Moses Maimonides. Along the way, she points out that in Judaism, repentance is often more important than forgiveness.
Read more about this book.

Rachel Rueckert, author of “East Winds.” Photo courtesy of Rueckert

Rachel Rueckert, author of “East Winds.” Photo courtesy of Rueckert

East Winds: A Global Quest to Reckon With Marriage
By Rachel Rueckert

In her new memoir, 33-year-old Rueckert reflects on the messages she received as a Mormon girl about what her adult life “should” look like. Now the editor-in-chief of a Mormon feminist magazine, Rueckert chronicles her attempts to remain faithful to her Mormon roots while also spreading her wings beyond the scripts her culture gave her.
Read more about this book.



By RNS authors:

Red Lip Theology: For Church Girls Who’ve Considered Tithing to the Beauty Supply Store When Sunday Morning Isn’t Enough
By RNS columnist Candice Marie Benbow

This collection of essays elucidates what Benbow calls “red lip theology,” designed by and for Black millennial women of faith formed “as much by the church as hip-hop culture,” she told RNS. Benbow both loves and critiques the Black church, and beckons Black women into a holistic theology that rejects shame.
Read more about this book.

The People in the Room: Rabbis, Nuns, Pastors, Popes, and Presidents
By RNS columnist Rabbi James Rudin

Rudin, 87, had a front-row seat to all the major developments in Jewish-Christian relations in the second half of the 20th century. His memoir chronicles his many travels — 42 times across the Atlantic — and meetings with global leaders as he worked to give Jews a measure of dignity and respect they were often denied.
Read more about this book.

The Light We Give: How Sikh Wisdom Can Transform Your Life
By RNS columnist Simran Jeet Singh

As a turbaned and bearded Sikh American, Singh has spent his life confronting animosity because of his appearance. Instead of responding in kind, he leans into the Sikh teachings of compassion and service, seeing the humanity even in those who hate him.
Read more about this book.

Celebrities for Jesus: How Personas, Platforms, and Profits Are Hurting the Church
By Saved by the City podcast co-host Katelyn Beaty

At a time when many Christian leaders are falling from grace, Beaty, an award-winning journalist who co-hosts RNS podcast Saved by the City, observes how evangelical culture’s fixation on celebrity can corrupt the gospel. Examining the stories of disgraced leaders such as Mark Driscoll, Carl Lentz and Ravi Zacharias, Beaty offers ordinary faithfulness as an alternate model for fame and influence.

Reorganized Religion: The Reshaping of the American Church and Why It Matters
By RNS national reporter Bob Smietana

As organized religion wanes in the U.S., a new American religious landscape is emerging. Veteran religion reporter and RNS national reporter Smietana fuses personal anecdotes with polling data, research and interviews to assess how religious institutions are reinventing themselves for a pluralistic, multicultural future where no one faith group will dominate.



This post has been updated.

Donate to Support Independent Journalism!

Donate Now!