Even with all of the technology at our fingertips, there’s still nothing quite like settling down into your favorite chair with your favorite beverage and losing yourself in a good book, be it an intriguing work of non-fiction or a wildly imaginative fictional title.
Below are our favorite books of 2023, including an examination of feminism, musings on culture and psychology, space opera, and a tribute to Timothy Keller.
Built from the Fire: The Epic Story of Tulsa’s Greenwood District, America’s Black Wall Street by Victor Luckerson
This work of history reads like an epic novel, as Luckerson takes us through several generations of Black families who dreamed and worked and created a thriving community, and then literally watched it all go up in smoke. But their story doesn’t end with the horrific tragedy of the Tulsa Race Massacre. In this riveting account, it carries on to the present day, as those citizens and their descendants keep fighting for a new community and their chance at justice.
Feminism Against Progress by Mary Harrington
“Descartes would never have come up with the idea of a mind-body split if he got PMS once a month,” quips Mary Harrington, a self-described “reactionary feminist” who memes first and asks questions later. Her book Feminism Against Progress is as full of zingers as it is of scholarship, historical arguments, and insights borne from having “liberalled about as hard as it’s possible to liberal,” only to find the logic of genderqueer freedom and bodily autonomy collapse upon contact with motherhood. The experience of growing another person in your own guts (as she puts it) made her question the familiar feminist vision of “progress.”
Harrington sees feminism as an adaptation to the Industrial Revolution’s underbelly, which moved work out of the home and into factories and offices, destroying age-old, cooperative gendered divisions of labor, and forcing men and women into direct competition. This prompted a bifurcated reaction: the feminism of freedom (achieve personal autonomy and market equality with men by flattening sex differences) and the feminism of care (preserve interdependence and relationships by honoring embodied sex differences). The Pill and abortion make women less vulnerable to “intrusive” caring duties, casting a vision of personhood opposed to interdependence. Libertarian biotech further erases sex differences, dismantling the family and the human body for parts. The sexual marketplace “wag[es] war on every form of relationship…replacing it with freedom and trade.” Feminism’s effort to eradicate sexed differences “as baseless stereotypes in the name of furthering that freedom, has succeeded only in shaping what’s for sale.” Market forces have even shaped the evangelical fight over “biblical womanhood” and “women’s roles.” The economy eats us all through its progress theology, even the church.
Harrington’s provocative chapters—“Sex and the Market,” “Cyborg Theocracy,” “Meat Lego Gnosticism,” “Abolish Big Romance,” “Let Men Be,” “Rewilding Sex”—have something spicy and dystopian for everyone.
Hidden Potential by Adam Grant
“The best way to accelerate growth is to embrace, seek, and amplify discomfort,” writes bestselling author Adam Grant. This lesson comes from the first chapter of his book, Hidden Potential: The Science of Achieving Greater Things. In the pages that follow, Grant radically challenges and reframes understandings of growth, potential, and greatness. He focuses in particular on growth in the face of adversity or disadvantage. Grant is a professor and organizational psychologist. His book Think Again was a #1 New York Times Bestseller and his TED Talks and TED Podcast have millions of views and downloads. While there are scientific elements to his book—as the title and “diamond from coal” cover art suggest—his gripping storytelling drives much of the momentum in the book. Grant powerfully illustrates the concepts in his book with compelling stories of people whose achievement came through unlocking potential in unexpected ways.
How to Know a Person by David Brooks
This is David Brooks’ first book since his conversion to Christianity and probably his best. It’s got all the typical Brooksian musings about culture, psychology, and moral formation, only without the cynicism and nudges of authorial superiority that weigh down his earlier bibliographical entries. How to Know a Person is a nonfiction book that crystallizes the beauty in objectivity through stories, raw emotion, personality, and pageants of legitimate character change. To call it beautiful is an understatement: it reeks of this strangely magnetic maturity from a guy who’s lived a lot of life and learned a lot of interesting things but knows how to filter out the superfluous and give you just the things that really matter.
Lords of Uncreation by Adrian Tchaikovsky
Ever since I finished reading James S. A. Corey’s The Expanse series back in 2022, I’ve been looking for something to scratch that “space opera” itch. On a whim, I began reading Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Final Architecture trilogy, and it had everything I was looking for. Galaxy-spanning action and intrigue? Check. A colorful cast of characters centered on a ragtag bunch of ne’er-do-wells who have the odds stacked against them? Check. Bizarre alien lifeforms and phenomena, including giant oysters that are worshiped as gods and a planet where the light is deadly? Check. An otherworldly threat that could spell the end of everything? Check.
But what really drew me to Tchaikovsky’s novels—including Lords of Uncreation, which wrapped up the trilogy last May—was its protagonist, a broken-down war veteran who’d give anything to be rid of the uncanny gift that could make him the galaxy’s savior. If it doesn’t drive him mad first, that is. Sci-fi can so easily lend itself to power fantasies and epic “chosen one” sagas. But Lords of Uncreation and the rest of the Final Architecture trilogy undermines that even as it indulges in some truly epic and fantastical storytelling.
Losing Our Religion: An Altar Call for Evangelical America by Russell Moore
At one point in this incisive analysis of the present state of American evangelicalism, Russell Moore writes, “As one segregationist church elder in Jim Crow-era Birmingham reportedly said: ‘To hell with Christian principles—we’ve got to save the church!’” That one quote captures all the heartache of Christians who’ve spent the last several years watching their co-religionists throw principles overboard in a desperate bid for political power. But Moore doesn’t sink into despair; despite all he’s witnessed, he still holds out hope for a repentant people and a renewed church.
Nobody’s Mother: Artemis of the Ephesians in Antiquity and the New Testament by Sandra L. Glahn
If you’re confused by Paul’s words to Timothy about women being “saved through childbearing,” join the club: I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who wasn’t confused by it. Sandra L. Glahn does a truly impressive job of providing historical, theological, and mythological context for this strange passage, helping us to understand it as people of that time would have understood it, and in the process throwing light on God’s value and purpose for women.
Timothy Keller: His Spiritual and Intellectual Formation by Collin Hansen
In May 2023, one of the most prolific and impactful pastor-theologians of the 21st Century passed away. But months before then—and years in the making—Collin Hansen wrote a peculiar biography of sorts on Timothy Keller’s life. Rather than centralizing the book on Keller’s achievements and accolades (though they are highlighted), Hansen tells the story from influences on Keller’s life and ministry, offering a glimpse into the humble personality of the biography’s subject.
The result is a fascinating survey of Keller’s early formation, from college to his pastorate in a small Virginia town, to planting Redeemer Church in New York City, to becoming a best-selling author, and beyond. Hansen weaves influences and key moments throughout the story effortlessly, providing an intimate and honest look at Keller’s life, while highlighting the shoulders of the great Christians he stood atop his entire life. Since his passing, Hansen’s biography has become a key work honoring the growth of one of the best Christian thinkers of the century.