Ruth Clemence's Top 5 SPCK Reads of 2018
Blogger and book reviewer Ruth Clemence has read many of our books over the last year. We’ve asked her to pick her favourites.
Alister McGrath knows how to write in such a compelling, thoughtful and intelligent way that draws me in and holds my attention. This book is a collection of sermons, informal talks and public presentations on discipleship between 2010 and 2017. Using his vast subject knowledge, he is able to communicate clearly to an audience who long to grow in wisdom and hope and go deeper with their understanding of discipleship. In the first part of the book, he introduces ‘discipleship of the mind’ and in the second part, he dedicates a chapter each to the insights of Dorothy Sayers, C.S. Lewis, John Stott and J.I. Packer and how we can learn from those who have gone before us in making sense of life and faith. The final part of the book focuses on the hope we can have in dark times.
As a writer and a keen reader, it was a joy to see how much time McGrath emphasised the importance of writers who have gone before us and the role of books and theology in discipleship. McGrath also reflects upon his own experience in the natural sciences and how he became a Christian from being an atheist which I found really interesting. I recommend this book to anyone who wants to go deeper with God, learn from a brilliant scholar and this leads on nicely from his book ‘Mere Theology’.
As someone who has never experienced a miscarriage, I was not sure how much I would be able to comprehend what losing a baby is like. Jane’s book brought me closer through this 30-day devotional. Her words will resonate with anyone who has been through the loss of a baby as she has had four miscarriages herself. She leaves space to write and reflect at the end of each day, offering a prayer and a practical task which will help the reader make sense of their own individual and personal journey.
When miscarriage happens, as with a lot of suffering, I can imagine myself questioning God. That is why Jane’s book is necessary – to come alongside those who are hurting as one who understands that pain and practically demonstrate the love of God at this painful time. Despite being a devotional to help someone who has experienced a miscarriage, I personally found heaps of wisdom which could apply to other aspects of suffering, trials and pain that we can experience in life.
This book is Rachael’s personal redemptive story from twice nearly taking her own life to setting up a charity and helping others through mental health challenges. Before reading this book, I had very little understanding of what it is like to be at the depths of despair to the point of considering and attempting suicide. Her vulnerability and honesty bring the seriousness and the reality of living with mental illness to the forefront.
Her words provide needed insight into the thoughts and experiences of wrestling with depression and self-harm. It addresses unhelpful terms like ‘committing suicide’ which suggests that is a crime, further stigmatizing those with mental health difficulties. What encouraged me about this book was how God brought people into Rachael’s life who helped her through. It is important to come alongside individuals and support them by listening and not judging them. For anyone who is struggling with their mental health or supporting someone who is, I hope that Rachael’s book will bring hope and I recommend exploring her charity ThinkTwice.
4) Cycling Out of the Comfort Zone by Charles Guilhamon
Two French graduates, Charles Guilhamon and Gabriel de Lepinau, journey by bike into some of the most isolated communities in the world, they do not stay in hotels, live on a euro a day and rely on the kindness of strangers. This book is for those who love adventure, are curious about other parts of the world and are interested in exploring other faiths and culture. They live life with monks, nuns and lay people in churches and communities in Syria, Iraq, India, Turkey and more, often in places where persecution and violence is a possibility. This is a gap year with a difference.
When I started reading this book, I didn’t realise that Charles and Gabriel were Catholic. As I am not of this faith tradition, I found it insightful to find out more of how they practice their faith. I was challenged by the gracious hospitality that is so prevalent in many parts of the world, but in the West, we treat strangers with suspicion. Time and again Charles and Gabriel were met with a big welcome, food and a roof over their heads. This has made me think how can I welcome the stranger and be more hospitable and what this could look like if the West adopted a similar spirit.
This book is a brilliant read for teenage girls as they consider their value, beauty and purpose. Jessie writes in a fun, conversational style which makes it easy to read and engage with. Although it was a quick read and aimed at a younger group, I found the themes relevant for me. I still carry difficult memories from my teenage years, often look in the mirror and talk negatively about myself and still place my value in my achievements at times. This book is a fresh reminder to look at value, beauty and purpose through the lens of God and how he sees us.
Although I am closer to 30 than being a teenager now, I would have loved a book like this to help me navigate through some of the issues I encountered as a young person. I would recommend this to youth leaders and young girls who want to explore true value, beauty and purpose in a world that tries to define the parameters of these. I love that it tackles some heavy issues head-on and then goes through each section again looking at it from a biblical perspective. However, Jessie is writing to ‘the girl of no faith, the girl of the Christian faith and the girl of another faith’ – her message is for girls from all backgrounds so the tone of the book is not preachy, but encouraging.
I am really looking forward to reading God’s Biker: Motorcycles and Misfits by Sean Stillman as I love real-life stories of faith in action in the messy, broken world in which we live. As I grew up with a mum who loves motorbikes, I think this could make an excellent present, but sshhh, don’t tell her!