My 5 Book Recommendations for 2023
Updated: Jan 18
1. The Green Bible, published by Harper One
If you don’t have a copy of this Bible on your bookshelf, you’re missing out on a great resource that highlights the “greenness” of God's Word. Utilizing the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), The Green Bible literally uses a green font in verses that speak to creation, land, water, food and all nature. What becomes apparent is how the Bible is filled with references, commands, warnings and instructions about the earth. For example, in Leviticus God gave instructions to leave some of the harvest of the land for the poor: “You shall not reap to the very edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest....you shall leave them for the poor and the alien” (Lev 19:9).
Not only does The Green Bible highlight the greenness of the Bible, it has some wonderful resources for deeper study. It has introductory articles written by leading Catholic, Evangelical, Mainline and Jewish scholars and faith leaders. Added to this is an array of quotes from church fathers and Christians throughout the ages from Athanasius and Augustine to C.S. Lewis and Pope Francis. At the end, are several helpful guides on how to use this Bible in small study groups, committees and others who are trying to figure out how to help the church become better stewards of the earth as an act of faithfulness to God.
Like all Bibles, The Green Bible is expensive when purchased new, but if you are willing to buy a used one, like me, then you’ll find a great deal. If you are a Kindle person, which I am not, you can download one for under $10.
2. Making Peace with the Land, by Fred Bahnson and Norman Wirzba
Scott Hovey introduced me to this book when he was leading his congregation, St. John’s Baptist Church in Raleigh, through a study and assessment of their creation care ministries. I have chosen to follow suit and use this as a book study with churches with whom I am working. Bahnson and Wirzba make the case that we have lost our ability to care for creation as directed in the Bible because we have become so far removed from the land. We buy our food at grocery stores and eat at restaurants, so we don’t see vegetables grow and don’t see behind the curtain of the deplorable ways animals are treated. This is a very accessible book for lay people in congregations to help them think about the ordinary things like cooking and eating, becoming sacred events again. It might even inspire us to have more meaningful prayers around the dinner table, not for show, but out of gratitude for the myriad ways God’s earth supplies our needs.
3. Stewards of Eden: What Scripture Says About the Environment And Why It Matters, by Sandra Richter
Sandra Richter (PhD., Harvard University) has crafted a treasure for the church and anyone interested in the long-term welfare of the earth in her latest book Stewards of Eden: What Scripture Says About The Environment And Why It Matters. Riveting from beginning to end, I could hardly put the 157 page book down. In a thorough and fair-minded survey of the Bible, Richter breaks down the covenant theology of Israel, fulfilled in Jesus Christ, regarding how Israel was to use its land and care for God’s creatures through wise land management with an eye toward the future and mindful of the poor. Perhaps most importantly, she undermines the misguided theology that leads so many in the church to sever the end goal of “going to heaven” from faithful living in the kingdom of God.
4. Silent Spring Revolution, by Douglas Brinkley
Best-selling historian, Douglas Brinkley has crafted a story of the environmental movement of the Long Sixties (1960-1973) and how three presidents (Johnson, Kennedy and Nixon) got on board. It’s important to know there was a time when Republicans were not reflexively opposed to environmentalism. Douglas notes, for example that the Clean Air Act of 1970 was passed in the House 374 to 4 and in the Senate unanimously, before being signed by Republican President Nixon. The same ratios were in effect in the Endangered Species Act of 1973. Douglas reveals the bi-partisan nature of the environmental movement of the Long Sixties as a good antidote for the toxic political discourse of our times. This is great history writing whether or not you are concerned with the environment.
5. We’re All Climate Hypocrites Now, by Sami Grover
When it comes to being a better steward of God’s creation, I always tell people, “It’s about progress, not perfection.” Don’t let perfection become the enemy of progress. None of us in the West are pure when it comes to our carbon footprint. There are those who ride bicycles to work, but still eat meat. There are vegetarians who still fly on a plane to see their grandparents at Christmas. Some who drive electric cars to work still buy blueberries flown in from Brazil in January. There are very few purists. We’re all hypocrites to some degree. The fossil fuel industry wants us to obsess over our individual sins so we will no longer address the ways they are destroying the earth. It’s a major strategy of these industries to take the focus off of them. In a humorous, compelling way, Grover exposes our personal hypocrisies, while encouraging us to keep our eyes focused on the prize of a zero-sum emissions society with a less consumeristic mentality. This is a practical, easy read (155 pp) for those who want to do something individually, locally or globally about climate change.