To celebrate World Book Day, Woman Alive book club host Claire Musters and other book club members share the titles that have been transformational in their own lives.
Glorious Weakness by Alia Joy (Baker Books) - read here
This deeply personal book invites us to embrace true vulnerability and authenticity with God and with one another. Ali describes it further: “Alia shares her story of poverty, sexual assault, racism, mental and physical illness and points us to how we can find God’s comfort in our weaknesses. This is a book about finding hope within struggles that don’t go away. It’s not an easy read but it’s a powerful one and her writing is beautiful.”
I’m Still Here by Austin Channing Brown (Virago) - read here
Austin Channing Brown’s first encounter with racism came when she discovered her parents named her Austin to deceive future employers into thinking she was a white man. This book charts her journey to self-worth. Tanya describes it further: “A New York Times bestseller lauded by Reese Witherspoon and Brené Brown, this quietly stunning memoir about living as a middle-class black woman in America deserves all the hype it’s received. There is one chapter where Austin recounts a day in her life at a Christian organisation exposing the emotional and mental exhaustion of the black person navigating the expectations and ignorance of the ‘well-meaning’, subtle racism of a white community. The tone of the book is concise, well-reasoned, accessible and far more gentle than its readers probably deserve, yet lacking nothing in its power. Although it speaks particularly to American culture, it made me reflect on the insidious nature of middle-class Christian whiteness in general, and I am grateful for that. Highly recommended.”
Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers (Lion Fiction) - read here
With over a million copies sold, and recently made into a major motion picture, this is arguably one of the prolific writer’s best known – and loved – novels, and it holds a very special place in my heart. A retelling of the biblical story of Hosea and Gomer, set in 1850s California, the central message is of a love that won’t let go. When my marriage was in tatters my husband picked my copy of this book up – and was stirred by God to fight for me. We are celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary this year (and have also written a book on marriage together)! Naomi comments: “This is my all-time favourite book ever. It unlocks God’s acceptance, his heart and his loving pursuit of us, showing there is such beauty in surrender. For women who have experienced abuse there is an understanding of the shame and fear – and a reassurance that in God’s eyes your beauty never fades. This is a beautiful novel that makes scripture and God’s love come to life.”
Sensible Shoes by Sharon Garlough Brown (IVP) - read here
This is the first of a series of four books following four fictional women as they meet one another at retreat centre and, though widely different, are drawn together as they each go on a journey of revelation. This was the book that introduced me to a way of integrating spiritual practices into my everyday life, as readers are introduced to and taught the same practices the characters are. It is not an overstatement to say it transformed my life and so many in the book club have said the same.
The Dream of You by Jo Saxton (Monarch Books) - read here
Jo was brought up as the child of Nigerian immigrants to the UK and shares her story of questioning all her dreams and her very identity because of all the world threw at her. She also looks closely at biblical figures and invites the reader to turn to the One who can redeem our stories. Amanda recommends this book: “because it takes us back to our identity as children of God, who we truly are rather than all the lies we are fed with in the world.” As a writer, leadership coach and podcaster Jo Saxton loves to draw women together to champion one another, and we would also heartily recommend her book Ready to Rise (SPCK).
The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom (Hodder & Stoughton) - read here
Corrie was a child when the second world war broke out. Her family courageously hid Jews during the Nazi occupation of Holland. Then a trap brought about the whole family’s arrest and Corrie and her sister Betsie ended up in Ravensbruck, a concentration camp, where they still managed to see God’s grace at work in the horrific conditions. Affy comments that this is an “amazing book that totally blows me away every time I read it. God’s provision, his grace, Corrie’s normal and honest reactions to things and how God works miracles”. Lesley agrees: “Corrie’s story is inspiring and really helped me think through the question of where God is in suffering.”
The Myth of the Undeserving Poor by Martin Charlesworth and Natalie Williams (Grosvenor House Publishing Ltd) - read here
At the time of writing, Martin was the CEO of Christian charity Jubilee+ and Natalie worked alongside him. Since then, Natalie has taken over as CEO. This was the first book that they wrote together, which Tanya describes so well as “a tour de force analysis of how media demonises those on lower incomes in Britain while giving examples of the reality of living on a lower income. It shows how middle-class Christians need to change their attitudes and actions. With great research and a powerful, yet measured, call for change, it stirred up in me the good kind of anger that leads to God’s heart of justice for all.” I would also recommend the books that have followed, including A Church for the Poor and Natalie’s most recent book, written with Paul Brown, Invisible Divides, which focuses on the class divide found in so many churches today.
The Pursuit of God by AW Tozer (Christian Publications) - read here
This classic work reveals to the reader what stops us from having a closer relationship with God: Self. It invites us to pursue God, thirsting after him with our whole hearts. Ros shares the powerful impact this book had on her at such a difficult time in her life: “At a time when I was living with an abusive, unfaithful husband and coping with three children, one of them severely disabled, this book drew me into a love affair with God that became the bedrock of my life.”
Total Forgiveness by RT Kendall (Hodder & Stoughton) - read here
This is a challenging but ultimately hope-filled look at what God means when he calls us to forgive. I first read it at a time when I was utterly broken, and feeling bitter towards those who had hurt me so badly. Reading this book I understood for the first time that the only person I was keeping in an emotional prison by holding on to unforgiveness was myself. It revolutionised my view of forgiveness. Riyaza concurs: “This book transformed by understanding of biblical forgiveness and crucially how to forgive over and over again. It made me see how merciful God is to us and how important it is that we show mercy to others.”
What’s So Amazing about Grace by Philip Yancey (Zondervan) - read here
In this bestseller Yancey unpicks the subject of grace, sharing compelling real-life examples and showing how it survives even in the midst of the worst atrocities. True grace is shocking – but does not excuse sin. However it does provide forgiveness, mercy, hope and love to the worst of sinners. I found this book incredibly thought-provoking, as did Deborah, who explains that it “somehow put into words gut feelings I’d had for years and was transformative for my view of faith and its outworking. I reread it regularly”.
We know there are so many other wonderful books we could have included. Why don’t you let us know in the comments section below what would make it into your Top 10? And if you’d like to join the Woman Alive book club please do – it is totally free and we’d love to have you! You can get more information here.
For another 10 book suggestions from the book club, click here.