2021 Rooted Book Awards: Best New Books Addressing Difficult Life Issues

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Growing up has never been easy, but living in a digitally saturated age has taken teen troubles to a whole new level. Add to that a global pandemic, racial conflict, political unrest, and polarizing cultural issues, all of which make it harder than ever to be a teenager, much less to raise a young man or woman or to mentor one. Parents and youth ministers are always on the lookout for new resources from trusted teachers, pastors, scholars, and experts. By God’s grace, this year saw a bumper crop of excellent new books that will help adults lead the teens they love as we all learn to navigate our culture’s choppy waters with the gospel as our north star.

Honorable Mentions

Talking With Teens About Sexuality: Critical Conversations About Social Media, Gender Identity, Same-Sex Attraction, Pornography, Purity, Dating, Etc. by Beth Robinson and Latayne C. Scott.

Written by an experienced counselor and a writer as co-authors, this is an excellent resources on a wide variety of sensitive topics. Robinson and Scott are trustworthy and gracious teachers, as they are uncompromising in faithfulness to God’s Word, and simultaneously kind and loving in their tone. Discussions about gender issues, pornography, abortion, and dating (to name just a few of the tough topics they tackle) are full of grace and compassion for both the teen who is struggling and the adult who has to have these hard conversations. One of the real strengths of this volume is the questions at the end of each chapter. While many similar books offer points of discussion, these questions are meaty and thoughtful, evidence that these woman have spent countless hours talking to real teens about real issues.

What God Has to Say About Our Bodies: How the Gospel Is Good News for our Physical Selves by Sam Allberry, Crossway. (Rooted review here.)

Like everything Allberry writes, this book is highly readable, and would be a great resource to read with a small group, or for a parent to read with a teenager. (Equally suitable for boys and girls.) This book is not geared so much towards discipling teens, but it is extremely helpful in training us to think theologically about our bodies. It addresses topics like gender and sexuality, but it also addresses overall health, aging, and dying. Allberry also writes about what we might expect (from what Scripture says) about our bodies in heaven. He assures us that our bodies are a great and sacred gift, handmade for us specifically. They are created, broken, and yet redeemed by the God who treasures our physical bodies. Allberry helps us learn to do the same.

Breaking Free From Body Shame: Dare to Reclaim What God Has Named Good by Jess Connolly

Like Allberry’s book, this volume was not written specifically to help teens, but Connelly ministers powerfully to women, and young girls will be no exception. The greatest strength of Breaking Free is the approach Connelly employs, uncovering the lies we tell ourselves about our bodies. She exposes the messages girls receive, often from adults who love them dearly, and helps her reader think biblically rather than culturally. She assures her reader that her body is not a project. not a marker of righteousness, not a trophy. Connelly opposes “body positivity,” aiming instead to declare the “deep-seated, God-glorifying goodness” of our bodies as they are. She helps her readers explore what a “kingdom-minded mentality” towards our bodies might look like. Breaking Free is good resource for a small group of women, for a mentor and mentee, or for a mother and daughter to read together. This might also be helpful for a father of daughters or a male youth pastor to read, as Connelly has a lot to teach about faulty cultural messages men might not be susceptible to in the same way.

Table for Two: Biblical Counsel for Eating Disorders by David and Krista Dunham, New Growth Press. (Rooted review here.)

As we stated in our review earlier this year, this book really is one of a kind. Because David and Krista share the experience of walking through Krista’s eating disorder together, together they demonstrate how eating disorders affect an entire family. Both share very honestly about their struggles with this illness — and with each other. Krista suffers with bulimia and an exercise addiction. David tries to heal his wife with a range of unhelpful behaviors. BOTH need the gospel. Written to be read together, Table for Two offers several helpful diagnostic self-evaluations for both the sufferer and the family member. What’s unique and incredibly valuable about this book is that it guides the whole family system. In families affected by eating disorders, everyone suffers together, everyone brings some sin to the situation- and Jesus heals them all.

Winner

A Small Book About Why We Hide: How Jesus Rescues Us From Insecurity, Regret, Failure and Shame by Ed Welch, New Growth Press.

This book wins because in some ways it addresses more foundational and universal heart issues- the why behind the symptoms of false body image, broken sexuality, and self-destructive behaviors the books above address. Welch starts in the garden, when Adam and Eve hid from God, and demonstrates how humans have been coping with their sin and sadness the same way ever since. This little book would be suitable to read along with a teenager, and would provide hours of good conversation about biblical truths that address our insecurity, regret, failure, and shame. This little book, divided into fifty short daily devotionals, nevertheless gets right to the heart of our pain and meet us with the heart of Jesus. Ed Welch, like the experienced writer and counselor that he is, knows exactly how to apply the gospel to a hurting heart. His tone is pastoral; his writing style, simple and straightforward. As with all of the books on this list, you will find this book truly helpful and ultimately hopeful, because the counsel and encouragement Welch (and these other authors) offer is centered solely on the gospel.

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