Books That Think Outside the Box

Written by
Eryn Austin-Bergen
Published on
February 12, 2021 at 4:59:00 PM PST February 12, 2021 at 4:59:00 PM PSTth, February 12, 2021 at 4:59:00 PM PST

This International Development Week we’ve selected books with some radical ideas to expand our perspectives and hopefully start some passionate conversations. Find out why business matters to God, how faith connects to food, and how "the poorest people in the world...thrive lavishly." These books will challenge your assumptions and provoke thoughtful questions about life, economics, and the “American Dream.” 

Why food, happiness, and business matter to God

Food and Faith: A Theology of Eating by Dr. Norman Wirzba

FH Canada enjoyed having Dr. Norman Wirzba as our keynote speaker for our Faith, Food, & Farming event last year! You’ll never think about grocery shopping the same way again.

“Unlike books that focus primarily on vegetarianism and hunger-related concerns, Wirzba’s book broadens the scope of consideration to include the sacramental character of eating, the deep significance of hospitality, the meaning of death and sacrifice, the Eucharist as the place of inspiration and orientation, the importance of saying grace, and the possibility of eating in heaven. In Food and Faith, he demonstrates that eating is of profound economic, moral, and spiritual significance.” — Duke Divinity School News 

Becoming Whole: Why the opposite of poverty isn’t the American Dream by Brian Fikkert

A longtime friend of FH Canada and best-selling author of When Helping Hurts, Brian Fikkert’s revolutionary way of defining poverty has changed us all. This work challenges our idea of wealth and success to create a broader, more whole picture of the good life.

“We are the richest people ever to walk the face of the earth, but according to research, we aren't becoming happier. ...Yet, when we try to help poor people at home or abroad, our implicit assumption is that the goal is to help them to become like us. ... In Becoming Whole (building on the best-selling When Helping Hurts), Brian Fikkert and Kelly M. Kapic look at the true sources of brokenness and poverty and uncover the surprising pathways to human flourishing, for poor and non-poor alike.” — Moody Publishers 

Why Business Matters to God: (And What Still Needs to Be Fixed) by Jeff Van Duzer

At FH, we’re passionate about connecting businesses with developing communities and contributing to corporate cultures that make companies more successful. “Why Business Matters to God” provides theological connections and practical advice for Christians wondering if their work can really make a difference.

“Why Business Matters to God is a major development in the theology of work. Van Duzer realistically applies the best theological materials to the actual practice of business. You could actually make business decisions based on his arguments. He works within the market system, but he assesses it not by its own idolatries but by God’s word. His writing is clear, his argument rigorous, and his conclusions specific.” — The Gospel Coalition

Stories that Inspire

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope by William Kamkwamba and Brian Mealer

Who doesn’t love an inspiring story about the power of an individual to beat the odds and do something truly remarkable for the sake of others? This book is also appropriate for older children and a great way to talk about poverty and hope as a family. And when you finish the book, you can watch the movie!

William Kamkwaba is a scientifically-minded boy living in a rural, drought-stricken village in Malawi. Through ingenuity, friendship, and a stack of old textbooks, William perseveres through adversity to build something incredible to rescue his community from the edge of starvation.

UnPoverty: Rich lessons from the working poor by Mark Lutz

Material resources aren’t the only measure of poverty and wealth. Listening to the stories of those who have less than we do can open our eyes to the strengths of “the poor” and engender humility and respect. 

“The poorest people in the world do not just survive–they thrive lavishly. They enjoy rich family relationships, build vibrant communities and exude deep faith. They have much to teach us about life and inspire us with their ingenuity, persistence, generosity and self-reliance. Mark Lutz has visited families living in cardboard huts, hiked dusty paths to isolated African villages, and tiptoed across putrid open sewers on makeshift bridges. UnPoverty relays those astonishing encounters with unforgettable people: desperately poor, yet abundantly rich.” —

Ideas that Challenge

Generous Justice by Timothy Keller

Sometimes we can believe that “justice work” is for designated organizations rather than an exciting call that goes out to each and every individual and church. Pastor and author Timothy Keller employs sound biblical teaching to open the door for justice to all of us.

“In his introduction, Keller boldly asserts that the Bible is a book devoted to ‘justice in the world from first till last’ (p. xiv). While many people would concede justice is an important concept, and a biblical one, could we term the Bible a book devoted to justice? Keller is evidently set upon dispelling preconceptions, and Generous Justice aims to both dispel evangelical assumptions and inform our understanding on this issue.” — The Gospel Coalition

Small is Beautiful: Economics as if people mattered by E. F. Schumacher

This revolutionary challenge to consumerism and endless growth will get you questioning the direction our western culture and economy are going. While FH can’t endorse all his ideas, we appreciate Schumacher’s community-centric, people-centric approach and think it’s worth a read.

“Small Is Beautiful is Oxford-trained economist E. F. Schumacher’s classic call for the end of excessive consumption. Schumacher inspired such movements as “Buy Locally” and “Fair Trade,” while voicing strong opposition to “casino capitalism” and wasteful corporate behemoths. Named one of the Times Literary Supplement’s 100 Most Influential Books Since World War II, Small Is Beautiful presents eminently logical arguments for building our economies around the needs of communities, not corporations.” — Amazon

Walking with the Poor: Principles and Practices of Transformational Development by Bryant Meyers

An FH reading list wouldn’t be complete without this classic work! It merits multiple readings.

“Bryant Myers shows how Christian mission can contribute to dismantling poverty and social evil. Integrating the best principles and practice of the international development community, the thinking and experience of Christian nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and a theological framework for transformational development, Myers demonstrates what is possible when we cease to treat the spiritual and physical domains of life as separate and unrelated.” — Amazon

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