Reading books on a wide variety of topics is a key aspect of deconstructing your faith. I know it has been for me! Over the years, I’ve given and received many recommendations in this genre. Since I’m often asked for these resources, I decided to compile what I hope will be an evolving list that we, as a community, continue adding to as we deconstruct toxic religious culture. Let me know in the comments below what you’ll be adding to your TBR pile!
Here are the best books on deconstructing your faith:
I’ve BOLDED the ones I’ve personally read and recommend. The rest have been recommended to me, but I haven’t read the entire book yet (I’ll update this list as I read!). Each book title is hyperlinked using my Amazon referral link, but I encourage you to check your local bookstores for these too! If you give them the title and author, they can usually order a copy for you!
Books recommended during the Deconstructing Your Faith Summit
- You CAN Talk to God Like That by Abby Norman
- Meditations of Meister Eckhardt by Sweeney & Burrows (mentioned by Megan Gilmore)
- The Great Emergence by Phyllis Tickle (mentioned in Kyle Benefield’s session)
- The Sin of Certainty by Peter Enns (mentioned in Kyle Benefield’s session
- Deconstruction: Your Journey in Faith by Stacey Wynn
- Charity Means Love: Transforming the Culture of How We Give by Father Nathan Monk
- When Family Hurts: 30 Days to Finding Healing and Clarity by Rebekah Drumsta
- Red Thread: Weaving an Embodied Life of Joy by Aj Smit
- Unbound: A Story of Freedom and Sisterhood by Ticcoa Leister
- Holy Hot Mess: Finding God in the Details of this Weird and Wonderful Life by Mary Katherine Backstrom
- Living Buddha, Living Christ by Thich Nhat Hanh (mentioned in Brendan Curran’s session)
- The Wisdom Jesus: Transforming Heart and Mind–A New Perspective on Christ and His Message by Cynthia Bourgeault (mentioned in Brendan Curran’s session)
- Women Rising: Learning to Listen, Reclaiming Our Voice by Meghan Tschanz
- Your Body Is a Revolution: Healing Our Relationships with Our Bodies, Each Other, and the Earth by Tara Teng
- Dance of the Dissident Daughter by Sue Monk Kidd
- God Land: A Story of Faith, Loss, and Renewal in Middle America by Lyz Lenz
- Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People by Nadia Bolz Weber
- Shameless: A Case for Not Feeling Bad About Feeling Good (About Sex) by Nadia-Bolz Weber
- A Bigger Table: Building Messy, Authentic, and Hopeful Spiritual Community by John Pavlovitz
- Fierce, Free, and Full Of Fire by Jen Hatmaker
- Not All Who Wander (Spiritually) Are Lost: A Story of Church by Traci Rhoades
- Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church by Rachel Held Evans
- A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband ‘Master’ by Rachel Held Evans
- Faith Unraveled: How a Girl Who Knew All the Answers Learned to Ask Questions by Rachel Held Evans
- Out of Sorts: Making Sense of an Evolving Faith by Sarah Bessey
- Miracles and Other Reasonable Things: A Story of Unlearning and Relearning God by Sarah Bessey
- The Bible Tells Me So: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It by Peter Enns
Recovering from Trauma, Toxic Religious Culture and #ChurchHurt
- Spiritual Abuse Recovery: Dynamic Research on Finding a Place of Wholeness by Barbara M. Orlowski
- Gaslighted by God: Reconstructing a Disillusioned Faith by Tiffany Yecke Brooks
- The Diabolical Trinity: Healing Religious Trauma from a Wrathful God, Tormenting Hell, and a Sinful Self by Mark Gregory Karris
- I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown
- Asian American Apostate: Losing Religion and Finding Myself at an Evangelical University by R. Scott Okamoto
- Recovering from Biblical Manhood and Womanhood by Aimee Byrd
- Abuelita Faith: Women on the Margins Teach Us about Wisdom, Persistence, and Strength by Kat Armas
- Jesus Feminist: An Invitation to Revisit the Bible’s View of Women by Sarah Bessey
- Sexy but Psycho by Dr. Jessica Taylor
- Gay the Pray Away by Erika Allison
- The Gay Agenda by Ashley Molesoo
- In the Margins: A Transgender Man’s Journey with Scripture by Father Shannon T.L. Kearns
- Intersexion: A Story of Faith, Identity, and Authenticity by Cynthia Vacca Davis
- Queers The Word: A 40 Day Devotional for LGBTQ+ Christians by Brian G Murphy
- Unclobber: Rethinking Our Misuse of the Bible on Homosexuality by Colby Martin
- God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships by Matthew Vines
- Heavy Burdens: Seven Ways LGBTQ Christians Experience Harm in the Church by Bridget Eileen Rivera
- Bad Theology Kills: Undoing Toxic Belief & Reclaiming Your Spiritual Authority by Kevin Garcia
- Does Jesus Really Love Me?: A Gay Christian’s Pilgrimage in Search of God in America by Jeff Chu
- Walking the Bridgeless Canyon by Kathy Baldock
- Activist Theology by Robyn Henderson-Espinoza
- Body Becoming: A Path to Our Liberation by Robyn Henderson-Espinoza
- Where True Love Is: An Affirming Devotional for LGBTQIA+ Christians and Their Allies by Suzanne DeWitt Hall
- Queering Wesley, Queering the Church by Keegan Osinski
- Body Becoming: A Path to Our Liberation by Dr. Robyn Henderson-Espinoza
Building Emotional Intelligence and Resiliency
- I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t): Making the Journey from “What Will People Think?” to “I Am Enough” by Dr. Brené Brown
- The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Dr. Brené Brown
- Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Dr. Brené Brown
- Rising Strong: How the Ability to Reset Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Dr. Brené Brown
- Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts. by Dr. Brené Brown
- Atlas of the Heart: Mapping Meaningful Connection and the Language of Human Experience by Dr. Brené Brown
Exploring a More Expansive Faith
- The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe by Richard Rohr
- UNenlightenment: A Theological Foundation for Deconstructing and Reconstructing the Christian Faith by Eric S. English
- The Unsaved Christian: Reaching Cultural Christianity with the Gospel by Dean Inserra
- The Nones: Where They Came From, Who They Are, and Where They Are Going by Ryan P. Burge
- After Evangelicalism: The Path to a New Christianity by David P. Gushee
- Before You Lose Your Faith: Deconstructing Doubt in the Church edited by Ivan Mesa
- When Faith Fails: Finding God in the Shadow of Doubt by Dominic Done
- Confronting Christianity: 12 Hard Questions for the World’s Largest Religion by Rebecca McLaughlin
- After Doubt: How to Question Your Faith Without Losing It by A.J. Swoboda
- How Did I Get Here?: Finding Your Way Back to God When Everything is Pulling You Away by Christine Caine
- Rescuing Jesus: How People of Color, Women, and Queer Christians are Reclaiming Evangelicalism by Deborah Jian Lee
- Faith After Doubt: Why Your Beliefs Stopped Working and What to Do About It by Brian McLaren
- When Everything’s on Fire: Faith Forged from the Ashes by Brian Zahnd
- Wholehearted Faith by Rachel Held Evans with Jeff Chu
- What is God Like? by Rachel Held Evans and Matthew Paul Turner (children’s book)
- A Rhythm of Prayer: A Collection of Meditations for Renewal edited by Sarah Bessey
- The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See by Richard Rohr
- Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Gift by Richard Rohr
- The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe by Richard Rohr
- The Whole Language: The Power of Extravagant Tenderness by Gregory Boyle
- Tattoos on the Heart; The Power of Boundless Compassion by Gregory Boyle
- Soul Journeys: Christian Spirituality and Shamanism as Pathways for Wholeness and Understanding by Daniel Pretchel, et al.
- Do I Stay Christian? by Brian D. McLaren
Bible Translations and Commentaries
- First Nations Version: An Indigenous Translation of the New Testament by Terry M. Wildman
- The Inclusive Bible: The First Egalitarian Translation by Priests for Equality
- Womanist Midrash Dr. Wilda Gafney (I also recommend her lectionary series)
- How the Bible Actually Works: In Which I Explain How An Ancient, Ambiguous, and Diverse Book Leads Us to Wisdom Rather Than Answers—and Why That’s Great News by Peter Enns
- Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again by Rachel Held Evans
- The Sin of Certainty: Why God Desires Our Trust More Than Our “Correct” Beliefs by Peter Enns
- The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say about Human Origins by Peter Enns
Do you love this list of best books on deconstructing your faith from toxic religion as much as I do? So many good books are written above. Here are a few things to consider when looking for a book on Deconstruction and figuring out which one, or ones, you would like to read next.
What do you want to learn?
As exciting as diving into books on deconstructing faith with both feet and the enthusiasm of a five-year-old, I want to remind you that you don’t have to learn everything there is to know immediately. (And it’s near impossible to learn everything right now, as there is so much to explore). It’s okay to take your time as you discover new ideas. It is actually good for you to pause, digest, figure out what something looks like in your world, and then take on the next thing. You are welcome to buy ALL of the books (fellow book fiend here) but then let’s not shame ourselves when we don’t read them all that same week.
If your book budget does not allow you to have a library that looks like the one in Beauty and the Beast, after taking a moment to sigh in sadness, you can look at what is most important to you at this moment. Is there a theme or idea you are wrestling with and wondering how it can work in practice in your life? Perhaps the concept of the Divine Feminine, the multiple ways to look at Christ’s death on the cross, or another way of looking at Mary Magdelene? If you can tune into your curiosity, you’ll be able to buy the book you need the most right now, not just the ones you want. (Which is all of them, I hear you, there are so many excellent books on deconstruction out there.) Also, this list of best books on deconstructing your faith is always growing, so I’d also love to hear about any book(s) you are reading now that are helping you on your deconstruction journey! Here are some more questions to ask yourself!
Who are you learning from as you untangle from toxic religion?
Look at who the author is. Although there are many theologians to learn from, white men write many of the most popular books, and if you look at books from the last 2000 years, that’s the majority of what the standard Christian toxic religious culture theology framework is built with. And although there are deconstructing white theologians doing great work, I also want to invite you to look for authors of books on deconstructing faith who vary in experience, background, and culture. The way they see the world can open your eyes to a new way of looking at a previous ‘cut and dried’ verse that your pastor has extrapolated on in the same way for years. If theology and hermeneutics are stirring you, I want to encourage you to look up Womanist scholars, Liberation theology, and Queer theology.
When reading books on deconstructing faith are you looking to expand your knowledge or dive deeper?
If you need to learn more about Faith Deconstruction or a specific belief, having a book that goes straight to the core of it and explains it in fine detail can be pretty helpful. Some books cover vast ground and give you an overview or lay of the land; others get pretty specific. If you know, you want to learn more not just about LGBTQIA+ people but specifically about the theology changes in the last 60 years that have created the culture we have today, that is a more specific subject and can help you narrow down your book.
Where can you get books on deconstructing faith?
Your only avenue for finding books is more than just buying them. Check out your local library. Did you know most public libraries offer Ebooks and Audiobooks through either Hoopla, Libby, or other apps? There are also inter-library loans if you live in a small area; they can request it from a nearby library. Perhaps you want to read the book first to see if you need it in paperback. If you are a highlighter and book notator like me, you know the joy of writing in the margins and interacting with the book like a dear friend.
Asking around is another option, or trading books if you have friends interested in the same subject, see if they have any interest in doing a book swap or loaning you a book to read on the subject. Although the books above are on amazon, local indie booksellers can get books online and order them for you. Please keep track of the books you want to read on a site like Goodreads and leave reviews after you read them. Leaving reviews helps authors with rankings (especially on Amazon) and helps fellow people who are deconstructing know what to expect from the book. Even if you bought or borrowed the book, you can still leave reviews on sites where books are sold.
Be aware of wolves in sheep’s clothing in the Deconstruction world.
In the past, and currently, people will market a book saying it’ll help unpack harmful beliefs, but it is a wolf in sheep’s clothing telling you the only way is via toxic religion. You can be a Christian and unpack destructive ideas from toxic religious culture, so remember you aren’t harming anyone by exploring what an expansive faith that acknowledges the humanity of the people around you can look like in action. As Liz Gilbert says, “There is no such thing as one-way liberation.” Having a book say one thing and do another is why reviews are so helpful as well, as you’ll get a sense of the theme and vibe the book contains, not just what it pitches. All the books on deconstructing faith listed above have freedom, liberation, and respect for all of humanity at their core, and I highly recommend them.
As you are reading these different books, I encourage you to keep an open mind and remember to take what works and leave what doesn’t. Everyone’s journey is different, and who knows where yours will take you. Books can open the doorway for new knowledge, ideas, and concepts and challenge you in how you are showing up in your life. Post a comment below about any of the above books you have read that you love and why!
What would you add to this list of best books on deconstructing your faith?
Let me know in The Faith Deconstruction Cafe, my free community, where we’re deconstructing toxic religion and toxic religious culture together.
Angela is a Faith Deconstruction Coach and host of The Deconstructing Faith Summit who helps people break free from toxic religious culture & empowers them to recover from #churchhurt. She has led online ministries for a decade, enjoys working with clients 1:1, in groups, and is a dynamic conference speaker. She’s a Lark’s Song Certified Life Coach who reaches thousands of people in 40+ countries each month on Facebook, IG, Twitter, Pinterest, and her blog.
She’s a firstborn, Enneagram 8, Gen Xer who loves to question everything. She holds a BA from Indiana Wesleyan and a Masters in Leadership from Wesley Seminary. Her graduate research project focused on leadership development and opportunities for Gen X women in the US church.
Angela and her unique online ministry are featured in Lyz Lenz’s 2019 book God Land: Story of Faith, Loss, and Renewal in Middle America. She has published articles in Hope for Women and HOPE is Now magazines. She has been featured in The New Republic, Publisher’s Today, and Religion News Service.
Her first book, Deconstructing Your Faith Without Losing Yourself, Will be published by Eerdmans in February 2023.
Angela is also a wife, mom to 5, and a proud resident of Marion, Indiana with her family when they’re not traveling the US in their RV.