By: Michael Crooks
The top honour for SparkLit’s 2022 Australian Christian Book of the Year has gone to a pioneering Australian.
Author Tony Rinaudo’s book The Forest Underground: Hope for a Planet in Crisis won the award.
The Australian Christian Literature Awards, operated by not-for-profit group SparkLit, recognise and encourage excellence in Australian Christian writing and publishing.
Mr Rinaudo, who hails from Myrtleford, Victoria, is an agronomist and natural resources management specialist at World Vision.
Over 25 years ago, Mr Rinaudo implemented a conservation farming system in Niger called Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR).
The process, which involves growing trees from stumps, transformed the land and the lives of subsistence farmers, and the approach has now been applied in dozens of other African countries.
His book details his journey of faith from Victoria to Africa to become a regeneration pioneer.
“The green is significant,” he told the ABC of his regeneration work in Africa. “But the biggest change I see is the restoration of hope.”
There were a further 10 books shortlisted for the award.
The two main criteria for being shortlisted book are “originality and relevance,” SparkLit’s National Director Michael Collie said.
“We define relevance as the extent to which the book meets the need for Christian writing in Australia.”
Here, Mr Collie shares some of the shortlisted books.
Bullies and Saints by John Dickson
Author John Dickson’s book, a survey of the good and evil deeds of Christian history, is “a masterpiece,” Mr Collie said.
“The significant thing about Bullies and Saints is that it recognises a shift in the debate about religion.
“The debate has shifted from whether Christianity is true or false, to whether it’s good or bad – especially with sexual identity and sexual minority.
“John Dickson is a historian and he’s incredibly frank about Christianity’s darkest deeds. But there are these beautiful things that have happened.
“It’s a book you can give to a skeptic, as well as a Christian wanting to defend their faith.”
Adopted in Love by Rachel Herweynen
This remarkable memoir is about Rachel and her husband Cameron, two Australians who moved to Elcho Island off the Arnhem Land coast in the Northern Territory.
They were welcomed and integrated into the local Yolngu tribe. Rachel, who was born in the Philippines, is now the principal of the local Gäwa Christian School.
“This is a beautiful book,” Mr Collie said. “Rachel was overwhelmed by the welcome she received on the island and the warmth and generosity of her new tribal family.”
The book is both in English and the local language of Warramiri.
Christians: The Urgent Case for Jesus in Our World by Greg Sheridan
Well-known Australian journalist Greg Sheridan’s book, Christians, is “like a collection of articles,” Mr Collie said. “The book is about the influence of Jesus and the influence of people who have followed Jesus.
“A large part of the book is actually about Christians and their influence in the world and there’s a number of very well-known Christians who are featured in the book.”
That includes former Prime Minister Scott Morrison, former National Party leader and Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson, and prominent Melbourne Anglican Jenny George.
“It’s a very encouraging book,” Mr Collie said.
Raising Kids Who Care by Susy Lee
A self-help book with a difference, Raising Kids Who Care outlines 40 conversations for parents to have with their children.
“It’s really for someone who wants to set out to raise children who are selfless and outward-looking,” Mr Collie said.
“And children who are also curious, confident, and proactive. For instance, one step encourages you to organise a family visit to a local politician. Before you go, you ask the children, ‘What would you like to ask? What would you like to change?’”
The book is divided into four groups – Inner-self, The World, Culture, and Relationships. For each theme there are 10 conversations.
The other shortlisted books are For the Love of God by Natasha Moore (with John Dickson, Simon Smart & Justine Toh); A New Freedom by Mike Snowdon; Refuge Reimagined by Luke Glanville & Mark Glanville; Spacemaker by Daniel Sih; Topical Preaching in a Complex World by Sam Chan & Malcolm Gill; and Unfettered by Mandy Smith
For more information visit SparkLit.
Article supplied with thanks to Hope Media.
Feature image: Tony Rinaudo, author of ‘The Forest Underground’, Supplied