I have enjoyed seeing several people post lists of the books that they read in 2017, or their top books from the past year. As someone who likes to read and keep track of what I read, it is fun to see what other people are reading as well.
Here is my list from 2017:
- Salt to the Sea, by Ruta Supetys
- Jonah: God’s Scandalous Mercy, by Kevin J. Youngblood
- Wild in the Hollow: On Chasing Desire & Finding the Broken Way Home, by Amber C. Haines
- Kingdom Come: Embracing the Spiritual Legacy of David Lipscomb and James Harding, by John Mark Hicks and Bobby Valentine
- City of Thieves, by David Benioff
- The Case for Easter: A Journalist Investigates the Evidence for the Resurrection, by Lee Strobel
- Digging Deeper Into the Word: The Relevance of Archaeology to Christian Apologetics, by Dale W. Manor
- Paul, by Edgar J. Goodspeed
- Babe: The Legend Comes to Life, by Robert W. Creamer
- Truth Speaks to Power: The Countercultural Nature of Scripture, by Walter Brueggemann
- The Need For College Ministry: Awakening the Church to One of the Most Receptive Mission Fields in the World, by Neil Reynolds
- The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster
- The Rule of Faith: A Guide, by Everett Ferguson
- Hear Me Out, by Philip Jenkins, et. al
- All The Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
- The Teammates: A Portrait of a Friendship, by David Halberstam
- Radical Restoration: A Call for Pure and Simple Christianity, by F. LaGard Smith
- Murder at Fenway Park, by Troy Soos
- Little League Confidential, by Bill Geist
- The Big Four, by Agatha Christie
- The Sticky Faith Guide for your Family, by Kara Powell
- Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith, by Rob Bell
- A Biblical Pattern for Church Growth: A Study of Ephesians 4.1-16, by Earl Lavender
- With the Old Breed, by E. B. Sledge
- Ballplayer, by Chipper Jones with Carroll Rogers Walton
- Hillbilly Elegy, by J.D. Vance
- Lead Small: Five Big Ideas Every Small Group Leader Needs to Know, by Reggie Joiner and Tom Shefchunas
- The Didache
- First Apology, by Justin Martyr
- Against Heresies, by Irenaeus*
- Prescription Against Heretics, by Tertullian
- The Stone-Campbell Movement, by Leroy Garrett
- On First Principles, by Origen*
- Oration in Praise of the Emperor Constantine, by Eusebius
- Conference 1, by St. John Cassian
- The Rule of St. Benedict
- The Trinitarian Controversy, ed. by William G. Rusch*
- Ten Tips To Preaching To Students, by Frank Gil
- Confessions, by Augustine*
- The Distraction Slayer, by Michael Hyatt
- The Christological Controversy, ed. by Richard A. Norris, Jr.*
- I Had a Hammer: The Hank Aaron Story, by Hank Aaron with Lonnie Wheeler
- Proslogion, by Anselm of Canterbury
- Why God Became Man, by Anselm of Canterbury
- Gorky Park, by Martin Cruz Smith
- The Bridge of Sighs, by Olen Steinhauer
- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, by J.K. Rowling
- Youth Ministry in a Post-Christian World: A Hopeful Wake-Up Call, by Brock Morgan
- The Story of Christianity, Volume 1: The Early Church to the Dawn of the Reformation, by Justo L. González
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, by J.K. Rowling
- Advent: Seasonal Readings, by N.T. Wright
- Your First Two Years in Youth Ministry, by Doug Fields
A few major observations before I talk about a couple of specific books:
- My reading total increased from 51 books in 2016 to 52 books in 2017. And this included a couple of very large volumes of 700-800 pages.
- I really enjoyed my reading in 2016, and felt that 2017 was a little bit of a step down. My Top 10 books for the year are highlighted in bold above, but there are several in the list above that did not make that cut that I still enjoyed.
- My reading was a little more varied this year, which probably reflects that I wasn’t in grad school until August, and thus had more free time to read what I wanted.
Regarding my Top 10 books for the year, here are some brief thoughts on those (presented in order of when I read them, not ranked 1-10):
Salt to the Sea, by Ruta Sepetys: This is a novel, set in the closing days of WWII, with the interesting narrative device of four different characters who alternate as narrators with different perspectives and individual stories that converge into the main plot of he book. The characters are interesting, the story is compelling, and the short chapters made it a compelling read that was hard to put down.
Kingdom Come: Embracing the Spiritual Legacy of David Lipscomb and James Harding, by John Mark Hicks and Bobby Valentine: Maybe this is cheating because this was actually a re-read for me, but Kingdom Come was still one of my favorite books of the year. As regular readers of this blog are aware, I am a bit of a Restoration Movement history buff, and this book does a great job of telling the stories of two second generation Restoration leaders, and suggesting ways in which embracing some of their ideas can be beneficial to Churches of Christ moving forward.
The Rule of Faith: A Guide, by Everett Ferguson: This is a short book, but somewhat dense, and it provides a series of excerpts from early church fathers in which they describe the “rule of faith”—the basic content of Christian belief that had been received from the apostles. This was not a formalized creed that would later be required for catechumens or accompany baptism, but was simply the basic contours of Christian orthodoxy that had been handed down from one generation to the next. This is a fascinating read especially for those who (like me) believe that Christian unity is important, that unity must be based on at least some certain common beliefs, and that those beliefs should be present in the early, historical manifestations of Christianity.
Radical Restoration: A Call for Pure and Simple Christianity, by F. LaGard Smith: Smith is always worth reading to me, because he is such a keen and original thinker. This book is especially intended for those who see the value in attempting to emulate the practices of the early church, and boldly confronts a lot of current practices that would be very foreign to the biblical worldview. I actually wrote about this book a bit earlier in the year, and described it as an “endearing combination of brilliant insights and prolonged axe-grinding,” which I still think is the best description I can give it.
The Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family, by Kara Powell: I have written about Sticky Faith (the “parent” of this book) many times over the years, and this is a worthy companion to the original volume. Based on the same research, it is slightly different in emphasis: if Sticky Faith is 2/3 theory and commentary and 1/3 practical ideas, The Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family is the reverse. Simply put, it is filled with ideas of practical steps you can take at home with your kid to build a faith that will “stick” with them throughout their lives.
With the Old Breed, by E. B. Sledge: This is a WWII memoir that focuses specifically on the Pacific Theatre. The battle accounts are a punch in the gut, but Sledge provides thoughtful reflection throughout as he wrestles with the horrors of war while maintaining the necessity of it, at times.
Hillbilly Elegy, by J.D. Vance: This book has been criticized in some quarters, and perhaps rightly so in that at times it paints with too broad a brush, and perhaps make claims that can’t truly be justified based on the anecdotal evidence of one family. At the same time, the story is remarkably poignant, and undoubtedly unveils important truths about certain swaths of American society. As the descendant of Ozark hillbillies, the story certainly resonated with me.
I Had a Hammer: The Hank Aaron Story, by Hank Aaron with Lonnie Wheeler: I tend to like baseball biographies and have read several over the years, but this was one of the better ones. From Aaron’s unflinching evaluations of his teammates, to his discussion of his transformation into a true home run hitter, to his singleminded focus on race, I found this to be a book filled with new and fascinating information. In particular, despite being a baseball history buff and a lifelong Braves fan, I had never realized the degree to which Aaron considered himself a race man, with the specific task of carrying on the legacy of Jackie Robinson.
The Story of Christianity, Volume 1: The Early Church to the Dawn of the Reformation, by Justo L. González: I took a church history course as part of my grad school program this past fall, and this was one of the texts we used. You can probably find something to quibble with in any text that covers 1500 years, but on the whole I thought this provided an excellent overview and was an enjoyable read. I am a nerd, but I don’t generally sit around reading textbooks, but this one was so good that I even went back and read chapters that weren’t assigned. If you are looking for a thorough and solid overview of church history, I highly recommend this book.
Your First Two Years in Youth Ministry, by Doug Fields: This is a youth ministry classic, and shame on me for reading it after being a youth minister for a decade! I was still able to learn new things from it, but boy, I wish I would have read it back when I started. This is simply a must-read for any new youth minister (or foolish veteran like myself who missed it early on!).
So, that was my reading for 2017. For comparison’s sake if you are interested, you can see my reading lists from previous years:
I have already laid out the first 15 or so books that I am hoping to read in 2018, and after I (knock on wood) graduate in May, I should have more control over how I choose to spend my reading time. I am looking forward to that.
What are some of the best books you read this past year?
*Books that I did not read in their entirety, but read significant portions of.