We’re halfway through the year AND it’s summer. What better time to share some of my favorite books I’ve read this year?
My 20 favorites I read in the first half of 2017, ranked:
- You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity – Francis and Lisa Chan – as one reviewer put it “A bait and switch but in the best possible way.” Not really on marriage – but about living on mission as a couple and family. Such a good book (I listened to it on audiobook). “There are plenty of marriage books that will teach you how to get along and be happy. This is not one of those books. Those books don’t account for the fact that you can have a happy earthly marriage and then be miserable for all eternity. We’ve made happy families our mission. That’s not the mission Jesus gave us. God has entrusted you with children so you’d make them into disciples who will go into every part of the world & make disciples. Our parenting is not exempt from the command to make disciples. You exist to make disciples. Your marriage exists to make disciples. This should dictate where you live/work/spend your $/time—everything!”
- The Meaning of the Pentateuch by Sailhamer – everything you think about the Old Testament and the Pentateuch is wrong. It was “not written to teach Israel the law. The Pentateuch was addressed to a people living under the law and failing at every opportunity. The Pentateuch looks beyond the law of God to his grace. The purpose of the Pentateuch is to teach its readers about faith and hope in the new covenant.” Read the free (50 page!) intro and have your mind blown! As a (seminary grad) friend commented – “Just reading the Introduction left me feeling like I had never read the Pentateuch before!” REALLY long and kind of difficult. But so worth it. Great to read during your quiet time over a couple of months.
- The Blood of Emmett Till – this should be required reading for every American. The story of the horrific death of a young black boy, and more widely, the civil rights movement.
- The Meaning of Marriage – Tim and Kathy Keller – I’ve read over 20 books on marriage/dating/sex and this is by FAR the best (yes, better than the #1 book on my list. I’d recommend this book first as a marriage book. And then You and Me Forever as a follow up. You and Me was just more impactful for me personally this year). Cannot recommend highly enough. This is my second time to read it and I plan to re-read it often. Incredibly practical and insightful. I work in college ministry and I recommend this to every college student I counsel re relationships or dating. Every person who is single should read this book pre-marriage.
- Silence by Shūsaku Endō – a fictional book but based on true events. Enthralling and challenging novel based on the real life persecution of Portuguese missionaries in Japan.
- Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike – Had several people recommend this book and what cemented it for me was seeing it on Bill Gates’ top 5 books of 2016. Not your typical Gates’ recommendation (usually his book recs are pretty cerebral!). Shoe Dog did not disappoint. Knight is incredibly honest, not skimming over his regrets and mistakes. And I was surprised by the amount of spiritual searching throughout Knight’s life. The audiobook is particularly good.
- Darkness at Noon – Outstanding novel based on real events in Communist Russia in the 1950’s. Really helped me understand the mindset of communism in a way no other book has. As an American, I’ve always discounted communists as idiots. Koestler’s account is not favorable to communists but it does show the very intelligent rationale behind brutal communist policies. Makes me want to learn more about the worldviews of the 20th century (which is why I read Paul Johnson’s Modern Times).
- Modern Times: The World from the Twenties to the Nineties – Thoroughly enjoyed this book. It’s long. And ambitious. I want to read everything by this author. He has such an unbelievable grasp on an amazing amount of topics. He truly gives a thorough education on the twentieth century. I listened to it on audiobook. Probably would have been better to read but worked fine as audiobook. I probably just missed some of the more profound, difficult ideas.
- Elon Musk: Inventing the Future – about the fascinating founder of Tesla and SpaceX.
- The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance – a LITTLE difficult to read. But a good book to read bit by bit in your Quiet Time. This book was incredibly helpful for me, especially reading it on the heels of Sailhamer’s “The Meaning of the Pentateuch.” Ferguson answers “how do the law and grace relate?” He asserts that legalism and antinomianism are not opposites but “nonidentical twins from the same womb.” “The cure for both legalism and antinomianism is the gospel.”
- Dedication and Leadership – a former Communist who becomes a Christian, looks at what we can learn from Communism. In some ways this book is dated. In others, it is particularly well suited for our times. The book is a case study in how a small minority can literally change the world: “It is probably true to say of the Communists that never in man’s history has a small group of people set out to win a world and achieved more in less time.” Caveat: The book is 100% not gospel centered! Definitely “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” and “if the communists can be so dedicated and sacrifice so much for a lie, how much more so, Christians…Come on Christians! Try harder!” But… taken with a grain of salt, the book is VERY thought provoking. Particularly relevant for my line of work – college ministry- as the book focuses particularly on how the Communist Party mobilizes young people.
- Churchill – Paul Johnson – from what I researched, this is the best short biography of Churchill. What an amazing man who almost singlehandedly saved civilization!
- Zeal Without Burnout: Seven Keys to a Lifelong Ministry of Sustainable Sacrifice – Great, short book. Can easily be read in a week of quiet times.
- Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania – great book by one of my favorite authors. Reads like a novel but is 100% historical.
- Undaunted Courage: Lewis and Clark and the Opening of the American West – Stephen E. Ambrose – Fascinating book. Name a more iconic duo. Now name one fact about them other than that they were the first to explore the west. I knew nothing about this famous duo before reading this. Their passage across the virgin west is fascinating – their discoveries, their courage, their leadership. The ending of the book was shocking. I won’t spoil anything but I was truly shocked- mostly that I had not heard any of it before.
- Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety – another fascinating book. It’s only by God’s grace that we haven’t nuked ourselves into a nuclear holocaust by now.
- When Breath Becomes Air – VERY well written memoir of a neurosurgeon who gets terminal cancer
- Thinking, Fast and Slow – great and fascinating, if a bit academic, insights on how we make decisions
- The Pilgrim’s Progress – Mixed feelings on this book. I set out on my pilgrimage to read the book because many great Christian thinkers list it as the book that has most influenced them (apart from the Bible). I did NOT think I would be recommending this book. But as it gets going, you get used to the Old English (if you can’t get over that, there ARE modern English versions). For some tips on how to read it see my full review over on GoodReads
- The Church in the Bible and the World: An International Study – DA Carson – very helpful for my understanding of ecclesiology
Though I haven’t quite finished it, I can’t help but include the book I’m trudging (in the best possible sense) through right now because it will easily be in the top 5 – Piper’s Reading the Bible Supernaturally. SO good. Not a real easy read. But perfect to bite off a piece every morning in Quiet Times.
“When young leaders in my organization ask me what they can do to grow, my first response is always pretty obvious: read! Leaders are readers. I believe the answer to pretty much every question you can think of is already in a book somewhere.” – Dave Ramsey
If you’re looking for lighter, summer reading (i.e. – not heavy, theological books), the list would be-
Super-easy, fun reads:
- Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike
- Elon Musk: Inventing the Future
- Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety
- Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania
- When Breath Becomes Air
A little more challenging, but not-too-hard reads:
- The Blood of Emmett Till (NOT light in subject matter, but easy to read and a very good and important read)
- Darkness at Noon
- Churchill – Paul Johnson
- Undaunted Courage: Lewis and Clark and the Opening of the American West – Stephen E. Ambrose
I just got on GoodReads.com this year and have thoroughly enjoyed it. Great way to track your reading progress and set goals for yourself. Would love to connect over there.
What about you? What are your favorite books you’ve read in 2017?
image via quotefancy