In my third full year as a daddy and with child #2 arriving at the beginning of 2017, I expected my reading to fall off significantly. To my surprise, I ended up completing exactly the same number of books as in 2016–all thanks to God and no thanks to baby Agnes. (I should also add that my 2017 reading log doesn’t include the approximately 243 oral readings of “Goodnight Gorilla.”)
In compiling this list, I decided to use Kevin DeYoung’s four criteria:
• Was this book well written and enjoyable to read?
• Did I find it personally challenging, illuminating, edifying, or entertaining?
• Is it a book I am likely to reread or consult often?
• Do I see myself frequently recommending this book to others?
So without further ado, here they are.
10. This is Our Time – Trevin Wax
Trevin Wax could well be from the tribe of Issachar, because he’s a man who understands the times (1 Chron. 12:32). If the current cultural climate makes you wish you’d been born sometime back in the good old days, this book will set you straight.
9. Uncomfortable– Brett McCracken
Thinking of leaving your church because you’re not “comfortable” there anymore? Read this book first. McCracken explores multiple areas in which God has higher priorities than your comfort.
8. Good and Angry– David Powlison
Great biblical counseling book. Powlison analyzes what anger is, why we experience it, and (perhaps surprisingly) how it can be constructive. Every pastor should read it and any Christian could profit from it.
7. Selfish Libertarians and Socialist Conservatives? – Nathan Schlueter and Nikolai Wenzel
My hunch is that a lot of Christians who call themselves conservative are actually libertarian without realizing it. This book shows that while these two philosophies are similar in some ways (i.e. both promote small government), they are actually quite different. Any Christian who cares about politics or who leans libertarian would be sharpened by reading this book (full disclosure: I don’t lean libertarian). Schlueter argues for conservatism and Wenzel for libertarianism.
6. Descriptions and Prescriptions– Michael Emlet
If you or a loved one is facing the decision of whether to go on antidepressants, this book is written for you. The author is both a medical doctor and a biblical counselor, and is thus uniquely poised to help you think clearly about both psychiatric diagnoses and psychotropic drugs. Well informed, even-handed, and free of extremism.
5. All God’s Children and Blue Suede Shoes– Ken Myers
Is Bach better than Bono? Or is that even a valid question? Former NPR voice Ken Myers discusses how Christians should view pop culture and how much of it they can safely consume. I’m glad I read this when I was 35. Had I read it when I was younger, I would have dismissed it as elitist. But the older I get, the more I realize how much of the music and movies I consumed as a teen was simply junk food. Read it with an open mind.
4. Life in the Trinity– Donald Fairbairn
I’d never heard of the book or author till a friend recommended it to me. I was teaching a series on the Trinity, so I thought I’d check it out. Good thing I did. Fairbairn is an expert in the church fathers, and is also good at making their ideas accessible. But his main accomplishment here is to show how all Christian doctrines center around the doctrine of the Triune God. The Introduction alone is worth the price, and it can be read on Amazon.
3. In Defense of War – Nigel Biggar
This one was tough sledding, but I’m glad I made the effort. Biggar, an Anglican theologian and ethicist, makes a solid case against Christian pacifism and for Christian just war theory. His anecdotes from combat veterans are particularly enlightening, and at times touching. For a similar but shorter piece by another Anglican Christian, I’d recommend C.S. Lewis’s “Why I’m Not a Pacifist,” which can be found in The Weight of Glory and other Essays.
2. Ross Poldark, Demelza, Jeremy Poldark, and Warleggan- Winston Graham
At least TV-wise, 2017 was the year of Poldark for me. I managed to watch all three seasons and read the first 7 novels . Now it may seem like cheating to include four novels in one top-10 slot, but I think it’s fair because they represent one continuous story. If you’re like me and didn’t care as much for Season 3, then you should just read these four novels. They cover Seasons 1 and 2 but end with a much more satisfying closure, because they were originally the only Poldark novels Graham intended to write (the darker novels from which Season 3 was drawn weren’t written until 20 years later. ) And go ahead and laugh at the romance-novel book covers below; my male co-workers certainly did.
1. Middlemarch- George Eliot
What a brilliant cast of characters Ms. Eliot has created! Tilly had raved about this one so much that I just had to give it a go (see her review here, as well as her related blog post here). It speaks well of a book when even after 800 pages you’re sad that it’s over. My only regret is that I had watched the BBC mini-series twice before reading the book. But it was still worth it, and I look forward to coming back to it in the remaining years of my life. As a Jane Austen lover, I’d rank it below Austen’s best but above her worst.