My Top Books for 2017

For the past six years or so, my goal has been to read 60 books a year. Reason being that Stephen King in On Writing said he reads 60 books a year. I figured if it was good enough for him, it was good enough for me. After nearly hitting it last year, I finally did it. Sixty-two books for the year.

Looking over the list, I realize just how little fiction I read. Despite reading nine more books than last year, I read half the amount of fiction. My creative nonfiction numbers, however, nearly doubled. Looking at the list in order, you can see themes in my reading. There’s quite a bit on calling, leadership development, and spiritual gifts. I think my struggle to read fiction came from a deep desire to learn about those subjects. But now I wonder if it came at the expense of closing off my imagination. Hopefully in 2018 that’ll change.

At the risk of being late to the party, here are my top five reads from the year (in no particular order).

  1. ­The Return of the Prodigal Son – Henri Nouwen


I don’t know if I have a favorite author but Nouwen has to be somewhere near the top of the list. His ability to name what’s going on inside at some subterranean level isn’t just good. It’s downright terrifying. This is Nouwen at his best: simple yet deep, honest in a way you’re afraid to be, and beautiful.

  1. The Holy Longing – Ronald Rolheiser


There are a couple reasons Rolheiser makes the list. First, because the season I read it in. This past year was a huge one in terms of discerning calling and fighting restlessness. This book forced me to recognize that the grass isn’t greener on the other side. At our core, we are unsatisfied creatures who occasionally experience moments of satisfaction. Not the other way around. Second, because it was just so outside my usual authors. Rolheiser is Catholic. There’s an air of mysticism that I found refreshing. He reminded me of C.S. Lewis in the way he communicates profound truths in beautiful images I never would’ve thought of. This is supposedly first in a trilogy. I hope to read the others in the coming year.

  1. The ONE Thing – Gary Keller


“What’s the ONE thing you can do such that by doing it everything else will be either easier or unnecessary?”

Simple in language and engaging in its delivery, this book singlehandedly changed the way I view and/or approach my life. It gave me language for my own personal productivity. For weeks after, I couldn’t even attempt multi-tasking without feeling guilty. It was one of the few, if not the only personal development books I read this past year that didn’t feel longer than it needed to be. You could read the spark notes, but why would you?

  1. Autobiography of Malcom X – Malcolm X and Alex Haley


Absolutely sweeping. For most of my upbringing Malcolm X has been an enigmatic, if not polarizing figure. Though we always associate him with Martin Luther King, Jr., it’s MLK who gets the national holiday, the statues, and the streets named after him. Malcolm X always felt like second best (perhaps because history is written by the winners). This book not only showed me the span of a life, it changed my whole perspective on Malcom X. I found his critiques of the overall civil rights movement and the Christian church poignant. He may not have been a Christian but he was definitely a prophetic voice. I have a whole new respect for him.

  1. Surprised by the Power of the Spirit – Jack Deere


This almost didn’t make the list. But if I’m going with books that changed me in some way, then this book has to be included. This book challenged me to expect more from my life with God than I currently do. It gave me a deeper hunger and thirst to hear His voice. It made me want to create more space for the Holy Spirit within my ministry. It opened my eyes to what it means to eagerly desire the spiritual gifts. One of those books where I walked away knowing I couldn’t return to life as normal without in some way incriminating myself.

Full List:

  1. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Stephen Covey
  2. Man’s Search for Meaning – Viktor Frankl
  3. My Struggle (Book 3) – Karl Ove Knausgaard
  4. Sticky Church – Larry Osborne
  5. My Struggle (Book 4) – Karl Ove Knausgaard
  6. Divided by Faith – Christian Smith and Michael O. Emerson
  7. I Ain’t Coming Back – Dolphus Weary
  8. Walden – Henry David Thoreau
  9. Ender’s Game – Orson Scott Card
  10. The Autobiography of Malcolm X – Malcom X with Alex Haley
  11. Spiritual Equipping for Mission – Ryan Shaw
  12. Slow Kingdom Coming – Kent Annan
  13. Beauty – Roger Scruton
  14. Strengthsfinder 2.0 – Tom Rath
  15. The Elements of Speechwriting and Public Speaking – Jeff Scott Cook
  16. The Challenge of Jesus – N.T. Wright
  17. Living with a Creative Mind – Jeff and Julia Crabtree
  18. The Lost World of Adam and Eve – John H. Walton
  19. How Should We Then Live? – Francis Schaeffer
  20. Has Anyone Seen My Pants? – Sarah Colonna
  21. The Screwtape Letters – C.S. Lewis
  22. The Gift of Being Yourself – David Benner
  23. What to Do When You Don’t Know What to Do – David Jeremiah
  24. 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership – John C. Maxwell
  25. Brimstone – Hugh Halter
  26. Good to Great – Bob Collins
  27. The Slight Edge – Jeff Olson
  28. The Listening Life – Adam S. McHugh
  29. A Fellowship of Differents – Scot McKnight
  30. The Go-Giver – Bob Burg and John David Mann
  31. The ONE Thing – Gary Keller
  32. Getting Things Done – David Allen
  33. Courage & Calling – Gordon T. Smith
  34. Grit – Angela Duckworth
  35. The Return of the Prodigal Son – Henri J.M. Nouwen
  36. Zero to One – Peter Thiel
  37. Start with Why – Simon Sinek
  38. If You Feel Too Much – Jamie Tworkoski
  39. The Sacred Journey – Frederick Buechner
  40. Chasing Excellence – Ben Bergeron
  41. Now and Then – Frederick Buechner
  42. The Power of Habit – Charles Duhigg
  43. Let Your Life Speak – Parker Palmer
  44. Rising Strong – Brene Brown
  45. Telling Secrets – Frederick Buechner
  46. The Underground Railroad – Colson Whitehead
  47. The Language of God – Francis Collins
  48. I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be An Atheist – Norman L. Geiser and Frank Turek
  49. Miracles – Eric Metaxas
  50. Simply Christian – N.T. Wright
  51. The Last Arrow – Erwin McManus
  52. Run with the Horses – Eugene Peterson
  53. Surprised by the Power of the Spirit – Jack Deere
  54. Surprised by the Voice of God – Jack Deere
  55. The Holy Longing – Ronald Rolheiser
  56. Leaving Church – Barbara Brown Taylor
  57. Drown – Junot Diaz
  58. Out of the Silent Planet – C.S. Lewis
  59. Practicing the Power – Sam Storms
  60. Autumn – Karl Ove Knausgaard
  61. Called to Create – Jordan Raynor
  62. Perelandra – C.S. Lewis



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