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    Main | Change of Address »

    2017: My Year in Books

    This year has been incredibly satisfying with regard to the reading life. I keep a log each year of the books I have read, placing the occasional star beside titles I think will be worth revisiting or that I want to remember as exceptional. I have read seventy four books this year, some new releases, others that are classics, many that I loaned from the public library, a few that I purchased (mostly secondhand), and several that were sent my way for review.

    The first book I read this year was J. R. Briggs and Bob Hyatt’s Ministry Mantras: Language for Cultivating Kingdom Culture and the last I will read, at the current pace, will be Good Arguments: Making Your Case in Writing and Public Speaking by Richard Holland, Jr. and Benjamin K. Forrest.

    I read far more fiction this year than in years past, a practice I have begun taking much more seriously because of the novel’s capacity for increasing empathy, vocabulary, and connection. Novels give a glimpse into other cultures, periods of history, and areas of unfamiliar pursuit.

    I particularly enjoyed Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day, Francis Spufford’s Golden Hill, Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, and John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces. Ignatius J. Reilly is an unforgettable character. I was also glad to read Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island (which I will read again) and Graham Greene’s The End of the Affair. This was my first journey with Mr. Greene, and I will be reading his other novels.

    Michael Connelly published two new crime novels this year, Two Kinds of Truth and The Late Show. I try to read everything he writes, I love Harry Bosch, and I think I’ll enjoy following his new detective, Renée Ballard. I read other books in the thriller and crime genre this year, more than I had before, and found a few authors I plan to follow, most notably Jason Matthews.

    In nonfiction, I was deeply challenged by Douglas Murray’s brilliant book The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam. Howard Kurtz’s study of the press during the Clinton years, Spin Cycle, was also illuminating, especially in light of our present media environment. Nancy Isenberg’s study White Trash widened my understanding of American history, as did reading W. E. B. Du Bois' The Souls of Black Folks and Frederick Douglass’ Narrative of the Life. After reading John Kennedy Toole, I had to pick up Boethius’ Consolations of Philosophy, because how could I not?

    My approach to life was further formalized and refined after reading Greg McKeown’s Essentialism and Austin Kleon’s Steal Like an Artist. I recommend McKeown to every person who wants to strip away the superfluous and clarify what really counts in life.

    I was glad to read James Bryan Smith’s The Magnificent Story, and I will continue to read everything he writes, as well as to support what he is doing at Friends. I was built up by reading Larry Hurtado’s small book Why on Earth Did Anyone Become a Christian in the First Three Centuries? and the much larger tome by John Goldingay, Biblical Theology. Jen Pollock Michel’s Keeping Place was another excellent book which I strongly recommend.

    My favorite books this year, and the ones I will most remember and recommend, are Alan Jacobs’ How to Think and Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad. Jacobs has written a book that I wish everyone would read and apply. Whitehead has given us a deeply moving, powerful, and heartbreaking account of the evils of slavery in the United States.

    I already have a stack, and a list, for 2018. A reminder: any book that you purchase from Amazon through my website puts a credit in my pocket to buy more books next year. Erasmus, a kindred spirit, said, “When I have a little money, I buy books; and if I have any left, I buy food and clothes.”

    In the coming year I recommend that everyone keep a log, a notebook at your side, filled with titles and authors to chase. Happy hunting!

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