I almost did it. I came so close. And yet, as the year dies, defeat looks me in the eye. Yes, I had many challenges fighting against me — several months rendered useless because my time was monopolized by ministry, and three months not even being home. But I had overcome them, I made up for what was lost, I was almost there, I almost made it — but didn’t. I didn’t complete my reading challenge. I only read 45 out of the 52-book goal that I attempted.
But all dramatics aside, my reading challenge wasn’t a failure in any sense. There’s never not a good time to read, and my commitment gave me a goal and accountability to be intentional about picking up heavy tome. Or slim e-reader, as the case may be.
Looking back now, I ran into some interesting adventures in Literary land. I had a hurdle initially trying to even organize and label all the titles I read. Where do I file The Great Divorce? As fiction, or Christian living? How do I define The Story of Reality? I also read many things I didn’t enjoy this year (I’m looking at you, Steinbeck), things read solely because they are on the List-Of-Things-You-Are-Supposed-To-Read. I wonder if the List-Writers have ever read anything themselves. Yet, I also gave myself rein to read some light things solely for enjoyment. I found some new favorites. Good Christian dystopian fiction does actually exist. (There’s a sentence I truly believed I would never see.) I even read a book that hasn’t been published yet, as an alpha reader for a friend.
But the easy part of being a reader is the actual reading. The impossible part is answering the inevitable question. “Which was your favorite?” And I have forty-five to choose from. So, instead of attempting the impossible, I shall instead pick the cream of the crop, making both my task and my suggestions a bit more manageable.
So without further ado, here are my top 10 books from 2017
1: This Changes Everything: How the Gospel Transforms the Teen Years, by Jaquelle Crowe
This was my first book of the year, written by a first-time author, who just happened to be one of my first supporters in getting my first article published on Rebelution. So perhaps I’m a bit biased when I say this book is magnificent. But I’m not the only one. Winning both TGC’s award for best first-time author, as well as Christianity Today’s award of merit for best Children and Youth Book, This Changes Everything reminds us that we can’t just give God part of our life. Every single aspect of it, He declares dominion over; and what He lays claim to, He makes change to. I personally stayed up far into the night finishing this book in one sitting, because it was so very good!
2: One Thousand Gifts; A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are, by Ann Voskamp
I recognize that there are varying opinions on this book. But if nothing else, it reawakened my delight in the beauty that God is, and the beauty that should be our writing when we speak of Him.
3: Out of Time Series, by Nadine Brandes
Remember when I claimed good YA dystopian novels do exist? Remember when I claimed that good Christian YA dystopian novels exist? Well, here we are. I don’t remember why I picked up A Time to Die, but I remember doing so with the mindset of, “Well, this is Christian, so it’s probably going to be just some clean, cheesy, tolerable dystopian clichés with a few Bible verses thrown in.” Wrong. My expectations were subverted. The stakes were serious. And faith living in a dystopian future was handled thoughtfully and well.
4: Wars of the Realm Series, by Chuck Black
And while we’re on the subject of good Christian fiction that refuses to play to our expectations of Christian media and stereotypes, let’s talk about Chuck Black. If you haven’t read his Kingdom or Knights of Arrethtrae series yet; then sir, get thee to a library. Easy reads but none the less intriguing for it, The Wars of the Realm explores spiritual warfare from an interesting perspective — one of a non-Christian protagonist.
5: A Practical Guide to Culture: Helping the Next Generation Navigate Today’s World, by Brett Kunkle and John Stonestreet
“What is cultural success? It’s a life lived like Hans and Sophie Scholl, deeply engaging the moment in which God has placed us and courageously navigating the threatening currents, knowing that we serve a cause, and a God, far greater than ourselves.” An excellent and expertly handled overview of life in our 21st Century, which you can read my full review of here.
6: Wordsmithy: Hot Tips for the Writing Life, by Douglas Wilson
Is this the book recommended by all writers for all writers? Yes, yes it is. Does it deserve such acclaim? Yes, yes it does. I received it on Christmas, read through it the very next day, and promptly placed it on my read-every-year shelf.
7: What He Must Be: If He Wants to Marry My Daughter, by Voddie Baucham
If there’s anything more exciting, terrifying, confusing, and frustrating than navigating relationships and trying to find a spouse, I must not be old enough to know it. What He Must Be lays out some guidelines and challenges for young men in what they should be aiming for, young women in what they should be looking for, and parents in what they should be training for. To quote one of my favorite phrases from Pastor Baucham, “If you can’t say Amen, you oughta say Ouch.”
8: Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, by Nabeel Qureshi
You may have heard of Nabeel’s passing this last year, and read some powerful tributes. But much more powerful is his story. Part autobiography, part documentary of the clash between Islam and Christianity,Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus is a thought-provoking, laughter-making, tear-inducing journey following Nabeel to his conversion, with a convicting look at our own complacency and lack of passion for the Gospel. If you only read one biography, one book on Islam, or one book on apologetics in 2018, make it this one.
9: The Weight of Glory, by C. S. Lewis
This list would be amiss if I didn’t include at least one C. S. Lewis. I read five different books by Lewis this year; yes, I slacked off quite a bit. Even though I didn’t finish Weight of Glory before the end of 2017, it’s one I’ll always recommend, as I read through it yearly. It is not only an ever-masterful discussion of what glory really means (with thoughts on friendships, living in light of eternity, and others in the essays included with it) but also the book that made me sit back with eyes full of wonder and think “I want to be able to do that. To make beauty with words.” Also, it’s by C. S. Lewis. Enough said.
10: Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions, by Gregory Koukl
This is a book I recommend for everyone. Absolutely everyone should read it. And as all of my friends will tell you, I recommend it all the time. (To the point where it’s now an ongoing joke in our group.) Do you want to be able to engage people well? Read this book. Do you want to be able to understand and love others well? Read this book. Do you want to be able to deftly handle your apologetics? Read this book. Do you want to comfortably and gracefully have conversations about faith with others? Read this book. But perhaps I’m being too subtle with my hints. Seriously, you should read Tactics.
There were dozen of others books I’d like to talk about, but as Douglas Wilson taught me this year, know where to end.
Did you complete the 2017 reading challenge? What were your top books of the year?