2017 in Books

This is a fun post to look back at the year 2017 through a lens of the books read.

2017 was an odd year. Even in books. Piper is at the bottom, a western is in my top 5, and I read about half as much as I did in 2016 because I began having serious anxiety issues that greatly reduced my mental stamina.

Most of the books I read are to supplement my devotion life, walk, faith in Christ or to help in my leadership of the local church, but occasionally I read some fiction, and I am about 10% into Team of Rivals, about Abraham Lincoln.

Here are the books I read in 2017 ranked worst to first with a brief review of each:

17) Let the Nations Be Glad – John Piper

This book comes highly recommended by missionaries for the teaching on why missions matter. When I read John Piper it feels like he is making an argument instead of writing a letter. Don’t hate his work, just not a fan of his writing.

If you are considering international missions, have at it.

16) The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe – C.S. Lewis

There are some great evidences of C.S. Lewis ‘genius and Christ references. I will probably read this with my kids but other than that I was underwhelmed.

It is a fun, easy to read book and I do not mean to sound critical of C.S. Lewis but just not my favorite author.

15) Valley of Vision – Puritan Poetry and Meditations

Most of these short meditations are great to supplement your prayer and devotion time. The theology is sound and the passion for gospel repentance and devotion is evident.

The language and demeanor are not for everybody.

My wife and I read these infrequently but have found them helpful in seasons.

14) Family Worship – Donald Whitney

Must read for every man. If you’re a husband, you should have already read it. If you’re a dad and haven’t read it, you are late to the game.

All kidding aside, it is a short book on a greatly forgotten / untaught subject.

This is a tiny book that could greatly impact your family.

13) Experiencing the Trinity – Joe Thorn

Joe Thorn wrote this during / after battling mental health (anxiety or depression) and I found this helpful during / after battling my own mental health issues.

This is a book consisting of small chapters dedicated to a devotional focus of the Trinity, God the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit.

12) Preach: Theology Meets Practice – Mark Dever & Greg Gilbert

As I am learning how to preach I picked this up and found it to be very helpful with understanding what a sermon is and the how to’s. They even include transcripts of sermons that were edited by each other to show helpful critique.

Main thing to take away from this book – “make the main point of the text, the main point of the sermon”.  Even if you’re a topical preacher, you can be biblical if your preaching the main topic in context of the verse.

Very simple but more preachers should follow this: “Make the main point of the text, the main point of the sermon”.

11) Awe – Paul Tripp

This is written by a guy who explains grace better than anyone and he sets out to explain a thought on worship here.

This is a good book to read to expand our worship and get us out of “valleys”.

10) Saturate – Jeff Vanderstelt

Very good book on the missional community aspect of the local church.

Written by a good story teller using examples of his successes and very honest about his failures. Even a few stories, where I was surprised about how honest he was. I dont know if I would have had the courage to share some of his mistakes, which make me like and trust him. Small groups aren’t always sunshine and every gathering or function doesn’t make dreams come true. But the commitment of a small group of believers gathering for true fellowship and ministry is a powerful thing.

If you are leading a church, leading a small group, in a small group, or even in a church you should read this book.

9) Conviction to Lead – Al Mohler

If you are in business or church leadership this is an excellent read.

Great leadership book / story of Mohler’s rise into leadership of Southern Seminary and its revitalization. Mohler uses great biblical teaching, historical references, and leadership insight.

8) Hillbilly Elegy – J.D. Vance

I am not a hillbilly. I consider myself just “country”, but I understand what J.D. is saying. I saw some of the same things that he saw. He is my people. What he has done is a remarkable explanation of a white-subculture and a wonderful story.

I found my heart tugged for families but also found myself elbowing my wife explaining, “that happened to me too”.

Enlightening read.

7) True Spirituality – Francis Schaeffer

This is the best book on “worldview” I have ever read.  Schaeffer began his spiritual retreat center L’abri to battle existentialism. I greatly benefited from this book and would have loved to read it earlier in my Christian walk as a young believer when my biggest question, was, “Ok, I believe, now what I am I supposed to do, what am I supposed to think?”

I picked this book when I “wanted to get back to basics” with Jesus. This helped.

6) Prayer – Tim Keller

I will make a sweeping statement here: if there is a book written on prayer in the past 50 years, chances are it is written by a pitiful theologian full of twisted man-centered theology.

Tim Keller wrote the exception. It’s a great work covering and comparing many views on prayer, the difficulties on prayer, and the Bible’s teaching on prayer. There is also a great segment on Augustine’s, Luther’s, and Calvin’s teachings on prayer.

My wife and I read Prayer in 2017 and found it to be insightful, challenging, and even devotional.

Highly recommend this to every Christian, as we all have probably not been taught well on prayer.

5) Lonesome Dove – Larry McMurtry

I have watched the movie several times. It is a legendary movie in my family. I know this is cliché, but the book is even better.

From the first page, I could feel the heat and sand from south Texas and I journeyed with the Hat Creek Cattle Company travels north with all the challenges, fears, celebrations, and losses that occurred.

It is a Western. But it’s a story about relationships, pride, adventure, overcoming individuals pasts, love, growing up, and is written by a native Texan who I once dove hunted right next to his land.

The biggest claim people seem to like about this book from where I live is, “did you know the author lives an hour north of here.”, and I am like, “Did you know he won a Pulitzer Prize!?”

4) Newton on the Christian Life – Tony Reinke

John Newton wrote the famous hymn Amazing Grace. But did you know that he was also a great pastor who although had weaknesses, overcame them with his love of Jesus and simple love for people.

He made up for not being as eloquent or dynamic as Spurgeon or as theologically perceptive as Calvin with a passion to communicate and shepherd with his people via visits and handwritten letters.

Make no mistake though, Newton knew the gospel, was changed by the gospel and has a great life story covered very well Tony Reinke as part of a series “On the Christian Life” covering a wide range of pastors and theologians.

3) Prodigal God – Tim Keller

We need more books that focus on one passage or parable like Keller expounds Luke 15’s Prodigal Son.

Tim Keller writes and preaches with insight and wisdom that is somehow encouraging and comforting while also informing and convicting.

Listening and reading Keller is almost as if going to a grandpa when you’re in trouble and him explaining how everything is going to be alright, he’s there for you, but you know what you need to do.

I was always confused by the title until Tim Keller explains, “prodigal” doesn’t mean wayward but means more closely to “freely spending”, as in the son was freely spending on his way to blowing his inheritance and God was freely spending on his way to rescue us via the cross.

2) Good and Angry – David Powlison

I haven’t come across many books that deal with emotional or mental issues biblically. Most books fail at being power of positive thinking, or prosperity gospel, not helpful, or just all around foolish.

I researched books that dealt with anger and the gospel.

I was feeling I had to much bite and snap to me. When I was dealing with my wife, or kids, or at work, I felt like I always had a fuse burning and I didn’t know why.

Now, what later I learned this was the beginning of some more serious anxiety issues but at the time I just knew I didn’t like how I was acting.

This book taught me a lot how when we get upset at injustices, in a way we are feeling that way because of how we are created in the image of God, however, this book was great at showing and teaching me how to forgive quickly, process anger, not be ashamed of it, but see life more mercifully and gracefully.

1) Songs of Jesus – Tim Keller

This is a daily devotional by Tim and his wife Kathy Keller. It contains a passage from a psalm, a short comment or reflection on the psalm, and a written prayer.

This book has been beneficial in my worship and devotional times, for my understanding of the book of Psalms, and it has been really fun to hear my wife chat about it when I get home or a text about it during work and the ensuing discussion we have had all year long about this book and the scripture its discussing.

They have also recently released a similar devotional over the book of Proverbs.

If you made it to the bottom of this, you may have some questions, critiques, or suggestions. I am all ears. Let me know. Make a comment or email. But I bet you also have something else in mind:

Maybe your curious to why I read or you are a believer in Jesus and you are not a “reader” outside of the Bible and have pause about reading anything not Scripture, so let me add something:

  • I disagree with something that I read from every author I read, but I also learn a lot.
  • I also learn a great deal about Scripture, Jesus, and working out my faith from a lot of these authors.
  • But simply the exercise of reading trains me to consume and digest more of the Bible, so the question or concern of reading contemporary authors taking away time from reading the Bible actually gets flipped on its head, so my question to the critics of “readers”:

Are you limited in strength, stamina, ability, access, teachers if you’re not reading?

If you don’t read contemporary authors, I bet you don’t read the bible as much as you think.

If you don’t read contemporary authors, who is teaching you? Who is teaching the one(s) teaching them? Who disagrees with them?

There is freedom in reading, there is a world of joy in reading, there is a universe to be explored in reading.

Ecclesiastes 12:12…making many books there is no end….