I read a lot of great books in 2017. It was really the first full year since I learned how to read that I didn’t have any assigned reading for school, so I was able to read freely and whatever I wanted. It was pretty nice. Here, in no particular order, are the best books I read in 2017.
- Faithful Presence: Seven Disciplines that Shape the Church for Mission by David Fitch. This is a great book, written by a church planter/pastor and theologian on seven essential ways the church can faithfully engage culture in the post-Christian context of North America. The disciplines he promotes in the book are not new innovations or business-inspired strategies, but are rooted in Scripture and the examples of Jesus and the early church.
- The Jesus Way: A Conversation on the Ways that Jesus is the Way by Eugene Peterson. This is a book about learning how to follow in the ways of Jesus. Peterson looks at a number of Old Testament heroes and examines their lives and stories in relation to how they prepared the way that Jesus would fully live out. He also examines the lives of some biblical figures who failed to live in the way of Jesus. It’s a wonderfully written book that really helps the reader to learn from the successes and failures of the Biblical figures.
- You are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit by James K.A. Smith. This is a much more accessible version of the ideas Smith put forward in Desiring the Kingdom. He argues that human beings are primarily creatures who are defined by what we love and desire most. The problem is, our hearts desire the wrong things and thus we are oriented toward the wrong things. Spiritual growth is a matter of learning how to love and desire the right things, and this happens through worship. this is a highly practical book that is very deep, yet not technical.
- Memories, Dreams, Reflections by Carl Jung. This is Jung’s autobiography, which aims to give the reader a glimpse of both his life and his inner psyche. It is a fascinating, and in some cases bizarre, book as he recounts many of his own dreams and strange experiences that shaped both his psychoanalytic theory and legacy.
- Evangelical Theology: An Introduction by Karl Barth. Barth is one of my favorite theologians, and this short book is a collection of a series of lectures he gave in the United States before he died. Barth gives his reflections on what it means to do faithful theological work and what sorts of challenges it faces. My favorite thing about Barth is his belief that theology should be actually about God, and that it is work that should be done with joy.
- Lonesome Dove, Comanche Moon, and Dead Man’s Walk by Larry McMurtry. These three novels, each centered around the lives fictional Texas Rangers and cattlemen Augustus McCrae and Woodrow Call, are set in Texas and the wider west throughout the mid 1800s. The characters are extremely well-developed, deep, and believable. The novels are exciting, funny, sad, and masterfully convey the brutality of the old west.
- The Shining by Stephen King. This was the first Stephen King book I read, and I really liked it. It was interesting and thrilling. I wouldn’t call it scary, though.
- Leaving Cheyenne by Larry McMurtry. After finishing the above-mentioned books by McMurtry, I picked up a collection of three of his other novels. This was the best of the three, so far. This early novel of his follows the lives of two friends throughout the mid twentieth century in the fictional town of Thalia, Texas. One of the men inherits his ranch from his hardworking father, and the other is a freer spirit who ends up working for his friend for most of his life. Both of the friends love the same woman and she loves both of them, yet none of the three can seem to end up permanently together. They each end up in relatively unhappy marriages that are complicated by their love triangle.
If you’re looking for some good reading recommendations, there you have them!