Books of the Year

2017 was a pretty good reading year, 60 books completed plus a variety of resource books/reading (which I don’t count). Not bad for this stage of life. So, in no particular order:

  • The Imperfect Pastor
    • This was the book of the year for me. Timely, humble, earnest and just the words I needed to keep going at this crazy calling. I had never heard of Zach Eswine before this book, but I am now a huge, and grateful, fan.
  • Barbarian Days
    • If I were to write this book it would be a “San Francisco Giants Fan Days” or something like that. This is a long meditation on our passions and hobbies and how those shape and organize our lives, which I totally get and very much appreciate.
  • Just Mercy
    • If there is an energy that drives a lot of social justice work it is anger. Which makes sense: injustice should make us angry. The problem is that when it comes to communicating about issues and causes anger only gets you so far. And then a bunch of angry people yelling about their cause gets loud (and a little obnoxious). Bryan Stevenson is one of the most humble, quiet, and yet deeply passionate people working for justice and shalom in our world. His voice is so fresh and so inspiring and there are some INCREDIBLE stories in this book. Please read it.
  • The Tech-Wise Family
    • I deeply appreciate Andy Crouch’s approach here, because he moves us beyond the issue (technology and parenting) to what is really true and important: raising wise children (and becoming a wise person in general). More than thinking about smart phones and lap tops, this book challenged me to think about modeling wisdom and how I am leading our kids to a life of pursing wisdom.
  • Ready Player One
    • I met with a group of guys fall of 2016 into the new year for discipleship, and we often met in a sports bar in Rockridge. This bar was close to where one of the men was living at the time so his wife would come down and wait for us to wrap up so the two of them could hang out. While we talked, she read. I’d always end up talking to her about what she was reading and one time she very sheepishly told me about this book (virtual reality, mystery, sci-fi, etc), and I said “I’m in!” I completely enjoyed every page of this book. It’s got 80’s references, music/movie/book references, a total nerd fest. It would have been the novel of the year (but it got beat out in the end by a truly remarkable work of fiction). Still, this was an amazing, satisfying read that I will likely pick up again. It is also being made into a movie, a feat that seems impossible (but I guess Spielberg is on it, so we are probably in good hands).
  • Kill ‘Em And Leave
    • I love musician biographies. I try to read a few each year, but this was the only one I got to in 2017. However, it was a doozy! I know very little about James Brown outside of “I Feel Good” (which used to be the intro song for Giants broadcasts back in the day, which sort of proves my earlier point). This was a very educational read, one that had me running to Spotify or Wikipedia to hear more or learn more. James McBride is also an incredible writer, which makes the whole thing worth your time whether you are interested in the subject matter or not.
  • Paradoxology
    • The other new voice that I am now a huge fan of now is Krish Kandiah. This book, along with God is Stranger, are great introductions to his work and thinking. Kandiah invites us into the weirdness and strangeness of Scripture and then pulls us through to the other side where we can exercise a stronger faith for having taken the journey. His writing is very accessible, even though he delves into some deep waters. My Writer of 2017.
  • As Kingfisher’s Catch Fire
    • I have a friend who, if he knows an author has X amount of books, will purposely save one of their books so that they never get to the end. In his words: he would rather live in a world knowing there’s at least one more book to be read (by__________) than not. I sort of get it because when Eugene Peterson decided to stop writing I kind of freaked out. I haven’t read all of his books, yet, but there will come a day when there is only one more. In the meantime, though, Peterson did publish this new work, a collection of sermons from his preaching ministry. You can see all the roots of his writing ministry in the these sermons. They are beautiful, and served as my devotional reading for about three months. I’m not sure what I will do when I come to that last book, but for now I continue to treasure Peterson’s words, he is a giant.
  • The Hate U Give
    • The novel of the year. I read this on Amy’s recommendation. Wow. There’s a lot one could read regarding police brutality these days, but this book humanizes the issue (both sides) in a way nothing else has (to my knowledge), it doesn’t provide any easy answers, and it will stick with you for some time.
  • Telling the Truth
    • I’m embarrassed to confess that I know Frederick Buechner far more from quotes than from original sources. This book came recommended by Dad, and it was, in many ways, a fitting sequel to The Imperfect Pastor. These two works, together, were fuel for the craft this year, and will be returned to again and again.
  • The Beginning and The End
    • Here is a short, but extremely profound, book that picks up where Dallas Willard leaves off. I have now made it a required intern reading text, and it is an excellent summary of the larger narrative arc of Scripture and how that arc informs our hermeneutics. Narrative theologians add this one to your tool bag.
  • Barking to the Choir
    • One of the gifts of books is they introduce you to people who remind you of certain truths: that we live in a beautiful, God-bathed world, and that there is hope and a better story to be lived and told. Greg Boyle is one of those people for me. Barking to the Choir is a bit more somber than Tattoos on the Heart, but still full of joy, humor, and deep insight into the power of compassion to change hearts.

Happy Reading in 2018!

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