Let’s get this out of the way: Year-end reading lists are usually more helpful for making us feel guilty about what we didn’t read than making us thankful for what we did.
My own year of reading was certainly no exception; the pile of books that I read this year seems so small compared to that of others. Yet, I think it’s important to actively fight against this feeling. There is probably a place for reading to have read, but it’s a place that is often far more prominent in my ego than it needs to be. Reading at whim and for pleasure is, all variables being equal, vastly superior to reading to keep up. The former can, and often has, turned something in my soul. The latter usually just confirms my preexisting insecurities and arrogances.
With that prologue finished, here are the books I spent the most pleasurable time with this year. This isn’t an exhaustive list of my reading (though I won’t pretend that the exhaustive list would be much bigger), nor is it a definitive breakdown of everything I liked this year. Rather, these are the books that stayed with me the longest after I read them, the books I thought about the most, the books I marinated in the deepest. Most are from 2017, though not all.
-Brian Jay Jones, George Lucas: A Life. A compulsively readable biography. While it doesn’t offer quite the psychological insights I hoped, Lucas’s eclectic, unlikely career is vividly told with lots of fascinating new anecdotes.
-Rod Dreher, The Benedict Option. If you haven’t read the book, you don’t quite know the argument.
-Tom Nichols, The Death of Expertise. An accessible and unpretentious assessment of a major cultural development. An essential read for anyone trying to understand the impact of the internet on how we think. Speaking of which…
-Alan Jacobs, How To Think. One of my most underlined books of the year. I like to think of it as a long essay about the epistemological consequences of social media. I can hardly think of a more timely work.
-John Stott, The Cross of Christ. This was my first foray in a Christian classic. Stott’s defense of penal substitutionary atonement is beautiful—so much so that it’s odd to even call it a “defense.” Of all the nonfiction I read this year, this one drove me to prayer and worship the most.
-Graham Greene, The Heart of the Matter. Greene’s psychological novels dig deep in my soul. This story about a duty-bound English police officer and his crisis of faith and marriage kept me up late hours of the evening. The ending is one of the most spiritually moving pieces of fiction I’ve read.
-Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart. An exquisitely written novel about some of the most fundamental human experiences. Aspiring storytellers should know this book.
-Sarah Shin, Beyond Colorblind. This excellent work is a rare thing: An evangelical treatise on race, white privilege, and community that is both thoroughly Christian and unflaggingly level headed.
-James K.A. Smith, You Are What You Love. Probably the second-best book I read this year. On that note,
-Joe Rigney, The Things of Earth. My #1 read of 2017. I will be re-reading this book regularly. It has given me something for which I’ve longed for a while: A theological perspective on enjoying what God gives, and why doing so doesn’t conflict with enjoying who God is.