Top 10 Reads of 2017

Looking for holiday reads now that Christmas is over? Want to plan to read more in 2018? Here are my top 10 reads from 2017, in no particular order, plus the full list of books I read throughout the year.

As the inimitable Dr. Seuss so memorably put it, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go!”

Plus, in a world that’s increasingly distracted and insular, making reading a regular part of your life helps develop both your focus and your empathy, increasing the potential for you to bring your best both to tasks and to relationship. That sounds to me like a good way to set yourself up for the best possible 2018!

My Top 10 Reads of 2017


  1. The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood)

“They blamed it on the Islamic fanatics, at the time. Keep calm, they said on television. Everything is under control. I was stunned. Everyone was, I know that. It was hard to believe. The entire government, gone like that. How did they get in, how did it happen? That was when they suspended the Constitution. They said it would be temporary. There wasn’t even any rioting in the streets. People stayed home at night, watching television, looking for some direction. There wasn’t even an enemy you could put your finger on. Look out, said Moira to me, over the phone. Here it comes. Here what comes? I said. You wait, she said. They’ve been building up to this.”



2. Sleep Smarter (Shawn Stevenson and Sara Gottfried MD)

“Sleep is the secret sauce. There isn’t one facet of your mental, emotional, or physical performance that’s not affected by the quality of your sleep. The big challenge is that in our fast-paced world today, millions of people are chronically sleep deprived and suffering the deleterious effects of getting low-quality sleep. The consequences of sleep deprivation aren’t pretty either. Try immune system failure, diabetes, cancer, obesity, depression, and memory loss, just to name a few. Most people don’t realize that their continuous sleep problems are also a catalyst for the diseases and appearance issues they’re experiencing. Studies have shown that just one night of sleep deprivation can make you as insulin resistant as a person with type 2 diabetes. This translates directly to aging faster, decreased libido, and storing more body fat than you want to (say it ain’t so!).”


3. Reformation: A world in turmoil (Andrew Atherstone)

“The Reformation was a clash of ideologies, and the confessional divide became sharply defined as the century progressed. Alongside heated debates on justification and the Eucharist, there was an explosion of fresh thinking and argumentation on themes such as kingship, nationhood, freedom of conscience, and obedience to authority. The disruption was driven partly by a thirst for political power and economic supremacy, as princes, popes, and peasants sought to build their empires and defend their sovereignty… The Reformation even left Europe divided chronologically. In February 1582 Pope Gregory XIII published a bull, Inter Gravissimas, which reformed the ancient Julian calendar of the Roman Republic and replaced it with the more accurate Gregorian calendar. The Catholic governments in Spain, Portugal, Italy, and France immediately adopted the new system, beginning the new year on 1 January instead of 25 March, but Protestants were suspicious of this papal interference. Several territories, including England, Scandinavia, and parts of Germany and the Dutch Republic, resisted the change until the eighteenth century.”


4. The Organised Mind: Thinking straight in the age of information overload (Daniel Levitin)

“Just having the opportunity to multitask is detrimental to cognitive performance. Glenn Wilson of Gresham College, London, calls it infomania. His research found that being in a situation where you are trying to concentrate on a task, and an e-mail is sitting unread in your inbox, can reduce your effective IQ by 10 points. And although people claim many benefits to marijuana, including enhanced creativity and reduced pain and stress, it is well documented that its chief ingredient, cannabinol, activates dedicated cannabinol receptors in the brain and interferes profoundly with memory and with our ability to concentrate on several things at once. Wilson showed that the cognitive losses from multitasking are even greater than the cognitive losses from pot smoking.”


5. Predictably Irrational: The hidden forces that shape our decisions (Dan Ariely and Simon Jones)

“To explain the decoy effect further, let me tell you something about bread-making machines. When Williams-Sonoma first introduced a home “bread bakery” machine (for $275), most consumers were not interested. What was a home bread-making machine, anyway? Was it good or bad? Did one really need home-baked bread? Why not just buy a fancy coffee-maker sitting nearby instead? Flustered by poor sales, the manufacturer of the bread machine brought in a marketing research firm, which suggested a fix: introduce an additional model of the bread maker, one that was not only larger but priced about 50 percent higher than the initial machine. Now sales began to rise (along with many loaves of bread), though it was not the large bread maker that was being sold. Why? Simply because consumers now had two models of bread makers to choose from. Since one was clearly larger and much more expensive than the other, people didn’t have to make their decision in a vacuum. They could say: “Well, I don’t know much about bread makers, but I do know that if I were to buy one, I’d rather have the smaller one for less money.” And that’s when bread makers began to fly off the shelves.”


6. The Great Divorce (CS Lewis)

“I think earth, if chosen instead of Heaven, will turn out to have been, all along, only a region in Hell: and earth, if put second to Heaven, to have been from the beginning a part of Heaven itself.





7. Our Global Families: Christians embracing common identity in a changing world (Todd M. Johnson and Cindy M. Wu)

“Religion experts such as Diana Eck, director of the Pluralism Project at Harvard University, conceptualize religious pluralism along the lines of the Latin saying on the Great Seal of the United States, E pluribus unum, “Out of many, one.” So, for instance, a religiously diverse town in the United States might have a Christian church, a Native American spiritual center, a humanist society, a Jewish synagogue, a Muslim mosque, and Buddhist, Hindu, and Sikh temples. But the town would be considered to have religious pluralism only if these diverse groups contribute to a common civil society, accept one another, and approach differences respectfully.”


8. The Wind in the Willows (Kenneth Grahame)

“Nice? It’s the only thing,” said the Water Rat solemnly as he leant forward for his stroke. “Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing–absolute nothing–half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats. Simply messing,” he went on dreamily: “messing–about–in–boats; messing–“





9. Deep Work: Rules for focused success in a distracted world (Cal Newport)

“Don’t Take Breaks from Distraction. Instead Take Breaks from Focus. Many assume that they can switch between a state of distraction and one of concentration as needed, but as I just argued, this assumption is optimistic: Once you’re wired for distraction, you crave it. Motivated by this reality, this strategy is designed to help you rewire your brain to a configuration better suited to staying on task.”



10. The Last Arrow: Save nothing for the next life (Erwin Raphael McManus)

“People like Shammah create a problem for the rest of us. One person who chooses to live a heroic life disrupts the narrative ‘We are living a lesser life’ as the acceptable option. Even if Shammah had failed, even if he had died, the moment he took a stand, he changed the story. He changed the standard. It’s hard to tell the story as you sit around the fireplace and explain that you had no option but to run, because some innocent child will ask, ‘But where’s Shammah?'”



And the rest…

11. Developing the Leaders Around You (John Maxwell)

12. The Great Good Thing (Andrew Klaven)

13. The Barefoot Investor (Scott Pape)

14. Textbook Romance (Hamish Blake and Zoë Foster Blake)

15. Play it Away (Charlie Hoehn)

16. When Breath Becomes Air (Paul Kalanithi)

17. The Teacher of Cheops (Albert Salvadó)

18. Ghost Fleet (PW Singer and August Cole)

19. The Weight of Glory (CS Lewis)

20. The Art of Writing and the Gifts of Writers (CS Lewis)

21. The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness (Tim Keller)

22. The Communist Manifesto (Karl Marx)

23. Make Your Bed (William H McRaven)

24. Letters to My Daughter (Maya Angelou)

25. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (Lewis Carroll)

26. Mindset (Carol Dweck)

27. You Are a Writer (Jeff Goins)

28. Your Fathers, Where Are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever? (Dave Eggers)

29. St Francis of Assisi (GK Chesterton)

30. Before the Fall (Noah Hawley)

31. Even the Stars Look Lonesome (Maya Angelou)

32. The Screwtape Letters (CS Lewis)

33. The Short Stories of CS Lewis (CS Lewis)

34. The Death of Ivan Ilyich (Leo Tolstoy)

35. TED Talks (Chris Anderson)

36. The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive (Patrick Lencioni) [Re-read]

37. Death By Meeting (Patrick Lencioni)

38. The Advantage (Patrick Lencioni) [Re-read]

39. The Pilgrims Regress (CS Lewis)

40. Finish (Jon Acuff)

41. The Book of Chameleons (José Edwardo Agualusa)

42. Failing Forward (John Maxwell)

43-49 The Chronicles of Narnia (CS Lewis) [Re-read]

50. How’s Your Soul? (Judah Smith)

51. The First 90 Days (Michael D Watson)

52. Annie John (Jamaica Kincaid)

53. Reshaping it all (Candace Cameron-Bure)

54. Anxious for Nothing (Max Lucado)

55. Kill the Spider (Carlos Whittaker)

56. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (L. Frank Baum)

57. City of Man (Michael Gerson and Peter Wehner) [Re-read]

58. The Invention of Morel (Adolfo Bioy Casares)

59. A Tale of Three Kings (Gene Edwards)

60. Astrophysics for People in a Hurry (Neil deGrasse Tyson)

61. Letters to Father Christmas (JRR Tolkien)

62. We Have Never Been Modern (Bruno Latour)


(I also read a bunch of theological resources – commentaries, studies and so forth – in study for various topics, but as they were mostly in part rather than in whole, and as they aren’t really general reading books, I’ve left them out here.)


Looking for more ideas? Check out my top 10 lists from 2016, 2015 and 2014.

Want strategies for fitting more reading into your life? Here are four easy ways to read more.