Five Favorite Books of 2017

It’s that time of year again! This is my third annual “Favorite Five” post that I do every December. I love to read, and hope that sharing a few of my favorites inspires you to spend a little less time on Netflix and a little more time in a good book! Here are my favorite 5 reads of 2017 (out of 55), in descending order. My goal next year is to hit 100 books. Keep me accountable, and I would love to do the same for your reading goals! Here we go:
 
5) The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided By Politics And Religion by Jonathan Haidt
 
Have you ever wondered why our country is so polarized? Or why your coworker on the other side of the political spectrum never changes their mind because of your flawless logic? Psychologist Jonathan Haidt provides us with a groundbreaking book to help us understand the mechanisms behind the seemingly infinite divides in our religion, politics, and morality. Using the metaphor of an elephant and rider, Haidt argues that our emotions and intuitions (the elephant) are far more powerful and influential than our mental reasoning (the rider). We can try and reason with the brain (rider), but the elephant (moral intuition) has been shaped by years of past life experiences, contexts, and assumptions (and thus is less moved by reason).  
 
This book is a must-read for those trying to have substantive conversations with those on the other side of the political/moral/religious/philosophical spectrum. If you’ve liked anything by James K.A. Smith, this is a similar project from a non-religious perspective. 
 
4) The ONE Thing: The Surprising Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan
 
Somehow I caught this book on Amazon (digitally) for free ninety-nine. I’m not sure if this was a mistake or what. But it turned out to be the best free book I’ve ever purchased. No really, this is absolutely the best book on productivity that I’ve ever read. Keller’s whole argument is that the most successful people do less, not more. In fact, the way to success is by doing, yep, you guessed it, ONE Thing (is everyone named “Keller” super smart?) 
 
Keller dismantles what he calls the “six lies between you and success:”1) Everything matters equally 2) Multitasking 3) A disciplined life 4) Willpower is always on will-call 5) A balanced life and 6) Big is bad. Lie #2 in particular caught my attention, as Keller shows through research that multitasking is a lie. You might argue that you’re great at it, but the science says otherwise. People that focus on one thing are more productive than those doing two. “It’s not that we have too little to do all the things we need to do, it’s that we feel the need to do too many things in the time we have.” In our scattered, distracted age, where we’re constantly bombarded with notifications, beeps, buzzes or dings, is it any wonder that we’re so incredibly unproductive?  This is a must-read for those who want to increase productivity. The daily, moment by moment question Keller encourages us to ask is this: “What’s the ONE Thing I can do such that by doing it, everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”
 
3) People to be Loved: Why Homosexuality Is Not Just an Issue by Preston Sprinkle
 
I’ve spent many hours reading, thinking, and talking with some of you about same-sex sexuality this year. Preston’s book on the topic is massively helpful in a number of ways. First, and perhaps most importantly for the conservative crowd, Preston reminds us that we’re talking about people, not just an issue. While doing the research for this book, Preston was convicted that he was spending too much time in the library and not enough time actually talking to people who experience same-sex attraction. So he decided to spend half his time in the library, and half his time in the coffee shop with anyone willing to share his/her story with him. We would be wise to do the same. The church definitely has a “posture problem” in this area. We’ve sometimes treated some sins as unpardonable (same-sex relationships), and treated other sins as not a big problem (like greed or divorce). 
 
Secondly, Preston defends the so-called “traditional” view, the historic, Judeo-Christian perspective of sexuality as found in the Bible. He’s familiar with the high-level scholarship in regards to particular Greek words, and demonstrates with relative certainty that Jesus and Paul held to this historic view. The modern interpretation, that the Apostle Paul’s prohibitions refer to pederasty and not same-sex sexual activity, can’t hold the scholarly weight.  
 
All this to say, the book does an excellent job “speaking the truth in love.” We need to do a lot more listening, love others, and cherish God’s good intention for sex and marriage. 
 
2) Lincoln’s Battle with God: A President’s Struggle With Faith and What it Meant for America by Stephen Mansfield
 
Countless biographies, especially from the Christian sector, should be called hagiographies (holy-writings), because they downplay the faults and overemphasize the strengths of the subject. However, Mansfield’s book could not be accused of hagiography. He offers us a unique look into the history and heart of this conflicted man. In his early life, “Honest” Abe wasn’t real honest and was probably more known as “Atheist Abe.” He struggled with mental health issues and visited prostitutes to numb his depression. And yet, after the election and during the war, Lincoln experienced and expressed a renewed interest in the faith of his mother. Perhaps America’s worst war drove Lincoln to his knees in dependence on God. The book is a must read for history-buffs or those interested in the spiritual journey of our best President. 
 
1) Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity by Nabeel Qureshi.
 
This book was so moving that I think I read its 300 pages in three sittings. In it, Nabeel details his conversion from an intensely devoted Islamic faith to a robust Christianity.  In a college debate class, Nabeel met a Christian man named David Wood, who would become a lifelong friend. The two ceaselessly debated Christianity and Islam, the Bible and the Qu’ran, Jesus and Muhammad. But their friendship could handle it, because they were committed to each other even during the fiery exchanges. While these debates were important to Nabeel’s conversion, it’s evident that the way the Christian community (David, professors, church leaders, other Christians) treated Nabeel played in to his stunning story. The book inspired a number of thoughts for me. In particular, I wonder how can we, as the church, can be more open to minority ethnic and religious people, even in homogeneous areas like my own.
 
Sadly, on September 16 of this year, Nabeel died from a yearlong battle with cancer. While his life is over, his legacy lives on through his story, his wife and daughter, and his countless videos and books. 
  
Thanks for reading my Favorite Five! Additional books below! 
 
Disclaimer: Just because I read the book doesn’t mean I agree with the author in his/her entirety, so don’t judge me that I read Narconomics: How To Run A Drug Cartel by Tom Wainwright.
 
Bonus: The Next Favorite Five
 
From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya: A Biographical History of Christian Missions by Ruth A. Tucker.  
Awaiting the King: Reforming Public Theology by James K.A. Smith 
Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer by James L. Swanson 
Sex And The Iworld: Rethinking Relationship Beyond An Age of Individualism by Dale S. Kuehne 
Goodbye, Things: The New Japanese Minimalism by Fumio Sasaki
Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell
Additional books from 2017:
 
Summary of Essentialism – Elite Summaries
Genesis Unbound: A Provocative New Look At The Creation Account – John Sailhamer
The Day The Revolution Began: Reconsidering the Meaning of Jesus’ Crucifixion – N.T. Wright
Institutes of the Christian Religion – John Calvin
Batman and Psychology: A Dark and Stormy Knight – Travis Langley
Narconomics: How To Run A Drug Cartel – Tom Wainwright
Rome Sweet Home: Our Journey to Catholicism – Scott Hahn 
Around The Wicket Gate – Charles Spurgeon
Persian Fire: The First World Empire and the Battle for the West – Tom Holland
Till We Have Faces – C.S. Lewis
Coach Wooden’s Pyramid of Success: Building Blocks For A Better Life – John Wooden and Jay Carty
The Rule of St. Benedict – St. Benedict, Translated by Cardinal Gasquet
Basic Christianity – John Stott
Incomparable: Explorations in the Character of God – Andrew Wilson
Celebration of the Disciplines – Richard Foster
Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Productivity – Charles Duhigg 
The Benedict Option: A Strategy For Christians In A Post-Christian Nation – Rod Dreher
Crazy Busy – Kevin DeYoung
Setting Our Affections Upon Glory: Nine Sermons on the Gospel and the Church – Martin Llyod-Jones
Silence – Shusaku Endo
Soccer Men: Profiles of the Rogues, Geniuses, and Neurotics Who Dominate the World’s Most Popular Sport – Simon Kuper
Friend of Sinners – Harvey Turner
How to be Here: A Guide to Creating a Life Worth Living – Rob Bell
English Grammar Boot Camp – The Great Courses, Professor Anne Curzan
Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t – Simon Sinek
The Way of the Dragon or the Way of the Lamb: Searching for Jesus’ Path of Power in a Church that has abandoned it – Kyle Stroble, Jamin Goggin
The Impact of Trust – Bruce Brown
Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action – Simon Sinek 
Evangelism in the New Testament: A Plea For Biblically relevant Evangelism- Jon Speed
Paula the Waldensian – Eva Lecomte
The Jesus Creed: Loving God, Loving Others – Scot McKnight
Unbelievable? Why After Ten Years of Talking with Atheists, I’m Still A Christian – Justin Brierley
Confessions: A New Translation – Sarah Ruden
The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down – Haemin Sunim
God Has A Name: – John Mark Comer 
Onward: Engaging the Culture Without Losing the Gospel – Russel Moore
You Lost Me: Why Young Christians are Leaving Church and Rethinking Faith – David KinnamanI
Was Told To Come Alone: My Journey Behind the lines of Jihad – Souad Mekhennet
God-Soaked Life: Discovering A Kingdom Spirituality – Chris Webb
A Wind in the House of Islam: How God is drawing Muslims around the world to faith in Jesus Christ – David Garrison
8 Hours of Less: Writing Faithful Sermons Faster – Ryan Huguley
Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance – Angela Duckworth
John Hus: A Brief Story of the Life of a Martyr – William Dallmann
The Mission Of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative – Christopher Wright
The Road Back To You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery – Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile
Resource Works:
 
Genesis 1-11: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture  -Kenneth Matthew
Genesis 11:27-50:26: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture -Kenneth Matthews
Genesis: The NIV Application Commentary- John H. Walton
Genesis: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary- John H. Sailhamer