For me, a favorite aspect of the end of the year is the many lists of best books published by Christian thinkers and organizations. They make me almost as happy as this picture of my grandson! If you want to see a comprehensive collection of lists in one place, check out this page that Tim Challies put together.
Some people list the best books that were published in 2017 and other the best books they read in 2017. I thought for the fun of it I would go back and look at my book log for the year and pick my favorites reads.
This year I read (or listened to) at least 65 complete books. I started a lot more than that, but many I didn’t finish for various reasons. The general breakdown of my reading by genre was 25 biography, 21 fiction (a lot of mysteries), 12 Theology and Christian Living, and 6 history. Of the biographies about half were stories of men and women living the gospel in cross-cultural contexts.
From those books, here are my top 4 with a few runners up.
Granny Brand: Her Story
by Dorothy Clarke Wilson
Granny Brand describers the life of a pioneer missionary to the southern mountains of India. Evelyn Constance Harris left a secure, middle class English life and went alone to India in 1912. There she met and married fellow missionary Jesse Brand, a bold and adventurous preacher of the gospel. Together they moved into remote hill country, teaching about Jesus, helping improve agriculture, opening schools, and providing basic medical treatment. Paul died in 1928 but Evelyn continued as a missionary for 45 years, living at times alone in the hills until she died at the age of 94. Her son Paul Brand became a missionary physician who developed groundbreaking techniques for treating leprosy (see his biography). This book has all the best qualities of a classic missionary biography: it inspires, teaches, and opens our hearts to love a people unlike ourselves. Dorothy Wilson clearly loves the person she is writing about, but keeps her human so that the glory goes to the God she serves.
Biography Runner Up
Not Forgotten : the True Story of My Imprisonment in North Korea
by Kenneth Bae
Kenneth Bae, a Korean-American Christian Missionary, was convicted by North Korea on charges of planning to overthrow the government and sentenced in April 2013 to 15 years of imprisonment. He was released on November 8, 2014. This book describes the backstory of how he ended up in prison and what took place the year and a half he was there. I think it is an important book to read because of the process he went through in becoming reconciled to his circumstances and the many little ways God tenderly met him. Most of us don’t face difficulties this intense, but all of us go through trouble, and God’s touch is sometimes so gentle we miss it.
The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration
by Isabel Wilkerson
I decided to read this book because it showed up on many “best of” lists for 2016. I actually listened to the audio book in pieces over a period of about a month, and never lost interest in it. Wilkerson describes the exodus of almost six million black people from the Jim Crow south from 1915 to 1970. She tells this story through the lives of three unique individuals whose experiences reflect many aspects of this migration. I guarantee if you invest the time to read this book your understanding of America and modern American cities will be profoundly changed. This book deserves all of the accolades it has received!
History Runner Up
The Silk Roads: A New History of the World
by Peter Frankopan
This book was recommended by Al Mohler, President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. Frankopan presents world history from the point of view of the East and focuses on how trade between East and West has shaped history. Reading this book is a healthy correction to all the Euro-centric history we received in high school. Civilization didn’t actually start with the Greeks and Romans! Reading this book will help you understand many of the issues currently unfolding in the Middle East.
The Message of Acts (The Bible Speaks Today Series)
by John Stott
Starting in 2018, Reality Carpinteria will be studying the book of Acts. I decided to read John Stott’s commentary on Acts because I have gained so much wisdom from his other books. I wasn’t disappointed. I’ve downloaded a lot of Kindle commentaries in the last couple of years, but this is the first one I read that was at the exact level I wanted. The text of Acts is included and flows together with Stott’s comments. Stott combines historical background, insight into Greek word meanings, and pastoral depth with just enough intellectual challenge to make both your head and your heart expand. This book helped me fall more deeply in love with God’s word, and that is high recommendation!
Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold
by C.S. Lewis
I read this book years ago, but like everything else C. S. Lewis wrote, this one is worth reading more than once. Till we Have Faces is probably one of Lewis’s least popular fiction works, but he personally considered it his masterpiece and benefited in its writing from his relationship with his bride Joy Davidman. Based on the mythology of Cupid and Psyche, the plot lacks the explicit Christian themes found in Lewis’s other fiction. Instead it deals with profound matters of the heart, and how our limited point of view can keep us from understanding another’s reality. The book’s title is derived from the statement of the narrator: “How can the gods meet us face to face till we have faces?” A truth the psalmist expresses in Psalm 51:6. “Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.”