Well, 2017 is coming to a close, and it’s been another year where I’ve stumbled across some really great reads. I thought I’d share with you the top 10 books I’ve read this year. You’ll notice the list is very eclectic. From the leader of the Reformation, to a scandalous preacher; from a book about the history of race in America, to one entitled, “Hillbilly Elegy.” It’s obvious there’s not much rhyme or reason to my reading, outside of what interests me at the moment. Here you go:
#10- Becoming Ms. Burton, by Susan Burton and Cari Lynn.
I’m a sucker for urban rags to riches stories. If you liked, A Piece of Cake, you will love this one. Susan Burton is a modern-day hero, having risen from the ashes of drug addiction, prostitution and incarceration. Now she’s reaching back and helping others.
#9- Stamped from the Beginning, Ibram X. Kendi.
The most comprehensive history of race in America that I’ve read. He argues how we haven’t made as much progress as we’d like to believe. Tragic. Kendi also unearths how several Puritan pastors had slaves as part of their compensation packages for the churches they served.
#8- My Lovely Wife in the Psych Ward, Mark Lukach.
This is one of those reads you take on vacation with you. And if you’re a man, you’ll find yourself saying, “I’m just a loser of a husband,” about a thousand times. What an indefatigable spirit he has as he cares for his mentally ill wife.
#7- The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead.
Don’t be misled into thinking this is a non-fictional, historical piece on the actual underground railroad. It’s fiction, well-written fiction, where you’ll find yourself swept away by the current of Whitehead’s narrative. .
#6- Elmer Gantry. Sinclair Lewis.
I had heard of this title for years, but it was a dinner with some Gordon-Conwell faculty from the homiletics department where I finally decided to read this tome. This should be required reading for any aspiring preacher. Lewis gets to the perils of a professionalized ministry.
#5- Grit, Angela Duckworth.
Little do my boys know this will be on 2018’s summer reading list. “Greatness,” she argues, “isn’t so much about giftedness or environment, as much as it is about perseverance, a sort of stick-to-it-ness. Grit.”
#4- Hillbilly Elegy, J.D. Vance.
I knew nothing of the people who populate places like the hills of Kentucky and the Appalachian Trail. But since this was a significant part of Trump’s base, and I’ve been writing on the subject, I figured this would be a great place to start my research. Vance’s memoir is compelling. At the end, you’ll conclude the gap is not as wide between the poor whites of Vance’s upbringing, and people of color.
#3- The Social Animal, David Brooks.
Okay, you know already my bromance with Brooks. He’s one of my favorites. His intellectual and writing powers are on full display in this book. You won’t be disappointed.
#2- Martin Luther, Eric Metaxas.
Best biography I read all year. There’s not the usual one-hundred-page, build up that’s requisite in most biographies. He practically gets right to the point while providing adequate information. It feels a bit like a novel. Plus, Luther is just flat out interesting, and hilarious.
#1- Devil in the Grove, Gilbert King.
Stunning read. I knew little of Thurgood Marshall’s pre-SCOTUS days. Never knew the risks he took just to try cases in the deep south. He was almost lynched. This book looks at one of his cases, and just when you think there are no more twists and turns, there are!