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Buzzard’s Best Books of 2017


This was a good year of exploring, learning, and growing through reading. As always, this is not necessarily a list of books published in 2017, but a list of the books I read in 2017 that I profited from and enjoyed the most. See the bottom of this post for links to past year’s lists.

Strong and Weak: Embracing a Life of Love, Risk and True Flourishing, by Andy Crouch 

My favorite book of the year. This book changed my life. “Properly combined, authority and vulnerability lead to flourishing. But when either one is absent–or even worse, when both are missing–we find distortions of human beings, organizations and institutions.”

Leap Over a Wall : Earthy Spirituality for Everyday Christians, by Eugene Peterson

I rarely re-read books. I will re-read this one. Peterson opened up, expanded, and grew my vision of what it means to know God and be human. “Mostly, though, she [my mom] told Bible stories. And among Bible stories, the David stories took pride of place—not to the exclusion of Moses and Elijah and Jesus, but something in her narrative imagination kicked in with extra energy in the David stories. The David stories formed the basic groundplan for learning about and understanding what it meant to grow up human and Christian. In those stories, the two words—human and Christian—became synonyms.”

“We’re never more alive than when we’re dealing with God. And there’s a sense in which we aren’t alive at all (in the uniquely human sense of ‘alive’) until we’re dealing with God. David deals with God.”

“David repeatedly faced loss, disappointment, death. But he neither avoided, denied, nor soft-pedaled any of those difficulties. He faced everything and he prayed everything.”

The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus,  by Fleming Rutledge

Magisterial. The best book I’ve read on the meaning and power of Jesus’ death since Stott’s The Cross of Christ. I’m not finished with this one yet, still have chapters to go.

The Dry: A Novel,  by Jane Harper

This book, this storytelling… it hooked me!

“They looked very alone, surrounded by all those people.”   “Her laugh sounded like a rusty gate.”  “Her face was the purple-red of a woman whose drinking was crossing the line from social to serious.”

Chasing Francis: A Pilgrim’s Tale, by Ian Morgan Chron

I needed this book when I read it early in 2017 at a moment of ministry exhaustion. Are you a pastor? Order this book right now and read it during Christmas break.

“All ministry begins at the ragged edges of our own pain.”

“Tell your story with all of its shadows and fog, so people can understand their own. They want a leader who’s authentic, someone trying to figure out how to follow the Lord Jesus in the joy and wreckage of life. They need you, not Moses.”

The Stranger In The Woods: The Extraordinary Story of The Last True Hermit by Michael Finkel

Fascinating story! “What did Knight do for a living? He lived for a living.”

Various Books on the Enneagram: Self to Lose – Self to Find: A Biblical Approach to the 9 Enneagram Types by Marilyn Vancil, The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery by Ian Morgan Cron & Suzanne Stabile, The Sacred Enneagram: Finding Your Unique Path to Spiritual Growth by Christopher L. Heuertz, Essential Enneagram: The Definitive Personality Test and Self-Discovery Guide by David Daniels & Virginia Price.

This year I was introduced to the Enneagram through the wise and theologically-solid duo, Rich Plass and Jim Cofield who run CrossPoint Ministry (Rich and Jim’s book is on my 2015 Best Books list). The Enneagram is hot right now. The Enneagram has become, by far, the most helpful personality tool I’ve used for both becoming more self aware and becoming more aware of how different people are and how to best understand and relate to them. I’ve seen some people go off the wall with the Enneagram, but if rightly used as one tool that’s subservient to the Scriptures and people’s unique story, then the Enneagram can be immensely helpful.

After being taught the Enneagram in a two day seminar by Rich and Jim, I devoured several books on the Enneagram to gain deeper understanding. I recommend them in the order they appear above. Vancil’s book provides a clear biblical paradigm for seeing the Enneagram. Cron & Stabile’s book is really popular right now, and rightly so–it quickly gets one familiar with this tool in an engaging manner. I found Heuertz’s book often too mystical and obscure, YET there is also some rich wisdom here and one insight in particular that I would genuinely call life changing for me. The small book by Daniel’s and Price is more of a small guidebook, and old book put out at Stanford long before today’s Enneagram popularity.

As Calvin famously said, “…without knowledge of self there is no knowledge of God.” The Enneagram can help with this.

Reset: Living A Grace-Paced Life In a Burnout Culture, by David Murray

A helpful book if you’re looking to reset some of your priorities and habits.

“Deep friendships take time, lots of time doing nothing terribly productive, but just being together, talking, and listening…Jesus Christ, the friend of sinners…a man who built twelve strong male friendships in just a few short years, friendships that were motivated by a desire to do eternal and spiritual good for these varied and faulty men.”

The Autobiography of George Muller, by George Muller

A short and inspiring (yet also repetitive) autobiography/journal by a great man. “The primary business I must attend to every day is to fellowship with the Lord…What a difference there is when the soul is refreshed in fellowship with God early in the morning!”

Can Christianity Cure Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: A Psychiatrist Explores the Role of Faith in Treatment, by Ian Osborn M.D.

I first read this book about a decade ago, but re-read it this year. This is a really interesting look at Martin Luther and theories on how the gospel and childlike trust in God can free people from their anxiety, and even disorders like OCD.

“Luther’s great insight in the tower of the Augustinian monastery at Erfurt was that he did not have to do anything to assure his salvation. God had imputed righteousness to him through a gratuitous act of mercy. Luther no longer needed to obsessively examine his behaviors to see if they were good enough. He no longer needed to look at himself at all. He needed only to have faith in God’s goodness…For Luther, it was Christ’s suffering and dying for us that was the proof of God’s unfailing love. Our part was to give God the responsibility for anything that could possibly happen, and simply trust in him.”

Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers, by Timothy Ferris

This enormous book is fun because you’re getting brief exposure to hundreds of other leaders and learning a key insight or two from them. It’s like having a 15 minute coffee meeting with a few hundred diverse leaders and asking them a few questions you’re curious about.

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania, by Erick Larson

Good history, entertaining writing. “For families at home, waiting for news, the absence of a body left them suspended somewhere between hope and grief.”

Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity, by Kim Scott

I didn’t carefully read this whole book. I read the first 100 pages, then skimmed the rest. This book gives some good counsel for growing as a boss, being able to better receive criticism and being able to better give criticism and praise.

“…at the very heart of being a good boss–at Apple, at Google, or anywhere else on earth–is a good relationship.”

“…people who are more concerned with getting to the right answer than with being right make the best bosses.”

“Radical Candor is not an invitation to nitpick. Challenging people directly takes real energy–not only from the people you’re challenging but from you as well. So do it only for things that really matter. A good rule of thumb for any relationship is to leave three unimportant things unsaid each day.”

Click here for last year’s list: Buzzard’s Best Books of 2016.


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