Best Books of 2017

Hello friends, and happy new year!

I had a great time reminiscing this week on all the books that have been a part of 2017. Some were fun, some were deep, and others completely over my head. Here is my top ten (er, eleven) books of the year!

Best Fiction:

housekeeping

Housekeeping (and all other books by Marilynne Robinson)

I feel I’m a little late to the game with these books, and I will admit that they can be a bit slow to get into at first. However, once I finished Gilead early last year, I quickly devoured the rest of her books. Some of them I even read twice just to savor her delicious writing style. Reading her books feels like watching a sunset that comes on so gradually, you almost overlook it–until suddenly you realize that the sky is exploding with color and you just want that moment to last forever.

Best Pysch book:

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Non-Violent Communication

I picked up this book in the fall after hearing it recommended on a podcast, and Ben and I have both read it now. It sounds a lot more intimidating than it really is–even if you wouldn’t consider yourself a violent person or you don’t think you interact with violent people in your everyday life, I would highly recommend you read it! In fact, I would say that this should be a must-read for every couple and really just everybody in general.  I would like to say it’s completely transformed our entire style of communication, but I’m a slow learner. I will say, however, that it’s a book we decided was worth buying so we could refer back to it again and again.

Best Minority Author:

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The Names: What can I say about this book except that it’s breathtaking? I’ve always had a fascination with Native American culture, but I realized this year how few native authors I have actually read. This was one of the first books I picked up and it’s remained my favorite. It’s a lyrical, poetic memoir that has stayed with me for months.

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One Church Many Tribes: I also had to put this book in here because of how many times I wanted to underline sentences, but couldn’t because it was a library book (you’re welcome, readers in Multnomah County). I love the way the author works through a biblical case for utilizing every culture’s gifts in worship and an understanding of the Church. He says some powerful things with amazing grace and wisdom, and I gained so much from his insights.

Best Journalism/Nonfiction story:

evicted

Evicted

I read this book at the beginning of the year, as it was part of our library’s “Everybody Reads” program for 2017. Amazingly, just after finishing the book, we got the opportunity to hear the author speak live. Hearing him discuss the process of writing the book and it’s implications was unforgettable.

To give you a quick synopsis, the author wrote this book after living for a year in several low-income areas of Milwaukee, WI. He follows the journey of several families and single people who are struggling with finding adequate housing. Each of them finds themselves evicted several times a year, often through no fault of their own. The book gives you a clear pictured of how eviction disrupts not only a family’s means of income, but also their education, health, and social networks. He also follows several landlords and gives what I think is a very fair and balanced view of both sides of the equation, while still pointing out the damage done by evictions for everyone involved. If you haven’t read it, please do!

Most likely to recommend: 

equality

The Myth of Equality

I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve struggled to find words this year as the topic of race has come up. I know there have been times when I said too much, and other times not enough. But as soon as I read this book, I thought, “Now this is a book I could recommend to people as a way for us to discuss the topic in a healthy way.”

If you are still trying to figure out “what’s the big deal?” or if you simply don’t know where to go from here, I highly recommend that you read this book. It walks you through the main historical steps that brought our country to where we are today, and addresses a lot of people’s questions or concerns in a biblical, thoughtful, and honest discussion. If you have a chance to read it, I’d love to know what you think!

Best Spiritual :

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Nothing to Prove by Jennie Allen: This book was recommended from a good friend and it was amazing. I really do need to go back and re-read it, as it was so good I sailed through without pausing to do all the journal prompts at the end of each chapter. But in such a hard year with a lot of my identity questioned through illness and job changes, I found it so, so needed. Maybe you will too.

daybreak

The Road to Daybreak: If you’ve been following me for a while, you know that I’ve gained a lot from the writings of Henri Nouwen. This book had particular significance for Ben and I this year, as it paralleled our own journey so much. The book is a collection of Henri’s journals as he makes the transition from the academic world to working at L’Arche, a community for adults with disabilities. This year, Ben also made the decision to step away from the world of coding and business and work at the L’Arche community in Portland. We read the book during the time of transition and it was a huge encouragement, as well as a good reminder to enter into this season with the right motivations and expectations.

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The Broken Way: I almost feel like this one is too obvious, but here it is. This book felt like it was written for me this year. And yet, it’s one I really struggle to fully live out. Who wants to let themselves be broken and given? Isn’t there an easier way? But over and over again, God reminds us that his strength is perfect in our weaknesses. As Switchfoot says, “The wound is where the light shines through.”

Best Children’s book:

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The Mysterious Benedict Society series

I discovered these through my dear friend Kimberly, who teaches third grade and had them in her classroom. During a discouraging time of illness this year, I found these books to be so charming and fun to read. If you’re looking for something lighthearted, fun, and unique, don’t be scared off because they’re “children’s books.” I promise you’ll like them too.

Best Autobiography:

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Mankiller: A Chief and her People

Wilma Mankiller was the first female Chief of the Cherokee Nation. And she is an incredible woman. That’s really all I feel I can say without giving a lot of other details away. I don’t generally read many biographies, but this was definitely one of the most interesting ones I have read in a long time. If you’re like me and feel a bit ignorant about Native American history, she does a wonderful job blending in the history of her Cherokee ancestors with the history of her family and her own incredible life.


 

And, my (always ambitious) list for 2018:

As always, I welcome your comments and suggestions. What was your favorite book you read this year? Perhaps it might be mine (or someone else’s!) this year. I always find myself especially in need of good fiction suggestions, but anything is welcome!

Happy New Year, and may we continue walking the road of faithfulness and grace together.

 

 

 

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