My Top Reads of 2017

As I have been doing for nearly a decade now, here is a list of my most enjoyable reads for 2017.

The list comes in no particular order.

The Voice of the Heart by Chip Dodd: This is Dodd’s most known work. In it he explores what he (and others) identifies as the eight core feelings: hurt, lonely, sad, anger, fear, shame, guilt, and glad. As he states in the preface: “These eight core feelings are the beginning of the expression of all human emotional experience. From these core feelings we can expand the expression to name conditions of the heart such as awe, grief, envy, anxiousness, depression, revenge, delight, and boredom” (XI). This is my full review of the book.

The Light Is Winning by Zach Hoag: Whereas the author could have easily become part of the proverbial “Nones” and “Dones” in regards to the Christian faith, Zach instead had an “apocalypse,” or a revealing that rooted him further in the true religion that is the Christian faith. Hoag masterfully weaves his story, his study of the book of Revelation, and his reflections on American religious culture to help us understand that the light is winning. My review of the book can be found here.

Canoeing the Mountains by Tod Bolsinger. This book was one I read for my doctoral studies. The thesis of the book is how to lead in the midst of uncharted territory, especially in an ever-changing, 21st century. In particular, Bolsinger uses the account of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark (and their charge to find the Northwest Passage) as a template for understanding five lessons that Christian leaders need to learn in order to lead in uncharted territory. I might still niggle with him over his point that the mission always takes precedence over the people. Here is a brief intro to the book that I wrote up.

Up From Slavery by Booker T. Washington. The book tracks the life of Washington: moving from a life of plantation slavery onto the glories of the Emancipation Proclamation to entering his own schooling at the Hampton Institute to the pioneering of the Tuskegee Institute to the great expansion of that very school over the years. Reading the book left me in awe of what this man walked through. I’ll never experience what he did. Never accomplish what he did. But it stirred in me a desire to lead in such a way as Washington did. Here are more of my reflections on the book.

The Day the Revolution Began by N.T. Wright. Though it weighs in at 448 pages, this work is still for a popular audience rather than academia alone. The work flows out the New Pauline Perspective (NPP), but offers a specific focus on the cross and atonement. In particular, Wright combats the typical evangelical focus on the cross, what he identifies as the “works contract” in which “humans sin, God punishes Jesus, and humans are let off” (p297). Rather, he lays out the view of a “vocational covenant” that exists between God and Israel, one to which Jesus fulfilled through the cross. Wright does not disregard penal substitutionary atonement, traditionally a big part of an evangelical theology of the cross. Rather he looks to better situate the atonement in the Jewish narrative of Scripture.

Leading Change by John Kotter. Another great read this year as part of my own studies in leadership development. In this work, the author shares an eight-stage process of bringing change within organizations: 1) establishing a sense of urgency, 2) creating the guiding coalition, 3) developing a vision and strategy, 4) communicating the change vision, 5) empowering employees for broad-based action, 6) generating short-term wins, 7) consolidating gains and producing more change, and 8) anchoring new approaches in the culture. If I have the change to teach on leadership in the future – particularly in a larger organizational setting rather than developing individuals – I plan to utilize this book.

As Kingfishers Catch Fire by Eugene Peterson. I’ve shared much about my appreciation for Peterson. His works have meant much to me. This is the final work of his career, coming in the vein of his spiritual theology series. It’s a culmination of many of his sermon’s preached to his congregation at Christ Our King Presbyterian Church in Maryland. These sermons are gathered into sections, offering reflections upon the words of seven biblical characters: Moses, David, Isaiah, Solomon, Peter, Paul and John.

Race and Place by David Leong. Race continues to be an important conversation (or debate) in our 21st century world. Whereas we typically expect to hear from white, Anglo-Americans or African-Americans on the subject, the author comes to the discussion table as an Asian-American. Thus, for me, it’s a fresh voice to listen to. In particular, Leong looks at how geography (or our place) plays into the discussion surrounding race and how to move towards the space of reconciliation.

Camino Island by John Grisham. I’ve read every novel by Grisham to date, all thirty-plus. So each time a new work is released, I look to purchase it  (I just received his most recent work for Christmas and am one-third the way through it now). Interestingly, this one is centered around books, or priceless manuscripts that have been stolen from Princeton University.

If interested, below are the links to my top reads from the previous eight years. Next week I’ll share the books I plan to read in 2018.



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