My 2017 Reading List, and Top Reads of the Year!

A year-end tradition here at the 4thDaveBlog, so here ya go–what I read in 2017 (in dozens of bulleted lists)!

January

  • A Year of No Sugar – Eve Schaub
  • Why Pro-Life? – Randy Alcorn
  • Silence – Shusaku Endo

February

  • The Only Living Boy (vol. 1-3) – Gallaher/Ellis
  • Silent Night – Stanley Weintraub
  • Narrative of the Life… – Frederick Douglass
  • March: Book One – Lewis/ Aydin / Powell
  • The Souls of Black Folk – W.E.B. Du Bois
  • Under Our Skin – Benjamin Watson

March

  • The Long Walk – Stephen King
  • The End of the Affair – Graham Greene
  • The Circle – Dave Eggers

April

  • The Truth of the Cross – RC Sproul
  • The Final Days of Jesus – Andreas Kostenberger and Justin Taylor
  • Year of No Clutter – Eve Schaub

May

  • Unparalleled – Jared Wilson
  • Reverberation – Jonathan Leeman
  • The Girl With All the Gifts – M. R. Carey

June

  • The Dip – Seth Godin
  • Linchpin – Seth Godin
  • The Wonder-Working God – Jared Wilson (audio)
  • Turning Pro – Steven Pressfield

July

  • So Good They Can’t Ignore You – Cal Newport
  • Husband-Coached Childbirth – Dr. Robert Bradley
  • Family Worship – Dr. Donald Whitney

August

  • Teammate – David Ross
  • Call for the Dead – John LeCarre
  • Murder on the Orient Express – Agatha Christie
  • The Cubs Way – Tom Verducci

September

  • Secret Identity – Kurt Busiek / Stuart Immonen
  • Horrorstor – Grady Hendrix
  • DC Rebirth Deluxe Ed. – Johns/Frank/VanSciver/Reis/Jimenez

October

  • Why We’re Protestant – Nate Pickowicz
  • Reformation: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow – Carl Trueman

November

  • The Down-grade Controversy: Collected Writings of CHS – Spurgeon
  • Playing Saint – Zachary Bartels
  • Playing Saint: All Souls Day – Zachary Barrels
  • Can I Be Sure I’m Saved? – RC Sproul

December

  • A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
  • Life Together – Dietrich Bonhoeffer
  • Desire and Deceit – Al Mohler
  • Parnassus on Wheels – Christopher Morley
  • Batman: I Am Gotham – Tom King / David Finch
  • The Haunted Bookshop – Christopher Morley

 

Final Tally: 44 books

Genre Breakdown:  

  • Non-fiction: 26
  • Fiction: 13
  • Graphic Novels: 5

Thoughts on This Year’s List: 

  • I thought I had read more fiction than that. I guess it seemed like more because it ran in spurts. But over a third is still a pretty good ratio, I guess.
  • I read a LOT of short books this year. If we break it down by pages read and average length, it would be significantly down from years past. Honestly, I’m okay with that. This year, I didn’t have the benefit of long commute times, so I squeeze in reading where I can. I have to admit, I also gave a lot of time away to TV–I don’t watch a LOT and I try to be discerning and specific with what I will watch, but there’s some good TV shows out lately, and those stories have been eating up reading time for me as well.
  • What’s not included on this list are about a dozen books I started and never finished, either because I ran out of year or just decided to give up. That never used to happen; once i’d start a book, I would grit it out to the end. However, in recent years, I’ve realized that life is too short to muddle through books that can’t hold your interest. It’s better to walk away from a book you’ve invested 100 pages in, so that the time it would take to read the other 200-300 pages can be devoted to another book you’ll enjoy more.
  • I also attempted some theme-months, with mixed success. I was able to finish 4 books about the African-American experience in February, and I have a list of others to check out in the future. That was really helpful to me, to walk in someone else’s shoes for a bit. I tried to make October “Reformation Month,” but didn’t get through much. Finally, I had a bound collection of five “Christmas tales” by Charles Dickens. I made it through “A Christmas Carol” (which I loved), but immediately got bogged down by “The Chimes.” I just stopped caring. Maybe next year!

My Top-Five Recommendations from This Year’s Reading List (in no particular order):

The Souls of Black Folk – W.E.B DuBois — This book helped me start to understand how black experience and thought began taking shape and being expressed in the 20th century. I could recognize ideas and phrases that would be echoed in other writers (like Ta-Nehisi Coates’ work that I read last year). I found this to be a challenging and informative read, and I was the richer for reading it. It also emphasized for me personally how important it is to read widely and read outside your own experience (something I would have acknowledged abstractly but now see the importance of in a new way).

The Cubs Way – Tom Verducci — Yes, I’m a Cubs fan, so a book about their world championship season is a no-brainer. But even if you’re not a Cubs fan, if you like sports writing AT ALL, this book is well-worth your time. Verducci takes the reader inside the nuts and bolts of a major league organization and tells the individual stories that make sports so inspiring and exhilarating. Verducci is a gifted writer, and this book is one of my favorite sports books ever (subject matter aside).

Playing Saint / Playing Saint: All Souls Day – Zach Bartels — I’ve praised Zach Bartels’ work before, but I’m here to do it again. These books are just great. Bartels takes the supernatural mystery/thriller genre and just works it like a master. If you want a thrilling, dark page-turner, these two books are right up your alley. (Sensitive readers should note that both books deal with serial killers, and some of the crimes are described…if not graphically, then at least effectively. So, be advised of the content concerns there.)

A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens — This is like picking the Patriots to be Super Bowl contenders. “No, duh, Dave, are you for real? A Christmas Carol is good?” Yes, it is. But I’m picking it because I think people forget exactly how good it is. Dickens is an incredible writer, who spends pages on description because he wants the reader to see and hear and smell his London setting. Plus, the novel gives you details and side comments and scenes and conversations that are always cut out of film or stage adaptations of the story, and it’s a delight to re-discover those elements of the story that we don’t see in other media. I hadn’t actually read this story since high school, and I’m glad I revisited it. You should, too.

Honorable Mention: Secret Identity – Kurt Busiek and Stuart Immonen — This graphic novel was better than I expected, so I wanted to give it a shout-out. It’s the story of a boy from the Kent family who grows up in Kansas–no, not that boy. This boy lives in a world where Superman is a comic book character–yet, his parents decide to name him Clark anyway. Young Clark Kent grows up to resent his super-powered namesake…until he develops strikingly similar superpowers of his own. He then must decide if he actually wants to take up the fictional mantle in the “real” world. I thought this take on the Superman mythos was a lot of fun, and would definitely recommend it to even casual fans of the original character.

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What’s Up for Next Year: Next year, I’m going to do battle against tsundoku by reading only* books I physically own as of December 31st, 2017.  I will also be doing something new for next year’s reading list — I’m going to try writing a capsule review (or longer, if I feel the urge) for every book I read in 2018. (Yay! More blog content!) So that means, by the end of the year, if you’ve been hanging tough with me, you’ll already have a good idea what my top-five will look like! As always, this is subject to change; I am a fickle fellow when it comes to New Year resolutions and reading plans. But why not try, right?

 

[*I’m leaving myself a little grace/wiggle-room in case I “have to” read things for church purposes (e.g. book studies, men’s groups, etc.). But I’m not going to seek out any recreational reading other than what is on my TBR shelves as of this coming Sunday. Probably. I’ll try.]

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So there you have it. My 2017 reading list.

Did you read anything great in the past year? Comment below and let me know!

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My 2016 Reading List and Top-Five Reads of the Year!

It’s an annual tradition for me to provide my reading list and recommendations, and I’m happy to oblige again this year.

Reading List

January
>>Wayward — Blake Crouch (started 12/31)
>>The Last Town — Blake Crouch
>>Avatar, the Last Airbender: The Search — Gene Luen Yang (3 vols.)
>>Written in Fire — Marcus Sakey
>>Red Harvest — Dashiell Hammett

February 
>>Do More Better — Tim Challies
>>A Wrinkle in Time — Madeleine L’Engle
>>Slave — John Macarthur
>>The Pastor Theologian — Hiestand and Wilson

March
>>Animal Farm – George Orwell
>>Gates of Fire – Steven Pressfield
>>The Silence of Our Friends — Mark Long
>>Captain America: Civil War — Brubaker/Perkins/Weeks
>>Jelly Roll — Kevin Young
>>Captain America: America First — Knauf/Chaykin/Breitweiser/Higgins/Siegel/Padilla
>>Fallen Son: The Death of Captain America — Loeb etc.

April
>>Essentialism – Greg McKeown
>>Captain America, Reborn – Brubaker etc.
>>The Trial of Captain America – Brubaker  etc.
>>Dad is Fat – Jim Gaffigan (audio)
>>Biggest Brother: The Life of Major Dick Winters, the Man Who Led the Band of Brothers – Larry Alexander
>>Inheritance of Tears – Jessalyn Hutto
>>Amusing Ourselves to Death – Neil Postman

May
>>The Hole in Our Holiness – Kevin DeYoung
>>Too Dumb to Fail – Matt Lewis
>>Smarter, Faster, Better – Charles Duhigg
>>It Can’t Happen Here – Sinclair Lewis
>>Hawkeye, vol. 2 – Fraction/Aja

June

>>From Eden to the New Jerusalem – T. Desmond Alexander
>>Kill Devil – Mike Dellosso

July
>>Getting the Message – Daniel Doriani

>>40 Questions about Interpreting the Bible – Robert Plummer
>>No Hero – Mark Owen (audio)
>>A Visit from the Goon Squad – Jennifer Egan

 

August

>>Star Wars:Bloodline – Claudia Gray
>>Between the World and Me – Ta-Nehisi Coates
>>Nobody Wants to Read Your S–t – Steven Pressfield
>>The Wright Brothers – David McCullough
September
>>Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children – Ransom Riggs (audio)
>>Persuasion – Jane Austen (audio)
>>A Guide to Adoption and Orphan Care – Russell Moore
>>The Winter’s Tale – Shakespeare
>>The Innocence of Father Brown – GK Chesterton
>>Orphan Justice – Johnny Carr
>>Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus – Nabeel Quereshi (audio)
>>The Joy Project – Tony Reinke
October
>>Reviving New England – Nate Pickowicz
>>Batman Vol. 1: The Court of Owls – Scott Snyder / Bryan Capullo
>>Batman Vol. 2: The City of Owls – Snyder/Capullo
>>Hollow City – Ransom Riggs (audio)
November 
>>Batman: Dark Victory – Jeph Loeb; Tim Sale
>>Library of Souls – Ransom Riggs (audio)
>>On Bowie – Rob Sheffield
December
>>Armada – Ernest Cline (audio)
>>And Then There Were None – Agatha Christie (audio)
>>Love Your Life, Not Theirs – Rachel Cruze
>>Fat2Fit2Fat – Drew Manning
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Final Tally: 57 books. I think that’s a new personal record.
The big takeaways from this year’s list? 1) Graphic novels, 2) audio books, and 3) the public library.
  • As a palate-cleanser (and, frankly, mental “recess”) from the serious reading I did this year, I read a lot of graphic novels (mostly Captain America and Batman). Some of them were quite good (and may even crack my top-five!). But a solid fifth (11) of my reads this year were graphic novels, which I argue can be just as challenging and moving as regular print books. (Admittedly, some of them weren’t; they were cotton candy for my over-taxed brain.)
  • I also started “reading” more audio books (9 this year), partly due to the realization that they are quite useful for roadtrips. My wife and I started a new practice of picking at least one audiobook to enjoy together. I look forward to continuing this tradition in the future.
  • I have become a major proponent of the public library. Where I live, there are 2 fantastic library systems, and I’ve been the beneficiary of these all year long. Of the 56 books I read this year, fewer than 20 were from my own shelves. The rest were courtesy of the public library. Gang, if you haven’t checked out your local library lately, you need to get on that. There’s some fantastic stuff available, whether it’s paper or e-books, audio materials, movies on disc or via digital download, and a whole lot more.
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The4thDave’s Top Five Reads of 2016 (in no particular order):
  • Do More, Better by Tim Challies: At the start of the year, I read this productivity book by one of the most famous bloggers in Evangelical Christianity today. I even incorporated his system and reported on it a month later (resulting in the most-read post in 4DB history, thanks to the “Challies bump”). Since then?  I’m afraid my compliance has been hit-or-miss, and my personal productivity has suffered. That said, this weekend, I’m going to dive back into a refresher on the system. It’s pretty simple to adopt, and when I’ve used it as prescribed, it has been very effective for me.
  • Gates of Fire, by Steven Pressfield: From a pure “fun” standpoint, this is one of the best novels I’ve read in a while. Gates of Fire takes place during the years leading up to the Battle of Thermopylae and the final stand of the 300 Spartans, and it follows a handful of inter-connected characters through the story. Pressfield’s writing is crisp, his characterization is effective, and his dialogue pops on the page. However, there is a significant enough level of crude language and “barracks-talk” that I can’t recommend it widely. For those who aren’t offended by such things, this tale of warriors and honor is worth a look.
  • Fallen Son: The Death of Captain America, by Jeph Loeb and a bunch of other folks: Yes, I’m including a graphic novel on my top-five for this year, because this particular collection is one of the most memorable comics compilations I’ve read in years. The writers use 5 stories, each focusing on a different superhero’s reaction to the death of Cap, as a means of exploring the five stages of grief. The book culminates in Tony Stark eulogizing Captain America both publically and privately, and I found it to be surprisingly moving. This short collection is really well-done.
  • Biggest Brother…, by Larry Alexander: If you are familiar with the hit HBO miniseries Band of Brothers (and if you’re not, you should be!), then you would remember the main character, Dick Winters, who rose to the rank of Major as he led those brave men through the battles of the European front of WWII. Alexander’s biography fills in the gaps, as he explores the man behind the story. Alexander spent time with Winters, getting his own perspective on events from his past. The reader also gets a glimpse of Winters’ civilian life and retirement years, including his perspective on the TV miniseries that made him “famous.” Biggest Brother was a fascinating and valuable look at the life of an American hero.
  • Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates: It wasn’t one of my favorite books of the year, but it was an important book for me to read. I disagreed with several parts of it, was sometimes (often) provoked by the author, but in the end, I needed this voice in my head for a little while, because I haven’t been exposed to many other voices like it. Reading Coates’ “open letter” to his young son forced me to see the world through his eyes for a while. I question some of his perceptions and assumptions; but I also was forced to reconsider some of my own. That’s a sign of a profitable reading experience.
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Your turn: What was your favorite book or books that you read this year? Let me know in the comments!