5 Books That Impacted Me in 2017
“Anyone who wants to be a good writer needs to be a good reader first."
1. Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the ‘Gays-vs-Christians’ Debate – Justin Lee
This book is written by an openly gay Christian, who tells his story of being hurt and abandoned by the church throughout his journey of coming out. It’s also an attempt to build bridges between people and groups who disagree and provide a way to discuss this issue in a Biblical way. Really, really important reading for those of us who are pursuing a life of faith and radical inclusivity. Whatever your beliefs are on this issue, we need to do better. We must extend grace better. We must listen better. This book is written with ample grace and helpful tools to begin that discussion.
2. Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer – Richard Rohr
I found myself highlighting over and over and over again. Rohr delivers one mind-blowing, jaw-dropping nugget after another. I’ll just share one with you:
Historic cultures saw grief as a time of incubation, transformation, and necessary hibernation. Yet this sacred space is the very space we avoid. When we avoid darkness, we avoid tension, spiritual creativity, and finally transformation. We avoid God, who works in the darkness – where we are not in control! Maybe that is the secret: relinquishing control.
Wow. I think I need to sit down.
3. Essentialism – Greg McKeown
I needed this one. This book is all about distinguishing the essential few from the trivial many things we spend our lives engulfed in. If you don’t prioritize your life, McKeown challenges, someone else will. This book helped me have the confidence to say “no” with grace but directness and decide to excel in a few things, rather than doing a bunch of things in a mediocre manner. I’ve still got some work to do, but this book is a must-read for anyone looking to prioritize their life.
4. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – John Tiffany and J.K. Rowling
I’m furious with myself that I didn’t read it sooner, but the wait was worth it. Set nineteen years after the original Harry Potter series, and in the form of a play (that will open on Broadway in 2018), this one has all the twists and turns that make Harry Potter great. It’s got a big shocker in Act 3 that made me audibly gasp. (spoiler alert!)
5. The Shareholder Value Myth – Lynn Stout
OK, this one was required reading for my International Human Resources class, but it ended up being one of the best books I read this year. Stout challenges assumptions many people, corporations and systems have made about why corporations exist. Essentially, she argues that, though we’ve been made to believe corporations exist solely to make shareholders wealthy, that view and practice isn’t technically mandated by law, focuses disproportionately on short-term (i.e. hedge fund) investors, and mistakenly argues that shareholders actually own corporations (they don’t). This book shaped my view of shareholder ideology and the many flaws and falsities that it claims. (If you need an example of companies that wrongly focus solely on shareholder value, look at Enron and watch this riveting documentary).
Other notables from 2017:
Bittersweet- Shauna Niequist (Inspiration for my blog “Things I Don’t Do,” (let's hear it for SHAMELESS SELF-PROMOTION!) which lines up perfectly with Essentialism)
What Happened? – Hillary Clinton (I still don’t know.)
Basketball and Other Things – Shea Serrano
This Book Has Balls – Michael Rapaport
Wonder – R.J. Palacio
Modern Romance – Aziz Ansari
Steve Jobs – Walter Isaacson
My Reading List for 2018:
All 7 Harry Potter Books – K and I plan to re-read them together, aloud. It’s one of the things I’m really, really looking forward to in 2018.
Present over Perfect – Shauna Niequist
The Advantage – Patrick Lencioni
The Road Back to You – Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile
Humilitas – John Dickson
Daring Greatly – Brené Brown
Power Failure – Mimi Swartz
Building a Story Brand – Donald Miller
God’s Wisdom for Navigating Life – Tim Keller
Boundaries – Henry Cloud
Finding God in the Waves – Mike McHargue
Do All Lives Matter? – John Perkins (Spoiler alert: yes.)
More Than Good Intentions – Dean Karlan
Gumption – Nick Offerman
I’m thankful for the ability to read, the way it shapes me, and a job and boss who encourages reading. It truly takes diligence and perseverance, but there is so much goodness and reward in spending time with a great book, written by people who have diligently worked, studied, and asked difficult questions. It’s truly a gift. Is there anything you would add to my 2018 list?