The Books I Read in 2017

In the past I’ve attempted to review all of the books I’ve read in a year, but I’ll be honest with you – that takes a long time. It’s much easier just to list them like I have here, with some brief summary details, and let you look up the ones that interest you.

I find most of my new books through the lists and recommendations of other people, so my hope is that readers of this post might find something new to pick up for 2018.

Spellbound – Blake Charlton

Genre: fiction, fantasy. What’s it about? This is the second book in Charlton’s Spellwright trilogy, following the journey of Nicodemus Weal, a powerful young spellwright with cacography (similar to dyslexia in the book).

The Divine Magician – Peter Rollins

Genre: non-fiction, philosophy. What’s it about? Rollins presents a way of looking at Christianity, and religion in general, as a way of coming to terms with the absence inside of all of us. To illustrate his point, he offers a subversive reading of the Prodigal Son parable.

Spellbreaker – Blake Charlton

Genre: fiction, fantasy. What’s it about? The third and final book in Charlton’s Spellwright trilogy.

Catching the Wave – Tim MacBride

Genre: non-fiction, Bible. What’s it about? MacBride argues that the most effective way of preaching from Paul’s New Testament letters is to align the style of the sermon with the rhetoric of the letter itself. It was an eye-opening read even as someone who doesn’t preach regularly.

The Good Immigrant – Nikesh Shukla (ed.)

Genre: non-fiction, essays. What’s it about? A collection of essays exploring what it’s like being a person of colour in Britain. Each essay is unique in style and perspective, with the book as a whole making you go from laughter to serious thought from page to page.

Searching for Sunday – Rachel Held Evans

Genre: non-fiction, Christian life. What’s it about? Rachel Held Evans talks about her personal struggles with Christian faith and, specifically, American Evangelicalism, describing where she came from, the doubts and challenges she faced, and how she rebuilt her faith in the aftermath.

Speaking of Jesus – Carl Medearis

Genre: non-fiction, Christian life. What’s it about? Medearis, a long-time missionary to the Islamic world, shares a way of living an evangelical lifestyle that is sensitive to 21st century Western culture and the baggage that comes with certain ways of speaking about faith.

The Darkness that Comes Before – R. Scott Bakker

Genre: fiction, fantasy. What’s it about? Bakker’s debut epic fantasy novel centres on a world in turmoil, with magicians who are hated, corrupt politicians and warring factions. If you like big fantasy series, you’ll love Bakker.

Finding God in the Waves – Mike McHargue

Genre: non-fiction, Christian life, popular science. What’s it about? McHargue (a.k.a. Science Mike) shares his story of losing all faith in God as a young man, then returning to faith after a mystical experience. What makes this book unique is that McHargue explores all the problems he found with faith, mostly around Biblical truth and its relationship with science, but doesn’t offer solutions. Instead, he talks about finding the Christian God despite holding to a worldview that an atheist would otherwise agree with.

Do We Not Bleed? – Daniel Taylor

Genre: fiction, mystery. What’s it about? Taylors second crime mystery novel centres on a murder committed in a care facility for people with various cognitive impairments. The cast of characters is truly excellent and the first person perspective of the narrator masterfully written.

Arrival – Ted Chiang

Genre: fiction (short stories), fantasy, science-fiction. What’s it about? The book of short stories containing the story that inspired the 2017 film Arrival is one of the best books I read in 2017. Chiang’s stories all explore different twists on reality. Each one blends a mind-bending concept with a compelling story, which makes the whole book a phenomenal read.

Introducing Major Theologians – Michael Reeves

Genre: non-fiction, theology. What’s it about? Reeves covers the life and works of several major Western theologians, including Augustine, Luther, Calvin and Barth. While it’s a decent introduction to the theologians included, the book suffers from a heavy weighting towards theologians that are traditionally important to white Evangelicals and the theological biases of the author.

The Fabric of the Cosmos – Brian Greene

Genre: non-fiction, popular science. What’s it about? Greene attempts to take the reader through different theories of the laws of physics that underpin our understanding of reality, from Newtonian laws to modern (well, ’90s/’00s) quantum physics and multiverse theories. As someone with no scientific education beyond GCSEs, I found the book heavy going in places, but I was always able to process the information eventually. I’m immensely glad I read the book cover to cover as it has profoundly impacted the way I look at the universe.

Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell

Genre: fiction, drama, science-fiction. What’s it aboutA loose narrative connects 6 different story lines from the Victorian period to the distant future. This book is a tour de force of different writing styles and genres, with great characters and exciting plot lines.

Islands in the Sky – Arthur C. Clarke

Genre: fiction, science-fiction. What’s it about? This Arthur C. Clarke classic tells the story of a young man who wins a trip to a space station orbiting Earth. The book, first published in 1952, is a fascinating insight into a time when the possibilities for space travel and engineering seemed endless.

The Divine Dance – Richard Rohr & Mike Morrell

Genre: non-fiction, theology. What’s it about? Rohr and Morrell write about a view of the Trinity that promotes adoration and mystery. While I think many will enjoy the read, I personally found it a little vague and unsatisfying. That said, if you haven’t come across Richard Rohr, listen to interviews with him or read his books. He’s great.

The Pursuit of God – A. W. Tozer

Genre: non-fiction, theology. What’s it about? Tozer’s short exploration of what it means to pursue God as a Christian is the kind of book that makes Evangelical theology attractive in a time when the denomination is coming under fire, particularly in America. Tozer offers critiques of the church that are still very relevant now and emphasises the need for individuals to humbly and wholeheartedly follow God.

Revelations of Divine Love – Julian of Norwich

Genrenon-fiction, theology. What’s it about? Medieval anchoress and Christian mystic Julian of Norwich wrote this book around 1395 to describe a series of visions she had when ill. One of the most important ideas explored in the book is that of God as a mother as well as a father.

Strange the Dreamer – Laini Taylor

Genre: fiction, fantasy. What’s it about? Abbie found me this book for my birthday and it rekindled my appetite for fantasy books. Taylor’s story focuses jointly on an orphaned misfit and a race of gods hiding from their people. With twists, turns and revelations throughout, it was a thoroughly enjoyable read.

The Sin of Certainty – Peter Enns

Genre: non-fiction, Christian life, theology. What’s it about? Pete Enns challenges the idea that a Christian must have an answer for everything in their faith, arguing that belief in God is richer when we accept the validity of difficulties in the Bible and tricky questions about the nature of God.

The Dark Moon – Julia Gray

Genre: fiction, fantasy. What’s it about? The first in Gray’s five book Guardian Cycle introduces us to Terrel, a misfit boy stuck in an asylum, as he begins a global journey of self-discovery, encountering mysterious beings known as the Elementals.

The Jasper Forest – Julia Gray

Genre: fiction, fantasy. What’s it about? The second book in Grey’s Guardian Cycle.

The Bible Tells Me So – Peter Enns

Genre: non-fiction, Bible. What’s it about? Enns argues that reading everything in the Bible literally isn’t the most helpful way to read it. Instead, he argues that we need to accept the context of the Bible and some inherent inaccuracies and contradictions, offering a way of reading it that accepts it for what it is.

The Crystal Desert  – Julia Gray

Genre: fiction, fantasy. What’s it about? The third book in Grey’s Guardian Cycle.

The Red Glacier – Julia Gray

Genre: fiction, fantasy. What’s it about? The fourth book in Grey’s Guardian Cycle.

Alyssa’s Ring – Julia Gray

Genre: fiction, fantasy. What’s it about? The fifth (and final) book in Grey’s Guardian Cycle.

Forge of Darkness – Steven Erikson

Genre: fiction, fantasy. What’s it about? The first book in the prequel trilogy to Erikson’s Malazan Book of the FallenForge of Darkness follows characters such as Draconus, Mother Dark and Anomander Rake as it chronicles the splitting of the Tiste.

Fall of Light – Steven Erikson

Genre: fiction, fantasy. What’s it about? The second book in Erikson’s prequel trilogy.

Good Omens – Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman

Genre: fiction, fantasy, comedy. What’s it about? The story follows an angel, Aziraphale, a demon, Crowley and the antichrist, Adam Young (and his hellhound, Dog). The angel and the demon, who have become friends of a sort over the millennia since the incident in the Garden of Eden, team up to postpone the Day of Judgment by guiding Adam’s childhood.

Stranger of Tempest – Tom Lloyd

Genre: fiction, fantasy. What’s it about? The first in a new fantasy series by Tom Lloyd, this book tells the story of an ageing mercenary, Lynx, and his accidental involvement in events that have cosmic consequences.

Ilium – Dan Simmons

Genre: fiction, science-fiction. What’s it about? Post-human beings battle it out as gods on recreated fields of Troy, with reincarnated historians to chronicle their deeds. But how did this strange new world come to be, and what happened to the real earth that the post-humans left behind?

Beren & Luthien – J. R. R. Tolkien (ed. by Christopher Tolkien)

Genre: fiction, fantasy. What’s it about? In what may be Christopher Tolkien’s last edition of his father’s work, he recreates the poetic love story of a human man, Beren and Luthien, an elf, which took place in days long before The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings.

Olympos – Dan Simmons

Genre: fiction, science-fiction. What’s it about? The second (and final) book in the Ilium duology, Olympos weaves together themes from Shakespeare, Homer and Proust to create a science-fiction masterpiece inspired by literary greats of the past.

Every Good Endeavour – Tim Keller

Genre: non-fiction, Christian life. What’s it about? Popular Christian author Tim Keller discusses the nature of work, encouraging us to see work as worship rather than a chore, and find a balance between work and relaxation that honours God.

Blackwing – Ed McDonald

Genre: fiction, fantasy. What’s it about? McDonald’s debut fantasy novel is a dark tale focusing on a broken land and broken heroes. It’s a powerfully emotional tale that doesn’t shy away from the horror of conflict and the perils of a world in turmoil. It’s a fantasy novel for our time.

What Christians Ought to Believe – Michael Bird

Genre: non-fiction, theology. What’s it about? Bird takes us through the Apostles’ Creed to look at the core components of Christian theology. Although Bird is an evangelical theologian, I think he does a very good job in writing a helpful, cross-denominational book that I imagine would be excellent for small group discussions.

Crucible of Faith – Philip Jenkins

Genre: non-fiction, history, theology. What’s it about? Jenkins’ book is about the time between the Old and New Testaments, often ignored by Christians. He examines how the tumultuous history of the period shaped Jewish and Christian writings for years to come, arguing that Christians need to pay attention to this time if we want to understand the literary and historical context of New Testament writers.

1Q84 vol. 1 – Haruki Murakami

Genre: fiction, ?. What’s it about? The first volume in Murakami’s three-part story introduces us to Aomame and Tengo, two characters who cross over into the alternate world of 1Q84, where reality is sketchy and the line between symbol and fact is blurred. The books, translated from Japanese, explore love, faith and the nature of reality and perception.

1Q84 vol. 2 – Haruki Murakami

Genre: fiction, ?. What’s it about? The second volume in Murakami’s 1Q84.

1Q84 vol. 3 – Haruki Murakami

Genre: fiction, ?. What’s it about? The third (and final) volume in Murakami’s 1Q84.

Sapiens – Yuval Noah Harari

Genre: fiction, popular science, history. What’s it about? Harari takes the reader on a journey from the dawn of human civilisation, from Homo Sapiens’ rising dominance over other human species, through developments in agriculture, politics, science and philosophy to understand how we got to where we are today.

The Gunslinger – Stephen King

Genre: fiction, fantasy. What’s it about? The first volume in King’s 7-book Dark Tower masterpiece introduces Roland, the titular gunslinger, who is pursuing a man in black across a desert in his quest for the dark tower. It’s the first book in a stunning series that calls on several different genres and styles to showcase King’s wide-ranging literary abilities.

Watchmen – Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons

Genre: fiction (graphic novel), superhero, mystery. What’s it about? Alan Moore’s superhero envisions a different kind of hero: morally ambiguous, low-powered (mostly) and past their best. When one of the heroes is killed, the rest must find the murderer…or be killed themselves.

The Drawing of the Three – Stephen King

Genre: fiction, fantasy. What’s it about? The second book in King’s Dark Tower series.

The Waste Lands – Stephen King

Genre: fiction, fantasy. What’s it about? The third book in King’s Dark Tower series.

The Wizard’s Glass – Stephen King

Genre: fiction, fantasy. What’s it about? The fourth book in King’s Dark Tower series.

The Wolves of the Calla – Stephen King

Genre: fiction, fantasy. What’s it about? The fifthbook in King’s Dark Tower series.

The Song of Susannah – Stephen King

Genre: fiction, fantasy. What’s it about? The sixth book in King’s Dark Tower series.

The Dark Tower – Stephen King

Genre: fiction, fantasy. What’s it about? The seventh (and final) book in King’s Dark Tower series.

Crashing Heaven – Al Robertson

Genre: fiction, science-fiction. What’s it about? Jack Forster and Hugo Fist (an AI weapon living in tech attached to Forster’s spine) return to the Station, humanity’s new home, to continue an investigation they began years before that could bring the whole fragile society humanity has built in the stars crashing down. Unsurprisingly, several people would rather he didn’t succeed.

 

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