Failing the 2017 Reading Challenge (And My Top 10 Books for 2018)


I almost did it. I came so close. And yet, as the year died, defeat looked me in the eye.

Yes, I had many challenges fighting against me — several months rendered useless because my time was monopolized by ministry, and three months not even being home. But I had overcome them, I made up for what was lost, I was almost there, I almost made it — but didn’t. I didn’t complete my reading challenge. I only read 45 out of the 52-book goal that I attempted.

But all dramatics aside, my reading challenge wasn’t a failure in any sense. There’s never not a good time to read, and my commitment gave me a goal and accountability to be intentional about picking up heavy tome. Or slim e-reader, as the case may be.

Looking back now, I ran into some interesting adventures in Literary land. I had a hurdle initially trying to even organize and label all the titles I read. Where do I file The Great Divorce? As fiction, or Christian living? How do I define The Story of Reality?

I also read many things I didn’t enjoy this year (I’m looking at you, Steinbeck), things read solely because they are on the List-Of-Things-You-Are-Supposed-To-Read. I wonder if the List-Writers have ever read anything themselves. Yet, I also gave myself rein to read some light things solely for enjoyment. I found some new favorites. Good Christian dystopian fiction does actually exist. (There’s a sentence I truly believed I would never see.) I even read a book that hasn’t been published yet, as an alpha reader for a friend.

But the easy part of being a reader is the actual reading. The impossible part is answering the inevitable question. “Which was your favorite?” And I have forty-five to choose from. So, instead of attempting the impossible, I shall instead pick the cream of the crop, making both my task and my suggestions a bit more manageable.

So without further ado, here are my top 10 books from 2017.


1: This Changes Everything: How the Gospel Transforms the Teen Years, by Jaquelle Crowe.

This was my first book of the year, written by a first-time author, who just happened to be one of my first supporters in getting my first article published on Rebelution. So perhaps I’m a bit biased when I say this book is magnificent. But I’m not the only one. Winning both TGC’s award for best first-time author, as well as Christianity Today’s award of merit for best Children and Youth Book, This Changes Everything reminds us that we can’t just give God part of our life. Every single aspect of it, He declares dominion over; and what He lays claim to, He makes change to. I personally stayed up far into the night finishing this book in one sitting, because it was so very good!


2: One Thousand Gifts; A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are, by Ann Voskamp.

I recognize that there are varying opinions on this book. But if nothing else, it reawakened my delight in the beauty that God is, and the beauty that should be our writing when we speak of Him.


3: Out of Time Series, by Nadine Brandes.

Remember when I claimed good YA dystopian novels do exist? Remember when I claimed that good Christian YA dystopian novels exist? Well, here we are. I don’t remember why I picked up A Time to Die, but I remember doing so with the mindset of, “Well, this is Christian, so it’s probably going to be just some clean, cheesy, tolerable dystopian clichés with a few Bible verses thrown in.” Wrong. My expectations were subverted. The stakes were serious. And faith living in a dystopian future was handled thoughtfully and well.


4: Wars of the Realm Series, by Chuck Black.

And while we’re on the subject of good Christian fiction that refuses to play to our expectations of Christian media and stereotypes, let’s talk about Chuck Black. If you haven’t read his Kingdom or Knights of Arrethtrae series yet; then sir, get thee to a library. Easy reads but none the less intriguing for it, The Wars of the Realm explores spiritual warfare from an interesting perspective — one of a non-Christian protagonist.


5: A Practical Guide to Culture: Helping the Next Generation Navigate Today’s World, by Brett Kunkle and John Stonestreet.

“What is cultural success? It’s a life lived like Hans and Sophie Scholl, deeply engaging the moment in which God has placed us and courageously navigating the threatening currents, knowing that we serve a cause, and a God, far greater than ourselves.” An excellent and expertly handled overview of life in our 21st Century, which you can read my full review here.


6: Wordsmithy: Hot Tips for the Writing Life, by Douglas Wilson.

Is this the book recommended by all writers for all writers? Yes, yes it is. Does it deserve such acclaim? Yes, yes it does. I received it on Christmas, read through it the very next day, and promptly placed it on my read-every-year shelf.


7 What He Must Be: If He Wants to Marry My Daughter, by Voddie Baucham.

If there’s anything more exciting, terrifying, confusing, and frustrating than navigating relationships and trying to find a spouse, I must not be old enough to know it. What He Must Be lays out some guidelines and challenges for young men in what they should be aiming for, young women in what they should be looking for, and parents in what they should be training for. To quote one of my favorite phrases from Pastor Baucham, “If you can’t say Amen, you oughta say Ouch.”


8: Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, by Nabeel Qureshi.

You may have heard of Nabeel’s passing this last year, and read some powerful tributes. But much more powerful is his story. Part autobiography, part documentary of the clash between Islam and Christianity, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus is a thought-provoking, laughter-making, tear-inducing journey following Nabeel to his conversion, with a convicting look at our own complacency and lack of passion for the Gospel. If you only read one biography, one book on Islam, or one book on apologetics in 2018, make it this one.


9: The Weight of Glory, by C. S. Lewis.

This list would be amiss if I didn’t include at least one C. S. Lewis. I read five different books by Lewis this year; yes, I slacked off quite a bit. Even though I didn’t finish Weight of Glory before the end of 2017, it’s one I’ll always recommend, as I read through it yearly. It is not only an ever-masterful discussion of what glory really means (with thoughts on friendships, living in light of eternity, and others in the essays included with it) but also the book that made me sit back with eyes full of wonder and think “I want to be able to do that. To make beauty with words.”

Also, it’s by C. S. Lewis. Enough said.


10: Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions, by Gregory Koukl.

This is a book I recommend for everyone. Absolutely everyone should read it. And as all of my friends will tell you, I recommend it all the time. (To the point where it’s now an ongoing joke in our group.) Do you want to be able to engage people well? Read this book. Do you want to be able to understand and love others well? Read this book. Do you want to be able to deftly handle your apologetics? Read this book. Do you want to comfortably and gracefully have conversations about faith with others? Read this book. But perhaps I’m being too subtle with my hints. Seriously, you should read Tactics.

There were dozen of others books I’d like to talk about, but as Douglas Wilson taught me this year, know where to end.

Did you complete the 2017 reading challenge? What were your top books of the year? What do you recommend I put on my reading list for 2018?


Originally published on Top Christian Books


28 thoughts on “Failing the 2017 Reading Challenge (And My Top 10 Books for 2018)

  1. I just finished listening to the audiobook of Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus. Thank you SO much for recommending it on this list. It’s exactly the story I needed to hear this past week. Moved me to tears near the end. The power of a true and raw story is incredible; combine that with a passion to glorify God and you have a seriously impactful message. Wow.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Aww, Isabelle!! Thank you so much for including TCE in this list — and for offering such high praise. I’m so happy you contribute regularly to TheReb. And I’m looking forward to seeing where your writing takes you in the coming years. =)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Yes, this is a good list. 🙂
    I have mixed feelings on Ann Voskamp and One Thousand Gifts (and I must admit that her writing style irks me somehow), but I agree with you that it opened my eyes even more to the small and everyday wonders that God so abundantly showers on us.
    I’ve read A Time To Die and found it very original and interesting, but I haven’t yet read the others. Hopefully soon I can get them!
    I’ve started Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus and so far it’s awesome. Tactics is also such a great book! And The Weight of Glory…ahh. So good.
    I’ve definitely added a few of these to my to-read or re-read lists, too. I have a few recommendations – first of all, I third the motion that you should read The Giver. It’s really well done and asks some deep questions about the sanctity of life, too. I haven’t seen the movie, but like the others mentioned, I heard it’s way different and less good (like most book-to-movie adaptations, alas).
    Another series you should read: The Songkeeper Chronicles by Gillian Bronte Adams. They’re fantasy with a Christian background, and so well done. I personally know Gillian and look up to her as one of my writing and living role models 🙂 Her blog is really, really, good, too. It’s here: and I must recommend going all the way back and reading all of her posts because they’re that good.
    A final recommendation – The Deadliest Monster by J.F. Baldwin. It’s about human nature, worldview, and ethics and is such a worthwhile book (kind of like Summit in a single volume?).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I understand how Voskamp’s style could be off-putting.

      C. S. Lewis and Tactics, the staples of every #SummitJunkie 😀

      I have read and enjoyed The Giver. You’re right, it dives into so many of the issues our culture is facing today! I’ll have to look into the Song Keeper Chronicles! I had seen something about them recently and was intrigued, but now I’ll definitely have to check them out! And new amazing blogs are always wonderful! Mini Summit = Fantastic. I’ll add it to the list. (*glances in dismay at my growing book list and my shrinking bank account*) Oh the things we do for the love of knowledge and story.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Cool list! I’ve heard a lot of good things about Chuck Black but have never actually read any of his books. *hides* Maybe I’ll change that this year.
    I was looking into review of “Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus” and someone mentioned Nabeel had “supernatural dreams and visions.” Did you read anything of that sort in the book?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Trust me, Chuck Black’s books are easy reads, but amazing ones.

      Yes, depending on what you mean by that. When Nabeel was hovering between belief and Islam, he had several dreams that were so uncommon he surmised had to be from God, and they helped to propel him into accepting Christianity. Which actually isn’t very unusual, as there’s been story after story of Muslims who would have never have heard the Gospel having dreams about Jesus and coming to believers to find out more. It’s really amazing to see how God can work anything to spread His Word!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I also loved 1, 2, 3, and 10. And I really want to read Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus and The Weight of Glory!

    Also, about Tactics… You mean there’s someone else who all but literally throws this book at people?!?! I seriously bought three copies off Amazon two months ago because they were under $10 just so I could finally throw them at people whose ears I’ve been talking off saying READ IT! Ah, I feel so much better now. XD

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, please read them, they’re magnificent!

      YAS! That’s amazing that you bought those, and honestly makes me really happy. I convinced our study group to go through it together. Where did you first hear about Tactics, or did you just find out yourself and see the amazingness that it is?


  6. Ok, I just want to say that I love this blog post! Your writing never ceases to amaze me– truly beautiful.

    Jaquelle’s book is truly excellent. And she is the sweetest ever!

    Ann Voskamp is actually one of my most favorite authors, so I personally loved One Thousand Gifts. Have you read her newer book, The Broken Way? Wow, it was one of those books that completely challenged my faith (in the best way imaginable!).

    Honest confession from one writer to another: I love non-fiction but struggle through fiction. It’s not that I dislike fiction. When I really get into a good book I usually cannot put it down. But for me, it is the intimidation of starting a story… I feel like I have no other option but to read it and if I don’t I’ve failed the author. Haha, I know it is weird.

    This summer, however (after classes begin to come to a close), I am determined to read 10 fictitious books (which now pales in comparison to your goal of 52 in one year…which trust me, you did not fail!).

    I must thank you for your suggestion of a good, Christian dystopian book. I am definitely going to look that book up.

    Have you ever read The Giver by Lois Lowry? My older brother read the book and said it was an excellent dystopian-type story and that the movie failed miserably in retelling the tale. I am considering reading it myself. =)

    Anywho, I love your blog and am so excited to have even more summer book suggestions!


    Liked by 1 person

    • *peeks into conversation* Yes, read The Giver. It’s so good. You will not regret it. You will see the world anew and afresh. You will probably cry. ❤ (I haven't seen the movie, but I have heard, too, that it totally derails from the book.)

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so very much! This one was rather fun to write as well, as I got to be a little sassy and have fun with describing all of the books.

      Yes, Jaquelle is amazing!

      I love Voskamp’s writing style. I actually have not read that one, I’ll have to add it to my list for 2018! (I’m slowly realizing the problems of having both a growing book-wants and a very small budget…)

      No, I completely understand that struggle! I honestly have to very carefully pick and limit the times when I read novels, because if I pick one up, I literally cannot put it down. And if it’s in a series, I’m doomed. (This point may or not be further cemented in my mind because I may or may not just have read a trilogy in about 13 hours… granted, I was quarantined to my room, but staying up all night reading right before probably didn’t help. 😀 ) I hope you find some great novels to read this summer!

      I did read the Giver! It was very intriguing. Did you know it was part of a series? Lois Lowry is a gifted story teller.

      Thank you, and thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts!


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