Top 10 Books of 2017

Top 10 Books of 2017_LisaNotes

Here are ten favorite books I read in 2017. I recommend them to you.

  • Some are about healing the divisions in our country.
  • Some are about God and faith.
  • Some are memoirs of real-life people and meaning.

Please share a favorite book you read this year in the comments below. Together let’s build our 2018 reading lists.

Top 10 Books I Read in 2017

1. The Better Angels of Our Nature
Why Violence Has Declined
by Steven Pinker

Better Angels of Our Nature

If you want to be encouraged that our world is LESS violent than ever, not more violent, read this book. It’s long; be warned. (I took several months to read it.) But it’s worth it. The information thoroughly documents that these days may be the most peaceful in the history of mankind.

I picked up this book after seeing Bill Gates cite it as his favorite book of the last decade. Now I understand why.

2. The Power of Moments
Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact
by Chip Heath, Dan Heath


Why do we remember some moments with clarity, but most moments fade away quickly? How can we be more intentional about which moments will be remembered? This book goes into specific reasons why and methods how. My series on this book is here, How to Mark the Moment.

Chip Heath and Dan Heath are two of my very favorite authors. They write with precision and simplicity, and use multiple examples. Their books often become my favorites.

3. Small Great Things
A Novel
by Jodi Picoult


This novel gripped me. The story centers about a black labor and delivery nurse who has to care for the baby of white supremacists. Things go very wrong.

Along the way, we see how privilege, race, and power come into play in this story that could happen anywhere in our country today.

4. Building a StoryBrand
Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen
by Donald Miller


You may know author Donald Miller as a Christian storyteller. That may be why this book works. He uses the seven common elements of effective storytelling and applies them to business marketing. With extreme clarity and step-by-step precision, he guides the reader to more accurately shape the messages they send out.

Apply it to whatever area you work in. (I’m using it to redesign a website for a non-profit I volunteer with.)

5. The New Jim Crow
Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
by Michelle Alexander

new jim crow

As much as it’s spoken, our country is not colorblind. At the very least, statistics show us this. This book uses statistics and more to speak to our conscience of how racism has been redesigned.

It focuses on the mass imprisonment rates among communities of color as compared to the white communities. (There are more African Americans under correctional control today than were enslaved in 1850.) It will make you think and rethink your view of our world.

6. The Naked Now
Learning to See as the Mystics See
by Richard Rohr

naked now

How do we see spirituality outside of black and white ways? Father Richard Rohr explores how to let go of artificial divisions in this book.

He walks us with Jesus through the Gospels, the epistles, and history’s Christian contemplatives to deeper ways of seeing, especially in the second half of life (which may have nothing to do with your age). This can’t be read quickly.

7. Peak
Secrets from the New Science of Expertise
by Anders Ericsson


Want to acquire a new skill? Ericsson has studied how for decades. This book explains how we gain expertise in an area. Some of the ways are intuitive, but many are not (hint: it’s not always about innate talent).

Be prepared for lots of interesting examples and stories from a wide variety of fields.

8. When Breath Becomes Air
by Paul Kalanithi

when breath becomes air

This neurosurgeon was not only brilliant in medicine, but also in writing. When he was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer at 36-year-old, he began writing down his journey of life and death from both a doctor’s perspective and a patient’s.

And most importantly, from a human’s perspective. Even though the book contains much sadness, its value makes it worth the tears.

9. Stalling for Time
My Life as an FBI Hostage Negotiator
by Gary Noesner

stalling for time

This book came out in 2010, but I read it only this year. And it fascinated me. It’s a memoir of one of the FBI’s chief negotiator. He tells story after story about hostage crisis and cases that he was involved in.

His goal was to achieve a peaceful outcome but it didn’t always turn out that way. Fascinating.

10. The Organized Mind
Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload
by Daniel J. Levitin


Too much information. No wonder we have trouble keeping everything straight. This book takes us on a journey of understanding and executing a better plan on how to manage the things we have to keep up with.

Plus 10 More Great Books

There were so many great books this year that I must include 10 more.

11. The Gatekeepers
How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every Presidency
by Chris Whipple

12. The Righteous Mind
Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion
by Jonathan Haidt

13. The Sacred Enneagram
Finding Your Unique Path to Spiritual Growth
by Christopher Heuertz

14. How to Think
A Survival Guide for a World at Odds
by Alan Jacobs

15. Why Christianity Must Change or Die
A Bishop Speaks to Believers In Exile
by John Shelby Spong

16. Invisible Influence
The Hidden Forces that Shape Behavior
by Jonah Berger

17. Grit
The Power of Passion and Perseverance
by Angela Duckworth

18. Wolf Boys
Two American Teenagers and Mexico’s Most Dangerous Drug Cartel
by Dan Slater

19. Slavery by Another Name
The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans
by Douglas A. Blackmon

20. Words on the Move
Why English Won’t—and Can’t—Sit Still (Like, Literally)
by John McWhorter

* * *

What book would you recommend from 2017? Please share in the comments.

40 thoughts on “Top 10 Books of 2017

  1. Lynn D. Morrissey

    Lisa, I greatly appreciate this helpful service which you offer. So much to read, so little time, so choice paralysis. Then comes along a good reviewer, who is not just a friend of the author, but gives a cogent, honest review. Thank you for doing the legwork and giving informative, intelligent, and concise reviews. I’ve listened. I’ve read. Now a question for the reviewer: How do you make *your* choices, how do you find time to read, do you have reading goals, etc., etc. IOW, what are your reading habits as we forge ahead into a new literary, information-overload year? I’m all ears (and will be all eyes).
    Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      How do I make my choices? I download free samples to my Kindle whenever I hear of a good book from someone else’s blog or from a podcast or from another book I’m reading or from a personal recommendation or from something interesting on a free-for-review website (like Blogging for Books).

      Then when I eventually get around to reading the sample, I either decide No and delete it; or Yes and move it to my “to borrow” folder; or Definitely and move it to my “to buy” folder. 🙂

      Then when I am ready for a new stack of books, I see what my library has available from those folders, either at their site or from their Kindle holdings.

      Some years I do a reading challenge to read so many books from particular genres, but this year I let myself just read whatever I wanted to, and I loved that the most. 🙂

      When do I read? Mainly early in the morning or in the middle of the night if I can’t get back to sleep. But I also read at meals if I’m by myself, and whenever I’m doing a mindless task (like folding towels) that will allow me to multitask. And I always read on road trips because my husband prefers driving.

      Thanks for asking, Lynn! Merry Christmas to you, too, friend!

  2. Lesley

    Thanks for sharing your list, Lisa! Small Great Things is the only one of yours I’ve read and I loved it! I’m sharing reviews of 3 great books in my post this week but I think the one that is still sticking with me and making me think is Free Of Me by Sharon Hodde Miller. It looks at the dangers of self-focus and how to turn our focus away from ourselves and onto God and others.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’m glad you loved Small Great Things too, Lesley! My husband started the audiobook and never finished it; it just didn’t grab him like it did me. 🙁 But I thought it was fantastic. Heading over now to read your reviews! Free of Me sounds like a much-needed topic for all of us. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Barbara H.

    Wow, so many of those sound like they’d require a lot of brain exercise. I’m sure one of my top ten read this year will be Love in Hard Places by D. A. Carson. I’ll probably have my top-however-many up after Christmas (I aim for about ten, but give myself leeway. 🙂 )

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      It does seem like there were a lot of brain books this year. I love reading how our brains make us behave, but not so much about the actual workings of the brain itself, if that makes sense. 🙂 I’ll look forward to your list when you get it up. It is hard to come up with a limited number of books to share, but at least we do share every month with our Nightstand posts so that makes it a little easier at the end of the year.

  4. nylse

    I love any Jodi Picoult book; my daughter is now reading Small Great Things and I plan to add that to my list for next year. I bought the new Jim Crow but I couldn’t read it because books like that make me angry and reinforce what I already know. One day I will finish this book.
    I love memoirs and just finished reading a gripping memoir called Educated by Tara Westover. If this wasn’t a memoir I wouldn’t believe all of this could happen in someone’s life. Read it.
    I’m also going to add When Breath Becomes Air to my list.
    Your neighbor at #TellHistory or is that #Tell His Story?
    Merry Christmas.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I can only imagine the thoughts that must go through your mind as you read books like The New Jim Crow. 🙁 I’d love to hear what you think about Small Great Things if you read it next year. Thanks for telling me about Educated! I just requested it from NetGalley. I’ll have to wait and see if I get it or not. You’ve got me very interested in it. Hope you and your family have a great Christmas, Nylse!

  5. Theresa Boedeker

    Great list, Lisa. A few good books I read this year was The Broken Way. What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty make you think about how marriage and motherhood changes us. A historical book was How to be a Tudor, by Ruth Goodman. A WWII book that gripped me and was based on a true family was, We Were the Lucky Ones.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      All your books sound so interesting, Theresa. Thanks for sharing them! I love to hear what real people have enjoyed. 🙂 I’ll keep them in mind as I pick out books for 2018.

  6. Patricia Krank

    Thank you for the book reviews Lisa. It’s always helpful to get advice from others before buying. My absolute favorite book of the year has been Chase The Lion by Mark Batterson. It came into my life at the right time as I needed encouragement to be brave and keep chasing after my God given dreams.
    I hope you’re having a blessed Christmas season my friend.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks for telling me about Chase the Lion. I haven’t read that one from Mark Batterson, but I have really enjoyed his books that I have read. Yes, it is helpful to get recommendations from people we trust before we invest time (or money!) in a book. I’m glad you’re chasing your lions, Patti! Praying you have a wonderful Christmas too.

  7. Karen Grosz

    I always enjoy your posts about books. I have only read one of the books you enjoyed (When Breathe Becomes Air 5/5) so will check them out.

    My favorite Non-fiction read this year was: Walk It Out: The Radical Result of Living God’s Word One Step at a Time by Tricia Goyer.

    My favorite Fiction was The Space Between Words by Michele Phoenix. I was reading it when the shooting happened in Las Vegas so it was well timed.

    My favorite Series was The Living Water Series (The Well, The Thief, and The Tomb) by Stephanie Landselm.

    Definitely hard to pick favorites but those came to my mind immediately so they must be the best of the best.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Ooh, I love your list of books, Karen. Thanks for sharing these titles! It will be fun to come back to these comments when I start looking for a new stack of books to read. I appreciate this.

  8. Tyra


    It is so refreshing to see your willingness to go into the hard spaces as reflected in your reading. I believe that is what helps us become more compassionate, sensitive humans who reflect the heart of Jesus. I’d like to share the one book that revolutionized my life in 2017 and that was Angel Armies by Tim Sheets. Blessings to you.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks, Tyra. I do believe that it changes us when we read about others and talk to others that aren’t exactly like us. It can be life-changing. Jesus loves everybody; we need to do better with that ourselves. Thanks for sharing about Angel Armies—I just got the sample sent to my Kindle so I can look at it too!

  9. Crystal

    I am intrigued by your wide diversity of interests….the mark of a book lover! I’ just finished reading The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell, and I’m just starting his David & Goliath…both fascinating!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I am definitely a book lover, no doubt about it. I’m glad to hear you are reading Malcolm Gladwell–he’s one of my favorite authors too! He is such a great storyteller and teaches me things in painless ways. 🙂

  10. floyd

    Thanks for all the wonderful options! You are the “go to” person when in comes to books!

    I read some early Grisham books this year. Pretty sad that the only quality reading time I get is when I have surgeries!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      The worse thing is that you have to have surgeries. Praying that 2018 brings no hospitals for you, Floyd! 🙂 My dad used to read Grisham books and really enjoyed them. Jeff took a few of them after Daddy died but I’ve never read one myself. Maybe 2018 will be the year I change that?

  11. Brenda

    Wow, Lisa. As much as I’ve read this year, I don’t think I’ve even heard of any of these before. Interesting list. Thanks for sharing. 🙂 May the Christ of Christmas bless you and your family this season. ((hug))

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      There are so many books out there now, yes? I can get overwhelmed when I think about it. ha. Not only will we never read them all, but we can’t even know about them all. That’s why we have to be picky. 🙂 May you have a blessed Christmas, too, Brenda!

  12. Maree Dee

    You have encouraged me to read more. I see many books on your list I would love to read. In fact, a few are sitting in my stack of books to read. I am sharing and saving your post so I don’t forget them.

  13. Debbie Wilson

    Lisa, I recently finished The Power of Moments and ordered two copies for gifts. Your first book intrigues me. I’ve heard some some people I respect talk about how many more Christian martyrs there have been in the last century compared to all of history. Thanks for the list!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yay—I’m glad you loved The Power of Moments, too, Debbie! Even though it’s been several months ago that I read it, I still bring it up in casual conversations. 🙂 Some of the examples really stick with me (like the popsicle hot line). That’s truly sad about the number of Christian martyrs. 🙁 We take so much for granted over here. Lord, have mercy.

  14. Debby

    I’ve read a few lists lately and I’m glad to say your list is not the same as the others. Diversity in reading is helpful. Many of these are new to me which is also good. I’m reading Richard Rohr’s daily mediations for Christmas this year. I appreciate his insights. Thanks for sharing your reading list.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I love a diverse reading list myself. I get bored if I read too many similar things (which sometimes I do). Lately it seems I’ve been reading too many books about the brain; I don’t know if I can absorb much more about the way we think. ha.

      Anything by Richard Rohr is always a win in my book! Hope you have a blessed Christmas, Debby.

  15. David

    Dear Lisa, I am really looking forward to Enlightenment Now by Steven Pinker (coming out end Feb 2018). Are you going to read it? I would love to know what you thought of it. Pinker is a secular humanist (I think) but imho his main polemical targets are pessimism and anti-humanism rather than religious thinking per se.

    This autumn I read a lot of Wodehouse and I can highly recommend any of the Jeeves & Wooster stories. Very funny. He is a master storyteller.

    My Book of the Year has to be Mere Christianity. It was recommended to me by An Online Friend. I’ve read it two or three times now. It has a lot of surprises in it, and depth, and challenge. I was especially gripped when I read that Lewis was an ex-atheist. I’ll try and write a review in the new year.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I do hope to read Enlightenment Now. I was enthralled with Pinker’s Better Angels. He writes with such clarity and depth, although also much length. I could likely pick the book up right now and read it again and glean as much as I did the first reading. I know I didn’t get it all on the first go-round. I’m guessing that Enlightenment Now will be the same way. I’ve been following Pinker on Twitter the past couple of months too. He points to some interesting readings.

      I’ve only read one of Wodehouse books and it was amusing. I’d heard so much about them that I had to at least sample it.

      I’ll look forward to what you’ll share on Mere Christianity. Yes, it is another one of those books that can be read over and over. I read it every few years, when I’m in a different place, and learn something new every time. Hope you have a wonderful Christmas with family and friends, David!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      It’s too hard to just pick 10 books so I had to include some extras. 🙂 I wonder what we’ll read next year in 2018. I look forward to finding common ground in our reading material again.

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