The Top Ten Books We Read in 2017

Now that 2017 is over, I decided to use Goodreads to take a stroll down memory lane and look back at the books I read this past year. As always, some were good, a few weren’t worth my time, and others were so great that I can’t wait to read them again. As someone who always appreciates a good book recommendation, I wanted to share a ranked list of the ten best books I read this year, all of which I would highly recommend. If you’re looking for some great reading material for 2018, you can’t go wrong with the books below.

 

10: Love Your Life Not Theirs: 7 Money Habits for Living the Life You Want by Rachel Cruze

Amazon Rating: 4.5 stars

Goodreads Rating: 4.04 stars

SPT Rating: 4 stars

I love Dave Ramsey’s stuff, so when his daughter came out with a book, I thought, “Why not give this a shot?” And I’m glad I did. This was a quick and fairly simple read, but there’s a lot of good content in here. Cruze focuses heavily on the comparison trap we often throw ourselves into, and reminds us that keeping up with the Jones’s isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Parents, I highly recommend this book for teenagers who are starting to work and open their own bank accounts.

Best Quote:


“If there’s one thing I’ve learned about debt, it’s this: debt is full of broken promises. Debt confuses the make-believe world of what we want or think we deserve with the truth about what we can actually afford. And when we blur the lines between reality and fantasy, we’re in dangerous territory.”


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9. How to Live on 24 Hours a Day by Arnold Bennett

Amazon Rating: 4.1 stars

Goodreads Rating: 3.65 stars

SPT Rating: 4 stars

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This is a quick read, but it was well-written and full of both timeless wisdom and impeccable wit. Writing in 1910, Bennett really calls out the fact that we waste time outside of work, especially in the evenings. We get home and say we’ve “put in a good day’s work,” but much of the day is still left, and how we use that extra time is the main theme of this book. Bennett’s plan is simple: account for your time so that you’re living fully, rather than merely existing. Either use your time wisely or you’ll wonder where it went.

Best Quote:


“Which of us is not saying to himself–which of us has not been saying to himself all his life: “I shall alter that when I have a little more time”? We never shall have any more time. We have, and we have always had, all the time there is.” 


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8. Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery by Eric Metaxas

Amazon Rating: 4.8 stars

Goodreads Rating: 4.29 stars

SPT Rating: 4.25 stars

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Metaxas is the only author to get two spots on the list this year, and they’re both excellent biographical reads. Amazing Grace is the incredible story of William Wilberforce, who led the campaign to abolish slavery across the British empire. Before Wilberforce stepped into the spotlight, few in Britain thought slavery was even wrong, but by the time of his death slavery had been abolished, and the world was a completely different place. Metaxas even goes as far as to say that “William Wilberforce was simply the greatest social reformer in the history of the world,” and by the end of the book, you’ll likely find yourself agreeing with him. Wilberforce reminds us of what God can do with a man completely surrendered to His will, and this book will inspire you to be that kind of person.

Best Quote:


“There were effectively only two responses to the condition of the poor in Wilberforce’s day. One was to look down on them scornfully, moralistically judging them as inferior and unworthy of help. The other was to ignore them entirely, to see their plight as inevitable, part of the unavoidable price of ‘modern civilization.’ But Wilberforce would introduce a third way of responding to the situation. This response would neither judge the poor and suffering nor ignore them, but rather would reach out to them and help them up, so to speak.”


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7. No Limits: Blow the CAP Off Your Capacity by John Maxwell

Amazon Rating: 4.6 stars

Goodreads Rating: 4.40 stars

SPT Rating: 4.25 stars

 

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What if your limits weren’t really your limits? While we all have natural limitations that come with being human, we often place additional limitations on ourselves that hold us back from reaching our full potential. In his practical, down-to-earth style, John Maxwell exposes the additional limitations we place on ourselves – and how to remove them. This is one of Maxwell’s longer books, but it’s an easy read that will motivate and equip you to accomplish more in 2018.

Best Quote:


“You need to become aware that you are currently living below your potential if you’re going to do anything to improve. Even if you’ve been a highly productive and successful person, you can improve. You can increase your capacity. You have more in you that you have never tapped. And there is a path forward to greater potential if you are willing to take it.”


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6. Pour Your Heart Into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time by Howard Schultz

Amazon Rating: 4.4 stars

Goodreads Rating: 4.00 stars

SPT Rating: 4.5 stars

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Howard Schultz is a man with one life-consuming passion: coffee. The CEO and Chairman of Starbucks built an empire around the premise that everyone should be able to enjoy the best coffee in the world, and this is the story of how it all happened. But more than that it’s the story of a man living out his passion. As I read through the book for a second time this past year, it left me inspired to pour my heart into what I love doing, and I hope it inspires you to do the same.

Best Quote:


“My story is as much one of perseverance and drive as it is of talent and luck. I willed it to happen. I took my life in my hands, learned from anyone I could, grabbed what opportunity I could, and molded my success step by step. Fear of failure drove me at first, but as I tackled each challenge, my anxiety was replaced by a growing sense of optimism. Once you overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles, other hurdles become less daunting.”


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5. The Rise of the Roman Empire by Polybius

Amazon Rating: 3.9 stars

Goodreads Rating: 4.02 stars

SPT Rating: 4.5 stars

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I’m reading through some Roman history in order to better understand the New Testament, and I began my studies by working through The Rise of the Roman Empire. This was an excellent historical work that taught me a lot about how the Romans rose to a position of global dominance, and it focused heavily on the Punic Wars between Rome and Carthage when Rome first began to establish themselves as an world super-power. I enjoyed Polybius’ style of writing as well as the fact that he not only told history, but also examined and interpreted the choices of those he chronicled, providing valuable life lessons along the way.

Best Quote:


“If history is deprived of the Truth, we are left with nothing but an idle, unprofitable tale.”


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4. The Way of the Shepherd: 7 Ancient Secrets to Managing Productive People by Kevin Leman and William Pentak 

Amazon Rating: 4.8 stars

Goodreads Rating: 4.23 stars

SPT Rating: 4.75 stars

The Way of the Shepherd

Did you know that the first symbol of leadership was the shepherd? In fact, in ancient times even kings and queens were referred to as the shepherds of their people. Shepherding was respected in ancient times because sheep require constant oversight and vigilant care in order to thrive – just like people. Kevin Leman and William Pentak unpack dozens of timeless truths in this little gem, and I have no doubt that this will transform your approach to leading people. While you can read this book in less than three hours, it’s really meant to be studied and digested more slowly, so I’d recommend giving yourself a week to get through it.

Best Quote:


“The staff represents your responsibility to direct your people; the rod represents your responsibility to direct them. This is the part of leadership that leaders, particularly new ones, commonly err on. If you use the rod too much or incorrectly, you’ll lose the goodwill of your people. Use it too little or not at all, and you’ll lose their respect.”


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3. How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren

Amazon Rating: 4.3 stars

Goodreads Rating: 4.00

SPT Rating: 4.75 stars

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If you’re like me, you’re already laughing at the irony of reading a book about how to read a book, but stop and think for a moment – how much did you really get out of the last book you read? Do you walk away having grasped 50% of what the author tried to communicate? 80%? How much did you miss? And how can you read more intelligently in the future?

Those are the types of questions that Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren answer in this timeless classic. I found two elements of this book especially valuable. First, they discuss the various levels of reading and why they matter; and second, in the latter part of the book they also share dozens of helpful tips for how to get the most out of reading your favorite genres. Most likely you won’t need to read every chapter in the second part – if you focus on only the chapters devoted to your favorite genres, you’ll breeze through it pretty quickly and get a lot of great information. This book will change the way you read, and enable you to enjoy your books – including the Bible – on a whole different level.

Best Quote:


“If a book is easy and fits nicely into all your language conventions and thought forms, then you probably will not grow much from reading it. It may be entertaining, but not enlarging to your understanding. It’s the hard books that count. Raking is easy, but all you get is leaves; digging is hard, but you might find diamonds.”


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2. The Theodore Roosevelt Trilogy by Edmund Morris

Amazon Rating: 4.6 stars

Goodreads Rating: 3.74 stars

SPT Rating: 4.75 stars

 

This is the definitive biography on America’s most interesting President. Theodore Roosevelt grew up as a frail, sickly, and asthmatic child; yet grew up to live an energetic and vivacious life of health as an adult. At about 2,500 pages, these books will take some time to consume, but nobody paints a more accurate and exhaustive picture of TR’s life than Edmund Morris. Reading these books will create a healthy tension in your life – you’ll experience the irresistible urge to get up, take life by the horns, and live the strenuous life that TR advocated for so strongly, while also not wanting to put the books down because they’re just that good.

Best Quote:


“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”


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1. Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas

Amazon Rating: 4.7 stars

Goodreads Rating: 4.24 stars

SPT Rating: 5 stars

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If you can’t tell, Eric Metaxas is one of our favorites here at SPT, and this is one of my favorite books of all time outside the Bible. I was first exposed to Dietrich Bonhoeffer when I read The Cost of Discipleship in college, but I knew relatively little about his life until I read this book. Bonhoeffer lived in the ever-changing and incredibly complex world of Nazi Germany, and he actively wrestled with how a Christian and pastor should live in a Hitler-worshiping, Jew-hating, cripple-murdering, church-shaming society. The conclusions he came to led him to join the resistance in a plot to assassinate Hitler, which ultimately led to his own execution at the early age of 39. This is a compelling read that you will want to come back to again and again, and it’s the best book we read in 2017.

Best Quote:


“Being a Christian is less about cautiously avoiding sin than about courageously and actively doing God’s will.”


 

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