Yes, you read that right—2018. It’s popular this time of year for leaders to post lists of the best books they read in 2017. For the record, we love those lists. For avid readers like us, there’s no better gift than a great book recommendation.

But as J.D. and I (Chris) reflected on the books we read this year, we also wanted to reach out to some of our staff and other Summit leaders to hear about their best books of 2017. So we asked around: If you were to recommend a book from your 2017 reading, what would it be? Everyone had to narrow it down to just one—except Pastor J.D., who gets a special exception.

Not every book here is created equal. Some are classics worth savoring (and re-reading); others, while imbalanced, have something timely to say. We’ve read a bunch of these titles already. We’ve put many others in our queue for 2018. And we’d encourage you to do the same. Pick up a few of these and you might just end up finding the best book you’ll read in 2018.

Better yet, ask the leaders in your community for some recommendations to stretch your 2018 mind and enrich your 2018 heart.

Happy reading!

Pastor J.D.’s Picks

A Gospel Primer for Christians, Milton Vincent

This book has the most ridiculous and unattractive cover I’ve ever seen, but is one of my favorites. I am reading it again for the third time this year. It may be the best practical application of what it means to keep the gospel at the center that I’ve ever read. I find it works best if you read one small section at a time (only 1-2 pages) as a devotional supplement. Meditate on the words and don’t read them quickly.

Martin Luther: The Man Who Rediscovered God and Changed the World, Eric Metaxas

I don’t know if this is a fascinating book about an exceptional man, or an exceptional book about a fascinating man. Either way, Metaxas’s Luther may be the most enjoyable and uplifiting book I read this year—particularly the first half. I was moved to courage, emboldened in my struggle against Satan, and deepened in the gospel. All the while being delighted and entertained.

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, Greg McKeown

This book was passed to me by one of our church planters, and I first got into it with a ‘I know what this is going to say’ kind of attitude—focus on what you do best, eliminate clutter, free yourself from the expectations of others, etc. And his major points were, indeed, what I expected. What I wasn’t expecting was the depth and breadth of application McKeown would give to these points. I left not only with a greater understanding of why focus is essential to an enjoyable and productive life, but how to implement it. I have adopted several new habits directly from it.

The City of God, Augustine

I once asked a famous theologian the most important five books I could read. He said, ‘The City of God and one other.’ This year I went through a course on it on by Professor Mathewes of UVA in ‘Great Courses: Books that Matter.’ I was not disappointed. I couldn’t believe how closely Augustine’s critique of Rome’s idolatry and fall parallels our day. This did more to help me understand the believer’s role in the United States than any book I’ve been through.

Shame: How America’s Past Sins Have Polarized Our Country, Shelby Steele.

This is certainly not the only book to read on race, but it is a good one to add into the mix. The friend who recommended it to me, said, ‘More than any other book I read this year, this is the one I wanted to read through again in a small group with people of differing perspectives.’ Steele’s poignant account of racism in his own experience (he’s African American) and his argument that today’s liberalism is not about helping people like him as much as it is about moving from relativism to dissociation to legitimacy to power was enlightening. This is a book to be read slowly, discussed, digested, and—though I don’t know anything about Steele’s personal faith or lack thereof—dare I say, even prayed over.

What Our Leaders Want Us to Read

Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces that Stand in the Way of True Inspiration, Ed Catmull

Curtis Andrusko, Communications Pastor

Creativity, Inc. takes the proverbial box, steps out of it, reshapes it, then steps back in. It’s not simply about the new way that Pixar did things, but more about an entirely new way of thinking about doing things for any

 organization. By using the backdrop of some of my favorite movies, it was able to deliver valuable, insightful, and actionable lessons straight onto my desk and immediately into my team.

Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History, Kurt Anderson

Bruce Ashford, Directional Elder

Fantasyland is a fast-paced and provocative book. In it, Kurt Anderson explores 500 years of American history, but especially the last 50 years, concluding that America has become untethered from reality. Anderson is not a Christian. I disagree with many of his interpretations. But the book is well worth reading. (For my summary and critique of the book, check out my review).

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, Bryan Stevenson

Derrick Delain, Campus Pastor

Just Mercy is an easy-to-read book that shows the injustice of our justice system. This book will make you upset to see that there is an ongoing epidemic in our justice system on how it treats the poor and the oppressed. As a follower of Jesus, who prays for God to be revealed here on earth as it is in heaven, mercy in every sphere should be something we seek to make happen. Bryan Stevenson paints a picture of where we have missed the mark and how we can grow in it.

Bonus: This was also on Pastor J.D.’s “Best Books of 2016.” Here’s what he said about it: “Stevenson’s work on the unjust treatment of some criminals, particularly minorities, is heartbreaking and compelling. On the whole, I found this book to be both enlightening and challenging. Stevenson seems to lack a consistent ethical framework that makes his understanding of ‘justice’ incomplete at times. But for those of us in the majority culture, the awareness he raises is invaluable.”

Blood Done Sign My Name: A True Story, Timothy Tyson

Jason Douglas, Executive Pastor, Weekend Ministries

This true story, told by a white man who grew up as the son of a Methodist preacher in Oxford, North Carolina, takes place during the civil rights movement. In it, Tyson recounts the murder of a young African American in his town and the ensuing events, community response, and racial tensions. It was sobering to read that, in many ways, this story is being repeated in current events today. There truly is “nothing new under the sun.” Also, personally, knowing that all of this took place about 40 minutes down the road made it even that more impactful for me.

The Power of Moments, Chip and Dan Heath

Danny Franks, Connections Pastor

The Power of Moments is another instant hit from the Heath brothers. Using the same in-depth research and intriguing applications that made Switch and Made to Stick best sellers, TPOM helps us understand that designing great experiences is “mostly forgettable and occasionally remarkable.” Whether you’re a public speaker or a parent, a CEO or a sixth-grade teacher, you will be hooked with “We should do this!” ideas from page one.

The Disciple-Making Parent: A Comprehensive Guidebook for Raising Your Children to Love and Follow Jesus Christ, Chap Bettis

Jason Gaston, Family Ministries Pastor

I cannot recommend this book enough to parents. Bettis sets the entire book out of the Great Commission, charging parents that their “North Star” in parenting is the same for all disciples as laid out in Matthew 28—to make disciples.  Bettis does something that is very difficult to do in most parenting books:  He lays out a deeply theological foundation for parenting and several incredibly insightful and practical chapters on tools for parents in the trenches. It’s a must-have for your bookshelf in 2018.

Prophetic Lament: A Call for Justice in Troubled Times, Soong-Chan Rah

Chris Green, Men’s Discipleship Pastor

This book is critical because it speaks into how lament impacts our discipleship. You can’t be in a healthy relationship with someone if you are not willing to deal with the reality of their suffering. Also, lament produces dependency on God, his mercy, his strength, and his ability in our times of need. God responds to to us in our suffering and lament is how we communicate it.

Awe: Why It Matters for Everything We Think, Say, and Do, Paul David Tripp

Amy Kavanaugh, Communications Team Project Manager

Awe revealed to me, even if I would never consciously say otherwise, that my view of God really does shape everything I think, say, and do. When I encounter any problem in my spiritual life, I can almost always trace a line back to my lack of awe for who God is. I am hard-wired to worship something, yet I often am wrought by sin—amazed by myself or things of this world. Only if I am truly in awe of God’s majesty, sovereignty, and graciousness will I be able to worship in spirit and truth, becoming more like him.

The Four Disciplines of Execution, Franklin Covey

Dana Leach, National Media and Resources Manager

Covey’s books is written for business executives, but the principles can be applied to individuals, families, and the everyday worker. Most books like this only teach strategy. But strategy without execution is useless. For people (like me) who often lack focus, The Four Disciplines of Execution helps make strategic priorities a reality in the midst of a daily whirlwind.

None Like Him: 10 Ways God Is Different from Us, Jen Wilkin

Alex Lewis, Associate Campus Director

I’ve heard and read a lot about the attributes of God, but I’ve never spent much time reading or studying specifically about how God is different from me. It may seem obvious, but Wilkin walks through 11 of God’s attributes and focuses on how different they are from human attributes and abilities. I think we unknowingly (and sometimes knowingly) try to play god, so coming face to face with the immensity to which his character contrasts mine freed me up to trust him more deeply. He is God and I am not—and this book helped me see more clearly how worthy he is of my obedience and total faith.

Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West, Stephen Ambrose

John Muller, Campus Pastor

I love history and I love the American West.  A friend of mine had just finished the book and recommended it to me. I wanted to learn about leadership, going into unfamiliar places, leading a team through unknown challenges, and accomplishing a common goal together. This book promised, and delivered, all of that. How did this Corps of Discovery do what they did, survive, and help change the landscape of a nation? That’s what I found out. Meriwether Lewis, though very young, was a man of undaunted courage. That is a key quality in leadership.

Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoevsky

Chris Pappalardo, Editor

Mark Twain once said that a classic book is one that everyone wants to have read and no one wants to read. I’ve read plenty of books like that, but Dostoevsky’s masterpiece isn’t among them. Known for being a deep dive into the psychology of guilt (which it is), Crime and Punishment is also a murder mystery with surprises all along the way. Re-reading this book has cemented Dostoevsky as my favorite Russian author—and quite possibly one of my favorite authors, period.

A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World, Paul Miller

Sarah Perkins, Administrative Associate

Miller is transparent and disarming, reminding the reader that we all have a weak prayer life. He warmly invites us to be upfront with our heavenly Father, since he delights in hearing our prayers. Probably the greatest praise I can give A Praying Life is that it has actually changed the way I live and pray!

C.S. Lewis’s Space Trilogy

Daniel Simmons, Executive Pastor, Campuses

If you decide to read something by C.S. Lewis this year, let it be his Space Trilogy. While Lewis may be most remembered for creating the magical world of Narniahis Space Trilogy offers his epic adventure storytelling, yet does so with more depth and nuance. Not to be mistaken for children’s stories, the three books Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength, dive into the themes of man’s nature, God’s character, the battle between the forces of good and evil, and how to live wisely in this world.

12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You, Tony Reinke

Wes Smith, College Discipleship Pastor

There are few things we give more attention to throughout the day than our phones. This book does a wonderful job pointing out how our phones are changing the way we see God, ourselves, and others. Reinke helps show us that even though our phones can help us in many ways, they are not toys. In order to follow Jesus and disciple others well in today’s society, we must think critically about how our phones are impacting us—and this book is a great start!