2017 book reviews, part I



Happy year’s end! It is time for my annual book reviews posts.

This year I read a lot, at least for my still-have-young-kids-who-interrupt-me-practically-every-forty-seven-seconds self. So, I’ll give you my full list and give each a 0-5* rating, but I’m only going to comment on the top 17 of 2017.

Also, I sort of read in categories this year – sometimes on accident, sometimes on purpose. So I’ll be awarding 1ish winner per category and I’ll organize the books by category and so that you can more easily peruse the kind of books you might actually want to read.

All in all, the list will come to you somewhat evenly in three posts. On the final post, I’ll let you know my “I insist!” Book List recommendation, the book(s) I read in 2017 that I think everyone ought to read. (If there is one.)

Also, I’d always love to hear what you’re reading and how it’s changing you. So please comment below or subscribers email me back and let me know the best books you read this year. I’m always adding books to my to-read list, and, honestly I’d just mostly love to connect with you.

For reference, here’s my 5* scale:

* Meh

** Fine

*** Good

**** Great

***** Fantastic! and/or Brilliant.

Top 17 of 2017


I. Spiritual Formation

The Mountain of Silence by Kyriacos C. Markides. 2001, 243 pages *****

So much expansion happened in my mind and heart as I read this book and ruminated on it in the months thereafter. This was essentially the book Father Maximos (a Greek orthodox monk) never wrote. The author thoroughly explored orthodox (specifically Anthonite) traditions through stories and teachings. It was fascinating and overall very affirming to see and experience the Way of Jesus through an older, more traditional culture and religion than my own. I found that we all had much more in common than not. The writing was a bit clunky in places, having been translated from Greek, but the content was mind-blowing.


Prayer and the Common Life, Georgia Harkness. 1948, 217 pages ***


A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, Philip Keller. 1970, 142 pages ***


Liturgy of the Ordinary, Tish Warren Harrison. 2016, 153 pages ****


Concerning the Inner Life, Evelyn Underhill. 1926, 63 pages *****

Just read it. And then read it again every year for the rest of your life. It’s short and it will solve all your problems. A written-down lecture to pastors and priests in her day (1940s Britain), Concerning the Inner Life is a simple but brilliant instruction on the importance of developing one’s interior life rather than only externals. I am a writer and so I feel like I should write so much more about it. But that would ruin it. So: Just read it.


II. New spiritual formation author: Maria Boulding

Every year I try to introduce myself to one new writer to see if they might be a good mentor for the years to come. This year there was a clear winner: Sister Maria Boulding. Per the recommendation of my most reliable book-recommending friend, early this year I ordered three of Sister Boulding’s books and then proceeded to read them, insatiably, back-to-back-to-back. I fully intend to do so many more times in future years.

Maria Boulding writes insightfully and humbly about the spiritual growth and journey of a person’s soul. She gives one the impression of having gone before and, yes, the path of Jesus is a dark and painful journey, but it is Peace and Life and Hope. She gave me many new and brilliant images of Jesus the Human.

The three Boulding books I read were:

Gateway to Hope, Maria Boulding. 1985, 150 pages *****

Prayer: Our Journey Home, Maria Boulding. 1979, 98 pages *****

The Coming of God, Maria Boulding. 1982, 186 pages *****


III. Eugene Peterson

The Pastor, Eugene Peterson. 2011, 317 pages ****

The Pastor is Eugene’s memoir of his vocational formation. It is comprised of mostly story, tying together to themes and an eventual whole – pretty nearly exactly the manner in which we all find our vocations, I suppose.


Traveling Light, Eugene Peterson. 1982, 196 pages ****


IV. On the Enneagram

Enneagram Companions by Suzanne Zuercher. 1993, 179 pages ****

Enneagram Companions is an excellent resource for any person who is confident of their type and has any job in the field of direct-ministering-to-others (spiritual direction, mental health counseling, missionary, parent, etc.). Zuercher explores how each triad receives and gives in a spiritual director-directee relationship. Her lucid and brilliant observations can be well applied to any of the beforementioned relationships.


The Enneagram: A Journey of Self Discovery, Beesing, Nogosek, and O’Leary. 1984, 221 pages ***


Using the Enneagram in Prayer, Suzanne Zuercher. 2008, 101 pages ****


3 responses to “2017 book reviews, part I”

  1. I LOVE your picture and ordered “Concerning the Inner Life” for starters. Thanks, Joc.

  2. Richard Edgerly, M.D. Avatar
    Richard Edgerly, M.D.

    Also a must read: Just a Spoonful of Laughter Helps the Medicine Stay Down. Otherwise your list looks complete.

  3. Michelle Rygg Avatar
    Michelle Rygg

    Reading is a window to the soul.
    Thank you for sharing with us! ❤️

    I first read Tuesdays with Morrie ~20 years ago, when it was first published, but returned to it this week.

    I also read Imperfect Birds by Ann Lamott this past week, which narrates a family’s struggle (the high school age daughter, in particular) through addiction and recovery.

    Both stories put flesh and bones on difficult, life changing illnesses. The emotions & experiences in both stories touch my personal/professional world – in a mentoring kind of way. (I too have such appreciation for being mentored through reading!)

    Three blogposts, in particular, were also timely and meaningful to me this past week:
    “On grieving and wholeness” by my friend, Kala:

    “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” by John Piper https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/o-come-o-come-emmanuel


    “Another New Year Knocks” by Marshall Segal:

    I’ve been reflecting on the nature and meaning of God’s glory, and feel inspired to really pursue this with depth. MS’s opened a window for me there.

    I’m excited to dig into books you’ve read/reviewed. The Mountain of Silence and books by Maria Boulding may be the first ones I pick. (And if 2018 brings you a window of 48-seconds-of-free-time, and a virtual book club becomes a thing, I’d love to keep learning through others’ readings!)