It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

The internet is awash with lists containing the “best books of 2017.” I love reading them and seeing which books I’ve read, which are on my to-read list, and which are brand new to me.

You might also enjoy the 9 Books I Loved in 2014,  10 Books I Loved in 2015, and  My top 15 books in 2016In working on this post I went back and looked over my lists; so many good books, people. So many.

This year I made loose categories for the best books of 2017 (at least best books I read). Without further ado, I bring you . . .


What Falls from the Sky: How I Disconnected from the Internet and Reconnected with the God Who Made the Clouds by Esther Emery—From my notebook where I record what I read: “Esther is the kind o f story teller people dream of being. She is deep without being preachy. She is funny without going for cheap laughs. She is in love with Jesus in a way that rings true. She is real and profound in a way that invites people into deep waters.”

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J. D. Vance—Gorgeous story teller! Many of his stories from Kentucky sounded like they came from the 40s or 50s, but he is younger than me! Read this to wrestle with learned helplessness and personal responsibility. Also to see the power of have one (or more) solid adult pour into a kid (in his case, his grandma).

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren—Hope writes of her 20 years of working in a science lab with her lab partner Bill. I love when I finish a book and care about a subject in a way the “pre-reading Amy” would have laughed at. Books that change me are keepers. I wrote, “Their passion for soil, plants and trees are infectious! I love plants even more. Trees are amazing.”

(You know I am a memoir addict, so this is but a tip of the iceberg :))


A Man Called Ove: A Novel by Fredrik Backman—I read this twice, once with the Velvet Ashes book club. This crusty old man encouraged us to slow down and get to know a person’s story. Beautiful writing . . . I am so impressed that it is translated into English!

Shiloh by Helena Sorensen—Also read for Velvet Ashes book club. Sorensen interacted with us and was an absolute delight! “Helena writes in such a way that familiar topics can be seen from unfamiliar angles. The idea/reality of all we lost in The Fall hit home again.”

Ink by Alice Broadway—Alice is in a writers group I’m in and this book was first published in the UK and unavailable in the U.S. Mutual friend Tanya made sure this book found its way into my hands and I am grateful! “This may been the next YA trilogy. Alice is super talented!” Deals with the subject of a faith crisis as one grows up. Book two is in process and I cannot wait!

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry: A Novel by Rachel Joyce—I loved this book! So many parallels with A Man Called Ove—I sort of annoyed anyone within a seven mile range with my over analysis of Harold and Ove. Strong themes of purpose, aging, regrets, and redemption.

In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden—First of all, 640 pages, so gold star to me. But that is not why it made my top-17 list. If you are interested in cloistered life, this is a must-read. Godden tells the story of Phillipa, an “older” convert in an insightful and sensitive way.

(As one not drawn to fiction, 2017 was a good year!)


Katharina and Martin Luther: The Radical Marriage of a Runaway Nun and a Renegade Monk by Michelle DeRusha—I blogged about this here: Need an idea to celebrate the 500-year-anniversary of The Reformation?

The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile—Want to understand yourself better? (and maybe have a bit of insight on those around you), this is the book for you. The Enneagram looks at nine personality wiring, their strengths and shadow side, highlighting how that personality plays out in health and unhealthy situations. I loved the podcast related to this book.

Those Who Wait: Finding God In Disappointment, Doubt, And Delay by Tanya Marlow—I blogged about this book here: Waiting, Waiting, Waiting {God do you care?}

 (I read so much non-fiction, it was hard to narrow it down!)

Leadership/Organizational Health/Professional Growth

Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior by Ori Brafman and Rom Brafman—Want to understand why you (or others) do what you do? At times, we can be our own worst enemies when it comes to irrational behavior. Of interest to me, as I work with teams, is the importance for any healthy system to have: initiators , blockers (they give the opportunity to see from another light), supporters (and who they choose to support), and observers (fairly neutral). You need all four.

Several Short Sentences About Writing by Verlyn Klinkenborg—”I didn’t realize there was so much to be said about the sentence :). An engaging books that will have me over-analyzing sentences in a good way.”

The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business by Patrick Lencioni—By far the best book I read this year when it comes to fostering a healthy work environment. I could NOT stop talking about it all summer. Every organization needs “smart” people — good with strategy, marketing, finance, and technology. Too many organizations think that having “smart” people is the advantage. They are wrong. A system also needs to be “healthy”—minimal politics, minimal confusion, high morale, high productivity, and low turnover. “Healthy” is the true advantage.

The 4 Disciplines of Execution: Achieving Your Wildly Important Goals by Christ McChesney and Sean Covey—Okay, by far the second best book I read this year when it comes to organizations! This book will help you think in terms of “Wigs”—wildly important goals—to help anchor you in the midst of the “whirlwind” of life. We all get caught up in the whirlwind, but we can still accomplish wildly important goals. Good for personal, professional, spiritual, and health goals and for individual and team use.

(Anyone else underwhelmed by the cover design in this category? I like white, but come on!)

Books I endorsed

Stretch Marks I Wasn’t Expecting: A Memoir on Early Marriage and Motherhood by Abbie Smith—”Filled with laughter, tears, searing honesty and gorgeous writing, this is one of the best reads of the year. Quite simply, this is a stunning book. Smith writes about motherhood in such a way that whether you have had children or not you can relate to having Stretch Marks you don’t expect. Let the gentle waves of this prose wash over you and water your soul.” Amy Young, author of Looming Transitions and Love, Amy (How fun is that!! I’ll have to tell you how I met Abbie in another post. She is delightful!!!)

Books I wrote

Love, Amy: An Accidental Memoir Told in Newsletters from China by Me (Amy Young)—Being an author and having people read your offering to the world is a humbling, exciting, encouraging, awkward at times, empowering, and so vulnerable you want to throw up and never look anyone in the eye again. Above all? A complete honor. If Looming Transitions was born out of the teacher part of me, Love, Amy is the birth child of my essence and my hope for engaging this wonderful world we share.

What did you read in 2017 that was a keeper? What are your reading goals for 2018? Do tell, we book addicts and lovers need to help each other out.

Leave A Comment

  1. Cynthia December 28, 2017 at 7:50 am - Reply

    One of my keepers is The Hidden Life of Trees. As a child, I was fascinated by trees and their music. I often get lost in listening to trees and this book gave me the “inside scoop” on what I have experienced since childhood.

    • Avatar photo
      Amy December 28, 2017 at 8:46 am - Reply

      This sounds right up my alley!! Thanks :)

  2. Spring December 29, 2017 at 11:07 am - Reply

    As a reader it is so hard to narrow it down to one “keeper” Here are a few:
    A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (does it count even though it’s my third time reading it?)
    Miracle Boy grows up (affected my view of disability access)
    Courage Has no color
    Hope Heals
    City of Tranquil Light

    Thanks for sharing your list!

  3. Sarah December 29, 2017 at 11:27 am - Reply

    If you love memoirs have you read ‘When breath becomes air” by Paul Kalanithi? It’s beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time. (And I’m not a big memoir reader)

    And ‘The Myth of the Undeserving Poor’ Martin Charlesworth/Natalie Williams – this is scriptural and hard-hitting.

    I look forward to getting into some of yours!

  4. Laura December 30, 2017 at 6:09 am - Reply

    Amy, I just finished your book “Looming Transitions”. I had started it a couple of months ago, anticipating my transition back to my passport country for the foreseeable future. The last several weeks have been difficult as I have been trying to avoid the grief by keeping as busy as possible. I’ve been feeling emotionally numb and distant, and that’s not how I wanted to finish. This morning I read the last chapter, and the tears finally came. It resonated so much with me as I’ve been thinking about these changes and our changeless God. Thank you for your words, I look forward to reading more from you.

  5. Abbie December 30, 2017 at 2:15 pm - Reply

    Such an honor to be on your list!! Cheers to a meaningful transition to 2018 for you, dear Amy. xx

  6. Katharine Ritter January 3, 2018 at 8:08 am - Reply

    I have started reading the Enneagram book you mentioned and I absolutely love it. I am “reading my mail” and learning about my children and husband along the way too. Fascinating and he’s hilarious too. I will definitely be checking some of your other recommendations. Thanks Amy!

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