This blog post is devoted to sharing fifteen of my most favorite books I read in 2017. You’ll see that I like to read a variety of books. If you’re interested in learning more about a particular book, click on the book title and the link will take you to its Amazon page.

#15 – In the Sanctuary of Outcasts: A Memoir by Neil White

This is the true story of the last leper colony in the continental United States. Neil White was convicted of check kiting to keep his magazine publishing business solvent. He was sentenced to one year in prison. While in prison he learned insightful lessons about life, not only from the other prisoners but also from the lepers who lived in a separate section of the facility. At the beginning, he was, like all of us would be, repulsed by the disfigurement of those who had contracted leprosy (Hansen’s disease). But as he learned their personal stories, slowly began his transformation from one of fear and disgust to one of compassion and love.

#14 – David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell

If you’ve ever read any of Malcolm Gladwell’s books – Outliers, Blink, Tipping Point – you know his writing style. Mr. Gladwell has the uncanny ability to weave together innocuous tidbits of information to relate revealing stories that provide the reader “aha” moments. In David and Goliath, Malcolm Gladwell challenges how we think about obstacles and supposed disadvantages. He offers new interpretations of commonly held beliefs that will both entertain you and challenge your thinking.

#13 – Start-Up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle by Dan Senor and Saul Singer

The nation of Israel has always intrigued me. How can a nation that is only 60 years old, surrounded by hostile neighbors and has little or no natural resources thrive when other nations around them can’t seem to get out of the Middle Ages? This book explains the entrepreneurial spirit of the Israeli culture that produces more successful start-up companies per capita than any other country in the world. This book is filled with thought provoking examples of what makes this culture the way it is.

#12 – Putin Country: A Journey into the Real Russia by Anne Garrels

You may recall that Anne Garrells was the foreign correspondent for National Public Radio for twenty-five years. Putin Country is Ms. Garrells’ first-hand experience of living in the Russian city of Chelyabinsk after the collapse of the U.S.S.R. Chelyabinsk is a military-industrial city located a thousand miles east of Moscow. It was the home of the Soviet nuclear program resulting in it being one of the most polluted places on earth. During the reign of Putin, it has gained new freedoms, a thriving economy and a growing middle class. But it is also a story of official corruption, shakedowns and intolerance. If you want a better understanding of what is happening today in Russia, the good, the bad, and the downright ugly, you need to read this book.

#11 – Beneath a Scarlet Sky, A Novel by Mark Sullivan

This historical fiction is based on the true story of Pino Lella who spies for the Allies during World War II while being the personal driver of the commander of German forces in Italy. This book gave me a better understanding of the difficulties Italians went through who opposed Mussolini and the Nazis without being a traitor to their country. This book should be read in tandem with the Pope and Mussolini (my #7 choice) as many of the events and people overlap between the two books. You’ll find Beneath the Scarlet Sky an entertaining book to read.

#10 – Eat to Live: The Amazing Nutrient-Rich Program for Fast Sustained Weight Loss by Joel Fuhrman

Have you ever tried to lose weight only to plateau about 10 to 15 pounds above your goal weight? Yes, me too. After reading this book, I incorporated three new eating habits into my daily eating regimen. Within three months I lost those unwanted pounds and the excess weight has stayed off. This book is not a gimmicky diet book.

#9 – Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World by Michael Hyatt

Gone are the days when the three TV channels and the major newspapers control how products and services are marketed. Now anyone, including you, can successfully compete with the major players in your field. Michael Hyatt is an authority on how to get yourself noticed using social media marketing. He has gone from no following on social media to one of the largest in the world by blogging and interacting principally on Facebook and Twitter. Creating a successful social media platform is the key to success and Mr. Hyatt explains in very easy, step-by-step instructions how you go about doing it.

#8 – Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brene’ Brown

The back book cover says it best: “Every day we experience the uncertainty, risks, and emotional exposure that define what it means to vulnerable, or to dare greatly. Based on twelve years of pioneering research, Dr. Brene’ Brown dispels the cultural myth that vulnerability is weakness and argues that it is, in truth, the most accurate measure of courage.” If you want a book that challenges the very core of your beliefs about life and love, this is the book for you.

#7 – The Pope and Mussolini: The Secret History of Pius XI and the Rise of Fascism in Europe by David Kertzer

I particularly enjoyed reading this book because I had no knowledge about these events or the major players. I always thought Mussolini was a Hitler wannabe. This book corrects that misconception. The book is replete with historical documentation that supports the premise that Pope Pius XI and Benito Mussolini had a symbiotic, love/hate relationship. Mussolini needed the Catholic Church’s blessing in order to legitimize his hold on power. The Catholic Church needed Mussolini’s preferential treatment in order to regain the influence it once had on Italian society.

#6 – Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream by David Platt

In the introduction of his book, David Platt summarizes the gist of his book when he says, “I am convinced that we as Christ followers in American churches have embraced values and ideas that are not only unbiblical but that actually contradict the gospel we claim to believe.” Throughout the book he gives examples of how the American church has melded American values in with biblical teachings. The end result is that we are molding Jesus into our own image. A very thought provoking book.

#5 – Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson

If you want to get a much better appreciation of the genius of Leonardo da Vinci this is the book for you. He begins as a talented painter who advances the art and science of painting to a whole new level. His insatiable curiosity leads him down many different paths of science – human anatomy, astronomy, geology, engineering, hydrology to name just a few. He was the creator of many inventions. His downfall was his perfectionism. He left many of his projects unfinished, unfinished by his standards resulting in many of his accomplishments not being recognized until after his death. For example, the Mona Lisa, which is he best known for, da Vinci continued adding additional brush strokes over the last thirteen years of his life. This book gives a fascinating insight into the mind of what makes a genius.

#4 – Getting to Yes with Yourself by William Ury

Many years ago, Roger Fisher and William Ury wrote what has become the quintessential book on negotiating, Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In. So it was with curiosity that I decided to see what other insights Mr. Ury could have on this subject. Mr. Ury considers his new book as an indispensable prequel to his original book. In the book’s introduction he explains his thinking. “I have come to realize that the first and most important negotiation we ever conduct is the negotiation with ourselves. Getting to yes with yourself prepares the way for getting to yes with others. Getting to Yes with Yourself is about changing the inner game so that we can then change the outer game. After all, how can we really expect to get to yes with others, particularly in challenging situations, if we haven’t first gotten to yes with ourselves?”

#3 – The Wright Brothers by David McCullough

Throw out everything you thought you knew about the Wright brothers because if you’re like me, what you learned about these two brothers came from a junior high history class which was woefully inadequate and an incomplete history of what actually took place. It’s a story of two men who had a passion for learning how to fly when the best engineering minds of the day told them it couldn’t be done. It’s a story of the U.S. government refusing to believe they had accomplished the feat, so much so they wouldn’t even send a person to their airfield to corroborate their story. It’s a story of the Wright brothers traveling to France in order to prove that they had indeed made a machine that could fly. You will come away with a much deeper appreciation of what they accomplished.

#2 – American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America by Colin Woodard

According to the author, North America is made up of eleven distinct people groups, each with its own unique historical roots and their own unique culture and values. When you look at the major events that shaped our country (for example the Revolutionary War or Civil War) through the lense of these different people groups, the history you thought you knew takes on a whole new understanding. This way of looking at American history is quite revealing. I may have ranked this book as the best book of 2017 if it weren’t for the author forcing his very left leaning political beliefs as facts instead of opinions in the last couple of chapters of the book.

#1 – The Nightingale: A Novel by Kristin Hannah

I’m not sure I’ve ever had a novel rated as my number one book for the year, but this book deserves it. This book is about the lives of two women in Nazi occupied France during World War II. The Nightingale is the code name for Isabelle, an eighteen year old heroine who smuggles allied airmen and other important people out of France over the Pyrenees Mountains into Spain. The book also tells the story of Isabelle’s sister, Vianne, who had to endure the brutality of a German officer billeted in her house without her permission. But Vianne also puts her life at risk by assisting nuns with clandestinely finding homes for Jewish children. The heroism and the courage of these fragile women was quite emotionally stirring. It gave me a better appreciation of what it must have been like living in occupied France during World War II. A real page turner.

Happy reading. Have a Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year!

Here’s my Christmas present to you. Click here to download for FREE my nine page book summary on Getting to YES with Yourself. I’d like to hear from you. Tell me about the favorite books you’ve read this year.