What I Read In 2017

I’ve gotten many requests lately for my booklist from 2017, so here it is! I started the year with a low goal of reading one book per month- 12 books total. I’m happy to report that I read double my goal- 24 books. This may not seem like very many books to some of you….but I don’t read fiction at all, so my reading is generally heavier and takes a little longer. That said,  I’m aiming even higher for 2018….especially since my husband read 45 books during 2017! He’s my reading hero. 🙂

So, without further ado, here are the books that my mind and heart absorbed. They aren’t in any particular order, as it’s impossible for me to choose a favorite or even to know which one impacted me the most. But this I know- I’m a different person as a result of the books that have come into my life this year!

DISCLAIMER: As with any book or resource I may read or recommend my blog or Facebook page, my own reading and/or recommendation does not in any way fully endorse all authors, their words, or any opinions expressed. I read broadly, and enjoy a variety of authors and topics. I share my list with the assumption that we are mature believers who use discretion as we read. Also please note that this post contains affiliate links, which means that our ministry to pastors’ wives makes a small commission when you use a link to shop for books. 🙂

1. The Antelope In The Living Room by Melanie Shankle


This is “the real story of two people sharing one life”- a memoir of marriage. Woven with humor and candid stories, Melanie has written a fantastic book that brought both tears and smiles as I read. I’ve heard her speak in person, so hearing her voice as I read this one made it even better!

2. The Happiness Dare by Jennifer Dukes Lee

Read about the doer, the giver, the thinker, the relater, and the experiencer….taker Jennifer’s happiness dare to help determine which one (or two) you are, and then begin to implement things into your life that fit your happiness style. If you’ve ever wondered if God cares about your happiness, this book is for you. It will open your eyes to more of how God has created you.

3. The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben

If you’re a science buff, you’ll devour this one. I love science, so this book just fascinated me to no end. Trees are AMAZING. They communicate, they feel, they grieve, they give. The underground world of trees is mind blowing. Written by a German forester, this book left me in awe all over again at the intricacy of God’s creation.

4. Humble Roots by Hannah Anderson

Every believer should read this book asap. I was privileged to give 50 copies away last year at my pastors’ wives retreat, and I can’t think of a better title to gift a friend. This book grounded me, calmed me, and turned my gaze to Christ one incredible paragraph at a time. It’s all about how humility grounds and nourishes your soul, and when you finish you will feel just that- grounded and nourished.

5. The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp

I had a hard time reading Ann’s style in her book One Thousand Gifts, so I was skeptical about The Broken Way. It was totally different and had a feel of its own. An excellent book that God prompted me to dig into at just the right time during 2017. It created a beautiful oasis of calm in the midst of a deep wrestle with past suffering.

6. A Praying Life by Paul Miller

This is not your typical book on prayer. In fact, I tend to shy away from books on prayer. But this one is totally different, and belongs in a category all its own. Pretty sure this book read me, instead of the other way around. But in so doing, my heart was greatly challenged and deeply encouraged by the simplicity and calmness that it infused into me. It came at the perfect time, when I was developing my own fresh prayer notebook. It also singlehandedly became the inspiration for my 2018 journal- “Prayer Stories,” which I actually started a couple of months ago because I had so many prayer stories to write down! This book is transformational- get it asap.

7. Bruchko by Bruce Olson

Oh missionary stories, how I love you! This book is “the astonishing true story of a 19 year old American and his capture by the Motilone indians and his adventures in Christianizing the Stone Age tribe.” I wept my way through this book, at times barely able to read for the blur of tears. This is, hands down, one the most moving and mind blowing missionary stories I’ve ever read in my life (and I’ve read a lot of them.) The power of the Gospel,  the intensity of suffering, what God requires of His called children…..all of it left me in awe. My husband got me the sequel for Christmas and I can’t wait to devour it.

8. The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown

I dipped my toes into Brene’s work in 2017, and I’ve not been disappointed. Quite the opposite, in fact. Her work has opened my eyes, challenged my thinking, slid puzzle pieces from my past into place…changed me. She’s not a believer, so I really enjoy the challenge of learning from her and applying biblical truth to what she says. So much of what she writes is right on- I almost can’t believe she has come to these conclusions and isn’t a believer. If you haven’t read Brene yet, but would like to, this book is a the best starting place (she says so herself, and I’ve found it to be true.)

9. Daring Greatly by Brene Brown

I followed “The Gifts….” with Daring Greatly, and it built well on the springboard of her first book. Daring Greatly is about vulnerability and shame and courage- namely “how the courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live, love, parent, and lead.” It’s a phenomenal book! I’m reading another of hers now, which will appear on my 2018 list. 🙂

10. In The Presence of My Enemies by Gracia Burnham

I gobbled this book up in a mere 3 days. It was found in a drawer where we were staying, and I’m quite sure God meant for me to find and read it. I stayed riveted to her story of hers and her husband’s capture and their one year in the jungle. Their testimony of faith and endurance was humbling and deeply encouraging. This book, too, I read through tears and it has greatly impacted me.

11. None Like Him by Jen Wilkin

“All of the ways God is not like us, and why that’s a good thing”- that line pretty much sums up what this book is. I used it as a devotional and it was just wonderful! It would be a great ladies Bible study tool, as well as a personal Bible study tool. It’s one I could do well to read annually. It’s just that good.

12. Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero

This book was a great read, and perfectly timed in my life. A friend gave it to me at the start of 2017. I read about half of it, then set it down for a few months to chew on what I was reading. Picked it up again later in the year and finished it. It’s so good. The author’s premise is that it’s impossible to be spiritually mature, while remaining emotionally immature. So much truth there! A great read for anyone who has suffered any kind of abuse or major relational dysfunction in their past.

13. Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist

I adore books about food. Books about food and travel- a slice of heaven. 😉 I’ve met Shauna and heard her speak, so reading her books is like curling up by a cozy fireplace and having all the comfort food you can imagine spread out around you. Shauna writes with such descriptive words- you can almost taste, feel, and smell the food she is describing. This book is woven with tender anecdotes about family and friends, and each chapter ends with a recipe. It’s like a cookbook and a memoir rolled into one. What’s not to love?!

14. Unseen by Sara Hagerty

When I saw that my friend Sara Hagerty was releasing another book, I got kind of giddy. Her first book “Every Bitter Thing Is Sweet” deeply impacted me, so I knew that her next book Unseen would do the same. It’s simply wonderful. It’s about “the gift of being hidden in a world that loves to be noticed.” Even before I knew her topic and title, I was already planning to speak on this very subject at this year’s pastors’ wives retreat. It seems that God was preparing my heart’s soil for this book as well. And to top it off, Sara’s publisher sent me bulk copies to give away to all of my attendees (pastors’ wives.) It was a perfect and beautiful gift to start our retreat! This book is a must read- a calming, settling, hope-filled book.

15. No Longer A Slumdog  by K.P. Yohannan

This book starts out describing the crisis of children in India who are stuck in the caste system. A few chapters in, though, it becomes a selling point for support- that’s not a negative thing- it’s just not what I was expecting. So I admit I skimmed the last few chapters.

16. A Heart Set Free by Christina Fox

My husband picked this book up at a conference and brought it back for me. I’ve been interested in and studying the laments in the Psalms, and this book provided a timely resource in understanding the purpose of laments and how to implement them into practical, everyday life. It is “a journey to hope through the Psalms of lament.” I highly recommend!

17. Ponder The Path by Francie Taylor

(Not available on Amazon. Purchase from Walden Way Publications)

This book proved to be timely as well when I read it. It’s a daily devotional type book- a journey through the Proverbs. So you read the corresponding chapter in Scripture and read the devotional. I found the simple reminders of wisdom to be exactly what I needed at the time, and my journal reflects many stories of how God used those little nuggets to lead me in specific ways each day.

18. At Any Cost by Mike and Hayley Jones

An adoption story……these never fail to undo me. This book is the story of one couple’s adoption journey to adopt a sibling group of EIGHT from Sierra Leone. Husband and wife switch back and forth taking the pen, in order to describe their perspective on their long and grueling adoption process. It’s a compelling and moving story of God’s provision and power.

19. He Knows Her Name by Kelly Parkison

Another adoption story….this time about bringing home a little girl from India. This was a great story, but one I had to push myself through to finish reading because the author is not easy to read. There was a lot of repetition and talking in circles, which kept the story from telling itself. Aside from writing and editing issues, it was another great story of God’s power and provision!

20. Lessons From A Sheepdog by Philip Keller

I love Philip Keller’s work, so this little book did not disappoint. I picked it up at the library shortly after we moved. I needed to check out books in order to get a library card…but my impromptu swiping of the book off the shelf was again timely. And…in many ways it taught me more about God and His children, and prepared me to become the (very surprised) owner of a puppy just a few weeks later! 😉

21. What Your Heart Needs For The Hard Days by Holley Gerth

This little book is one I read nearly every year. It’s also one I recommend and give away any chance I get. It’s packed full of Scripture and practical tips for getting through hard days. It’s a little arsenal of hope!

22. Switch on Your Brain by Caroline Leaf

This book is written by a South African who is a Christian neuroscientist. It’s fascinating information about how our brains have neuro-plasticity, and therefore can be changed. As a former epileptic, reading this book was encouraging. It is also helpful for those who are processing trauma of any kind. Caroline’s years of consistent results with her clients tell their won stories of success. This book is where I learned to do the brain detox I posted about a few months ago. It became the springboard for what I call “tree writing,” which has been amazingly transformational in my disciplines of renewing the mind. If you get bogged down in scientific terms, you may struggle with this book. But if you can push past those big words to understand the research the author has uncovered, and how it can affect you- you’ll be glad you read it!

23. Knowing God By Name by Mary Kassian

This is a 7 week study on the names of God, which I thoroughly enjoyed studying as I prepared for our second pastors’ wives conference. “Portraits of His Name” was our theme this year, and this book was an excellent tool of preparation, as well as a personal, daily encouragement during those weeks. It would make a wonderful small group Bible study tool, or a Sunday school study.

24. The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp

This book is unlike any of Ann’s others- it’s in a league of its own. Even if you don’t like her style, you would enjoy this book because it’s totally different. I received the book at a conference in 2013 (where I also heard Ann speak and got to meet her.) This book is simply wonderful, and I’ve gifted it to several of my friends.  It’s a daily devotional through the month of December, starting in Genesis and tracing the genealogy of Christ through amazing insight …..leading up to and ending at the birth of Christ. At the end of each chapter there are probing questions and spaces to journal thoughts.  I’ve jotted down the year every time I do it…this year makes the 5th  year in a row that I’ve gone through this book in December. It’s an absolute gem- one I can’t do without during the Christmas season.

So there you have it! I’d love to know what you read too, so share the book love in the comments or email me your list at Leah@embracingrace.com

Here’s to reading and leading in 2018!

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About Leah {Embracing Grace}

Leah Highfill accepted Christ as her Saviour and became a child of God at the age of 18. Originally from the USA, she and her husband moved to the mission field of Canada in 2005, where she served in full time ministry as a pastor's wife for 10 years. During their tenure there, they became dual citizens. Leah and her family recently returned to NC and are currently enjoying a much needed sabbatical for the year of 2015. She homeschools her children {Small Son is 9 and Tiny Daughter is 7} and teaches private piano lessons on the side. She can be found reading, writing/blogging, playing the piano and violin, or ice skating. A friend to ministry wives everywhere, Leah has a passion to inspire hope and to encourage women in their walk with God. Her first book, Expecting Grace, was published in 2013. Expecting Grace is the story of Leah's experience and survival of a life threatening pregnancy, and of many medical and financial miracles along the way. Her second book is currently in process. Join her grace-filled journey right here at Embracing Grace!

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