Michelle’s Favorite Books in 2017

What are a biographer/novelist’s favorite books in 2017? Here’s a list.

For the first time, I participated in the Goodreadsfavorite books, 2017, Martin Luther, A Gentleman in Moscow, Hillbilly Elegy, Wonder, A Conspiracy of Breath, Mrs. Oswald Chambers, Many Sparrows Challenge and  read more than twice as many books as my goal.

If you’d like to follow me on Goodreads and see the whole list, click here.

Meanwhile, here’s what I enjoyed the most.

Family-related stories

I have a large family, especially when you include the cousins and the outlaws. I always enjoy poignant and funny stories about the reality of family life.

Both of these books use humor to defuse complicated family health issues.

Wonder by RJ Palacio

A now well-known YA story, I appreciated how clever the short chapters and writing presented themselves in the book. The movie is good, too, but–as always–the book is even better. A great choice to read to kids.

Happiness: The Crooked Little Road to Happy Ever After by Heather Harpham

I read this beautifully written story in one night. It’s the poignant tale of a family coming together around a very sick child.

Harpham pulls off a lovely hat trick in writing about her relationship with the child’s father and the tensions inherent in raising a child with a harrowing illness. We see the love and unity that comes from navigating life through a family’s crisis.


It doesn’t escape my notice that all three of these novels are historical fiction!

favorite books, 2017, Martin Luther, A Gentleman in Moscow, Hillbilly Elegy, Wonder, A Conspiracy of Breath, Mrs. Oswald Chambers, Many SparrowsA Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

An incredibly witty and clever book about post-Revolution Russia. It’s very thick, but everything ties in with each other, front to back. A marvel and the best book I read this year.

Many Sparrows by Lori Benton

Beautifully written tale of pre-Revolutionary life in upstate New York from both the Native American and colonist sides. Filled with drama and pathos; simply terrific.

A Conspiracy of Breath by Latayne Scott

Fascinating, beautifully written story in the years following Jesus’ resurrection. Ostensibly about “who wrote the book of Hebrews?” I also found it an absorbing tale asking “how did the first century church recognize truth?” Simply marvelous.


The Day the World Came to Town by Jim DeFede

An interesting and easy read that brought back that extraordinary time. I’d love to see a follow up because I’m pretty sure events that took place in Gander have reverberated to the positive since then.

I’d also like to visit Newfoundland, now.

Hillbilly Elegy by J. D. Vance

An important book about a terrible social situation in the US, well written and insightful. Vance portrayed his family with love and clear eyes; he’s suggested ideas most policy makers haven’t considered as valuable.

But they are. Until you have walked in another’s steps, lived their lives and listened with an open heart, it’s hard to understand how what seems an obvious answer to a problem really isn’t.

Read the book. You’ll be a better person for the experience.

A Surgeon in the Village by Tony Bartelme

I gave a copy of this book to my EMT daughter, who took it with her on a medical missions trip to Africa.

She texted me this response from the Kigali, Rwanda airport after she finished reading it:

“As a global medicine student I really appreciated his work toward creating sustainable medicine without foreign doctors.”


2017 is the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. I attend a Lutheran Church. Naturally books about that consequential event appear on my list of favorite books!

Martin Luther by Eric Metaxas

I learned so much from this biography! Metaxas’ wit shines throughout the book, but also his diligent study and clear explanations of a very complicated chapter in church history.

Katarina and Martin Luther by Michelle DeRusha and Luther and Katarina by Jody Hedlundfavorite books, 2017, Martin Luther, A Gentleman in Moscow, Hillbilly Elegy, Wonder, A Conspiracy of Breath, Mrs. Oswald Chambers, Many Sparrows

Excellent companions to Metaxas’ biography, these two books prompted me to write two blog posts worth of discussion.

DeRusha’s book is a straight biography, Hedlund’s is a romance novel. They provide a complete picture–in truth and imagination–about the couple.

The posts are here: Mr. and Mrs. Luther in Fact and Fiction

Martin Luther and Modern Times

Oswald Chambers: A Life in Pictures by Paul Kent

A beautiful book of pictures telling Oswald’s life story. It’s gorgeous (and references me in the Bibliography!)

An excellent gift for a true fan!

Mrs. Oswald Chambers by Michelle Ule

Of course this is my favorite book! But here’s Jane Kirkpatrick’s review off Goodreads:

Mrs. Oswald Chambers brings to life a devoted couple, a commitment to God and the fruit of lives lived by faith. If you haven’t ever read the devotional that has touched millions of people written by Oswald Chambers My Utmost for his Highest, you’ll want to after meeting the extraordinary couple.

Michelle uses her skills as a novelist to create the landscape, relationships and exacting work shown us in Biddy Chamber’s commitment to God and to the work of her husband long after his death. This story speaks to God’s faithfulness not only then but also now. This is a story of encouragement for difficult times no matter when or what those might be. Well done

I’ve read many other books I’ve enjoyed, but these are the ones that shine as my favorites, or most significant.

How about you? What did you love?


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Leave a comment


  1. What an interesting list! It will bolster my own TBR list.

    “The Day The World Came To Town” reminds me of the age-old question…

    How do we know that Jesus’ beloved disciple had a big black hairy dog?

    Surely, you’ve heard of St. Johns Newfoundland?


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