Stuff We Liked in 2017


We know we’re two weeks into 2018, but it takes some time to consider the mark a year leaves behind. We’ve finally gathered all our thoughts together, though, and here’s a look at the books, movies, TV, music, and some other stuff we in the Rabbit Room enjoyed the most in the past year. What were your favorites?

Russ Ramsey

1. All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr
2. The Yearling, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
3. Inventing the Truth: The Art and Craft of Memoir, William Zinsser

1. Wonderful, Wonderful, The Killers
2. The Nashville Sound, Jason Isbell
3. True Sadness, The Avett Brothers

1. Dunkirk
2. Better Call Saul
3. Runnin’ Down a Dream – The Tom Petty Documentary

Jen Yokel

1. Just Mercy, Bryan Stevenson: I won’t belabor it since we’ve already talked about ita lot, but seriously. This book. Eye opening, upsetting, hopeful, and perhaps the most important book I read this year.
2. The Children of Men, P. D. James: Post-apocalyptic sci-fi that made a surprisingly moving and perfect read for Advent.
3. The Road Back to You, Ian Morgan Cron & Suzanne Stabile: Yes, I am one of those Enneagram nerds. If you want to know why all your friends are talking about personality numbers, this is an engaging and practical introduction.

1. All is Not Lost, The Brilliance: The New York worship collective addresses hope and reconciliation in one of the timeliest and most thought provoking records of the year.
2. Songs of Experience, U2: I will never not be excited about a new U2 record. These songs arrived like an unexpected Christmas present at the end of a tough year.
3. Mercury and Lightning, John Mark McMillan: This album feels like one of the most complete and cohesive records of JMM’s career. Springsteen meets Southern gothic in a haunting, yet somehow catchy rock record.
4. River House, Taylor Leonhardt: A lovely, understand folk record that I had on repeat in my car for a while. (And if you have a chance to see her live, do it!)
5. Sleep Well, Beast, The National: Sometimes, you just need some dark, brooding, slow-burning rock in your life.

1. Arrival: I missed this in 2016, but so glad I finally caught it this year. A quietly thought-provoking, time-bending sci-fi film about language and understanding.
2. Paterson: But seriously, how many films about poets have you seen lately? A film about faithfulness, beauty, and paying attention.
3. The Last Jedi: Well yeah, Rian Johnson messed with Star Wars, and I am totally on board. Also, Grumpy Old Hermit Luke is my favorite Luke.
4. The Good Place: This show probably isn’t for everyone. It’s super weird. But I’m glad to live in a world where an absurdist comedy with philosophy jokes can exist on network TV.

Chris Yokel

1. Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God, Brian Zahnd
2. The Wild Robot, Peter Brown
3. The Song of Glory and Ghost, N. D. Wilson

1. Songs of Experience, U2
2. Every Mile Mattered, Nichole Nordeman
3. River House, Taylor Leonhardt

1. Paterson
2. The Last Jedi
3. Blade Runner 2049

Ron Block

1. Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers, Tim Ferris: Ferriss interviews a wide swath of folks who continue to succeed in their chosen fields—Malcolm Gladwell, Seth Rogan, Jamie Foxx, Scott Adams (“Dilbert”), and a bunch more. Interesting and often surprising perspectives on health, making a living, and wisdom.
2. Sidetracked in the Wilderness, Michael Wells: Wells has become one of my favorite teachers because he cuts through the bull skubala of self-fueled, fake holiness and gets right down to the central truth of the gospel—Christ in you, the hope of glory. Like Andrew Murray, A. B. Simpson, Norman Grubb,  and others, he compares the Hebrews’ wanderings in the wilderness to the Christian’s refusal to believe the actual, full, real, present-tense Gospel.
3. Metaphors for the Musician, Randy Halberstadt: Written by a jazz pianist but perfect for a banjoist/guitarist like me. If you play music it’s full of practical pointers on how to learn, practice, and just flat-out get better at the craft. I keep returning to this one again and again.

1. Life In A Paper Boat, Kate Rusby: Kate has been one of my favorite artists for years now, and her newest record proves she just gets better and better. Her bandleader and husband, Damien O’Kane, is one heck of a producer. Along with being a fantastic trad Irish banjoist and guitarist, he’s added more modern elements to her sound, updating her music but with the utmost respect and love. If you love Story, and if you love beautiful, heart-felt music, well, here you go.
2. Avenging and Bright, Damien O’Kane: Damien’s latest is his third solo record. His music still has the fundamental trad Celtic base, but contains even more modern elements than Kate’s. Again, if you love Story, and real, rooted music, this is for you. I’ll be finishing up a bluegrass/Irish banjos record with Damien this month, and touring with him in July and August in the U.K.
3. Cold on the Shoulder, Tony Rice: Tony is probably the most influential bluegrass and acoustic musician of the 1970s-1990s. His song selection, guitar playing, and singing always put the story across. This record features songs by Gordon Lightfoot, Rodney Crowell, Jerry Reed, Randy Newman, Bob Dylan, and more. The instrumental soloing is absolutely stellar—Bela Fleck, Sam Bush, Bobby Hicks, Jerry Douglas. This is one of my all-time favorite records, and I’ve had the LP version since it came out in the mid-1980s. This has been on my turntable a lot lately.

1. Agents of Shield: I’m still loving this show. I watched Arrow and Flash some, liked Agent Carter, but I’ve stuck with Agents of Shield. I’ve become very fond of some of the characters, whereas I found some of the main characters in Arrow and Flash annoying after awhile. [Editor’s note: We know you didn’t mean to imply that AoS is better than Agent Carter, so we’ll forgive you.]
2. Sherlock: I truly love this show, and I find it to be fairly true to the spirit of the books, which center on an eccentric, high-functioning, egoistic sociopath with a high IQ who occasionally experiments with drugs but goes around doing good in the world in spite of what he seems. The series (essentially three feature-length movies per season) usually melds elements of several of the stories together.
3. Doctor Who: There have been ups and downs for me with Doctor Who, usually having to do with the chemistry between the Doctor and his companions—mostly ups—but I always find the basic premise fascinating. A madman intent upon doing good, with a living machine that can go anywhere in time and space. If you’ve never seen Doctor Who, start with Season Two with David Tennant. [Editor’s note: Season One with Chris Eccelston is not to be tolerated.]

Eric Peters

1. Adventures of a Treasure Hunter, Charles P. Everitt
2. Loveable, Kelly Flanagan
3. The Recreations of a Country Parson, A. K. H. Boyd

1. Bruce Hornsby & The Range
2. Betty Who
3. Lord Huron

1. The Last Jedi (I have kids)
2. Phineas & Ferb (I have kids and don’t get out much)
3. The Simpsons (I don’t get out much)

Jamin Still

1. The Three Body Problem, Liu Cixin
2. Finish, Jon Acuff
3. The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate, John H. Walton

1. Long Ambients 1: Calm. Sleep.,Moby
2. Barriers, October VI

1. Patriot (Amazon)
2. Wonder Woman
3. The Punisher (Netflix)

Joe Sutphin

1. Denys Wortman’s New York, edited by James Sturm: A gorgeous, vast yet intimate view of daily life in ’30s and ’40s New York, through the pencil sketches of cartoonist Denys Wortman.
2. Centerburg Tales, Robert McCloskey: Somehow I’ve just never paid attention to McCloskey’s work beyond picture books. His Homer Price books fell in my lap this past year and are among the most beautifully designed and illustrated kids novels I’ve ever seen.
3. Emmet Otter’s Jug Band Christmas, Russell and Lillian Hoban: As a lifelong fan of the Henson film, I had yet to ever lay eyes on the book that inspired it. Now all I can think about is making a book so beautiful and quaint.

1. There Is A Cloud, Elevation Worship: Life can be really hard. 2017 wasn’t always an easy go for us and many we know. This album provided some encouraging and uplifting mindsets, specifically “Do It Again.” Walking around these walls. I thought by now they’d fall. But you have never failed me yet – I’ve seen you move. You move the mountains. And I believe, I’ll see you do it again.
2. Wonder, Hillsong UNITED: Again, I’ve found that worship is the thing that gets me through the hard times. This album, like so many by Hillsong, is full of wonderfully written and produced music, but the final track, “Water To Wine,” just crushes me in ways few songs can, yet reminds me that my Father loves me despite what I may perceive.
3. Let There Be Light, Hillsong Worship: I’ll just admit that I can barely sing or even type the line Watch as the clouds He rides swing low / Lift up the sound as He makes our praise His throne without an uncontrollable sobbing welling up within my chest. How an almighty God can build his throne on the praises from my brokenness is beyond me, yet it’s one of the most amazing thoughts I have about Him.

1. The Curse of Oak Island: Gina and I are still enjoying this, even though they keep leading us along season after season.
2. Treasure Quest: Snake Island: In the spirit of Oak Island, we discovered 2 seasons of Treasure Quest, which amazingly enough, led to explorers making some pretty amazing discoveries, almost too good to be true, and lots of viewers have suspicions about the authenticity of the show.
3. I’ll Have What Phil’s Having, Netflix: It’s a food show. Traveling to interesting places. Eating interesting food with interesting people. But the host has such joy about it all that we just wanted the season to keep going.

Rebecca Reynolds

1. Robinson Crusoe, Daniel Defoe: I wasn’t thrilled when the school asked me to add Defoe to my teaching schedule this year. However, this book hit me so much harder with an additional thirty years under my belt. In the midst of a frantic life, I needed to see a character stranded and alone, wrestling with hard questions about God and culture.  This reread reminded me to give classic literature a second shot later in life.

2. The John Carter novels, Edgar Rice Burroughs: After I began to fall in love with this series, my mom told me that my grandfather used to devour the books when he was a boy. He was named Earnest, a Kentucky coal miner and World War II veteran—a hard man with rock-like shoulders who began his own publishing company (before people did this sort of thing) because he had stories stuck his head and wanted to be a writer. As a child weathering severity in the Depression, he had found excitement and refuge in Burroughs’ dauntless protagonist.

As I’ve found myself lost on Mars this year, it’s been great fun to think about my grandfather reading these same words. I wonder how the courage found in these pages carried him through battles of his own—foreign and domestic. [Editor’s note: Tim Riggins approves of this choice.]

3. Style: Ten Lessons in Clarity and Grace, Joseph M. Williams: I’ve had this book on my desk for two years, but I finally began reading it over Christmas break.  For the past six months, I’ve been searching through scores of grammar and style manuals, looking for a perfect resource to guide me in helping high school juniors and seniors write more effectively.

While I wanted academic instruction, I also wanted to ditch the haughty posture which often follows grammatical expertise. Strong writing is mostly an extension of etiquette—a willingness to make life easier for others. It’s also inherently pragmatic—like a motor that runs when it needs to run more than a high and holy religion to obey. Williams hits the bulls eye in both regards. He is others-centered and practical in his approach to instruction, exposing the shallowness of pseudo-academics who carry a legalistic and pedantic attitude about making good sentences.

This book is now one of my three favorite writing guides, alongside Stephen King’s On Writing and Annie Dillard’s The Writing Life. Audaciously honest, irreverent in places, brave, and humble—Joseph M. Williams has won my heart.

1. No Story is Over, Son of Laughter: I love Chris Slaten’s voice. I love his images. I love how he makes me think.

2. The Crucifixion of Jesus, Fernando Ortega: I was expecting a record and ended up with a comprehensive worship experience. I don’t even know what genre to use for this.

3. My daughter’s singing. She has the most resonant voice I’ve ever heard, and it’s come into its own this past year. Because she doesn’t have plans to sing professionally, I get the benefit of hearing her chase beauty for the sheer sake of beauty. She experiments day and night, and she sings her way out of all sorts of stress, loneliness, and trouble.  I’d rather listen to her than any sound in the world.

1. The Great British Baking Show: I’m late to the game on this one, but I’ve needed it this year. With all the barbarism of American media, this program has been a balm. The music. The scenery. The civility. The kindness. It’s been a reminder of so much that I’ve needed to see.

2. There’s this local lady who does oyster shucking on Facebook Live. She uses a painted plastic plate with five segments, each holding an oyster.  You send her some money, then you tell her which segment holds the oyster you want her to shuck live. While everybody is watching, she cracks that thing open, and you get to see what color pearl is inside.

While all this is going on, you sometimes see her son and husband come home from work, and they will kiss her on the forehead while she glows and brags on them. The dog barks, there’s some clutter in the background and a curio cabinet full of porcelain birds—a stack of papers, a forgotten Styrofoam cup half-full of sweet tea.

In a soft, mountain accent, she talks with local friends about what’s going on and scolds visitors who don’t talk nice. I don’t know why this program enchants me like it does, but every time it hits, I’m glued for a good hour. [Editor’s note: Is this really a thing? I’m pretty sure you made this up.]

3. Murder on the Orient Express: It was worth admission, even though I liked David Suchet’s 2010 version far better. Branagh’s filmography was stunning, and it was good to see a fine old story brought into the American mainstream.

Daisy Ridley as Mary Debenham was particularly impressive to me. I don’t know if that’s because she was remarkable or because I was blown away to realize that this was Rey halfway through the flick. Her transformation was complete.

If you haven’t seen it, I think this film is definitely worth a couple of bucks on streaming—just watch it before you watch Suchet’s version so you can save the best for last.

Lanier Ivester

1. Roots and Sky, Christie Purifoy
2. Remembering, Wendell Berry
3. The Quotidian Mysteries: Laundry, Liturgy, and “Women’s Work”, Kathleen Norris
(Bonus: A Grief Observed, C. S. Lewis)

1. Red Sea Road, Ellie Holcomb
2. No Story is Over, Son of Laughter
3. Angels and Men, Kate Rusby

1. Stranger Things
2. Victoria (Masterpiece)
3. Look and See: A Portrait of Wendell Berry

Jonny Jimison

1. Henry and the Chalk Dragon, Jennifer Trafton: Playful, messy, uncertain, creative, exuberant—this book captures what it’s like to be a kid. It’s a great touchstone for growing up and growing young.
2. Nightlights, Lorena Alvarez: I love books that invite me to slow down and soak up captivating visuals. Nightlights does even more, telling a fearless story of art-making that’s directly tied to those visuals.
3. Mickey’s Craziest Adventures, Lewis Trondheim: This is the weirdest, wackiest, funniest Disney comic I’ve yet read.

[Editor’s note: 10 demerits for Jimison for going off script.]
1. Myths and Legends: Modern retellings of mythology and folklore from around the world, presented with both an affection and irreverence for the source material.
2. Fictional: Since I can’t get enough of Myths and Legends, I love that there is now an accompanying podcast focusing on more modern novels, plays and short stories.
3. The Pivot: Andrew Osenga brings us fascinating, honest conversations about the unexpected twists and turns that life often takes.

[Editor’s note: Demerits!]
1. T.I.M.E. Stories: Classic role-playing that encourages teamwork and conversation, wrapped in a new system that is accessible, visual, and streamlined. Travel to different eras of time to reset events after their corruption from a rival group of time travelers.
2. Century Spice Road: This is a simple resource exchange game, thematic and purely visual. Acquire and trade spices to build your caravan. Easy to learn, fun to play.
3. Mysterium: This one uses the image-association mechanic of Dixit to tell a story of paranormal investigators solving a murder mystery. A cooperative game where one person plays the ghost choosing vision cards for the other players.

Thomas McKenzie

1. The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ, Fleming Rutledge: Without a doubt, the best Christian book that was published in the last year. Entire churches, “ministries,” and theological systems (on both the “left” and “right”) have marginalized the Cross. Fleming puts it back exactly where it belongs: at the center of our faith. A large book, but not hard to read and entirely worth the time.

2. When Kingfishers Catch Fire, Eugene Peterson: A charming, surprising, and challenging final book from the pastor all pastors should aspire to be like.

3. American Gods, Neil Gaiman: Seriously, this is the book I wish I had written. Not perfect, but so highly interesting, creative, and entertaining that I can’t get it out of my head.

1. Blade Runner 2049: Significantly better than the classic original. Pure, transformative science fiction. If there is anything wrong with this movie, I can’t tell what it is. [Editor’s note: It’s the length.]

2. The Shape of Water: I’m out on a limb with this one, but I just loved it. What a creative and seamless blend of Italian cinema, science fiction, fantasy, and fairy tale. Best of all, Sally Hawkins (who is always been tremendous) finally gets her chance to shine.

3. Wonder Woman: The only D.C. movie worth seeing. Much more than that, the best portrayal of a woman as an action hero I’ve ever seen. [Editor’s note: Furiosa heard that.] There are flaws in this movie (the long, cheap CGI climatic scenes), but the greatness of Gal Gadot’s acting, Patty Jenkins’ direction, and Allan Heinberg’s writing transcend everything that could have gone wrong with this movie (I’m looking at you, Zack Snyder).

1. Master of None (Season Two): I can’t believe how subtle, funny, touching, and thought-provoking this little series is. Aziz Ansari might just be a master director in the making.

2. Ozark (Season One): The somewhat-more family friendly inheritor of Breaking Bad. Loved it.

3. The Handmaid’s Tale: I read this little novel for the first time in college. It’s both shocking and saddening that it’s more relevant now than when it was published.

Dave Bruno

1. The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula Le Guin
2. The Presence of the Kingdom, Jacques Ellul
3. The Storm, Frederick Buechner
4. The Unstrung Harp, Edward Gorey

1. Orchestral Suites for a Young Prince, J. S. Bach
2. No Story Is Over, Son of Laughter

1. The Last Jedi
2. Doctor Who
3. The Crown

David Mitchel

1. Renovation of the Heart, Dallas Willard
2. The Spirit of Early Christian Thought, Robert Louis Wilken
3. The Penderwicks, Jeanne Birdsall

1. No Story is Over, Son of Laughter
2. Creator Spiritus, Arvo Pärt,
3. The Tony Bennett-Bill Evans Album, Tony Bennett and Bill Evans

La La Land

[Editor’s note: David literally only watched one thing all year. Over and over and over again.]

Drew Miller

1. Food & Faith, Norman Wirzba
2. Crucified God, Jurgen Moltmann
3. Gilead, Marilynne Robinson

1. Remember Us To Life, Regina Spektor
2. Unsongs, Moddi
3. Floodplain, Sara Groves

1. The West Wing
2. Cooked with Michael Pollan
3. Look & See: A portrait of Wendell Berry

Chris Slaten

1. Cry, The Beloved Country, Alan Paton: If I could hand 2017 America a novel, this would be my first pick. This was my first time through it. And, yes, I cried so much I had to hide my face from my family for a little while.
2. Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad: This was my third time through with this one, and it finally snapped into focus, particularly the humor. Heart of Darkness is hilarious!
3. The Art of Biblical Narrative, Robert Alter: Genesis is as sophisticated and intricately patterned as any modern novel. I started off the year bingeing this book and it has opened a new way of enjoying biblical literature. The Bible Project videos and podcast have also been helpful in that regard.

1. Alpine Symphony, Richard Strauss: I listen to it almost every morning while eating my eggs. The sun rises with the sun over the Alps. It’s a delight.
2-3. I feel like I am just starting to get into the music of 2017. That being said I keep coming back to The Navigator by Hurray for the Riff Raff and Seen Comin’ from a Mighty Eye by Skywayman.

1. Rectify: I haven’t been moved by a show like this since Breaking Bad. For fans of Terrance Malick, Flannery O’Connor, Twin Peaks, Marilynne Robinson, and…Encino Man? You’ll see what I mean.
2. Get Out: This one stuck with me more than any other film this year, and its so fun. It was also part of discovering a new guilty pleasure, Blumhouse horror movies.
3. Coco: We went to see this as a family, three generations. I recommend watching it that way.
4. The Last Jedi: I loved it.

Sarah Clarkson

1. The Lost Words, Robert MacFarlane and Jackie Morris
2. The Doors of the Sea, David Bentley Heart
3. Lila, Marilynne Robinson

1. Inheritance, Audrey Assad
2. Any playlist created by my sister, Joy Clarkson
3. Faure’s Requiem

1. The Crown
2. Wonder Woman
3. Call the Midwife

John Pattison

1. American Wolf: A True Story of Survival and Obsession, Nate Blakeslee: This is the gripping story of the wolf known as O-Six and the first several generations of other wolves introduced, with enduring controversy, into the Yellowstone region in the 1990s. I didn’t know this at the time, but the Beyond Words book I mention below picks up where the American Wolf narrative leaves off.

2. When the English Fall, David Williams: The premise of the book feels at once fresh and inevitable. It is a post-apocalyptic novel set in an Amish community. A cosmic storm renders digital technology useless, throwing much of the world into chaos. Initially, the Amish community at the center of the story of is largely unaffected. Not only have they not built their lives on or around digital technology, they have a strong culture of mutual care. But as the crisis among them moves steadily closer, this Amish community has to decide what their responsibility is for their “English” (non-Amish) neighbors, and how they can be a witness for the reign of God in a world that is rapidly changing—even for them. The book is told in the form of a journal written by a young Amish farmer. It is a page-turner, while also being wise and thoughtful.

3. Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel, Carl Safina: My best friend has been recommending that I read this book for three years. When I finally did, it became one of my favorite books—as my friend knew it would. Beyond Words was literally paradigm-shifting, in that I’ll never see the world the same way again. Safina, an ecologist, looks closely at three species—elephants, wolves, and killer whales—and how emerging discoveries in the field of animal behavior are causing scientists (and readers like me) to re-evaluate our inherited notions about what animals think and feel. Many nonhuman creatures seem capable of grief, humor, empathy, altruism, and even love. Personality isn’t restricted to persons. Though I can’t remember if Safina ever calls this out specifically, a sub-theme of this book for me was the power of sustained attention, every day, over many years. This is relevant not only to field researchers, but to those of us who feel called to be faithfully present in our own particular communities.
[Editor’s note: John’s dog actually made his list for him.]

Pete Peterson

1. Just Mercy, Bryan Stephenson: This book rocked my world. Our society is so thoroughly broken that we can’t afford to keep looking the other way. Everyone in America needs to read this book.
2. Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America, Michael Eric Dyson: This one was challenging, and it was supposed to be. It convicted me, made me defensive, made me cry, and has made me continually reconsider my perspective on the world and the people around me.
3. A Dance with Dragons, George R. R. Martin: After reading a really irritating fantasy novel (The Name of the Wind), I decided to jump into the Song of Ice and Fire series to see if the genre was worth any more of my time. I started with this book because I’ve already seen the TV show and wanted to start where the books began to diverge. This was not a mistake. George R. R. Martin is one heck of a writer, and reading this after The Name of the Wind was like taking a cool swim after sweating in the sun all day. I loved this book and cannot WAIT for the next one.
4. Henry and the Chalk Dragon, Jennifer Trafton: This was the year I finally got to let other people read this book, and I’m so happy. I might be married to the author, but it would be one of my favorite books ever even if I wasn’t. It’s so good, so true, so very much itself, and it never fails to make me cry (in fact I just cried a little thinking about how good it is when Henry’s chivalry crawls inside him and beats with his heart: Be brave. Be brave. Be brave.) I will not be satisfied in life until every person has read this book and it has been made into an animated film.

1. Crooked, Propaganda: I’ll remember 2017 as the year I learned to love hiphop. This record blew my mind. It’s so smart, so literate, so complex, and so darn listenable—and love everything about it (and it never fails to make me cry).
2. The Narrative, Sho Baraka: Again, 2017 was the year of hiphop. It was a delight to fall in love with this record this year and then get to welcome Sho to Hutchmoot.
3. No Story is Over, Son of Laughter: Go listen to “The Hurricanes.” If afterward you don’t understand why this record is listed here, we’ll talk.

1. Mother!: This is hands-down my favorite film of the year. It’s that best kind of art that defies reduction while suggesting a wealth of interpretations. Every minute of this film is fascinating. Great performances, great writing, great cinema. An amazing work.
2. War for the Planet of the Apes: Who knew 10 years ago that a new Planet of the Apes trilogy would prove itself able to stand along side Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings? I can’t believe they pulled this off. Epic filmmaking.
3. Thor: Ragnarok: I haven’t laughed this much in a theater in years. So. Much. Fun.
4. The Crown: I want this show to go on forever, and I’m so sad that we’ve now said goodbye to Claire Foy and Matt Smith. They’ve left some big shoes to fill.
5. The Handmaid’s Tale: I had no idea what to expect out of this, but it floored me. So relevant. So terrifying. And such a great ending. I am not optimistic about a second season.

Jennifer Trafton

1. Raymie Nightingale, Kate DiCamillo
2. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, by Annie Dillard: No, I’d never read it—now remedied.
3. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee: Third or fourth reread, still my fav.
4. Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, Elizabeth Gilbert

1. La La Land: Second and third times.
2. Wonder Woman
3. The Last Jedi
4. The Crown
5. The Handmaid’s Tale

1. All the music my friends and family have made (I don’t keep up with new albums very well)
2. Most played artist in my iTunes not in any way related to the Rabbit Room: Brandi Carlile

On Being with Krista Tippett

The Battle of Franklin, A. S. Peterson [Editor’s note: Trafton has impeccable taste.]


  1. K. Fisher


    Just as Bandersnatch was my reading highlight for 2016, Sidetracked in the Wilderness by Michael Wells was equally as illuminating and life changing for 2017. Yes, the Hope of Glory.

  2. Kyle

    The oyster shucking show is real. My wife watches it too. The one my wife watches is called ‘Just shuck it’

  3. Kyle

    The oyster shucking show is real. My wife watches it too. It’s on Facebook as ‘Just shuck it”.

  4. Bethany

    Daaaang, I thought I was the only person in the world who didn’t love The Name of the Wind, and I still thought it was an OK book. But if you want a really amazing epic fantasy series that’s already completed, Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson and Crown of Stars by Kate Elliott are where it’s at. Our dog has a name from the former series and our son has a name from the latter.

  5. Laure Hittle


    So i read 76 books last year and only hated two of them and the short list for the ones i loved best is basically seven plus one whole writer. Forewarning: i am going to break the rules. The editor can give me demerits if he wants (but seriously? Demerits for games? That’s crazy).


    JAMES DICKEY. GAH. i LOVE HIM. i read four of his poetry collections between June and December (Buckdancer’s Choice; Selected Poems; The Strength of Fields; Death, and the Day’s Light; and Buckdancer’s Choice again), and if anyone wants a Dickey education i am so ready to get you started. This guy is fascinating. i can’t stop reading him. His poetry runs the gamut from mythological to war memoir to seriously troubling to stories that i don’t know if, and i don’t know if anyone knows if, they’re true. Some of his “i” narrators are him, some are fictional, plus he was apparently a pathological liar in real life. A couple of weeks ago i was flipping through a book that had multiple drafts of one of my favorites of his poems and thought, i could read this guy for the rest of my life. So. One of my reading goals for this year is to read and reread enough of him that next year i can justify making a foray into reading commentary—his own or scholarly. And his son wrote what looks like a great memoir about his dad and their relationship, and i want to read that too, but before i get too far into thoughts about Dickey (even his own thoughts) i want to read his poetry on its own terms for a lot longer. i can only think of one other writer who’s ever just exploded my brain and taken over like this, and he’s the one who introduced me to Dickey.

    Ha. Okay. i will try to move on from there. But get me started again, i dare you.

    Du Iz Tak? Ken Priebe has be keeping me supplied with picture books for the last several months, and this one is without question my favorite. i didn’t know i was a language nerd until i started studying Hebrew in seminary a few years ago (although i probably should have known this all along). It turns out i love languages, and what really lights me up is the little epiphanies scattered throughout the learning process—idioms and etymology and the connections between everything. This book was maybe written just for me. It’s told in an entirely made-up language—a “nonsense” language, it first appears. But as i read it i started to pick up on vocabulary and even grammar in this bright-colored picture book and i. just. freaking. exploded. Remembering this not only makes me want to reread the book, but gets me revved up to get back to Hebrew.

    This is the part where i start cheating, because this should be my third and last book, but instead it is my third and NOT last book.


    Those are all in chronological order by date of completion.

    The Forgotten Beasts of Eld and Watership Down were both recommended by Jeffrey Overstreet and i have yet to read a book he’s recommended and not be ruined by it. i cried on every single page of The Forgotten Beasts of Eld.

    Henry and the Chalk Dragon. Jennifer Trafton is the avatar of the goddess Courage. i love her. This book, like everything she writes, makes me brave. There were times last spring when i would write “TIE YOUR SHOELACES” on my hand to get me though Akkadian tests. Also, Henry and i have started coloring in my books. We have colored in a lot of the illustrations in his book, and we have also started to illuminate the copy of Four Quartets that lives in my purse. For days after reading Henry all i could think of was color. From Henry’s imagination and woes to the adult characters’ arcs to the conflict with Oscar to the DRAGON! to Jade the Bard to the prose itself, there is literally nothing about this book that isn’t perfect.

    Winter’s Tale and Les Mis were both assignments from my Patronus and i loved them so much. i loved the fact of them and the assignment of them and the reading of them. Winter’s Tale is a wildly, magically, quietly hilarious dream of a thing and i have never read anything like it. Plus, it has Barnabas Bead references in it and Pete didn’t even do all of them on purpose. Les Mis—i am still not over Gavroche and his mômes. That whole book just gutted me in the best way.

    Finally: EVERY MOMENT HOLY. i can’t believe i know people who make art like this.


    i didn’t track movies and music the way i did books, so that gives you a reprieve from further enthusiastic exhaustions. But i love that Pete mentioned mother! because oh my gosh, that movie completely exhilarated me.

    100% the best thing this year: The Wingfeather Saga: A Crow for the Carriage. This thing exists. Oh my word. It exists, and it is beautiful. i might cry just thinking of it. i’m so, so unbearably proud of that team.

    La La Land. i saw that one four times in the theater. i had to fight for it—my first viewing and my second were completely different experiences and i’m so glad i went back.

    Others: Jeffrey Overstreet came out this summer for a film seminar at our church library, and i followed that up with a film discussion series, and it was a blast. So hard to pick favorites out of that bunch, but i completely loved The Fits. Also, Paterson. Also, Babette’s Feast. (We also watched Timbuktu, as well as La La Land and The Secret of Kells, which i’d already seen.)

    i’m with Pete on War for the Planet of the Apes also, but the film series selections were so good that i think that one has to be an honorable mention.


    Thankfully for you i once again listened to very little new music, so:

    Scott Mulvahill is my favorite new thing to happen to music, period. i have spun the five songs on his EP for hours straight.

    Psallos’ album Hebrews is so crazy awesome. i’ve never heard anything like it. The whole book of Hebrews, straight through, as a community theater production with a full Broadway orchestra. What the heck.

    In other news, i am still spinning The Burning Edge of Andrew Peterson.

  6. Reagan Dregge


    God love ya, Jonny! Mysterium wasn’t new for us in 2017, but it still made my top three. Codenames (I can’t decide between Pictures and Words so I combine them) was my favorite game learned this year, and Energy Empire was my favorite worker placement strategy game. But I can tell you right now that Pandemic Legacy Season 2 will be my favorite game of 2018! We just opened it and named our characters.

    1. I can’t believe no one said Scott Mulvahill. (Except Laure; thank you, Laure!) SERIOUSLY.
    2. The livestream of Behold the Lamb of God – first time for me, and I was blown away.
    3. La La Land soundtrack

    I saw a lot of good stuff, but here is one that wasn’t mentioned:
    1. Halt and Catch Fire

    1. Real Love for Real Life – so deeply affirming for me in my role as homemaker
    2. The Angel Knew Papa and the Dog – good tears, just like his liturgies
    3. Teaching a Stone to Talk – cut me to the quick as a writer

  7. Marti Ferguson


    Man, this’ll be hard. XD I’ve read lots of good books this year.

    1. The Three Musketeers/Alexandre Dumas – AMAZING! I absolutely love the way the protagonist is portrayed, especially when he is being contrasted to the three musketeers.

    2. Freckles/Gene Stratton-Porter – If you have not read this… READ IT!!! This book is such a masterpiece. I enjoyed every minute of it. It reminded me of a mixture of Jane Austen and Mark Twain with a bunch of unique Stratton-Porter things thrown in. It’s a love story, thriller, and action all in one. I highly suggest this to anyone who enjoys reading classics, ESPECIALLY if you’re a nature geek.

    3. The Great Gatsby/F. Scott Fitzgerald – For a book that’s 50% immoral values, this book was surprisingly really enjoyable to read. I was enthralled by all the plot twists and the major “love tangle.” Roaring 20’s fan here. (not ALL of it, obviously.)

    4. Fahrenheit 451/Ray Bradbury – This book is definitely a thriller/drama. It actually gave me chills in places about the future… what’ll it be like in 2020’s?

    Games (this list will be short, warning you.)

    1. Breath of the Wild/Legends of Zelda – Don’t blame me when I say that I started this game in about August and I’m still on the second level. I don’t play this game very often, but I absolutely LOVE the story and I absolutely LOVE the graphics.

    2. Nintendo Land/WiiU – This isn’t part of some money-catcher series out there, but I really love this game. It’s perfect for when company’s over at the house.


    1. Lindsey Stirling Brave Enough – This album has some amazing instrumentals. Just saying.

    2. Andrew Peterson The Dark Before the Dawn – I LOVE the style of this album! It is so-o-o good. The words are so uplifting.

    3. MercyMe Lifer (I think that’s the name of the album…?) Love this album. I love how the songs start out sad and then turn happy and encouraging near the end.

    4. The Hobbit soundtracks – I know these came out a few years ago, but I finally bought them and I’ve been listening to them all year. Some of my favorite instrumentals of 2017 are on there.


    1. The Last Jedi – J.J. Abrams, you finally hit the mark! This film bounces off the older Star Wars so well, along with new plot twists and some awesome setting backgrounds! I could go on and on about this movie… truly hilarious and heart-string-pulling (don’t think that’s a word, but oh well).

    2. Pirates of the Caribbean/Dead Men Tell No Tales – This definitely isn’t the best movie in the world, as it’s obviously nothing but a money-catcher and a crowd-pleaser, but I’ve got to give it some credit. The scenery and graphics were absolutely stunning in this movie: had my eyes glued to the screen. I think the plot could have been more well-built, but overall, this was a great movie that a definitely suggest, if you haven’t already seen it in theaters (it was a while ago, I know).

    3. Spiderman/Homecoming – I’ve been a Spiderman fan for all of 2017, especially when I watched the latest film on the superhero. Let me just say these two things: Spiderman-haters, Peter Parker’s looking like a twelve-year-old is supposed to be an AWESOME CONTRAST to the superhero he’s known as to the world, not a total wimp-out. Spiderman-lovers, this film is fun fun fun – I laughed the whole way through it! Even if you think Spiderman is iffy, at least watch it just for a good laugh.

    4. Doctor Who/p.s. I’m behind. Big time. – Yes, I’m still on Season Four… but that’s mainly because I went for almost a year not watching it because of life and other things. I recently put it back on my plate. David Tennant is one of my favorite actors out of all the regeneration, and he is rocking it in Season Four. If you like galaxies, time-traveling, other planets, aliens, and thrillers that aren’t exactly horror but still pretty… well… thrilling – then you should start watching it. (by the way… I’m so glad I’m not the only one here who likes Dr. Who!!)

    5. Avengers/Civil War – This film was definitely one of my favorites for the year. The main reason why was because all the Avengers films I had watched before this left me thinking “wait, you’re forgetting something!” This movie finally addressed that question: what about the normal people? Are you saving more than you’re killing, or the other way around?

  8. Blaine



    The Unconsoled by Kazuo Ishiguro
    The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
    An Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro

    This is the year I fell in love with Kazuo Ishiguro. I’m not sure if you can tell…


    Dear Evan Hansen Cast Recording: Within three days, “Waving Through a Window” became the second most listened to song in my media player. That means over a hundred plays in three days. This musical is incredible and I wish I could have seen it before Ben Platt left the cast.
    Working Songs by the Porter’s Gate: So many talented artists and songwriters creating beautiful music together, this was something truly special. Audrey Assad and Josh Garrels’ “Wood and Nails” is my personal favorite, but the entire album is amazing.
    Notos by The Oh Hellos: This EP felt like a beautiful microcosm of all The Oh Hellos previous work, but at the same time felt fresh and new.

    I watched exactly three (new) films this year; one of them doesn’t really deserve to make this list.

    Coco: A beautiful story about music and family, and an absolute work of art. Totally made up for that awful twenty-minute “short” that preceded it.
    Murder on the Orient Express: Great film, lots of heart. I too was pleasantly surprised to spot Rey among the cast. She’s too talented to have her career killed by Star Wars.
    The Last Jedi: Pros: Rey, Leia, Luke going 75% Kreia. Cons: Finn didn’t die, Poe is a moron, the writing was bad, Hux is still a waste of space, why do they keep bringing Phasma back for meaningless scenes then killing her again, and episode VII has been doomed by the death of Carrie Fisher. I didn’t hate The Last Jedi, but I wasn’t even vaguely impressed by it. Star Wars should have died thirty years ago.

  9. Nolan Bryan Lynch


    1. The Story, Runrig: Huge, pure, heartfelt Gaelic rock from the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. YOU MUST LISTEN TO THIS BAND.
    2. The Seven Steps to Mercy, Iarla O Lionaird
    3. 2, The Gloaming

    1. Mystic Vale
    2. Star Wars: Rebellion
    3. …and I’m honestly still playing Skyrim

    1. The History of English
    2. Astonishing Legends
    3. Scriptnotes

    1. Watership Down, Richard Adams
    2. The 44 Scotland Street series, Alexander McCall Smith
    3. Neverwhere, Neil Gaiman

    1. Endeavour
    2. Victoria
    3. Agents of Shield

    1. The Last Jedi
    2. Logan
    3. Dunkirk

  10. Maya Joelle


    Books: The Warden and the Wolf King (reread the series – totally worth it, every time). Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (finally finished the series,  then read the “eighth” book and every bit of extra material I could get my hands on, and I will recommend this to anyone who asks me for a book recommendation). Brave New World (read it with my dad and discussed). Peter Nimble (gruesome and beautiful and heart-wrenching, all at once). The Phantom Tollbooth (never read this until now, but totally should have). Ender’s Game (if you haven’t read this, you should). That Hideous Strength (C.S. Lewis; need I say more?). The Entirely True Story of the Unbelievable FIB (Norse myths! Truth! Adventure!). The Book Thief (life-changing, in a word).

    Movies: The Last Jedi, Thor: Ragnarok, Ender’s Game, O Brother Where Art Thou, A Crow for the Carriage, Beauty and the Beast (live action)

    Podcasts: Read-Aloud Revival

    Game: Exploding Kittens

    Music: Tell Me Again, His Heart Beats (BLG Live, anyone?), Where Eyes Don’t Go


  11. Matt Garner


    My picks aren’t necessarily stuff that came out in 2017 but the best discoveries or re-discoveries of the past year:

    The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson – A thrilling tale of the human spirit rising from one of the most oppressive locale’s on earth. An epic North Korean adventure/heist.
    The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead – supremely devastating slightly revisionist (but only in a literal sci-fi way) history that follows an enslaved woman toward liberation.
    The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway – Because some of the best novels ever written were less than a hundred pages and utterly devoid of flourish.

    ‘Dunkirk’ – It’s quite possibly the best war movie ever made. People love to hate on Nolan, and for the life of me I can’t see why. The guy is a master. My body ached after leaving the theater.
    ‘Ghost Story’ – seriously go Redbox this movie right this second. I can’t shake it. Casey Affleck. Rooney Mara. Just wow.
    ‘The Americans’ – Cold War spy drama with a brilliant Kerri Russell and Matthew Rhys. And it’s set in the 80’s so there’s that! Final season starts in March.

    Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats debut album
    Home – Josh Garrels

  12. Rachel Donahue


    Most of my “free” time this year was spent with my nose in a book, so I will list a few noteworthy non-print favorites and allot the rest of my spaces to the printed word.

    Movie: Arrival. This movie really stayed with me in a way few ever have.

    Music: Everything by the Gray Havens. On repeat. Followed by everything Slugs and Bugs, also on repeat. (We have kids.) (But I love them, too.)

    Books (only the most impactful, in chronological order of reading):

    Molehill vol. 1 and 2 (and later 3)
    Different, by Sally and Nathan Clarkson
    Watership Down
    Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl
    A Grace Disguised
    Beate Not the Poore Desk
    Ender’s Game
    The Last Sweet Mile  (oh, my heart!)
    The Great Divorce
    The Four Quartets
    Fiddler’s Gun and Fiddler’s Green
    The Warden and the Wolf King (second time through)
    Breath for the Bones, Luci Shaw
    Anne of Green Gables
    The Awakening of Miss Prim
    Every Moment Holy
    Behold the Lamb of God

    2017 was a rich year.

  13. Scott Barry


    John Mark McMillan – Mercury & Lightning – Easily the best album of his career. He has found a sweet spot with his music palette and songwriting style; moving and creative.

    Propaganda – Crooked – Fascinating album that can change hearts. I’m still thinking about it.

    Third Day – Revival – I know, I know…radio friendly sellout. Not this album. This is rootsy Christian music with heart. Ironically, the most radio friendly song on the album, “Let There Be Light,” is my favorite…and the one that moves me the most.

    The Brilliance – All Is Not Lost – Thought provoking and risk-taking. Listened to this a lot with the whole family, who all appreciate it.

    Books – I don’t have a ton of time to read books (I have a full-time job and seven kids), so that is out…except books about trucks that toddlers might appreciate.

    Movies – I really did like The Last Jedi. Well done and has me wishing the third installment was already out. Again…with my busy life, I don’t get to see too many current movies.

    TV – My wife and I are STILL on a Doctor Who binge. We’re currently on season 9. Peter Capaldi has really grown on me. David Tennant is still my favorite. Matt Smith grew on me as well.

  14. gllen

    top pick – the 20th year rev/exp ed. of  A Long Obedience In The Same Direction by Eugene Peterson – a mine of words, wisdom, and craft. If you have not yet read this, make 2018 the year. Eek! I just checked the printing date. I/V Press 2000! Which makes this title 38 this year. On its way to becoming a classic…

    Ancient Paths – Discover Christian Formation The Benedictine Way by David Robinson – a Presbyterian pastor opens up the Rule of St Benedict for contemporary life. Paraclete Press 2010.

    Finding God in a Tangled World – Thought & Parables by Juris Rubenis and Maris Subacs – a delightful collaboration of chewable reflections and poignant illustrations by a pastor and a graphic designer from Latvia. Paraclete Press 2007.

    The Turning Aside  – The Kingdom Poets Book of Contemporary Christian Poetry ed. by D.S. Martin. Cascade/Wipf&Stock 2016.



    Bruce Cockburn – Bone on Bone

    La Vie Parisienne – French Chansons From the 1930s & 40s (Past Perfect Vintage Music) -demerit points – I discovered this gem on YouTube…

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