My Top Ten Books of 2011

I’ve had a fun year of read­ing books. Out of 100+ read so far, here are my top ten books of 2011. I tried to pick the ten that were in some way more enter­tain­ing, eye-opening, paradigm-shifting, thought-provoking, or edi­fy­ing than oth­ers. It was hard to do. Here’s what I came up with.

Books are arranged accord­ing to the order in which I read them. 

1.  Slav­ery by Another Name

This book opened my eyes to a chap­ter in Amer­i­can history—a dark and bit­ter chapter—that I had no idea about.

2.  Blink

I am fas­ci­nated by psy­chol­ogy. I am also entranced by Gladwell’s research writ­ing. Com­bine these two fac­tors, and you have a book that grabbed me.

3.  Unbro­ken

Some peo­ple just amaze me. Louis Zam­perini is one of them. This book tells how he mas­tered the art of dodg­ing death and doing the unbelievable.

4.  The Help

This novel addresses the 1960s seg­re­ga­tion prob­lem that fes­tered in Jack­son, Mis­sis­sippi. After I read the book, I saw the movie. It should go with­out say­ing, but the movie and the book are two dif­fer­ent works of art. Watch­ing the movie does not suf­fice for read­ing the book, and vice versa.

5.  The King Jesus Gospel

I was hes­i­tant to read yet another book try­ing to define the gospel, but was thank­ful for the way that Scot McK­night gra­ciously and com­pellingly traced the story of the gospel from Gen­e­sis to Rev­e­la­tion. The pan-biblical sto­ry­line of the gospel, and its impli­ca­tions for life and wit­ness, are inescapable. A solid book.

6.  Kite Run­ner

Hos­seini is a mas­ter­ful nov­el­ist. Kite Run­ner is a grip-you and shake-you type of story that forces you to con­front the dis­com­fort of injus­tice and abuse.

7.  Steve Jobs

What a biog­ra­phy! Steve Jobs has impacted my life in an inescapable way. In the morn­ing, my iPhone 4 buzzes me awake; I read the Bible on my iPad; all day long, my fin­gers tap the keys of my Mac­Book Pro. This book gave me insight into the bril­liant and mani­a­cal mind of Steve Jobs.

8.  Gen­er­ous Justice

Gen­er­ous Jus­tice was one of sev­eral books that have made me aware of the essen­tial nature of social jus­tice in the life of a believer. Gen­er­ous Jus­tice was the best of these books. I’m not exag­ger­at­ing when I say that read­ing this book changed my life.

9.  The Auto­bi­og­ra­phy of Mar­tin Luther King, Jr.

I used to think that MLK was a bad dude. Not any­more. After read­ing the auto­bi­og­ra­phy, his foibles notwith­stand­ing, I pos­sess pro­found respect and grat­i­tude for what God allowed him to do for Amer­ica. His amaz­ing courage and patient endurance helped to bring Amer­ica from a gen­er­a­tion of shame, and into a new era of hope.

10.  Bare­foot Church

Hatmaker’s book Bare­foot Church was a book that chal­lenged my con­cep­tions of what “doing church” really means. Each page is soaked with Scrip­ture, care­ful expla­na­tion, and real-life appli­ca­tion. It gave me a refresh­ing new look at what the church should be and do.

In a future post, I’ll list all the books I read in 2011. There were some real down­ers, but these ten were some of the bright spots. I highly rec­om­mend them.


  1. Paul M.

    If you’d like another biog­ra­phy from the civil rights era, I’d rec­om­mend some­thing on Fanny Lou Hamer. She rep­re­sents the best impulses of the early civil rights move­ment. Here’s a schol­arly mono­graph on her, but it’s not overly long: Chana Kai Lee, “For Freedom’s Sake: The Life of Fanny Lou Hamer.”

    Another worth­while book for those of us inter­ested in reli­gion and the civil rights move­ment is Charles Marsh, “God’s Long Sum­mer: Sto­ries of Faith and Civil Rights,” in which he talks about the reli­gious views of var­i­ous folks from both sides, includ­ing Fanny Lou Hamer as well as Klan leader Sam Bow­ers. Marsh is writ­ing more as a the­olo­gian than as a his­to­rian, but it’s inter­est­ing nonetheless.

    1. Daniel Threlfall

      Thanks for the rec­om­men­da­tions, Paul (even the mono­graph)! I’m def­i­nitely adding them to my to-read list. After read­ing on civil rights/slavery/racism, I’m inter­ested in learn­ing more. Sadly, for most of my life, this has been a sub­ject I knew very lit­tle about, and had some really wrong ideas about. These books sound help­ful. Keep the rec­om­men­da­tions coming.

  2. […] of our mod­ern evan­gel­i­cal cul­ture. (Of the 100+ books my hus­band has read so far this year, he has listed this book as one of his top 10 for his 2011 read­ing. I’m not yet sure if it will be on my top 10 list, but it is on my list […]

  3. Nikku

    The “Slav­ery By Another Name” looks very inter­est­ing. I’m def­i­nitely putting that on my 2012 read­ing list.

    Another book that might inter­est you is “Sun­down Towns: A Hid­den Dimen­sion of Amer­i­can Racism” by James Loewen about how towns became seg­re­gated in the post-Civil War era.

    1. Daniel Threlfall

      Thanks for the sug­ges­tion. The seg­re­ga­tion era is a his­tor­i­cal topic that has really cap­tured my inter­est, espe­cially after doing some read­ing on Jim Crow, MLK, etc. I’ve put this on my list!

  4. […] of our mod­ern evan­gel­i­cal cul­ture. (Of the 100+ books my hus­band has read so far this year, he has listed this book as one of his top 10 for his 2011 read­ing. I’m not yet sure if it will be on my top 10 list, but it is on my list […]

  5. My Top 10 Books of 2011 | Keren Threlfall

    […] Daniel’s Best 10 of 2011 […]

  6. Top Ten Books of 2012 | Daniel Threlfall

    […] mem­ory), I have selected what I found to be the best 6% of the 153 books I read in 2012, sim­i­lar to what I did in 2011. Arranged in no par­tic­u­lar order, here are my top ten books […]

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