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

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  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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