If I could choose only one habit to pursue growth it would be to develop a love for books. Reading requires focus and commitment. But the payoff is huge. If you want to jumpstart your leadership growth, spend at least thirty minutes a day reading – Randy Gravitt
As I wrote earlier this year, my main goal for 2016 was to read more books. I’m on course to finish 52 books this year (I read 17 last year).
I’m constantly on the lookout for book recommendations from friends who read a lot. I get to benefit as they filter out the best of the best for me to read. So in the spirit of “Do Unto Others” I typed up my top 20 books I read this year.
Here are the 20 Best Books I Read in 2016
- Beyond the Local Church – no book this year made me think more than this one.
- If the Church was doing it’s job, para-churches wouldn’t be necessary. True or False?
- ‘Beyond’ sets forth a positive vision of how the local and missionary church can partner together.
- It highlights “a deficient and even aberrant ecclesiology in which the church in its local form is considered supreme and all else is ‘para’—or, even worse, illegitimate. Such a perspective is theologically, historically and missiologically false”
- Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis – fascinating and heartbreaking look at poor whites in America. Makes sense of much of the wave of outrage that Trump rode into the White House. Fair warning – coarse language throughout!
- Masterplan of Evangelism – hadn’t read this book in YEARS. I won’t make the mistake again. Underlined pretty much every sentence in this book. Dr. Coleman lays out an incredibly practical, Biblical, powerful game plan for ministry. Has a better book on ministry ever been written?
- The Treasure Principle: Discovering the Secret of Joyful Giving – not the first time I’ve read this small book. Like Masterplan, I definitely need to read this book more often. Powerful reminder on living for eternal rewards not temporary comfort. Annually give this to all of our graduating college seniors.
- The Conviction to Lead: 25 Principles for Leadership That Matters – Dr. Al Mohler – it’s like a John Maxwell book with a Biblical backbone. Very practical and insightful.
- The God Ask: A Fresh, Biblical Approach to Personal Support Raising – This book is a must-read for anyone who raises funds for ministry. Great vision, thorough Biblical basis, and very practical. Pure gold.
- In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin – fascinating true story of the US Ambassador’s family in Nazi Germany (much of it focused on the Ambassador’s daughter’s trysts with Nazi officers -and even a date with Hitler) and how slow everyone was to see the absolute evil of the Nazis.
- Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West – heartbreaking history of the Old West from the perspective of Native Americans. Really helped me understand the injustice of what happened. Previously, ignorantly, I had wondered – “how is the European conquest of America any different than any other war? To the victor goes the spoils/land.” But the history of the American West is far more tragic and unjust. Treaty after broken treaty. Indians treated as subhuman for centuries (even far beyond the years of African Americans – the 14th amendment that emancipated African Americans specifically excludes Indians as humans with inalienable rights)
- A Praying Life – very practical, honest book on prayer that covers so much more than just prayer. Very helpful for me in figuring out why I don’t pray!
- Movements That Change the World – just the kind of book I like: short (129 pages), full of vision, and very practical. From Biblical and historical examples of world-changing movements, Addison distills the essentials of movements. Read in tandem with Masterplan of Evangelism and you’ve got the blueprints for changing the world for Christ.
- The History of the Ancient World – at 900 pages, this book took FOREVER to listen to. Like 5 months. The author does an admirable job – t’s very well written and not dry. Really helped me understand the world of the Bible – chaos: manmade brutality and natural disasters. A better title might have been – The Misery of the Ancient World. It seems that understanding the instability of the ancient world is crucial for understanding the Bible. Reading from where we sit – in prosperity, comfort and complete safety – it is nearly impossible to understand the frame of mind of ancient Israelites or the early church. That’s why the Bible’s number one command/promise is “Do Not Fear, for I am with you”. Understanding the misery/chaos of the ancient world is the 1st time I’ve understood Israel’s idolatry and worshipping other gods. Ancient people’s greatest desire was protection against being annihilated by another country. So when the Israelites turned to other gods it wasn’t on a whim. They were turning from trusting in God, they were giving into fear, looking to other gods to provide & protect. HotAW ends powerfully – after thousands of rulers, the vast majority whom were violently deposed and murdered, and hundreds of kingdoms over four thousand years- this is how it ends: The greatest empire the world has ever known emerges. Rome succeeds where others have failed – to unite most of the world under one empire and ruler. And yet Christianity is greater still – it is able to do what Rome never managed. “This was the end of the old Rome. But it would turn out to be the rise of something much more powerful [Christianity].”
- For the Love of God vol 1&2 – D.A. Carson only ranked this low because they’re atypical books. Daily devotions/commentary from D.A. Carson to read alongside read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year plan. Can’t recommend these two volumes highly enough! Transformed my quiet times. Perfect (short!) length to give a little insight to daily Bible reading.
- New Morning Mercies – Paul Tripp’s daily devotional – often very good. And always short. Great to have Paul Tripp preaching to you throughout the year. Confession – didn’t read EVERY day – but at least 80% of the days!
- Just Mercy – enjoyed the book and got the privilege of hearing the author, Brian Stevenson, speak at our university. The book and the author’s talk were very helpful in helping me understand the need for our country to acknowledge the sins of our past. To (painfully) drag them into the light. Brian Stevenson said that our country needs to do a better job of acknowledging the sins of Jim Crow and slavery. Bryan said that he has been invited to speak in Germany – and he would never accept that invitation if Germany still had statues of Hitler and Nazi flags everywhere. On the contrary, Germany, as a nation, has publicly condemned and repented of their past sins. They don’t cover up the sins of the Holocaust. They broadcast them. So that their nation can heal. And yet, in our country we have statues and flags that celebrate our horribly racist past.
- Let the Nations Be Glad! – not sure how, but never had read this. WAY more theological (and technical – not an easy read) than I would have guessed. But fantastic and compelling book. Especially learned from Piper’s insights on the use of the word “worship” in the New Testament- “the New Testament is stunningly silent about the outward forms of worship and radically focused on the inner experience of treasuring God, because it is a book of vision for missions in all cultures, not a worship manual for how to “do worship” in our culture.”
- Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China – GREAT read on the rapid spiritual, moral, and financial changes (especially among young people) in China
- Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking – very insightful – great read for extraverts (who are married to or work with introverts) and introverts alike. Covers how (and why) extroversion became the cultural ideal in America – in the mid-1900’s the White House promoted a slogan: “’A healthy personality for every child.’ Well-meaning parents agreed that quiet was unacceptable and gregariousness ideal for both girls and boys.” Ivy League schools shifted from desiring high character/intellect to “a pretty gregarious, active type.” The author makes a compelling case for the Information Age could be the age of Introverts – people who think deeply, strategize, solve complex problems and can share ideas powerfully (especially in written form/online). Particularly helpful for college ministers – she writes on how to be introverted in a job/org/church “that prides itself on extroverted evangelism” and how introverts often make the best salespeople (I find Sales to be the most similar secular job to college ministry).
- Bloodlines – Race, Cross, and the Christian – John Piper – very helpful, thoroughly Biblical case for the need for racial reconciliation
- 1776 – God Bless America. Truly miraculous how our nation began when most of 1776 looked VERY bleak and the chance of success infinitesimally small.
- Team of Rivals – well written biography of the presidency of Abraham Lincoln. Almost brought me to tears when he was (spoiler alert!) killed. How different would our nation be if he could have guided us through reconstruction following the Civil War?