K. Chesterton once remarked that “there is a great deal of difference between an eager man who wants to read a book and a tired man who wants a book to read.” This past year I have found myself floating back and forth between these two categories so the book choices below reflect that (study and leisure).
A couple of disclaimers first:
*The majority of the books I read this year revolved around leadership, church strategy, and family ministry. This list reflects that.
*These books are not in order by preference. They take on many different styles so I choose not to rank or compare apples and oranges.
*Most of these books are faith based books written by authors with a Christian worldview. However some of them (and others I read this year) are not. Several of these books are thoughtful accounts of history, leadership lessons, and practical life hacks. They will be profitably read through the lens of an intelligent Christian worldview, though the books themselves are often not written from such a worldview. To quote Al Mohler, “The world needs more careful Christian readers, who can read honestly, reflectively, thoughtfully, eagerly, and well.”
Leadership Axioms: Powerful Leadership Proverbs. Bill Hybels. Hybels is the founding and Senior Pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in Illinois. He has become known worldwide as in expert in training Christian leaders to transform their communities through the local church. I have read many of Bill’s books and this possibly ranks as my favorite (Courageous Leadership is excellent as well). In this book, Bill provides 76 Leadership Proverbs that can (and should) be used by leaders in the marketplace, military, and ministry! This would be a great book to walk through with the key leaders of your organization.
Be a Better Dad Today! 10 Tools Every Father Needs. Gregory W. Slayton. Slayton does a remarkable job setting the tone for the importance of fatherhood. He believes “the future of civilization depends on how we (fathers) do our job.” With humor, empathy, common sense and stories from his personal experience, Slayton provides his “Ten Tools of Fatherhood.” I read this book with one of my best friends. We read a chapter every day or so and emailed each other our responses to the “For Further Reflection” section. A group of men at our church completed it together as well. The major draw for me was the practical and down to earth tools Slayton provides. Highly recommend it for dads young and old.
The Mission at Nuremberg. An American Army Chaplain and the Trial of the Nazis. Tim Townsend. The Nuremberg Trials were intended to bring those most responsible for the horrors of World War II and the Holocaust before a court of justice. Adolf Hitler and some of the most senior Nazis escaped the court, but more than 20 senior leaders of Nazi Germany stood trial before the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg. The most significant trials were held between November of 1945 and the following October. In the end, twelve death sentences were handed down against those who were found most responsible for crimes against humanity.
But a largely unknown story within that well-known account concerns Rev. Henry Gerecke, a U.S. Army chaplain assigned to the prisoners throughout the trial, and eventually to the condemned. This Lutheran minister found himself face to face with those who had plotted the extermination of 6 million Jews and had brought the world to the horrors of a global war. Even more moving, was the reality of how Gerecke faced the deepest personal and theological questions imaginable, specifically how much he believed in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
It is an extremely powerful book. Consider this excerpt:
“For Gerecke, the decision to accept the assignment wasn’t easy. He wondered how a preacher from St. Louis could make any impression on the disciples of Adolf Hitler. Would his considerable faith in the core principles of Christianity sustain him as he ministered to monsters? During his months stationed in Munich after the war, Gerecke had taken several trips to Dachau. He’d seen the raw aftermath of the Holocaust. He’d touched the inside of the camp’s walls, and his hands had come away smeared with blood. The U.S. Army was asking one of its chaplains to kneel down with the architects of the Holocaust and calm their spirits as they answered for their crimes in front of the world. With those images of Dachau fresh in his memory, Gerecke had to decide if he could share his faith, the thing he held most dear in life, with the men who had given the orders to construct such a place.”
Decisive. Chip & Dan Heath. Recommended to me by my Senior Pastor, Decisive tackles one of the most critical topics in the workplace and in our personal lives: how to make decisions. The Heath Brothers present research to suggest that our decisions are disrupted by an array of biases. Their book revolves around what they have labeled the “Four Villains of Decision Making.” They provide strategies and practical tools that enable us to make better choices….a key for any great leader.
Parenting Beyond Your Capacity. Reggie Joiner and Carey Nieuwhof. A few months ago I was on my way to work and was listening to Carey Niewhhof’s podcast. On this day he and Reggie were discussing their book so I picked it up. In this book, the authors describe how the two powerful influences of church and home can be combined together to widen the capacity of our parenting. Perhaps the best chapter is the chapter on “Making it Personal.” As parents, we can’t pass on what we don’t have, and if parents are going to maximize the potential for their own kids to love and follow Jesus some day, then it must be true in their lives as well. Fairly easy read with great practical advice.
Working with Emotional Intelligence. Daniel Goleman. This book is a follow up to his best-selling book Emotional Intelligence (EI). Goleman continues in this work to discuss the important of emotional intelligence. He basically states that the old days of hiring based off of IQ or proficiency alone has passed. He presents facts and stories to show that IQ explains surprisingly little of achievement at work or home. He states that companies (and leaders more specifically) should look for people with high emotional intelligence. He categories EI as: self-awareness, motivation, empathy, and adeptness in relationships. Although a little scientific at times, this book is a definite read for those at the executive leadership level of any organization.
American Creation. Joseph J. Ellis. Ellis is one of my favorite American Historian Authors. If you have never read Ellis, I highly recommend him. He is a master story teller. His Pulitzer Prize winning book Founding Brothers is one of my top 5 books of all time. In American Creation, Ellis continues his examination of the last quarter of the 18th century….perhaps the most politically creative era in American history. He spends most of the book focusing on Washington, Jefferson, and Madison; specifically analyzing their successes and failures. Overall it is a fairly easy read that will give you a greater appreciation of the “human nature” of the Founding Fathers without tearing them down.
Manage Your Day-to Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, & Sharpen Your Creative Mind. Edited by Jocelyn K. Glei. Super easy read! Time is valuable. Time is limited. If you are like me, you try to manage your actions each day to effectively steward the time you have been given. With wisdom from 20 leading creative minds, 99Us’ Manage Your Day-to Day helps equip you with pragmatic insights and tools for using your time wisely and making your best work. This book was recommended by the author of a blog I follow and it did not disappoint.
Don’t Waste Your Life. John Piper. A re-read for me. A good friend and fellow Pastor (Omar Garcia – www.gobeyondblog.com) was recalling a few stories and lessons from this book which prompted me to read it again. I didn’t regret it. Piper warns us not to get caught up in a life that counts for nothing. He boldly writes that God created us to live with a single passion: to joyfully display His love and sacrifice in all the spheres of our life. This is a great book to start your 2016 reading with!
Counter Culture. David Platt. In Platt’s newest book, he shows Christians how to actively take a stand on issues such as poverty, sex trafficking, marriage, abortion, racism, and religious liberty. According to David, in a day when social issues are creating clear dividing lines, neutrality is not an option for those who believe the Gospel. Drawing on personal accounts from around the world, Platt presents an unapologetic call for Christians to faithfully and lovingly follow Christ into the cultural battlefield. This book challenged me to look beyond the specific social issue and have a deeper understanding of who God is and how He relates to everything around us.
What about you? What are some of your favorite books of 2015.