A friend recently asked me for a list of books to read. In response, I cataloged some of my recent favorites. The list below is organized by category and priority. So if you only want to read one book in each group, prioritize the one listed first.
- The Attention Merchants by Tim Wu – from the cover you might think this book is about technology, but it is one of those rare and precious books that is about everything all at once. Wu has the unique ability to synthesize multiple disciplines and leave you wanting more. I would sum up the book as a history of the commercialization of attention.
- The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google by Scott Galloway – again, from the cover you might think this is a book about technology, but the book is actually about worship. The basic thesis is that it is impossible to build a multibillion-dollar empire in ten years unless you hijack one of humanity’s base desires.
- Life after Google by George Gilder – One of the most exciting books on technology I have ever read. I think that Gilder is one of the most fascinating tech authors out there (he might be our Neil Postman). He is currently 78 years old and believes that Google’s dominance will come crashing down before he dies. If he is right, and he was spot on in his similar book Life After Television (1994), Google’s shelf life is limited.
- God Dwells Among Us: Expanding Eden to the Ends of the Earth by G. K. Beale – this book falls under the genre of Biblical Theology, a discipline that attempts to summarize all of scripture under a particular heading. In this case, the subheading of the book explains its thesis. Creation was unfinished, and Adam’s job as a priest in God’s garden-temple was to expand Eden to the ends of the earth. The book is multilayered and an excellent tour through Scripture. Unlike many of Beale’s thicker books, this is a very accessible and readable book (in fact, this is a shorter version of The Temple and the Church’s Mission: A Biblical Theology of the Dwelling Place of God.
- You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit by James K. Smith – I love everything James Smith writes. The thing that resonates so strongly with me is how we are formed more through action than through thinking. In other words, our desires shape us much more than our thoughts. This isn’t a new head-heart dichotomy, but rather a recognition that the doorway to our heads is through our hearts, and the entrance to our hearts is through our habits.
- Subversive Sequels in the Bible by Judy Klitsner – this book is written by a Jewish author, and it won the National Jewish Book Award for 2011. I found it while researching Jonah and a hunch that Noah’s story was connected to Jonah’s. Although I haven’t finished the rest, I have enjoyed the following chapter on a connection between Babel and the Midwives of Exodus 1. I intend to savor this book and am grateful for gems like this! On the note of Jonah, I can’t help but mention Jacques Ellul’s book The Judgement of Jonah. This short little meditation on Jonah was one of the best books I have read in a long time!
- Gospel Fluency by Jeff Vanderstelt – ugh, I was trying to limit myself to three books in each category, but this one just couldn’t be cut. I believe this is a book that all Christian leaders should read. It is so solid, and helps Christians make sure we are keeping the gospel at the center of whatever we do!
- Steal Away Home by Matt Carter – this is a historical novel about the surprising relationship Charles Spurgeon had with an American slave named Thomas Johnson. This book is based on a true story and shows how powerful the gospel is!
- Destroyer of the Gods: Early Christian Distinctiveness in the Roman World by Larry Hurtado is a phenomenal book on why Christianity succeeded in the brutal world it was born into. Hurtado’s work is excellent! Follow this up with another look at the early centuries of Christianity’s growth in Christianity at the Crossroads by Michael J. Kruger.
- Brand Luther: How an Unheralded Monk Turned His Small Town into a Center of Publishing, Made Himself the Most Famous Man in Europe–and Started the Protestant Reformation by Andrew Pettegree – this book provides a novel perspective on why Luther succeeded in changing the world. It wasn’t just that Luther was proclaiming a message the world was ripe to receive, Luther was also a genius at marketing.
- For the Glory: Olympic Legend Eric Liddell’s Journey of Faith and Survival by Duncan Hamilton – Chariots of Fire made Eric Liddell famous, but this book tells the rest of the story. Did you know that he ends up in a Japanese work camp and when given a chance to go free trades his spot for a pregnant woman’s release! This book will break your heart, while simultaneously moving you toward a greater love for the gospel’s power to inspire sacrifice. Liddell is now one of my favorite people from church history!
Leadership and Self-Development:
- Didn’t See It Coming: Overcoming the Seven Greatest Challenges That No One Expects and Everyone Experiences by Carey Nieuwhof – Since Carey Nieuwhof started his leadership podcast I have been promoting his work. I think he is the best Canadian on leadership stuff. This book is refreshing, and I am finding it nourishing after ten years of ministry to have a book like this.
- Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depends On It by Chris Voss – this book is written by an FBI agent and is so well written. Plus you get to learn tools for your everyday conversations while imagining yourself negotiating with a terrorist to save hostages. You won’t be able to put it down.
- Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth – I like this book because it tells my personal story. It’s the old tortoise and the hare parable, in the long run, grit will take you farther than intelligence any day.
- iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy–and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood–and What That Means for the Rest of Us by Jean Twenge – I have been reading Twenge’s work for quite a few years. She has a great style, and this book is necessary reading for anyone who is working with young people. She may overstate some of her claims, but it is backed up by research. If you want a Christian book that does similar things, try Meet Generation Z by James Emery White.
- The Impulse Society: America in the Age of Instant Gratification by Paul Roberts – the Impulse Society is scary good. If Rome was taken down by hedonism, this book may one day be used by historians to write our culture’s obituary. Sadly, the book peters out as Roberts tries to provide solutions to our impulse society, but the first 3/4 is worth reading.
- Thank You For Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations by Thomas Friedman – if you don’t read Friedman, you are missing out. His work is big-picture and does a fantastic job of showing why things are the way they are right now…of course, things are changing at an accelerating pace, so get ready…