What’s the best book you have read lately?
Please stand up and say your name, where you’re from, and tell us a little about it.
Four years ago, when I was interviewing at a seminary for a scholarship, this question froze me in my seat. I had no answer. During college I read what was assigned–but rarely anything more. And none of the books I had read for class lately were anything like the theological ones the other prospective students interviewing alongside of me were announcing.
Miraculously, a book popped into my mind at the last second: The Bully Pulpit: The Politics of Protestant Clergy. My professor, the author of the book, had assigned it to us a few weeks before in my politics and religion class. So I stood up and said, “The best book I’ve read lately was The Bully Pulpit, which gave an insightful look into the voting patterns and political beliefs of clergy in America.” Then I sat down. I felt ridiculous for giving such an obscure academic book as my favorite. I also felt like a fraud since that was the only book I had read lately that I could even recall.
And then seminary turned me into a book addict.
I buy multiple at a time, my “to read” list keeps growing, and I love the number of shelves full of books in my office.
I now enjoy reading books I’m not assigned, and in 2013 I made a goal to read one book a month so that I could slowly whittle down all the books I own that I haven’t read. Below are the results:
Books read in 2013
Freedom for Ministry – Richard John Neuhaus
When I was graduating seminary I asked a mentor of mine what books he would recommend I read in my first year of ministry. He recommended this one by Neuhaus along with the one below. This one was a challenging read. But in our world of pop-literature and easy to scan blogs it is a treasure I’ll keep coming back to for wisdom. It even inspired one of my most read blog posts.
Leaves from the Notebook of a Tamed Cynic – Reinhold Niebuhr
This book is a journal of Niebuhr’s years in ministry–a journal that inspired me to begin chronicling more of the stories and experiences I encounter along my own journey.
Not Your Parents’ Offering Plate: A New Vision for Financial Stewardship – J. Clif Christopher
At the beginning of this year one of my mentors challenged me to learn more about finances in the church and this book came highly recommended. It didn’t disappoint and I’m looking forward to reading the follow-up. Some of the small steps it suggested have already translated into large stewardship gains.
A Spirituality of Fundraising – Henri Nouwen
If you are afraid of asking people for money for your church/ministry then this short book is a must-read. I underlined every other line and then bought 15 copies of it to give away to the capital campaign committee at my church.
I Will Teach You To Be Rich – Rami Sethi
I basically do whatever Ramit tells me to do with my finances. Some people may find his humor hard to handle, but everyone I’ve given a copy to has loved it.
Counterfeit Gods – Tim Keller
While teaching on the idols of our day–money, power, sex, etc–I’ve continually returned to this easy to read book by one of my favorite pastors in America.
Prodigal God – Tim Keller
You won’t look at the parable of the Prodigal Son the same again after reading this. Especially if you’re an “older brother” type like me.
I’ll buy and read any book with a forward by mega-church pastor Steven Furtick and an endorsement from Stanley Hauerwas. So I bought this one. Martin’s words about the radical grace of God have encouraged me deeply throughout the last year.
The Way: Walking in the Footsteps of Jesus – Adam Hamilton
I taught this book during lent last year. At times the writing could have used some editing, but it gave me insights into the life of Jesus I hadn’t thought about before.
A Simple, Life-changing Prayer – Jim Manney
Realizing that I rarely engage contemporary Catholic authors, I picked up this book on discovering the power of St. Ignatius of Loyola’s examen prayer. The prayer the book is based on is a powerful one that I’ve found myself praying at random times.
The Art of Teaching the Bible – Christine Eaton Blair
The Bible study that I wrote for commissioning in the UMC was based upon the format suggested in this book. The committee loved it. Therefore, this book is worth its weight in gold.
I Loved A Girl: A Private Correspondence – Walter Trobisch
I first read this book two years ago and decided to re-read it this year. It is a series of (real) letters between an African man and a European missionary on love, sex, dating, and relationships. This has been a great resource for me personally and I’ve often used it when counseling others.
After reading this book, I now sleep more often.
WikiChurch: Making Discipleship Engaging, Empowering, & Viral – Steve Murrell
Don’t let the terrible title fool you. This book simply explains the basics of discipleship and a discipleship culture as well as any as I’ve encountered in the last year.
If you lead a small group ministry at your church or your church is interested in starting small groups, read this. Ben provides a good overview of the basic elements you need to have in place to get people connecting relationally and growing spiritually in a sustainable way.
The Recovery of a Contagious Methodist Movement – George Hunter III
A good way to move forward is to look back and learn.
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable – Patrick Lencioni
This year I began leading a ministry team and this book has helped us tremendously. It is a quick read that will promote good discussion. You’ll also never pull out your phone in a meeting again without thinking about it.
The Dog Stars – Peter Heller
My friend Andrew Forrest suggested this work of fiction before my recent vacation. It was a good suggestion and I’m likely to grab some other books off of his 2013 reading list.
Swan House – Elizabeth Musser
A great story of love, adversity, and grace set in Atlanta during the Civil Rights era.
Tried dealing with your own anxiety or someone else’s without success? Dive into this introduction to ACT (Acceptance & Commitment Therapy) for a new approach to anxiety that challenges the notion that if you just try and fix your thinking then things will be better.
Stop Your Nailbiting! Permanently – Gilbreth Brown
Yep. It’ll help.
As one who loves to travel, I found this book practically helpful and inspiring. Think you couldn’t ever travel for 6 weeks+ with the life you have? Think again.
My goal for 2014 is to read more books this year than last year!
Your turn: What’s the best book you’ve read lately?