So here the books that intrigued and impacted me this year. Though I completed my standard 50-ish books, I found myself actually doing a lot of re-reading, reengaging with ideas and processing them from a new, hopefully deeper, perspective.
Full Disclosure: The titles are linked to Amazon, if you click through from this page, supposedly I get a small percentage of the sales. You can see the entire list here.
The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion (Jonathan Haidt). This is probably one of the most important books I’ve read in a long, long time. An examination of how we develop our morality, which in turn is an examination of why we are currently so divided in this country. For anyone who is interested in trying to bring some healing back to our culture, you should read this.
Enneagram: A Christian Perspective (Richard Rohr and Andreas Ebert). I re-read this at my annual Monastery retreat, and finally had it “click” a little. I’d encourage anyone who is interested in growth and self-discovery to read it. I wrote about this book—and the enneagram in general—a couple times this year. One of the things I really enjoy about this book is that it looks at the enneagram types through the filter of particular brokenness, and therefore is a challenge to grow and heal, not merely to “live your strengths”.
Silence (Shusaku Endo). This was released as a movie this year, directed by Scorcese and starring Adam Driver and Andrew Garfield. It’s tough book to read, emotionally, similar to The Road by Cormac McCarthy. Endo brings you into a universe (in this case 17th century Japan) and does not let you leave. The book brings up profound questions regarding faith, suffering, and the presence of God.
Leaders Made Here: Building a Leadership Culture and Chess, Not Checkers: Elevate Your Leadership Game (both by Mark Miller). I really enjoyed these rather focused books on leadership. They are concise, pragmatic, and story-driven. Good resource for teams.
Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World (Cal Newport). This was a re-read. If you’re not familiar with Cal Newport, you can watch his TedTalk for an introduction. It’s a great reminder of what we do not need in order to be productive (specifically, distractions in the form of the internet, email, and social media).
Resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences (Nancy Duarte), Made to Stick: What Some Ideas Survive and Others Die (Chip and Dan Heath), and Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard (Chip and Dan Heath). I put all three of these together, because if you speak or teach for a living, and/or if you are in the business of promoting life change, these should be canon for you. All three give critical, practical advice on how to communicate so that people actually hear your ideas (in my case, the Gospel) and actually have the opportunity to change because of it. I use these like reference books, returning to them constantly to evaluate how I’m doing with preparing sermons or ministry ideas.
The Way of the SEAL: Think Like an Elite Warrior to Lead and Succeed (Mark Divine). Believe it or not, the elite armed forces are some of the best resources for performance, habit cultivation and life change, mostly because of the high stakes, high stress environment within which they exist. This book is almost like a Seven Habits for Highly Effective People filtered through a Navy SEAL mentality. Its focus on meditation, remaining calm during high-stress situations, and effective real-world planning really spoke to me.
Illumined Heart: Capture the Vibrant Faith of the Ancient Christians (Mathews-Green). Another re-read. Shana and I have given this tiny little book away to more people than any other book that either of us have read. On one hand, it is a great introduction to Eastern Orthodoxy; on the other hand, it is a poignant introduction to significant spiritual growth and life change. If you’re stuck spiritually, I encourage you to give it a read.
All Things Shining: Reading the Western Classics to Find Meaning in a Secular Age (Dreyfus and Kelly). I read this book over my summer vacation, and it had an unexpected impact on me. Dreyfus and Kelly go through some classics of western literature and ask how to find deep meaning in the world. What is significant is that they are approaching the subject from an a-theistic, though not hostile, viewpoint. When I consider their findings, and add my faith to them, I find the results pretty enriching.
The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives (Dallas Willard). Another re-read; I return to this book as the wellspring of my spirituality. Absolutely critical to understanding faith and spirituality as a vehicle for growth and change, rather than as an exclusive club.
The Obstacle is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph (Ryan Holiday). This book is an introduction to stoic philosophy (and if you think that you understand stoicism, you probably don’t), and it’s structured in almost a devotional format that you could read in a few minutes at the beginning of your day. If you struggle with stress and are in leadership, this may be a great resource for you.
The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World (Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu, Douglas Abrams). I impulsively borrowed this from my spiritual guide, and was instantly challenged. I struggle with joy, and also with deep peace, compassion and contentment, and reading the real world dialogue between these two spiritual masters is amazingly provocative.