101 SECRETS FOR YOUR TWENTIES BY PAUL ANGONE
This book is a collection of insights (101 of them, to be exact). These insights are incredibly important for everyone, but especially for twenty-somethings. Some are practical, some are deep, many are hysterically true. Regardless, this book is a great resource. You won’t regret reading it, I promise.
Going All In written by Mark Batterson
I was really challenged by this book. Mark Batterson is a very talented writer, and a devoted man of God. His passion permeates every page of this book. All In is a call for Christians to stop being half-hearted in their approach to Christian living and start doing big things for the kingdom of God. Batterson does an exceptional job of presenting Scripture and fresh new ways as he seeks to convince his readers that “one decision can change everything.” God can be trusted, and he is still doing miraculous things in the lives of his people today, but we must step out in faith and believe fully in the power of God. He pushes back against many of the American ideals, which is always a difficult (but important) thing to do. I would recommend this book, if nothing else, as a reminder of the power of God, and the presence of God in this world.
MY RATING: 3.5 OUT OF 5.0
The Circle Maker written by Mark Batterson
The Circle Maker is a New York Times Best Seller, and although that distinction normally carries little weight with me, I believe this book deserves the honor. This is not a book about making God your own personal genie, but this is a book about transforming your prayer life. My outlook on prayer, my belief in the power of prayer, and my confidence in the promises of God through prayer were all completely transformed by this work by Mark Batterson. The premise of the book centers around Honi the Circle Maker, who believed so strongly in the power of prayer that he refused to leave a spot he had drawn a circle around until God answered his prayer. His prayer was to bring rain to a land that was in severe drought. Strangely, God brought the rain, and others were amazed. Batterson has used the approach of Honi, the Circle Maker, to be the catalyst for his prayer life. It is a powerful read. One of the best books I have read all year.
MY RATING: 3.5 OUT OF 5.0
Jesus>Religion by Jefferson Bethke
Few books captivated me like this one. I read it cover to cover in two days. I think most of my fascination with this book was that I felt the words Jefferson Bethke wrote on every page. My experience has been his experience. My struggle with Christianity has been his struggle. Combine that with the obvious passion Jefferson Bethke has for Jesus and his gift of discernment makes this a great read. If you are content with where you are in your walk with Christ or if you love dry, boring religion, this book isn’t for you. But maybe you have always thought there was more to Christ than what you see and experience every day. Maybe you always thought Christianity was different, but you never actually saw an example of it. If this is you, Jesus>Religion will affirm your thoughts.
The words are both convicting and challenging, but I never felt as though Bethke was accusing me. This book shows readers why Jesus is better than religion, and why traditional views of religion don’t line up with Jesus. This book really challenged me to look at the life of Jesus in a fresh way. I hope it will challenge you to do the same.
MY RATING: 3 out of 5
FAITH WITHOUT ILLUSIONS BY ANDREW BYERS
This is a book about cynicism. And because cynicism plagues the present-day church, this is a book Christians need to read. Andrew Byers talks about his own journey of disillusionment, cynicism, and re-entering the church with hope.
Faith Without Illusions highlights the major factors contributing to our culture of cynicism, including: idealism, religiosity, experimentalism, cultural irrelevance, and anti-intellectualism. In this section of the book, Byers provides clarity as to why these factors are so toxic to God’s people.
Even though it’s important to understand the factors leading to cynicism, it’s the next section of the book that I found to be enlightening, hopeful, and encouraging. In the final chapters, Byers provides five alternatives to cynicism using Scripture as the foundation. The final chapter introduces a term called “hopeful realism.” I won’t go into detail about what it means, but if you want to attack cynicism, hopeful realism is the weapon you must use.
“A healthy Christian life cannot be stitched together from a series of disjointed mountain-top experiences. We need a Christian spirituality that endures the shadowy, low-lying valleys and the rocky slopes in between all those glorious summits.”
AN UNHURRIED LIFE BY ALAN FADLING
This 2014 Christianity Today Book Award of Merit Winner. An Unhurried Life is a convicting, challenging, yet practical guide to becoming unhurried. Using the rhythms of Jesus during his ministry, Alan Fadling details serious consequences of living a fast-paced life. Our capacity to resist temptation, ability to care for others, our relationship with God, and the spread of the gospel are all negatively affected by a hurried life.
I particularly appreciate this book because Fadling doesn’t diminish the value of work or the importance of productivity. He affirms that work is from God and productivity is valuable. At the same time, Fadling continues to appeal to his readers to consider the life of Jesus when thinking about these things. Jesus had a short time to fulfill a big mission. Even so, he would often get away from the crowds and spend long periods of time in prayer. Jesus never hurried. He never operated on man’s time.
In a culture predicated on speed and doing things faster, this book challenges people to think differently. And, if you choose to live out the words in this book, you will experience more joy and a stronger relationship with God.
“Rest is not a place I collapse into when I’ve finally done enough work — it’s the starting place, it’s the way into the well-fitting, easy yoke of Jesus (Matthew 11:25-30). What if we began in rest? Would it be possible to do my work without getting all wound up or collapsing?”
MAN’S SEARCH FOR MEANING VICTOR FRANKL
This book chronicles Victor Frankl’s experience in a Nazi concentration camp. He goes into horrific detail about the painful, dehumanizing treatment of Jews during this time. I can’t express to you how much this book rattled my soul. Even after hearing stories of the despicable actions of Nazi soldiers in concentration camps, I had no idea how awful the conditions were until reading this book.
Victor Frankl makes you feel as though you’re in the concentration camp with him. You feel his pain. But Man’s Search For Meaning isn’t really a book about Nazi concentration camps. It’s a book about how to find meaning in life.
I found this book to be an incredibly powerful testament to the human mind. Even though Frankl was starved, forced to worked long hours in terrible conditions, and slept on wooden planks, he says it was his desire to finish his life’s work that kept him alive. Frankl believed man is primarily driven by what he finds personally meaningful, not what he finds pleasurable. Man’s Search For Meaning is a classic. Your soul needs this book. When you read it, you will understand why.
“Love is the only way to grasp another human being in the innermost core of his personality. No one can become full aware of the very essence of another human being unless he loves him.”
Renewing God’s People written by Gary Holloway and Douglas A. Foster
The content in this book fits its title. It is a concise history of Churches of Christ. If you are not in to a long, dense historical description of Churches of Christ, this is a great book to read. I believe Holloway and Foster to a good job of highlighting the main issues, and also providing some historical context for those issues. Renewing God’s People allows the reader to see the journey of Churches of Christ from England to today, without the reader getting bogged down in a lot of the details that might be in a paralleled book of 400-500 pages. There is also a study guide at the conclusion of each chapter that would be good for a classroom setting or personal study. Overall, a solid book, especially for the lay reader who might not want to attack some of the more dense books chronicling the history of Churches of Christ.
MY RATING: 4.0 out of 5.0
Fresh Air by Chris Hodges
Every now and again you read books that speak to you at just the right time. Fresh Air was that book for me. In a season of my life where I was worn out and filled with stress, this book swept over my heart like…fresh air. In this book, Chris Hodges details his own journey through difficult seasons, and how he allowed God to give him new life. The core section of this book is called “Breathing Fresh Air Into Your Life.” In this section, Hodges details 8 components of a renewed life in God. I found so much freedom in the content of these chapters.
Often times, as I read, I would stop and take a deep breath because the words gradually took the weight of acceptance and affirmation off my shoulders. I highly recommend Fresh Air to church leaders especially. But not just to church leaders. Any person who feels caught in a season of anxiousness or depression, this book could be the lynchpin to a new life. God has certainly used Chris Hodges, and I am thankful for the words in this book. I know you will be too.
MY RATING: 3 out of 5
THE RHYTHM OF LIFE BY MATTHEW KELLY
This book is saturated with deep, valuable insights from cover to cover. I ran across this book while researching a blog post on rhythm, and I couldn’t put it down. Whether you lead a Fortune 500 company or stay at home with your kids, The Rhythm of Life will challenge you to think more deeply about the important things in life.
Matthew Kelly has a rare gift of combining practicality with depth. If you choose to read this book, you will become more passionate, gain a clearer understanding of your unique purpose, and be happier and healthier. As a leader, father, and husband, this book will be a resource for me for years to come.
My favorite quote:
“Everything is a choice. This is life’s greatest truth and its hardest lesson. It is a great truth because it reminds us of our power to live the life of our dreams. It is a hard lesson because it causes us to realize that we have chosen the life we are living right now.”
STEAL LIKE AN ARTIST BY AUSTIN KLEON
This book is unique in its structure and its content. Steal Like An Artist is relevant, creative, original, practical, and very entertaining. In this book, Austin Kleon gives people a license to be themselves. And, just like the title implies, this book challenges people to steal. It was this idea that made me curious about the book. Do all creatives really steal content?
The answer? Yes. Please understand this. Kleon never challenges his readers to copy or plagiarize. In fact, he includes a table that differentiates between stealing and plagiarizing. Instead, Kleon tells his readers to stop trying to be original because it’s not possible. Find several people you love, learn about their lives, interests, and values, and package those into your own unique voice.
Steal Like An Artist is a short read, and a very important resource for anyone who creates content or wants to tap into their unique voice.
SHOW YOUR WORK BY AUSTIN KLEON
Show Your Work is the follow-up book to Steal Like An Artist. After his first book received the attention of thousands and became a New York Times Best Seller, Austin Kleon developed this book as a guide for getting content out to the world. This book isn’t as eye-opening as his first, but it will provide you with valuable insights on gaining a following and visibility on the internet. Additionally, you will hear important principles about becoming known, such as generosity is more valuable than genius, self-discovery is more important than self-promotion, and allowing others to steal from you is a key to increased visibility.
Show Your Work is a good resource for anyone who wants to attract attention in a world of endless content and media.
ADDICTED TO HURRY BY KIRK JONES
This book is a great resource for anyone wanting to live a slower life. The hurried life most people live isn’t making them productive, and it is certainly not making them more content. Kirk Jones delivers some great psychological and social reasons for a slower life. But he goes a step further. He gives spiritual reasons as well.
If you follow Jesus, this book will challenge you to live more like Jesus. The hurried life our culture champions is the not the life Jesus modeled. It’s time to slow down. This book will show you how.
H3 LEADERSHIP BY BRAD LOMENICK
H3 Leadership is a book full of powerful leadership insights. The author, Brad Lomenick, is the former lead visionary behind the Catalyst Conference. Having been to Catalyst twice, I can’t imagine a better conference for equipping Christian leaders. In this book, Brad lays out 20 principles that define his leadership. These principles center around three core words that form his leadership mantra: humble (Who am I?), hungry (Where do I want to go?), hustle (How will I get there?).
I love this book because it isn’t leadership in the clouds. It is practical. From the first chapter to the last, you will be challenged to put the principles you learn into action. Lomenick gives practical, yet profound tips for becoming a better leader, whether you lead a small business or a mega-church. If you want to become a better leader today, H3 Leadership is a great place to start.
“Character is like oxygen – it is something we often don’t think about until it is depleted. But no one can more afford to live without conviction than without oxygen.”
THE GO-GIVER BY BOB BURG AND JOHN DAVID MANN
The Go-Giver is the most powerful book I have read in a long time. Bob Burg and John David Mann play on the sad, but true mantra of American culture, be a “go-getter.” Rather than a go-getter, this book challenges people to a go-giver.
Five important paradoxes frame the go-giving mentality (called the “Five Laws Of Stratospheric Success”): 1.) The law of value, 2.) The law of compensation, 3.) The law of influence, 4.) The law of authenticity, 5.) The law of receptivity. These five laws are introduced to the reader by a man named Pindar. One of the most successful businessman around, Pindar explains these laws to an unhappy go-getter named Joe. As Joe wrestles with these five paradoxes of business, he learns that the only path to greatness and success is through giving.
Whether you work in the business world, the church world, or anything in between, these principles apply. They will challenge you to re-think the cultural norm, stop looking at the world through a negative lens, and start embracing the path to true greatness, giving.
GREAT LEADERS ASK GREAT QUESTIONS BY JOHN MAXWELL
John Maxwell is one of the best leaders in the world. In this book, you find out why. For years, he has asked questions. Maxwell is a great leader because he is a constant learner.
It’s true. Great leaders ask questions. They ask themselves questions. They ask other leaders questions. They ask their team questions. This book addresses important questions, such as: How do I get started in leadership? How do I motivate an unmotivated person? How do I lead myself successfully? How do I resolve conflict?
If you’re a leader, this is a great reminder that questions are essential to continued growth. You can’t afford to not ask questions. Be a listener. Be a seeker. Be a learner.
“Everything rises and falls on leadership.”
SCARY CLOSE BY DONALD MILLER
Scary Close describes Donald Miller’s pursuit of relational intimacy. After decades of failed relationships, Miller decides to embark on a quest to figure himself out. In usual Miller fashion, he details this pursuit with amazing transparency. Also in typical fashion, Miller makes you feel as though your listening to a good friend. By the end of the book, I was enlightened and I felt like I gained a new friend. This is what makes Donald Miller one of the greatest writers of our generation.
Intimacy is the central theme of this book, or the quest to find it. In the process, readers are challenged to become vulnerable, to stop impressing people and start connecting with them. Miller highlights different types of manipulators, explains fear destroys intimacy, and why the only way to experience intimacy is to be yourself, authentically and honestly.
I learned a lot of about relationships, in general, and myself, in particular. If you have ever struggled with intimacy in relationships, this book will help you identify what hinders you from true intimacy.
BLUE LIKE JAZZ BY DONALD MILLER
I was a decade late reading Blue Like Jazz. My bad. The further along I read, the more encouraged I became. I see now why this book shaped a generation of Christians. It’s real. It’s transparent. It’s challenging. It debunks several cultural strongholds, like the role of politics in the church.
Donald Miller has a knack for making his readers feel like he is their best friend (or their worst enemy). I look at him as someone I could spend hours at a bar talking with. I found much of my spiritual journey to be similar to Miller’s. I was distant from God for a while. I was burnt out for a while. But eventually I found Jesus.
If you’re wondering whether God is relevant today, this book will give you hope that He is. I highly recommend it.
“Dying for something is easy because it is associated with glory. Living for something is the hard thing. Living for something extends beyond fashion, glory, or recognition. We live for what we believe.”
THOUGHTS FOR YOUNG MEN BY J. C. RYLE
This book was written at the end of the nineteenth century by Puritan preacher J. C. Ryle. When I started reading it, I was blown away by Ryle’s unique blend of compassion and conviction. Thoughts For Young Men is short (62 pages), but it is packed with truths for young men. If you’re serious about living for God and avoiding the pitfalls accompanying many young people, I strongly encourage you to pick up this book. You can read it in a few hours, and the wisdom you gain will shape you for a lifetime.
Ryle says there are four temptations that plague most young men: pride, love of pleasure, thoughtlessness, and contempt of Christianity. He also talks about the importance of creating good habits now, the danger of not considering Satan’s power, and the reality of how your current actions shape your future.
Even though this book is aimed at young men, it’s not just for men who are young. Everyone can sit at the feet of Mr. Ryle and learn from his years of wisdom.
“For thousands of years he (Satan) has been reading one book, and that book is the heart of man. He ought to know it well, and he does know it – all its weakness, all its deceitfulness, all its folly. And he has a storehouse of temptations, such as are most likely do the heart of man the most harm.”
BRINGING HEAVEN TO EARTH BY JOSH ROSS AND JONATHAN STORMENT
Bringing Heaven To Earth is a challenge to stop waiting for heaven and start experiencing it now. Heaven is not a future destination. It is a present reality. And because heaven is a present reality, everything changes. Instead of retreating from the culture, Christians should engage it. As Josh Ross and Jonathan Storment say, to walk away from the world is to walk away from the ways of God.
Rather than being controlled by fear, Christians are now compelled by love and restoration. Rather than attacking the world with violence, we attack with love and grace. Heaven as a present reality releases us from scoreboard righteousness, frees us from having to work for God, and changes our vocations from mere work to eternal ministries.
If you’re tired of playing defense and want a fresh perspective on living for God in the light of the cross, you should read this book.
“Hell isn’t the counterpart to heaven in the bible – earth is. The two belong together. God made both heaven and earth; they are both current realities; and from Genesis to Revelation, the story is God bringing them back together.”
Ethics by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Ethics is very dense book. Of course, anything written by Dietrich Bonhoeffer will carry that designation. At times, I found myself having to re-read certain sections to gather some clarity. But, in typical Bonhoeffer fashion, Ethics will stretch you and inspire you to deepen your understanding of God. Bonhoeffer had one of the most brilliant minds of his time, and the fact that his writings are still relevant today means he had an uncanny ability to write timeless truths about Jesus and Christian living. I would not rank this book as high as some of his others, such as The Cost of Discipleship, but Ethics will certainly leave you with a few ideas that will continue to stir in your mind long after the book is back on the shelf.
MY RATING: 7.0 out of 10
So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport
I wasn’t sure what to expect before reading this book, but the more I read, the more fascinated I became with his premise. And his premise is this: the passion principle (which states that the key to finding happiness is to find a job or career you are passionate about and find a job that matches that passion) is an enormous cultural lie. Newport argues that following passion principle rarely results in fulfilled life. And, even though it is championed in our culture, there are very few examples where following the passion principle resulted in a success career.
So, what does Newport suggest instead? He suggest adopting what is called the “craftsmen mindset.” Basically, this approach is founded on developing a set of skills, and honing those skills for years until you become “so good they can’t ignore you” (hence the title of the book). Newport believes this mindset is the key to maintaining passion and joy in your career.
Newport believes career capital (time invested in one particular area) provides control over career choices (promotions, jobs, etc.), which eventually puts you in a position where you call the shots and make your own decisions. In essence, your excellence and expertise in a particular skill gives you total control. What the culture doesn’t like to hear, however, is this takes time. It means pushing through the seasons of monotony. It means not giving up when the “passion” dissipates. But, ultimately, Newport claims (and I agree) that the only path to true passion and joy in a career is to patiently pursue career capital through expertise.
This book is timely and has much to say to our culture today. Even though I do not agree with all the nuances Newport presents, I do agree with his premise. The passion principle is a lie. True passion is nurtured and developed.
MY RATING: 7.0 out of 10
The Bible Tells Me So By Peter Enns
I was eager to read this book from the moment it hit the shelves. I knew nothing about the author, but the title intrigued me. Once I dove into the book, I wasn’t disappointed. The Bible Tells Me So is a challenging book that explores some common myths about “the Book.” Peter Enns doesn’t hold back any punches here. He puts it all out there. And in the process of reading, I found my own faith challenged…and strengthened.
Enns argues that the Bible is not a rulebook for us to follow. It is not an instruction manual for us to live by. It is God’s word to us about God. He also points out that the Bible is not the Savior. It is littered with inconsistencies. It is filled with genocides and mass killings (some orchestrated by God). And when we read the Bible as a perfect rulebook intended for our guidance, we miss what God is trying to say through it.
If you decide to read this book, read it cover to cover. Do not put it down half way through. Because The Bible Tells Me So contains many non-traditional views of Scripture, there is are many opportunities to take what Enns is saying out of context. Read the entire book, and reserve judgement until you complete it.
I certainly did not agree with everything Enns claims in this book. But that’s not the point of reading books. If all you ever do is read authors you agree with 100%, your library will be very small. So will your faith. The point of this book is not to agree with Enns on every point. The point is to catch his premise. Because it is true. The Bible is not more important than Jesus. The Bible is not a rulebook. I recommend this book because it will stretch you. And unless you are stretched, you won’t grow.
MY RATING: 8.0 OUT OF 10
Switch On Your Brain By Dr. Caroline Leaf
If you want a book that helps you understand the thought patterns of the brain, just buy any book on the subject of neurology. If you want to understand the relationship between the thought patters of the brain and the Bible, buy this book.
In fact, I am not sure there is a book I would recommend more than this one. The truths presented in Switch On Your Brain are extremely important for a culture prescribed more medicine than any culture in the history of the world. Dr. Caroline Leaf makes the claim that our brain controls our mind, not the other way around. In other words, we have control over our thoughts and actions. In the process, she debunks traditionally views of depression, ADD, and anxiety. She also affirms Scriptural assertion, such as Deuteronomy 30:19 (choosing life over death), Romans 12:2 (we can control the conforming of our brain), Philippians 4:8 (which she says should be our life choice), among many others.
As you might can tell, EVERY CLAIM SHE MAKES ABOUT THE BRAIN AND THE MIND IS BACKED BY SCRIPTURE. At one point, Dr. Leaf says, “I am a scientist, and if I can’t back up a scientific ‘fact’ with Scripture, I question its validity.” Wow!
This book is so important for us because it forces us to stop believing we have no control over our thoughts and actions. It forces us to take responsibility, and this is essential for building a healthy mind.
The book is worth purchasing for the final seven chapters alone. Here Dr. Leaf takes our mind through a 21-day detox. She teaches you to re-wire your brain through a series of steps. This method has had incredible results (just read the introduction where she lists the results of her detox).
As a whole, this book is fascinating and applicable, two very important components of a book for me. This book has the power to transform your life, and it doesn’t leave the transformation to chance. The 21-day detox offers a step-by-step approach to this transformation. Buy the book. Today!
MY RATING: 9.5 OUT OF 10
Mingling Of Souls By Matt and Lauren Chandler
Mingling Of Souls is a fresh look at sex, love, romance, and dating through the lense of Song of Solomon. In this book, Matt Chandler and his wife, Lauren, presents important truths about God’s design for sex, love, and dating. In particular, I believe Mingling of Souls has much to say to our culture about dating. This book was the basis for my post on dating.
Although there are many books on the subject of Christian marriage, love, and dating, this book is valuable because it filters these topics through the Old Testament book, Song of Solomon. So, this book gives principles for sex and love rooted in the truth of God’s word, not simply rooted in opinion or experience.
Laced through all of Chandler’s words are the reality that God created sex, love, romance, and passion. Even though the church rarely discusses these issues beyond an occasional high school class or “birds and bees” talk, the reality is God created sex. Satan hijacked it. Despite sin’s impact on God’s creation, all of God’s gifts (including sex) are good. They are meant for our joy. And when we begin to see God’s gifts as a means for our increased joy and God’s increased glory, they will fulfill the purposes God intended. Until then, brokenness, frustration, emptiness, and dissatisfaction will continue to characterize God’s gifts.
This book is a call for Christians, in particular, and the world, in general, to reclaim the gifts of sex, marriage, love, and romance. I recommend the book.
MY RATING: 7.5 OUT OF 10
Pulling Back The Shades By Dannah Gresh and Dr. Juli Slattery
Pulling Back The Shades is a response to the cultural phenomenon, Fifty Shades of Grey. Dannah Gresh and Dr. Juli Slattery attempt to “pull back the shades” on the messages Fifty Shades presents. This book is written with a female audience in mind, but most of these truths cross gender lines. I particularly appreciated this book because the authors go to great lengths to highlight the realities of sex and love without being overly condemning. There is always a fine line, and they walk the line pretty well throughout most of the book.
Instead of condemnation, the goal of the authors is to expose the lies and replace those lies with God’s truth. Pulling Back The Shades details the toxic effects of treating God’s plan for sex and love flippantly. God certainly has a plan for these powerful gifts, and this book uses Scripture to provide a framework for God’s design.
Having said that, what I don’t like about this book is attacks only one book as if this particular book is the primary reason sex and love are distorted (I talk more about this HERE). Yes, Fifty Shades is a cultural phenomenon, but the brokenness of sex and love aren’t a result of Fifty Shades. I am afraid the message this book sends is, “Don’t watch Fifty Shades and you are good.”
Overall, this is a good book.
MY RATING: 6.5 OUT OF 10
The Meaning Of Marriage By Tim and Kathy Keller
The Meaning Of Marriage should be required reading for any person desiring to be married, already married, or anywhere in between. In this book, Tim and Kathy Keller build a foundation for marriage, sex, and romance on a Pauline text in Ephesians 5:18-33.
In typical Keller fashion, he debunks cultural perceptions through thought-provoking, sensical (I know those appear to be antonyms) words. Keller argues the point of marriage is not to find a spouse that will make your life better or enhance your career. The goal of marriage is to reflect and live out the gospel. This is the “secret” Paul talks about in Ephesians 5. Keller also highlights the importance of a selfless marriage, the power of the covenant of marriage, the importance of friendship in marriage, the power of sex in marriage, and the end goal of marriage, among many other things.
In Keller’s view, marriage is designed for sanctification. This is the goal. When this life is complete, you stand before God and God can say, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Over the years, you have lifted one another up to me. You rebuked each other. You confronted each other. You hugged and love each other and continually pushed each other towards me. And now look at you. You’re radiant.” Wow, that’s powerful.
Like any Tim Keller book, The Meaning of Marriage is dense in spots, but this is not a reason to avoid the book. The contents are too valuable.