Each year I post a list of my favorite books, the ones I would call the best books of the year. To see my list of favorite books from past years, simply click on the numbers: 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015. For me, I love this list because it shows what has influenced me in the past year, where I’m growing and what God is teaching me. If you are a leader, you should be a reader. There is no way around that.
While most years I have struggled to put this list together, this year there weren’t as many great books or must read books as previous years. I also read fewer books than previous years as I feel like I moved through books at a slower pace. You’ll also notice some books that are a little different than years past. Most of the time I read lots of leadership books. This year, as Katie and I have been doing the three year Leader’s Journey from Crosspoint with Jim Cofield and Rich Blass (the authors of The Relational Soul: Moving from False Self to Deep Connection), I am reading less leadership books and more books on my soul, relational health, family of origin, and understanding my personality. It has been scary and exhilarating. The conversations Katie and I have had have been incredible, but also painful.
This list reflects that.
So, here is the list of my 10 favorite reads from 2016 and why I liked them:
This book answered a puzzle I had for three years: What makes the best teams work? The answer lies in the power of a pair. Yes, large teams are important, and even threes work together well, but nothing is stronger than the power of a pair. Incredibly helpful for leaders and church planters.
9. Future Grace: The Purifying Power of the Promises of God by John Piper
Yes, I’m reformed, and no, I had never read Future Grace by John Piper until this year. I know.
If you meet someone who has not read this book or has never read a book by Piper, this is the book to read. It is chock full of gospel goodness and reminders. I probably highlighted more than half of the book. I loved how it is broken up so you can read a chapter a day and be done in a month. It was perfect to read each morning and restore truth into my soul in much needed places.
8. You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit by James K.A. Smith
I love the idea of habits and how they work. This book looks at the spiritual side of habits, which is something that is important in the discussion. Smith also looked at how habits get formed in culture, churches, families and passing on your faith. It was incredibly helpful for Katie and me as we think about not only building habits into our lives, but also into the lives of our kids.
7. Wholeheartedness: Busyness, Exhaustion, and Healing the Divided Self by Chuck DeGroat
I read this book on a plane ride, and it was a punch in the gut. I’ve started to realize in the past year that I am not as fully present in relationships as I should be or would like to be. This book was incredibly helpful in understanding that and how to change it.
This was another book that I read like Piper’s, one chapter each morning after reading my Bible. It is a collection of letters from the life of a pastor. There is so much richness in them as he shares advice, pain, prayer requests, loneliness, weariness and joy. This is one of those books that I will re-read on a regular basis. There is so much in this for pastors. I love Miller’s passion for evangelism and missions.
This book surprised me in how much I liked it. We often underestimate the power of people in our lives but also the power we have over other people. Cloud looks at the power people have over us and how we react to that, how we handle that in our lives and how we limit that power when it is unhealthy. Incredibly insightful as it relates to family systems and teams.
4. A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix by Edwin Friedman
This is part leadership book, part organizational health book and part family systems book. When I got done, I told Katie I will probably have to read this book at least five times to fully grasp everything that Friedman has in it. Incredibly eye opening as to why churches are unhealthy, why families split, why people give so much backlash to leaders and why leaders lead so poorly.
3. Surrender to Love: Discovering the Heart of Christian Spirituality by David Benner
This is one of those books that if you would have told me in 2014 I would not only read it but put it on my list of favorite reads in 2016, I would have laughed. Yet I’ve given out more copies of this book than any other book I’ve read. I’ve bought it for several friends.
Here’s the foundation: Everything in the Christian life goes back to God’s love for you. Yet most of us resist that (even as Christians) and miss out on the power of that love and how that love changes everything.
2. The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery by Ian Cron and Suzanne Stabile
I’m a huge believer in understanding yourself. Katie and I had to take the enneagram in the Leader’s Journey, and it answered so many questions in our relationship and how we operate. This book is a great companion to taking the test. Cron is hilarious and the spiritual formation insights are really helpful. Once you understand your personality and those around you, you are able to navigate relationships and teamwork in a healthier way. Knowing what it is like to be on the other side of you is crucial.
1. Strong and Weak: Embracing a Life of Love, Risk and True Flourishing by Andy Crouch
I feel like this book covers what God has been teaching me in the last year. It is has been hard, often painful and uncomfortable. I’m an eight on the enneagram (see book #2) and we don’t do feelings or gray areas, so this book has been helpful. If you are a leader (and you are like me), this is a book you need to read.