I love reading books. Some people like to fish, others hunt. Some like to run, some like Crossfit. All good hobbies, except for maybe running. My hobbies? Reading and writing. I probably have a sinful addiction to books. Just look around in my office at work, our home office, my desk or on my Kindle.
It’s an addiction, but I guess there are many other things that are a much more harmful addiction than reading. After all, as they say, leaders are readers, and readers are leaders.
Every year around this time, I like to comb through my notes and lists of books read in the past 12 months and recommend some great reads, either for your own personal edification or maybe as a Christmas gift for a loved one.
Since people often ask, one of these days I’ll write a post on how I like to read (i.e. Audible v. Kindle v. Hard copy) and how I take notes or remember what I read each time I finish a book. In the past, I consumed books without remembering what I read or what I learned from a book. The past two years, I have tried to slow down my reading in order to absorb and share more of what I learned along the way.
Here’s one tip that helps me keep track of what I have read and what I want to read. Some will make pages in their bullet journal on both of these lists. I’m not opposed to that system, but I have simply made a list in an Evernote file that includes books I read in any given year, the author, the format (i.e. Kindle, hard copy, Audible), and a few typed out notes/highlights from the book. Below the list I keep track of books I want to read in the future.
This year I tried to read a little bit more out of my comfort zone and experimented with some genres I typically don’t read. 2015 was a GREAT year of reading/listening for me. Without further ado, here are my top 10 Favorite Reads of 2015 (and some Honorable Mentions below)!
10. Undone: A Story of Making Peace With an Unexpected Life, Michele Cushatt, hard copy. I don’t often read memories, but I am thankful I read this one. Cushatt, the co-host of Michael Hyatt’s excellent podcast, This is Your Life, has written an authentic, vulnerable memoire of some of the challenges she has walked through in the past few years. I was moved and challenged by her story of courage.
9. Replenish: Lead from a Healthy Soul, Lance Witt, hard copy. I read one of these short chapters each day in my quiet time along with my Bible reading. The book helps leaders focus on the back stage, the interior life, in order to remain spiritually healthy. Witt addresses topics like humility, busyness, and solitude. Most of the topics were along the lines of things we don’t like to talk about, but need to so we don’t burn out or give in to sin.
8. Smart Money, Smart Kids: Raising the Next Generation to Win with Money, Dave Ramsey and his daughter Rachel Cruze, Audible. This was a timely read for me. I have struggled with how to best help my kids think about money. The book has chapters on topics such as Giving, Spending, Saving and Budgeting. I need to still process how to best apply in our home, but I am thankful for the guidance this book provides and the challenge to raise my kids to think rightly about money.
7. The Dude’s Guide to Marriage: Ten Skills Every Husband Must Develop to Love His Wife Well, Darrin Patrick, hard copy. I recently wrote a review on this book. I read a lot of books about marriage, but what I liked about this book were some of the unique skills Patrick discusses that husbands must develop to be married well (i.e. worship, rest, grow). I recommend this book for any guy or gal getting married, as well as any married man who wants to up his marriage game.
6. Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, Donald S Whitney, hard copy. I read this one for a discipleship group I co-led with one of our elders. This book challenged me in my practice of the spiritual disciplines, exposed me to some disciplines I’ve never studied before (i.e. fasting), and helped raise the value of intimacy with Jesus through the disciplines. If you want a short read just on prayer, read Whitney’s new book, Praying the Bible.
5. The Wright Brothers, David McCullough, Audible. I need to write a post on this one. I enjoyed hearing the story of how the two unknown brothers changed the course of history in 1903. More than just a story of flying, this book is a story of perseverance, discipline and fighting against the odds. Inspiring and challenging!
4. The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, Daniel James Brown, Kindle. I found this one from Mary DeMuth’s Top Books in 2014 list. For some reason, maybe because of the genre and timeline, this book reminded me of Unbroken (without The Bird or Billy Graham!). A little slow at some points along the way, but truely a book that causes you to root for the Boys to WIN! I think they’re making a movie soon, and they recently came out with a Young Reader’s Adaptation.
3. The Pastor’s Kid: Finding Your Own Faith and Identity, Barnabas Piper, Kindle. We all know pastor’s kids (PK’s) who go off the deep end when they grow up, and many of us are well-acquainted with the parenting challenges that come along with being in full-time ministry. As the son of Pastor and Author John Piper, Barnabas has put together an excellent resource speaking to the specific challenges PK’s and their parents face. I enjoyed this post, related to The Pastor’s Kid book, written by my friend, John McGee: Three Lessons Learned From My PK’s).
2. Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate, by Jerry Bridges, hard copy. I recently reviewed this book on my website, and can’t say enough good about it. We read this with my married community group and every one of us was challenged, convicted and encouraged to pursue Jesus and fight back against our respectable (lesser known and more often tolerated) sins.
1. As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of the Princess Bride, Carey Elwes – Audible – This book is written about the movie that came from the book, The Princess Bride. I love the movie and this book tells the story of the casting, making of the movie, some of the scenes (i.e. the greatest sword fight in the history of the world, rodents of unusal size) and some of the cast dynamics. I am sure this is good in written form, but I HIGHLY recommend the audio/Audible version. The best part of the audio book is that the different cast and producers spoke their parts (i.e. Robin Wright, Billy Crystal, Rob Reiner, and of course, Westley himself, Cary Elwes). Reading or listening to the book makes you want to watch the movie over and over. This was a true joy of a book to listen to.
Because it’s too hard to just name 10…
The Hunger Games trilogy, Suzanne Collins, Kindle. I read these books a few years ago, but just re-read them with my twins, culminating in finishing the Mockingjay in time to see movie number four in the theaters. For pure enjoyment, not much better. My favorite one of the three books is the first book, The Hunger Games, but enjoyed all of them.
Fight Back with Joy: Celebrate More. Regret Less. Stare Down Your Greatest Fears, Margaret Feinberg, hard copy. I read this one in preparation for the Writer’s Bootcamp I attended in Denver earlier this year. I was inspired by Feinberg’s effort to fight back against cancer with joy, and found the book helpful as I have several friends battling cancer right now. The reading of this book was timely for me.
Start: Punch Fear in the Face, Escape Average and Do Work That Matters, Jon Acuff, hard copy. I started this one in 2014, but finished in 2015. I enjoy Acuff’s witty, authentic and practical style. This book played a big role in helping me start this blog in 2014. He talks you through the different stages of success, from Learning, Editing, Mastering, Harvesting, and Guiding. You just have to Start!
The Three Big Questions for a Frantic Family: Restoring Sanity to the Most Important Organization in Your Life, Patrick Lencioni, hard copy. I read this along with one of the leadership teams at Watermark. The book helped Kristen and I have some great conversations about how to best lead our family and make decisions about how and where to spend our time as a family.
H3 Leadership: Be Humble, Stay Hungry, Always hustle, Brad Lomenick, hard copy. I really liked this book by Lomenick, where he shares 20 habits all leaders need to become more effective leaders. He authentically shares from his own story and recent transition from Catalyst. There are a lot of leadership books out there, but I am really glad I read this one since Lomenick shares some practical habits on becoming a better leader (my review here).
What he Must Be: …If He Wants to Marry My Daughter, Voddie Baucham, Jr., hard copy. I read this one with our lead pastor, Todd Wagner, and about 25 other guys on staff. Todd recently went through this book with his new son-in-law right before he married Todd’s oldest daughter. Bauchum discusses the characteristics he wants to see if any guy who would marry one of his daughters. Great read for any dad who has a daughter and for any dad who wants to raise a godly son.
And now… to quote writer Mary DeMuth: “So that’s it. My favorite books from 2015. Lest this become all about me, please share YOUR favorite books from last year. I am always up for a good read.”
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