I’m a reader.
And I’m not nearly the reader I used to be. When I was in my early 20’s and going through one of the biggest times of personal and spiritual development, I found myself coming back time after time towards the same handful of books. I don’t know how many times I read each of them, but as I grow older I realize how each of them played a serious role in who I am in my late 30’s, In many ways, these books are responsible for me. They formed me, forced me to grow and expand, and taught me so much. In many ways, they made me who I am now. They helped me understand my own scripture and prayer life and helped me learn what it looked like to live as a Christian in the world.
5 Books (That Are Responsible For Me)
The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer
There was a time in which I pretty much duct taped my first copy of “Pursuit” to my Bible. It was making the rounds at my college at the first part of an intentional discipleship relationship with a campus pastor and the word got out. Many of the folks I was around back then could trace their own path of following Jesus off this book. I recommend it constantly. I’ve ended up keeping around 5 copies around my office to give to people. In fact, I’ll give any of my copies away with the exception of that first copy. It’s downright sacred.
Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster
This is the first of Richard Foster books on my list. We used it in college ministry and I had a fantastic co-leader that outlined the entire book for everyone. I thought the outline was so awesome I went out and bought a copy of the whole book. Celebration taught me about a HUGE amount of Christian Practices outside of my own personal experience.
Streams of Living Water by Richard Foster
After I read Celebration of Discipline, I started hunting down every Richard Foster book I could find. It was a little tough in the pre-Amazon era, but my part-time job at bookstore helped. If I have to think about one of the biggest pivotal shifts in my life, it was discovering and interacting with the larger, historic Christian faith. And I read about it for the first time in Streams of Living Water.
The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence
Richard Foster started me down a trail of reading and working through other Christian traditions. The Practice of the Presence of God is a 17th-century Catholic monk. I read and reread it for an entire summer. It helped me learn to not be so forceful in my own devotion and how rest factors into our own life with God.
Resident Aliens by Stanley Hauerwas
Resident Aliens was a pretty big personal shift for me. It made me fall back in love with the church and dream of the possibilities it as. Before this point, my spiritual development had primarily been personal, and in some ways had decently given up on any sort of gathered expression of faith.
All of these books have been important for me. If you are wanting to dive deeper into your own relationship with Jesus, or just learn new things, you won’t go wrong with any of them.
I am better when I am reading.
I lead better.
I preach better.
I pastor better.
I live better.
I am better.
So I’ve realized I want to commit to starting reading at the levels I used to in the past. My own odd obsessions with note-taking and journaling helped me realize my own previous benefits of reading. So in an effort to share this commitment with others, I want to start sharing with you what I’ve been reading each week. This list will mainly be books, but specific journal articles and/or long form blog posts.
So this is what I’ve read this week.
HBR’s 10 Must Reads on Teams
This book has been in my hands for the last two weeks. I’ve taken it everywhere with me. Not because it is that big, but I want to process really well what it has. Over the last year I have grown fascinated with what it means to have a great ministry team built. I’ve done OK with part of this and I also have areas I really want (and need) to grow in. This has been a great learning piece as I try to learn from past high-performing teams that I’ve worked on and led.
Soul Keeping: Caring For The Most Important Part of You by John Ortberg
My Dad gave me this book last year and I’ve just now looked at it. I read it in 3 days. It is a fanastic look into the relationship between John Ortberg and Dallas Willard. Jon uses his life with Dallas to outline the reasons our soul acts the way it does. For anyone who has wanted to start slowing down and living more, it is absolutely fantastic.
The Ben Lilly Legend by J. Frank Dobie
Ben Lilly was a legendary bear and panther hunter in North Louisiana in the early 20th century. He spent the last part of his life out west pursuing the same animals. This guy is a legend around where I live and once I heard his story, I couldn’t pass up the chance to read it.
What have you read this week?
Every year I try to read more and read better. A few years back, Jon Acuff started the #EmptyShelf project, with folks sharing their reading each year by adding books to a…(wait for it)…empty shelf. So here are the books I’ve read in 2017 so far, and a quick review. Hopefully find some great books to read.
Imagine Heaven by John Burke
I first heard about this book from a series Carey Nieuwhof preached at Connexus Church. I recommended the series to a friend who had some questions about death and ended up listening to all 6 sermons in one day! I picked up the book the next day and read it in 2 days. John wrote a fantastic book about near death experiences and what we can correlate them to in scripture. This is a fascinating and fantastic read. Some folks might be a little highbrow over the entire concept, but I highly recommend the book AND preached series. You can find John Burke’s resources to preach the series here.
Cal Newport wrote a fantastic piece for anyone who practices thought work and needs to find the time to work better. This whole idea started off with a few conversations with my friend Isaac and went deeper on an episode of Productive Pastor. It took a longer time for me to read, but I kept find myself soaking and wanting to go deeper and deeper.
What Is The Bible
A few years ago, Rob Bell was castigated, called a heretic, and left his church. This is his first book since the controversial Love Wins, and it is fantastic. I picked it up on a whim, I heard about the book listening to an episode of Robcast. I was curious as to what it would be like and what Rob’s ministry looks like right now. I was only a few chapters in when I realized how good this book was. It is 97% not-controversial. If you love his style of exegesis and story-telling, pick it up.
Resources for better reading
Do you want to read better? Here are some resources on reading and keeping up with your reading.
Why You Need To Build A Trello Reading List – Blog Post
How To Read For Maximum Effectiveness – Productive Pastor 26
Previous Years Reading Lists
2015 reading plan
2015 reading (#fail)
My 5 Favorite Reads of 2016
I like to read. I like to read casually, I like to read intentionally. I have lists of books I want to read…and I will also stumble across something and put everything else absolutely down.
So I wanted to make a list of my favorite reads of 2016. Each book is wildly different and somewhat totally unrelated. If you are looking for more books to read in 2017, I don’t think any of these will disappoint.
My 5 Favorite Reads of 2016
– Tools of Titans | Tim Ferriss
I’ve read this 700+ page book in the last week. It didn’t come out until December, but I went through it super quick. Besides the few chapters of the research into psychedelics , I didn’t find a single bit of content unrelated to me life. Ferries is a noted (let’s just say THE noted) lifehacker. He compiled this book from his guests off the award winning podcast he hosts and produces. Every 4-5 page chapter is sharing the best window from countless practitioners around the world.
– Center Church | Tim Keller
I read this book slowly in the beginning of the year. I need to read it again. Actually, I will probably always be flipping through this book. I was excited to see they have sectioned portions of it out into easier to carry copies since Center Church looks and thumps like an Algebra textbook.
Keller’s thesis is that God has a distinct theological vision for each city, and the role of the Church is finding her place, conversations, neighborhoods and other points of intersection with this message. It is a clarion call to gospel uniqueness.
– American Buffalo | Steven Rinella
Rinella is an outdoorsman, hunter, chef, writer and television personality. I’m a big fan of his show Meateater. If I pointed anyone who isn’t a fan of meat/hunting to someone to help them understand…it would be Steven Rinella.
American Buffalo is both the story of a once in a lifetime hunt and the story of the animal known as the Buffalo. Going back and forth, we see into the depths of the hunters quest but also how we almost lost this gracious animal. Anyone should read this.
– Socio-Rhetorical Commentary Series | Eerdmans press (primarily Ben Witherington III)
A few years back I stumbled into a volume of this scripture commentary. It was handy and I thought I might need to add it to my normal list when I am hunting for new biblical study resources. Over the last year I have been buying up the whole set. I studied under several of the authors, but that didn’t really affect my interest.
For anyone who wants to understand the world, customs, behaviors and sociological contructs behind the New Testament, any of these volumes would be handy. I actually do find myself reading them cover to cover.
– The Life of A.W.Tozer in Pursuit of God | James L Snyder
I love a good biography. And I love A.W. Tozer. I recommend Pursuit of God constantly to folks. I’ve always been on the lookout for a decent biography of Tozer and I have found it. I don’t think I have ever read a book faster than this one. It was a great look into the life of someone who has influenced so many people.
I’m excited about 2017 reading and how I am going to learn. I haven’t done the #emptyshelf project in a few years and I am going to focus more on it this year. If you are looking at a way to be strategic about your reading, check out my post on using Trello for reading lists.