NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE—Many years ago, when I was a young pastor, I heard someone say that if you want to think great thoughts, you must first read great thoughts. I can’t remember who said that, but I have found it to be true. I never fail to think new and great thoughts when I read new or old great books.
The 33rd US President (1945–1953) Harry Truman said, “Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.” I think he was right. If you want to be a better leader and don’t know which books to read, this blog is for you. If you are a reader looking for your next pile of books, this blog is also for you. I read a lot of books in 2019—some were duds, many were good, a few were great.
Here’s my annual list (in random order) of the best 10 books I read in 2019.
(I have been posting a Top 10 Book list at the end of every year since 2007. Here are some of my previous lists: 2018, 2017, 2016.)
1.Lead Like a Shepherd by Larry Osbourne.
As with all of Larry’s books, I laughed and repented my way through this one. If you lead a large church, ministry, or business, please put this book on the top of your reading list. It will help you lead well.
2. Practicing the Preaching Life by Dave Ward.
If you are called to preach and can only choose one book, this is the one. Besides the Bible, the most important book I have ever read on preaching. Too bad it was not available when I started preaching in 1981.
3. Setting the Table by Danny Meyer
My youngest son has read this book over and over. He often quotes Danny Meyer and constantly recommended that I read his book. I finally read it and immediately ordered 50 copies to give to key Every Nation leaders around the world.
4. The Enlightened Capitalists by James O’Toole.
Another business leadership book recommended by my son. Fascinating stories of business leaders like Levi Strauss, Milton Hershey, and James Cash “JC” Penny who were about more than money. They were “business pioneers who tried to do well by doing good” to their employees, suppliers, and communities. Sad that many times the next generation was all about the money and did not share the founder’s generosity or compassion. That’s why the author describes his book as a “cautionary tale.”
5. Jonathan Edwards: A Life by George Marsden
Because of his 1741 sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” Edwards is most known as a one-dimensional “fire and brimstone” preacher. But Edwards was much more than that. In fact, he preferred writing to preaching and was more comfortable in an academic setting than in pastoral ministry. Marsden paints a larger (650 pages) picture of Edwards as a caring but relationally-awkward pastor, a prolific and often combative writer, a loving but work-obsessed husband and father, and a brilliant public theologian and scholar. A long book, but worth the time.
6. The Coddling of the American Mind by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt.
This book sure explains a lot about modern university campus culture! The sub-title is a good summary of this research-rich book: “How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas are setting up a Generation for Failure.” If you have a child in college, if you are a campus missionary, if you are a pastor trying to disciple college students, please get this book TODAY! While the word “American” is in the title, the book is relevant to university and college communities all over the world.
7. Dear Founder by Maynard Webb
Former LiveOps CEO, former eBay COO, current board member of Salesforce, Visa, and Everwise, Webb is a Silicon Valley leadership legend who offers short “letters of advice for anyone who leads, manages, or wants to start a business.” His letters of advice are applicable to all leaders, especially founders of churches and campus ministries.
8. The Art of Loving Well by Wolfi Eckleben
My friend and colleague Wolfi introduces “ten powerful ways to change your relational climate” that can be applied to marriage, parenting, pastoring, friendship, business, and countless other relational contexts.
9. Don’t Throw Away Your Confidence by John Rohrer.
Some of us have been waiting a long time for John to put his life message and powerful stories into book form. We have heard him preach it, but now the book is finally available! Well done John (and Amy Reding)!
10. The Message Devotional Bible featuring Notes and Reflections from Eugene Peterson.
My wife has probably purchased and gifted 100 of these Bibles in the past 12 months. Most years I read through the Bible—Genesis through Revelation. I used NIV for decades, more recently ESV. But in 2019, The Message was my morning Bible reading Bible and I thoroughly enjoyed every page! (Note: I used and still use ESV for studying and preaching.)
I hope this list inspires you to read and to read a broad range of authors and topics. May 2020 be a year of Great Faith and Amazing Grace for you and your family.