100 Books in a Year

Some were horrible, many were good, and a few stood out.

I read 100 books this year.

Usually, I read about half that, but after we finished a big building project in May (where, at that point, I had only gotten through about 12 books) my mind felt like it had gotten out of ‘construction prison’ and I felt continuously excited to be reading and venturing back out into the realm of ideas.

Not all of the books I read were good, some were well and truly rubbish. That is the nature of reading across discipline, sometimes you get a dud. Still, I soldiered on, giving every book (and author) a chance to impress something upon me. There was truly no method to this century of books; some were given to me, some were on topics I was researching, others I just stumbled on. I have not included books I started but could not finish (for research reasons or because I just couldn’t stomach them), but I’m sure there were a few of those. In all, I read 20 works of fiction and 80 works of non-fiction. 40 of them were Christian books, and 60 were not. Interestingly, if you take out the 20 fiction books, I ended up reading exactly 40 Christian and 40 non-Christian books. That surprised me, as when I think of my own reading work, I tend to think of it as mostly secular, because I am more interested in reading what I don’t know and often find solid Christian books unreadable because they are so redundant and (at least for me) lack originality.

Sometimes people ask me what I am reading. It is a question I don’t love to answer because sometimes the book I am reading isn’t actually any good and I don’t really want to endorse it just because I picked it up and gave it a chance. However, most books have a jewel here and there, something that makes the reading worthwhile, and I really do treasure those moments. Then there are those books that almost from the first page ignite something in my mind and send me into my own thoughts, and finally, to God. These kinds of books are an inspiration, and while I am aware that they might only affect me that way, they are the ones I appreciate most.

So, for those who might have been curious this year what I was reading, here (in retrospect) are the best ones. Some were horrible, many were good, and a few — 6 — stood out. Here they are (in no particular order):

Incarnate, Michael Frost

Incarnational ministry doesn’t feel like a fresh construct to me. we have been teaching and building on it for 20 years. Still, Frost has a way of talking about it which feels very new and particularly poignant for this moment in history. And so I appreciated it more than I expected.

Selling Water By The River, Shane Hipps

I’m not sure why, but I found this book enchanting. It was so genuine. It had a simple yet profound thing going. I was really touched by it and I was brought back to Jesus through reading it.

Daring Greatly, Brene Brown

This book lost a little steam in the application of some of her ideas, but the premise and the notion that vulnerability is actually the key to strength is very insightful, deeply christological, and I think completely ahead of its time.

The Black Swan Effect, Felicity Dale

Collaborative efforts like this sometimes lack coherence and are either redundant or self-defeating. This one is neither. I am always on the look out for a biblical treatment of the subject of women in ministry, and this is one of the best I have read. It feels like the book I would write on the subject. I did a lot of head nodding when I read it, and the final chapter by Mike Frost (and his prophetic call for men who say they believe in women in leadership to take on women as their mentors), is worth the price of the book alone.

We Are All Weird, Seth Godin

Again, I am not sure why, maybe it was the timing, but reading this book really moved me. I moved in and out of reading and praying as I felt the book was almost prophetic for me in the ongoing conversation I am having with God about the nature of power and servanthood. From the odd angle of marketing (in our time) I felt affirmed in our organizational commitment to let people choose, continue giving away our services for free, and not add control mechanisms to my own ministry structure.

Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me), Carol Tavris

Seriously, this is a book every leader should read. It is a romp through statistical research in sociology and psychology all marshalled for the ultimate aim of what I think of as biblical humility. Maybe not the authors intent, but a breathtakingly important subject: admitting our mistakes.

For interested parties, here’s the full list, in the order I read them:

Steelheart, Breaking the Rules, Divergent, Power of Habit, Elantris, Flesh, Bivo, Jesus Feminist, Incarnate, Son of Laughter, the Price of Privilege, the Alphabet of Grace, City of Light, Only the Paranoid Survive, the Rise, Selling Water by the River, Genesis Interpretation, a More Beautiful Question, Flickering Pixels, Good Is Not Enough, Now I Know, Home Is Where God Calls Us, Aliens in a Promised Land, Popular Survey of the New Testament, the Idolatry of God, the Weight of Glory, Back to Jerusalem, Fast Forward to Mission, the Pastors Kid, Slow Church, Why I Am an Atheist Who Believes in God, the 46 Rules of Genius, the Blue Parakeet, Daring Greatly, Xtianity Darwin and the Big Bang, Coaching Your Champions, Execution Is the Strategy, the Black Swan Effect, Zag, Redirect, the Metamorphosis, Decisive, Startup Communities, Freedom Tools, the Upside of down, Why Authors Fail, Scaling up Excellence, We Are All Weird, Age of Context, the Death of Ivan Illyich, Growth Engines, Kingdom Manifesto, Mistakes Were Made, Red Rising, How Children Succeed, Insurrection, the Crucified Life, Traction, the Gifts of Imperfection, the Pastor as Minor Poet, Curmudgeons Guide to Getting Ahead, Holy Subversion, Birthright, Prayer Altars, Solving the Procrastination Problem, Lines of Departure, Leading from the Inside out, Nikola Tesla Biography, Night, All Things for Good, the Stranger, Edger Allen Poe the Fever Beyond Living, Warning, What It Is like to Go to War, Confessions of a D List Super Villain, Quiet, Auto Pilot, Hamlet Prince of Denmark, Theft of Swords Book 1, Legendarium Book 2, Finding Your Element, How to Argue like Jesus, Pub Theology, Jesus the Human Face of God, College Unbound, Leadership Transformed, Words of Radiance, the Power of Why, Sanctum, the Good Job Strategy, Awed to Heaven Rooted in Earth, Timebound, Unbearable Lightness, Pines, Fusion Children’s Ministry, Learning to Walk in the Dark, Wayward, the Last Town, Called.