The last few years of my life have been spent reading books like The Doctrine of Drama, Ministerial Ethics, and A Theology for Christian Education. While these books have been helpful in continuing to think through and grow in my ministry, they have left little time for additional reading. Beginning in 2018, I am once again a man free to choose the books I read and create my own personal reading list.
As I began to think about my 2018 reading list, I remembered a challenge I received several years ago to read intentionally. By intentional I do not mean the actual act and art of reading, but rather choosing the books I read intentionally. Reading is like a diet. To have a healthy diet, one needs to eat a variety of foods like fruits, vegetables, proteins, grains, and dairy. If a person eats only the same food over and over again, their body will not get the nutrients its needs and will become weak. Reading is food for the mind. If we feed our mind a variety of foods (genres) then our minds will be strengthened and our capacity for thought greatly expanded. And so, as I began to compile my 2018 reading list, I began to intentionally add books from a variety of topics and genres, in order to give my mind a healthy diet of reading this year.
I share my reading list with you for three reasons. First, I hope to challenge those who are readers to read intentionally this year, expand your reading diet, and experience something new in your reading. Second, I hope to challenge those who are not readers to begin reading. Reading good books has become a passion of mine over the last fifteen years. God has used the reading of both Christian and non-Christian books to grow and mature me in ways I never would have dreamed. So, if you are not a reader, I challenge you to be intentional to begin reading this year. Third, I hope to share some good books. I often ask others what they are reading or what significant books they have read that greatly challenged them. This practice has proved valuable as I have discovered some new excellent books to add to my reading list. Maybe some of the books on my reading list will interest you and you will have a new book to add to your reading list. I do not share this list because I think everyone should read each of these 18 books (in fact, I cannot recommend most of these books as I have not read them myself), but if there is a book or category that interests you then add it to your reading list or ask me about it throughout this year.
My reading list is divided into roughly six categories: (1) discipleship, (2) ministry, (3) leadership, (4) family, (5) history, and (6) fiction. These categories are then divided into further subtopics and books. Enjoy!
A Discipleship/Christian Growth Book. I have had Gospel: Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary by J.D. Greear on my bookshelf for several years. It is one of a dozen or so books with ‘gospel’ in its title on my shelf. I believe the gospel is the all-encompassing topic of Christianity. As a result, to dive into the gospel is to grow in both in both knowledge and works. My hope is this book will take me deeper into the gospel in 2018.
Reread a Discipleship Book. Someone once advised me to reread an old book before reading a new book. While I think this may be a bit extreme, there is wisdom in rereading old books. I read The Radical Cross:Living the Passion of Christ by A.W. Tozer several years ago and it challenged my thinking about taking up my cross and following Jesus. My hope is Tozer will once again challenge me with the cross of Christ.
A Book by a Puritan. The Puritans can be difficult to read, but every time I have challenged myself to read a Puritan work I have greatly benefited. I have had The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions by Arthur Bennett on my shelf for many years. It is a book that I have come across many times in reading other Christian books and biographies. This year I’ll finally tackle this classic Puritan work.
A Christian Biography. I love reading biographies because they challenge me to think differently, act differently, and see the world through someone else’s eyes. Eric Metaxas released his new biography, Martin Luther: The Man Who Rediscovered God and Changed the World, in late 2017. I am excited to read this new biography on Luther for two reasons. First, Eric Metaxas is becoming one of my favorite Christian biography writers. His biography on Dietrich Bonhoeffer is excellent. Second, I am fascinated by Luther and the Reformation. I plan to read this book over the summer, so be prepared to be annoyed by new Luther and Reformation stories.
A Book on Christian History. I am a lifelong Baptist and I love history. However, I have read very little of Baptist history. I’ve read stories and studied periods of Baptist history, but never sought to read the Baptist story from beginning to present. I chose The Baptist Story: From English Sect to Global Movement by Anthony L. Chute, Nathan A. Finn, Michael A. G. Haykin simply because it is relatively short. At this point in my life I’m not interested in reading multi-volume books encompassing thousands of pages on Baptist history. Maybe sometime in the future, but not now.
Student Ministry. Bonhoeffer as Youth Worker: A Theological Vision for Discipleship and Life Together by Andrew Root. This may be an unconventional choice for a book about student ministry. My guess is there will not be ten steps to grow your ministry or examples of really cool activities for teens. However, I find many of those books redundant and unhelpful. On the other hand, Bonhoeffer is one of my heroes of the faith. Many people do not know that Bonhoeffer spent much of his pastoral ministry with teenagers and college students. Root, a former youth minister and now professor of youth ministry, examines the ministry of Bonhoeffer and seeks to draw out practical application for those working with youth today.
Pastoral Ministry. The Pastor and Counseling: The Basics of Shepherding Members in Need by Jeremy Pierre and Deepak Reju. Over the past few years, I have found myself doing more and more counseling. While I have some limited education in counseling, I find myself lacking in counseling skills. This book is a first step of seeking to become a better counselor so that I might better shepherd those in the church.
Education. The Seven Laws of Teaching by John Milton Gregory. At heart, I am an educator. As an educator I want to grow in my craft. This is an older book, but a book recommended by almost every Christian educator I know, even though it is not a distinctly Christian book.
Contemporary Issue. Born This Way?: Homosexuality, Science, and the Scriptures by J. Alan Branch or The Grand Design: Male and Female He Made Them by Owen Strachan and Gavin Peacock. Sexuality is fast becoming a central issue in both our culture and the church. As a result, it is imperative that Christians have a firm, Biblical foundation built on which to dialogue on this sensitive and controversial issue. Both books are authored by men I respect, which is why I find it hard to choose between the two; maybe I will just read both books this year.
A Leadership Book. The Leader’s Bookshelf by James Stavridis and R. Manning Ancell. I recently discovered this book through an interview with the author on a podcast. The book is about the importance of reading for leaders. The authors interviewed four-star generals and admirals to see how reading impacted their leadership and significant books they would recommend to others. The authors then complied a list of 50 books common to the majority of the lists. As a reading nerd, I am really excited to read this book.
Reread a Leadership Book. Several years ago, I read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen R. Covey. I remember this book being very helpful, but as it has been several years since I read the book, I thought it would be helpful to reread this book this year.
A Book on Marriage. This Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence by John Piper. One of my goals moving forward in my reading is to read a book on marriage each year. If marriage is one of our most important relationships, then we need to invest time in improving our marriage. I know very little about this book, but I have a deep appreciation for John Piper and believe this book will prove beneficial to myself and my wife.
Manhood. Disciplines of a Godly Man by R. Kent Hughes. Along the lines of marriage, my key roles in life are husband, father, and leader. Each of these roles depend on my growing as a Godly man. This book has been on my shelf for a few years and I am eager to finally crack it open in 2018.
Biography. The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill: Defender of the Realm, 1940-1965 by William Manchester and Paul Reid. I have been intrigued by Winston Churchill for many years, but have never read a biography about him. This biography has been referenced in many other books I have read and so I have decided to tackle this reading project in 2018.
Story from History. Isaac’s Storm: A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History by Erik Larson. Erik Larson is quickly becoming one of my favorite historical writers. In Issac’s Storm, Larson brings to life the great hurricane of 1900 that completely destroyed the city of Galveston.
Historical Fiction. The Killer Angels: The Classic Novel of the Civil War by Michael Shaara. This is a new category for me because I do not read fiction. However, historical fiction differs from regular fiction in that while the story is not true, the author does extensive research into the historical situation to ensure it is accurate. The novel tells a story of the battle of Gettysburg and in doing so (from what I’ve heard) brings the battle to life.
I have never been a big fiction reader, but I an challenging myself to add some fiction works to my reading list for 2018.
Literary Fiction. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. While I will probably not have enough time to read the entire trilogy this year, I plan to read at least the first volume, The Fellowship of the Ring. While I have read much about J.R.R. Tolkien, I have never read any of his actual writings. That will change in 2018.
Literary Classic. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. The first book I read was my senior year of college. Before this time, I avoided reading like the plague. As a result, I never read most of the books people read in high school and college. Beginning in 2018, I plan to integrate one book from a high school literature class reading list into my reading list each year.
Chances are I will read more than these 18 books, but these books represent my attempt to read intentionally in 2018.
Have a great book recommendation? Leave a comment with the title, author, and one sentence why you think it is a book worth reading.