We’ve all heard the phrase, “Leaders are Readers.” Of the best leaders I know, I would estimate 95% are avid readers. I would add that “Learners Love Libraries.” Anyone who considers themselves a life-long learner has a book nearby at this very moment. They probably have a dozen books nearby.
At the beginning of each year I try to plan out the books I want to tackle over the following 12 months. To keep my list organized, I group the books into three categories: Leadership, Ministry, and Craft.
In the Leadership category, I schedule books I believe will inform me about my leadership or management skills, challenge my thinking, and help me get a sense of ongoing conversations in society. Sometimes this category will have a book with which I know I’ll disagree .
In the Ministry category, I place books that are theological or philosophical in nature. This category will also include works that are practical in my work as a pastor.
In the Craft category are books related to academic work, writing, preaching, teaching, and communication.
I have a loose fourth category called “Other.” Here you would find novels and other books that don’t seem to fit well in the other three categories. In this article, I won’t be addressing the “Other” category.
In the list below, I’m highlighting the top 10 books from the 3 main categories: Leadership, Ministry and Craft. As the year advances and new books are released, each list will naturally morph. For me, these are living lists, but this is the direction I’m heading as 2016 begins.
My Top 10 Leadership Books for 2016 (in no particular order)
- Mastering Leadership: An Integrated Framework for Breakthrough Performance and Extraordinary Business Results by Bob Anderson
This book promises to offer a comprehensive roadmap for optimal leadership–the end result providing leaders a competitive advantage. Looking forward to see if it delivers.
- What Should We Be Worried About?: Real Scenarios That Keep Scientists Up at Night by John Brockman
This is a fascinating read by several dozen scientists, journalists, academics, and philosophers. They each spend a few pages offering their thoughts about what really ought to concern us. This one is currently on my reading list and I’m finding much with which I disagree.
- The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business by Josh Kaufman
I’m interested in starting a consulting business for PhD and doctoral students. Since I’ve spent most of my life in either education or ministry, my business chops are lacking. I’m hoping this book will help me toward that end.
- Smartcuts: How Hackers, Innovators, and Icons Accelerate Success by Shane Snow
I’m always curious about how the smartest among us process their thoughts. Innovators have consistently demonstrated an ability to think outside the box. I’m interested to see if this book provides insight into their thinking.
- Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam M. Grant
This book relates to “Smartcuts” above. I believe non-conformists have something to teach the rule-followers and I’m interested to hear their lessons.
- 7 Warning Signs Your Church Has Ministry Silos: Triggers and Symptoms of a Divided House by Tony Morgan
The larger an organization becomes, the more difficult it becomes for communication to happen across internal seams. Mega-churches, one of which employees me, are not exempt from this problem. I’ve already completed this book and found Morgan’s thoughts to be substantive and hopeful.
- Leadership: A Norton Anthology by Elizabeth D. Samet
Samet is a professor at West Point, an institution known for developing leaders. She explores the history of leadership, looking at both noble and ignoble leaders, and offers historical insight into best practices.
- Work Rules!: Insights from Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead by Lazlo Bock
Google is currently surpassing Apple in wealth. Gaining inside access to a fascinating company like Google is always valuable and I’m curious to see if there are any lessons that are readily applicable to my work and personal life.
- Inspire! The Art of Persuasive Leadership: How to Influence, Establish Trust, and Gain Respect by Patrick King
Leadership is about inspiring and moving others. This is a skill I’m always looking to improve. This is book from my list I completed in January. While Patrick King is not well known, he has some perspectives I haven’t heard before and found very useful.
- Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader by Irminia Ibarra
This book promises to help leaders break old habits as they implement incremental changes in their day-to-day activities. These strategic moves will position leaders to more effectively govern their areas and broaden their network. We’ll see.
My Top 10 Ministry Books of 2016 (in no particular order)
- Simply Good News: Why the Gospel Is News and What Makes It Good by N.T. Wright
NT Wright is one of my favorite modern-day theologians. I’m interested in what he has to say–it doesn’t matter what he’s talking about.
- Discipling: How to Help Others Follow Jesus by Mark Dever
My job dives deeply into Christian discipleship. It’s important I keep my ear to the ground on methodologies, philosophies, and thinking in this area.
- Why Suffering?: Finding Meaning and Comfort When Life Doesn’t Make Sense by Ravi Zacharias
Ravi Zacharias has served as mentor-at-a-distance for me. I’ve never met him personally, but I’ve listened to his teachings for years. I’m eager to explore his rationale regarding theodicy.
- Transforming Discipleship: Making Disciples a Few at a Time by Greg Ogden
Again, this book is on the list to help me keep my ear close to the ground on the topic of discipleship. This is a recent-classic that I have yet to explore.
- Generational IQ: Christianity Isn’t Dying, Millennials Aren’t the Problem, and the Future Is Bright by Haydn Shaw
I listened to Haydn Shaw in a podcast over my Christmas break. His energy, inspiration and depth moved me deeply. Shaw’s thoughts have transformed my thinking more in the last 6 months than anyone else.
- Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God by Timothy Keller
Tim Keller is one of the top theologians of our day. For me, he’s right up there with NT Wright. This book has been on my back burner for a bit, and it’s time to tackle it.
- If: Trading Your If Only Regrets for God’s What If Possibilities by Mark Batterson
As the author of “The Circle Maker,” Mark Batterson has solidified himself as an authentic writer who delivers the thoughts of heaven in an accessible manner. I enjoyed Circle Maker, so I decided to prioritize another of his books.
- The Poverty of Nations: A Sustainable Solution by Wayne A. Grudem
Wayne Grudem has been an incredibly helpful theologian for me. His writings have been instrumental in the way I process Scripture. In this book he explores a practical theology for poverty. I have an interest when authors I trust attack social justice issues.
- Lasting Impact: 7 Powerful Conversations That Will Help Your Church Grow by Carey Nieuwhof
His podcast is outstanding. His interviews are riveting. He’s in my age group. Though he hails from Canada, his church faces the same obstacles as mine, so I want to stay connected to how he processes practical organizational issues for the Church.
- 21 Seconds to Change Your World: Finding God’s Healing and Abundance Through Prayer by Dr. Mark Rutland
I’ve had the pleasure of teaching this class with Dr. Mark Rutland at Gateway Equip. On the car ride from the airport to the campus, we discussed how he was writing this book and his thoughts around the 21 seconds. In the car I got the preview, so now I need to consume the book.
My Top 10 Craft Books for 2016 (in no particular order)
- 10 Steps to Writing a Vital Speech: The Definitive Guide to Professional Speechwriting by Fletcher Dean
While I don’t really compose speeches, I believe there are connections between what I do as a communicator and the skills of speechwriting. I intend to synthesize the material from this book and find practical ways to implement it into my processes.
- The Wealthy Speaker 2.0 by Jean Atkinson
This is a recommended book at one of the websites I frequent. As I explore expanding my speaking opportunities, I’m aiming this book to help me foster a plan for success.
- Teaching What You Don’t Know by Therese Huston
Teachers teach. In church, many times teachers are invited to teach a subject they haven’t explored in-depth. I’m interested to see what Ms. Huston offers toward the necessary task of addressing topics that aren’t in your wheelhouse.
- Becoming an Academic Writer: 50 Exercises for Paced, Productive, and Powerful Writing by Patricia Goodson
I intend to continue my academic writing, though I’ve completed my PhD. Practicing is as important for the writer as the musician. This book offers exercises to keep my academic writing chops toned.
- How to Write a Lot: A Practical Guide to Productive Academic Writing by J. Paul Silvia
Academics need to write a lot–every day. Those practices aren’t really developed in grad school, because students are just trying to keep their head above water. Silvia’s book has the chance to help me deepen this daily habit.
- Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip Heath
While this is an older book, I’m interested to explore how ideas and thoughts find traction among groups of people. Perhaps Heath can help me compellingly communicate my ideas more clearly
- Learner-Centered Teaching by Maryellen Weimer
I’m a huge believer that teaching should be focused on the needs of the student rather than the teacher. I don’t always excel in execution. This book will encourage me to keep my value front and center.
- Preaching: Communicating Faith in an Age of Skepticism by Timothy Keller
Keller’s book was extremely popular in 2015, but I wasn’t able to get to it. I’ve got “Preaching” on the list for 2016 because it appears to be a foundational piece of literature that should rest on every communicator’s library shelf.
- Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer by Roy Peter Clark
This is another exercise book designed to maintain good writing skills. While another book in this category addressed academic writing, this book explores training on general writing.
- What the Best College Teachers Do by Ken Bain
Now that I have completed my doctorate, I’m interested in adjunct college teaching. I anticipate this book will offer me best practices from some of the nation’s best higher education professors.
Well, that’s it. My top 30 for 2016. Some of them I’ve already completed. I’m certain other books will be added as the year advances. But it’s going to be a great reading year!
What’s your list for 2016? Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments below!