Hey friends! Thank you all for your encouragement and book recommendations as I’ve undertaken the largest reading goal of my life. If you recommended the book to me, thank you! Where I could, I put the name of the recommender in parenthesis behind the summary.
Here are a couple of my reflections on the experience:
Time: you can still find time to read.
Don’t clean your plate: if a book sucks, leave it. The more you read, the better you get at identifying quickly whether the author has anything valuable to say.
Balanced diet: I read from a more diverse set of authors and genres this year, and it was a good decision.
“You might also like”: This year, I read a lot of books by the same author (C.S. Lewis, Jim Collins, Malcom Gladwell, Anthony Iannarino, others). Following an author’s thoughts across multiple titles expands your understanding significantly.
Take the shortcuts: Audible, Blinkist, skipping ahead when the author is beating a dead horse (I’m looking at you, Simon Sinek), all of these are good skills and they keep you on track to learn and enjoy. After all, education and pleasure are two good reasons to read.
So, thanks again for the encouragement to read, and I hope some of these titles inspire your future reading lists as you have inspired mine. For sake of time, I’ll just include my top 25 titles with summaries, but let me know if you would like to see the full list.
Emotionally Healthy Spirituality - Pete Scazzero. Key prayer: “Lord Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner. Highly recommended from two believers, a brutal reminder of my need for Christ to transform me. I will be reading this book often. I seldom grant the bill of rights (180) and am often guilty of feeble attempts at “mind reading” (182). (Daniel and Hayley Novak)
Disciplines of a Godly Man - R. Kent Hughes. “Godly sweat” characterizes the life of the godly man. Author is careful to emphasize, “we love Christ (Who loves us first), therefore we want to please Him with our lives.” Ordering our lives accordingly involves intentional, conscious choice in relationship to Him, to one’s spouse, children, friends, colleagues, and more. “Discipline equals freedom” is most true in Christ. (Recommended by Brendan Regan, the most disciplined man I know.)
The road back to you - Ian Cron: Enneagrams and corollary relationships explained. Truly the best secular insight on human interaction since the Kolbe A index. How to live and work with other humans without someone going postal. (Lydia Weddle).
The ruthless elimination of hurry - John Mark Comer: Got to this after being discharged from the hospital. Irony. Then we all got shut down for the virus and we were forced to eliminate hurry. I’ll read this again next year. Maybe every year. (Hayley Novak).
The Gospel comes with a house key - Rosaria Butterfield: How one woman found her Savior through the hospitality of a pastor and his wife who (the world would say) should be the last place she should find grace. (Lydia Weddle).
The 7 Habits of highly effective people - Stephen Covey: Knowing the roles we occupy and choosing weekly how to best serve in them has a funny way of focusing our attention on Quadrant 2 activities. (Ryan Mann, and probably 13 other people in my life. I finally got to it, y’all!)
Missions: how the local church goes global - David Cochran Heath: Support generously. If you don’t trust your “M” workers to be wise stewards of excess resources, you need to find other workers. Why ST trips should focus on supporting LT work, and how to make those trips not suck the life out of your LT workers. (Josh Adrian)
The coddling of the American mind - Lukianoff and Haidt: Fighting the Three Great Untruths: 1. What doesn’t kill you makes you weaker, 2. Always trust your feelings, 3. Life is a battle between good people and evil people) with 3 Pieces of Wisdom - 1. Prepare the child for the road since you can’t prepare the road for the child, 2. Your worst enemy cannot harm you as much as your own thoughts, unguarded, and 3. The line between good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. This was eerily predictive of the 2020 COVID-induced pandemic of fear. (Lydia)
Praying the Bible - Donald Whitney: Natural conversation with the Almighty can be exactly that, if we listen to His Words (especially the Psalms) and then share with Him why His Words bring to our minds. In addition to helping us converse more naturally, mediate and even incidentally memorize portions of Scripture, this approach to our most important conversation helps keep us from saying “the same old things about the same old things.” (Adam Hines)
Jesus among other gods - Ravi Zacharias: Postmodernism = you can believe anything provided you don’t claim it to be true. Jesus is the only religious leader to claim pure holiness: Mohammed repented of his “faults” (the same word the Quran uses elsewhere for “sins”), Buddha did also, Krishna as well. Other religions purport to “show the way”, to open the path to life, to give the follower life, but Jesus claimed to be the Way, the Truth and the Life. Acceptance of all gods as such is logically untenable, as the truth of one mutually excludes the reliability of all others.
Just mercy - Bryan Stevenson: A tragically true story that shows glaring failures of justice towards our brothers and sisters of color. The term “Blacklist” came from the 4th of four lists for jury selection: strong, medium, weak, and black. Also, an examination of embarrassingly late reforms to a broken system. Prison guards who rape prisoners are often fired but seldom criminally charged. As of 2014, Pennsylvania has nearly 500 people condemned to die in prison for crimes committed between 13-17. (Lydia).
How the mighty fall - Jim Collins: 1. Hubris, 2. Undisciplined pursuit of more, 3. Denial of risk and peril, 4. Grasping for salvation, 5. Capitulation to irrelevance or death. Not all go through each stage (though most do) nor do they all spend equal time in each stage.
Gay girl, Good God: Poetry, biography, theology, truth, love, acceptance, and a gentle reminder that a loving God doesn’t define His children “by their past sins or their present temptations.” (Lydia)
Fake - Robert Kiyosaki: Using God’s money (gold and silver) to hedge against political manipulation of government (fiat) money; also treating debt as a loaded gun - great when you know how to use it and fatal when you don’t. Fascinating read from a guy who Dave Ramsey really respects and also disagrees with often. (Daniel Novak).
The Tyranny of Experts - William Easterly: The increasing havoc central planners can create the more they drift from trusting individuals to act in their best interests. Written well before COVID hysteria yet stunningly relevant to counteract modern paternalism in government.
The Psychology of Money - Morgan Housel: People from wildly different backgrounds have success (and failure) with money in abundance. No one is doomed or guaranteed. Overestimating the weight of bad decisions blinds us to the “long tail” of the good decisions. Margin of safety = enough space to render all forecasts irrelevant. (Tony Classen)
I once was lost - Don Everts and Doug Schaupp: five stages of coming to know Jesus, and why knowing where one is at is important in helping them to their next destination. (Heath Alexander)
Meditations of Marcus Aurelius: Thoughts on friendship, discipline, prudence, honor, battle, manhood, and government from one of the ancient warriors of Rome.
The Screwtape Letters - C.S. Lewis: An experienced demon mentors a younger charge in the finer arts of seducing and destroying a mortal man, even beyond the man’s profession of faith in Christ.
Who not how - Dan Sullivan and Benjamin Hardy: “How” questions are almost always better when phrased as “who” questions. Delegation is almost always the wrong way to think about reducing someone’s workload because that assumes moving tasks from higher to lower skill levels and then having to micromanage them anyway, whereas “who not how” involves recruiting those of higher skill level for my areas of mediocrity so that I can focus on my unique ability. Game-changing book, great zoom conversation with the author.
Together - Vivek Murthy: America’s former chief medical officer reflects on the epidemic of loneliness in our country, written before (and not about) COVID lockdowns, but surprisingly prophetic about our handling of the elderly in 2020.
The road to serfdom - F. A. Hayek: Facism and socialism are only slightly different flavors of totalitarianism, neither of which are good, and both of which rely on perceived “enemies” to rally uneducated masses to hate.
American Crisis - Andrew Cuomo: A governor covers for policy failures by blaming others. I did learn a few things from this, but even after hearing his side of the story, I wouldn’t wish the effects of his leadership on friend or enemy.
Capitalism and freedom - Milton Friedman: Economic and political freedom are interdependent. K-12 educated citizens are clearly good for all of us. Someone holding a degree in particle physics is less clearly a public good. Vouchers will transform K-12. Negative income tax vs. social programs.
The Bible: 40 writers over 1500 years in 3 different languages on three different continents all say one thing: “He made Him who knew no sin to become sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”