If there is anything that bothers me, it’s that I feel like I never have enough time to read. As I started compiling a list of books I’ve read in the last year, it occurred to me that I may be reading more than I realize I do! Here’s what I’ve been reading in 2018. I’ll begin with my top 10 favorite reads of 2018. Second, I’ll give honorable mention for books I liked enough to re-read in 2018. At the bottom, I’ll put the other books I read this year. Really, there weren’t any here I didn’t find worthwhile.
My 10 Favorite Reads Of 2018
These are in no particular order.
The Path Between Us. Suzanne Stabile is my favorite writer about the Enneagram. This book is so useful because it provides not only a good overview of the types, but also a map of how the types interact with each other. Absolutely worth reading if you’re interested in the Enneagram and what it means for how you relate to your family and coworkers.
Poured Out: The Spirit of God Empowering The Mission Of God. Leonard Allen has really outdone himself here. The amazing achievement of this book is that it manages to offer a corrective without over-correcting. Looking at Scripture, history, and practice, Allen provides a convincing case of the strong connection between the mission of God and the Spirit of God. At a time where we need to begin thinking like missionaries in our own context, we desperately need the help which the Spirit provides. In churches of Christ especially, we’ve had a rocky relationship with how to understand the function of the Holy Spirit. This is a needed resource that I’d highly recommend.
The Prodigal Prophet: Jonah and the Mystery of God’s Mercy. I had been getting ready to preach a series on Jonah. The week before it was to begin, I was thrilled to see Timothy Keller had a new book coming out on Jonah. He didn’t disappoint. This book represents two different times in his ministry that he preached through Jonah. It’s hard to explain the flow of the chapters because it’s kind of like a two-in-one book. What you’ll find here is thoughtful research about Jonah with incredible engagement with modern culture. Keller adopted one section about Christians and the Two-Party System into an opinion piece for the New York Times. If you like this taste, you’ll love the rest. Absolutely worth reading, especially if you plan to preach or teach from Jonah.
The Stench of Honolulu: A Tropical Adventure. I’ve been a huge fan of Jack Handey since the old days when he wrote Deep Thoughts for Saturday Night Live. Those have been adapted into multiple books, of which I own at least three. It was hard for me to conceive of how Handey’s dry approach could be worked into a longer story, but he totally pulled it off. I laughed out loud numerous times.
Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones. James Clear has put together an incredible resource in this book. It is extremely clear and simple to understand, yet a good deal more challenging to put into practice. Clear invites the reader to worry less about goals and pay more attention to systems that actually get us where we want to go. We make more progress by trying to be a kind of person. This is one of the few books I’ve ever read that is “self-help” in nature that really motivated me to do something. Just an excellent, clear, concise plan for implementing positive change in your life.
12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos. Jordan Peterson is my favorite public intellectual. This book is an incredible blend of history, science, psychology, religion, and a lot of other stuff. The material here is really changing people’s lives. If you work your way through his points, it is hard to imagine you won’t find at least a few parts of it you’ll find yourself repeating to other people. Peterson is like a firm but caring avuncular figure who wants to see you reach your potential in this chaotic world. It’s a long, but worthwhile read.
The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country’s Foremost Relationship Expert. John Gottman revolutionized the study of marriage several years ago. At his Institute, they learned to predict whether marriages would succeed or fail with an alarmingly high accuracy. This book warns about “four horsemen” that all relationships should avoid, and provides seven solid foundations on which healthy relationships are built. This is a great book for any relationship, especially for one that is in its early years. I’ve utilized the principles here in my marital and premarital counseling.
Loves God Likes Girls: A Memoir. I am not alone in needing help to understand the best ways to minister to people who experience same-sex attraction. Sally Gary has given the church a gift in the form of her memoir. I decided to check out the first chapter one night before I went to bed. A few hours later at 3:30am, I finished reading the book. I could not put it down. It manages to be both gut-wrenching and deeply hopeful. It is her true story as a Christian who is trying to be faithful to God and also honest about her experiences. This book will broaden your perspectives regarding same-sex attraction, that such persons are not monolithic in their views and understandings. Gary is a life-long member of churches of Christ, and she’s doing wonderful ministry through Center Peace to people with same-sex attraction and their families. She has made me a wiser minister in this area, though I still have a lot to learn and understand.
Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way To Influence And Persuade. Robert Cialdini is widely recognized as an expert on persuasion. This book is a fascinating look at how a person can be persuasive, even before they begin a persuasive interaction! There are numerous factors that influence us to lean or be inclined in certain ways. As a communicator and persuader, this was a really fascinating book for me. While I don’t recommend being manipulative, we are wise to use all available means to communicate effectively. The flip side is that when you know what techniques are out there, you are less susceptible to them. A skilled rhetorician is almost as good as a Jedi, in terms of mind tricks. It’s better not to be weak-minded!
Win Bigly: Persuasion in a World Where Facts Don’t Matter. Scott Adams has put together a truly unique book. Long before the 2016 election, Adams was one of very few people predicting that Trump would be the next president. It wasn’t politically motivated, either, because Adams is a committed liberal. Originally the creator of the Dilbert comic strips, Adams is also a student of persuasion. This book walks through Trump’s presidential run and all the back and forth in the process as a way to teach about how persuasion works, and by extension, about how life often works. It is interesting, humorous, and eye-opening. This book totally changed my perspective about a lot of things. It will go down, I think, as one of my all-time favorite books.
Books I Re-Read in 2018
- The Celtic Way of Evangelism: How Christianity Can Reach The West…Again by George G. Hunter, III
- Playing God: Redeeming the Gift of Power by Andy Crouch
- The Grain of Wheat: Aphorisms by Hans Urs von Balthasar
- The Art of Pastoring: Contemplative Reflections by William C. Martin
- Mystical Theology: The Integrity of Spirituality and Theology by Mark A. McIntosh
- Rekindled: Warmed by the Fires of Hope by Virgil Fry
All Other Books I Read in 2018
In no particular order.
- Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts: Seven Questions to Ask Before–and After–You Marry by Les and Leslie Parrott
- Jonah: A Discourse Analysis of the Hebrew Bible by Kevin Youngblood
- 10 Principles for Doing Effective Couples Therapy by Julie Gottman
- The Road Back To You: An Enneagram Journey To Self-Discovery by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile
- The Church In Transition: Three Talks on Bowen Family Systems Theory and Dealing with Change in the Church by Ronald Richardson
- The Visual Enneagram: A Quick Tour of the Nine Types by Cheallaigh and Kingman
- Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality by Wesley Hill
- The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective by Richard Rohr and Andreas Ebert
- Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I’ve Loved by Kate Bowler
- TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking by Chris Anderson
- The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas are Setting Up a Generation for Failure by Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff
- The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth: Live Them and Reach Your Potential by John Maxwell
- Brainfluence: 100 Ways to Persuade and Convince Customers with Neuromarketing by Roger Dooley
- Hurting with God: Learning to Lament with the Psalms by Glenn Pemberton
- The Dark Night of the Soul: A Psychiatrist Explores the Connection Between Darkness and Spiritual Growth by Gerald G. May
- The Promise of Despair: The Way of the Cross as the Way of the Church by Andrew Root
- Proverbs and the Formation of Character by Dave Bland
- The Modern Enneagram: Discover Who You Are and Who You Can Be by Kacie Berghoef and Melanie Bell
- The Enneagram: Understanding Yourself and Others in Your Life by Helen Palmer
- Spiral Dynamics in Action: Humanity’s Master Code by Beck, Larsen, Solonin, Viljoen, and Johns
- Escape the Game: How to Make Puzzle and Escape Rooms by Adam Clare
- What Every BODY is Saying: An Ex-FBI Agent’s Guide to Speed-Reading People by Joe Navarro and Marvin Karlins
- The Way of a Pilgrim and The Pilgrim Continues His Way by Anonymous
- Always We Begin Again: The Benedictine Way of Living by John McQuiston II
- Reviving Old Scratch: Demons and the Devil for Doubters and the Disenchanted by Richard Beck
- The Death of Ivan Ilych by Tolstoy
- What About Kids Ministry? Practical Answers to Questions about Kids Ministry by Bill Emeott
- The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell
- The Leadership Challenge: How to Make Extraordinary Things Happen in Organizations by James Kouzes and Barry Posner
- Radical Spirit: 12 Ways to Live a Free and Authentic Life by Joan Chittister
What have you been reading this year?
What would you suggest I add to my list for next year?
Three books I’ve been reading this year:
Fred Sanders, The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything (2017)
Sam Chan, Evangelism in a Skeptical World: How Make the Unbelievable News about Jesus Believable (2018)
Colin Marshall & Colin Payne, The Trellis and the Vine: The Ministry Mind-Shift that Changes Everything (2009)
Thanks, Leonard! I will add them to my list. 🙂
Hi Mark. I loved reading your book list. Wow, you read a ton of books. I have been interested in the enneagram as well. I have listed to podcasts like Typology by Ian Morgan Cron who wrote the Road Back to You that you read. A book that I want to read is Gay Girl, Good God. https://www.amazon.com/Gay-Girl-Good-God-Always/dp/1462751229 I have listened to Jackie Hill Perry on podcasts and her story is very inspiring. I am going to add some of your books to my want to read list. I wish I could read as fast as you. Hope you are doing well. Take care.
What a joy to hear from you, Traci! Yes, Cron is a great resource on Enneagram stuff. GG,GG is on my radar, though I haven’t picked it up yet. There is an increasing amount of good literature available to help in this area.
I keep up with Nick on Instagram. Hope you all are doing great!
Mark, I don’t know if you’ve had the chance, but I recently watched the interview that Dr. Oz (not my favorite, by any stretch) had with Jordan Peterson. It’s a great interview, rather long and I had to watch it in two sittings because I don’t have a really long attention span, but I still think it was well worth the investment of time. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AscPHmLWo-M
I’m really enjoying these blog posts. I wish we could get to the worship service MUCH more OFTEN, but this is very helpful to me, having these sources of inspiration and worship.
Thank you so much for providing them!
Kathy, YES, this is one of my favorite interviews with Peterson. I watched it over a couple of weeks while I ate lunch. 🙂 Thanks for the feedback. I’m glad you are reading my blog, and look forward to seeing you as often as you’re able to be around. Appreciate your comment. 🙂
So, Mark, what do you do in your spare time 🙂 So many fabulous sounding books…so little time. I just want to thank
you for such a helpful list of books ..inspiring and encouraging! Because I like to write, especially letters of encouragement
in the faith, particularly to some I know are non-believers (without hitting them over the head with scripture) I was
really impressed with The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel, a journalist’s personal investigation into the evidence for
Jesus. His research into the crucifixion will forever have an impact for me in taking communion. It took me awhile to read it because I wanted to “digest” it all and even re-read portions of it. Needless to say, I was impressed and found it very
meaningful. Maybe you will also.
Thank you Donna!
Lee Strobel has done lots of terrific work. The Case for Christ is a true classic. I also love his The Case For Faith, as it tries to address most of the hard questions that people raise in opposition to belief. It’s great having those books that really stay with us.
I appreciate your input and hope you have a wonderful new year!