It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…which at my house means, “What books are doing to show up under the Christmas tree?” Perhaps it is an occupational hazard of being a minister, but around this time of year a lot of family and friends decide to give books as the perfect Christmas present. In the spirit of that giving and perhaps to enhance your asking here are fourteen books that I’ve found helpful from a number of different genres. The first seven are below, the next seven will come later this week. In the comments section feel free to add your own suggestions.
The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson
Wilkerson takes us on an amazing journey into the migration of southern Blacks between 1915 and 1975. This is the largest migration in American history. Wilkerson paints an absorbing picture as she brings together history with three specific stories of people who joined this migration. She also brings out the pain and horror of racism in a way that stirs one’s soul and fuels a cry for justice.
Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Action by Simon Sinek
Sinek points out that too many companies and individuals begin with questions of “how” and “what”, when the central question that motivates and inspires is, “Why?” i.e. “Why do we do what we do, what is the heart of what motivates us?” From a church leader perspective this is a hugely important question as we work with people. Why do we worship? Why do we make disciples? Why do we do justice? Too often we do a lot of things, but fail to ground God’s people in why we do them. Sinek helps leaders find the way to start with “why”.
What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets by Michael J. Sandel
What Money Can’t Buy helps many of us caught up in the power of money to shape and mold the world to see the world with different eyes. Sandel has the ability to help us think differently about things like the place of money in education, the right to use our money to get us a better place in the system and more. One of the real benefits of this book is to not only to challenge our assumptions, but to see the assumptions we didn’t even know we have.
The J.H. Bavinck Reader edited by John Bolt, James D. Bratt, and Pau J. Visser
Wisdom comes from those whose shoulders we stand on. J.H. Bavinck is one of those on whose shoulders we stand. Bavinck is especially a person we need to know and read as we work in our culture and as we carry out mission. Reading him feels a bit like he knew what was coming and addressed it years before we saw our present reality. At the same time, reading him gives perspective because he was not caught up in our time.
How God became King by N.T. Wright
N.T. Wright, as he often does, carries us into the big picture of the gospels and the work of Jesus. He takes the metaphor of a set of speakers and points out that we have often turned up the volume on one of the speakers and so drowned out the others. In doing so we have robbed the gospel message of its fullness. Wright patiently works through listening to all the speakers so that we have a full-orbed gospel.
Speaking of Jesus by Carl Medearis
Carl is an inventive evangelist. He has worked in bringing the gospel to Hamas, to Muslims, and others who have little use for or desire to listen to the gospel. His method is both simple and profound: he speaks only the words of Jesus—particularly his parables. In his book Carl tells why he has gone in this direction and how we can learn to “speak of Jesus”.
In the Plex by Steven Levy
Have you ever wondered how Google got started, the kind of people who move it forward, and some of the craziness that goes on? In the Plex tells the story of Google. It is a great read, especially for technophobes. For church leaders the book is helpful in discerning the picture of the culture that shapes much of what we do online and so shapes much of people do.