Here’s my annual selection of great books that I recommend for the coming year. I had a 3-month sabbatical in the summer, which means I read almost twice as many books as usual this year, so I’ve got lots to select from. I hope this Top 10 encourages, stretches, challenges and inspires you, as they did me. Enjoy!
1) Brian Houston’s ‘Live, Love, Lead’
It’s always good to read a well-written biography, about a real person who’s made a difference in the world. This is an auto-biography by church leader Brian Houston, founder and leader of the influential Hillsong churches, about the lessons he’s learned in life and leadership. Even if you’re not a church-goer you’ll find this book honest, interesting and motivating.
2) Robert Colville’s ‘The Great Acceleration’
Journalist Robert Colville writes a fascinating book showing that the world is getting faster and urging us to respond. Looking at diverse issues like our average walking speed, media, politics and relationships this thoroughly researched and well written book is a must-read if you want to understand the fast-moving world in which we’re living.
3) Brené Brown’s ‘Rising Strong’
Social scientist and celebrated author Brené Brown has written another brilliant book! She asked herself, what do people with strong and loving relationships, leaders nurturing creativity, artists pushing innovation, and clergy walking with people through pain have in common? The answer was clear: they recognise the power of emotion and are not afraid to lean into discomfort, rising strong after a fall.
4) Boris Johnson’s ‘The Churchill Factor’
I’ve read a number of biographies of Churchill and I really enjoyed this offering from Boris Johnson, who became UK Foreign Secretary earlier this year. It’s good to read and learn from history but sometimes history books and historical novels can be a little dry or dull. This is the opposite. Johnson has an appealing style and Churchill really comes to life. The Evening Standard’s summary is right: ‘readable, engaging and often funny.’
5) Todd Rose’s ‘The End of Average’
This book will stretch your understanding of who you are and what’s important. Daniel Pink’s endorsement summarises this important book really well: ‘Todd Rose has taken the latest findings from a new area of science, the science of the individual, to show that our one-dimensional understanding of achievement – our search for the average score, average grade, average talent – has seriously underestimated human potential. This book is readable, enlightening, and way above average’.
6) Bill Johnson’s ‘God is Good’
I really valued time at Bethel Church, Redding, CA in the summer and so looked forward to reading this latest book from Bill Johnson when it came out recently, and I wasn’t disappointed. This year I’ve completed my reading of the Johnson library and think this is his best book yet. In fact if you’ve never read anything by him before, this would be a good place to start as it summarises most of his books and teaching all in one place.
7) Adam Grant’s ‘Originals’
It was the subtitle that drew me in: ‘How Non-Conformists Change the World’. This book explores the power of new ideas and what it really takes to make them happen. Using surprising examples from the world of business, sport and entertainment, Grant debunks the common belief that successful innovators are born leaders who boldy embrace risk. Instead we’re shown how anyone can embrace a new idea and how parents can nurture originality in children. I loved it so much I then read Grant’s previous book, ‘Give and Take’ which is similarly excellent.
8) Paul Harcourt’s ‘Growing in Circles’
This is a short and very readable book about discipleship by Paul Harcourt, leader of New Wine, the UK-based church movement encouraging local churches changing nations, of which The Belfrey (where I’m Vicar) is part. He wrote this book to particularly help those Christians who feel ‘stuck in discipleship’ – like they’re following Jesus but not growing. It displays simple but profound insights and includes some great stories. I throughly recommend it.
9) Ann Voskamp’s ‘One Thousand Gifts’
Sam (my wife) and I have both read this book this year. It was a joy to read, not only for the content but for the style. It’s all about embracing a lifestyle of gratitude and slowing down to catch God in the moment. But it’s also beautifully written in a style that is a graceful, poetic and stirring. If you want to live a thankful life, this is the book for you.
10) The Bible
Yet again I end with the Bible. This book that I read day after day after day and am never disappointed. I’ve particularly enjoyed dipping into Brian Simmons’ The Passion Bible this year, which is not only well translated but insightful and – as the name suggests – shows the passion that’s behind this Book of books. If you only read one book in the coming year, let it be the Bible. Make a start, perhaps with one of the gospel accounts of Jesus. May you discover, with me, that this word is ‘a lamp to your feet and a light to your path’ (Psalm 119:105).