Each January, I list the top 12 books I read over the last year. I usually read books in target areas in which I hope to grow — and this year was no exception. I read books on leadership, people skills, spiritual renewal, change, and growth. Some of the books aren’t new — but they were fresh for me this year. Enjoy.
Switch by Chip and Dan Heath
I like everything Chip and Dan write. They’re both scholarly and practical. This book is helping me think through how to lead some changes in our organization that are necessary but hard. Through the metaphor of a “rider and an elephant” they walk leaders through how to change even age-old stuff. These guys write a regular article in the Fast Company magazine. I try to never miss reading their articles.
The Anatomy of Peace by The Arbinger Institute
This one surprised me, although it shouldn’t have. The Arbinger Institute wrote the book, Leadership and Self-Deception, which made my top 12 list a few years back. It’s a brilliant and profound parable that helps people resolve conflict both on the inside and outside. It goes beyond how to simply “fix things up” showing us how to make things right, providing excellent gut checks along the way. I highly recommend it.
Linchpin by Seth Godin
This book will make several “recommended book lists” this year. Seth Godin is a favorite of mine. I read his blogs, and love his fresh approach to life, work and leadership. In short, this book is about becoming indispensible to an organization or a team by creating value and investing oneself emotionally in the work. Just like the book, Purple Cow, taught us how to make products that stand out, this book teaches us to be people who stand out. I love it.
Social Intelligence by Daniel Goleman
I accidentally found this book — and loved it. It is a business book, but deals with deeply emotional, spiritual and relationship issues. Daniel Goleman, author of, Emotional Intelligence, wrote this book to go beyond IQ and EQ to the power of relational awareness and savvy. My favorite chapter: Genes are not Destiny. If you’re interested in the relationship/social issues of leadership, you’ll like this one.
Axiom by Bill Hybels
If you’re looking for a book filled with straightforward, down to earth leadership principles — this one fits the bill. Bill Hybels is a proven leader (having led one of the largest churches in the U.S. for over 30 years), who lays out practical tips and perspectives that transcend industries. This was good bedtime reading and airplane reading for me. I have used several of his ideas already. Good stuff.
Chief Culture Officer by Grant McCracken
This book isn’t for everyone. I enjoyed it because as a leader, I’ve recognized the power of culture in organizations. Leaders recognize this. But this book doesn’t stop with how to build a healthy culture. It focuses on including people on the team who keep their finger on the pulse of culture so you don’t miss where it is going and what people hunger for or desire. It provides ideas to spot “waves” in culture. Great read!
Freakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner
This was my second read through this book. I did it because, frankly, it’s fascinating. Levitt and Dubner seem to cover random issues that explain how our society has turned out the way it has. These economists talk about teachers, sumo wrestlers, real estate agents… you name it, and will dazzle you with explanations of how each of these impact each other and influence our lives. Fun read for a vacation.
Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey
This book intrigued me because a friend recommended it, saying it would challenge my faith. It did. Nancy Pearcey attempts to liberate Christian faith from its American cultural captivity. Like Francis Schaeffer, she makes complex issues clear and convinces us that much of what turns people “off” to faith are the cultural trappings and Western worldview that attached themselves to it, rather than Christ Himself.
How College Affects Students by Ernest Pascarella and Patrick Terenzini
This is an unusual volume. You should know it is a reference book that details what works and doesn’t work in American higher education. I got it and am still digging through it. It is loaded with research on academic outcomes, theories of student change, psychosocial changes, attitudes and values, moral development, and so on. It is an incredible volume on how college influences students, both good and bad.
With Unveiled Faces by Keith Drury
I have considered Keith Drury a mentor for twenty-five years. This book is a deeply spiritual one, calling the reader to experience intimacy with God through the practice of spiritual disciplines like fasting, solitude, journaling, prayer, etc. He divides the disciplines into two parts: disciplines of abstinence and action. One thing l like about Keith — he takes mystical issues and makes them very practical. Love it.
Integrity by Henry Cloud
This is a heavy book, but definitely worth reading. Cloud calls readers to authentic lives, which is what integrity is all about. Integrity is about eliminating duplicity. He argues our lives are clearer, purer and have more energy and focus when we live them with integrity. He defines integrity in a fresh way, and provides insights into how to live and lead with it. This is a fantastic read.
Waking the Dead by John Eldridge
I told myself I would read this book last year, and failed to do so. I like John Eldridge. His writing is fresh and challenges my personal faith. This book is about awakening our hearts to see three realities: things are not as they seem, our world is at war and each of us has a crucial role to play. This book was riveting for me, as I needed these words during the season I read them this year. It’s a wake up call to life.