Books I Read in 2016

This year was a change for me I started graduate school a little over a year ago, and the books I want to read are now waiting for me because of books I have to read are taking precedence. I have learned a couple of things about reading this year.

1.Reading books above what you typically read or are comfortable reading push you to read more efficiently and read more widely. There are books I would never have read this year if it were not for that.

Books I read in 2015

In 2015 I read fewer books than 2014 but I definitely grew as a reader.  I always thought that reading more was how you grew as a reader but it’s not true it’s reading better books. It’s reading books that are beyond you that grow you as a reader.  Mortimer Adler says this about reading books –

“Too often, we use that phrase (well-read) to mean the quantity rather than the quality of reading. A person who has read widely but not well deserves to be pitied rather than praised.”

I have been someone who has read widely but not well. This year I began to change that. I hope to continue to do so in each successive year.

I love what Mortimer Adler says about good books at the end of his book on how to read books. He says:

“A good book does reward you for trying to read it. The best books reward you most of all. The reward, of course, is of two kinds. First, there is the improvement in your reading skill that occurs when you successfully tackle a good, difficult work. Second – and this in the long run is much more important – a good book can teach you about the world and about yourself. You learn more than how to read better; you also learn more about life. You become wiser. Not just more knowledgeable-books that provide nothing but information can produce that result. But wiser, in the sense that you are more deeply aware of the great and enduring truths of human life….These are matters about which you cannot think too much or too well. The greats books can help you to think better about the, because they were written by men and women who thought better than other people about them.”

This was always my problem I was reading books to become more knowledgeable but that knowledge was limited because it addressed only a specific problem. When you read better books. When you read the books that your favorite authors, favorite author, favorite author wrote you see things differently. You no longer have knowledge about a topic you see more deeply, you enter the conversation rather than catch the highlights, because you see the border picture you see the whole argument not simply parts of it.

Here are the books I read in 2015.

1. Platform by Michael Hyatt
2. The Martian – Andy Weir
3. Expositional Preaching – David Helm
4. The Lion The Which and the Wardrobe – C. S. Lewis.
5. A Tale of Three Kings – Gene Edwards
6. Out of the Silent Planet – C.S. Lewis
7. Creativity, Inc. By Ed Catmull
8. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone – by J. K. Rowling
9. The Tale of Despereaux by Katie DiCamillo
10. Show Them Jesus by Jack Klumpenhower
11. Culture Making by Andy Crouch
12. John Newton: From disgrace to amazing grace by Jonathan Aitkin
13. The Prodigal Church by Jared Wilson
14. What does the Bible really teach about homosexuality? By Kevin DeYoung
15. The Things Of Earth. by Joe Rigney
16. The Horse and His Boy by CS Lewis
17. True Spirituality – Francis Schaeffer
18. Hand in Hand by Randy Alcorn
19. The Republic by Plato
20. Finding Truth by Nancy Pearcy
21. Preaching by Timothy Keller
22. A Free People’s Suicide by Oz Guinness
23. The Book Thief – Markus Zusak
24. Harry Potter And The Chamber of Secrets – J. K. Rowling
25. Judges For You – Tim Keller
26. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
27. Prince Caspian by CS Lewis
28. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling
29. Poetics by Aristotle
30. Theogony by Hesiod
31. How to Read a Book Mortimer J Adler
32. The Survivor – Vince Flynn
33. Prometheus Bound – Aeschylus
34. Oedipus The King – Sophocles
35. Hippolytus – Euripides
36. Apology – Plato
37. Clouds – Arisophanes
38. The Bacchae – Euripides

What goals and dog food have in common.


I remember once doing an object lesson where I took a can of beef stew and removed the label and then cut a dog food label off of a dog food can and taped it to the can of beef stew. I opened the can of beef stew and started eating it. All the kids thought it was dog food. Kids were grossed out and my illustration was more powerful than the point that accompanied it. The kids had no idea what I was talking about. The girls were grossed out and all the boys when home and tried to eat dog food. Don’t try this illustration I beg of you I had a few gagers and at least one sympathy puker.

We do the same thing with goals. We take something we hate and know we need to do and put a different wrapper on it hoping that will make a difference and mostly we get frustrated and confused. Don’t make your goal this big awesome amazing goal and then fail to put steps in place to make it happen. If you don’t set goals correctly they can often do more damage than good, sort of like beef stew illustrations for small children.

Here is what I think every goal should be. 

1. Measurable – You need a trigger to tell you on a daily/weekly basis that you are doing good or need to work harder. One of my goals this year is to read 52 books. (In addition to reading my bible daily, that side note is for Jonathan Cliff) I know I need a book a week if I fall back I know what I have to do to push on.
2.  Clear – Attaching a number helps but isn’t necessary. Saying I want to read more never works. How much do you want to read by when.
3. Realistic – Saying I want to read 365 books in a year sounds awesome right? The problem is I will never do it, that is if I want to stay married, and keep my job. A goal is only is powerful as it is achievable.
4. Difficult – No one gets anything out of setting a goal they can reach without any effort. Getting to the playoffs isn’t the goal of the New York Yankees they do it almost every year it’s winning the World Series that gets them going. If your goal is not a challenge it isn’t worth celebrating.
5. Celebrated – This is the one thing we so often forget. We achieve a goal and then move on to the next one so often we don’t take time to reflect on the journey and celebrate the victory. Such a huge step. Last year I read 44 books I missed my goal but read way more than I did the year before. I took time to celebrate that and then I started working on next year how can I reach my goal. What do I need to learn? How can I do better next year?


The 10 best books I read this year.

I set a goal for myself this year to read 52 books I ended up reading 42, even though I didn’t reach my goal I read more books than I typically did because I had an agressive goal. Here were the 10 best books I read all year.

The Meaning of Marriage

Meaning of Marriage

This was by far the best book I have ever read on marriage. Practical, insightful and challenging. This book is a must read for every  married couple as well as every sigle adult. Kellers chapter on singleness was the best chapter I have ever read on singleness. So powerful and so challenging.






Loved this book. Was so inspired by the faith, trust and passion for the Gospel. The scariest thing for me was reading this book and seeing the startling similarities between the US and Germany. It was so encouraging and challenging reading Bonhoeffer’s life. I pray that I have the same clarity of thought and conviction of faith he had.




Silos, Politics, and Turf Wars

Silos, Politics and Turf Wars


One of the biggest challenges most churches face is ministry silos. It’s awful but most churches are made up of ministries that are far more loyal to each other than the overall vision. If a church staff is going to accomplish what God has called them to accomplish takes hearts that beat together and eyes that see the same thing.




Death By Meeting

death by meeting


Death by meeting was a fantastic read. In ministry much of your life is spent in meetings learning how to hold a good, productive meeting is essential no matter who you lead.





The Reason for God.

The Reason for God

Loved the reason for God. I am not a big apologetics fan.  However I Really liked how Keller clearly articulated the main objections people have to the gospel. There is much of it I plan on re-reading.






Life Together

life together


This was the first of many Bonhoeffer books I plan on reading. What a fantastic gem this is on community. There are many books out there that talk about small group and community. They have lots of value but if you work with small groups or in forming the community aspect of your church do yourself a favor and read this brilliant dissection of true Christian community.




Gospel Powered Parenting

Gospel Powered Parenting


Gospel Powered Parenting is easily one of two best books on parenting I have ever read. Loved how he explains parenting in light of the gospel. He explains that the grace of God can only be truly understood in light of the wrath of God. I think I underlined something on each page of this book. Such a good book.




The War of Art

The War of Art


The War of Art was fantastic. It has a bit of language in it, but if you are a creative you need to read this book. Pressfield does a masterful job of explaining the primary reason we don’t write, create and innovate. He explains how to push through it and create what you have always wanted to create. It was very challenging  There isn’t a day I don’t face resistance and there isn’t a day I don’t think about what Pressfield said to do to overcome that resistance.



A Tale of Three Kings.  

A Tale of Three Kings

This is one of my top 10 books of all time. I try and reread this book every year. If you are a young leader its a great reminder of how to respond to the authority God has put in your life. If you are an older leader is a great reminder how to lead in a way that insures you do not create an environment that is conducive to rebellion in the hearts of the young leaders you lead. Really such a great book. Short, quick, powerful read.

How the gospel informs our pain.


I recently finished reading Tullian Tchividjian’s new book Glorious Ruin. It was a fantastic read. In this book he talks about how our understanding of the gospel changes how we view suffering.

On page 17 Tullian says this.

For the life of the believer, on thing is beautifully and abundantly true: God’s chief concern in your suffering is to be with you and be himself for you.
In other words, our ruin may not ultimately spell our undoing. It may in fact spell the beginning of faith. And in the end, that is enough. Gloriously so.

For me one of the things that lead me to the understanding of the gospel was a series of painful events that, even though I had been saved my entire life I had no answers to. lt reveled to me on the idols that I had been holding on to was my family. In the course of the past 5 years I have come realization of the power that pain plays in the life of a believer. How we view pain, what causes pain and where we turn when we experience pain all are very tell as to what we ultimately put our trust in.

There’s nothing like suffering to remind us how not in control we actually are, how little power we ultimately have, and how much we ultimately need God. In other words suffering reveals to us the things that ultimately matter, which also happens to be the warp and woof of Christianity. Who we are and who God is.
Page 110

Tullian does an excellent job. Discussing the problem of pain from the context of his own pain. I loved how Tullian continued to bring everything back to the message of the cross and the power of Christ.

A theology of the cross…..understands the cross be ultimate statement of God’s involvement in the world this side of heaven. A theology of the cross accepts the difficult thing rather than immediately trying to change it or instrumentalize it. It looks directly into pain, and “calls a thing what it is” instead of calling evil good and good evil. It identifies God as “hidden in the suffering.”

We have a savior that suffered in our place. He understands suffering and it is in our suffering that we can preach a message of the grace of God to a world that so often see Christians react to pain in such unhealthy ways. I love how John Piper puts it. “God is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied in Him” God is after his own glory more than our comfort. So appreciated Tullian’s take on pain, suffering and the gospel. Definitely a beneficial read.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes.

“In the beginning God created man in his own image, and ever since, man has been trying to repay the favor.” Reinhold Niebuhr
Page 38

At the center of all religions is the idea of Karma. What you put out comes back to you: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physics, every action is met by an equal and opposite one. It’s clear to me that Karma is at the very heart of the Universe. I’m absolutely sure of it. And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that “as you reap, so will you sow” stuff. Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I’ve done a lot of stupid stuff….I’d be in big trouble if Karma was going to finally be my judge. It doesn’t excuse my mistakes, but I’m holding out for Grace. I’m holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the Cross, because I know what I am, and I hope I don’t have to depend on my own religiosity.
Page 48

Shiny, happy Christians are insufferable.
Page 57

(On his perspective of accountability groups) such groups start with the narcissistic presupposition mentioned earlier – that Christianity is all about cleaning up and doing your part. They focus primarily (in my experience almost exclusively) on our sin, and not on our Savior.
Page 61

The tragic irony in all of this is that when we focus so strongly on our need to get better, we actually get worse. We become even more neurotic and self-absorbed. Preoccupation with our gilt (instead of God’s grace) makes us increasingly self-centered and morbidly introspective.
Page 62

Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking in 2012 found that the more time people spent on Facebook, the happier they perceived their friends to be and the sadder they felt as a consequence.
Page 65

Job’s unraveling isn’t seen as wrong or sinful, in fact, it’s emotionally realistic.
Page 67

“We were promised sufferings, not the absences of suffering. We were promised suffering. They were always a part of God’s program. We were even told blessed are they that mourn.” C. S. lewis
Page 81

Rather than face the underlying reasons for our distress (or look outside of ourselves for some relief), we attempt to leverage our pain for reward. Suffering becomes another way to justify ourselves, another form of works righteousness – a competition just as grueling as the obedience one.
Page 86

Through the fall, self-reliance has become our default mode of operation.
Page 110

Martin Luther on sin “Mankind turned inward”
Page 114

The truth is suffering does not rob us of joy, idolatry does.
Page 127

The Gospel is not a message reserved for those Sundays when you’re encouraged to bring your unbelieving friend. It is the only message.
Page 129

We are all Christians and human beings at the same time. This means that the Old Adam is always on the prowl, scrounging for some new Law by which to justify himself apart form Christ And he dies hard! If the assumption from the pulpit is that conversation is a one-time only event, the messages will revolve around what the Christian needs to do, rather than what Christ has done.
Page 130

People minister out their own suffering not in spite of it.
Page 139

Pain and suffering loosens our grip on this temporal life.
page 141

Character is demonstrated more by our reactions than our actions.
Page 146

Suffering has a way of stripping all resources away from us so that in the end, all that we have is the only thing that matters: the approval of God based on the accomplished work of Jesus.
Page 148

Thomas Merton once said, “The truth that many people don’t understand until it is too late, is that the more  you try to avoid suffering, the more you suffer, because smaller things begin to suffer you in proportion to your fear of being hurt. Suffering exposes what we build our lives on to give us meaning, and what we hope will bring us freedom.
Page 156

When Jesus is with you in suffering, you can have full assurance that you have a friend that has been though it all, just as you have. He may not deliver you form the pain and the loss. He might not get you out of the mess, but he’ll walk with you through it.
Page 159

I don’t know what pain you are facing but the thing I have come to learn and am still learn Tullian points out so well in this book.  When he says “Trust in God, not explanations from God, is the pathway throughout suffering.” I truly enjoyed this book I hope you will as well. Here is the like to get it at

(I was provided a free copy of this book to read in advance and provide my view of the book, I was in no way encouraged to write a review that was influenced by either the author or the publisher.)