Published: 2 years ago

Top Reads of 2016

Some things are just certain at the end of a calendar year: people are going to attempt to beat tax deadlines, Christmas cards are going to threaten the sanity and backs of postal workers everywhere, and erry blogger you know is going to roll out their end-of-year reading list.

Add me to that last pile.

Unfortunately, 2016 was a year of starting a lot of books, but not finishing all that many. Some are still sitting beside my living room chair. Others have made their way back to my bookshelf (I hope to pick ’em up again one day…maybe.). But here are – in no particular category or order other than alphabetical – my ten favorites from the last twelve months:

The Bassoon King: Art, Idiocy, and Other Sordid Tales from the Band Room (Rainn Wilson) The Office‘s Dwight Schrute wrote a book. And it was…interesting. Funny, of course, but also a revealing and not-so-funny dive into his Baha’i faith.

Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work (Chip Heath and Dan Heath) Y’all know by now that if the Heath brothers wrote a phone book, I’d buy it, read it, and recommend it to my friends. Decisive was no different, and utilized their trademark writing style to help me pick between Chick-fil-A or Cook Out for lunch. Or something like that.

God Dreams: 12 Vision Templates for Finding and Focusing Your Church’s Future (Will Mancini) Once I got the hang of how this book was laid out, I found Mancini’s work to be compelling not just for churches as a whole, but for any ministry, or any person, for that matter.

Horse Soldiers: The Extraordinary Story of a Band of US Soldiers Who Rode to Victory in Afghanistan (Doug Stanton) A fascinating, novel-like retelling of the weeks leading up to and after 9/11. Horse Soldiers details the Taliban being flushed out of the northern parts of the country and the subsequent recapturing of one key city.

Jesus Outside the Lines: A Way Forward for Those Who Are Tired of Taking Sides (Scott Sauls) You may have heard that we had an election in 2016. And you may be aware that the presidency – among other issues – was a pretty divisive deal. Sauls takes believers down the rabbit hole of examining what common courtesy and scriptural conviction looks like in a society that seems to be spinning farther apart.

Next Door As It Is In Heaven: Living Out God’s Kingdom in Your Neighborhood (Lance Ford and Brad Brisco) Out of all the “be a better evangelist” books that I’ve read (and believe me, this Southern Baptist kid has read a lot), I found this to be the most practical and grace-filled yet.

The Rest of God: Restoring Your Soul By Restoring the Sabbath (Mark Buchanan) I read this in the spring, and I still find myself wrestling with truths I learned but don’t quiiiite want to obey just yet. If you want to be punched in the face in a good way, you need this book.

Strengths Finder 2.0 (Tom Rath) I freely confess: I have no idea if there is a Strengths Finder 1.0 (and I’m too lazy to use The Google to find out), but enough friends had recommended this one that I decided to give it a try when I found it at a used book sale. I give it 2.0 thumbs up.

Style: Towards Clarity and Grace (Joseph M. Williams) The smartest guy on our staff took a few of us through an intensive writing cohort this summer, which was a lot of fun if you like being reminded that you’re terrible at everything you think you love. Whenever Chris got tired of kicking us right in the word processor, he let Joe Williams take over.

The Thank You Economy (Gary Vaynerchuk) We’re not a very nice group of people these days (see Jesus Outside the Lines, above). Vaynerchuk reminds us that even in the era of overnight success and big businesses, there is still room for good old fashioned kindness.


Okay, readers: what was your #1 read that I need to add to 2017? Comment below.


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  1. Bob Adams says:

    Having survived the 2016 election, and in an attempt at understanding more about this mosaic of a country we live in, I submit the following, guaranteed to lead you down a rabbit hole of history:
    – American Nations, by Colin Woodard
    – Albion’s Seed, David Hackett Fischer
    – The Nine Nations of North America, Joel Garreau
    None of them are new (the most recent was published in 2011) and you probably (and hopefully) won’t agree with everything, but these three authors’ work will definitely have you saying “So that’s why (insert political event) happened.”

  2. Ryan Waltner says:

    One of the books I read through was “Lay it Down: Living in the Freedom of the Gospel” by Bill Tell. I especially wrestled with and appreciated chapter 4 – “Freedom from Performing for Love and Relationship.” Having been brought up in a church that stressed works and performance, I still find myself struggling to grasp grace at times.

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