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My Top 10 Books: Fall/Winter 2011

Posted on January 13th, 2012

When I was asked recently about the best books I read in 2011, I soon realized the challenge of trying to limit it to a top ten. In my case here, I have eleven. The following list is not in order of importance:

1.The Mindful Brain: Reflection and Attunement in the Cultivation of Well-Being, by Daniel Siegel.  This was impactful in understanding the neuroscience and research for emotionally healthy skills and contemplative spirituality if we are doing to do transformational discipleship in our churches.

2. Echoing Silence: Thomas Merton on the Vocation of Writing, edited by Robert Inchausti. I love writing. It is art to me, not business. His integration of prayer along with writing as a calling was a wonderful gift to me in my own efforts to be faithful to God as a writer.

3. Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke.  Again, impactful for my leadership and writing. His emphasis on letting our ponderings “have their own quiet, undisturbed come from deep within, (that) cannot be pressed or hurried.”

4. Soulful Spirituality: Becoming Fully Alive and Deeply Human, by David Benner.  One of the best writers today, integrating his decades as a clinical psychologist with contemplative spirituality. Excellent.

5. Open Mind, Open Heart: The Contemplative Dimension of the Gospel, by Thomas Keating. I reread this during the summer and my 10 day silent retreat at St. Benedict’s monastery in Colorado. Understood the need for silence and the dismembering of the false self/transformation in Christ in a new way.  (I am sure the silence and slowness in which I read it was a factor also!)

6. Contemplative Vision: A Guide to Christian Art and Prayer, by Juliet Benner.  This is a wonderful devotional, formation book that I have used with our staff team and integrated into a sermon or two this past year. Great resource.

7. Living Gently in a Violent World: The Prophetic Witness of Weakness, By Stanley Hauerwas and Jean Vanier. Very important, well-balanced work on God’s heart for the weak and marginalized. Filled with gems, especially from Vanier and his work with the L’Arche communities of the disabled.

8. Reconciling All Things: A Christian Vision for Justice, Peace and Healing (Resources for Reconciliation) by Emmanuel Katongole and Chris Rice.  I have been involved in the slow, complex work of reconciliation across race, culture, class and gender most of my Christian life. I consider this nuanced treatment one of the best I have read. I learned a lot and would love to have them both come to New Life some day.

9. Emotional Intelligence 2.0, by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves.  This is the most popular, well read work on the market about integrating emotional intelligence into the marketplace. I was pleasantly surprised by the wisdom and insight in it. If we ever develop a formal training program with our EH Skills, these are people from whom we can learn a great deal.

10. The Book of Mystical Chapters: Meditations on the Soul’s Ascent from the Desert Fathers and Other Early Contemplatives translated and introduced by John Anthony McGuckin.    This has been a devotional book I continued to periodically use throughout the year. Filled with gems (along with a rock here and there) from the early church fathers.

11. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, by Laura Hillenbrand.  Amazing, true story about the ability and will of a human being to live. It also is a picture into the depth of our human depravity. Great book to enjoy.

What books might you add this to list?

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Church Culture Revolution: A 6-Part Vision That Deeply Changes Lives