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My Top 10 Books: Spring/Summer 2015

Posted on July 17th, 2015

Geri complained this past week that I had books all around the house – from the living room to the bedroom to the car – reading three to four books at a time. That has been my rhythm for years. If you are like me, you look for a variety of material to peruse during the summer.

The following are a few recommendations:

1. The Gospel of John by Frederick Dale Bruner

The gospel of John

I have been studying and reading John’s gospel for the last 9 months as part of my morning time with God. As part of that process, I prayerfully read this wonderful commentary. Bruner is one of the best commentators I know, combining both great scholarship and devotional passion that leads me to Jesus. I also recommend his 2 volume commentary on Matthew as a must resource in every pastor’s library before preaching on any passage from the synoptic gospels.


2. The Art and Spirit of Leadership by Judy Brown

The art of Lieadership

Judy Brown’s unusual approach to leadership integrates poetry and the arts to the task of leadership. Personal, stimulating, devotional. I enjoyed her unique style and insights. I may have structured and organized the book differently for greater clarity, but golden nuggets can be found throughout as she writes out of years of her experience and work with leaders.



3. Worshipping with the Church Fathers by Christopher A. Hall


Christopher Hall has done a great job of distilling the riches of the Church Fathers in this little volume. I meditated slowly, in particular, on his chapters on lessons on prayer from the Desert Fathers. Having read most of the original sources, I appreciated his simplicity in making it accessible to readers. It was also a great summary, reminder and encouragement for me to integrate more of their insights into my prayer life.


4. Words Can Change Your Brain by Andrew Newberg (Author), Mark Robert Waldman


The author’s integration of the latest learnings in the neurosciences to help us be better listeners and speakers (e.g. the listener’s brain can only handle us speaking for 30 seconds at a time) is filled with helpful insights (e.g. If you have less than 3 positive thoughts for every negative thought or feeling you’ll end up becoming more angry, irritated, clinically depressed).



5. Dark Night of the Soul John of the Cross by E. Allison Peers (Author), St. John of the Cross (Author)

Dark Night of the Soul

I am rereading this classic as part of my Daily Offices (slowly and devotionally) and benefitting immensely. His breakdown of the deeply entrenched patterns of sin that the dark night purges from our soul is brilliant. While this may be my fourth or fifth reading of this classic, God continues to meet me in it.



6. The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload by Daniel J. Levitin

Written by a Professor of psychology and behavioral neuroscience at McGill University, I found this book helpful yet difficult to finish (I didn’t). I appreciated his insights on the challenge of information overload is to our limited cognitive abilities. While the book didn’t teach me to be a “master organizer”, it affirmed my need to not multitask and to be more fanatical to create greater space for “focused” work. I have made some adjustments per his advice, for example, organizing better my physical space and keeping items that share a common purpose in a single place (e.g. sermon ideas and notes, next book ideas) in order to reduce the burden on my memory.

7. In the Garden of the Beasts by Erik Larson

In the Garden of the Beasts

The author recounts the career of the American Ambassador to Germany, William Dodd, particularly the years 1933 to 1937 when he and his family lived in Berlin as Hitler rose to power. This is a fantastic book that gives a rare glimpse into what Nazi Germany was like in the early years. More importantly, it caused me to see how easy it is to be duped by political, societal, cultural, and economic pressures to compromise one’s values today as well. This is an enjoyable read.


8. West by West: My Charmed, Tormented Life by Jerry West (Author), Jonathan Coleman

West by West My Charmed

Jerry West was the greatest basketball player of my childhood and one of the purest shooters in history. This autobiography takes you into his “charmed but tormented life” (his subtitle) and illustrates how things are not as they appear. His perfectionism, broken relationship with his father, his abuse and depression are all in full display in this unusual autobiography. It makes for a mesmerizing read. One great insight – even winning the NBA Championship cannot fill a tortured heart struggling with one’s own inner demons.

9. The Smoke at Dawn by Jeff Shaara

The Smoke at Dawn

I’ve read multiple historical novels by Jeff Shaara and enjoyed most of them, especially those around the Civil War. It could have been subtitled, “The Emotionally Unhealthy Confederate Generals,” as Shaara takes us into the minds of both Union and Confederate leaders during the summer of 1863.



10. The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown

The Boys in the Boat

This best-selling book is a pure joy to read. Well-written and researched, the writer does an excellent job of crafting this true story. The Boys in the Boat celebrates the 1936 U.S. men’s Olympic eight-oar rowing team—nine working class boys who stormed the rowing world, transformed the sport, and galvanized the attention of millions of Americans. I found it hard to put it down.


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