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Reading, Leadership and the Long View

Posted on June 4th, 2010

Reading broadly is foundational to growing and providing good leadership. I love reading and am usually in 3-6 books at a time. They inform my development and preaching. The following is my answer to the question I have often been asked:  Where do you find such unique, different kinds of books to read? The following are my 10 top sources for books: 1. Magazines and newspapers that review books – e.g. Books and Culture, Sojourners, NY Times Book Review, Oprah, USA today, Time, Newsweek, Atlantic Monthly.  A Books and Culture article, for example, led me to read 2 books on prisons recently that profoundly impacted me. 2. Bookstores – Used and new, anywhere and everywhere.  I love walking around, looking for anything that strikes my interest. 3. Libraries. I wander the aisles, looking at new arrivals, history, biographies. 4. Friends, mentors, therapists, other leaders – I ask them what they are reading and what has impacted them. For example, a counselor friend recommended the impact of neuroscience research on her work a couple of years ago.  This led me to a number of works. 5. Evangelical, Catholic and Orthodox publishers. I scan what they are publishing, particularly IVP (formatio), Brazos, Zondervan, Nelson, Ascension Press, Ignatius Press. 6. Monasteries. They carry unique kinds of books, and are often reading things very different from my tradition.  For example, Father Dominic from a Trappist monaster  recommended to me the works of Joseph Pieper on Thomas Aquinas last fall and I am on my third Pieper book. 7.  University and Seminary publications which recommend books.  Between the seminaries I have been associated with (Fuller, Gordon-Conwell, Eastern) and colleges my daughters attended (Messiah College, City University of NY, SUNY Buffalo), I get a lot of very good ideas for books. I am about to take Andre Agassi’s autobiography out of the library due to a prof’s review of the book.  8. Geri, friends, fellow-staff, and mentors. Geri is a reader. Scott, a friend of mine, has recommended more than one great church history text to me. I look at syllabus’ from courses people take in D. Min and Masters’ programs – regardless of the field, be it theological, leadership, public health, MBA programs, economics, sociology, or psychology. 9. Footnotes from books I enjoy. I actually look at the sources for good writer’s information and then read them. Leighton Ford’s book, The Attentive Life, for example, led me to Simon Weil on attentiveness. 10. Novels from libraries, friends and my extended family. There are certain topics which I am always reading about – reconciliation, application of monastacism to the 21st century, emotional health/marriage/sexuality, spiritual formation, church history. But ultimately, I seek to be sensitive to God and His leading into my reading. What other sources might you add to my list?

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