I’m often asked to recommend books that I’ve found inspiring. So as 2011 draws to a close and a New Year lies ahead, here are some books that have been helpful to me.

1) The Bible
Yes. I know it seems the obvious choice for a Vicar, but truly, the Bible is the Book of books. There’s no other text like it. Read it. Every day. Prayerfully. If you do that I guarantee it will change your life. And if you don’t know where to start in the bible, begin with one of the gospels – one of the 4 accounts of the life of Jesus.

2) Walter Isaacson’s ‘Steve Jobs’
I’ve never read a book this long so quickly. I found Job’s life fascinating. Published just after his death in October this book will give you real insight into the man behind Apple. If you can, take the good bits from Jobs – his discipline, his creativity, his desire to do the very best possible; and lose the worst things – the poor people management, the bad temper, the selfishness.

3) Anything by Heidi Baker
Heidi Baker is a force to be reckoned with in the kingdom of God. Serving selflessly with her husband Rolland in Mozambique, they are seeing hundreds of churches planted and thousands and thousands of people come to Christ, as they share his love with some of the poorest people on the planet. Inspired by the Beatitudes, Heidi believes the Lord has ‘more than enough’ for each person and that the role of the follower of Jesus, even when confronted with so much pain and poverty, is simply ‘to love the one in front of you’. Earlier this year I devoured every book Heidi Baker has written and I was not disappointed.

4) Anything by Niall Williams
Williams is an Irish novelist from a Catholic background who writes beautiful, colourful literature about life, love, death, family, adventure and more. This year I completed my reading of all his novels. He’s also written an interesting book called ‘John’ – a work of fiction on how the book of Revelation might have come about among the community surrounding the old apostle John. Fascinating. His books always warm my heart.

5) Anything by Jim Collins
Collins is an expert on leadership and best known for his book ‘Good to Great’ which explores the difference between good and great organisations. If you work in the church or non-profit sector, try his ‘Good to Great & the Social Sectors’. This year I’ve also enjoyed ‘How the Mighty Fall’, which charts how great organisations decline if they stop doing the basics well and lose sight of their core business/aims. At present I’m reading his latest offering ‘Great by Choice’ – full of wisdom and common sense. Collins is not a practising Christian but is convinced from his research that servant leadership is the best way to lead. And he is right.

6) Warren Wiersbe’s ’50 People Every Christian Should Know’
This book has 50 short chapters briefly describing the lives of a broad range of Christians across history who’ve made an impact on their generation and beyond. Quite a few are preachers, but some are hymn writers and social reformers. I read a chapter most days earlier this year and got through the book in – yes, around 50 days! Like me, you might find one or two characters that you’d like to know more about. Wiersbe will point you in the right direction, and you can go online and see what else is available to dig deeper.

7) Nicky Gumbels’ ‘The Jesus Lifestyle’
A great book, full of insight and practical wisdom, with 18 chapters, each beginning ‘How to…’ Read it. Buy a copy for a Christian friend. If every Christian read this book, they would be better prepared for life, and the church would be a healthier and stronger place.

8) John Wimber’s ‘The Way In is The Way On’
This is a book put together by Christy Wimber, incorporating so far unpublished material by Wimber. I loved it. Wimber still speaks powerfully to the church today, calling us to live out the teaching of Jesus. Practical, real, at times funny and challenging. Read and be fed.

9) Jim Cymbala’s ‘Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire’
I re-read this book earlier this year. Telling the story of The Brooklin Tabernacle, Cymbala writes simply and effectively of the lessons he learned as this remarkable church in New York grew – mainly through the power of prayer. This books will encourage you to pray.

10) ‘Monocle’ Magazine
The monthly magazine Monocle describes itself ‘a global briefing on affairs, business, culture and design.’ Monocle will not be everyone’s cup of tea. Some will find it too glossy – advertising expensive watches and designers clothes that are unaffordable to most of us. Others will find it too narrow in that it’s global eye is cast over many issues but rarely over issues of faith and religion – issues which many feel cannot be avoided if we seek a better future for our world. Nevertheless, I enjoy Monocle each month because its journalists take you to parts of the world to which most magazines will never travel. So, alongside an article on soft power in the USA you might get a briefing on business opportunities in Kazakhastan and dentists in Hungary! Why not pick up a copy one month? You’ll feel like you understand our big world just a little better. And it will probably make you want to travel and explore, which are God-given instincts that I’d thoroughly encourage.

So, there we have it. Some suggestions. I’ll do this again, maybe in 12 months. Let me know if you find any of these helpful. Read and enjoy. As Queen Rania of Jordan (citing a South African author) said in 2009, ‘To read is to empower. To empower is to write. To write is to influence. To influence is to change. To change is to live.’