Francis Bacon said ‘Some books should be tasted, some devoured, but only a few should be chewed and digested thoroughly.’ As I present my annual offering of some books that I’ve recently read, I hope you’re able to discern some tasty offerings to nourish you in the coming year.
1) Walter Isaacson’s ‘The Innovators’
This is a great book. It’s about the history of the digital revolution – how we got here, and the key people who have helped us, including Charles Babbage, Alan Turring, Tim Berners-Lee, Steve Jobs and many others. Whilst new advances are carefully explained I have to admit that I didn’t ‘get’ the science behind every advance, but what I did get was a sense of how we’ve got here and who’s led us into this digital age. Isaacson is a gifted writer and biographer. I loved his epic on Steve Jobs and this is another excellent book that set films like The Imitation Game (about Alan Turing and the Enigma programme) in context.
2) David Adam’s ‘Aidan, Bede & Cuthbert’
Having enjoyed a short retreat on Holy Island in Northumbria with my prayer partners this year, I read this short book which briefly tells the stories of these 3 great Northumbrian saints of the 7th Century who reshaped the North as they brought the good news of Christ to our region. We see their humanity, their sacrifice and lives devoted to Jesus. Simply and clearly written, Adam helpfully ends each chapters with some exercises to do in response.
3) Niall William’s ‘History of the Rain’
I was pleased to devour this latest Williams novel this year. This gifted Irish Roman Catholic continues to write so beautifully and lyrically, picking up themes of fatherhood, family history, literature, the importance of story, grief and – especially in this story – water. This is not a light-heated happy read, but a thoughtful book with the odd comic moment, that gets you inside the mind of a young woman, Ruth Swain, who is confined to bed with a blood disorder. If you’ve never read any Williams, you might want to start with his first novel ‘Four Letters of Love’ before this one, but this is still good, classic Williams.
4) Alok Jha’s ‘The Water Book’
Continuing the water theme, I stumbled across this fascinating book whilst browsing at Bangalore Airport! This is all about the importance of water. In it Jha takes us on a dual journey: firstly with him on an actual expedition he took to Antarctica, and secondly on a scientific voyage showing how water is key to life, has shaped civilisations and is affected by global warming. Well researched and written for the lay-person, this book will expand your mind and challenge your heart.
5) Max Lucado’s ‘Miracle at the Higher Grounds Cafe’
Although probably appealing more to women than men, I really enjoyed this easy-read fictional novel about Chelsea Chambers who inherited her mother’s cafe and discovered a huge debt. Struggling in her marriage, this is a story about relationships – with her customers, her family and with a God who breaks in to her life and business in unusual ways. Some will find this over sentimentalised, but I read it as a story about the beauty of faith, about forgiveness and how God can turn difficult situations for good.
6) Alex Ferguson’s ‘Leading’
If you like football, read this book. If you like to read in the field of leadership, read this book. If you like or are interested in Manchester United, read this book. Id you like all three, as I do, then you’ll love this book! It’s really well written, not as a biography (like previous books by Ferguson) but in themed sections (eg. Discipline, Teamwork, Motivation). It’s also very clear and offers a no-nonsense guide to leading well. Ferguson writes honestly and at times shows real vulnerability and humility. Probably my book of the year.
7) Samuel Chand’s ‘Leadership Pain’
This book should have been written a long time ago, and Chand has done the church a great service by writing this wise, honest and inspiring book. Whilst written with church leaders mainly in mind, it’s wisdom can be applied to any organisation or business. Chand’s premise is simple and correct: there is no growth without change, no change without loss and no loss without pain; so if you’re not hurting, you’re not leading. It’s not as depressing as it sounds, and includes powerful stories of people who have grown through pain. It even includes some exercises to help apply the principles being learned. A must for all leaders.
8) Bill Johnson’s ‘Releasing the Spirit of Prophecy’
Bill Johnson, Senior Leader or Bethel Church, in Redding, CA has written many books. This is one of three I read of his this year and is all about the importance of testimony. It was timely for me and helped me realise how important it is to tell the stories of what God is doing. It helped me see that the sharing of such stories not only honours God and builds faith but also releases the Spirit of prophecy and creates a culture of faith and expectation. It includes some great stories from Johnson, but in the end it’s his helpful, practical teaching and spiritual insight that’s so helpful.
9) Jarrod Cooper’s ‘When Word & Spirit Collide’
This is a wise book with a clear message that the church (especially the charismatic and Pentecostal stream) needs to hear. Jarrod Cooper, a gifted church leader and church planter in East Yorkshire, writes with mature understanding about staying rooted in the bible and welcoming the presence of the Spirit. Laced with humour and fascinating stories, we’re pleased to be welcoming Jarrod as a guest speaker at The Belfrey in 2016. With helpfully short chapters, this book will encourage you to pray and work for revival in our day.
10) ‘The Bible’
Last but never least, I’ve continued to find the Bible to be the book. I read the Bible every day and it helps sustain my life and faith. Many times this year a word in season has lept from the page and spoken into my situation. Blogging every day in Advent has been a challenge recently, but time and time again I’ve seen fresh insights and practical application as I ponder on the words of this most wondrous of books. Whilst I still default to the New International Version (NIV) I’ve enjoyed reading other translations this year, especially the English Standard Version (ESV). Whichever translation you use, just read it. Every day. Like no other book, the Bible will transform your life.