As we prepare for the year ahead, which we hope is a better year for us all, welcome to this year’s Top 10 book-list. I’ve valued reading these great books in the last year and highly recommend them to anyone who seeks to be a missional disciple. The church leader John Stott used to say that a Christian should have a bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other – ensuring that discipleship is based on God’s word and rooted in God’s world. That’s why I’ve chosen some books written by followers of Jesus – helping us to better understand the life of faith, as well as some written by people of no faith – helping us to better understand the world.
If you want another list of leadership books, that list will be out soon too – on my leadership blog.
I hope there’s at least one book here that will encourage, equip and empower you, which you can then pass on to someone else.
10. Malcolm Gladwell’s Talking to Strangers
If you don’t want to misjudge people, read this book. Gladwell always writes insightfully and this, his latest book, is excellent. The blurb summarises it well: ‘Why do we so often get other people wrong? Why is it so hard to detect a lie, read a face or judge a stranger’s motives? Through a series of encounters and misunderstandings – from history, psychology and infamous legal cases – Malcolm Gladwell … uses stories of deceit and fatal errors to cast doubt on our strategies for dealing with the unknown, inviting us to rethink our thinking.’
9. C S Lewis’ How to Pray
This 2018 book pulls together into one place some of the key writing on prayer by the renowned C S Lewis. It will help you understand how he prayed, and some of the prayer issues he wrestled with. Full of helpful insight, it’s not a long read, and the hardback edition is beautifully designed. This is one of a number of books I’m recommending this year on prayer. That’s not just because I’ve been reading much on the subject but because 2021 is surely a year to step up our praying. This book will help.
8. Michael Yankowski’s A Sacred Year
Yankowski goes on a year-long journey exploring a variety of prayerful spiritual disciplines, which slowly transforms his life. Entertaining and profound, this lovely book includes reflections on contemplating apples, eating on $2 a day and writing letters of gratitude.
7. Stanley Grenz’ Prayer: A Cry for the Kingdom
Grenz died suddenly in 2005 and was a great loss to the church. A humble and thoughtful biblical theologian, during lockdown I discovered this, his last work, on petitionary prayer (asking God for things). It’s not written for academics but for all, and argues from Scripture that petition is a crucial way for us to be involved with God’s work in history, as we cry to God that his kingdom might come into the world. Key questions are explored, like: What does it mean to pray ‘according to God’s will’? Should we persist in petitioning God for our needs? Does prayer really influence God? It features a helpful foreword by Eugene Peterson (author of The Message).
6. Charlie Cleverly’s The Discipline of Intimacy
This is a rich and finely-researched book by recently retired Rector of St Aldate’s in Oxford, Charlie Cleverly. Subtitled: ‘The Joy and Awe of Walking with God’ it will inspire you to go deeper in prayer and love for God, and offers many practical tips for those who have perhaps found their prayer life has gone stale. If you’ve read my A-Z of Prayer, this book will take you further in and further on.
5. Erling Kagge’s Walking
I recommended Kagge’s book Silence in this blog two year ago. Kagge is a philosophical adventurer and the first explorer in history to reach ‘the three poles’ – North, South and the summit of Everest. While there were some things in it that I wasn’t sure about, this book subtitled ‘One Step at a Time’ captures something of humanity’s desire to journey – and beautifully and simply describes perilous first steps as a toddler, walking to work, as well as great expeditions. Kagge believes that he who walks goes further and lives better.
4. Carol Arnott’s Soaking in the Spirit
If you want to explore and understand soaking prayer, read this book. For over 25 years Carol Arnott, co-leader of the Toronto Outpouring, has been teaching believers to soak in God’s presence. She describes how the practice has released thousands of Christians to receive divine healing, hear God’s voice, and experience God’s love like never before. Readers are urged to make time to be still and rest in God’s presence so that God can accomplish his work in us and then through us.
3. Matthew Porter’s Overflow
This is an offering from me. I wrote Overflow for two main reasons. First, I believe in overflow – that God revealed in Christ is a God of more than enough and wants to fill us to overflow. Second, the Antioch church in Acts wonderfully illustrates a community of overflow, and is a great example to us, and to The Belfrey (the church I lead), of an overflowing ‘resource’ church. So if you want to be a person of overflow and be part of an overflowing church, this book is for you. It was published the week before lockdown so got rather lost in the events of 2020, but despite this the feedback has been good and I hope it’s a help to many.
2. Isabel Wilkerson’s Caste
Seth Godin recommended this book so I purchased it on Audible and listened to it in the summer, while decorating. In Caste Pulitzer Prize-winning author Isabel Wilkerson gives a timely and often shocking portrait of this hidden phenomenon. Linking America, India and Nazi Germany, Wilkerson reveals how our world has been shaped not just by racism but by caste – and how its rigid, arbitrary hierarchies still divide us today. This is not a pleasant read/listen, but it is a timely and important book. Just occasionally I wanted to question a few assumptions, but overall I was convinced by her argument – and was humbled.
- The Bible
This has been my go-to book during this lock-down year of 2020. I’ve read it every day, mainly in the New International Version, but enjoyed dipping into other translations too, including an online interlinear bible. I am constantly amazed how God speaks through it, and how it continues to inspire and challenge ordinary people to live transformative lives in the twenty first century. So in 2021, read the Bible. When so much is uncertain, the Bible is God’s unchanging word, revealing the word made flesh, who is Jesus Christ.