My 63 books from 2012
Last year I set a new personal record for the number of books I was able to read with sixty-three. This was almost double my previous record of thirty-nine. As a result, I had more 5 star reviews than I normally do. My top books of the year were:
Unbroken, Mere Christianity, Who Is this Man?, The Myth of a Christian Nation, God Of the Possible, and Cross RoadsI also had more least favorite books this year as well. They included:
The Tiger’s Wife, Gathering Blue, Messenger, The Way of the Lord, and the Explicit GospelBelow is the entire list from 2012 with my rating for them (5 being the best) and a brief review. You can also check out my lists from previous years as well as my first book, Crowdsourcing the Message, that I released in April of 2012. I keep this as a running list year-round and you can access it by clicking the “reading list” link on the top right of each page on my blog.
- Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman (4.5). Fascinating look at the effects of the medium of TV on our culture. Make sure you read 1984 by Orwell and Brave New World by Huxley before this book so that you get the most out of the analogies that Postman uses.
- The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni (3.5). Most of the book is a leadership story that encapsulates the principles in the book. The story itself is definitely what makes the book good. The explanation afterward is somewhat dry but it makes sure that each of the concepts is explained.
- Insurrection by Peter Rollins (4.5).Â This is a meaty readâ€”not in the style it is written but in the depth of thought that Rollins invites you into. I love writers like him who challenge the easy thought process that we all fall into and cause us to question the very core of what we believe. We emerge stronger if we are willing to push through the process.
- Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett (4). This is a very long story and there isnâ€™t really a main character to follow. Regardless, it is powerful storytelling and I found myself wrapped into it. I loathed this at times when it meant that I was on an emotional roller coaster along with the characters. Itâ€™s a good read though, especially if you are a fan of historical fiction.
- Stuff Christians Like by Jon Acuff (4.5). Hilarious. Seriously hilarious. As a fellow PK (preacherâ€™s kid) I can so appreciate the way that Jon taps into the bizarre world of Christian culture and lovingly mocks it to shreds. This one is great on audiobook since Jon reads it himself and even adds in extra commentary.
- Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand (5). This is a fascinating story of a WW2 POW. An incredible, true story of heartache, despair, and redemption. I was surprised how many times I found myself telling people about the story as I went through it. This one gets the rare 5 star rating from me for sure.
- Pottywise For Toddlers (3). Iâ€™m not going to lie, potty training freaks me out. Michelle and I have read this series of books since our first kid was born and they have proven to be an incredible source of practical knowledge that then creates confidence. Wish us luck.
- What Technology Wants by Kevin Kelly (3.5). This is a heady read. There were sections where I found myself trudging through but there were a handful of gems that offered truly insightful ideas. Kelly is brilliant so itâ€™s a challenge to keep up at times.
- EntreLeadership by Dave Ramsey (3). The strengths of the book lie in Daveâ€™s massive amount of experience and use of stories that fill every point in every chapter. The weakness is the stereotypical business feel of much of the advice. This book is immensely practical. Few ideas will spin your head around, (something that I love in a good book) but many of the ideas will sharpen how you do businessâ€”whatever your business may be.
- The Tigerâ€™s Wife by Tea Obreht (2). While there were interesting parts at times, I have to admit that I was a bit confused by the story. The style is rich and descriptive but I found it hard to follow and ultimately put together.
- A History of the World in 6 Glasses (4). This was a fun and insightful read. It is history told through the 6 dominant beverages of the time and their significance on history itself. If you like history, youâ€™ll like this.
- The Better Angels of Our Nature by Steven Pinker (4.5). The book is a VERY in depth look at why violence has declined throughout history (832 pages in-depth). It is truly a fascinating read but Pinker is certainly not kind to God and religion. His main argument is persuasive and well explained.
- Tribes by Seth Godin (4). Like his other books, this is a quick and profound read. Whenever I read his books or his blog I always feel energized to take on the world. This guy is a genius.
- Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer (3). Die Hard with Fairies. It is Harry Potter style fiction and it was actually pretty entertaining. If you get it on audiobook youâ€™ll get the bonus of listening to the Irish accents. It is a battle between a 12 year old mastermind and a fairy military.
- Endurance by Alfred Lansing (4.5). Such a good and gripping story. Didnâ€™t quite match up to Unbroken for this year, but wasnâ€™t too far behind.
- Dracula by Bram Stoker (4). This is when vampires were cool (before it was about skinny white boys taking their shirts off for junior high girls). Stoker tells this in an incredible pure story fashion through journal entries and letters instead of direct narration.
- Tea With Hezbollah by Ted Dekker and Carl Meaderis (3.5). They tell the story of visiting some of the worldâ€™s most influential Muslim leaders and getting to know them a bit. They frame the book in the context of Jesusâ€™ teaching about the good Samaritan. Definitely expands your understanding of spirituality and of Muslims in general.
- A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink (4.5). This is a terrific book about how the right side and the left side of the brain work. Pink shows how the left side has dominated in the past but we will need to rely more on the right side in the future. For anybody that has ever felt guilty for your creativity, this book is a refreshing read.
- Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis (5). I had read through parts of this book when I was a kid. Now reading it as an adult Iâ€™m shocked at how good it is. I shouldnâ€™t be shocked, but it really is that good. I think Iâ€™m going to read this yearly.
- 11-22-63 by Stephen King (4.5). Iâ€™m not much for the scary genre so this was the first book from King Iâ€™ve read. I was blown away. It is about time travel and the JFK assassination. Although Iâ€™m not interested in the JFK hype, King does a fantastic job with the time travel aspect and it is an absolutely gripping story. So good.
- Quiet by Susan Cain (4). Since Iâ€™m an introvert I was quite excited to find out about this book. This is the first Iâ€™ve ever read diving into this topic and Susan does a great job showing the reader new insights about introverts based on her own research as well as what others have done.
- The Giver by Lois Lowry (4.5). This is my second time reading this and it didnâ€™t disappoint. This is such a simple story and yet it absolutely captures me for some reason. I just recently realized that this is the first book of a trilogy so I am going to go through all three of them together.
- The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller (3). While itâ€™s not my favorite Keller book by far, it does give some solid foundational ideas for marriage. We discussed it with our Life Group and overall it was beneficial.
- Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry (1). Totally disappointed with this one. It doesnâ€™t continue the Giver story and instead jumps into another character storyline that isnâ€™t nearly as interesting. In addition, the ending completely disappoints and abruptly ends.
- Messenger by Lois Lowry (2). After reading through all of the Giver trilogy, Iâ€™m convinced that Lowry must have been one of the writers for the show LOST. Thatâ€™s because she opens doors she canâ€™t close and abruptly and awkwardly ends each story. The third book at least connects the other two but still drops you off a cliff at the end. I disliked the second two books in the series as much as I loved the first.
- What Got You Here Wonâ€™t Get You There by Marshall Goldsmith (3.5). This is a good book to think introspectively about your leadership style and where you may have grown soft. Goldsmith brings plenty of experience that supports his thought provoking conclusions.
- Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon (4.5). This was such a refreshing read and really serves as an injection of creative disciplines for anyone trying to make anything. I love reading about creativity from people who are actually producing things. Itâ€™s easy to stand on the sidelines and offer criticisms. The tough part is getting in the game and trying to make something meaningful.
- Imagine by Jonah Lehrer (4). A great book on practical creativity (and a nice follow up to Austin Kleonâ€™s book). My favorite part of it was all of the different real life stories that he tells. It leaves you with a sense that every problem has a creative solution waiting for it. And it will make you want to buy a Swiffer.
- The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (2). I read this after I saw the trailer for the Leonardo DiCaprio movie coming this Christmas. It seemed an odd story to me, and honestly Iâ€™m not sure why itâ€™s a classic. I might not have grasped something about it so maybe it will take the movie version to help me out.
- 13 Things That Donâ€™t Make Sense by Michael Brooks (4). While many of the scientific explanations in this book went totally over my head, I loved his premise that even science has things it doesnâ€™t know what to do with. I loved this book because so many people assume science is for people who can get answers and following Jesus takes faith. Faith is involved everywhere, the question is what are we putting our faith in.
- A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (4). While it has a much different flavor than some of his other work, it is no less vibrant or moving. If youâ€™re not familiar with the book, itâ€™s opening lines are probably something you are aware of: â€œIt was the best of times, it was the worst of times.â€ So begins a brutally honest look at the French revolution and both sides of fallen humanity that made it happen. Dickens does a fair job at showing the neglect of the rich for others and the blood lust of the poor for revenge.
- The Last Gunfight by Jeff Guinn (4.5). Tombstone has long been one of my favorite movies of all time and this book tells the full story about Doc Holliday, Wyatt Earp, and the life of the town of Tombstone. It is incredibly insightful for Guinnâ€™s description of the culture of the Wild West as well as how the very normalâ€”and flawedâ€”Wyatt Earp became a legend.
- Start With Why by Simon Sinek (4.5). Iâ€™ve seen Simonâ€™s work in a handful of different areas by now and his book is the definitive place to get to the core of what he teaches. This will inspire and sharpen you both personally and for whatever organization you are a part of.
- The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt (4.5). The book seeks to figure out why we often canâ€™t seem to agree with others on certain issues that seem obvious to us. Haidt presents a brilliant metaphor of an elephant and its rider to describe why this happens. He says that the rider is our reason and the elephant is our intuition. The elephant takes us somewhere first and then we explain to ourselves why that way makes the most sense. In real terms, our intuition precedes our reasoning.
- Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming by Stephen LaBerge (3).Â Iâ€™ve always been fascinating by dreams. Both because I experience very vivid dreams myself, and because Iâ€™ve noticed how often God spoke to people throughout the Bible through their dreams. LaBergeâ€™s book explains how to dream where you are aware that you are dreaming. Like the movie Inception minus Hollywood.
- The Explicit Gospel by Matt Chandler (2). I didnâ€™t really get into this one overall as there isnâ€™t any new or intriguing angle that the book takes. Itâ€™s basically a modern day treatise on Calvinism. As such, youâ€™d probably have to be theologically aligned this way to resonate with this book.
- The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni (3). Solid material here and I would have rated it higher but much of it Iâ€™ve heard in his book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team and his speaking times at the Leadership Summit.
- Lincolnâ€™s Melancholy by Joshua Wolf Shenk (4.5). It takes a look at the depression that Lincoln dealt with his entire life and how that fueled his ultimate success. The more I learn about Lincoln the more I share his outlook on things that are a bit darker and raw than what most people care for.
- Peter And Wendy by J.M. Barrie (4). The original Peter Pan story is a bit different than the Disney version. It reminds me of reading summarized Bible stories as a kid and then reading them in their fullness in the Bible and realizing all the parts that arenâ€™t kid appropriate. In the original version of Peter Pan there is quite a bit of death and violence. Itâ€™s actually a really fun experience after youâ€™ve learned it from the cartoon.
- The Blue Parakeet by Scot McKnight (4). It is a terrific look at how to read the Bible in context. It shows a lot of the areas where we allow our personal biases to shape our conclusions about God and the Bible.
- The Yankee Years by Joe Torre (3). As a diehard Yankee fan it was fascinating to hear all of the behind-the-scenes stories that took place while I grew up as a Yankee fan. As is true with just about anything, everyone has an opinion on how you should lead but know very little about what is really going on.
- Sex and God at Yale by Nathan Harden (3.5). This book is deeply disturbing for a number of reasons. First, hearing the graphic nature of the sexual things that happen at Yale; second, seeing how the future leaders are being â€œtaughtâ€; third, seeing just how liberal our culture has become. Put it all together and itâ€™s a tough book to read but a valuable tool to give an accurate dose of the disturbing reality in our culture today. Definitely pushed me to pray more for our students and our country. Itâ€™s far easier to pretend things like this donâ€™t exist.
- Who Is This Man? by John Ortberg (5). This looks at the life of Jesus in a historical context. It speaks powerfully into the impact and legacy of the life of Christ. If you are a Christian, this book will remind you of the amazing God we follow. For those of you who are still journeying with your opinions about God it will present to you a compelling case of what Jesus Christ has meant to our world.
- Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh (3). An interesting look at the career of the founder of Zappos. It will stir your entrepreneurial spirit and cause you to reflect on what matters most in life. For Tony, it is happiness. Iâ€™d love to introduce him to Jesus and have him experience the JOY that comes from that.
- Falling Upward by Richard Rohr (2). This book is either brilliant or crazy. Depending on when you would ask me I could have answered either. Rohr is hard to put into a traditional â€œcampâ€ when you are processing through his challenges.
- The Shallows by Nicholas Carr (3). Carr addresses how the internet is changing the way we think and argues that it is changing our brains themselves. While I loved much of the research and study, I felt that his conclusions played too much into the collective fear that people have always had with new technology.
- How the Mighty Fall by Jim Collins (3.5). This is a great book to consider whether you are on a trajectory toward extinction as a company. Our hubris leads each of us, both individually and corporately, to conclude that it wonâ€™t happen to us. Collins challenges challenges you to see accurately where you are.
- Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk by David Sedaris (2). A modern day Aesopâ€™s Fables for adults. Some of them were witty but others of them were just bizarre. An entertaining look at human social interactions through the lens of animals.
- The Way of the Lord by Tom Wright (1.5). I read this in preparation for our upcoming trip to the Holy Lands. Wright is far more abstract than I was hoping and applies the geography of the Holy Lands as a spiritual metaphor for our lives.
- The Myth of a Christian Nation by Greg Boyd (5). Every now and then Iâ€™ll read a book that will so challenge my ideas that it causes me to rethink things that Iâ€™ve long ago concluded. Greg Boyd has recently become a favorite of mine for this reason. This book articulates a tension that Iâ€™ve lived with for years now but have struggled to navigate. For any Christian in America that wonders how their faith should impact their political involvement, this is a must-read.
- Love Does by Bob Goff (2.5). This book is strong on engaging stories and weak on substance. Might be a good entry book for someone just checking out Christianity. While I didnâ€™t love the book, I did get the feeling that Bob would be a great guy to know.
- God of the Possible by Greg Boyd (5). This book addresses what to do with all of the passages in the Bible that talk about God changing His mind, or God being surprised, or God laying out possible scenarios for people. It challenges the classical view of Godâ€™s foreknowledge and will ignite your experience with God and will unleash your prayer life.
- Community Wins by Bryan Allain (3.5). If you work to create an online presence, guys like Bryan are like a shot in the arm. The way I see it, Bryan has three really compelling things going for him: 1) heâ€™s a solid Christian guy, 2) heâ€™s a blogging stud, and 3) heâ€™s hilarious.
- The Crowd, the Critic, and the Muse by Michael Gungor (4). A great book on creativity written from a refreshingly honest Christian perspective. This is the Gungor from the band of the same name and he talks about what he has learned about spirituality and creativity through his experiences in music.
- Quitter by Jon Acuff (3). A solid read but I didnâ€™t like it as much as his book Stuff Christians Like. It does navigate well through the discussion of your dream job versus the job you currently have. Jon has quickly gained a following in the Christian community the last few years.
- Jesus, My Father, The CIA, and Me by Ian Morgan Cron (3.5). Cron is a great storyteller and he chronicles the many highs and lows of his life well. The book takes you on a roller coaster of emotions with him ranging from sad, to empathic, to cheerful and reflective.
- Making Ideas Happen by Scott Belsky (3). A no-nonsense look at how creative people can organize themselves to turn their ideas into reality. Scott does a good job addressing the tension between art and function.
- David Copperfield by Charles Dickens (3.5). This is Dickensâ€™ â€œmagnum opusâ€ and is a lengthy read. I enjoyed it like I have his other novels although it wasnâ€™t my favorite. My favorite part was how Dickens tailored the narration to sound as if it were from the perspective of himself through each stage of his development (i.e. the narrator grows up as he tells the story).
- Cross Roads by Wm. Paul Young (5). It is very similar in style to the Shack but it draws upon all new characters and a different scenario in which a person experiences God in a more tangible sense than we get to do currently. What Paul does so well is to allow your imagination to ignite toward God.
- The Frugal Book Promoter by Carolyn Howard-Johnson (3). It got a bit tedious at times but there were plenty of ideas that Iâ€™d never considered. The title is pretty obvious.
- A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (4.5). My favorite Dickens book. I started a new tradition last year in that I will read this each December. A moving story of transformation and hope.
- Actually Clams Are Miserable by Bryan Allain (3). A quick and fun read about 101 cliches. This is Bryanâ€™s third book and it focuses solely on humor. Read it for enjoymentâ€™s sake and youâ€™ll enjoy it.
- The Bible by God and His friends (5). This year I read through the NASB version using the Historical reading plan on YouVersion.
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