My Reading List of 2011
[I]n 2011 I read through 39 books. Apart from the Bible, my favorite book was Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. My least favorite was Bizarre Books by Russell Ash and Brian Lake. Here is my list with my rating for each (5 being the best) and a brief review. Make sure you also check out my lists from previous years, as well as my recommendations on how to become a better reader. FYI… at anytime you can find my up-to-date reading list by clicking on the “reading list” link at the top right of my blog. This post is a summation of my running list from 2011.
- Cicero by Anthony Everitt (3.5). Cicero was arguably Rome’s greatest politician and played a major role in the lives of Julius Caesar and the early days of Octavian. A great biography on a master orator and politician. It’s fascinating to read about the culture of Rome in those days and after this I want to read a biography on Octavian next.
- Bizarre Books by Russell Ash and Brian Lake (2). I was interested in this because of my love of reading but most of the books were just random. Found a few in here that I want to check out and even one that I have already read but for the most part it’s just a light read.
- Sticky Teams by Larry Osborne (3.5). This is pretty specific to a church staff but if that applies to you then I’d strongly recommend it. He walks through hiring and firing as well as how to have a healthy staff and elder board. Made for some great conversations with our leadership team.
- The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning (3.5). I like his development of the grace of God but I don’t know how to reconcile that with the idea of discipleship. This book is a modern classic of the faith and for good reason. It makes sure you have a foundation for understanding what Christ offers you.
- Problogger by by Darren Rowse and Chris Garrett (3). It covers much more of the basics than Iâ€™d expected and didnâ€™t really get into as much of the hands-on side of stuff. They did help me to think through some of the philosophy of how my site is built though. If you have your own blog or are thinking of starting one then I’d highly recommend it.
- Love Wins by Rob Bell (3). An interesting read on universalism after you die. I don’t agree with the premise of the book and it’s a bit annoying how confidently he argues his point. My least favorite of his books but I’m still a Rob Bell fan.
- The Myth of Certainty by Daniel Taylor (4.5). A terrific read for Christians that are critical thinkers with lingering questions. How do you actively follow God without your doubts paralyzing you? A must read for Christian intellectuals. You’re not alone in your doubts and the Church is the safest and healthiest place to process through them.
- Spiritual Leadership by J. Oswald Chambers (3). Originally written in the 60â€²s, you can definitely feel the dated nature of his theology and writing style. As a result, much of what was said struck me as either cliche or spiritually archaic. The flip side of this was that there were a few nuggets of â€œtimelessâ€ wisdom in it that were very beneficial.
- When Life’s Not Working by Bob Merritt (3). Itâ€™s a rather ominous title (and one that makes for some funny questions when you carry the book around) but itâ€™s an overall look at how we live and the priorities that we choose to live with. While there isn’t much that is new or profound about the content, it is a great perspective of what is most important.
- Creative Matters by multiple authors (4). I realize that I’m biased on this since I was able to write a chapter for it, but I am really proud of how the Creative Matters eBook turned out. It is a free eBook written by a handful of people in creative roles in the Church today and all of us sharing a few of our insights into creativity. Rarely do I come across a book on creativity that actually gives the reader practical advice to follow through on.
- I Never Knew That by David Hoffman (3). A fun little bathroom read of pointless information and trivia.
- Walking with the Giants by Warren Wiersbe (4). This old version is focused on preaching and features short biographies of famous preachers as well as a handful of topics and recommended books for preachers on those topics. It definitely has an old school feel to it which makes much of the perspective seem dated but also has a timeless feel for the things that never change.
- Dexter and Philospohy by Richard Greene (3). An interesting “dissection” of an interesting show. I would have liked it more but it was multiple authors and a lot of overlapping ideas. There are probably 10 really solid chapters out of the 25 in the book.
- Decision Points by George W. Bush (4). There are 14 chapters that give his back story on why he made key decisions during his presidency. Not that I agreed with everything he says or did but I feel like it is a great premise and I would enjoy if each President wrote a book like this. Well worth the read.
- Radical by David Platt (4). A great, albeit misunderstood, book. Platt argues that all Christians in the world, no matter where you live or what you do for a living, must share God’s heart for all peoples of the world. How are we responding to that in our context?
- The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction by Alan Jacobs (4). I love reading so much that I read books about reading. It is an interesting modern day commentary on the values of reading in our techno culture. Focuses on learning to “read on a whim” instead of reading like it’s your daily vegetables.
- Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (4.5). The book travels through the primary storyline of Abraham Lincoln (of which I have done my fair share of reading) but he adds a vampire storyline in between it all. It was actually very entertaining and I blew through it in a couple of days. I enjoy the Lincoln narrative so much that having a faux-storyline mixed in was actually more fun than I imagined.
- Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxes (4.5). A fascinatingly compelling story of a theologian who was killed for his role in a conspiracy against Hitler. I was most impressed by his own spiritual disciplines as well as his awareness of how to culturally navigate his faith in a time when so many others in his country were either caught off guard or rendered helpless by the events.
- Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (4.5). A beautiful story that shows the heart of greed, ambition, and the true nature of people. Dickens is a master storyteller with very dynamic characters. I was shocked how invested I felt with them toward the end of the novel.
- Untitled by Blaine Hogan (3). Blaine was one of my fellow authors on the Creative Matters eBook and he has just written his own eBook chronicling his journey through all things creative as it has taken him through being an actor on TV shows like â€œPrison Break,â€ to where he now finds himself as the creative director at Willow Creek Community Church.
- The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman (3). An editor’s guide to writing a good book. Primarily focused on writing a fictional story but he gives a good perspective of the difficulty of getting published.
- God Without Religion by Andrew Farley (3.5). Andrew has an incredible ability to cause you to think about the Bible in new ways. I still hear people refer to his last book, The Naked Gospel, and there is much overlap in this book. His section explaining predestination is the most powerful and succinct that I have ever read on the topic.
- The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Morris (4). I am amazed that Morris spread the details of Teddy’s life into three epic books. The first one of the three does not disappoint and easily engages you with Teddy’s larger than life persona.
- Unclean by Richard Beck (4.5). This book rocked my world. I was so intrigued by the content of it that I am focusing my next sermon on it. This is a heady read, so it may be tough depending on how disciplined you are as a reader, but it gives plenty to chew and reflect on.
- The Writer’s Manifesto by Jeff Goins (3.5). Due to the size of this I’m not sure if it can be considered a book, but it was a quick and focusing little read. As an established writer, Jeff does a great job at focusing writers on what is most important and how to write to your full abilities.
- The Orthodox Heretic by Peter Rollins (4). It is a book of spiritual parables that cause you to rethink your faith as a result of their unusual endings. Some of these parables were fantastic and caused me much reflection.
- Theodore Rex by Edmund Morris (3.5). A great second installation of the Theodore Roosevelt trilogy by Morris. Focused primarily on Teddy’s time as President it does a good job of showing how well he mastered the position although it gets bogged down in some nitty gritty at times.
- Onward by Howard Shultz (3.5). Reminded me at times of when I read his other book, Pour Your Heart Into It, back in 2007. While some of it was overlap, Onward focuses on the last 4 years of the Starbucks journey through the economy. It is a good practical book on making tough decisions in leadership.
- A God Who Speaks by Jonathon Dillon (3.5). Jonathon is a friend of mine and he has done a great job making a workbook on how to practice listening prayer and actually hear from God. He is going to update it into a regular book (no workbook) and I’m even more excited for that!
- Colonel Roosevelt by Edmund Morris (4). This was a bit of a sad book since it is the decline of Roosevelt’s life after his presidency. Nonetheless, it is a fascinating end to Morris’ trilogy and completes the life of Teddy well.
- Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi (3). I was particularly interested in this book since I’m an introvert, but it was different than I was hoping for. Much of it felt like self help or even borderline creepy in its advice on how to network with people.
- I’m Feeling Lucky by Douglas Edwards (3.5). The story of Google’s early years told from employee number 59. Edwards is a terrific writer and brings much of that culture to life. I found it fascinating to immerse myself in the day-to-day business culture of Google.
- 31 Days to Finding Your Blogging Mojo by Bryan Allain (4). It was a surprisingly fun and easy book to work through. While his content was solid, it was his writing style that made the book dazzle. If you are a blogger, or if you just enjoy good comedic writing, this is a book you should definitely check out.
- Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson (5). Isaacson does an incredible job of recapping many of the highlights of Steveâ€™s life without sugar coating the unpleasant details. The level of connection he had with Steve while working on this book impressed me. It isnâ€™t written from the perspective of the outside looking in. This book is an inside view of Steve and the people who knew him best.
- King’s Cross by Tim Keller (3). Easily my least favorite of Keller’s books. It is still well written and insightful, but I felt that it didn’t have an over-arching unique idea that he was trying to convey. We read it as a life group at church and it was well received overall.
- Born Standing Up by Steve Martin (4.5). This was a delightful book. It is focused on Steve’s standup comedy career and offers incredible insights for anyone who speaks publicly. It is not only insightful, but is written so well that you will fly through it.
- A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (4.5). I’ve seen different versions of the movie countless times but I’d never actually read through the book. I absolutely love this story and the reason why Dickens wrote it. I will probably read this every December.
- The First Tycoon by T.J. Stiles (3.5). An interesting look at a guy that changed (and then set) the way our economy and government are both structured. The power he leveraged as a private citizen of the United States was shocking. Well written and engaging.
- The Bible by God and His friends (5). In 2011 I read through the NIV (1984), the TNIV, and the updated NIV versions. These are all very similar updates to the same core version. I also read through the chronological reading plan.
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