It’s the final week of 2016 so I figure it’s time to share some of best books I’ve read year. Some of these were published this year, some were not.

If you’re thinking, “I don’t read books. Blogs are enough to keep up with, but books are too long,” then let me encourage you to stop reading this blog if it means you start reading good books again. Seriously, books are that valuable.

Mature Christians should be readers, for God made his Word available to us through the written word. Good books are are worth the investment… and this is why these type of lists are helpful (to keep you away from books that aren’t worth the time).


Gospel Centered Youth Ministry: A Practical Guide, edited by Cameron Cole & Jon Nielson
gcymFull disclosure: I authored one of the chapters in this book. That said, I only had the opportunity to read the first chapter of the book prior to its release… so I read the book the same time as everyone else. It really is an incredibly helpful book for youth workers and I am humbled to have contributed a chapter.

Each chapter addresses a different aspect of youth ministry (parents, teaching, discipleship, missions trips, retreats, etc.) and is broken into two parts: biblical and theological foundations, and then an emphasis on practical ministry applications. Most books on youth ministry are fairly light on exegetical and theological depth and only dive into enough “meat” to move onto the real emphasis of the book: practical ministry tips. Gospel Centered Youth Ministry takes another approach, and is based off the conviction that “theology drives practice.” Each chapter also provides recommendations for further reading.

Being a theologically-minded youth pastor is often a lonely thing to be. Being a part of the Rooted Ministry (many of the contributors are a part of Rooted) and the publication of this book encourages me, because it means I’m not the only theology nerd who’s serving in youth ministry.

If you are not a youth worker, this book could still be helpful to you if you serve in a church who wants to reach the next generation with the Gospel. Hopefully, that covers each of our churches. You can read some helpful book reviews HERE and HERE.

Instructing Believers in Faith, Augustine 
instructing-believers-in-faithThis is an old book, written by the man who is widely considered the greatest theologian of Church History (of course, aside from the apostles). Augustine wrote this book as an answer to one of the priests in his province of North Africa who asked for counsel regarding discipleship. In particular, Augustine was asked how to teach new converts the Christian faith in a way that was not a mere transfer of knowledge.

The pastoral task is not a new one. Personally, I was greatly refreshed by reading about the challenge of pastors in the 4th century that I continue to struggle with today.

  • How do I teach something in a compelling way if I’m personally going through a spiritual drought.
  • What should I teach when? In what order should different doctrines be taught?
  • There are two new believers: One who comes from a background with no prior knowledge of Christianity, and one who was knowledgeable of Christianity. How should I disciple them differently?
  • Can you give me an example of what this would look like in practice?

These above questions are directly addressed in this book, and I was greatly surprised by how accessible this edition. Do not be scared off from this book because it’s written by Augustine.

Designed to Lead: The Church and Leadership Development, Eric Geiger & Kevin Peck
designed-to-leadSimply put, this is probably the best leadership book I’ve read. When I received this book to review from the publisher, I expected a book that was filled with practical how-to’s and step-by-step guides. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised to find it is a practical theology of leadership. The biblical and theological foundation is firmly anchored in Scripture and the principles are simple, clear, and useful.

This book helped me analyze some leadership successes and failures I’ve made over the years in ministry, and I’ve returned to it multiple times already for reminders. Designed to Lead is the type of book that I envision re-reading whenever I’m facing a significant leadership decisions.

You can read my book review HERE.

Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise, Anders Ericsson 
peakPeak was a different type of book for me to enjoy. A non-religious book by a research psychologist about what makes some people experts in their field while others reach a certain ceiling and then plateau before slowly declining.

It has become an accepted statement that you need 10,000 of doing something in order to become an expert in that field. Ericsson points out this isn’t exactly true – what if you’ve been practicing it all wrong? This is why some surgeons who graduated from medical school more recently will often outperform those who have been conducting the same surgery for decades – they have not been making the same small mistakes for so long. Therefore, when they are corrected or when they discover their mistake, they are quicker to correct it rather than dismissing it and trusting their experience.

Ericsson encourages “deliberate practice” as a way to improve one’s abilities and limits. By working under a coach who can help identify the proper constructs, and by pushing oneself beyond his comfort zones, it is there that growth and expertise begin. You can read more about Peak HERE.

Personally, I hope to become an excellent communicator of God’s Word through preaching and writing. That simply will not happen without challenging myself and without deliberate practice.

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, Steven King
on-writingIt would be foolish for a writer to ignore a book that is on everyone’s list of “Best Books for Writers.” I’ve read many of these lists in search of books to help me discover what perfect practice looks like for a writer, and On Writing is always included.

Despite the semi-frequent vulgarity, this book was riveting. I simply could not put it down. King tells how he earned his stripes, worked through countless rejection notices, refused to give up, work through severe battles against alcohol and a later severe injury. He also gives incredibly helpful advice on writing, grammar, and editing.

This was one of the first books of 2016 I read, but the encouragement that sticks with me is this: “Be ruthless.” If you don’t need to include something, then delete it. As a writer, you need to be willing to “Kill your darlings.” Whether that’s a beloved character in your story, or a quippy but unnecessary sentence – it’s good counsel.

Other books to commend: