My Top Books for 2018

For the longest time, I wanted to read 60 books in a year. The rationale being that both Stephen King and Bill Gates read that amount. It wasn’t until last year, though, I finally did it. Despite feeling somewhat accomplished, I mostly felt indifferent. Sixty was a good goal, but I still came away feeling like I hadn’t even scratched the surface.

Going into 2018, I don’t know if I set a reading goal for myself. Maybe I thought 100 books would be cool. I wondered to myself if I read a hundred books in a year, would I finally get to the end of my ever-expanding “to read” list. After reading/listening to 122 books for the year, I can confidently say the answer is no. Although, it does help.

A couple things happen when you read/listen to over a hundred books in a year. First, you become a lot more relaxed about your reading list. When you read 60 books a year, or five books a month, you feel like you have to be selective. Every book takes time, so you pick them wisely. When you’re at a hundred, there’s a sense that no matter how many books are on the docket you’ll eventually get to them. Second, almost everything reminds you of some book you’ve read. You almost can’t help but reference something you’re reading. Because that’s practically a different book every few days, every time you talk to someone, you’re more than likely mentioning a different book. You get self-conscious.

What I will say is that I feel like my reading list this past year was more diverse than any year prior. I read/listened 20 works of fiction, 37 books by women (still little in comparison to the total number), roughly 36 were Christian books. I constantly found myself shocked by the experiences of others and yet it was those books on subjects I knew nothing about I found myself most enjoying. Of the 122, 49 were audiobooks. I still physically read more than I listened to, but the dramatic leap between 63 and 122 can be attributed to their introduction. I’ve placed asterisks by the audiobooks in the event some people feel audiobooks don’t count.

I don’t know if I plan on reading the same amount next year. As great as it is to read this much, you can’t do it without giving up other things. I didn’t listen to nearly as much music this year, and now I have a list of albums I’ve been meaning to check out. On top of that, because books went so quickly, I didn’t do a great job at making notes of what I took away from them. The result is that if you ask me about any given book, chances are I don’t remember a single thing from it.

But now that I’ve written a 500-word caveat to favorite books from this year, without further ado, my top five (really, 6) with another five (really, 6) honorable mentions, in no particular order:

  1. Bad Feminist/Hunger– Roxane Gay

 Image result for hunger roxane gay

I knew from the moment I read/listened to Bad Feminist that no other book was going to come close. As much as I love James Baldwin, I don’t know if there’s ever been a writer who has absolutely leveled me like Roxane Gay. Between her story and her literary/cultural criticism, I don’t know if there’s a more important writer in our time at this time. As a married Christian, cisgender, heterosexual male who’s never dealt with body issues or sexual trauma, I don’t think our experiences could be any more different, and that’s what made her work so jarring. She left me with more questions than answers and yet she made me a better person. I include Hunger because leaving it off doesn’t feel right. I honestly can’t recommend her enough. Special shout out to Nikki Siverson, Stephanie Selander, and Hannah Cole who all told me to read her.

  1. Life in Motion –Misty Copeland

Image result for life in motion misty copeland

This book is on the list because of the sheer surprise of it. I know of Misty Copeland, but I’ve never really followed her story. For her to tell it and for us to get an inside look at her life is a gift. Her story is almost a fairytale, and you can’t help but be enchanted the entire way through.

  1. The Architecture of Happiness – Alain De Botton

Image result for the architecture of happiness

What do our buildings and architecture say about us? How do they represent us while simultaneously evoking a mood? What’s the difference between architecture and engineering? For the last couple of years, I’ve had a cursory interest in architecture and architectural features, but Botton gets philosophical here and waxes poetic about it in a way that’s sweeping. I only wish I remembered more from it. Once again, one of those books that took me by surprise.

  1. The Myth of a Christian Nation – Greg Boyd

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With all the conflict surrounding the last election, I was forced to think about the role of faith in politics. Greg Boyd says a lot of what I was thinking with some sharper criticism towards America and how nationalism has infected our faith. Perhaps it’s too simplistic and repetitive at times, but it’s still poignant nonetheless. He doesn’t give you the easy answers but forces you to ask bigger questions surrounding values and beliefs. Really interesting to read alongside Chuck Colson’s God and Government.

  1. The Magic of Thinking Big – David Schwartz

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The older I get, the more I realize just how much work I have to do regarding my mentality. There are things we learn in our youth that allow us to survive and do well that stop being helpful as we enter adulthood. This book gave me some tools and insights to come back to when I’m tended to shrink away from being the person that God’s called me to be. Credit goes to my wife for this recommendation.

Honorable Mentions (really, any of these could be put in the top five):

  1. Lean In/Option B – Sheryl Sandberg

Image result for lean in sheryl sandberg Image result for option b sheryl sandberg

Similar to Roxane Gay, as much as I’m thinking and talking about Option B, it doesn’t feel right not mentioning Lean In. I read Lean In because it felt like I couldn’t escape it. Everywhere I went, someone was talking about it or referencing it. Now I see why. Lean In gave me tons to think about regarding working with women (namely, how to recognize, empower, and develop women under my leadership). It made me think about my relationship with my wife and how I can be the kind of husband that not only encourages my wife to lean in but does so without feeling inferior. Option B, on the other hand, gutted me differently. It wasn’t the first time I thought about death before, but it might’ve been the first time I thought about how my death would affect those I’d leave behind (mainly my wife and kids). In both cases, I was grateful for Sandberg’s heroic candor. I like to believe she, also, made me a more compassionate person. Shout out to Karol Coyne for the recommendation.

  1. Originals – Adam Grant

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Occasionally I come across books that both propel me forward while beckoning me to slow down and take it in. Adam Grant’s Originals was one of those books. It felt important as I listened to it, and all I wanted was to grab it and take into myself. Eventually, I’m going to go back through this book and write on its implications for the church. I realize that says nothing about what this book is about. Sue me.

  1. Love Does – Bob Goff

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Bob Goff is one of those people you’re just grateful exists. That he shares the same plane of existence with you and that you’re alive at the same time is an added benefit. He challenges you to re-evaluate the way you think about faith. He dares you to be more imaginative and, in the process, you find yourself coming alive in an unexpected way. Can walking with Jesus really be that fun? Really be that much of an adventure?

  1. Strong and Weak– Andy Crouch

Image result for strong and weak andy crouch 

I’m pretty sure if there were ever such a thing as doing an inductive study on a 2×2, this would be it. Crouch, from my experience, is one of those guys who comes off incredibly smart and whenever you recite his ideas, you sound, if not feel, smarter. However, the difference between this and something like Culture Making (which I believe made my list a couple years ago) is that this feels a bit more important. Culture Making carried implications, to be sure, but Strong and Weak changes everything. It feels less cerebral and more immediate. The paradox of strength and vulnerability in leadership. So good. Shout out to my wife and Brian Sanders for the recommendation.

  1. The Warmth of Other Suns –Isabelle Wilkerson

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My mom was born and raised in Louisiana but moved to California sometime in the ’80s. Though she wasn’t part of “The Great Migration”, The Warmth of Other Suns caused me to reflect on my mother’s story. What I loved here, aside from the brilliant storytelling, is the way Wilkerson doesn’t just wrap these stories up with a bow. Instead, we see how the migration from the South to the North, and West, gave just as much as it took from Black Americans. We gain a deeper understanding of just how bad the South had to be for such a mass exodus to occur. But make no mistake: the storytelling here is brilliant. Although I don’t think she and I are related, I’ll gladly take any sort of familial association she’s willing to grant me.


Wow. That was a lot. Now you see why I only blog once a year.

My complete list:


  1. Turtles All the Way Down – John Green*
  2. How to Be Here – Rob Bell
  3. Prayer – Timothy Keller
  4. The White Album – Joan Didion*
  5. The Liturgy of the Ordinary – Tish Harrison Warren
  6. Called – Mark Labberton
  7. Recapturing the Wonder – Mike Cosper
  8. Beneath a Scarlet Sky – Mark Sullivan*
  9. Opening to God – David Benner
  10. Orphan Train – Christina Baker Kline*
  11. Garden City – John Mark Comer
  12. The Deeper Journey – M. Robert Mulholland Jr.


  1. Bad Feminist – Roxane Gay*
  2. Tears We Cannot Stop – Michael Eric Dyson
  3. Leadership and Self-Deception – The Harbinger Institute*
  4. Fatal Fix – Graham Morse
  5. This is Water – David Foster Wallace
  6. Life in Motion – Misty Copeland
  7. Brave New World – Aldous Huxley*
  8. We Were Eight Years in Power – Ta-Nehisi Coates
  9. The Magic of Thinking Big* – David Schwartz
  10. Assata – Assata Shakur
  11. We Should All BeFeminists – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  12. Jesus and the Disinherited – Howard Thurman


  1. Surprise the World – Michael Frost
  2. Dying – Cory Taylor
  3. The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood*
  4. Shrill – Lindy West
  5. Sacred Rhythms – Ruth Haley Barton
  6. Tranny – Laura Jane Grace
  7. Accidental Saints – Nadia Bolz-Weber
  8. Scores – Michael Blutrich*
  9. Underground Church – Brian Sanders
  10. Hunger – Roxane Gay*
  11. Walking on Water – Madeline L’Engle


  1. Everything Happens for a Reason – Kate Bowler
  2. Union with Christ – Rankin Wilbourne
  3. Americanah – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  4. The Hobbit – J.R.R. Tolkien*
  5. Your Best Year Ever – Michael Hyatt*
  6. The Power of Positive Leadership – Jon Gordon
  7. Extreme Ownership – Jocko Willink and Leif Babin*
  8. Deep Work – Cal Newport
  9. The Architecture of Happiness – Alain De Botton
  10. Get Well Soon – Jennifer Wright*
  11. Hidden Figures – Margot Lee Shetterly*
  12. Prayer – Phillip Yancey


  1. What the F – Benjamin Bergen*
  2. The Innovator’s Mindset – George Couros
  3. The Ten Faces of Innovation – Tom Kelley with Jonathan Littman
  4. Unf—k Yourself – Gary John Bishop
  5. The Success Principles – Jack Canfield*
  6. The Effective Executive – Peter Drucker
  7. The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams


  1. Forgotten God – Francis Chan
  2. The Warmth of Other Suns – Isabelle Wilkerson*
  3. Braving the Wilderness – Brené Brown
  4. The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas*
  5. The Great Divorce – C.S. Lewis
  6. The Leadership Lessons of Jesus – Bob Briner and Ray Pritchard
  7. The Training of the Twelve – A.B. Bruce
  8. Heroic Leadership – Chris Lowney
  9. Astrophysics for People in a Hurry – Neil Degrasse Tyson
  10. A Long Walk to Freedom – Nelson Mandela*


  1. Emboldened – Tara Beth Leach
  2. The Radical Pursuit of Rest – John Koessler
  3. I’m Still Here – Austin Channing Tatum*
  4. Anxious – Amy Simpson
  5. Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy*
  6. Lean In – Sheryl Sandberg
  7. The Myth of a Christian Nation – Greg Boyd*
  8. God and Government – Chuck Colson
  9. Start Something That Matters – Blake Mycoskie
  10. Boundaries – Henry Cloud and John Townsend*


  1. The Art of Social Enterprise – Carl Frankel and Allan Bromberger
  2. White Awake – Daniel Hill*
  3. Strong and Weak – Andy Crouch*
  4. The Gospel of the Kingdom – George Eldon Ladd
  5. Shepherds – Daniel Fredericks
  6. A River in Darkness – Masaji Ishikawa*
  7. Letters to Malcolm – C.S. Lewis
  8. The Sky Below – Scott Parazynski*
  9. Never Split the Difference – Chris Voss*
  10. Capital Gaines – Chip Gaines*
  11. Servant Leadership – Robert Greenleaf


  1. Love Does – Bob Goff*
  2. Option B – Sheryl Sandberg*
  3. The Lost City of the Monkey God – Douglas Preston
  4. The Order of Time – Carlo Rovelli
  5. It Ended Badly – Jennifer Wright*
  6. If I Can’t Have You – Greg Olsen*
  7. So You Want to Talk about Race – Ijeoma Oluo*
  8. Disruptive Discipleship – Sam Van Eman
  9. The Coaching Habit – Michael Bungay Stanier
  10. When Breath Becomes Air – Paul Kalanithi*
  11. Emma – Jane Austen*


  1. Let Your Life Speak – Parker Palmer
  2. The Road Back to You – Ian Morgan Cron
  3. The Attentive Life – Leighton Ford
  4. Originals – Adam Grant*
  5. Raise Your Voice – Kathy Khang
  6. Sacred Enneagram – Christopher Heuertz
  7. Hit Makers – Derek Thompson
  8. Helter Skelter – Vincent Bugliosi*
  9. Present Over Perfect – Shauna Niequist*
  10. Strengths-Based Leadership – Tom Rath


  1. Beyond Belief – Jenna Miscavige Hill*
  2. An Absolutely Remarkable Thing – Hank Green*
  3. Bridge to Terabithia – Katherine Patterson*
  4. All the Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr
  5. The Leadership Triangle – Kevin Ford and Ken Tucker
  6. The Witness Wore Red – Rebecca Musser*
  7. My Struggle, Book 5 – Karl Ove Knausgaard
  8. Everything Everything – Nicola Yoon*
  9. 13 Reasons Why – Jay Asher*
  10. Conscious Business – Fred Kofman


  1. The Blood of Emmitt Till – Timothy Tyson
  2. Murder on the Orient Express – Agatha Christie*
  3. Letters to a Diminished Church – Dorothy Sayers
  4. Made to Stick – Chip Heath and Dan Heath*
  5. Breaking Miss Lovely – Tony Ortega
  6. Let Justice Roll Down – John M. Perkins

My Top Books for 2017

For the past six years or so, my goal has been to read 60 books a year. Reason being that Stephen King in On Writing said he reads 60 books a year. I figured if it was good enough for him, it was good enough for me. After nearly hitting it last year, I finally did it. Sixty-two books for the year.

Looking over the list, I realize just how little fiction I read. Despite reading nine more books than last year, I read half the amount of fiction. My creative nonfiction numbers, however, nearly doubled. Looking at the list in order, you can see themes in my reading. There’s quite a bit on calling, leadership development, and spiritual gifts. I think my struggle to read fiction came from a deep desire to learn about those subjects. But now I wonder if it came at the expense of closing off my imagination. Hopefully in 2018 that’ll change.

At the risk of being late to the party, here are my top five reads from the year (in no particular order).

  1. ­The Return of the Prodigal Son – Henri Nouwen


I don’t know if I have a favorite author but Nouwen has to be somewhere near the top of the list. His ability to name what’s going on inside at some subterranean level isn’t just good. It’s downright terrifying. This is Nouwen at his best: simple yet deep, honest in a way you’re afraid to be, and beautiful.

  1. The Holy Longing – Ronald Rolheiser


There are a couple reasons Rolheiser makes the list. First, because the season I read it in. This past year was a huge one in terms of discerning calling and fighting restlessness. This book forced me to recognize that the grass isn’t greener on the other side. At our core, we are unsatisfied creatures who occasionally experience moments of satisfaction. Not the other way around. Second, because it was just so outside my usual authors. Rolheiser is Catholic. There’s an air of mysticism that I found refreshing. He reminded me of C.S. Lewis in the way he communicates profound truths in beautiful images I never would’ve thought of. This is supposedly first in a trilogy. I hope to read the others in the coming year.

  1. The ONE Thing – Gary Keller


“What’s the ONE thing you can do such that by doing it everything else will be either easier or unnecessary?”

Simple in language and engaging in its delivery, this book singlehandedly changed the way I view and/or approach my life. It gave me language for my own personal productivity. For weeks after, I couldn’t even attempt multi-tasking without feeling guilty. It was one of the few, if not the only personal development books I read this past year that didn’t feel longer than it needed to be. You could read the spark notes, but why would you?

  1. Autobiography of Malcom X – Malcolm X and Alex Haley


Absolutely sweeping. For most of my upbringing Malcolm X has been an enigmatic, if not polarizing figure. Though we always associate him with Martin Luther King, Jr., it’s MLK who gets the national holiday, the statues, and the streets named after him. Malcolm X always felt like second best (perhaps because history is written by the winners). This book not only showed me the span of a life, it changed my whole perspective on Malcom X. I found his critiques of the overall civil rights movement and the Christian church poignant. He may not have been a Christian but he was definitely a prophetic voice. I have a whole new respect for him.

  1. Surprised by the Power of the Spirit – Jack Deere


This almost didn’t make the list. But if I’m going with books that changed me in some way, then this book has to be included. This book challenged me to expect more from my life with God than I currently do. It gave me a deeper hunger and thirst to hear His voice. It made me want to create more space for the Holy Spirit within my ministry. It opened my eyes to what it means to eagerly desire the spiritual gifts. One of those books where I walked away knowing I couldn’t return to life as normal without in some way incriminating myself.

Full List:

  1. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Stephen Covey
  2. Man’s Search for Meaning – Viktor Frankl
  3. My Struggle (Book 3) – Karl Ove Knausgaard
  4. Sticky Church – Larry Osborne
  5. My Struggle (Book 4) – Karl Ove Knausgaard
  6. Divided by Faith – Christian Smith and Michael O. Emerson
  7. I Ain’t Coming Back – Dolphus Weary
  8. Walden – Henry David Thoreau
  9. Ender’s Game – Orson Scott Card
  10. The Autobiography of Malcolm X – Malcom X with Alex Haley
  11. Spiritual Equipping for Mission – Ryan Shaw
  12. Slow Kingdom Coming – Kent Annan
  13. Beauty – Roger Scruton
  14. Strengthsfinder 2.0 – Tom Rath
  15. The Elements of Speechwriting and Public Speaking – Jeff Scott Cook
  16. The Challenge of Jesus – N.T. Wright
  17. Living with a Creative Mind – Jeff and Julia Crabtree
  18. The Lost World of Adam and Eve – John H. Walton
  19. How Should We Then Live? – Francis Schaeffer
  20. Has Anyone Seen My Pants? – Sarah Colonna
  21. The Screwtape Letters – C.S. Lewis
  22. The Gift of Being Yourself – David Benner
  23. What to Do When You Don’t Know What to Do – David Jeremiah
  24. 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership – John C. Maxwell
  25. Brimstone – Hugh Halter
  26. Good to Great – Bob Collins
  27. The Slight Edge – Jeff Olson
  28. The Listening Life – Adam S. McHugh
  29. A Fellowship of Differents – Scot McKnight
  30. The Go-Giver – Bob Burg and John David Mann
  31. The ONE Thing – Gary Keller
  32. Getting Things Done – David Allen
  33. Courage & Calling – Gordon T. Smith
  34. Grit – Angela Duckworth
  35. The Return of the Prodigal Son – Henri J.M. Nouwen
  36. Zero to One – Peter Thiel
  37. Start with Why – Simon Sinek
  38. If You Feel Too Much – Jamie Tworkoski
  39. The Sacred Journey – Frederick Buechner
  40. Chasing Excellence – Ben Bergeron
  41. Now and Then – Frederick Buechner
  42. The Power of Habit – Charles Duhigg
  43. Let Your Life Speak – Parker Palmer
  44. Rising Strong – Brene Brown
  45. Telling Secrets – Frederick Buechner
  46. The Underground Railroad – Colson Whitehead
  47. The Language of God – Francis Collins
  48. I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be An Atheist – Norman L. Geiser and Frank Turek
  49. Miracles – Eric Metaxas
  50. Simply Christian – N.T. Wright
  51. The Last Arrow – Erwin McManus
  52. Run with the Horses – Eugene Peterson
  53. Surprised by the Power of the Spirit – Jack Deere
  54. Surprised by the Voice of God – Jack Deere
  55. The Holy Longing – Ronald Rolheiser
  56. Leaving Church – Barbara Brown Taylor
  57. Drown – Junot Diaz
  58. Out of the Silent Planet – C.S. Lewis
  59. Practicing the Power – Sam Storms
  60. Autumn – Karl Ove Knausgaard
  61. Called to Create – Jordan Raynor
  62. Perelandra – C.S. Lewis


My Top Books of 2016

It’s about that time of the year again when I emerge from my hobbit hole just long enough to share with you my top books from this past year. Upon reflection, 2016 wasn’t that great of a reading year for me. Even as I survey the list I have a hard time remembering what some of them were about or why I even read them. Some of that had to do with the books I read, some of that had to do with the nature of the year.

Unlike years prior, I didn’t set a reading goal. I just kind of went for it. I was reading on average about five books a month up until I got in August and then it all kind of tanked. Still not clear why. Still, I managed to sneak in some books in December to help get me to 53 (well, 54 if you include the CrossFit Level 1 Training Manual which was 225 pages). Of the 53, sixteen were non-religious reads, 36 were religious. Fourteen fiction. Roughly seven literary nonfiction.

A word before I dive in: as much as I disagree with this division when it comes to life, typically when I make this list I break it down into two categories; religious and nonreligious books. When I first started this, it was a way of ensuring my secular reads got some attention – and ensuring I was reading secular things in the first place – but this year it felt the secular books outshone the religious books in terms of quality. Next year, I might not divide them up and let every book fend for themselves. Anyway, here are my top five from each category.

Of course, there’s something to be said about timing and applicability of the book to my state at the time of reading.

Non-Religious Reads:

Just Mercy – Bryan Stevenson

This book won’t break your heart. It will shatter it. I don’t know if a book has ever made me cry but I could feel the tears welling up in my eyes almost every chapter. I never really was an advocate for the death penalty but this book took it to a whole different level. I can’t recommend this one strongly enough.

Between the World and Me – Ta-Nehisi Coates

Like Stevenson, Coates leveled me. Writing to his son who is becoming aware of racial inequality in America, Coates gave voice to what I felt but at times wondered if I was crazy for arguing. A bit nihilistic and pessimistic in tone, but that’s largely a product of Coates’ worldview. Still, if I could memorize any book from start to finish, it would be this one.

The Art of Asking – Amanda Palmer

Call me a musical heretic but I never was big on The Dresden Dolls. This book matches Palmer’s lyricism: inflated, overblown and yet winsome for that exact reason. If I recall correctly, there are no chapters, just sections. Much like the cover, she stands naked before us; sharing deeply and vulnerably from her story. While you may feel uncomfortable at times, you can’t help but let her into your heart.

Big Magic – Elizabeth Gilbert

Every once in a while, you need that one person that tells us to go for it. Gilbert is that person. The temptation with creativity is to make it an elitist’s activity. Gilbert gives you permission to create because you love it, regardless whether or not you’re good at it. She gives you permission to fall in love with the process.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – JK Rowling

Rowling could’ve sold me a blank book and it still would’ve made the list. While critics might have issues with the story, the book’s nostalgia factor alone makes it a winner. How could I not grin from ear to ear watching the friendship between Albus Severus and Scorpius develop? How could I not swoon as memories of Hogwarts came flooding back? Harry as a father struggling to get it right? Perfect. It was a book I didn’t want to read fast and yet couldn’t help it.

 Religious Books:


The Final Battle – C.S. Lewis

Right when I thought 2016 was a total wash, I started The Final Battle and instantly had to recant. This book reminded me of everything I loved about fiction. Both tragic and heartwarming, Lewis has a unique ability to stir deeper theological questions through literature. An extremely satisfying end to a wonderful series.

In Name Only – Eddie Gibbs

 This very well might’ve been the single most important book I read this past year. Here, Gibbs tackles the topic of nominal Christianity and the problems inherent within it. As I operate in the Caribbean where Christianity is engrained in the culture, this book gave name to a lot of things I’d been noticing but couldn’t quite describe. Not to mention it’s one of the only books out there on nominalism – or nominality as he would call it. I’d be interested in him updating this.

Teach Us to Want – Jen Pollock Michel

Michel wins because of sheer surprise. I honestly had no idea what to expect with this read and, in fact, I almost skipped on it because I thought it might’ve been a book for women (chauvinist confession). But Michel highlights that to want is to be human, the real battle is to replace our desire for small things for a desire for better things. This book rocked my world first because the subject matter, then because how well-written it was and lastly because it showed me a lot about a secret attitude I had towards female writers.

The Call – Os Guinness

There’s a reason why this is a classic. Guinness walks us through the different facets of calling, remembering that we can’t speak of calling without talking about the caller. This book is filled with gems from start to finish.

The Art of Dying – Rob Moll

With a title like that, how could I NOT pick this? The premise is an interesting one: we, as a people, have never had more time to prepare for our deaths and yet we’ve never been worse at it. We cling so tightly to life we’ve lost the spiritual art of dying well, demonstrating faith in the midst of it. This book made me simultaneously less and more afraid of death than I’ve ever been.

Honorable Mention(s):

Beautiful Feet – Jessica Leep Fick

I actually met Fick in Indonesia right as I was starting her book. While this book is about women in evangelism, I felt it was important for me to read and understand. There are problems women encounter that I will never know about or have to worry about because they’re not part of my reality. The first few chapters alone are worth the book. More than just being the female counterpart to Beau Crosetto’s Beyond Awkward, this book stands strong on its own.

How to Survive a Shipwreck – Jonathan Martin

 Honestly, this book probably would’ve made it in the top ten if it didn’t take me so long to read it. Not because the book was long or bad, I just was lackadaisical in reading it. Martin does what a lot of Christian authors don’t do in these books: writes the truth in ways that are transformative instead of simply transactional. Only thing was, I kept wondering what the heck was the shipwreck in his life he kept referring to. The man left his church, eventually got divorced, but I have no idea what triggered it.

Start Something New – Beth Booram

What if the dreams you have aren’t bad, but are actually God given? Booram takes us through first understanding the dreams that are inside of us then walks us through the realizing of these dreams and what happens when they die. Interesting concept.

Full List:

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Primal Fire, Just Mercy, Between the World and Me, Journaling as a Spiritual Practice, Soul Keeping, Prophetic Lament, Scary Close, The Furious Longing of God, The Spiritual Life, The Art of Asking, The Gift of Imperfection, My Horizontal Life (don’t ask), Invitations from God, Start Something New, Changing Faith, Big Magic, Jesus Behaving Badly, True story, The Leadership Ellipse, The Art of Dying, Theology Questions Everyone Asks, Slow Church, Percy Jackson 1-5, The Call, The Eclipse of Faith, Searching for God Knows What, The Weight of Glory, Depression: Looking Up from the Stubborn Darkness, Ordinary, Teach Us To Want, Turn My Mourning into Dancing, My Struggle 1 & 2, House of Olympus 1: The Lost Hero, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, In Name Only, Beautiful Feet, Chronicles of Narnia 2-7, Falling Upward, How to Survive a Shipwreck, Zeal without Burnout, True Friendship, Roadmap to Reconciliation.

My Top Books for 2015

Last year I posted my top five books of 2014 and thought it’d be good to do the same this year. However, because 2015 was such a good year for reading (in terms of both quality and quantity) I figured I’d share two separate lists: one for my top five religious books and another with my top five nonreligious books. While the religious ones outnumbered the nonreligious ones, I still felt I read more secular books this year than ever before. In total I completed 52.

I’ve also compiled a list for honorable mentions. Any and every one of these books deserved to be in the lists above it but I had to cut down somehow. The list, in no particular order, is as follows:


  • The Best Yes – Lysa TerKeust

Anyone who knows me knows I am the king of indecision. Terkeust argues that more often than not, the choice isn’t between something good or bad, but good and good. We have to decide not just between “no” or “yes” but our “best yes.” This book freed me up to be more decisive and trust with God with my decisions.

  • Culture Making – Andy Crouch

 Crouch asserts that in order to change culture, more than condemn or copy, we need to be create more of it. Crouch is one of those guys that make you feel and sound smarter while reading him. If you want to sound cool when people ask you what you’re reading, this is definitely the book for you.

  • Theirs is the Kingdom – Robert D. Lupton

I’ve said this once and I’ll say it again: if this book doesn’t break your heart, you’re either spiritually dead or Mother Teresa. I don’t know how you read this book without grappling with the poor and God who identifies with them.

  • The Insanity of God – Nik Ripken

 Can faith survive in a hostile environment? Ripken, as a result of his own hardship, goes on a journey to find out. Detailing stories of both hope and loss, this book will shake up your faith and make you wonder what you’re doing with your life in the best way imaginable. 

  • Jesus Feminist – Sarah Bessey

Quite simply, this book showed me why it’s imperative that we listen to our sisters and mothers in Christ. Bessey goes absolutely bananas on women in the Bible, patriarchy, “trouble text” and so much more all while loving Jesus. Don’t sleep on this book.


  • To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee

Typically with classics one of two things happen: either you have a hard time understanding why it’s a classic or you are completely taken by it. To Kill a Mockingbird was definitely the latter. Not only was it ahead its time upon release, I would argue that in light of current events it still is.

  • The Paleo Solution – Robb Wolf

The Paleo Solution taught me that I actually enjoy reading books about subjects I know absolutely nothing about. Each chapter was an a-ha moment, explaining the science behind the way some of my closest friends eat. Wolf can get nerdy but it’s engaging. Want a change in your life and diet? I highly recommend this book.

  • The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao – Junot Diaz

I don’t know if I’ve ever been more thankful for the voice of a writer. Diaz is a genius. This book has so many strands running through it it’s ridiculous. There’s language, culture, mythology, pop culture, and so much more. This book will make you laugh, cry, and keep turning the pages as you learn the story of Oscar and his family.

  • Unbroken – Laura Hillenbrand

Hillenbrand singlehandedly reminded me why I love nonfiction. Sometimes the truth is stranger than fabrication.

  • The Innovator’s DNA – Jeff Dyer and Hal Gregersen

I’m not much of an entrepreneur or a business guy, it is helpful to think about innovation and see what principles can be applied to ministry. Dyer and Gregersen look at innovative companies and analyze their leaders to discover the common traits true of all innovators. Another good book if you want to sound cool at a social gathering.

Honorable Mention(s):

  • Invisible Man – Ralph Ellison

Another classic. I don’t know what else to say. Read it.

  • Redeeming Sex – Debra Hirsch

Sexuality is such a hot button issue in the church right now that it can be hard to know where to stand. Debra Hirsch kills it, analyzing the connection between sexuality and spirituality with humor, compassion, and grace.

  • Lessons in Belonging – Erin Lane

She doesn’t just call me out on my junk in regards to how I view the church, she does it while writing so beautifully I can’t even be mad.

  • The New Parish – Paul Sparks and Tim Soerens

I love learning about different expressions of church. It shows me what the church can be. The New Parish is a solid look at how church can ban together for the betterment of the neighborhood.

  • Soul Graffiti – Mark Scandrette

I had the pleasure of walking the streets of San Francisco with Mark back in May and as a result of our conversation he handed me this book. This book found me at a time when I was searching desperately for what it meant to really follow Jesus. Read this book and then do some of the experiments with me.

So there you have it. My top books for the year.

Full list: Invitation to Solitude and Silence, Fast Forward to Mission, Beyond Awkward, Sentness, The Best Yes, Follow Me, On Guard, Humility, The Paleo Solution, Culture Making, Exponential, The Beginning of Everything, Theirs is the Kingdom, Revangelical, Western Christians in Global Mission, Unbroken, Organic Leadership, Am I Called?, It’s Kind of a Funny Story, Simple Student Ministry, The Insanity of God, The Grand Paradox, The Pastor’s Justification, The Highly Sensitive Person, Insanity of Obedience, Soul Graffiti, Shadow Lands, Invisible Man, Daring Greatly, Lessons in Belonging, On Writing Well, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Innovators DNA, Death by Living, This Is Where I Leave You, Writing Down the Bones, The New Parish, The Pastor’s Kid, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Harry Potter 1-6, Jesus Feminist, Redeeming Sex, Creating a Missional Culture, A Poetry Handbook, Young Restless and No Longer Reformed, The Artisan Soul, Searching for Sunday

Here’s My EP if you want it:

Andy Crouch, in his book Culture Making, argues that cultural artifacts don’t actually change culture unless they’re made public. As long as they’re in a vacuum it is impossible for them to change the horizons of possibility.

For as long as I’ve followed Jesus one of the main questions I’ve wrestled with is what to do with my music. Since the age of seven, it’s all I’ve ever wanted to do with my life and when I found Jesus and discovered my calling lied elsewhere, I was perfectly content pursuing that. For the most part. In the back of my mind the question still lingered: Not everyone can play guitar. Not everyone can sing. Not everyone can do it simultaneously. Not everyone can write a song. Granted, I don’t do any of those amazingly, I still do them nonetheless. What does that mean?

A while back I announced that I wrote an EP and was hoping to record/release it in the near future. When I looked into studios to record the project it seemed like one obstacle after another came up, whether it was time or finances. To be honest, I struggle with the idea of spending thousands of dollars on something that’s only a hobby and not a calling. Heck, I struggle with the idea of spending thousands of dollars period. However, I believe the parable of talents, while very much referring to money, can be taken literally. God has given us talents. How are we going to use them? I want to use my talents for the building of His kingdom. Even if it’s not a calling or even a vocation (even if it’s just a hobby) I want to glorify him some way with it. This is my best attempt at a happy medium.

It is imperfect by every stretch of the imagination. None of these songs were recorded with a metronome. My voice isn’t always on key, my guitar playing not always locked in. Every single one of these songs was recorded on unimpressive equipment in the guest room of my apartment during random hours of the day I knew my neighbors weren’t around. I know for a fact the files aren’t loud enough and I know for a fact the levels aren’t perfect. I know very little, if anything, about home recording. There wasn’t any intention of letting a single soul hear this with the exception of my wife and those who assisting with the project.

I don’t know if I’ll ever get into a studio to really record these but as I was listening to the EP again last night, I realized I wanted to share it with those who interested in listening and have been wondering where I’ve been musically. I very well may regret this tomorrow. I very well may regret this the second anyone (if anyone) listens to this. This could be extremely impulsive and not entirely aligned with God’s will. But for right now I’m proud of these demos, for what they stand for and what they mean to me and I want to capitalize the little bit of confidence I’m feeling right now.

Special thanks to: Adam Randall for encouraging me musically years ago and letting me know it’s okay to write about sadness. Sarah Alicia for releasing an amazing EP that literally reawakened the dream (buy Ocean on iTunes). Pastor Alson Ebanks of Church of God Chapel, George Town for glorifying God with music though it may not be your vocation (It Ain’t Over Till Your Over can also be found on iTunes). Shout out to Brett Mobley for letting me borrow his Stratocaster. N.T. Wright for saying the art we create in this life will be even more beautiful when God makes all things new. Of course, my wife, for being supportive regardless of whether the EP got recorded or not. Last, but certainly not least, God, for allowing me to experience the joy of creating and writing music again.

You can download my makeshift, bedroom recorded EP, Wounds & Scars, for free on dropbox and soundcloud.

Track listing:

  1. 7th & Shattuck
  2. Even My Subconscious Calls You Home
  3. Queen of These Suburban Streets
  4. Can You Hear Me?
  5. Will We Remember Our Regrets in Heaven?

If you like it, let me know. If you hate it, please don’t let me know you heard it.

My Top Five Books of 2014

Someone once told me that a good leader reads at least a book a month. Seeing as to how this same person read a book a week on average and was a phenomenal leader, I figured I should give it a shot. Eventually, I started keeping a running list on what I read for future reference. These are the top five books I found most enjoyable to read (in no particular order). They’re not necessarily the “best,” only the ones that took me off guard with their goodness.

  1. The Lost World of Genesis One – John H. Walton

Every so often you stumble on one of those books that completely shatters your view Scripture in the best way possible. This is one of those books. In a time where many people are torn between creationism and evolution, it’s easy to wonder where you stand. While The Lost World of Genesis One doesn’t provide any clear answer (I personally walked away with more questions than answers), Walton does a great job at helping us understand the context in which Genesis One was written and how that context informs the passage.

  1. The God Ask ­– Steve Shadrach

If you’d told me six months ago reading a book on personal support raising would be fun, I would’ve laughed in your face. As much as I love my job there are some parts that are more challenging than others. Personal support raising sits at the top of that list. Between your loved one’s misconceptions of what you do and the lies you, as well as the enemy, tell yourself, support raising is tough business. This book not only gives you hope it’s possible, this book will convince you it’s a privilege.

3. Glorious Ruin: How Suffering Sets You Free – Tullian Tchividjian

A book about suffering an enjoyable read? Granted a large part of that probably had to do with my lack of affliction, I found this book to be refreshing. Tchividjian neither dismisses suffering as real nor does he allow us to remain so eclipsed we fail to see the hope. Like a true shepherd, he embraces us while helping us find comfort in Jesus. It’s not about understanding why but understanding who is with us in our suffering.

  1. Unlost – Michael Hidalgo

I honestly didn’t have high expectations for this book. I got it free courtesy of my job and it sat on my shelf collecting dust for months. But when I read it I was glad I did. Hidalgo is one of those people who just get it. He pushes past all the “religious” gunk so we can get to the core of the matter and in doing so he invites the reader into the joy that can be found in following Jesus. I want my students to read this book.

  1. Disunity in Christ – Christena Cleveland

I don’t know if there’s ever been a book that’s convicted me while simultaneously making me laugh but Christena Cleveland’s Disunity in Christ did it. Drawing deep from her well of sociological and theological knowledge, she exposes the forces that are secretly destroying and dividing the body of Christ and gives us hope for better. You’ll walk away feeling validated in your expression of faith but also challenged not to look down on others for theirs. And might I add: black woman? Boo-yah!

Bonus: Paper Towns – John Green

In reading books that often pertain to God, it’s easy to read to attain facts or new ideas and forget how to read with the heart. While fiction isn’t always conducive to productivity, sometimes it’s nice to get lost in a story. And that’s what happened with Paper Towns. It’s got everything I love: love, misadventure, and black Santas. Only qualm I have with this book is that the second section of the book lags on a bit, especially in light of the first. But aside from that, it was wonderful. My favorite from him so far.

Honorable Mention (only because I’m not done): Bonhoeffer: Pastor Martyr, Prophet, Spy – Eric Metaxas

Normally I rush through books like there’s no tomorrow but with Eric Metaxas’ sweeping biography on Dietrich Bonhoeffer, I’ve been taking my sweet time. As someone who didn’t pay attention in history class, this book is catching me up on all the things I missed. I love this book and so glad I saved this one as my last read of the year.