A word about my book list.
If you follow the popular personal/ professional development gurus, many will tell you to read books – lots of books. And they will share lists of books to read, and how many you should read (usually a crazy number like a book a week) and what you’re supposed to do with all that knowledge to become the “great leader already inside you.” Or something like that. I kinda drank that kool-aid for a while, though my goal was to read at least 1 book per month.
That didn’t work for me. I’m not smart enough to retain let alone APPLY what I’m reading at such a rapid pace. So in 2022 I decided to cut out much of the high quality leadership, personal growth, and Bible commentary I was consuming and just slow down and focus more on a few key inputs for my daily/ weekly routine to see if I could actually apply more of what I learn and not feel the overwhelm and mental clutter that was distracting me from processing anything.
I think it’s working.
Having more time to sit still and think, or to practice what I learn is certainly a work in progress but I definitely feel less clutter and distraction between my ears. That’s a win for me. So maybe that helps you. I don’t think you have to consume so much media and information as you think. We need to take action, to apply, to process, and we’ve got to slow down a bit to do that. All that to say, my book list is very thin from previous years and I’m really happy about that. What follows is my feedback on the books I read this year – mostly to help me remember them. If you get something out of it then that’s awesome. Without further ado, here’s what I read in 2022.
Daughter of the Reich – Louise Fein
I don’t read many novels, and honestly the only reason I read this one is because it was in Angie’s pile of unread novels and it is about WWII Nazi Germany. For some reason that intrigued me as the story is told from a young girl trying to find her way through all the strange changes in her country’s government, then in her school and home too. It’s also a love story, so meh, but the author does a great job of placing you in that time and how confusing and terrible it was – especially for people who closely associated with Jews in their neighborhood. I’m really glad I didn’t live through that time and place because it was terrible. How people treat each other is horrific and because of silly things like appearance and beliefs. Overall, it’s worth reading if you are into history.
Losing My Voice to Find It – Mark Stuart
This book is so cool. It’s an autobiography of the lead singer of one of my favorite rock bands of all time – Audio Adrenaline. Since I “grew up” with the band starting in college, their music strengthened my faith and really shaped my music preferences and appreciation for the power of music when the message is clear. Also, this book is hilarious as you are given a real “backstage pass” to the lives of a new Christian rock band in the early 90’s when few such groups were beginning to gain traction in popularity. Mark’s personal story of the struggle to lead the band, navigate the brutal music business, and tour the world on a shoestring is really interesting. His insights to the origins and special meaning for some of their hit songs makes those songs even more meaningful. Even if you aren’t familiar with Audio Adrenaline, I think you would enjoy Mark’s story.
The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness – Tim Keller
Every year I read something that really knocks my socks off. This is the one for 2022. It’s barely 50 pages and can be read in a couple hours but it packs a punch. Keller’s ideas about our individual identity, self-esteem and ego are a revelation to me. Life giving even. I shared several copies of this little book with people in my circle who also agree that the message is impactful. I don’t want to spoil it for you by spilling my commentary, just know that if you ever feel discouraged about who you are and what you are supposed to be when you grow up, or why you keep making the same mistakes over and over and struggle to forgive yourself because you are your own worst critic, this book has the answer. It’s simple, profound, and doable. I’m getting better at it myself. Read this.
Awake & Alive to Truth – John L. Cooper
Cooper is the lead singer in the rock band Skillet. They are among the most popular rock bands of the 21st century with a mainstream following that makes them known around the world. They are often criticized for not being “Christian enough” with their lyrics, but if you’ve been to their live show you know exactly where they stand about Jesus. Can a head banging, hard rocking, tattooed, mid-lifer really write a book about the crisis for truth in America? I wasn’t so sure myself, which is why I read it. He can. Cooper addresses the chaos, violence, anxiety, and confusion rampant in our world today being rooted in the popular relativistic worldview that spits in the face of absolute truth. Easy to read for students and compelling for adults as well, this book can help equip you to understand what’s happening in the crazy world around us and how we can know the truth that sets men free. Plus, you also get an inside look into the band, Cooper’s heart behind the music, and some cool stories of their life on the road.
The Power of Positive Leadership – Jon Gordon
Gordon is a speaker and author who shares the good news of positivity as it applies to leadership at home, at work, and on the team. He works with professional and collegiate teams as well as businesses of every size and type to equip people to be their best by applying the positive leadership principles he teaches. This is not pie in the sky, rainbows and puppy dogs, warm fuzzy positivity but a mindset rooted in what we already know is good and right and true. Addressing topics like vision, purpose, confrontation, grit, relationships, and excellence Gordon simplifies strategies we can implement today to make a positive difference in the way we think and behave which can improve our teams, families, and businesses. Good stuff here, highly recommend.
Called To Act – Vince Miller
A man’s life is hard. So many competing demands for our time, energy, money, and attention. We are bombarded by messages from media and advertisers that we must do and be all these things if we are to be successful, important, and significant. It’s easy to end up chasing after things that seem like they will help us get ‘there,’ wherever ‘there’ is in our life’s pursuit. Even many well intentioned “God-fearing” people in the church tell us all that we must do and be if we are to be a “godly man” or “spiritual leader” only to heap upon us more duties, tasks, obligations to tackle in our already limited capacity. It’s overwhelming and discouraging. Vince challenges us in a different way. Yes, there are disciplines we really need to ingrain in our lifestyle, but they are not heavy burdens to carry. This book is a refreshing look at what God actually asks of us men with tips and strategies to implement today to help us be the men we all desire to be. Simplify your spiritual life and work on these 5 Uncomplicated Disciplines for Men.
Deliberate Discomfort – Jason B.A. Van Camp
Maybe you’ve heard the saying, “get comfortable being uncomfortable.” Maybe not. The idea is that doing the right thing, the necessary thing, the thing that makes all the difference is often hard. Counterintuitive even. Surely uncomfortable. And we prefer to be comfortable. It’s in our nature to seek comfort, to expend the least amount of effort possible to do just enough to get by. But if we change our mind to become more, to endure more, to see past the discomfort, we will find all kinds of blessing and victory. Written by a US Army Special Forces leader with his team, this book illustrates the value of embracing discomfort through real life battle scenarios overseas. Their lessons applied to everyday life compel us to live differently – to live a life of service and sacrifice in spite of fears, feelings, and our natural human reasoning which can result in success and blessing only dreamed of from the comfort of our recliner. Plus, if you’re not a military guy, their stories will give you a fresh respect and admiration for what these men do to protect our freedom.