It’s a question I get asked a lot and I’m always happy to answer it – “So Rob, what books do you read?” I know it’s a cliché but I genuinely do believe that “leaders are readers” and so, I make it a habit to read widely and regularly. I also enjoy sharing my good reads with others.
Last week I visited one of our Bayside Church connect groups for a Q&A evening. I occasionally get invited to a connect group and always try to find the time to go along. One of questions was, “What are your top five books you have read and would recommend to others (aside from the Bible)?” Rather than give the top five books though, I decided to share my “Top 5 Genres” and endorse some books in each one. So here they are for you, my blog readers. I hope you’ll find some wisdom and enjoyment in reading some of these recommendations. Please note that I’ve not listed these genres in any particular order of importance.
Due to my Christian faith and pastoral/teaching ministry, I tend to spend a lot of time in Bible study and reading books about the Bible so, for me, reading fiction is about getting my head into a completely different space. I love getting lost in a good novel and particularly enjoy history and thrillers. My favourite authors are Conn Iggulden, Ken Follett and John Grisham. I love history and so Conn Iggulden is always a good read, as he weaves history together with believable fiction. Check out the Emperor and Conqueror series about Julius Caesar and Genghis Khan. His latest series is “The War of the Roses” and I’ve just downloaded those four books on Kindle. Anything by Ken Follett is amazing but especially, “Pillars of the Earth” and “World Without End”. And all of John Grisham’s except for “A Painted House” which is one of those books that you keep reading expecting something to happen and then it ends!
- Spiritual Formation
In our fast-paced world, it’s so important for Christians to nurture their soul and their relationship with Jesus. I’ve found authors like Henri Nouwen, Thomas Merton, C.S. Lewis, Richard Rohr, Tim Keller and Philip Yancey to be so valuable in my own spiritual formation. Their diligent study, deep relationship with Jesus and well-thought-through reflections on the realities of life, have greatly helped me; especially in the tough times where answers to questions can be in short supply.
- Biblical Culture & History
I love reading the Bible devotionally but I also like to study it in depth in order to find out the intended message to the original readers or hearers. You simply can’t take a two to three thousand year old book that was written by different authors in three languages and various cultures, and expect to come up with a full understanding of the original intention of those authors, without some knowledge of the culture and history of Bible times. A great help with this has been “The Bible Background Commentaries” in which the authors give the historical and cultural background of every verse in the Bible. Craig S. Keener has written many helpful books on this subject, as has Kenneth E. Bailey and Thomas Cahill. I’m currently reading Cahill’s, “The Gifts of the Jews”. Check out, “Misreading Scripture Through Western Eyes” by Brandon O’Brien and Randolph Richards and “The Bible Jesus Read” by Philip Yancey. Rabbi Abraham Heschel is also a fascinating author.
- Personal Interest
I love reading books, magazines and articles on subjects I’m personally interested in as well as on hobbies – anything on fitness, history, movies, gardening, politics and international affairs – and books on puns of course 🙂
- Going deeper
Finally, I love to read books that help me go deeper in my faith, leadership and understanding of the Bible. I’ve found Bill Hybels and John Maxwell always good on leadership. The Counterpoints series (Zondervan Publishing) has over 30 titles by dozens of contributing authors from various theological backgrounds. I’ve read about ten of these so far and they’ve given me a deeper understanding of theology, as well as a greater appreciation of Christians who hold different views on various subjects and why.
Well, that’s the answer to the question, “So Rob, what books do you read?” I hope it’s helpful and that more than anything you enjoy reading and growing in every area of your life.