Jumping right in . . .

2010Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation by Parker Palmer

From Amazon: “With wisdom, compassion, and gentle humor, Parker J. Palmer invites us to listen to the inner teacher and follow its leadings toward a sense of meaning and purpose. Telling stories from his own life and the lives of others who have made a difference, he shares insights gained from darkness and depression as well as fulfillment and joy, illuminating a pathway toward vocation for all who seek the true calling of their lives.”

His views on the soul and coaxing it out were formative for me.

2011Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion by Gregory Boyle

My sister Elizabeth brought a copy to China when she and two of the girls visited. I wrote, “This book makes me want to be a better person! Father Gregory (G-dog) works in L.A. with people who have either been in gangs or exposed to them, helping them with gainful employment, make better decisions, and find belonging. He consistently reminds the reader that all people are of value and that compassion needs to be offered again and again and again. My favorite chapter looked at so-called failure and success in ministry. He is funny!”

2012 The Pastor: A Memoir by Eugene Peterson

Having been in full-time ministry most of my adult life, Peterson is one of my mentors. In my notebook, in part, I wrote, “Amazing. This is the kind of life I want to lead.”

From Amazon: “Eugene Peterson tells the story of how he started Christ Our King Presbyterian Church in Bel Air, Maryland and his gradual discovery of what it really means to be a pastor. Steering away from abstractions, Peterson challenges conventional wisdom regarding church marketing, mega pastors, and the church’s too-cozy relationship to American glitz and consumerism to present a simple, faith-based description of what being a minister means today. In the end, Peterson discovers that being a pastor boils down to ‘paying attention and calling attention to ‘what is going on now’ between men and women, with each other and with God.'”

2013 A First-Rate Madness: Uncovering the Links Between Leadership and Mental Illness by Nassir Ghaemi

This was a hard year to choose! I listed four “best books” and can see how each made a difference in my life and still see their fingerprints on me. But the book I could not keep talking about—and talked about it so much my friend Amy’s daughter Kate even read it and used in a class project—was A First Rate Madness.

From Amazon: “This New York Time bestseller is a myth-shattering exploration of the powerful connections between mental illness and leadership. Historians have long puzzled over the apparent mental instability of great and terrible leaders alike: Napoleon, Lincoln, Churchill, Hitler, and others. In A First-Rate Madness, Nassir Ghaemi, director of the Mood Disorders Programme at Tufts Medical Center, offers and sets forth a controversial, compelling thesis: the very qualities that mark those with mood disorders also make for the best leaders in times of crisis.”

Now I want to reread this!

2014 Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint by Nadia Bolz-Weber

I read this in my midst of my memoir binging. I admire her writing ability so much! Chatty and readable. What draws me to this book is that she shared about life in ministry in ways that I could relate to. At that time in history (2014) much written was by rah-rah men who shared such tidy stories of ministry I could not relate.

Though very different from Nadia, I can feel like a misfit in the church because I’m not married, have no children, and am a leader. But the church is for me too and books like this remind me I am not alone. (Truth be told, I think we can all feel like we don’t belong. And she cusses like a sailor, so not all will want to read this book.)

2015 With: Reimagining the Way You Relate to God by Skye Jethani

Ugh! This was another year where I had five “best” nonfiction books. But as I look back, I still find the ideas from With in my daily life. This is my go-to book with young people in ministry. My friend Hannah read it and then felt inspired by the Holy Spirit to buy me a copy. Isn’t that beautiful!

From Amazon: “Stop Living Your Life Under, Over, From and For God and Start Living in Communion With Him.” Also, if God wants you to buy a book for me? Listen, wink!

2016 Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown 

From Amazon: “The Way of the Essentialist isn’t about getting more done in less time. It’s about getting only the right things done. It is a systematic discipline for discerning what is absolutely essential, then eliminating everything that is not, so we can make the highest possible contribution towards the things that really matter. “

I am wired to seek more =), but if I’m not discerning I can end up leading a diluted life. This book is so good!

2017The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business by Patrick Lencioni

You know when a book says something you believed but you didn’t know how much you believed it until you read or heard it? That, in a nutshell, is The Advantage for me! The subtitle says it all, we need competent people, but competence isn’t enough. Very helpful for what “health” is and how to pursue it in an organization.

2018 The Power of Healthy Tension: Overcome Chronic Issues and Conflicting Values by Tim Arnold

I love this book so much, if I had to pick the best book of the decade, it would be this one. Do not approach everything as a problem to be solved, be discerning and if something is not “solvable” learn to manage the tension. (Also, anything that embraces “the messy middle” had me at hello!)

2019 Leadership: In Turbulent Times by Doris Kearns Goodwin

From Amazon: “In Leadership, Goodwin draws upon the four presidents she has studied most closely—Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Lyndon B. Johnson (in civil rights)—to show how they recognized leadership qualities within themselves and were recognized as leaders by others. By looking back to their first entries into public life, we encounter them at a time when their paths were filled with confusion, fear, and hope.”

I love reading about history because it broadens me and helps me to see my place, our place in the grand scope of the world.


Whew there you have it! If you missed it, here’s my overall thoughts on the last decade and my top 10 fiction books.

Share your nonfiction highlights of the last decade, please! Amy

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