Book Reviews

Short Reviews – A Review of My Recent Reading List (2020 – 1st Qtr)

On the right side of this blog, I provide my current reading list. While I often read other books simultaneously, my goal each quarter is to read one book from each of the “steps” that help me fulfill my strategy which is comprised of the acrostic LEARN.* Therefore, I choose the books I read carefully because I want them to help me improve as a teacher, a pastor, a leader, and most importantly as a person. Thus, I rarely read books that are disappointing to me. However, some are more helpful than others, so I thought it might be helpful to share a few insights from my reading, in case others might choose to read some of the books I have read. Please note, this is not a formal review, but I will state if I recommend the read. My goal here is to simply provide a few key insights from each book.

*Someday I will do an update on that series on this new site, but you can find my original series at the old blog host. – See the series Using the 4L’s in 2017.

Developing Female Leaders by Kadi Cole

This book should be a must read for any leader. The book stated some ideas of which I already knew, but the perspective of the author and some of the quotes included helped clarify the challenge many women face. The author organizes the book effectively into 8 Best Practices, with each practice being a chapter. Cole addresses some very real and perceived challenges, but she does not dwell on the negatives; rather, she provides an avenue for effective change in incorporating women into more, and more significant, roles of leadership.

Key Takeaway: The need to clearly define what I believe about a woman leading. The context of the content related to the theological debates of how much authority a woman should have. Frankly, the author treats this subject well, making allowance for any theological position. Whatever your theological position, the leader needs to state it clearly in order for any woman to know the boundaries. Otherwise most women will stay well below a perceived understanding which creates a gap in the amount of potential leadership (i.e. authority) women may have.

Recommendation: Very Strong. All leaders should consider reading this book.

The Road Back to You by Cron and Stabile

The Enneagram is the latest rage related to understanding ourselves. Many other profiles have had their place of prevalence over the years (i.e. DISC, Myers-Briggs, etc.). And, perhaps, in time, the Enneagram may fade into the background as well. However, a part of its prevalence is that understanding your type does have value and the types in this book are well defined. I especially appreciate the consistent format used for each Type in the book (it helps learning, and my type is 1, so I want people to learn!). Most of us can see ourselves in various (if not all) types, but the key is not what we do, it is why we do what we do. The WHY is the key for understanding each person’s type.

Key Takeaway: Although each type if well-defined and some characteristics are included for each type, we must be cautious not to label (cast) people as a Type. Knowing the Type of others is very helpful, but when we label them, we are not helping anyone, including ourselves.

Recommendation: Very Strong. It is an excellent resource.

People Fuel by John Townsend

I enjoyed this book, and it had some great information. Unfortunately, it never grabbed my attention as I hoped it would. However, I do not think it is a reflection of the book’s quality. I think it had more to do with the book being my Wednesday book, and my Wednesday/Thursday schedule. This book is one that I need (and want) to read again, and I think it will be especially helpful in a post-COVID-19 world. I can glean information from the book even as we are in the midst of this current challenge, but to fully process the book, I do need to read it again. Maybe that can happen later this year.

Key Takeaway: The relational nutrients provide fuel for our lives. I will have to refer to page 81 for general information until I take the time to read the book again.

Recommendation: I need to read again to give a fair recommendation.

Elders in the Life of the Church – Newton and Schmucker

Our church’s study of elders has come to a pause due to COVID-19. After spending a great deal of time allowing Getz’s book, Elders and Leaders, to guide us in our Bible study, this book was helpful to provide some practical thoughts on the idea. This book did bring out the intersection of elders and congregational life, which did make it unique from others I had recently reviewed.

Key Takeaway: The final section about moving from theory to practice was a major reason for choosing this book. The chapter on transitions, and the many considerations of the entire process was very helpful.

Recommendation: Strong. The book has good theoretical information, although it is not as in depth as Getz’s book. However, the last section of the book is very helpful.

Leveling the Church by Fries and Maxfield

The authors do not state anything that has not been stated before. They simply share what the Bible says and convey what it is in the minds (and hearts) of many pastors. However, that does not mean the book was not valuable. Indeed, it was! It is a reminder for pastors to stop trying to be super pastors, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, and to deploy the church for ministry. I believed this book was timely when it was released (which is why I put it on my reading list immediately following the release), but I believe it is even more important as we are in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and do not know what the other side of this challenge will be.

Key Takeaway: The mention of the super-pastor was honest and gut-wrenching. That is, I was convicted. If I accomplish nothing else in 2020, leading more by doing less (in a constructive, not manipulative or by abdicating), will be plenty for me to accomplish.

Recommendation: Very Strong. Best book of the quarter.

Other Books:

I did not have as much time to listen to books this quarter as I am also listening to the Bible, which I have never done start to finish. The books I did listen to deviated from my walk through American history this quarter until toward the end when I began, but have not finished, The Blood of Heroes, which is about The Alamo. I did especially enjoy one book about the recovery of a brave marine.

You Are Worth It: Kyle Carpenter and Don Yager (listened via Audible)

I am thankful to live in America! Sometimes I am reminded of that fact in different ways, and the story of Carpenter’s injury and recovery are one such way. The young man jumped on a live grenade in Afghanistan which, obviously, caused severe injuries. But he survived. And he has healed. And he has done things in and beyond his healing which are mind-boggling, but none are more important than doing his part to heal others, including through the writing of his story. Each story is a lesson learned for him, but is applicable to you and me as well. I thank Mr. Yager for helping Corporal Carpenter write this book.

The Infinite Game by Simon Sinek (listened via Audible)

Sinek knows how to communicate to leaders. And thus he knows how to challenge them as well. For instance, many leaders are far better for focusing on the WHY (I know I am), before considering other questions. This book challenges us to think beyod the zero-sum games that control most of us. Instead we need to look at opportunities through the lens of bettering others and ourselves, not merely trying to beat the competition. I listened to this book in early February. In light of COVID-19, I need to listen to it again.

The World According to Tom Hanks by Gavin Edwards (listened via Audible)

I drive by myself quite often. It is during those times that I listen to a lot of books and podcasts. But my wife and I usually have a book we can share together as we drive together. Sometimes it takes months to listen to even a relatively short book. This book about Hanks was one such book. We both enjoyed it although we wished we could have found one that was a little more current. The stories were fine and getting a short review of each film was fun as we considered where the film fit into our lives, even if we didn’t agree with the author’s critique. Overall, it was a fun book, but we certainly do not know this actor as well as we have learned about others (such as Robin Williams and Billy Crystal).

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