Top 10 Reads of 2015

I believe that intentionally expanding our understanding of the world through the differing perspectives of others is an incredibly important component of living deliberately. Reading is one powerful way to do that.

Reading is also good for developing focus and empathy, for reducing stress, for enhancing leadership capacity, for fostering deep and innovating thinking, and for improving memory!

In 2014, I set myself a goal of reading a book a week. I also tried to be intentional in varying the kinds of authors I was reading.

For 2015, I didn’t set myself a particular goal, but I have found that, having established the habit last year of a book a week on average, I have largely maintained that sort of pace. All tallied up, I read 5 books less than last year – 47 instead of 52.

Where I fell down this year, however, was in the variety of authors. Without deliberately paying attention to the kind of authors I was choosing, and seeking to balance that, I have once again reverted to gravitating predominantly to male, Western (mostly American) authors, and their books written mostly in the last 10 years. There are a handful of non-Western, non-male, non-contemporary authors in the list below, but not nearly enough. That is something I’m going to have to put more effort into intentionally balancing in 2016, because it is boring and more than a little dangerous to examine the world through only one lens, something I’ve written about here before.

If you think you’d like to incorporate reading into your life more in 2016, but you’re not sure how to find the time, I’ve outlined 4 Easy Ways to Read More here. Perhaps some of the books on the list below might help you explore some titles that interest you!

Below are the 10 books that most impacted me in 2015, followed by my full reading list for the year. (Each list is not in ranked order, but rather just in the order I read them.)

I hope it adds some helpful suggestions to your reading wish-list!


My Top Reads for 2015

51CDTKBPNPL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_1. Man’s Search for Meaning (Viktor Frankl)

“The experiences of camp life show that man does have a choice of action. There were enough examples, often of a heroic nature, which proved that apathy could be overcome, irritability suppressed. Man can preserve a vestige of spiritual freedom, of independence of mind, even in such terrible conditions of psychic and physical stress… We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”





2. Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less (Greg McKeown)

“The word priority came into the English language in the 1400s. It was singular. It meant the very first or prior thing. It stayed singular for the next five hundred years. Only in the 1900s did we pluralise the term and start talking about priorities. Illogically, we reasoned that by changing the word we could bend reality. Somehow we would now be able to have multiple “first” things.”



WHH_CoverNEW-web3. When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor… and Yourself (Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert)

“And now we have come to a very central point: one of the biggest problems in many poverty-alleviation efforts is that their design and implementation exacerbates the poverty of being of the economically rich—their god-complexes—and the poverty of being of the economically poor—their feelings of inferiority and shame.”



112347944. Monoculture: How One Story is Changing Everything (F.S. Michaels)

“Before the economic story began to spread, we lived together and governed ourselves based on the assumption that the public and private sectors served different purposes. The public sector operated in the public interest, developing and investing in public goods like health, education, and safety for the good of the community. The private sector, at the other end of the spectrum, operated for monetary gain. The two sectors were even governed by different bodies of law: constitutional and administrative law for the public sector, and corporate law for the private sector….
In the 1970s and 1980s, researchers began to notice that governments in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States had shifted from using one set of values and practices to another. The basic difference between these two ways .of doing and being government (one called Public Administration and the other called New Public Management) revolved around whether or not the public and private sectors really were distinct. Public Administration said yes, the sectors were different and ought to be managed differently. New Public Management said no, the sectors weren’t distinct, and that the tools and techniques of the private sector could be used to manage the public sector too. In this way, the rise of New Public Management in government represents the spread of the economic story.”


leading_change_cover5. Leading Change (John P. Kotter)

“The process has eight stages, each of which is associated with one of the eight fundamental errors that undermine transformation efforts. The steps are: establishing a sense of urgency, creating the guiding coalition, developing a vision and strategy, communicating the change vision, empowering a broad base of people to take action, generating short-term wins, consolidating gains and producing even more change, and institutionalizing new approaches in the culture.”


41NQG0-cVPL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_6. Scary Close: Dropping the Act and Finding True Intimacy (Donald Miller)

“It costs personal fear to be authentic but the reward is integrity, and by that I mean a soul fully integrated, no difference between his act and his actual person.”




150709_SBR_Coates-COVER.jpg.CROP.original-original7. Between the World and Me (Ta-Nehisi Coates)

“Shortly before you were born, I was pulled over by the PG County police, the same police that all the D.C. poets had warned me of. They approached on both sides of the car, shining their flashing lights through the windows. They took my identification and returned to the squad car. I sat there in terror. By then I had added to the warnings of my teachers what I’d learned about PG County through reporting and reading the papers. And so I knew that the PG County police had killed Elmer Clay Newman, then claimed he’d rammed his own head into the wall of a jail cell. And I knew that they’d shot Gary Hopkins and said he’d gone for an officer’s gun. And I knew they had beaten Freddie McCollum half-blind and blamed it all on a collapsing floor. And I had read reports of these officers choking mechanics, shooting construction workers, slamming suspects through the glass doors of shopping malls. And I knew that they did this with great regularity, as though moved by some unseen cosmic clock. I knew that they shot at moving cars, shot at the unarmed, shot through the backs of men and claimed that it had been they who’d been under fire. These shooters were investigated, exonerated, and promptly returned to the streets, where, so emboldened, they shot again. At that point in American history, no police department fired its guns more than that of Prince George’s County. The FBI opened multiple investigations—sometimes in the same week. The police chief was rewarded with a raise. I replayed all of this sitting in my car, in their clutches. Better to have been shot in Baltimore, where there was the justice of the streets and someone might call the killer to account. But these officers had my body, could do with my body whatever they pleased, and should I live to explain what they had done with it, this complaint would mean nothing.”


md-cover-ct-badge-662x10248. Mission Drift: The Unspoken Crisis Facing Leaders, Charities, and Churches (Peter Greer and Chris Horst)

“According to Giving USA, based on data collected each year from The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, U.S. charitable giving totaled $298.42 billion in 2011.7 Of that, individuals (and bequests) gave 81 percent, while foundations and corporations combined gave 19 percent.8 Yet as we read and heard stories of Mission Drift, we were surprised how often corporate, government, and foundation donors drove the drift. Organizations compromised on their core values to woo these”



129753759. The Advantage: Why Organisational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business (Patrick Lencioni)

“When someone comes to a meeting and states an opinion or makes a suggestion that his teammates don’t agree with, those teammates have a choice: they can explain their disagreement and work through it, or they can withhold their opinion and allow themselves to quietly lose respect for their colleague. When team members get used to choosing the latter option—withholding their opinions—frustration inevitably sets in. Essentially, they’re deciding to tolerate their colleague rather than trust him… Two people who trust and care about one another and are engaged in something important… should feel compelled to disagree with one another, sometimes passionately, when they see things differently. After all, the consequences of making bad decisions are great. When leadership team members fail to disagree around issues, not only are they increasing the likelihood of losing respect for one another and encountering destructive conflict later when people start griping in the hallways, they’re also making bad decisions and letting down the people they’re supposed to be serving.”


alone-together-cover10. Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other (Sherry Turkle)

“Technology is seductive when what it offers meets our human vulnerabilities. And as it turns out, we are very vulnerable indeed. We are lonely but fearful of intimacy. Digital connections… may offer the illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship. Our networked life allows us to hide from each other, even as we are tethered to each other. We’d rather text than talk.”


The Rest

11. People over Profit (Dale Partridge)

12. The Circle (Dave Eggers)

13. Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery)

14. 7 Secrets For Hiring the Best People (Ken Byrne)

15. On Chesil Beach (Ian McEwan)

16. The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins) [re-read]

17. Launch (Jeff Walker) [re-read]

18. The ABC of XYZ: Understanding the Global Generations (Mark McCrindle)

19. That Sugar Book (Damon Gameau)

20. Jurassic Park (Michael Crichton)[re-read]

21. The Time-Traveler’s Wife (Audrey Niffenegger) [re-read]

22. Faith in the Face of Empire: The Bible Through Palestinian Eyes (Mitri Raheb)

23. Promoting the Gospel: The Whole of Life for the Cause of Christ (John Dickson)

24. The Last Battle (C.S. Lewis) [re-read]

25. Lean on Me: Finding Intentional, Vulnerable and Consistent Community (Anne Marie Miller)

26. Too Busy Not to Pray (Bill Hybels)

27. Men Explain Things to Me: And Other Essays (Rebecca Solnit)

28. We Should All Be Feminists (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie)

29. Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World (Michael Hyatt)

30. The Road to Missional: Journey to the Centre of the Church (Michael Frost)

31. Chasing Daylight: How My Forthcoming Death Transformed My Life (Gene O’Kelly)

32. The Vertical Self (Mark Sayers)

33. What I Know For Sure (Oprah Winfrey)

34. Redeeming Sex: Naked Conversations about Sexuality and Spirituality (Debra Hirsch)

35. The Road Trip that Changed the World (Mark Sayers) [re-read]

36. Modern Romance: An Investigation (Aziz Ansari)

37. The Magician’s Nephew (C.S. Lewis) [re-read]

38. The Four Loves (C.S.Lewis)

39. So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed (Jon Ronson)

40. Close: Leading Well Across Distance and Culture (Ken Cochrum)

41. Stand Out (Dorie Clark)

42. Why Not Me (Mindy Kaling)

43. Wool (Hugh Howey)

44. The Four-Dimensional Human: Ways of Being in the Digital World (Laurence Scott)

45. Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive (Patrick Lencioni)

46. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying (Marie Kondo)

47. On This Holy Night (multiple authors)