5 Books That Have Shaped Me

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5 Books That Have Shaped Me

2-3 times a week I'm asked, "So, what are you reading?" I love this question because it keeps me on my toes; I hate this question because what I'm currently reading isn't always worth sharing. These aren't necessarily the top 5 books I've ever read (Broken by Hillebrand, Vonnegut's Slaughter House Five, or anything by Pat Conroy would likely make that list), but simply the 5 books that have shaped me in to the person I am today; they are the books I go back to again and again, and they are the books I recommend to others most often when asked the question, "What do you recommend for me if I want to grow?" With that, let me share with you 5 books that have shaped me over the years; some of them will be great for a small group study, while others are best to be read alone (IMO). 

*But just in case you want to know what I'm reading right now it's listed at the bottom.

5. Renovation of the Heart in Daily Practice by Dallas Willard and Jan Johnson

This is a "daily" reading of a longer book of his, but this one cuts straight to the very meaningful stuff, but in small chunks so they can be more easily digested. This book is great for both individual study, but our small group did it last year and was really life-shaping for so many.

A person who is prepared and capable of responding to the situations of life in ways that are good and right is a person whose soul is in order, under the direction of a well-kept heart, in turn under the direction of God. (Willard in Renovation of the Heart)

(I recommend ANYTHING by Willard, by the way - visit his amazon page here)

4. Making Life Work by Bill Hybels

This is a study in the book of Proverbs. It's from the nineties so some of the references and illustrations are outmoded, but the content is so good. I was in my mid-twenties when I read this and it was perfect for me as the primary thrust of the book was about discipline, initiative, speaking truth, pursuing wisdom and loving well. Highly recommended for group and individual study. 

"Anyone with a brain can find exceptions to Proverbs' generalities...Proverbs simply tells how life works most of the time. You can worry about making the exceptions after you have learned the rule...The rule is that the godly, moral, hardworking and wise will reap many rewards."

-Bill Hybels, Making Life Work

3. Adam's Return by Richard Rohr

The subtitle to the book makes it seem like the book is ONLY for men (The Five Promises of Male Initiation), but I promise you, male or female, Richard Rohr will (quickly) get straight to your soul. Reading Richard Rohr isn't FUN, but it is life-changing. I wish I could recommend all of his books, but I haven't read every single one...yet. Visit his amazon page here

"Human beings will do everything under the sun to avoid the problems of me, now and here."

-Richard Rohr, Adam's Return 

2. Invitation to the Jesus Life by Jan Johnson

The subtitle to this book is exactly what the book is about: Experiments in Christlikeness.

Each chapter's end comes with several ways to live out what has just been read. Go at your own pace, experiment with what you choose, read and re-read (I've read this book at least 3 times). The best question Jan asks in this book is simply, "What do you want?" because the question behind that question is, "Now, what do you REALLY want?" (We often settle for what we want, rather than pursuing what we REALLY want). Get the book just to process that question. 

As a purposeful, confident, intentional Savior, He knew what He was about, and did everything with single-minded focus. With unfailing courage, He brought justice and truth to a chaotic world. 

-Jan Johnson, Invitation to the Jesus Life

1. In The Name of Jesus by Henri Nouwen 

This book's subtitle says it's about Christian Leadership, and it is, but it's about far more than that; it's about confidence, humility, and maturity through failure and success. This book (bought before ebooks were a "thing") has more earmarks on it than any other. Like all four authors above, ANY book of Nouwen's is worth your time. 

The leaders of the future will be those who dare to claim their irrelevance in the contemporary world as a divine vocation. 

-Henri Nouwen, In the Name of Jesus 

What I'm Reading Now

Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek, Seabiscuit by Laura Hillebrand, and Rohr's reflections on Lent