A Year in Books and Transformation

I love reading, which wasn't always the case. I used to only keep non-fiction, typically spiritually-focused books around, reading one every once in a while, usually because it was referred by someone. About nine years ago, however, I had a boring desk job with lots of time to listen to things while performing menial tasks. I started listening to audiobooks, amongst other things, and since I didn't want to spend any money on them, I would often find free audiobooks of classic literature (the kind you are supposed to read in high school, but I always Spark-noted instead). I loved catching up on the greats, Dickens becoming my favorite, and so as the years went on, I decided to get into reading more fiction. Now I'm an avid reader; and with another day job that includes a lot of downtime, I have a fair amount to get into.

However, I still tend to keep non-fiction, spiritually-focused books around in addition to my fiction novels. This past year I had a particularly great set of books that made my year, and my spiritual/mental health, much, much better; which is what I wanted to share here:

The HeArt of a Warrior, by Michael Thompson

I started the year wanting to know more about the love of God. The Bible is full of the unfathomable expanse of God's love, but I felt that I didn't have a great understanding or experience of this. Without really telling anyone about my thoughts, my Dad sent me The HeArt of a Warrior, along with an accompanying workbook, which is centered around the idea that, before you can really become the man or woman you are capable of, you need to know and experience the love of God as a Father. (Isn't it cool when stuff like that happens?)

This book was really transformational for me, and I highly recommend it. It's written for men, and leans into somewhat of an old-fashioned style of manhood, but outside of few-too-many Braveheart references, the content is spot-on. I worked through this book/workbook really slowly throughout the year, and can say it really changed the way I see myself, as well as brought healing in a lot of areas of my life. I can't recommend it enough!

Ir-rev-rend: Christianity Without the Pretense. Faith Without the Facade, by Greg Surratt

My sister had bought me this book because she saw it in a bookstore for a dollar or two, and I had gone to Seacoast church (where Greg is the founding pastor) for a while. I was drawn to Seacoast in large part by Greg's teaching: he has a real dry sense of humor mixed with moments of brutal honesty and profound truth. The book did not disappoint, and was basically a collection of stories that all had little lessons for our own lives, as well as an inside look at what it means to pastor a megachurch. If you're skeptical of pastors, this might be a good one to pick up to catch an honest, inside view from "a good one," as I would say.

The 10-Second Rule: Following Jesus Made Simple, by Clare DeGraaf

This book was recommended by one of my former pastors, so I added it to a list years ago. It sat on the shelf for quite a while, but I picked it up last year in an effort to see more of God's working in my life. The principle is to say "yes" to any prompt you feel reasonably certain God has asked you to do. Typically it's talking to someone, relaying a message of love to a stranger, or maybe giving away/gifting something to someone. It sounds simple enough, but I have to say, this little book wrecked me. You read story after story of God doing so much with only simple acts of obedience by His followers -- the kind of acts I want to be a part of -- but when given my own chance to obey, more often than not I talk myself out of it. I still have lots of work to do with this one, so I kept it around to revisit. 

The Next Level, by Marcus "Goodie" Goodloe

I finished off the year with The Next Level: Growing with God...in His word, your walk, and your worship. It was a nice return to the fundamentals of faith, my biggest takeaway being the necessity of regularly scheduled time in scripture. This was something I was excellent at in high school, but had drifted away from in recent years. Goodie also has an excellent perspective on worship and what that means in daily life that would be worth your read. I'm not a big sports guy, but if you are, you may even gleam more from this one, as Goodie has lived and worked in the sports world for years. (Also worth picking up might be Goodie's book on Dr. Martin Luther King, which I haven't read, but I trust is an excellent and relevant book.)


So there is my non-fiction book list for the year! I wanted to write this because all of these books were transformational to me in some way or another, and I hope that they could be that for you also. Let me know if you pick any of these up (or want to borrow one), as I'd love to know what you thought.

And if you want my fiction list, you can ask for that too, though it is a little longer!