My 8 favorite books of 2018

I love to read. You? 

I’ve heard, “Readers are leaders!” and “Five years from now you’ll be the exact same person apart from the books you read and the people you meet.”

I’ve found that to be true. Sermon series are birthed out of the books I read. Habits are started or stopped based on the words I study and highlight at night. How many ideas can you gather, mistakes can you avoid, and Scripture passages can you apply with a good book in your hands?

If you’re looking for a good read for 2019, check out my top 8 from 2018:

8. Selfie by Will Storr—Storr takes a fascinating look at how humans have viewed themselves for the past few millennia and how dangerous our modern obsession with the Self truly is. Check out this book if you are raising kids or own a smartphone! “We’re living in an age of perfectionism, and perfection is the idea that kills.”

7. How to Lead When You’re Not in Charge by Clay Scroggins—Scroggins is a pastor who served under the leadership of Andy Stanley, one of America’s most well-known pastors. This book taught me that our bosses/managers/senior pastors are grateful when we (1) speak well of them in their absence and (2) don’t wait for them to come up with ideas/tasks for us to do. “Let me know how I can help?” sounds nice, but it adds another task to a leader’s already overflowing to-do list. Instead, propose an idea that supports your leader’s vision and run with it!

6. As for Me and My House by Walter Wangerin—A friend recommended this less-than-famous book on marriage, and it blew me away. Wangerin is a fantastic writer, and his insights on marriage, sex, and forgiveness are powerful. I’ve read dozens of books on marriage, and this one is near the top, especially for the way the author navigates the tension many couples feel when it comes to sexual intimacy. I will reference this in my upcoming Sexpectations series in fall 2019.

5. Ministering in Honor-Shame Cultures by Jayson Georges and Mark Baker—My friend Aaron gave a presentation on this book at a conference where I was the keynote speaker. I’m 99% positive that his 60 minutes were more powerful than my 6 hours of content. If you work with or are friends with anyone from Asia, Africa, or Latin America, this book will open your eyes to the unintended ways you might cause them deep offense and to the wonderful ways that you can connect others to Jesus. As a guy who plays soccer with guys from around the world, this book’s principles come to mind every week.

4. Hindsight by Justin Timberlake—Confession time—I love J.T. He is so insanely talented (Jimmy Fallon sketches, anyone?) that I wish he would become a Christian, join our church, and lead our dancing-for-Jesus class (which I would create just for him, even if I was the only one who signed up . . . although my wife might be less impressed by my wedding dance moves if he did). This book is packed with 250 pictures and gives a fascinating look at one of the planet’s biggest pop stars.

3. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne—Somehow I never read this book in high school. But as a pastor who watches people wrestle with shame, secrets, and sexual sin, I could not put this book down. The plot itself is captivating—Married woman gets pregnant while her husband is away but refuses to tell anyone who fathered her child. Beloved pastor withers away from some unknown sickness. Mysterious doctor appears to care for the pastor who seems to know the woman and haunt the pastor. What if the pastor had the affair? What if the doctor was the victim of adultery? And, if so, how could any Christian escape the weight of such shame? I’ve told the ending of this story in nearly every presentation I have given since reading the book. Few things are as freeing as public confession!

2. Next: Pastoral Succession That Works by William Vanderbloemen and Warren Bird—Unless Jesus comes back soon, someone will take your place as a pastor/teacher/manager/executive assistant/etc. And that succession can make or break your church/business. So what works to keep the organizations we love strong? The author digs into multiple case studies to see what helps and what hurts in the long haul. How can you help create a healthy church for years to come?

1. The Bible by God—Okay, this might seem like a token pick, but I mean this one. I love the Bible, even more than a J.T. dance break. It’s the only book I attempt to read every day of the year. And the more I think about it, the better it gets. Like an ocean, the Bible has parts that little kids can splash around in as well as parts so deep that experienced Christians can discover new beauties in its pages. Please make sure you have some quantity time in this book before Amazon-ing any of the others.

Well, that was a peek at my year of reading. I’ve already ordered the next year of books and can’t wait for another 12 months of growing in knowledge.

Do you have a favorite book from 2018? I’d love to hear about it below!

Happy Reading!
Pastor Mike

Pastor Mike Novotny has served God’s people in full-time ministry since 2007 in Madison and, most recently, at The CORE in Appleton, Wisconsin. He will also serve as the new lead speaker for Time of Grace after 2019, where he will share the good news about Jesus through television, print, and online platforms. Mike loves seeing people grasp the depth of God’s amazing grace and unstoppable mercy. His wife continues to love him (despite plenty of reasons not to), and his two daughters open his eyes to the love of God for every Christian. When not talking about Jesus or dating his wife/girls, Mike loves playing soccer, running, and reading.

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