Jim’s Book Awards

Over the years, I have read quite a few books. Some I was forced to read by my seminary professors; others were given to me by friends or family; a few were suggested to me by people who thought I needed what a particular book had to offer; and still others were books I bought after having read interviews with the author or hearing them speak at a conference. Below is a list of the best of those books arranged according three separate categories.

Books That Changed My Life

  • The Signature of Jesus by Brennan Manning. Prior to reading this book, I primarily understood God to be a judge who kept track of my sins and was generally displeased with who I am and of most of my efforts to follow him. After reading Manning’s book, I began the process of relating to Jesus as my friend who walks through life with me, helping me to sense his presence with me in a way that allows the signature of Jesus to be written on every page of my life. Manning introduced me to God’s grace in a way that changed my life.
  • Renovation of the Heart by Dallas Willard. What an incredible blessing it was to discover this book! Willard does a great job of teaching followers of Jesus very practical ways of recognizing God’s presence in their lives and ways of living in that presence. His Vision, Intention, and Means illustration is one I have used dozens of times in sermons and in counseling with people.
  • What’s So Amazing About Grace by Philip Yancey. The title says it all, but Yancey’s storytelling ability makes the book so much more that a dry read about a transformational truth.
  • The Journal of George Fox. Reading about a person so dedicated to following Jesus in every aspect of his life is a moving experience. The founder of the Friends Church was such a man.

Books That Informed My Mind

  • The Book That Made Your World by Vishal Mangalwadi. Thanks to my friend Stephanie Luck for telling me about this read. Vishal presents a compelling description of how the Bible was instrumental in the development of societal morality, the arts, literacy, modern medicine, innovation, human dignity, technology, and more. The book is long, 400+ pages, and contains lots of statistics, but I never felt bogged down. It is a great read!
  • Spiritual Theology by Simon Chan. Chan looks at theologies formed in the West and gives his Asian perspective on the impact of those theologies. His outsider’s look at the church helped me to see more clearly whether what I have been taught helps or hinders my desire to be more like Jesus.
  • When Helping Hurts by Corbett and Fikkert. The authors of this book helped me clarify whether my efforts to help the poor really accomplish that goal. What they teach is a challenge to implement, but it is so refreshing to read something more than “throw money at the problem in God’s name.”
  • Eternity in Their Hearts by Don Richardson. This book is a classic in my mind. Richardson goes into great detail to show how God has prepared cultures from many diverse people groups to receive the Good News of Jesus. This book informed my mind and refreshed my spirit.

Books That Were and Are Helpful Resources for a Variety of Reasons

  • The Overload Syndrome by Richard Swenson. How to create margin in all areas of your life.
  • A Testament of Devotion by Thomas Kelly. A recognized classic in the area of spiritual formation and discipleship to Jesus.
  • The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Ditto.
  • The Heavenly Man by Brother Yun. An inspiring read about the influence of one man on the modern growth of the church in China.
  • Kingdom Ethics by Stassen and Gushee. An informative and strong biblically based book on living ethically in all areas of life.
  • Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty by Charles Leerhsen. An eye-opening effort to set the record straight on one of baseball’s greatest players.
  • Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. A very interesting and inspiring biography of WWII prisoner of war Louis Zamparini. (I really wish Clint Eastwood would have directed the movie based on this book.)
  • Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music by Gregory Thornbury. I really enjoyed reading the biography of one of my musical heroes, Larry Norman.

Well, that should get you started. Happy reading!