This is a hard choice. I read 16 books in 2011 and all of them were very good. However, if I had to pick my top five, they would be the books listed below. My choice in the top 5 are books that have had the most profound affect on me. These are books that shape how I think and act and I often find myself thinking about the concepts long after I finished reading. So, here they are.

Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard

Switch was actually the first book I read this year and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve passed this book along to someone else, always with the same result. Switch changed the way I think about change. Both changing things within my personal life and helping to lead other people through change. I’m convinced that there’s more science to change than there is just random chance. There’s a real psychology to it and understanding what truly motivates a person or how to design a system around their emotions is the better way to lead through change. Read this book, you will not be disappointed!

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: How I Learned to Live a Better Story

I heard Donald Miller speak at Orange on two different occasions and I loved his talks. They are some of the few talks that stuck with me over the years. Why, he’s such a good story teller. People have been talking about Blue Like Jazz for years, but I have not read it yet (although I do own it now). I finally picked up this book and loved every minute of reading it. It affected me in two ways. First of all, it challenged me in the way that I’m living my life. It caused me to ask the question, “Is my life a compelling story that’s worth being told/read? Where is the adventure? Where am I overcoming conflict?” My wife and I have been talking a lot about this. Secondly, there’s a story in the book where a family jumps into a river at midnight as a “goodbye” ritual. When asked about this later, they explained that they jumped into the river to create a memory that the other people will never forget. This caused me to think about the precious moments we have in ministry with kids. Are we intentional about creating experiences that create memories they’ll never forget. This won’t happen without intentionality.

Fields of Gold

Many leaders at my church have read this book by Andy Stanley. It’s about generosity. I’ve never read a book that talks about giving to your church quite like this. I’ve read and heard many formulaic teachings, usually how in the end, it benefits the giver… almost in a selfish way. For several months, my wife and I have been talking about how we can increase what we give every year with a goal where sometime in the future, we’ve learned how to give more than we keep. Reading this book fueled that kind of thinking and made us want to make that happen as soon as possible. It’s an incredible book. Be careful though, it will change your outlook on giving!

Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time

I’m busier than I’ve ever been and I struggle to get everything done. I know that I have some inefficiencies in my life… we all do. I heard about this book from Gina McClain and I’m so glad I picked it up. It immediately changed how I get things done. I’ve always been a list keeper, but this book helped me get really smart about my lists. Now I start every morning naming the frogs I need to eat ASAP. Definitely a must read!

The E-Myth Revisited

I read a lot of leadership books, but not as many business books. However, I did start a side business this year and this book came highly recommended. I immediately learned many things that I was doing wrong and how I needed to fix them before I had a mess on my hands. What’s more though, I discovered that the principles apply to the ministry I lead in a very specific way. If you oversee a ministry or even a department, you must read this book. Read with an open mind and keep asking yourself, “how does this apply to my ministry.” In it is a plan to equipping others where you can do the important work of strategy and growth and not get stuck in the weeds like so many of us do.

Okay, so there’s my top five. Like I said, this was a difficult list. I read many more that challenged me profoundly. If you’re looking for some good books to read, I highly recommend these five, but I’d also encourage you to hit any of the others on my 2011 reading list.