Looking Back: My Favorite Books of 2010

My love of reading good books has only increased in this last year. Over the course of the year, I decided to track how many books I read (and how many audiobooks were listened to).

Turns out that, as of this writing, I’ve read and listened to a combined 96 books in 2010. (People always ask me how I can read so much; now I’m beginning to wonder, too…)

Of these, some good, some great and at least a couple that were made of poop sandwiches, I want to share with you some of the best of the bunch—the ten or so books I read this year that were helpful, meaningful and enjoyable. There were a few others that probably should have made the list, but I had to restrain myself.

With that in mind, I give you the list:

Business & Leadership

Free by Chris Anderson

Why I liked it: I’ve listened to this one two or three times since I downloaded it from Audible.com (free, naturally). All about the history and power of “free,” Anderson demonstrates how the concept of giving something away is a powerful tool to help make money. But more than that, “free” is changing our expectations (for example, the expectation on the web is that nearly everything is—or should be—free). While the author is a little too broad in some of his assertions, I found it to be a really insightful and very challenging look at marketing best practices, and just how much the concept of free is transforming how we think and how we do business. Well worth reading or listening to.

Linchpin by Seth Godin

Why I liked it: The big idea of the book is discovering what it means to be indispensable. And the one of the keys is to see yourself as an artist in what you do. Do everything with excellence (even the dreary stuff) and be someone who “ships” (i.e. you get things done).

Godin’s thinking in this book is very much in line with a number of other works from the last couple of years like Fake Work, Why Work Sucks, Grown Up Digital and Drive. It’s less about showing up to do work that may not be in line with the vision and goals of your company and more about doing work that matters. And speaking of Drive

Drive by Daniel Pink

Why I liked it: In the industrial economy, carrots & sticks always seemed to work best to motivate people—if they do well, give them a reward (a raise, an extra day off) and if they don’t, well, perhaps it’s time for the pink slip. But what happens when that doesn’t work anymore? How do you motivate people in the information age?

Daniel Pink narrows it down to three factors: Autonomy, mastery and purpose. When people are given some level of control over what they do, the opportunity to become “masters” in it and the work is connected to a larger purpose (beyond making some person rich), Pink’s research has shown that employee satisfaction increases dramatically and the work they do gets better. We’ve been using these general ideas in our departmental reviews for about a year and it’s been extraordinarily helpful.

And as a bonus, the book also helped potty train our daughter.

Biography & Memoirs

Decision Points by George W. Bush

Why I liked It: I downloaded the unabridged audio from Audbile.com a few weeks back as a lark. Bush comes across as a far more thoughtful, capable and likable man than he was ever portrayed in the media. While no doubt the truth lies somewhere in the middle of how Bush (and—I assume—his ghostwriter) describes events and what the media gave us, it’s a fascinating look at the life and presidency of America’s 43rd President.

Fun fact about the book: Bush includes a surprisingly thorough and accurate gospel presentation in the book. I was not expecting that.

Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas

Why I liked it: What I learned from Bonhoeffer, aside from gaining a wider understanding historically of the conditions in Germany that led to Hitler’s rise to power, and aside from discovering a deeper knowledge of the life of a twentieth century martyr, I gained a glimpse of what a life lived fully in-tune with one’s theological convictions can look like. Bonhoeffer’s focus on costly discipleship reminds us that the Christian life is one that is active, not merely reactive. And this is something we would do well to remember always.

Read my full review here.

Culture & Christian Living

When a Nation Forgets God by Erwin W. Lutzer

Why I liked it: Lutzer does an excellent job of showing readers the importance of trajectory—in particular, showing where certain trends could lead America, though, as he stresses, not necessarily would. And the parallels he draws between pre-World War II Germany and America today are disturbing. Lutzer’s greatest strength is that he is careful never to demonize those he opposes as he seeks to bear witness to the grace of Christ and be salt and light in a world that desperately needs it.

Read my full review here.

Servanthood as Worship by Nate Palmer

Why I liked it: This book offers challenging insights and powerful inspiration to readers who almost certainly all struggle to keep focused on the true reward of service. It’s not about pride or the approval of man. Servanthood—true, biblical servanthood—is about glorifying God. That’s the perspective we all desperately need. This is one of the few books from this year I’d call a must-read, whether you’re looking to develop a theology of service, you’re someone in danger of burning out in your service, or a pastor looking for something to help inspire service in your church.

Read my full review here.

Wrestling with an Angel by Greg Lucas

Why I liked it: Greg Lucas’ story of caring for his disabled son Jake is powerful. Like Servanthood as Worship, it’s one of the few I’d consider a must for everyone to read. Lucas’ experiences illustrate our need for God’s grace—and how God supplies us with grace in abundance in the most unexpected ways. (And while I’m not a super-emotional guy, there were a number of times that I had to fight to keep from crying while reading this book. Depending on your perspective, that may be a good or bad thing. Just something to keep in mind)

Theology

Think by John Piper

Think by John Piper

Why I liked it: John Piper tackles the subject of how the heart and mind glorify God together in a work that is packed with practical and pastoral admonishment. Piper’s vision of a biblical attitude toward intellectual pursuit is captivating in its scope and application. Thinking and feeling aren’t opposed. Knowledge isn’t the enemy of experience. It’s not either-or. It’s both-and. And he makes it clear that thinking is not the end goal, love for God is.

Read my full review here.

The Heresy of Orthodoxy by Köstenburger and Kruger

Why I liked it: Köstenberger and Kruger reveal themselves to be scholars par excellence in The Heresy of Orthodoxy. They are thoughtful, deliberate and carefully weigh the evidence available and reach what, if we are being intellectually honest, is an undeniable conclusion: The Bible we have is trustworthy; diversity was not nearly as radical as we are led to believe—and the faith we have today is the same as that which was “once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).

Read my full review here.

And my top pick of the year…

Church Planter by Darrin Patrick

Why I liked it: What I appreciated most about Patrick’s book is just how much it pushed me to examine myself in light of the character of a godly man as outlined in Scripture (and you won’t find a hint of the UFC loving, beer drinking, hip pastor stereotype that seems to float around the Acts 29 camp). Am I a man who is increasingly exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit? Am I increasingly dependent on the Holy Spirit in all of life? Am I willing to stand my ground on matters of first importance? Am I loving my wife well? In other words, am I the kind of man I’d want others to be like? This is a book that is essential for pastors, for those considering church planting and men who want to get a better understanding of the character to which we are all called.

Read my three part review here: part 1 | part 2 | part 3

A few other favorites:

What are your some of your favorite reads from the past year?

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  • Janel

    first of all, I have to say that I’m jealous that you are able to read that many books…and that you get free books because you are able to give a good account of them. i would love to read free books and give my opinion and overview but i think too much in the black and white realm and often would either hate or love it…not give it the proper view i’m sure it should recieve.

    thank you for these recommendations. while i’m not a big Piper fan (i have a hard time reading his stuff, listening is easier) my brother just got that Bonhoeffer book for Christmas and it looked great. thank you for continuing to share your love of reading.

    • http://www.bloggingtheologically.com Aaron Armstrong

      Thanks Janel; sometimes the very “black and white” reviews are the most interesting ones for me to read :)

      I hope your brother likes the Bonhoeffer book – as soon as I get my books out of the Matthisen’s basement, I’ll loan you my copy if you like?

  • Lisa Miles

    Great list! I see a couple here I’ll be picking up in the new year. Happy New Year to you and your family.

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  • http://www.worthwhilebooks.blogspot.com hopeinbrazil

    I popped over from Semicolon’s blog. I look forward to checking out some of the titles you’ve listed here.