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We’ve once again asked our blog authors for the top books from their reading lists at the start of the new year. We received many great recommendations! Here is a selection of favorites (in no particular order), along with a quick reason why our authors enjoyed them:

Tempered Resilience: How Leaders are Formed in the Crucible of Change by Tod Bolsinger (2020, IVP)—Bolsinger, author of Canoeing the Mountains, explores adaptive leadership in contexts ranging from churches to nonprofit organizations. Bolsinger writes: “To temper describes the process of heating, holding, hammering, cooling, and reheating that adds stress to raw iron” so it becomes strong enough for service. Especially during this challenging time, Bolsinger’s focus on developing reflection and relationships in a life of deliberate practice helps leaders to become both stronger and more flexible in seasons of change.

Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport (2016, Grand Central Publishing)—This book is about the importance of setting aside interrupted chunks of time to focus on the most important things we need to accomplish. He paints a convincing picture of how email and lack of appropriate boundaries cause us to waste incredible amounts of time. He also gives practical guidance about how to make these deep work sessions effective based on our particular situations and work styles.

Flourishing Together: A Christian Vision for Students, Educators, and Schools by Lynn E. Swaner and Andy Wolfe (2021, Eerdmans)—A Christian vision for education is one that equips young people to live the abundant life Christ promises, to be and make disciples. But how can Christian schools be places that actually promote this vision for flourishing? Building on the groundbreaking Flourishing Schools research, Lynn Swaner and Andy Wolfe vividly detail a practical model and framework for what makes a Christian school truly educate Christianly, in such a manner that it is itself an act of worship.

Emotionally Healthy Relationships: Discipleship that Deeply Changes Your Relationship with Others by Peter and Geri Scazzero (2017, HarperChristian Resources)—This is a workbook that is part of a course designed to explicitly teach healthy Biblical relationship skills to Christians. Pete and Geri describe their personal experiences of immaturity in themselves and in the church and how and why we often approach everyday conflict in unhealthy ways. Simple but revolutionary, these strategies have helped me see “the why” behind my interactions with others and helped me to become a healthier leader.

Live No Lies: Recognize and Resist the Three Enemies That Sabotage Your Peace by John Mark Comer (2021, WaterBrook)—“The problem is less that we tell lies and more that we live them; we let false narratives about reality into our bodies, and they wreak havoc in our souls.” John Mark shares Jesus’s vision of a flourishing life by examining the three enemies of our soul (the devil, the flesh, and the world) and takes us on a journey to find that our deepest happiness is found in God alone.

Good Burdens: How to Live Joyfully in the Digital Age by Christina Crook (2021, Nimbus Publishing Limited)—Christina Crook is the voice of a movement seeking to live well with technology rather than flee from it entirely. Her latest book Good Burdens offers concrete solutions for flourishing in the digital age and I’ll be gifting it to many of my friends and family this Christmas.

5 Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable by Patrick Lencioni (2002, Jossey-Bass)—It’s an oldie but a goodie. If you’re leading a team in any capacity, I encourage anyone to revisit this every couple of years. It was a good reminder of how leading with empathy and collaboration is what build winning teams. 

Guiding Schools to Flourish: Board Governance & School Leadership by Henry Contant and Edward Noot (2021, Society of Christian Schools in British Columbia)—This book is filled with 30 engaging and relevant short chapters covering a wide variety of topics of interest to school leaders and board members. The book is best used as a jumping off point for discussion around a board table or with a leadership team, and to facilitate this, the authors include several questions at the end of each chapter.  To whet your appetite, here are a few chapter titles: Crow’s Nest or on the Deck; The Vulnerability Paradox: Leading in Relational Trust; Does Your Board Receive a Report Card?; The Board’s Role in School Budgeting.

A Church Called Tov: Forming A Goodness Culture That Resists Abuses of Power and Promotes Healing by Scot McKnight and Laura Barringer (2020, Tyndale Momentum)—In recent years, Christians have gotten used to revelations of abuses of many kinds in our most respected churches and ministries. Abuses occur most frequently when Christians neglect to create a culture that resists abuse and promotes healing, safety, and spiritual growth. In this book, McKnight and Barringer explore the concept of tov―unpacking its richness and how it can help Christians and churches rise up to fulfill their true calling as imitators of Jesus.

Finding Rest: A Survivor’s Guide to Navigating the Valleys of Anxiety, Faith, and Life by Jonathan M. Seidl (2021, Kregel Publications)—Reading this book is like sitting across the table from a dear friend as Seidl openly and honestly shares his own mental health journey with humility, humor, and hope. You’ll laugh; you’ll cry; and you’ll walk away feeling seen, known, and encouraged. If you struggle with anxiety, or know and love someone who does, you must read this book.

Communication Matters: A Biblical Study for Speaking Life Into Your Relationships by Shantae Brown White (2015, Shauntae Brown White)—In this 31-day devotional, Dr. White helps you learn from Scripture and story what it looks like to communicate better, and then asks you to assess your own habits and actions and try putting into practice the biblical techniques she highlights. Each day also includes a mindful prayer focused on that aspect of communication.

So Many Beginnings: A Little Women Remix by Bethany C. Morrow (2021, Feiwel & Friends)—If like me Little Women was a childhood favorite then you need to read Bethany’s Morrow’s So Many Beginnings: A Little Women Remix. It imagines the lives of four sisters, Black young women, coming of age in the American Civil war; gift it to the young women in your life so that voices of our sisters, too long excluded from literature, becomes a modern classic.

The Little Book of Restorative Justice in Education: Fostering Responsibility, Healing, and Hope in Schools by Katherine Evans and Dorothy Vaanderingo (2016, Good Books)—Evans and Vaandering succinctly provide definition and brief history of Restorative Justice in Education in the Little Book. With focus on knowing the difference between honoring and measuring, and what message we are sending, they describe how to proactively create, nurture, and grow just and equitable learning environments and healthy relationships and reactively repair harm and transform conflict.

Leading Insights: Special Education and Inclusion edited by Lynn Swaner (2021, ACSI)—Dr. Swaner brings together a mix of voices in Christian education to provide a holistic picture of the calling and possibility for Christian schools in serving students of all abilities. Filled with research, theology, and real-life examples, this book will inspire you to serve all students in your community, and to use the practical tools and ideas it provides.

Tell Me More: Stories About the 12 Hardest Things I’m Learning to Say by Kelly Corrigan (2019, Random House Trade Paperbacks)—This book came out a few years ago, but maybe it can be especially helpful as we emerge from these pandemic times. Corrigan has an easy style that feels like sitting down with a close friend, and it can make you feel less alone – something worth revisiting any time.

Diary of a Pastor’s Soul: The Holy Moments in a Life of Ministry by M. Craig Barnes (2020, Brazos Press)—Craig Barnes shares the last year of a pastor’s ministry as he prepares for retirement. Over the course of a year, we walk with the pastor – meeting his family and parishioners, hearing his reflections and deepest desires, and his growing acknowledgment of the holy moments spiritual leaders experience in the day-to-day calling of ministry. 

Author Becki Rust

Becki Rust is the Thought Leadership Project Coordinator at the Association of Christian Schools International, where she leads project management for a wide variety of innovative and timely initiatives, programs, and events. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Politics, Philosophy, and Economics from The King’s College in New York City. She is the production editor for WLCE.org.

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