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Jared's 15 books for 2015

Jared KennedyComment

It's the beginning of a new year, and books are starting to pile up both on my dresser at home and desk at the office. I often revise my reading goals during the year, but here is my start for 2015.

The books I've chosen correspond with the major growth goals I've set for the year. I've chosen learning goals in areas where I'm weak and need to grow. This year, I'm thinking about four broad categories--servant leadership, meaningful relationships, a disciplined life, and mission. I've chosen three books from each of these categories as well as three fiction books. Here goes: 

Servant Leadership

"My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends." John 15:12-13

We're called to lay down our lives for others as a servants and friends. Over the last season, servant leadership has been an area for a lot of self-examination for me. Here are my three books in this area for 2015 (and a couple more). 

  1. The Leadership Challenge: How to Make Extraordinary Things Happen in Organizations by James Kouzes and Barry PosnerThis research-based leadership classic was recommended to me by Pastor Daniel Montgomery. He's found it to be extremely encouraging.
  2. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable by Patrick Lencioni.  I read a summary recently and loved it. I'm planning to read this one together with our a children's ministry staff.
  3. Servants and Friends: A Biblical Theology of Leadership edited by Skip Bell. This comprehensive biblical theology of leadership was recommended to me by Timothy Paul Jones and our student ministry director, Henry Williams. I can't wait to dive into it. If I have time, I also plan to pick up Ministry in the Image of God by Stephen Seamands (a local scholar over at Asbury in Lexington) and Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim (recommended by Pastor Tim Beltz).

Meaningful relationships

In some ways, it's difficult to distinguish between servant leadership and meaningful relationships. But the books in this category are distinct in that they focus on how to be emotionally and relationally present with others. That's definitely an area I need to grow in, and I'm excited about digging into these works:

  1. The Relational Soul: Moving from False Self to Deep Connection by Richard Plass and James Cofield. Rich has spoken into mine and Megan's life together for since our daughter Lucy was diagnosed with Autism. I'm grateful for him, and I look forward to digesting The Relational Soul.
  2. A Loving Life: In a World of Broken Relationships by Paul Miller. I read A Praying Life back in 2010. That was a life-changing year for us, and Miller was a big influence on my walk with the Lord during that time.
  3. Catching Foxes: A Gospel-Guided Journey to Marriage. Pat Aldridge says this is the best book on marriage he's ever read. I have to read it.

A Disciplined Life

"But godliness with contentment is great gain." 1 Timothy 6:6

Megan's a believer in a simple, minimal, and disciplined life. There are some pretty funny stories about things we've accidentally thrown away in the midst of a cleaning spree. I learn a lot from her, and I'm coming to understand that simplicity has a lot to do with contentment and gratitude. Those virtues are only cultivated through regular, habitual disciplines. Here are three books I'm diving into about the power of a simple and disciplined life: 

  1. Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation by James K. A. Smith. SojournKids deacon, Travis Mills, recommended this to me. Megan and I are reading it together.
  2. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg. Meg says this will be a faster read. It's straight from her best reads. 
  3. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain. This is another one that Megan really recommends. When we're talking about discipline, there is a lot to learn from introverts.

Mission (and cultural engagement)

Here are three books I'm reading on missions and cultural engagement. I'm prayerful that these books help cultivate conversations with non-Christians.

  1. The Insanity of God: A True Story of Faith Resurrected by Nick RipkinThis one was recommended both by Megan and Pastor Nathan Garth.
  2. The Stories We Tell: How TV and Movies Long For and Echo the Truth by Mike Cosper. Pastor Mike is brilliant. This one should be fun. 
  3. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in an Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander. I heard this one recommended by Theon Hill on the Phil Vischer Podcast. This is my follow-up to Dear White America. I may also add Place, Not Race: A New Vision of Opportunity in America by Sheryll Cashin after hearing her at this year's HOPE conference.


Finally, here are three fiction books I plan to dive into. Fiction is a motivator for me to finish reading other books. Even though they aren't on the list here, I always have to throw in something by John Grisham or Tom Clancy to keep me moving through my goals. Here are the three tougher fiction books I'm planning to work through. 

  1. Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry. This is the sequel to Hannah Coulter, and it's next on my list after the leadership book I'm reading. Motivation!
  2. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. This book on race was recommended to me by Pastor Josh Thomas. I'm really pumped about diving in.  
  3. Home by Marilynne Robinson. I loved Gilead, and I'm excited about reading Home. My mom has already finished it since Thanksgiving. I'd better get to it. 

What books are you reading in the coming year? What do you think of this list? Anything you would add to my categories?