My Top Books for 2018

Here are my favorite reads for the year, by category.


3. Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

One of my high schooler’s summer reading books, which I read with her. Inspiring.

2. Rick Riordan, The Last Olympian

The fifth and final book in the series Percy Jackson and the Olympians, a favorite of my kids. The whole series was good, but the last one surprisingly so.

1. Ryan Graudin, The Walled City

A thrilling read with a powerful message. A highlight of my year was the opportunity to meet the author, whose other books I’m looking forward to reading in 2019.


3. Joseph J. Ellis, Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation

I enjoyed his biography of George Washington a few years ago, and this was just as good. It recounts the friendships and rivalries of the Founding Fathers—Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, James Madison, and Aaron Burr—along with a detailed investigation into the duel that ended Hamilton’s life.

2. Nathan Bomey, Detroit Resurrected: To Bankruptcy and Back

A fascinating account by a writer of the Detroit Free Press of what led to the city’s bankruptcy filing and how various leaders navigated through the crisis.

1. Margaret MacMillan, The War that Ended Peace: The Road to War

An excellent description of the conditions that brought about World War I. I bought it in 2014 to mark the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the war, and managed to read it this year to mark its conclusion. While I doubt some of the parallels MacMilan drew to our contemporary world, I discovered a disturbing similarity between our current president and a former leader of Germany. And no, not the one you’re thinking.

Biographies and memoirs

3. Condoleezza Rice, Extraordinary Ordinary People: A Memoir of Family

Another inspiring book. It’s more about her parents than it is about her, concluding with her dad’s death just before her service in Bush 43’s administration. Many parts of her pastor-father’s story resonated with me.

2. Edmund Morris, Theodore Rex

1. Edmund Morris, Colonel Roosevelt

It’s hard to decide which of the two I liked more. These are volumes two and three of Roosevelt by Morris. Theodore Rex covers his presidency, and Colonel Roosevelt his post-presidential years. An amazing man and a splendid treatment. After finishing the series, I took my father-in-law to Teddy’s birthplace on the Lower East Side and was thrilled to see so many mementos described in the books.

Current events

3. (tie) Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes, Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign

A devastating account of a campaign that will be discussed the rest of my life.

3. (tie) Ben Rhodes, The World As It Is: A Memoir of the Obama White House

Rhodes served as Obama’s Deputy NSA for communication and wrote many of his presidential speeches related to foreign policy. The book helped me appreciate the complexity of the decisions every White House has to make, and it humanized those making the decisions. I highly recommend this book, especially if you generally opposed the Obama presidency. You may never agree with decisions he and his advisors made, but you may discover their humanity.

2. Brian Merchant, The One Device: The Secret History of the iPhone

I looked forward to reading this one, and my expectations were justified. What I did not expect was how troubling I’d find it to be. What does it take to make an iPhone? A lot more than we might be comfortable with.

1. Bryan Stevenson, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption

If Bryan Stevenson were an underfunded missionary to China, and Just Mercy told the tale of the injustices committed against believers by the Communist regime, evangelical pastors would promote the book and sell it in their church bookstores. As it is, Bryan Stevenson is an underfunded non-profit attorney, and Just Mercy tells the tale of the injustices committed against African Americans (most of whom are believers, as is clear in the book) in the American South. But I rarely hear evangelicals mention it. And when I do hear pastors talk about issues like this, it’s often to argue that Christians shouldn’t be involved with social justice. It’s worse than sad. It’s hypocritical. And it’s shameful.


3. Patrick Lencioni, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable

Wish I had read this fifteen years ago.

2. (tie) Susan Scott, Fierce Conversations: Achieving Success at Work and in Life One Conversation at a Time

2. (tie) Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, and Sheila Heen, Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most

Ditto. These books often read like practical commentaries on the communication passages in Proverbs.

1. Ronald A. Heifetz and Marty Linsky, Leadership on the Line: Staying Alive through the Dangers of Leading

The first leadership book I’ve read that brought me to tears. The whole book is great, but Part Three inspired hope.

Spiritual formation

3. John F. Smed, Journey in Prayer: Learning to Pray with Jesus

A great little guide to praying the Lord’s prayer.

2. Ruth Haley Barton, Pursuing God’s Will Together: A Discernment Practice for Leadership Groups

I don’t know another book that speaks to the critical issue of how Christian leaders determine next steps together. Most books on God’s will are individualized and take little account of other people except for seeking counsel. This book guides leaders to seek God’s will together in the midst of sharp disagreement. Super helpful.

1. Dan Allender, To Be Told: God Invites You to Coauthor Your Future

Just gold, as is the companion workbook. Allender leads readers to consider the story that God is writing with their lives, to value it and tell it as God does, and to see how the path behind directs their next steps. Considering my own story was one of the hardest things I’ve begun to do this year. And it’s been worth every minute.

Tolle lege!

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1 Response to My Top Books for 2018

  1. Laura Fels says:

    New Years greetings Matthew! Thank you for the recommendations. Will add them to my list.

    Am in New York Thru the weekend. Are you in town? Might we be able to find a time to meet?

    Laura Fels 646-334-5319

    [image: image1.jpeg]

    Laura Fels

    Sent from my iPad

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