I’ve always been an avid reader from an early age. Nowadays I tend to go from extremes of reading absolutely nothing or being immersed in multiple books, particularly in the holiday season. But I would always struggle to keep track of all the book recommendations that were coming my way.

A few years ago I made a decision to automatically buy any book that sounded half decent that was recommended to me. Side note: what other good decisions could you automate in your life? This practice alone has been a game changer. It’s expanded my thinking and given me a whole of creative input and ideas that I otherwise wouldn’t have stumbled onto.

2020 marks the beginning of a new decade

With that in mind and as we close not just another year but another decade, I thought I’d write down a list of ten books that changed the game for me personally in the last ten years. From faith to leadership to business or just plain fascinating, I would highly recommend all of the books below.

In no particular order, let us begin:

1. Never Split The Difference by Chris Voss

Written by a master negotiator for the FBI, this book is a fantastic introduction to the basic principles of negotiation. Between hair raising stories of dramatic kidnappings and hostage situations, you quickly realise that life is made up of a series of many negotiations. From parenting to the work place, growing your business or encouraging people to make good decisions, negotiation is such a powerful subject and one I had never really considered as important for me to consider.

This book is a must if you’re in the people business in any way (it’s kind of hard not to be today really). It’s not about manipulation or forcing others to do what you want but instead learning to maximise opportunity and reach win win outcomes.

[Buy Never Split The Difference here]

2. Salvation By Allegiance Alone by Matthew W. Bates

I’m not sure any book has changed or clarified my theology more than this one. Maybe ever. Bates helps explain the true meaning of the word ‘pistis’, normally translated as faith but most often better translated as the word, ‘allegiance’. In the context of the new kingdom Jesus came to bring, everything begins to take on a much richer shape and form.

It puts grace in a much bigger and better context, helping us understand that the object of Christianity is not just to be ‘saved’ but instead to take our place in the kingdom which begins right now (not simply when we die).

It also serves as a challenging and powerful warning to those who wish to coast through the Christian life without doing any of the real spiritual work. Awks. Don’t read this book if you don’t want to be challenged.

[Buy Salvation By Allegiance Alone here]

3. The Parable Of The Dog by Phil Pringle

This is a deceptively small yet weighty book anchored around a simple concept. To train a dog, it must understand that you are not just its friend but also its master. Translated into our Christian walk of faith, many Christians live very much in the space of relationship with Jesus as a friend.

That’s an awesome place to begin and God is so interested in friendship with us. But there’s also this huge other aspect of our relationship with him where he is actually Lord above all.

Phil brings a simple conceptual shift that will change the way you view everything about your faith.

[Buy The Parable Of The Dog here]

4. Free To Focus by Michael Hyatt

Free To Focus is about exactly what it sounds like. How do we beat distraction in an age that is full of so much visual stimulation. Everybody wants your attention from your friends to your boss, not to mention social media giants and the big and ugly world of advertising that stalks around us.

Michael Hyatt digs into some powerful concepts, some new and some timeless to help free your focus. From how to say no well as well as understanding energy management (not just time management). This is a great book to reinvent productivity for the new year.

[Buy Free To Focus here]

5. The Marriage Files by Patricia Morgan

Looking at the purpose, limits and fate of marriage, Patrician Morgan is an independent researcher who looks at the hard data of the impact and implications of the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Act 2013.

This is a challenging yet powerful book which explores the state of the conjugal family. Patricia explains (very objectively) why the decline of marriage as an institution has led to the decline of the family with disastrous results for society and for the nation. It’s a very important subject and yet one in which debate and conversation is generally discouraged. 

This is well worth a read for anyone who is grappling with the challenges of resolving what the Bible says about marriage with the thinking of today’s culture. It’s worth noting too that as far as I can tell, Patricia is not a person of faith and is writing from from a purely analytical point of view, interpreting the data and studies without prejudice.

[Buy The Marriage Files here]

6. I Will Teach You To Be Rich by Ramit Sethi

I’ve been following Ramit for a while over at his blog (and rigorous email marketing campaigns which I don’t mind because I enjoy analysing his copywriting) and I have to say that this is good stuff. With a no nonsense attitude, there’s some really healthy finance advice that has definitely helped strengthen that side of my life.

Just understanding the power of pensions alone has been a game changer. If you have no idea what you’re doing or you’re just looking for some next steps in finance then I can recommend this book. Plus he’s Indian – help a brother out.

[Buy I Will Teach You To Be Rich here]

7. The Hit Factory by Dave Gilpin

It’s hard not to do a list of awesome books without including the master that is Dave Gilpin. This stood out to me in particular because it really unpacks Dave’s life vision to create not just the next hits but the next hit makers.

Everybody wants to do something significant with their lives and there is this sense that we have to accomplish everything by x age. Shifting the focus from us being lead singer or lead guitarist to being lead producer leads to real long term impact and a sense of purpose through every season of life.

This is master discipleship material for any leader looking to raise up the next generation.

[Buy The Hit Factory here]

8. When by Daniel H. Pink

I have to confess that this is the only book on the list that I haven’t read. I know right? So why is it on the list? Because I heard an interview with Daniel where he talked through the book and the basic concept was so powerful that I had so much to go away and think about without ever needing to read the book.

Described as the scientific secrets of perfect timing, Daniel walks us through the science of how to maximise your time, focus and energy levels throughout the day. Typically this results in most of us being more focused at the start of the day and more creative at the end of the day as the mind relaxes.

There are literal studies showing the startling impacts of this including serious medical errors occurring on a higher level between 2-4pm (a common low point of concentration). All because of the science of timing. It’ll change the way you view your day for sure.

[Buy When here]

9. Do Scale by Les McKeown

This has been a very significant book for me in this last year. Les looks at a roadmap to growing a remarkable company – in other words, how do we scale something. Differentiating between growth (which increases organically) and scale (which increases by design) has been a powerful insight alone.

What I love about Les and his work is that he describes principles that are already in existence rather than creating a new framework for us to understand things by. The way he talks about things instantly resonates because he captures what we are thinking and the challenges we are facing.

For any leader trying to grow their organisation or department, this is a tremendously helpful and fascinating book.

[Buy Do Scale here]

10. Irresistible by Andy Stanley

In this almost controversial and thinking out of the box sort of book, Andy looks at why the message of Jesus has become so complicated, heavy and just plain undesired. Is it possible that we’ve muddied the waters of the story and Christianity by inserting our own cultural blocks in along the way. Andy tries to bring us back to the basics of the purity of a truly irresistible narrative.

Simple things like avoiding saying ‘the Bible says’ (let’s be honest no one in our society cares) and instead referring to the historical context (Apostle Paul in the 1st Century said) are mini nuggets that help remove the roadblocks of the unchurched coming into contact with the powerful message of Jesus.

[Buy Irresistible here]

What about you?

I’d love to hear about what books, podcasts or people impacted you this year. Share your comments below.

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