When asked a question, I may not know the answer but I often suggest a helpful book. I read a lot and love to recommend books to others. So, why not share? Here are my favorite books for summer of 2014. They are not always religious but they are interesting. The list is in no particular order. With each book there is information provided by Amazon.com followed by, “Why I recommend this book.”


Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those they Help and how to Reverse it by Robert D. Lupton. Veteran urban activist Robert Lupton reveals the shockingly toxic effects that modern charity has upon the very people meant to benefit from it. Toxic Charity provides proven new models for charitable groups who want to help—not sabotage—those whom they desire to serve. Lupton, the founder of FCS Urban Ministries (Focused Community Strategies) in Atlanta, has been at the forefront of urban ministry activism for forty years. Toxic Charity shows us how to start serving needy and impoverished members of our communities in a way that will lead to lasting, real-world change.


Why I recommend this book: Churches should be at the epicenter of providing charity and good works for those who need it. However, we often fail to see the consequences of our good intentions. Rather than provide needed help during a time of crisis, we foster dependence upon the aid itself. I didn’t really want to read “Toxic Charity” but I knew that needed to read it carefully and prayerfully so that we can better help those in need.


Creativity, Inc: Overcoming the Unseen Forces that Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull. Creativity, Inc. is a book for managers who want to lead their employees to new heights, a manual for anyone who strives for originality, and the first-ever, all-access trip into the nerve center of Pixar Animation—into the meetings, postmortems, and “Braintrust” sessions where some of the most successful films in history are made. It is, at heart, a book about how to build a creative culture—but it is also, as Pixar co-founder and president Ed Catmull writes, “an expression of the ideas that I believe make the best in us possible.”


Why I recommend this book: How do you manage and encourage creativity? For businesses, group leaders, pastors and church leaders, this book could inspire you to lead with renewed passion and energy. Pixar was well known for being creative but why? One reason is that somehow, extremely creative individuals with huge egos somehow found a way to work together.


Seven Levers: Missional Strategies for Conferences by Robert Schnase. Levers are tools that multiply the results of our effort. Using levers we can move things that otherwise we could never budge. Seven Levers explores annual conferences in operational terms – what they do, how they work, what their limitations and possibilities are. Seven Levers invites us to rethink the nature and purpose of the United Methodist conferences, not merely the three-day annual gathering but the whole array of people, projects, resources and practices that comprise our common ministry. Meaningful, sustainable, significant change in the Church must start with our bishops, district superintendents, and conferences. Bishop Schnase writes from experience and offers seven strategies to get things moving again.


Why I recommend this book: If you are interested in becoming a leader within the United Methodist Church or simply trying to understand why we United Methodists do what we do then you should read Seven Levers. “We need to rethink some basic assumptions that underlie current operations in most conferences. Simply working harder, replacing people or spending more money won’t help until we identify systems that limit and restrain.”


Flex: The New Playbook for Managing Across Differences by Jane Hyun and Audrey S. Lee. Renowned executive coaches and global leadership strategists Jane Hyun and Audrey S. Lee offer lessons on the vital skill of “Flexing”—the art of switching leadership styles to more effectively lead people who are different from you, allowing managers to successfully manage the multicultural workers of today and tomorrow. Flex offers a proactive strategy for managers to navigate and leverage diversity effectively in this new global economy, showing managers how to: understand the power gap, the social distance between you and those in the workplace of different cultures, ages, and gender; flex your management style, by stretching how you work and communicate with others, and bridging the gap with more effective communication, feedback tools and building healthy teams; and multiply the effect, by teaching these skills to others and closing the power gap with clients, customers, and partners to create innovative solutions.


Why I recommend this book: Our world has become more diverse, multi-cultural over the years. Leadership requires different strategies and new skills. Flex offers a different way to look at your business, your church, your community and your world. “A lack of cultural awareness can be a barrier to effective business.” I would add that a lack of cultural awareness can be a barrier to effective ministry.


The First Phone Call from Heaven by Mitch Albom. The First Phone Call from Heaven tells the story of a small town on Lake Michigan that gets worldwide attention when its citizens start receiving phone calls from the afterlife. Is it the greatest miracle ever or a massive hoax? Sully Harding, a grief-stricken single father, is determined to find out. An allegory about the power of belief—and a page-turner that will touch your soul—Albom’s masterful storytelling has never been so moving and unexpected.


Why I recommend this book: We all experience grief. Friends and loved ones die. But suppose you received a phone call from one of your loved ones after their death. What would you say? What would they say to you? “The First Phone Call from Heaven” is more than just another great story by Mitch Albom. You are provided the opportunity to read and contemplate, death, grief, God and the meaning of life after death.


Next week: Five more books to recommend. Meanwhile, send me your comments or suggestions for other books to: LarryDaviies@PrayWithYou.org