“Ten Books for Summer” has become an annual tradition. I read a lot and love to recommend books to others. So, why not share? Here are my favorite books for summer of 2017. They are not always religious but they are interesting. With each book there is information provided by Amazon.com followed by, “Why I like this book.”
Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy by Sheryl Sandberg, Adam Grant. After the sudden death of her husband, Sheryl Sandberg felt certain that she and her children would never feel pure joy again. “I was in ‘the void,’” she writes, “a vast emptiness that fills your heart and lungs and restricts your ability to think or even breathe.” Her friend Adam Grant, a psychologist at Wharton, told her there are concrete steps people can take to recover and rebound from life-shattering experiences. Option B combines Sheryl’s personal insights with Adam’s eye-opening research on finding strength in the face of adversity. But Option B goes beyond Sheryl’s loss to explore how a broad range of people have overcome hardships including illness, job loss, sexual assault, natural disasters, and the violence of war. Their stories reveal the capacity of the human spirit to persevere . . . and to rediscover joy.
Why I like this book: Recently, Sheryl Sandberg spoke about strength through tragedy at Virginia Tech’s graduation: ten years after the shooting that left 32 dead. She told about her own tragedy when her husband died unexpectedly in 2015. His death was the stimulus behind her latest book, Option B. “Others who endured trauma were resilient: they bounced back to their state before the trauma. Now there was a third possibility: people who suffered could bounce forward.” (Chapter 5) Through story, research and sharing deeply personal experiences Sheryl Sandberg takes us on a journey from tragedy to healing to recovery. Of all the books read over the last 5 years, this is my favorite.
Flood Gates: Holy Momentum for a Fearless Church by Sue Nilson Kibbey. Flood Gates is Sue Nilson Kibbey’s latest experience-based research about how your congregation can make the shift from plateau or even decline – to opening the flood gates of spiritual upsurge. This resource is a practical “how-to” guide for pastors and church leaders who dream about releasing holy momentum in their current setting. Whatever your church’s history, setting or mission field, you can set the stage to unleash the floodgates of a Breakthrough Prayer Initiative, learn the skills of making an urgent case for change, shift your church’s culture to “ubiquitous discipleship,” identify and deploy new leaders and other key crucial catalysts. All of these have the potential to transform your congregation into a fearless, Spirit-driven church that will make new spiritual history for Christ in your own mission field and beyond.
Why I like this book: Flood Gates is loaded with helpful advice, personal experiences and example after example of churches that reversed years of decline through breakthrough prayer and experienced spiritual transformation. “So here’s the real question. Is your church simply snacking on prayer, or feasting on prayer?” (Chapter 2) This challenge alone if taken seriously could be the stimulus your church needs. More than just another leadership book, Flood Gates seeks to provides one idea, one God moment after another opening flood gate after flood gate until Holy Momentum takes over and your church becomes God’s church boldly making disciples for Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly. Before John Glenn orbited the earth, or Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a group of dedicated female mathematicians known as “human computers” used pencils, slide rules and adding machines to calculate the numbers that would launch rockets, and astronauts, into space. Among these problem-solvers were a group of exceptionally talented African American women, some of the brightest minds of their generation. Originally relegated to teaching math in the South’s segregated public schools, they were called into service during the labor shortages of World War II, when America’s aeronautics industry was in dire need of anyone who had the right stuff. Suddenly, these overlooked math whizzes had a shot at jobs worthy of their skills, and they answered Uncle Sam’s call, moving to Hampton, Virginia and the fascinating, high-energy world of the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory.
Why I like this book: Many of you have seen the movie but the book is better, rich in the detail that only good books can provide. “Everything rested upon the brain busters’ mastery of the laws of physics and mathematics. The mission was colossal in its scope but it required both extreme precision and the utmost accuracy. A number transposed in calculating the launch azimuth, a significant digit too few in measuring the fully loaded weight of the capsule, a mistake in accounting for the rocket’s speed and acceleration or the rotation of the Earth cold cascade through the chain of dependencies, causing serious, perhaps catastrophic consequences. So many ways to screw the pooch and just one staggeringly complex, scrupulously modeled, endlessly rehearsed, indefatigably tested way to succeed.” But succeed they did and our country owes a tremendous debt to the dedication and brain power of these amazing women.
No One Cares About Crazy People: The Chaos and Heartbreak of Mental Health in America by Ron Powers who offers a searching, richly researched narrative of the social history of mental illness in America paired with the deeply personal story of his two sons’ battles with schizophrenia. From the centuries of torture of “lunatiks” at Bedlam Asylum to the infamous eugenics era to the follies of the anti-psychiatry movement to the current landscape in which too many families struggle alone to manage afflicted love ones, Powers illuminates our fears and myths about mental illness and the fractured public policies that have resulted. Braided with that history is the moving story of Powers’s beloved son Kevin–spirited, endearing, and gifted–who triumphed even while suffering from schizophrenia until finally he did not, and the story of his courageous surviving son Dean, who is also schizophrenic.
Why I like this book: “What if we are all potential schizophrenics? What if our ancestors were schizophrenic as matter of course? What if schizophrenia were the foundational state of human consciousness?” (Chapter 2) The number of people who struggle with mental illness at some point in their lives is mind-numbing: maybe 3 to 4 out of every 10. Yet so little is known or discussed. Ron Powers provides answers which combine research with personal experience. Every ministry leader and pastor should read this book as part of their preparation and understanding of the people they serve.
Restored: Finding Redemption in Our Mess by Tom Berlin. Often we make a mess of our lives and wonder if there is any redemption. In this six-week study, pastor and author Tom Berlin helps us see our mess through the eyes of Christ to find redemption and restoration. Using Scripture, devotional tools, and the writings of Ignatius of Loyola, John of the Cross, St. Augustine, John Wesley, Evelyn Underhill, and others, Berlin encourages reflection and meditation through our own brokenness. Only then can we focus on the cross as the place where we truly surrender control, leave our mess, and find redemption.
Why I like this book: “The ability to see people in the light of God’s love and mercy is the major difference between those who are full of Christ’s love and those who are not. Those grateful for forgiveness are able to forgive. Those aware of their own imperfections understand the flaws that others display. Those who see the goodness of God in their own lives can readily affirm it in the eyes of others.” (Chapter 5) The power of the cross is in first recognizing our mess before we can truly appreciate the redemption. Every Christian and every church can benefit from reading, studying and applying the lessons in this book.
Next week: Five more books to recommend. Meanwhile, send me your comments or suggestions for other books to: LarryDavies@PrayWithYou.org