I may not always know the answer you need but I will often suggest a helpful book. I do read a lot and love to recommend books to others. Part of my giving to the church is to provide a table full of free books. So, why not share with you the books I found particularly helpful? Here are my top ten books for the summer of 2012. They are not always religious books but these ten were interesting. They are listed in no particular order. With each book I’ll enclose information provided by the publisher or Amazon.com followed by my comments: “Why I recommend this book.”


Inside the Broken Heart: Grief Understanding for Widows and Widowers by Julie Yarbrough. How does the heart understand grief when it is broken by the death of a husband or wife? To survive and live forward, those who grieve must find answers. Inside the Broken Heart is for anyone who has ever grieved the death of a spouse and asked ‘why?’ The book meets the reader at a spiritual place reserved specifically for widows and widowers. Author Julie Yarbrough survived the sudden and untimely death of her beloved husband, a prominent United Methodist minister. As a lay grief facilitator, she believes that those who seek comfort and inspiration in grief best identify with an authentic point of view. Grief cannot be understood until it is experienced. Grief is not a crisis of faith, it is a crisis of the heart.


Why I recommend this Book. Everyone should read this book. Not only will the grieving spouse find comfort, strength and practical help but anyone involved in care giving following a death will find useful information and powerful insight.  Julie wrote on suffering: “Every measure of our capacity to enjoy higher values carries with it a corresponding capacity to suffer. If we did not love, we would not suffer.” From whatever perspective you come to this book, you will leave profoundly moved and changed.


What’s the Least I Can Believe And Still Be A Christian? by Martin Thielen. “Pastor and author Martin Thielen has compiled a list of ten things Christians need to believe and ten things they don’t to qualify as Christians. This lively and engaging book will be a help to seekers as well as a comfort to believers who may find themselves questioning some of the assumptions they grew up with. A great benefit of those beliefs is that they provide promising answers to life’s most profound questions, including: Where is God? What matters most? What brings fulfillment? What about suffering? And is there hope? Thielen articulates centrist, mainline Christianity in a way that’s fresh and easy to understand and offers authentic Christian insights that speak to our deepest needs. This is an ideal book for individual, group, or congregational study.”


Why I recommend this book. First, look at the Table of Contents. You may not agree with all the answers but you have to love the questions. These involve issues, everyone should think about and discuss as a part of their faith journey. First: Ten things Christians Don’t Need to Believe such as, “God Causes Cancer, Car Wrecks and Other Catastrophes” or “Good Christians Don’t Doubt.” Second: Ten Things Christians Do Need to Believe such as “Who is Jesus?” or “What Matters Most.”  This is a wonderful book for any pastor looking for timely messages or a Sunday school class looking to provide material that will provoke healthy discussion.


Focus: The Real Challenges that Face the United Methodist Church by Lovett H. Weems. “Few would argue that many challenges face The United Methodist Church. But what are the core issues and concerns, the ones that must be addressed if the church is to follow God’s leading into the future? Laying aside what can be merely tweaked or adjusted, what must the UMC “reset” about itself? Lovett Weems, one of the most highly-respected interpreters of contemporary United Methodism, suggests that we start with the following: – Why, with 34,000 congregations and $6.5 billion in annual giving, can’t United Methodists add a net increase of even 1 new disciple of Jesus Christ in a given year?- Why are laity unwilling to make the changes to worship and budgets required to attract young adults?- If the percentage of married couples with young children has declined by half since the 1950s, why is that still the group we focus on reaching? With insight, conviction, and calm resolve, Lovett Weems challenges United Methodists not only to ask these hard questions, but to face up to the difficult decisions they require of us as we continue to seek God’s will for our lives together.”


Why I recommend this book. “Focus” provides valuable insight about why our churches are struggling. If you are a United Methodist you must read this book in order to understand the particular issues we face as the United Methodist Church. At times, I found myself nodding my head in understanding while at times, I found myself wanting to put the book down, lower my head and cry. But if that is all you do, you’ve missed the point. You must first understand the issues in order to become more involved. I pray you will read “Focus” several times and then recommit your life to serving God through our sometimes maligned but always beloved church.


Mentored by the King: Arnold Palmer’s Success Lessons on Golf, Business and Life by Brad Brewer. “’Arnold Palmer helped me become a better man, a more devoted husband, loving father, effective coach, and successful business executive.’ Most people think of Arnold Palmer as the King of Golf. But for more than a quarter century, Brad Brewer has known and observed Palmer in the roles of employer, business partner, teacher, competitor, father, grandfather, philanthropist, and global celebrity. Now Brad passes on the wisdom that he and others have learned from the King of Golf. Best of all, though, this book lets you learn from the winning attitude and approach of the Legend, Arnold Palmer, in golf, business, and life. The secrets shared in Mentored by the King include:*some deceptively simple principles that can change your life*the magnetic attraction of excellence*the power of an optimistic outlook*why risking big is the ticket to living even bigger*the life force of victory: persistence*… and plenty more. These quick, easy-to-read chapters let you step inside the mind and life of the King, Arnold Palmer, to glean insights that can boost you own trajectory toward a successful, satisfying life.”


Why I recommend this book. This has become one of my favorite books and I don’t play golf. The stories are fascinating, the advice is timely and the tone is encouraging. I used this book along with my Bible and other devotional material as a daily reading. I was amazed to see how many of the lessons taught by Arnold Palmer seemed to come straight out of the Bible. For example: “As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that we need to be constantly challenged to examine ourselves and see what we can give back to this life.” Golfer or not, you will be challenged as well as encouraged by reading, “Mentored.”


When Christians Get It Wrong by Adam Hamilton. “This book was born out of a conversation with a young man who had some pretty strong negative perceptions of the Christian faith. This book is for two audiences: The first is young adults who are turning away from Christianity in larger numbers than previous generations did at the same age and stage in life. The second audience is Christians; I invite them to examine their attitudes, actions and beliefs. I offer a different way of understanding some very serious theological issues – related to the nature of God, Scripture, science and faith, the religions of the world, and homosexuality – from what is articulated by the loudest Christian voices in the current culture.” (From Introduction)


Why I recommend this book. Adam Hamilton wrestles with some of the most important issues of our day. What I most appreciate about “When Christians Get It Wrong” is Adam’s willingness to look at several viewpoints of an issue before expressing his own. As Christians, we can be judgmental and arrogant as we cling to our attitudes and beliefs. Our arrogance and unwillingness to listen to others, especially the younger generation is deeply hurting our witness for God. But, to his credit, Adam also skillfully points out many areas where Christians get it right. This is a book every pastor and every church leader should read and pray over.


There you have it: my first five recommended books for the summer. I hope you enjoy them. I welcome any comments or suggestions. Send me an email at LarryDavies@PrayWithYou.org or go to my facebook page: Larry Davies. Next: Five more books for 2012. Happy reading.