Give someone a book for Christmas. Here are five more interesting choices. They are not always religious but they are all interesting. The list is in no particular order. With each book title there is information provided by followed by, “Why I recommend this book.”


“Spiritual Kaizen: How to Become a Better Church Leader” by Bishop Grant Hagiya. “Kaizen” is a Japanese word that translates roughly, “to change or correct for the better.” What are the traits, qualities and characteristics of effective clergy? Is it possible to transform an average local church pastor into a highly effective and growth-oriented pastor? Leadership is not defined at birth. All of us can grow and develop into more effective leaders and we can do this at any time during our careers. In Spiritual Kaizen, Grant Hagiya works from the best secular and ecclesial models of leadership, comparing and contrasting the two, in order to draw out the best leadership practices available for current and future leaders.


Why I recommend this book: “Spiritual leadership is not ingrained but rather can be improved.” (Spiritual Kaizen) Bishop Hagiya asserts that we live in a time where no one knows the answers and our entire approach must be constant learning and experimentation to discover what might work. Using real church examples from a perspective only an active Bishop can have, “Spiritual Kaizen” provides spiritual depth and theological grounding for the day to day, hard work of being a church leader.


“The Fifties” by David Halberstam. The Fifties were more than just a mid-point decade in a century; they were to be the crucible in which the rest of the 20th century was forged. This is the true drama of history: President Truman’s firing of General Douglas MacArthur, the Eisenhower years, Senator Joe McCarthy’s red-baiting, the early U.S. involvement in Indochina, the H-bomb, the purging of atomic scientist J. Robert Oppenheimer, the Supreme Court ordering the integration of schools, troops in Little Rock to enforce it, the Montgomery bus boycott, the rise of Martin Luther King, Russia’s sputnik launch, and Castro’s revolutionary Cuba. Halberstam also explores major social and cultural changes–the advent of national television, fast-food restaurants, the flight to the suburbs, huge cars with fins, the phenomenon of Elvis Presley, the contraceptive pill, and much more.


Why I recommend this book: “Television was turning out to be a magic machine for selling products and the awareness that was dawning on Madison Avenue in the late 1950’s.” (The Fifties) I am a child of the fifties, so more than idle curiosity prompted me to check out the book. What kept me reading, however were the stories behind the headlines. So many important events in politics, culture, science, business and advertising that helped to shape what we have become today.


“I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and was Shot by the Taliban” by Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb. When the Taliban took control of the Swat Valley in Pakistan, one girl spoke out. Malala Yousafzai refused to be silenced and fought for her right to an education. On Tuesday, October 9, 2012, when she was fifteen, she almost paid the ultimate price. She was shot in the head at point-blank range while riding the bus home from school, and few expected her to survive. Instead, Malala’s miraculous recovery has taken her on an extraordinary journey from a remote valley in northern Pakistan to the halls of the United Nations in New York. At sixteen, she has become a global symbol of peaceful protest and the youngest nominee ever for the Nobel Peace Prize.


Why I recommend this book: “In our tradition on the seventh day of a child’s life we have a celebration called Woma (which means ‘seventh’) for family, friends and neighbors to come and admire the newborn.” (I Am Malala) What is it like to grow up as a young girl in Taliban controlled Pakistan? “I Am Malala” is an awe-inspiring story of bravery in the face of cruelty but while reading the story you will also learn a lot about the everyday lives of sisters and brothers, aunts and uncles, mom and dad and all the cousins who make up Malala’s family. “I Am Malala” is how one person’s story can inspire and change our world.


“Humble Inquiry: The Gentle Art of Asking Instead of Telling” by Edgar H. Schein. Communication is essential in a healthy organization. But all too often when we interact with people—especially those who report to us—we simply tell them what we think they need to know. This shuts them down. To generate bold new ideas, to avoid disastrous mistakes, to develop agility and flexibility, we need to practice Humble Inquiry. Ed Schein defines Humble Inquiry as “the fine art of drawing someone out, of asking questions to which you do not know the answer, of building a relationship based on curiosity and interest in the other person.” In this seminal work, Schein contrasts Humble Inquiry with other kinds of inquiry, shows the benefits Humble Inquiry provides in many different settings, and offers advice on overcoming the cultural, organizational, and psychological barriers that keep us from practicing it.


Why I recommend this book: “Humble Inquiry maximizes my curiosity and interest in the other person and minimizes bias and preconceptions about the other person. I want to inquire in the way that will best discover what is really on the other person’s mind.” (Humble Inquiry) If you want to learn how to more genuinely express interest in other people, improve your social skills or just be a better listener then you will benefit from reading and practicing “Humble Inquiry.”


“10 Temptations of Church: Why Churches Decline and What To Do About It” by Karen Vanoy and John Flowers. Church after church faces eventual death while helplessly lamenting its fate.  What perversity is at work that causes those who sincerely love the church to become obstacles to growth? Like the apostle Paul, churches don’t do the things they want, but instead they do the very thing they hate. Why? While the theological answer is sin at work in us, the organizational answer may just be that members of dying churches unconsciously find a payoff in the church’s decline. Karen Vanoy and John Flowers both served in separate new church development projects before they joined forces in revitalization with Travis Park United Methodist Church in San Antonio and most recently, First United Methodist Church in Phoenix. Karen works as the District Superintendent of Tucson while John continues church revitalization work, as well as mentoring pastors and congregations.


Why I recommend this book: “Consider the similarities between congregational and personal life. For many years, we welcome life changes: childhood, adolescence, maturation, graduation, career, marriage, and children of our own. But when we face, failure, middle age, illness and loss, we feel the need for stability in the sea of change.” (10 Temptations) Churches face grim challenges, spiritually, theologically and financially. Yet many church members are still longing for the way it used to be. “10 Temptations of Church will enable you to recognize the challenges ahead plus provide needed help for change.


There you have it. The second five of ten books to read or give as gifts. Let me know what you think and/or suggest your own favorite book. Send me an email at


relationship advice forum · November 27, 2013 at 8:23 am

Appreciate thiis post. Will try it out.

    larrydavies · December 1, 2013 at 12:14 pm

    Thank you. Let me know how you like the books.

Comments are closed.