“Ten Books for Christmas” 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 Christmas and the new year approaching. 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 like this book.”

Four Seconds: All the Time You Need to Replace Counter-Productive Habits with Ones that Really Work by Peter Bregman. All too often our best efforts to accomplish the things we want most—to do our jobs well, to make meaningful contributions at home and at work, to have satisfying relationships with loved ones, friends, neighbors, and coworkers—are built on bad habits that sabotage us. How can we be most effective and productive in a world that moves too fast and demands so much of us? In Four Seconds, Peter Bregman shows that the answer is to pause for as few as four seconds—the length of a deep breath—to replace bad habits and reactions with more productive behaviors. In his trademark style of blending personal anecdotes with practical advice, Bregman reveals some of our most common counter-productive tendencies and describes counter-intuitive strategies for acting more intentionally.


Why I like this book: What if you could pause for a few seconds during the many tests and trials swirling around you and rethink your “gut response.” Sometimes habits and behaviors get in the way of the basic things we want. But changing habits is not easy as the author admits but making the effort to change has long-lasting results. “After struggling with my own counter-productive habits, I have discovered a process that helps me make smarter, better decisions – and take smarter and better actions… Four Seconds will help you overcome your self-defeating habits and behaviors.” (Peter Bregman)

Canoeing the Mountains: Christian Leadership in Uncharted Territory by Tom Bolsinger. Explorers Lewis and Clark had to adapt. While they prepared to find a waterway to the Pacific Ocean, instead they found themselves in the Rocky Mountains. You too may feel that you are leading in a cultural context you were not expecting. You may even feel that your training holds you back more often than it carries you along. Drawing from his extensive experience as a pastor and consultant, Tod Bolsinger brings decades of expertise in guiding churches and organizations through uncharted territory. He offers a combination of illuminating insights and practical tools to help you reimagine what effective leadership looks like in our rapidly changing world.


Why I like this book: As a pastor, I never imagined having to face a world where my faith in God would be considered old-fashioned and out of touch by some, meaningless and hypocritical by others. Over the last thirty years, our culture has shifted dramatically to the point where the fastest growing group is “none,” no religious affiliation. Using the Lewis and Clark expedition to explore America, facing obstacles and conditions they were not even remotely prepared for we “learn what it means for Christians to lead when the journey goes ‘off the map.’” (Tom Bolsinger)


The Rooster Bar by John Grisham. Mark, Todd, and Zola came to law school to change the world, to make it a better place. But now, as third-year students, these close friends realize they have been duped. They all borrowed heavily to attend a third-tier, for-profit law school so mediocre that its graduates rarely pass the bar exam, let alone get good jobs. And when they learn that their school is one of a chain owned by a shady New York hedge-fund operator who also happens to own a bank specializing in student loans, the three know they have been caught up in The Great Law School Scam. But maybe there’s a way out. Maybe there’s a way to escape their crushing debt, expose the bank and the scam, and make a few bucks in the process. But to do so, they would first have to quit school. And leaving law school a few short months before graduation would be completely crazy, right?  Well, yes and no . . .


Why I like this book: I confess to being a John Grisham fan who reads virtually every book he writes but The Rooster Bar, in addition to being a great story has several learning experiences. There is the shady side of student loan collections, abuses of lower tiered colleges as well as mental health and immigration issues. But the best part is The Rooster Bar is an exciting story.


Practicing Extravagant Generosity: Daily Readings on the Grace of Giving by Robert Schnase. An indispensable part of the Extravagant Generosity stewardship program, this volume, by Bishop Schnase, opens the Scriptures to show the joy and grace of giving. Designed to provide daily Bible reading for four weeks, it leads the reader to explore such questions as “Why do we give,” “Who benefits most from our giving,” and “Where does true contentment come from?” By reading and following this guide to the spiritual discipline of stewardship, church members will experience afresh the joy of serving God with their time, talents, and gifts.


Why I like this book: Why do we give a portion of our income back to God? What does our giving have to do with our prayer and devotional life? Giving is more than just providing support for the church. God uses our giving to change the world. More importantly, God uses our giving to change us. Practicing Extravagant Generosity provides 30 days’ worth of giving examples and opportunities. Each reading includes a scripture verse and a devotion. Bishop Robert Schnase provides practical, Biblical and deeply spiritual reasons why “Practicing Extravagant Generosity” should become a way of life.


Anxious for Nothing: Finding Calm in a Chaotic World by Max Lucado. When it comes to anxiety, depression, and stress-related illnesses, America is the frontrunner. Thankfully, there’s a practical prescription for dealing with them. Anxious for Nothing, provides a roadmap for battling with and healing from anxiety. Does the uncertainty and chaos of life keep you up at night? Is irrational worry your constant companion? Could you use some calm? If the answer is yes, you are not alone. According to one research program, anxiety-related issues are the number one mental health problem among women and are second only to alcohol and drug abuse among men. Stress-related ailments cost the nation $300 billion every year in medical bills and lost productivity. And use of sedative drugs like Xanax and Valium have skyrocketed in the last 15 years. Chances are, you or someone you know seriously struggles with anxiety. Stop letting anxiety rule the day. Join Max on the journey to true freedom and experience more joy, clarity, physical renewal, and contentment by the power of the Holy Spirit. Anxiety comes with life. But it doesn’t have to dominate your life.


Why I like this book: Our church recently started a Better Health Ministry designed to help us recognize how Better Health enables you to become a better disciple. More than just diet or exercise, Better Health also includes mental, social and spiritual well-being. “Anxiety is trepidation. It’s a suspicion, an apprehension. Life in a minor key with major concerns. The presence of anxiety is unavoidable but the prison of anxiety is optional.” (Max Lucado) Using Paul’s letter to the Philippians, Max offers solid guidance and Godly C.A.L.M. – Celebrate Ask. Leave. Meditate.


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