When asked a question, I may not know the answer but I often suggest a book. I read a lot and love to recommend books to others. So, why not share? Here are books to consider for Christmas and 2016. 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.”

Intentional Living: Choosing a Life that Matters by John Maxwell. We all have a longing to be significant. We want to make a contribution, to be a part of something noble and purposeful. But many people wrongly believe significance is unattainable. They worry that it’s too big for them to achieve. That they have to have an amazing idea, be a certain age, have a lot of money, or be powerful or famous to make a real difference. Every major accomplishment that’s ever been achieved started with a first step. Sometimes it’s hard; other times it’s easy, but no matter what, you have to do it if you want to get anywhere in life. In INTENTIONAL LIVING, John Maxwell will help you take that first step, and the ones that follow, on your personal path through a life that matters.

Why I recommend this book: “To be significant, all you have to do is make a difference with others wherever you are, with whatever you have, day by day.” I believe all of us are placed on earth by God for a reason, a purpose. “Intentional Living” will help you find your purpose and provides a formula for taking action. 1. Start where you are. 2. Start with one thing. 3. Watch your words. 4. Make small changes. “Success is gained in inches at a time, not miles.” Intentional Living encourages you to reach beyond your everyday existence and make a difference in the lives of others with the talents that are uniquely you.

Being Church, Doing Life: Creating Gospel Communities Where Life Happens by Michael Moynagh. Christians worldwide are learning new ways to connect their faith to everyday life. Gospel communities are popping up everywhere – in cafes, gyms, tattoo parlors, laundromats. This movement, called Fresh Expressions, is attracting thousands and growing rapidly. With over 120 real-life examples, Michael Moynagh describes easy ways for ordinary Christians to embrace this highly effective approach to local mission. Anyone can do it!

Why I recommend this book: I grew up in a time where church was something you attended once or maybe twice a week. Being a good church member meant attending frequently, serving on a committee and giving generously. “Being Church, Doing Life” challenges us to move beyond attending and learn new ways of connecting with God, connecting within our churches and more importantly connecting with our community. “Janet used to have lunch every day with the same group at work. One day they were discussing a story in the news and Janet described how she responded as a Christian. This provoked a lively discussion, at the end of which one person said, ‘We ought to do this more often.’ So they did.”

$2.00 A Day: Living On Almost Nothing in America by Kathryn J. Edin & H. Luke Shaefer. A revelatory account of poverty in America so deep that we, as a country, don’t think it exists. After two decades of brilliant research on American poverty, Kathryn Edin noticed something she hadn’t seen since the mid-1990s — households surviving on virtually no income. The number of American families living on $2.00 per person, per day, has skyrocketed to 1.5 million American households, including about 3 million children. Where do these families live? How did they get so desperately poor? More than a powerful exposé, $2.00 a Day delivers new evidence and new ideas to our national debate on income inequality.

Why I recommend this book: My office is in a Community Mission Center that offers two weeks’ worth of groceries to over 700 families every month. The stories of many of those 700 families paint a graphic picture of the daily struggle of living in poverty. Two dollars is approximately a gallon of gas, a half-gallon of milk. Many Americans have spent more than $2 before they even get to work or school. Yet a significant percentage of our population must find ways to exist on the equivalent of $2 per person, per day. If you want to understand what it means to live in poverty, this book is a must read.

The Wright Brothers by David McCullough. On a winter day in 1903, in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, two unknown brothers from Ohio changed history. But it would take the world some time to believe what had happened. Who were these men and how was it that they achieved what they did? Far more than a couple of unschooled Dayton bicycle mechanics who happened to hit on success, they were men of exceptional courage and determination, and of far-ranging intellectual interests and ceaseless curiosity. That they had no more than a public high school education, little money and no contacts in high places, never stopped them in their “mission” to take to the air.

Why I recommend this book: “If one were looking for perfect safety, one would do well to sit on the fence and watch the birds. But if you really want to learn, you must mount a machine and become acquainted with its tricks by actual trial.” I have read many stories about Orville and Wilbur Wright but David McCullough helps you understand the trials, the danger and yes the excitement and thrill of achieving the ability to fly. For me, this book was an opportunity to study one of the more significant accomplishments of the twentieth century.

The Sky is Falling, The Church is Dying and Other False Alarms by Ted A. Campbell. Is there only doom and gloom for the future of mainline Christianity? Or is it that the current sense of decline and malaise is only a mirage or the result of exaggerations by persons both within but also without these churches? Is the church threatened or are we on the precipice of new opportunities? While there has been some helpful work on the state of the church, others have uncritically parroted claims about decline and linked these claims with notions that the decline is due to relentless theological liberalism. The tragedy for churches is that many pastors now feel decline is inevitable and they are blind to the strengths that they do have.

Why I recommend this book: “It is a bummer to wake up in the morning and hear that you’re dead. But that’s the way it has felt for folks in America’s older Protestant churches for the last four decades.” Yes, the church is declining however that is not the end of the story. “In the end we want to say that the rock is Christ. We want to say that our communities are ‘built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone.” If you are tired of reading the gloom and doom stories about dead and dying churches, this book will give you a fresh vision of hope based on the solid foundation of Jesus Christ. “In the end, there’s not much more to say. The preservation of the church, the renewal of the church is not our work. It’s God’s work. It’s grace. And that’s good news.”

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