Here are the second five of my top ten books for the summer. They are not always religious books but they are interesting and helpful. With each book I enclose information provided by followed by my comments: “Why I recommend this book.”


Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work” by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. Chip and Dan Heath, the bestselling authors of Switch and Made to Stick, tackle one of the most critical topics in our work and personal lives: how to make better decisions. Research in psychology has revealed that our decisions are disrupted by an array of biases and irrationalities. The real question is: How can we do better? In Decisive, the Heaths, based on an exhaustive study of the decision-making literature, introduce a four-step process designed to counteract these biases. Written in an engaging and compulsively readable style, Decisive takes readers on an unforgettable journey, from a rock star’s ingenious decision-making trick to a CEO’s disastrous acquisition, to a single question that can often resolve thorny personal decisions. Along the way, we learn the answers to critical questions like these: How can we stop the cycle of agonizing over our decisions? How can we make group decisions without destructive politics? And how can we ensure that we don’t overlook precious opportunities to change our course?


Why I recommend this book: All of us at one time or another make important decisions that will have a long term impact on your career and even your personal life. How do you make those decisions? Why do you choose one decision over another? How can you make better decisions? “Decisive is the Heath brothers’ most powerful—and important—book yet, offering fresh strategies and practical tools enabling us to make better choices. Because the right decision, at the right moment, can make all the difference.”


What We Talk About, When We Talk about God” by Rob Bell. Rob Bell, whom the The New Yorker describes as “one of the most influential Christian leaders in the country,” does for the concept of God what he did for heaven and hell in his book Love Wins: He shows how traditional ideas have grown stale and dysfunctional and how to return vitality and vibrancy to lives of faith today. Bell explains why both culture and the church resist talking about God, and shows how we can reconnect with the God who is pulling us forward into a better future. What We Talk About When We Talk About God tackles the misconceptions about God and reveals how God is with us, for us, ahead of us, and how understanding this could change the entire course of our lives.


Why I recommend this book: Rob writes, “A careful reading of the Bible reveals a book about people having their minds blown and hearts exploded with a vision for humanity so thrilling and joyous it can’t be grasped all at once. It has to be broken down into a step, followed by a step, followed by a step. Click, then a click, then a click.” Rob Bell has a unique way of describing our faith so that we are eager to take that next step, followed by another step. If you are looking to rediscover your faith in the God who is always and forever, you will be inspired by reading this book.


When Spiritual But Not Religious Is Not Enough: Seeing God in Surprising Places, Even the Church” by Lillian Daniel. The phrase “I’m spiritual but not religious” has become a cliché. It’s easy to find God amid the convenience of self-styled spirituality–but is it possible (and more worthwhile) to search for God through religion? Minister and celebrated author Lillian Daniel gives a new spin on church with stories of what a life of faith can really be: weird, wondrous, and well worth trying. From a rock-and-roller sexton to a BB gun-toting grandma, a church service attended by animals to a group of unlikely theologians at Sing Sing, Daniel shows us a portrait of church that is flawed, fallible–and deeply faithful. Humorous and sincere, this is a book about people finding God in the most unexpected of places: prisons, airports, yoga classes, committee meetings, and, strangest of all, right there in church.


Why I recommend this book: In chapter six, Lillian tells a story about her eccentric grandma, trash cans and a misunderstanding with the neighbors. In the midst of this strange story we learn about the harmful effects of judging others. In another chapter, Lillian is watching a talented minister who does magic and even plays the piano. “I was angry with God because I couldn’t play the piano. Spare me this Anglican priest who’s good at everything. I was already feeling insecure. I could just see my members saying, “Okay, Lillian, what special thing can you do?” Lillian Daniel has a wonderful way of describing our day to day struggles and in the process finding a connection with a God who offers hope and comfort.


Own the Room: Discover Your Signature Voice to Master Your Leadership Presence” by Amy Jen Su and Muriel M. Wilkins. Find your signature voice. People are drawn to and influenced by leaders who communicate authentically, connect easily with people, and have immediate impact. So how do you become one of them? This book will help you develop your leadership presence. According to Amy Jen Su and Muriel Maignan Wilkins, leadership presence is the ability to consistently and clearly articulate your value proposition while influencing and connecting with others. They offer a simple and compelling framework, as well as practical advice about how you can develop your own personal presence.


Why I recommend this book: Learning how to be more effective as leader requires an ability to connect meaningfully with others and clearly articulate who you are and what you stand for. If you are a leader in your organization, this book can help you add value to your leadership presence. Through the examples and the analysis, you can find a stronger voice within your organization.


Unconditional Love: Radical Stories. Real People” by Ben Stroup. Inspired by the film Unconditional and Papa Joe Bradford’s outreach to at-risk children, Unconditional Love gathers real-life stories celebrating the best in ordinary people who have found extraordinary ways to act as the hands and feet of Jesus in their time and place. Through them we see what matters most in this life, we stir our God-made desire to help others in need, and the world becomes a better place. We meet a band whose trip to Africa resulted in an effort that has so far provided life-saving water and health care to more than 600,000 people. In Tennessee, an 80-year-old woman works a plan to feed 2,000 homeless each week. Others give from their own struggles: a teenager who lost his leg raises money to provide other children with prosthetics; a woman whose brother was killed on 9/11 helps Afghani refugees who fled the Taliban feel at home in the United States; a human rights agency rescues victims of slavery and sexual exploitation. A host of other stories bringing our lives into clearer social and spiritual focus are combined with inspirational quotes, a Bible reading plan, and other tools to encourage further self-discovery and greater personal outreach.


Why I recommend this book: Sometimes, it’s good to simply sit back and enjoy reading stories about ordinary people who accomplished extraordinary miracles of love. For example, there is the story of Twjuana “TJ” Williams who leaves the automobile business to teach school in a poor neighborhood. But she quickly learns that teaching alone is not enough. She begins a feeding ministry. TJ purchases a washer and dryer so they can clean their clothes. She even finds automobiles for many of her students so they will have a better chance to succeed. Unconditional Love is a collection of stories about real people like TJ Williams who make a difference in their community and in our world.