I like books. I like ’em a lot.
As a kid, my mom taught me to love them. To live in their stories and drink of their themes. Now at 31, I can see how much this love affair has shaped my life.
Not too long ago, I tried to count how many books I read in my 20s. I couldn’t get an exact number, but I landed somewhere around 500. To some of you, that may sound like an extreme number, and you may wonder if I have a life or do anything except read. But the truth is I don’t normally read for more than an hour a day (the length of a show or two on Netflix). And since I average about a page per minute—I’m not a very fast reader—my sixty minutes per day translates to about 60 books per year.
Since “Read more!” is one of the most popular New Year’s resolutions, I figured I’d highlight ten books that really impacted me in my early or mid-20s . . . just in case any of you are interested in picking up some new books. Even if you’re not a reader, take a few minutes to scan this list—I think you’ll find at least one thing that’ll peak your interest.
Two quick notes:
1.) Without question, the Bible shaped my life more than any other book, but it’s not included below.
2.) These books are in no particular order.
1. Man’s Search for Meaning
Author: Viktor Frankl
Viktor Frankl spent three years in Nazi death camps. During his imprisonment, he lost his pregnant wife, brother, and parents. This is a short, riveting book about his time in the camps and what he learned in the midst of unthinkable suffering and death. Frankl’s journey will help you find meaning in your pain, regardless of what life throws your way.
2. Under Cover
Author: John Bevere
Authority. Leadership. The process. These are some of Under Cover’s major themes. Leadership dynamics are an inescapable part of our lives, and, frankly, that’s a good thing. Even in leadership’s imperfections, God can do a perfect work in our lives. The question is, will we commit to the process? This has been the most instrumental book in my development as a young leader. (It was also dedicated to me . . . I think my dad chose me because I was such a challenging teenager.)
Author: Liz Wiseman
I read this book when I was 27. At the time, I was a new COO and little did I know that major organizational change was on the horizon. This book offered invaluable perspective that helped me navigate the change and position my team for strategic growth.
Author: Carol Dweck
Early in life each of us had labels placed on us—labels like: you’re good at school, you’re good with people, you’re not a hard worker. Professor Dweck argues that these labels, if left unaddressed, will stunt growth and keep us from realizing our potential. “People with a fixed mindset,” she writes, “are less likely to flourish than those with a growth mindset—those who believe that abilities can be developed.” I read this book when I was 21, and its premise has greatly affected how I parent my kids, view my team members, and navigate my own strengths and weaknesses.
5. Automatic Influence
Author: Erik Van Alstine
Technically, this book released when I was thirty. But its author is one of my mentors, and he let me read an early version of the manuscript five years ago (when I was 26). This book helped me understand why people—including myself—do what they do. Erik’s think->feel->act paradigm unlocks the power of perceptual intelligence, which is the secret sauce of vibrant relationships and powerful influence.
6. Mere Christianity
Author: C.S. Lewis
Probably one of the most concise—yet somehow also complete—summaries of Christianity. Lewis is one of my favorite authors, and this may be his magnum opus. The prose is beautiful, the metaphors profound, and the insights will disarm the best of skeptics. I read this book multiple times in my 20s. With every read I found myself more in awe of God and overwhelmed by the transcendence of our Christian faith.
7. After You Believe
Author: N.T. Wright
I love Wright’s stuff. His British wit combined with his unreal acumen create a potent and enjoyable verbal elixir. I’ve read more than twenty of his titles, and After You Believeis one of my favorites. If you’ve ever wondered, Man, there’s got to be more to the Christian experience than just struggling through life to sneak into heaven one day, then you’ll love this title.
8. Getting Things Done
Author: David Allen
This is a practical book on systems and how to best process stuff. Its theories apply to things like checking emails, saving documents, creating space for creativity, batching work. I read Getting Things Donewhen I was 24 or 25 and still use the majority of its principals today. If you’re struggling to achieve your highest and best—this book will help you declutter your headspace.
9. The Automatic Millionaire
Author: David Bach
The title is somewhat deceptive because this is not a get-rich-quick scheme. It’s a book on the disciplines of investing and managing your money. The premise is that a bunch of small, good financial decisions will snowball into a surprising amount of money. This book is more timeless than timely—in other words, you’re not going to find guidance on navigating the crazy world of cryptocurrency.
10. 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
Author: Stephen Covey
I feel like this book is on everyone’s list. Covey’s classic breaks down seven habits that will empower personal change. While some of its theories have been updated and better presented by newer books, this title still packs a punch and offers a clear, systematic approach to developing these powerful habits.
11. The Knowledge of the Holy
Author: A.W. Tozer
“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” –A. W. Tozer. I’ve read this book a lot. In fact, I tend to revisit it whenever I find myself limiting God to the confines of my current understanding. Tozer paints a picture of God that overwhelms and insults our modern idea of the Holy One. If our perception of God is indeed the most important thing about us, then the value of this book cannot be overstated.