I believe that being a reader is one of the most important keys to personal and financial success. We live in a crazy world. Pretty much the only constant we have is change. If you are not constantly learning new things, you will be quickly left behind. Reading is one of the easiest ways to always be filling your mind with new thoughts and new skills.
If you would like to give the gift of a good book this year, here are some of my all-time favorites.
This book was the catalyst that started our family down the road to financial health. It is a great resource for people who are struggling. It is also a great resource for any young people just getting their start in life. We give this book to newlyweds as a part of our wedding gifts because we feel so strongly that, if followed, the principles in this book will draw them together as a couple.
The One Thing by Gary Keller
If you or someone you know struggles with heading in 12 different directions at once, then Gary Keller’s book, The One Thing, might be just what you need. He talks about looking at your activities to determine that “One Thing” that will have the most impact on your ability to accomplish what you want. Often we find ourselves busy all day doing a bunch of minor but momentarily urgent tasks and the most important things sometimes get pushed to the side. Yet had we focused on our “One Thing” instead, many of those other tasks might have become unnecessary.
David and Goliath by Malcom Gladwell
This might be the most interesting book I read this past year. Gladwell talks about how very often the things we see as weaknesses in our lives could be the thing that is our biggest advantage. He walks through several case studies but one of the most striking to me was of David Boise, one of the best trial attorneys in the nation. Boise is dyslexic and has always struggled to read. When he was young he would listen very closely to his mother as she read stories to him, eventually memorizing the stories so that he could appear to “read” them back to her. Turns out as a result of those listening skills he developed, he is devastatingly effective in cross examining witnesses, because he can remember past testimony and excels at picking up on minute details that many of us would miss. The very thing that seemed a handicap has helped him develop his greatest strength. The book is full of similar stories and really makes you rethink the excuses we often use for why we can’t accomplish things.
The Traveler’s Gift by Andy Andrews
The Traveler’s Gift is one of my two or three favorite books of all time. Andy Andrews tells the story of David Ponder, a down-on-his-luck business man, who while in a coma from a car accident is taken on a trip through history to meet several famous characters just as they are facing their greatest trials. For example, in his first trip he meets Harry Truman on the night before he is about to order the use of the atomic bomb on Japan. From Truman he learns that the buck stops here. We must take personal accountability for our actions. The book continues on as he meets six more famous figures. The fictionalized narrative makes the book a very easy read, and it contains tremendous wisdom. My wife and I like to give this as a graduation present to new graduates each year as the concepts in this book are key to leading a successful life.
The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas Stanley
Thomas Stanley studied hundreds of millionaires and studied the characteristics of their lives. What he found was that most millionaires are not like the stars we see on TV. Most millionaires lead very quiet lives and are very modest in their purchases. In fact, they often may live a life indistinguishable from your next door neighbor. The most important thing I learned from this book that really changed my thinking is that long-term financial success really isn’t tied as closely as we would think to the size of your income. The truth is, many high income earners that appear to be very successful also spend as much or more than they make. In spite of a large income, they have very little saved. The key is not how much you have coming in but how much you spend vs. what is coming in. The book really gave me a new perspective on financial success.
The Truth About Money by Ric Edelman
Ric Edelman is one of the leading financial planners in the country and is very good at explaining financial matters in a very simple, easy to understand fashion. While there is much here about investing, it is far more than an investing book. He talks about getting rid of debt, insurance, wills and estate planning, mortgages, and many other common financial topics. It’s a very good primer for those looking to build their financial knowledge.
God Came Near by Max Lucado
This might have been the first book I ever read by Max Lucado. I read it many years ago and I loved the way that Max takes the love and grace of God and presents it in such an understandable way that really touches the heart. God Came Near is a collection of short thoughts focused on the Christmas season. You couldn’t go wrong giving any book by Max Lucado but God Came Near remains one of my favorites.
Who Moved My Cheese by Spencer Johnson
As I mentioned above, one thing that is certain in life is change. This marvelous little parable tells the story of a group of mice in a maze who suddenly find that the cheese no longer shows up in same place it always has, and follows how the different mice handle it. It is a simple story with deep implications for how we handle change.
Fresh Wind Fresh Fire by Jim Cymbala
One of the best books I ever read on prayer. Jim Cymbala 35 years ago took over a tiny run down church in a tough New York City area. The book follows the story of how that church reached a very hardened culture and grew into what we know as the Brooklyn Tabernacle. Amazing stories of how through prayer God moved in incredible ways to change lives.
The Five Love Languages by Gary Smalley
The Five Love Languages is a classic book on marriage. Gary Smalley’s premise is that each of us feel loved in different ways. Problems arise when we don’t understand how our spouse understands love. For example you might feel love through acts of service so you run errands and do lots of nice things for your spouse, but your spouse feels love through quality time spent together so they actually feel rejected because you are always off running these errands. By understanding how your spouse feels love you can make sure that you are building each other up in a meaningful way. It is a wonderful book for the young married couple.
The Case For Christ by Lee Strobel
Lee Strobel was a reporter and an atheist who set out to disprove Christianity after his wife’s conversion. He used his reporting skills to track down various experts to try to find conclusive evidence that Christianity was based on a lie. The deeper he dug, the more he began to realize the irrefutable truth of the gospel and he became a Christian himself. The Case For Christ chronicles that search. He has since written several other “The Case For” books investigating various aspects of Christianity. All of them are very well done.
Getting Naked by Patrick Lencioni
If you know someone who works in a customer service or consulting type role, Getting Naked: A Business Fable About Shedding The Three Fears That Sabotage Client Loyalty is a great book for understanding how to create lasting, meaningful relationships with customers. Much like Andy Andrews, Lencioni also writes a fictional tale that illustrates how showing a little bit of vulnerability can inspire tremendous customer loyalty. The narrative style makes it an easy, entertaining book to read.
Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
A classic book by a classic Christian author. In Mere Christianity Lewis presents a logical defense of basic Christianity. A great book to help you understand why Christianity is true.
The Light and the Glory by Peter Marshall and David Manuel
Looks at the birth of America from the voyage of Christopher Columbus down to the founding of the fledgling new nation and how God provided throughout. If you have a history lover in your family, they will enjoy this book.
These are some of my favorite books I have ever read. You can check out my Bob’s Bookshelf page for even more suggestions. Give the gift of reading this Christmas!