Some books I recommend highly

(A few years back, to review books, we would list all the pertinent data–as though we were giving the details of a book’s origin for a seminary class–publisher, city, date, etc.  These days, with a hundred ways of buying books online, and the way prices can vary, none of that is necessary. However, anyone having difficulty locating any of these, please let me know. — In most cases, you can go online and purchase these books new. But most are available used, from sources like and I’m a big believer in buying used. The Feynman book below, for example, can be bought for $.99 and postage/handling through alibris.)

“Tough Guys and Drama Queens” by Mark Gregston.  Subtitle: How not to get blindsided by your child’s teen years.

My wife loves this book, read it cover to cover (at my request; I’d been asked to review it), and cannot recommend it highly enough. We gave copies to our three children, all of whom have teenagers.

Gregston has a website where parents can find a ton of help in negotiating their way through the thicket of raising these precious, precocious youngsters.

Gregston lists three pitfalls to avoid: perfectionism, authoritarianism, and judging. Among the “parenting practices that really work” he builds chapters around relating to the kids, asking questions, fostering independence, and using conflict to bring about real change.

If you know someone with children about to arrive in their teens, get this book and get it quickly. As Snuffy Smith (cartoon character) used to say, “Time’s a-wastin’!”

“Transformed by Tough Times” by Steve Reed.

Ignoring the fact that Steve included a couple of drawings of mine in this wonderful little volume, it’s a great, great book. I have no less an authority than my wife to cite on that. Margaret does not suffer fools gladly, and will toss a boring book quicker than anyone I know. But she absorbed this book and two months after reading it, still talks about its insights.

One reason you will not be able to put this book down is Steve’s stories. This is no philosophical treatise by someone who has not lived in the trenches. Quite the contrary. Don’t miss his chapter on the “sufferers’ hall of fame.”

Steve Reed reminds us that Jesus told His people from the beginning to expect to suffer, that the early Christians saw persecution as a privilege, and that God uses it to accomplish good things in our lives and in our world. All of this is counter-intuitive, since we do not want to suffer, see no good in it, and pity the poor soul called on to bear hardships.

If you know someone going through hard times, this is the book to present to them.

“Velcro Church” by Ken Hemphill and Mike James.

I’ve enjoyed giving this book to several friends. In doing so, I tell them, “I want you to have this book, although I’ve not read it.”

That gets their attention.

“I drew the cover for it.” (smiley-face goes here.)

Dr. Hemphill told me the concept of a “velcro church where people will not slip away” lends itself to a child placing dolls against a church building. Almost like a child’s drawing. Just down my lane.

The “velcro” stands for Valuing every guest, Engaging them with intentionality, Leading our friends to Christ, Connecting to community, Recognizing relationships as the key, and Organizing small groups to do this. My favorite is the chapter on community–koinonia, or fellowship, a big thing in my book, and from all I know, from the early church, too.

Okay, have I read this book? Not all of it. But I sure like what I have.

“Finding Faith in the City Care Forgot” by Teena Myers.

Teena is a local (that would be New Orleans) lady and a sweet Christian friend. She writes for in their “faith” section, and treasures the Lord’s people across the denominational spectrum.  After Hurricane Katrina, she interviewed a number of local Christian leaders and wrote their stories. She even included mine.

On the back, Teena included my “blurb.” “New Orleans is a city of characters. Teena Myers has chronicled the stories of many of them in this book, and in the process, has shown what a rich gumbo is this stew we call the Crescent City. I’m so glad to be one of the crabs she dropped into the pot!”

“Deep and Wide” by Andy Stanley. Subtitle: “Creating Churches Unchurched People Love to Attend.”

Friends to whom I’ve recommended this book have come back raving about its insights and helpful theology.  As Andy’s father, Dr. Charles Stanley, says on the jacket, “I wish a resource like this existed when I was starting out in ministry.” I completely agree.

Andy will cause pastors like me to take a second look at what they preach and how they do it, how their ministries are geared through their church, and what they could do better. He does not–thankfully–inflict guilt on anyone, but merely takes a fresh look at how the Lord did it in the New Testament and shows how that translates for us today.  At Atlanta’s North Point church, where several friends of mine are excited members, they’re doing the things he teaches. The results, as you surely know, are phenomenal.

Pastor, after reading this book, I suggest you not start making the wholesale changes that occurred to you. Instead, buy a few copies for key staff and lay leaders, and let the Holy Spirit do what He does best.

“Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!” by Richard Feynman.

This is the only one of these recommendations which has been out a few years. My son Marty loves this book and has said it may be the best one he’s ever received. Here’s why….

Richard Feynman was a Nobel Prize scientist. From an early age, he was clearly the smartest person in the room, even when he sat among physicists at Los Alamos (working on the Manhattan Project of World War II) like Niels Bohr, Edward Teller, and others. He graduated from MIT and got a Ph.D. from Princeton, and taught most of his adult life at CalTech.

But what you will love about this book is the man’s wit, his sheer forcefulness, and his outside-the-box thinking.  I wish every preacher would get this and read it. Afterwards, you’ll want to get The Pleasure of Finding Things Out, a collection of some of his favorite writings and speeches. Why?

Not because you are a budding scientist, although you might be. But because he has so much to offer all of us. And I will leave it at that.

Except, let me add that if you have a young adult in your life who loves to read something challenging, something he/she will not put down once started, this is the book.

For Christmas, one of Marty’s gifts from Dad is several additional books by Richard Feynman. I bought them a few months ago. The delay in getting them to him is that I wanted to read them first.

That’s my reading list today.  Again, if you have trouble finding one of these, let me know.

4 thoughts on “Some books I recommend highly

  1. Several years ago I read COURAGE IS A THREE LETTER WORD……YES
    and found it one of the best I have ever read. It is written by a man named Anderson (Walter, I think) who had a very difficult life. The book contains stories of people who overcame problems to become productive people. The lesson to be learned is “you can sit around saying poor me or get off your butt and correct your circumstances”. I bought several copies and passed to Recovery House and several people. A great read!!!
    It is now out of print but can be found on Amazon sometimes.

  2. There’s a book called “Stories I Couldn’t Tell While I Was Still a Pastor” by Bruce McIver. I liked it. Have you seen this book?

    • Seen it, have it, read it, and enjoyed it. Bruce and I used to swap stories. The last name is pronounced the same, although with the different spellings. Great guy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.