Here’s My 2012 Christmas Reading List

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Do you have your Christmas wish list together?  Here are my five recommendations for 2012:

If anything is a must-read…Deep & Wide absolutely fills the bill.  This is Andy Stanley’s explanation of the vision, the values, and the strategy that underpins North Point.

My copy is marked up, underlined, starred, and dog-eared.  I laughed out loud (Seriously. And I was on a plane!).  I got choked up several times.  There’s a lot to really love about Deep and Wide.

Let me be quick to say that you don’t have to be in a church that resonates with Andy Stanley and North Point’s vision.  You really don’t.  The book is written in a way that invites you to take a look under their hood and see the thinking behind why they do what they do.  Even better, there are many spots where Stanley references the internal conversation you might be having as you wrestle with their thinking!  So good.

You can read my full review right here.  I’m calling this an essential read and I’ll think it’ll be obvious why in the first few pages.

Patrick Lencioni’s newest book, The Advantage, is another must-read.  Lencioni, the author of a growing list of best-selling business and leadership books (including three of my previous recommendations: The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive, Death by Meeting, and The Five Dysfunctions of a Team), is back with another winner.

The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business is different than Lencioni’s other books in that it isn’t a fable.  Instead, it draws on many of the principles from his other books to guide the reader through the process of developing organizational health.

Lencioni argues that the difference between a winning organization and an also-ran isn’t superior strategy, faster innovation, or smarter employees.  Instead, success is driven by organizational health.  “Businesses that are whole, consistent, and complete, with complementary management, operations, strategy, and culture” are the ones that succeed.

Way beyond explaining the underlying ingredients to organizational health, The Advantage is packed with practical ideas, tips and practices that can be integrated into your team or your organization.  So good.  I highly recommend it!

One of my favorite reads this year was Heather Zempel’s, Community is Messy.  A talented writer and speaker, Zempel is the Discipleship Pastor at National Community Church in Washington D.C.

Embedded throughout the book is an inside look at National Community Church, one of the most fascinating churches in America in my opinion.    Operating in the challenging environment of Washington D.C., with “a demographic that consists primarily of single twenty-somethings,” NCC has had to find its way with commitment and experimentation.

The best part about Community Is Messy?  It goes way beyond a great collection of metaphor and ministry stories.  Deeply biblical, these pages are packed with scripture references and classic Bible stories that will definitely find their way into your leadership toolkit.  Every chapter is packed with principles and practices that will make their way into your thinking.

You may not agree with every conclusion.  No matter.  Your thinking will be challenged and your ministry will be strengthened.  I loved Community Is Messy and I bet you will too.

One of the very best leadership books I read this year was Jim Collins’ Great by Choice.  Although I didn’t write an individual review of it, I cited it many times in posts both here and StrategyCentral.

In some ways the continuation of Collins’ exceptional work in Good to Great, the key question in Great by Choice is how do some companies flourish unpredictable, tumultuous, and fast-moving times?  If you’re leading ministry in the 21st century, you can see right away that there might be some direct application for you!

There are a number of very applicable practices that will make an immediate difference in how you look at what you’re doing.  They’ll also make a difference in how you’re doing what you’re doing.  For example, once you really understand the concept of a SMaC recipe, you’ll probably begin developing your own right away.  Too good to leave on the shelf.

I loved Great by Choice and I think you will too.  More importantly, there are some insights here that you won’t want to miss.  I’ve already adopted some of Collins’ ideas.  I bet you’ll do the same.

One of the most immediately practical books I read this year was Peter Bregman’s, 18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction and Get the Right Things Done.  Like Making Ideas Happen and The Accidental Creative (both super reads), 18 Minutes is a productivity book…with a very interesting slant.

At its essence, 18 Minutes offers a way to keep your focus on the things that matter most, fight off distractions, and get the best things done (if that sounds like a reworked title…it’s because the title is spot on).

The 6 Box Planning Tool is worth much more than the price of the book.  If you implement that one idea, you’ll have a much more productive 2013.  I loved 18 Minutes.  More importantly, I got a ton of great ideas and insights into a more productive and creative process.  I highly recommend it!

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above may be “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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  1. Heather Zempel on November 26, 2012 at 3:24 pm

    Dang!! Thanks so much Mark!! I am honored and humbled to be on this list!

  2. markchowell on November 27, 2012 at 11:19 am

    Very good stuff, Heather. Thanks for your hard work writing it.