The Best Books I Read in 2010

I love to read.  It’s a passion I’m sure I picked up from my parents who always had a stack of books on their nightstands.  Since I spend so much of my day focused on financial topics, I prefer to read on other topics in my spare time.  However, even in the following list of the best books I read in 2010, all of which seem to have nothing to do with money, I gained important new insights into the art and science of wise money management.

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. I loved this book.  I looked forward to reading it every evening and I felt sad as it drew to a close.  I wanted it to go on and on.  I can’t think of any other book that had me laughing and crying so frequently.

Miller shares the fascinating process filmmakers use to craft a powerful story and explores how that process applies to the stories we are each telling with our lives.  Along the way, Miller tells the redemptive stories of many people he knows, chronicles his own journey out of the stands and onto the playing field of life, and calls readers toward a life worth living.  Highly, highly recommended.

Same Kind of Different As Me. This is the amazing true story of a wealthy couple’s life-changing encounter with a homeless person whose heart had been hardened through a life of racism and repression.  There are lots of money lessons here – how money creates barriers between people and how the things that truly matter can’t be bought. 

Love and Respect. This book unpacks the many nuances of the Bible’s Ephesians 5:33, arguing convincingly that a man’s greatest need is respect and a woman’s greatest need is love.  Understanding what author Emerson Eggerichs calls “The Crazy Cycle” that every couple experiences, and the counterintuitive ways to break the cycle, is worth the price of the book alone.

It also made me think about how couples manage money.  If men would ask their wives what they do financially that makes their wives feel loved (or unloved) and if women would ask their husbands what they do that makes their husbands feel respected (or disrespected), some very helpful insights into effective money management within marriage would be discovered.

I Choose Life. This true story of two holocaust survivors brings to life one of the most horrific experiences in world history.  Since my father was Jewish, I’ve been meaning to read more about Jewish history.  But this book is about so much more than that.  It’s about hope.  It’s about people banding together.  And it’s about overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds.

When we were about to have our first child, someone gave us the advice to tell our children stories of family members who overcame difficult circumstances.  To be sure, there are numerous examples from my wife’s and my families.  But when they’re old enough, I want our kids to read this book as well.  It’s a powerful account of people pushing on in the face of nothing less than pure evil.

Good to Great. This is one of the best business books I’ve ever read.  A friend who is a very successful entrepreneur has been encouraging me to read this book for several years.  I wish I hadn’t waited so long.

If you’re in a leadership position in any organization, or aspire to such a position, this book is a research-based, anecdote-filled roadmap toward greatness.  Of course, there are implications that go well beyond the business world, and I saw significant lessons for how we manage money.  That is the subject of a new series of blog posts.

Switch. I am fascinated with why some people are able to make important life changes and some are not.  I’m sure this is tied up with my passion for personal finance.  After all, when people buy a personal finance book or come to a workshop, they’re looking for ways to make positive, lasting changes.  And yet change isn’t so easy.  I appreciated the research behind this book, and also the authors’ knack for taking a complex topic and making it both accessible and enjoyable.  A good and helpful read for anyone wanting to make a change.

Job. This has been an especially challenging year for me personally – nothing on the magnitude of what Job suffered, but a tough year nonetheless.

Through the toughest weeks of the year, I found myself drawn to Job, the Bible’s preeminent book about suffering, loss, wondering what role God is playing in it all, and ultimately, redemption.  I read the book from beginning to end and then kept re-reading the closing chapters. I love how at the end, after Job finishing laying out his complaints against God, God finally speaks, twice telling Job: “Brace yourself like a man.  I will question you and you shall answer me.”  I love those lines.  God has heard all that Job has to say, but enough is enough.  Now it’s time for Job to do the listening.  Now it’s time for Job to remember who God is.

Maybe my struggles this year help explain why Miller’s book resonated with me so strongly.  There’s a section where Miller, too, writes about Job, paraphrasing God’s response:  “God says to Job, I know what I’m doing, and this whole thing isn’t about you.”  Even before Job’s health and wealth were restored, he came to see that “the story was not about him, and he cared more about the story than he did about himself.”

There was something about reading Job at about the same time that I was reading Miller’s book that helped me remember some very important points.  God is in control.  I’m part of a story much larger than the one I spend so much of my time thinking about – a story I can’t possibly understand right now.  And, maybe life isn’t so much about what we do but who we become in doing what we do.

What about you?  What were some of the best books you read in 2010?

12 Responses to The Best Books I Read in 2010

  1. Sue Coe December 31, 2010 at 2:41 PM #

    Just finished reading A Million Miles in a Thousand Years last night. Thanks for the recommendation. What a great book!

  2. Matt Bell December 30, 2010 at 9:16 AM #

    I’ve heard good things about “The Hole in Our Gospel” as well. Thanks for the reminder, Henry. I need to add that to my list of books to read in 2011.

  3. Greg December 30, 2010 at 9:11 AM #

    I highly recommend Wesley Willmar’s “God and Your Stuff.” It’s not new but is a great book of stewardship, discipleship and how we use our finances is a reflection of our relationship with Christ.

  4. Henry December 30, 2010 at 9:05 AM #

    Thanks Matt. A pastor friend just recommended “Same kind of different as me” and I am lookiong forward to reading it. This past year I also read “The Hole in Our Gospel” by Rich Stearns from World Vision and it challenged me a lot.

  5. Beth December 22, 2010 at 1:14 PM #

    Radical is a MUST READ!!!!

  6. Matt Bell December 18, 2010 at 5:13 PM #

    Sharon – I was referring to the Bible’s book of Job — not exactly a book like the others on my list, but one that impacted me a lot in 2010.

  7. Sharon December 17, 2010 at 11:56 PM #

    Who is the author of the book of Job? Miller? I cannot find it.

  8. Matt Bell December 17, 2010 at 9:06 PM #

    You guys have given me some books to check out – thanks.

  9. Martha December 17, 2010 at 3:38 PM #

    “Left to Tell” by Immaculee Ilibagiza with Steve Erwin. I began reading it the afternoon before Thanksgiving Day and finished it Thankgsgiving morning . . . and I cried! I also took your suggestion to read “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years”, another one I couldn’t put down until I had finished it!

  10. Martha December 17, 2010 at 3:30 PM #

    I met a lady in the grocery store who shared with me that I should read the book “Same Kind of Different as Me” . . . she was behind me in the checkout line and I was short $.93! She insisted on paying the difference . . .

  11. Craig Steensma December 17, 2010 at 2:34 PM #

    I’ve read a few of these (and one more than a few times) but was so inspired by your descriptions that I just added the others to my Amazon Wish List. Now I actually do know what I want for Christmas… Thanks Matt!

  12. Tom Vislisel December 17, 2010 at 11:29 AM #

    Some of my favorites for 2010 were:

    Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt and A Child Of the King by Bill Bright and M.R. Wells

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