Groucho Marx quipped, “I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.”

That’s not a bad way to live.  The best leaders are consistently reading, growing, learning and stretching to be all God wants them to be.

Dr. Seuss once wrote, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.”― Dr. Seuss, I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!

And Oscar Wilde added, “It is what you read when you don't have to that determines what you will be when you can't help it.”

In 2017 I set a goal to read 17 books.  And by “read” I meant finish, get all the way through, not simply “retinize.”  I’m gratified to admit that my reading goal was one of the goals I actually achieved.  I finished 22 books in 2017.



1.  “The Art of the Pitch:  Persuasion and Presentation Skills that Win” by Peter Coughter

Peter Coughter is an advertising pitch man.  He claims “everything is a presentation,” then he delivers incredible insights on presenting, speaking and winning.  This was a great book, especially for those of us who speak regularly.

2.  “Essentialism:  The Disciplined Pursuit of Less” by Greg McKeown

“If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will.”  That’s one of the sobering opening lines of this book by leadership consultant Greg McKeown.  The main thrust of the book is to explore, eliminate and execute in order to live a more meaningful life. 

3.  “Ego is the Enemy” by Ryan Holiday

Ryan Holiday has “Ego is the Enemy” tattooed on his right forearm.  He unfolds how ego has destroyed so many people, yet many others have overcome it:  “Most of us aren’t ‘egomaniacs,’ but ego is there at the root of almost every conceivable problem and obstacle, from why we can’t win to why we need to win all the time and at the expense of others. From why we don’t have what we want to why having what we want doesn’t seem to make us feel any better.”

That’s my list.  What’s yours?  I’ve changed my reading goals for 2018.  I want to read 12 books all the way through—one per month.  But I also subscribed to a nonfiction book summary service, so I can get through more material without the compulsive need to digest every word.  If you have a book summary product you would recommend, please let me know! 

Feel free to send me your list of top books of 2017 at    We will add your ideas and try to keep the article updated.

Happy Reading!


Here are some of the “Best Books” sent in by contributors:

Brian Burman, Gateway Church, Visalia, CA & Excel Leadership Coaching

1. Leading the Other Way by JD Pearring - let’s go change the church planting world!

(I guess I owe Brian lunch for picking this one!—JD)

2. How to Lead When You’re Not in Charge by Clay Scroggins - the huge majority of leaders are not the one in charge, but you can lead from any chair. Great insights and practical suggestions to take your staff and volunteers through.

3. Teams That Thrive by Ryan Hartwig & Warren Bird - the disciplines in this book will help you and your team rethink your leadership structure and strategy, how you interact, and redefine your win.


John Pearson, Management consultant and Coach (John’s picks are always amazing)

1.  The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact, by Chip Heath and Dan Heath

2.  The Gatekeepers: How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every Presidency, by Chris Whipple

3.  Illuminate: Ignite Change Through Speeches, Stories, Ceremonies, and Symbols, by Nancy Duarte and Patti Sanchez


Reads John’s Tope Ten list here:


Stu Streeter, Lead Pastor, Disciples Church, Folsom, CA

My best book of 2017 was Eugene Peterson’s “As Kingfishers Catch Fire,” it’s a collection of some of his sermons and I found it beautiful, encouraging and inspiring. A close runner up was “The Way of the Dragon or The Way of The Lamb,” by Goggin & Strobel.

My favorite article was probably this one, by Dr. David Fitch,


Chris Hall, Lead Pastor, Catalyst Church, Santa Paula, CA

1. “Canoeing The Mountains” by Tod Bolsinger.  I loved the historical parallels between the uncharted challenges faced by Lewis & Clark and the unknown obstacles church leaders will face as we navigate our post-Christian culture.   As a history nerd and a ministry geek, Tod fed me well with this book.

2. “Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline.  As a child of the 80’s that loved video games, TV, movies, and music, I thought it was totally rad.  I listened to it on Audible and didn’t want to take my headphones out until it was done!


Mike Pate Executive Director Transformation Ministries Camping

1.  The Power of Moments by Chip Heath and Dan Heath

Wow!  You could apply this book and revolutionize your speaking, your customer’s experiences, your parenting, etc, etc, etc.  Just bought a copy for my pastor.

2.  Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom by Dan Busby and John Pearson

So powerful and ‘ready to apply’ ideas to transform your board meetings into meaningful, purposeful experiences for all involved!  If you serve on ANY board, buy this!

3.  “No Excuses!  The Power of Self-Discipline by Brian Tracy

This was published in 2010.  It’s a short read and simple (but life changing if applied).  All other success principles are irrelevant if you don’t develop self-discipline!  “Self-discipline is the ability to do what you should do, when you should do it, whether you feel like it or not.”


David Bennett, Financial Guru and Excel Board Member

1. “Ego is the Enemy” by Ryan Holiday

2. “The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph  by Ryan Holiday

3. “Grit:  The Power of Passion and Perseverance” by Angela Duckworth


Lori Pearring, Marriage and Family Therapist

“Saving Your Marriage Before it Starts” by Dr. Les and Leslie Parrott, is a premarital online tool as well as a book and workbooks for each person. It is valuable not just for pre-marrieds, but also for couples who have been married for decades and want to understand themselves and each other better.  The online SYMBIS tool is powerful as a reflection of both spouses and a great stepping stone to deeper understanding and intimacy =))).


David Cooke, Lead Pastor Cold Spring Community Church, Placerville, CA

1. The Cure - What if God Isn’t Who You Think He Is and Neither Are You - Lynch, McNicol and Thrall - The best and most challenging book on grace I have read. It contained some major perspective-shifting ideas about Jesus, love and living out of grace that are still messing with me.

2. Essentialism - Greg McKeown. This book made me drill down to figure out what is really essential for me. Really helpful in this season of life to clarify what is essential to me (I have 5) and what the essentials of my essentials are.

3. Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation - Daniel J Siegel, M.D. - Coaching is a passion (and an essential!) and coaching is about transformation. Siegel looks at how advances in neuroscience help us understand how the brain works, affecting our emotions and affecting our choices. A very hopeful book about how we have the power to choose to change with practical ways to begin applying the insights.


Ben Finney, Teaching Pastor, Journey Church, Elk Grove, CA

I really enjoyed reading Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and the sequel The Restaurant at the End of the Universe. It has a unique but relatable insight into society and the human condition, delivered in a Monty Python-style satire and sci-fi setting. Fun stuff!


Karl Roth, Lead Pastor, Flipside Church, Madera Ranchos, CA

1.  Leaders Eat Last; Simon Synek

2.  The Book of Jewish Values; Rabbi Joseph Telushkin

3.  The ONE Thing; Gary Keller


Joel White, Lead Pastor, Crossridge Church, Sherwood, Oregon

1. Total Forgiveness by R.T. Kendall.  Probably the best book on forgiveness i’ve ever read.  His biblical look on forgiveness takes it to a level our culture often rejects.

2. Essentialism by Greg McKeown. Such a great read and challenge for us to say no to good things in order for us to say yes to what we want to go big on.

3.  Goliath Must Fall by Louie Giglio.  A great look at the story of David and Goliath and how Jesus has defeated sin in our lives and we need to claim that victory.