18 Must-Read Books: Ranking the Best Books I Read This Year
December 31, 2023
Each year, I make my way through as many non-fiction books as possible. It's one of the most effective ways to help myself grow and develop.
This year, I read 18 books, all of which were worthwhile. This list ranks them from "interesting" to "absolutely life-changing," offering mini book reviews and hopefully sparking your own literary curiosity.
Best Book for Those Trying to Improve Their Company's Culture
I debated where to rank this book, but I tried to be humble and ranked it 18th, as it's actually a book I wrote this year. And YES I did read it - probably five or six times - including once out loud for the audiobook recording - which is surprisingly difficult!
RETAIN is created to be the definitive guide for creating a positive, fun, supportive work culture. It's a quick, easy read packed full of stories and how-tos. Grab a copy if you'd like level-up your company's or department's work environment.
Best Book for Shark Lovers
17. Close to Shore
Michael Capuzzo's true story of the famous Jersey Shore shark attacks of 1916 is an intriguing read. While it differs from the typical personal-development-type books I read, I had heard good things and decided to give it a try.
While certainly not my favorite book of the year (the first half is a little slow), it is an interesting look into how little people knew about sharks in 1916. This ignorance fueled wild speculation and fear that exaggerated the already traumatic experience of a rouge great white that attacked numerous people at the shore, then in a river.
Grab a copy of Close to Shore.
Best Book for Leaders Working with Hiring Consultants
16. The Hiring Handbook
If you're looking for a no-frills, concise guide to working with headhunters, this is the book for you. It's definitely not an exciting read. But, it does give you a peak into the mind of a job-placement agency and may help you better negotiate and work with such a firm.
Get The Hiring Handbook.
Best Book for Someone Trying to Become More Creative
15. The Artist's Way
This book by Julia Cameron is essentially a guide to help you become more creative. The thesis is centered around the practice of creating "daily pages," a morning exercise where you write your thoughts - whatever they may be.
I do feel it shares some great ways to get over creative blocks and find your inner artist. It also shares creative exercises that can serve as a helpful form of mindfulness or therapy. But it's not a short book. For me, the book could have used a more concise delivery of the message.
Get a copy of The Artist's Way.
Best Book for Someone Trying to Overcome Resentment
14. Love Like You've Never Been Hurt
This book is a guide to overcoming resentment and moving past the pain caused by others. I'm a big fan of Jensen Franklin, who is an incredibly articulate author and pastor.
The book emphasizes the power that love can have to overcome pains of the past. Franklin emphasizes that forgiveness isn’t about keeping score; forgiveness is about losing count.
It's a fantastic book if you're still holding onto a hurt - especially if it was pain caused by a family member, as most of the book uses examples from family situations.
Get a copy here.
Best Book for Professionals With too Much Email
I remember getting my first email account in 10th grade. It was an exciting, wonderful joy when that 56k modem checked Juno's serves and delivered an email right to my inbox.
Oh how things have changed.
Today, email is more likely to be a source of stress than joy. Thankfully, Unsubscribe is here to help. Author Jocelyn K. Glei offers a healthy perspective on how we should view the practice of reading/writing/managing email and shares tips to make emailing a better experience.
One of my favorite insights is that you shouldn't look at "inbox zero" as the ultimate goal. Winnowing down your inbox may give you a feeling of accomplishment – but that’s all it is: a feeling.
Get a copy of Unsubscribe.
Best Book for Parents Raising Teens
12. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens
I read this with my two teenage boys this summer and it led to some fantastic conversation. Based on the famous 7 Habits of Highly Successful People by Stephen R. Covey, this book essentially distills the same message down to teens.
It covers positive habits like being proactive, prioritizing what's important, defining your mission and goals, and more. It was a great way to discuss principals of success with my boys. If you have a teenager, I recommend putting together a little book club and discussing each chapter, deciding if you agree, and figuring out how to implement in your life. Your teen will benefit and you will too.
Get a copy here.
Best Book to Help Leaders Build Strong Teams
11. The 6 Types of Working Genius
One of most helpful, thought-provoking authors for working professionals, Patrick Lencioni really created something special with this book.
The premise is that each of us is one of six types of "Working Genius," and each Genius is needed to be successful in every endeavor. When we know our own and others' strengths and weaknesses, most of the guilt and judgment goes away, and is replaced with empathy and productive support.
Lencioni notes that one of the biggest stealers of peace is doing work God didn’t create you to do. The type of work one does is much more related to burnout than the amount of work. This book will help you determine which type of work is best for you; and which you should avoid.
Our Leadership Team at Blue Compass read this book together and benefited greatly.
If you're interested in better understanding and working with your coworkers (and yourself), check this book out.
Best Book for an Alternative Perspective on Aliens and UFOs
10. The Omega Conspiracy
This absolutely fascinating book looks at the phenomena of UFOs from a Biblical perspective. Author Isaac David Ellis Thomas shares dozens of stories of close encounters and explains the potential demonic connections. Written decades ago, it's especially relevant today with all the discussions of UFOs in the news and popular culture.
Grab a copy of The Omega Conspiracy if you're interested in a different perspective on the topic.
Best Book to Help You Become a Better Manager
9. The Coaching Habit
If you manage one or more employees, read The Coaching Habit. Our management team read this together and it lead to fantastic discussions.
The book lays out seven questions to ask in your reportee in one-on-one meetings. These questions are simple, but will lead to deep thought, discussions and learning for both of you. It helped our managers realize they don't need to have all the answers to coach and help their team members.
Get a copy of The Coaching Habit.
Best Book for Proofs About God
8. The Reason for God
My son started listening to this audiobook so I decided to read the book and discuss it with him. Author Tim Keller covers many of the critiques against God with logical, reasonable arguments. He does a fantastic job discussing how we can handle doubts. As he says, "you don’t have to wait for all fears and doubts to go away to take hold of Christ."
Pick up a copy of The Reason for God.
Best Book for Professionals Who Want to be More Effective at Selling
7. Getting Naked
Another great Patrick Lencioni book, Getting Naked is a wonderful guide for anyone trying to sell a service. The premise is simple: stop selling and start helping! Lencioni conveys this lesson through a fictitious story about a large consulting firm that tries to acquire a strange boutique consulting firm.
The book's "always consult instead of sell" lesson is a powerful one. Lencioni shows how you can always tell the kind truth, have no fear of losing business, and simply start helping the prospect in your first meeting.
Shout-out to my friend Tom Clegg, who suggested this book and masterfully uses this principle in his consulting business.
It's a must-read for anyone who's a consultant, salesperson, freelancer, or business owner. Get a copy here.
Best Book if You're Struggling with Negative Thoughts
6. Winning the War in Your Mind
Sometimes the most difficult battle is the battle with our negative thoughts. In Winning the War in Your Mind, author Craig Groeschel shares the principles of modern psychology and the Bible to reveal how you can defeat negative ideas and experience a more peaceful thought life.
Groeschel emphasizes that our lives always move in the direction of our strongest thoughts and what we think now will determine who we are tomorrow.
Grab a copy if you'd like to improve your outlook.
Best Book for Responses to Doubts about Christianity
5. Faith is for Weak People
Author and evangelist Ray Comfort is a master at answering objections to the Christian faith. If you've been faced with objections (or have objections yourself) this is an incredibly helpful read. It's a quick and easy read filled with many stories from Comfort's many personal experiences with apologetics.
Get a copy of Faith is for Weak People.
Best Book to Help Leaders Hire and Develop Team Members
4. The Ideal Team Player
The third Patrick Lencioni book I read this year (and my favorite), The Ideal Team Player reveals the three virtues of ideal team members: they must be humble, hungry and smart.
Lencioni conveys these principals through the story of a construction company that is challenged with two new massive projects and must hire 60 new people immediately. How can they select and develop people that really fit the culture and embrace teamwork?
The book provides truly helpful ways to find, hire and develop team players who will benefit your organization for years to come. A must-read for leaders, managers, HR professionals and business owners.
Get a copy of The Ideal Team Player.
Best Book for Answers About the Bible
3. How We Got Our Bible
How was the Bible assembled? Why are there different translations? Are there errors in the Bible? Author Chuck Missler masterfully answers these questions and provides fascinating details about how the Bible came to be.
Get your copy of How We Got Our Bible.
Best Book for Personal Development and Success Strategies
2. Napoleon Hill's Master Course
I enjoyed reading this guide to personally success more than nearly any other book this year. Hill is a master of personal development and one of the wisest authors I've ever read.
It's basically a guide to being successful in life, packed full of ideas like defining your "definiteness of purpose," which Hill calls "the starting point of all achievement."
It's a lengthy, but incredibly helpful book that I listed in my top 10 all-time favorite books.
Get a copy of Napoleon Hill's Master Course.
Best Book. Period.
1. The Bible
The best selling book of all time. A constant source of answers, inspiration and truth for me. As Justin Peters once said, "Want to hear God speak? Read your Bible. Want to hear God speak audibly? Read your Bible out loud!"
It's really a compilation of 66 different books penned by 40 different authors, yet it all points to one person: Jesus.
See a free, online version here.