Peter Drucker, The Effective Executive: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done (Harper, 2006 ). A steady diet of business management books makes for an unhealthy Christian, but a few good ones every now and then can be quite salutary. This is a good one. Drucker was a legend in leadership consulting. The examples in this book are quite dated, but the advice is still helpful. Drucker illustrates his points effectively and draws from the well of Christian virtue. The chapter on time was especially good.
Donald Spoto, Reluctant Saint: The Life of Francis of Assisi (Penguin Compass, 2002). It’s hard for me to be sure I got to know the real Francis with this book. The author has a decidedly liberal understanding of Christianity (e.g., conversion is defined as “a fundamental experience of the inescapably true orientation of every human being toward the mystery we call God.”). Spoto seemed to bend over backward to make Francis a preacher of unconditional love who was against war and hell and lived to empower women and run soup kitchens. Experts on Francis can debate whether Spoto’s portrait is accurate. Nevertheless, this is a decent biography of Francis that covers the contours of his life and tries to put his biography in historical perspective. Francis grew up as a selfish, petulant rake. Once he encountered God in an old church, he became a different man. He was not a great thinker and bordered on anti-intellectual. But he inspired thousands with his love for others and self-imposed poverty. Francis was also a lifelong itinerant preacher too, though his message focused on being more like Jesus and doing good to others than on the objective message of the gospel. One can’t help but wonder when reading about Francis’ crippling doubts and fears at the end of his life and his concern to practice even greater acts of self-denial, if this eccentric, inspiring, caring man understood the gospel of God’s free grace in all its glory.
Mark Chaves, American Religion: Contemporary Trends (Princeton University Press, 2011). An expensive book for a 100 pages of generously spaced texts and charts. The gist: “The religious trends I have documented point to a straightforward general conclusion: no indicator of traditional religious belief or practice is going up. There is much continuity and some decline. . . .If there is a trend, it is toward less religion” (110).
Guy Prentiss Waters, How Jesus Runs the Church (P&R, 2011). A very good book with a great bibliography. We need more solid, readable ecclesiology like this. Every church leader can learn from this book. Presbyterians will be most helped, especially those from the PCA.