Mom made reading a treat. Like most kids, I’d pester her for my favorite things. After my fiftieth request for a new Hot Wheels car, she finally said, “Tell you what—I’ll buy you any book you want. And if you read the whole book, I’ll buy you another book.” So there I’d stand at our local bookstore, a young boy gazing up at a massive display. (Back then, Amazon was still a river.) I’d choose a book, I’d finish it in a day or two, and the process would repeat. Over and over and over…
Today I read (or listen to) around a hundred books a year, and from that massive list I’d like to share a few favorites that have changed my life.
Peanuts by Charles M. Schulz
They call them comic books. I call them the purest form of character development. I remember the day I picked up my first Peanuts book by Charles M. Schulz—and yes, comic books are real books. The wit and wisdom of the wonderful characters Schulz created taught me a lot about life, even at a young age. I constantly ran across words that I didn’t know, which my parents forced me to look up, of course. I saw my own life in the experiences of Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Linus, and Lucy. Those characters demonstrated right and wrong, laughter and loss, success and failure in a way I’ll never forget, and still enjoy.
Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts
They call it moral ambiguity. I call it embracing the tension of life. Shantaram, by Gregory David Roberts, is a novel about living on the edges and coping with the ambiguities of life. True life is about the nuances of timing, the tensions of moralities, the contradictions of our decisions, and counterintuitive truths. For me, living faithfully has meant entering into the messiness of my relationship with God. We are frail, fallen creatures, living in a world that is often maddening. Wrestling with God and seeking to understand the chaos of this world is how I grow closer to my creator. Shantaram may not be a book about faith, but it certainly expands our understanding of human nature.
The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence
They call it mysticism. I call it, um, mysticism. The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence seems straightforward: We can find God’s presence in every moment of our lives. Big project or little project, daydreaming or praying, work or rest, church or hard labor, God’s presence can be found if we continually focus on him. It sounds simple, but my attempts at experiencing God this way often fail miserably. Yet occasionally I become conscious of God, moment by moment, never wavering from an awareness of his presence. It’s like being in the room with my wife: We don’t always need to be talking, but we’re always aware of each other, and grateful for the loving presence.
The Spy Who Came in from the Cold by John le Carré
They call them patriots and heroes. Well, yes, but I also call them liars and spies. By the time I was old enough to know what was happening in the world, we were being fed a daily dose of bad news from Vietnam, protests in the streets, and tragic assassinations. As a teenager, I watched the drama of Watergate unfold. My rose-colored glasses came off for good. That’s why the British espionage book The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, by John le Carré, made this list. A common theme of my favorite books is wrestling with moral dilemmas. This book brilliantly illuminates that tension with its tale of a high-stakes contest between the deep love for country and our moral limits. Defining our enemy is often muddled, and knowing how to respond to a threat can reveal more about ourselves than about our opponent.
The Tortilla Curtain by T.C. Boyle
They call them illegal aliens. I call them people. In my dad’s junkyards I heard Spanish nearly as often as English. Mexican immigrants were some of our most loyal and talented employees. Several years ago, when a friend suggested I pick up a copy of The Tortilla Curtain by T. C. Boyle, I jumped right in. Boyle tells the stories of two overlapping families: one an upper middle class white family in Southern California, and the other a young, undocumented Mexican couple doing odd jobs in the same neighborhood as the white family. Their lives are intertwined—sometimes tragically—and the misunderstanding, mistrust, and fear are palpable. The consequences are as likely to bring me to tears as to outrage. Books like this challenge me to see people who are different from myself as fully human. And I appreciate how Boyle offers me no conclusions or solutions, reminding me that answers—if there are any—require effort.
Obviously this list could go on and on. But I’m told this is just about five books, no more, so I’ll stop here. The common theme in my favorite books? They all made me see the world through the eyes of someone else, and to wrestle with those new perspectives. They pushed me toward change. Toward justice. Toward love.
Roy Goble, author of Salvaged
Successful Silicon Valley real estate developer and wealth creator Roy Goble shares the surprising lessons he learned as a boy working in his family junkyard. Skillfully uniting the teachings of Jesus with the sometimes messy realities of leading people and getting things done, Salvaged helps leaders at all levels discover powerful opportunities to follow Jesus in the real world—and in surprisingly simple ways.
Working in his dad’s junkyard as a kid, Roy had no idea what his future held: an incredibly successful career in commercial real estate, as well as founding and leading multiple ministries, churches, and nonprofits across the globe. So when Roy talks about what it means to follow Jesus daily as a leader, people pay attention. Entrepreneurs, pastors, and managers who learn to lead from Roy won’t parrot his jargon or practice his “system”—these men and women will simply know how to lead better.
After a no-nonsense and compelling introduction, Roy delivers 31 of his most surprising, memorable, and practical leadership lessons, many of which are culled from his junkyard days. Each focuses on a personal “junkyard” story, leadership lesson, and comparable Bible passage perfect for daily study. A growth and action section is included after each chapter that gets to the heart of the lesson through thought-provoking questions with action steps designed to be immediately put into practice.