Books offer wisdom, knowledge, and sometimes just a good yarn. But a busy pastor can find it hard to find the time to sit down and enjoy a good book. And how do you decide which book to read?

We’re here to help! We have compiled a list of our top reads for busy pastors. We reached out to our amazing contributors—themselves preachers and pastors—to ask them to share their top picks from what they’ve been reading this year. They didn’t disappoint!

We bet you will be able to find some great books to enrich your precious times of quiet from this list—and maybe you’ll share some of your top picks in the comments!

A bonus: purchasing books from the links on this article helps TPW’s ministry at no extra cost to you!

Scott Bullock’s Picks

Scott is a top contributor of sermon guides, blog posts, and liturgy to TPW. He is a TPW board member and an ordained Presbyterian minister.

Cover of Falling Upward by Richard Rohr

Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life

by Richard Rohr

Franciscan priest Richard Rohr offers trenchant spiritual insight for those open to listening. Penned in his late sixties, Rohr imparts wisdom on the spiritual journey for both the young and the old. He argues that there are two general tasks in life. In the first half of life, the task is to shape the container which answers the question, “What makes me significant?” This phase is also when we leave home, both literally and figuratively. The task for the second half of life is to discover the contents that our container was meant to hold. In the first half of our lives, many of us pursue ego, build our brands, and strive to make a name for ourselves⸺there is much that is natural in these pursuits. Yet, in the second half of life, a healthy spiritual quest should move us beyond this egocentric space to an expansion of our worldview, shared humanity, purpose, and meaning. This half returns us home to a deeper understanding of God and his relationship with us. 

The cover of James A. Michener's novel, Hawaii

Hawaii: A Novel

by James Michener

Since reading Michener’s novel Alaska, I’ve been a fan of his approach to depicting a place, starting from the primeval and weaving stories seamlessly from one age into the next. I read Hawaii: A Novel this summer when asked to guest preach for two Sundays on the big island (not a bad gig, by the way). The novel adeptly addresses the early American missionary movement to the Pacific islanders, highlighting how the Christian endeavor was often indistinguishable from the enterprising and colonial interests of the United States government. In this, it is a cautionary tale for those of us who proclaim Christ and who seek to help others that we can often confuse our cultural sensibilities with our Christian ones. 

Lisa Degrenia’s Picks

Lisa is a frequent contributor of creative contemporary liturgy and lectionary guides. She is lead pastor at Coronador Community United Methodist Church. Learn more about her ministry.

the book of forgiving

The Book of Forgiving

by Desmond Tutu and Mpho Tutu

A powerful, theologically rich book on what forgiveness is, what it isn’t, and how to practice it as a means of healing. The meditations and simple rituals at the end of each chapter are meaningful and helpful. True stories of apartheid, reconciliation, and other situations are offered to illustrate key ideas, making the book approachable and practical. Trigger warning for sexual abuse, murder, violence, and racism. The audiobook is spectacular as it features African readers.

the book of forgiving

Rediscover Jesus: An Invitation

by Matthew Kelly

Kelly provides a simple, yet profound invitation for deeper Christian devotion. His theological explanations are approachable and meaningful for persons of various Christian traditions and at all levels of faith. At the end of each short chapter, you’ll find additional questions for reflection, making it helpful for personal and small-group use. Perfect for any 40-day period of intentional devotion, including Lent. You can purchase the paperback version in bulk from the publisher at deep discounts for a churchwide campaign or to give to guests, new members, graduates, etc.

Alan Fadling’s Picks

Alan is a spiritual director, speaker, and author whose writings frequently feature on the TPW blog. Learn more about his and his wife’s ministry, Unhurried Living.

the book of forgiving

Praying Like Monks, Living Like Fools

by Tyler Staton

I talk with a lot of leaders, and one of the issues that a lot of them wrestle with is their life of prayer. It often feels a lot easier to do something for God rather than talking with God. But God, as the good Father that he is, wants us to enjoy his presence first, and then join him in his good work in the world. We were made for friendship, and staying relationally present is how that grows. I thought Tyler’s book was a great help to this end.

Interview with Tyler Staton on Alan’s podcast.

the book of forgiving

The Weary Leader’s Guide to Burnout

by Sean Nemecek

Since the pandemic, the challenge of burnout has only increased from its already significant levels before. I agree with Glenn Packiam, who said that this book is “one part diagnostic tool, one part medicine, and one part inoculation.” I thought that was a wonderful description of Sean wrote here. 

Interview with Sean Nemecek on Alan’s podcast.

Kara Martin’s Pick

Kara is an author and speaker who focuses on the intersection of work and faith. She contributes to the TPW blog. Read more about her ministry.

the book of forgiving

Women, Work & Calling

by Joanna Meyer

In my research, I found that the most under-discipled people in church settings were women who worked. Women who work often feel very unnoticed in church settings, and have pressing questions about the place of work in their lives, work–life balance; and how they both live out their faith in work settings, and live out their vocation in faith settings. Joanna Meyer’s book answers all those questions, drawing on a wealth of experts who have contributed to her annual conferences. It is an excellent resource for pastors who wonder how they can better disciple women in their congregations; or as a book to recommend if pastoral issues arise.

Charles Teixeira’s Pick

Charles is an experienced pastor and counselor who has contributed numerous lectionary guides and prayers to TPW. He is pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Albert Lea.

the book of forgiving

The Glorious Feast of the Gospel

by Richard Sibbes

This short book from Sibbes, the tender-hearted Puritan, is a collection of eight sermons on the riches found within Isaiah 25:6-9. At a time when so many tired Christian leaders are asking, “Wait, why am I doing this?”, Sibbes gives a powerful reminder of just how good the good news really is.

Jacob Traeger’s Pick

Jacob is a Church Planter and Mission Facilitator in Canberra, Australia. He has contributed numerous prayers and lectionary guides to TPW.

the book of forgiving

Pilgrims and Priests: Christian Mission in a Post-Christian Society

by Stefan Paas

What I appreciated about this book was the way Paas’ missional reflection insists on a place for both the church and the world, without one absorbing or dominating the other. As a reader in post-Christian Australia, I found freedom in the way Paas draws attention to missional acts (proclamation, service, witness, prayer etc.) as good in their own right regardless of the resulting church growth, cultural change, number of conversions and so on. This frees missionaries to rejoice in the good we see God doing around us and faithfully pursue God’s work in the community around us without the need to justify our own ‘success’.

Dave Peterson’s Picks

Dave is a retired pastor of Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church in Houston, TX. His vivid illustrations are among our favorites.

The cover of Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin

Team of Rivals

by Doris Kearn Goodwin

Great stories underlie great sermons. This book tells the story of Lincoln and his leadership team during the Civil War (the basis for the 2012 movie Lincoln). Dave writes, “I have read a number of books on the Civil War and on Lincoln. I’d heard about this book for years, but just now read it. So interesting. She tells the end of Lincoln’s life with great sensitivity and insights to the group of men Lincoln chose to head up his cabinet.”

The cover of Man's Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl

Man’s Search for Meaning

by Victor Frankl

Holocaust survivor Frankl published this highly-influential reflection on suffering and meaning in 1946. Dave writes, “I try to read this every year. As much as any book has, this one helps me make some sense out of suffering.”

Stu Strachan’s Pick

Stu is an ordained Presbyterian pastor and the founder and director of TPW. His content is all over the site: the blog, illustrations, liturgy, lectionary guides, and more.

The cover of Man's Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl

Walking in Wonder: Eternal Wisdom for a Modern World

by John O’Donohue

Walking in Wonder was a breath of fresh air. A collection of essays by poet, philosopher, and former priest John O’Donahue, it is profound and draws deeply on his theological training and his love of place—especially his childhood home of western Ireland.

I read it while on vacation in the Tetons and was struck by this quote:

I love mountains. I feel that mountains are huge contemplatives. They are there and they are in the presence up to their necks and they are still in it and with it and within it. One of the lovely ways to pray is to take your body out into the landscape and to be still in it. Your body is made out of clay, so your body is actually a miniature landscape that has got up from under the earth and is now walking on the normal landscape.

He invites the reader to escape the monotony and consumption of modern life, to be in the wild, and to experience our smallness in the face of God’s beautiful creation.

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