As we begin the new year and a new decade, we once again asked our blog authors to recommend the best books they’re reading. Without further ado, here is a selection of their picks, along with a quick quote from our authors as to why they enthusiastically recommend them.

Teaching and Education2020 Christian Educators Reading List

In Search of Deeper Learning: The Quest to Remake the American High School by Jal Mehta and Sarah Fine (2019, Harvard University Press)—”This book does a great job of defining what is and is not Deeper Learning in American high schools and gives helpful examples throughout.”

Bold Moves for Schools: How We Create Remarkable Learning Environments by H.H. Jacobs and M.H. Alcock (2017, ASCD)—”The title of this easy-to-read book says it all. The authors provide plenty of practical advice for how to ‘refresh’ pedagogy for ‘contemporary learning,’ including elements of a new job description for the 21st century teacher, ways to transform school leadership through a partnership model, and how to develop curriculum and assessment systems that enable innovation.”

UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World by Michele Borba, Ed.D. (2017, Touchstone)—”Creating empathy in learners continues to present itself as a key to supporting healthy relationships that fosters development and growth. This author addresses why empathy must be an integral part of any classroom and identifies nine habits that empathetic children share. Each chapter offers practical ways to cultivate and nurture these nine habits to help children thrive. This is a great book for focusing on social-emotional learning.”

Mindshift: Catalyzing Change in Christian Education edited by Lynn Swaner, Dan Beerens, and Erik Ellefsen (2019, ACSI)—“The timing of this book was perfect—I was challenged afresh in some key areas where I need to focus!”

Schools for All Kinds of Minds: Boosting Student Success by Embracing Learning Variation by Mary-Dean Barringer, Craig Pohlman, Michele Robinson (2010, Jossey-Bass)—”[This book] focuses on understanding learning variation as a strategy for supporting the academic success of every learner, including struggling students. Through the knowledge of neurodevelopmental constructs, teachers and school leaders find a framework for making better decisions in the classroom, empowering students, and advancing classroom success.”

The Kidnapped Prince: The Life of Olaudah Equiano by Ann Cameron (2000, Yearling)—”We have been doing a curriculum audit at our school in regard to diversity and how we teach hard topics. I wanted to read a book from the perspective of an African who was sold into slavery to our country. This book rocked my world not only as I learned so much from his words, but I was also shaken at his wrestling with God once he becomes a follower of Christ and seeing other followers of Christ own people. I highly recommend this quick but hard read as a wonderful resource not only for those teaching history but also for our students.”

Leadership and Professional Growth

The Outward Mindset: Seeing Beyond Ourselves by The Arbinger Institute (2016, Berrett-Koehler Publishers)—”It is a simple, yet poignant book highlighting the need to shift our mindset. When we think of others first, our organizations thrive. This book is wonderful for personal and staff development.”

Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport (2016, Grand Central Publishing)—“The workplace can run you or you can run the workplace. Newport explains the importance of creating time and space, free of distraction and interruptions, to dedicate to deeply engaging our minds to be creative and innovative in our workspaces. Newport gives practice rituals and routines to improve thinking deeply so that you are not overrun with monotonous tasks that can easily consume your day.”

The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact by Chip and Dan Heath (2017, Simon and Schuster)—“Ever wonder why everyone loves Disney so much? They create positive, lasting memories for their visitors. This book is about creating short experiences that are full of meaning and leave a lifelong impression. [The authors’] principles of making moments memorable are easy to implement in on-boarding staff, starting off the new school year, alumni events, classroom lesson plans; the ideas are truly limitless. This is a fantastically fun read.”

Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam Grant (2017, Penguin Books)—“This very enjoyable book is filled with engaging real life examples that illustrate significant research findings and give the reader positive encouragement to challenge conventional wisdom, to unleash creativity, and to move forward positively and courageously.”

Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership: Seeking God in the Crucible of Ministry by Ruth Barton (2008, IVP Books)—“Barton writes that the health and state of the soul of a leader is key for it the place from which a leader actually leads.  A leader’s soul needs nourishment, and it is the inward life of this soul that actually helps leaders bring hope and life to themselves and to the organization being led. Through this book, Barton shows her readers how leadership does not require losing our souls.”

Christian Life and Discipleship

The Gospel Comes with a House Key: Practicing Radically Ordinary Hospitality in Our Post-Christian World by Rosaria Butterfield (2018, Crossway)—“Rosaria Butterfield lovingly challenges all believers to put the Gospel at the center of their homes and their lives. Her personal story of how radically ordinary hospitality altered the course of her life is so simple and powerful.  A life changing read for me!”

When to Walk Away: Finding Freedom from Toxic People by Gary Thomas (2019, Zondervan)—“This book exposes one the of most clever attacks of the enemy—to destroy our personal health and well-being and derail our God-given calling by encouraging us to believe the lie that a good Christian must be all things to all people, even to those who resent our efforts and squander our gifts. Using scriptural examples, the author illustrates how Jesus often played ‘spiritual defense’ by walking away from engagements with difficult people in order to preserve his well-being and his calling.”

Disunity in Christ: Uncovering the Hidden Forces that Keep Us Apart by Christena Cleveland (2013, IVP Books)—“This was an incredible book written by a social psychologist who wonderfully weaves humor into the hard reality of the disunity we know to exist in the body of Christ. Christena Cleveland hits on areas such as race, culture, politics, economic class and so much more as she tries to give not only examples of this disunity, but also reasons as to why we find ourselves divided on Sunday mornings and beyond.”

Live in Grace, Walk in Love: A 365-Day Journey by Bob Goff (2019, Thomas Nelson)—”In this book of daily devotions, Bob challenges and inspires his readers to not just talk about doing life in the name of Jesus but to actually do things that make a difference.  In Bob’s words, ‘Let go of fear, make a mark, and pursue a great adventure with God.’”

Restoring All Things: God’s Audacious Plan to Change the World Through Everyday People by Warren Cole Smith and John Stonestreet (2015, Baker Books)—”There is a quote in the book that grabbed my heart, ‘We are reconciled to become reconcilers (2 Cor. 5:14-21)’—it was an encouragement and a reminder to never forget that we are all ambassadors for our Lord Jesus.”

Something Needs to Change: A Call to Make Your Life Count in a World of Urgent Need by David Platt (2018, Multnomah)—“Unless you are ready for a major challenge, and conviction, about changing our perspective on reaching the world for Christ, you might not want to read this book—I am still under deep conviction of some changes I need to make.”

Beautiful Outlaw: Experiencing the Playful, Disruptive, Extravagant Personality of Jesus by John Eldredge (2013, FaithWords)—“This book was recommended to me by an alum and I have now read it twice in a row. John Eldredge helps the reader think through the personality of God and the many aspects He shows in the Bible but we fail to recognize. It is a fun read that will transform your relationship with Christ and allow you to show your students new aspects of His personality and how it should impact all of us.”

About the Author

Becki RustBecki Rust is the Thought Leadership Project Coordinator at ACSI, where she leads project management for a wide variety of innovative and timely initiatives, programs, and events. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Politics, Philosophy, and Economics from The King’s College in New York City. Becki can be reached at

Questions to Consider:

Have you read any of the books recommended in this list, and if so, what new learning did you take from them?


What books are on your own “must-read” list for 2020?

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One Comment

Anne Lucasse

Thanks for this list of books. Just going through the list, googling titles that interested me and applied to my context was an hour of PD all by itself.


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