At the start of each year, we ask our blog authors to share their favorite books from the past year. This year we received many great recommendations. Sorted by category, but in no particular order, we present a selection of this year’s books from our contributors and a brief reason why they recommend them:


Turning the Flywheel: A Monograph to Accompany Good to Great by Jim Collins (2019, Harper Business)—“The Good to Great book is a gem for anyone in leadership positions. One reason I am focusing on one aspect of this book, Turning the Flywheel, is because of our commitment to remain focused and disciplined as an organization. It is so easy to dilute an organization’s effectiveness by chasing ‘good ideas’ at the expense of a flywheel that never reaches maximum potential.”

Leadership: Six Studies in World Strategy by Henry Kissinger (2022, Penguin Press) – “This book is a brilliant introduction on models of leadership followed by six histories that underscore the enduring models.”

Teaching and Education

Thinking Biblically About Education: Why Parents Should Abandon Government Schools and Take Back Control of Education by Zachary M. Garris (2016, available on Amazon Kindle)—“In this pithy volume, Garris offers a biblical perspective on the parental prerogative to oversee their children’s education. He makes a strong case for Christian schools and homeschooling. This is a great read for anyone interested in thinking biblically about education!”

God, Grades, & Graduation: Religion’s Surprising Impact on Academic Success by Ilana M. Horowitz (2002, Oxford University Press)—“Horwitz, a professor of sociology at Tulane University, has spent much of her career studying religious schools. As she explains, she is a Jew more for social and cultural reasons than for religious ones, giving her a unique perspective on the important relationship between faith and academics, and therefore keen insights on the witness that Christian schools bear to an unbelieving world.”

Theology as a Way of Life: On Teaching and Learning the Christian Faith by Adam Neder (2019, Baker Academic)—“While geared towards those who teach theology at the graduate level, this book helped me understand the role of the teacher in bringing students into the presence of God. One of his most salient points is that our students are bored with us and our classes simply because we are boring. While our subject excites us, we too often neglect to ground our classes in the reality that we are bringing our students into the throne room of God. We are teaching our students about Christ more often than teaching our students in Christ. Neder did well in explaining the importance of an incarnational approach to teaching, which applies to Christian teachers of all subjects and grade levels.”

Faith and TheologyChristian School Educators Must Read Books New Year 2023

Biblical Critical Theory: How the Bible’s Unfolding Story Makes Sense of Modern Life and Culture by Chris Watkin (2022, Zondervan Academic)—“Because of their extraordinary richness, clear insight, and remarkable depth of analysis, some books must be read very slowly, every chapter requiring time and reflection to be thoughtfully processed and distilled. This is such a book. Watkin has crafted an utterly compelling and captivating book that expertly interweaves the Biblical story with important themes in philosophy and contemporary culture and provides the reader with a unique perspective to better understand and discern our current cultural moment. An exceptional book!”

The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1963, Macmillan Publishing Company)—“Bonhoeffer’s classic, The Cost of Discipleship, reminds us to embrace the immeasurable worth of God’s grace in our own lives by recognizing and reflecting on the unfathomable expense of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice through which it was attained. Bonhoeffer reminds readers that Christ’s disciples are called to walk the narrow road, that the act of following Christ is costly, and that cheap grace is no grace at all.”

How to Hear God: A Simple Guide for Normal People by Peter Greig (2022, Zondervan)—“Profoundly simple. Simply profound.”

Worship as One by Barbara J. Newman (2022, Amazon Pro Hub)—“Barbara J. Newman brings all of her experiences in inclusive community to the topic of worshiping with people of all abilities, laying out a simple plan and reviewing it step by step. Not only is her advice well organized, it is inspiring and practical!”

Renovated: God, Dallas Willard, and the Church That Transforms by Jim Wilder (2020, NavPress)—“This book offers hope that people can change and answers the crucial question: ‘how?’ Jim Wilder, a neuro-theologian, unpacks the often-forgotten role that the right brain plays in discipleship and gives an awe-inspiring description of what happens in a person’s brain during salvation. Attachment and emotional health are increasingly valued in the faith formation of individuals, and this book equips readers to understand why.”


The Open Generation (Vol. 1-3) by Barna (2022, Barna)—“The compelling reason why I am diving into this 3-volume resource from Barna is because of its relevance to the mission of ACSI. I would even say that it is relevant for nearly every Christian-based ministry that focuses on reaching students and families for Christ and remains committed to an intentional discipleship plan. This research helps us ‘understand our times’ and subsequently how to develop ministry strategies that align with where our target group is in their faith journey.”

Leading Insights: Mental Health and Well-Being edited by Lynn E. Swaner (2022, ACSI)—“I was thrilled to find this book and believe it is a necessary read for anyone feeling burned out in education right now. It’s a reminder that not only are we called to the well-being of our students, we are called to attend to the well-being of ourselves and our colleagues, too.”

Future Ready by Lynn E. Swaner, Jon Eckert, Erik Ellefsen, and Matthew H. Lee (2022, ACSI and CARDUS)—“I have been eagerly anticipating this book for quite some time. What I love about it is that rather than expecting any one school to do everything perfectly, it grabs the best ideas from a variety of school contexts. We can all find something to learn in this book!”

Well-Being and Self Care

The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry: How to Stay Emotionally Healthy and Spiritually Alive in the Chaos of the Modern World by John Mark Comer (2019, WaterBrook)—“We live in a fast-paced world. If you’re a person of capacity, there’s all the more reason to know how to walk at a pace that creates true fruitfulness. Reading this book is like sabbath rest itself. While offering practical advice, this book mainly serves as a reset to align and abide in Jesus.”

From Strength to Strength: Finding Success, Happiness, and Deep Purpose in the Second Half of Life by Arthur Brooks (2022, Portfolio)—“I’ve recommended this book to all of my friends who are Gen-X leaders like me. Brooks uses neuroscience to examine how our brains change over time and what that means in terms of shifting our careers and leadership. We can find flourishing during the second half of our careers if we are intentionally generative through mentorship, collegiality, and collaboration.”

You’re Only Human: How Your Limits Reflect God’s Design and Why That’s Good News by Kelly M. Kapic (2022, Brazos Press)—“For over-achievers (most leaders in schools!), our limits are something negative that we strive to overcome. But at the end of the day, we realize we can’t do it all—and that’s actually a good (or a God!) thing. This book shifts our thinking in important ways, reframing our limits as blessings from God to His created beings, so long as we allow them to increase our dependence on God and our recognition that we need each other.”

Love + Work: How to Find What You Love, Love What You Do, and Do It for the Rest of Your Life by Marcus Buckingham (2002, Harvard Business Review Press)—“No workplace is perfect and every role has its challenges. But this very readable book (from the co-creator of Gallup Strengthsfinder) helps you to think through what really motivates you—what you love—and how you can spend most (if not all) of your time at work weaving those “red threads” into the tapestry of your career.”

Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals by Oliver Burkeman (2021, Farrar, Straus and Giroux)—“This is a well-paced, secular understanding of kairos v. chronos… and more. The author flirts with biblical eternity without knowing it.”

Hot Topics

Why We Fight: The Roots of War and the Paths to Peace by Christopher Blattman (2022, Viking)—“The Ukraine war hit me hard. I found myself stunned by how much I don’t understand about the world and how much I had taken for granted in my own life. This book helped me to gain some context around what initiates and escalates conflict, whether in the neighborhood or among nations, and considers how we can play a small part in making it better.”

Love Thy Body: Answering Hard Questions about Life and Sexuality by Nancy R. Pearcey (2018, Baker Books)—“Pearcey has been described by The Economist as ‘America’s preeminent evangelical Protestant female intellectual.’ Her book is a timely resource for understanding prominent issues related to the Bible and biology, including sexual orientation and gender identity.”

About the Author

Becki Rust - ACSI AuthorBecki Rust is the Thought Leadership Project Coordinator at the Association of Christian Schools International, where she leads project management for a wide variety of innovative and timely initiatives, programs, and events. She also serves as editor for the ACSI Blog and the WLCE Blog. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Politics, Philosophy, and Economics from The King’s College in New York City.

Questions to Consider:

Have you read any of the books on this list? If so, what new learning did you take from them? If not, which book are you most looking forward to reading?

What are we missing? What books on your own must-read list?

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