Some of Our Favorite Books of 2016

We believe that to lead others well, you need to commit to reading, both widely and deeply.

So we asked our team to give us a few favorite books from 2016, and we’ve got a list of 10 books below. These aren’t necessarily books that were released in 2016, just books we happened to read this past year.

Also, you’ll notice that the books span a fairly wide range of genres, from theology to history to leadership to fiction. We believe reading lots of different kinds of books gives leaders intuitive insights and important perspectives they wouldn’t have otherwise.

OK, enough preamble. Enjoy this list of a few of our favorite books from 2016!

Faithful Presence

faithfulpresenceFaithful Presence: Seven Disciplines That Shape the Church For Missionby David Fitch

(Recommended by Ben Sternke)

“Don’t go to church, BE the church!” Easy to say, but what does it actually mean to be the church? This book was immensely helpful for fleshing this question out. Outlines 7 disciplines we can practice that help us discern and submit to the presence of Christ.

This is the book I will be recommending to anyone wondering why we are planting our church the way we are.

Also check out these other favorite books:

Prophetic Lament

propheticlamentProphetic Lament: A Call For Justice in Troubled Times, by Soong Chan-Rah

(Recommended by Dan Sadlier)

Our church plant in New York is a very diverse community, and this book has helped so much to increase our empathy for one another, especially as young white people are attempting to care for and disciple ethnic minorities.

Also check out these other favorite books:

You Are What You Love

youarewhatYou Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habitby James K.A. Smith

(Recommended by Kristan Dooley)

I appreciate the straightforwardness of this book. What’s happening on the “inside” of our hearts is always reflected in the “outside” of our actions.

This book brings home one of the main tenets of our training: that Christian discipleship must aim at our desires and not just our knowledge or behaviors.

Also check out these other favorite books:

Rising Strong

risingstrongRising Strong: The Reckoning, the Rumble, the Revolution, by Brené Brown

(Recommended by Deb Sternke)

Brown is a renowned researcher on shame and vulnerability and over the last 10 years has become the definitive voice in her field.

Not only does her research bolster and support how we train disciples at Gravity Leadership (this book resonates strongly with one of the main tools we use), but she also came back to the Christian faith as a result of her scientific findings.

Also check out these other favorite books:

The Road Back To You

roadbackThe Road Back To You: An Enneagram Journey of Self-Discovery, by Ian Cron and Suzanne Stabile

(Recommended by Deb Sternke)

I’ve been studying the Enneagram for 12 years, and it’s been an incredibly helpful tool for my own spiritual growth and relationships.

Cron and Stabile’s book provides an excellent overview and introduction to the Enneagram from a Christian perspective.

Also check out these other favorite books:

Procrastinate on Purpose

procrastinateProcrastinate on Purpose: 5 Permissions to Multiply Your Time, by Rory Vaden

(Recommended by Ben Hardman)

The issue isn’t time management, it’s self management. Vaden helped me think more clearly about how to process all the possible things I could do with my time.

Very simply, this book helped me be more productive!

Also check these other favorite books:


silenceSilence: A Novel, by Shūsaku Endō

(Recommended by Ben Sternke)

Wow, this book. Now a major motion picture by Martin Scorcese, this novel tracks the journey of two Jesuit missionary priests who go to Japan to search for their mentor, who has reportedly apostatized.

It was written by a Catholic Japanese author who has wrestled to integrate his faith with his culture. This book is intense and brutal, but raises fascinating questions about contextualization, martyrdom, betrayal, and Christendom.

Between the World and Me

betweenBetween the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates

(Recommended by Matt Tebbe)

Written as a letter from father to his son, Coates details his experience as a black man in America.

Artistically stunning and prophetically challenging, Coates names the systemic and structural evil of racial constructs that pervade American history. I look at my own physical white body differently after this book.

Canoeing the Mountains

canoeingCanoeing the Mountains: Christian Leadership in Uncharted Territory, by Tod Bolsinger

(Recommended by Mac McCarthy)

Lewis and Clark went on their expedition expecting to find a river passage to the Northwest. Instead they were confronted by the Rocky Mountains, and needed to adapt to the surprising new situation.

This is the metaphor the book uses for leadership today, which needs to go beyond technical competence to include an adaptive flexibility and a relational intelligence.

Benefit of the Doubt

benefitBenefit of the Doubt: Breaking the Idol of Certainty, by Greg Boyd

(Recommended by Matt Tebbe)

One aspect of our training at Gravity Leadership is to rescue and redeem us from a faith reduced to theological assent or rigid ideological certitude.

Boyd’s book is an exposition of how God uses doubt to draw us closer to him and how certitude can poison authentic, life-giving faith. Fantastic book.

Also check out these other favorite books:

The Jesus Storybook Bible

jesusstoryThe Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name, by Sally Lloyd-Jones and Jago

(Recommended by Justin Wallace)

This children’s Bible continues to have amazing power to ignite the gospel imaginations of kids and adults alike! We have really appreciated this resource for family devotions.

And the illustrations are just as much part of the power of this book as the stories!

This work by Gravity Commons is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

Free Spiritual Formation Exercise

Learn how to reckon with desire in your faith journey (something that's kind of scary for most of us).

Just want to stay in touch?

Join our mailing list


  1. Chris Henderson on January 2, 2017 at 5:05 pm

    Thanks for the book recommendations. I’ve appreciated the recommendations I’ve received before and am ready for more. I just saw that “Silence” is available from the Apple Bookstore for $2.99:

  2. Ben Sternke on January 2, 2017 at 5:06 pm

    Thanks Chris! That’s a great price.

  3. Matt Oaks on January 30, 2017 at 6:12 pm

    A great book on leadership in today’s world is Tailored Dreams, we have been having a small conference and this book we all read prior and it’s really been a good catalyst for our small group. It’s by Daniel Bradley, his story is so inspirational. I recommend it, not sure when it came out in 2016 or 17, but either one doesn’t matter as it’s an amazing read.

  4. Ben Sternke on January 31, 2017 at 9:15 am

    Thanks Matt!

  5. Kathy on December 19, 2017 at 11:23 am

    The Road Back to You has helped me know myself better and to understand those around me better. It is well worth the read.

    A book that is currently shaping me is Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership: Seeking God in the Crucible of Ministry by Ruth Haley Barton. It is a journey of finding your soul that may have gotten lost while serving in ministry. A must read for any ministry leader, in my opinion.

    Thank you for the list of suggested reads. I look forward to adding some of them to my 2018 list.

  6. Ben Sternke on December 19, 2017 at 11:39 am

    I love both of those books, Kathy! Good choices.

Leave a Comment

Join the Gravity Community

A space for people who want to find their way into a more generous, joyful, decolonized Christian faith together.