I’m cheating again.  I called this ‘personal growth’ because I don’t have a better category.  I suppose I could use the catchall ‘self help’ but I deplore that label because it has come to mean pop psychology dribble from the Oprah circuit.  I also considered ‘professional development’ as that is a common label for these kinds of books but not all of them are strictly professional.  I think these books would help anyone anywhere and not just in the realm of our work lives.

So I went with personal growth.  If you have a better idea for a category, let me know.  But now, here goes my top three personal growth books.

Quiet, Susan Cain

549105954Love is not quite the right word for the way I feel about this book.  Need is a better word.  Cain’s work on how introverts are different and how they can cope in a world that glamorizes the ‘extrovert ideal’ is revolutionary, not just to introverts but to those who love them.  As a non-shy introvert I found it very difficult to carry the mantle of extrovert that people demand from their pastor.  It is not evil that they expect it, it is simply the way things are.  Cain’s book is a major help for those introverts who have to live as though they were extroverts.

Getting Things Done, David Allen

I am not a naturally organized human being.  I tend to leave things lying around, make piles of important things and forget about them, and I’m forever scribbling notes and ideas down on something.  Allen’s book puts forward the idea that if you are organized, then you will be more productive.  The time it takes to put your stuff together in a cohesive, well managed, and systematized process will pay off dividends in the long run.

He is right.  He argues for some simple steps that make sense but that most people don’t do because they think that every situation is the exception.

I recommend this book highly for people who work in an office environment, have large amounts of data to deal with (both paper and digital) and students.  I read it first as an audio book and it is only a three hour listen.  Listen to it while working out or driving.  It will help you pull it together.

Who Moved My Cheese, Spencer Johnson

This book is a metaphor shoved inside of an allegory.  What I love about this book is the simple question, What would you do if you weren’t afraid?  Most everyone read this book in the 90’s as it was pushed pretty heavy in professional circles as a marketing book.  I don’t think of it as a marketing book but as a book about finding joy in life.  At its core Who Moved My Cheese is a guide to identifying the rut you’re in and then figuring out how to bravely crawl out of it.

So my top three personal growth books are a personality book, an administrative book, and a leadership guide.  Only Quiet is a long read, the other two are brief, the kind of things you can knock out in a day or two and feel very accomplished about.  It took me a long time to process through Quiet, but I think that is just the nature of that subject material.

What books would you put on your personal growth favorites list?


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  1. I have really enjoyed your “book” blogs. I think the book that really touched my life, motivated me and make me see the shallowness of my own life was Safely Home by Randy Alcorn. I also have read Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Williard three times. I thought I was all alone in my interpretation of the Bible and how it applies to my life until I read this book. I also learn more and more each time I read it. I read it with my Bible by my side. Thanks Jamie, I am looking up some of the books you have mentioned.

    • i did not read safely home, but kim did. you can never go wrong reading dallas willard. i am glad that you are enjoying this series. i’ve got a few more of them lined up before we move on. thanks for reading and contributing to the booklist.

  2. Well, if you asked me at a different point in my life, I might say different things, but for now . . .
    The Well-Fed Writer, by Peter Bowerman: I read this one back in 2003 or 2004. I’d been thinking about starting a freelance writing business for years, but even though I read a lot of books on the subject (including those by the granddaddy of all freelance copywriters, Bob Bly), I really had no concrete ideas about how to get started. Bowerman’s book was essentially a blueprint for me. I still recommend it to anyone who wants to go into freelance copywriting.

    Tactics, by Greg Koukl: The book has only been out for a year or two, but it really represents the position of Koukl’s ministry, Stand to Reason, in my life. Until I started following Greg and STR, I was regularly caught flat-footed in conversation with non-Christians. I had no idea how to respond or rebut, and I wasn’t a very good ambassador for Christ. STR changed all of that. Tactics is an excellent blueprint for any believer who wants to learn how to maneuver in conversations without resorting to churchese or silence.

    The Lost Virtue of Happiness, by J. P. Moreland and Klauss Issler: I read this one earlier this year. I have joy issues. Always have. I found this book deeply convicting, but also very helpful. I am not good at relationships, and I’ve always just convinced myself that I really was doing just fine and probably didn’t need to cultivate any more long term relationships (introvert and all that). Moreland and Issler give a strong biblical and psychological case for the value of relationship inside the church. I’m still working on my friendship/happiness/joy issues, but this book sort of gave me a blueprint for making some positive changes.

    This was a tough question for me. I don’t tend to read a lot of these kinds of books, so I had to really think about it!


    • thanks amy for sharing, even though it was a tough one. i’ve not read any of those. i will likely choose the well fed writer one, because i am still attempting to master the craft of writing and, although i’ve read several writing books, i still feel there are big holes in my approach to the process. i might have to get the happiness book because quiet meant so much to me, i sense that happiness might be some reinforcement of that concept from the faith perspective. thanks for the book recommendations.

      • The Well-Fed Writer is very much more focused on freelance copywriting than any other kind of writing, and it’s definitely more of a business blueprint than a craft book. But I do recommend it, if for no other reason than Bowerman is a fairly entertaining and engaging writer. You can also check out his website at

      • his website does look great. i know nothing about copywriting, and i mean nothing. so for that reason alone, i might pick up the book just so i will have a frame of reference on the subject. thanks.

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