Here’s my skinny on the books I read in 2009 in no particular order. First, books on leadership:

I’ve read this book before — twice. One of the best books on effective management I’ve ever read. This isn’t just one guy giving you an opinion. Gallup interviewed 80,000 managers for this study, so it’s backed up with serious research, and let me tell you, many of the conclusions overturn popular wisdom in a big way. Maybe that’s why I love it so much.

Bill Hybels has been in ministry for a long, long time — and his determination to improve as a leader has resulted in a massive accumulation of practical wisdom over the decades. This is a collection of little home-grown proverbs, things he’s learned in the trenches. There are probably sixty or seventy of ’em, and I found at least five that make the whole book worth it in and of themselves.

Okay, this book was so good I read it once, read it again underlining all the way, read it through a third time reading my underlines, and then wrote a paper summarizing them. And I’m still chewing on what it all means, though I sense God’s “ahem!” all over this work, even though Godin isn’t a believer. Apparently this year he spoke at a Christian-based Catalyst conference, and I can see why. If you read one book on leadership this year or any year, read Tribes.

Now for fiction books:

I picked up Koontz because he’s known among writers as a master of his craft. The guy’s been pumping out great fiction for decades. I loved his characterization and description, but honestly his plot was just plain weird, like he couldn’t make up his mind what he was writing about. I was surprised. I will say this, though: There is one passage from “Corner” that took my breath away. It was the best piece of writing I’ve ever laid my eyes on. Warning, though: This is gritty, dark stuff.

And then the next Koontz I read… it was better, but not fantastic. An article I read about him helped me see a pattern in his writing: He always has an altruistic, uber-angelic protagonist pitted against a villain who epitomizes evil and is beyond redemption. There are often faith references too, his Catholic background making an appearance in most of his work. He also likes to kill off secondary characters in cold blood with no warning.

I met Brandilyn at the last Mt. Hermon writer’s conference, and she’s really cool. She even indulged a few of my amateurish writerly questions. But seriously, this book rocked. Her style is minimalist — give the reader only enough to flesh out the story — and yet extremist — and then blow their minds out. I’ve never read a book that gave me a compulsive need to turn every single page like this one. Very well done, even though the ending was predictable by the 75% mark.

I’ll share more books tomorrow.