Tyler's 2020 Book Rec's | Northlands Church

Tyler’s 2020 Book Rec’s

September 24, 2020 | Tyler Hannel

Tyler’s 2020 Book Rec’s

by: Tyler Hannel

Earlier this month, our staff shared their #ronarecs, book recommendations from quarantine. How cool to see what everyone is reading and the ways they are being inspired! I wanted to share a few more of my #ronarecs with you today.

How much better to get wisdom than gold, to get insight rather than silver! Proverbs 16:16

My personal reading goal for this year was to average a book a week. This goal has not only led me to reading a lot of really great books, but has also highlighted several books that moving forward I will commit to reading on an annual basis. I love hearing people’s annual reading lists, but honestly if you read a lot of books annually you know that not all books are created equal. So instead of sharing all the books I have read this year, I wanted to share the list of books that I have put at the top of my pile and have found so helpful that I plan to re-read them in 2021.

Everyone has preferences in their reading. Some love fiction, others non. Some predominantly focus on personal development, while others on leadership/organizational growth. Some prefer more devotional or biblical studies. To give context to my list (and to not disappoint you by you reading the whole list and thinking none of Tyler’s book recommendations sound great) I wanted to list the categories up front so yo can either scroll to the category of your preference or stop reading the blog post saying “not for me” 😊.


-Morning or evening devotional

-Leadership Development

-Personal Development

-Spiritual Formation

-For Pastors + Leaders in the Church

-Devotional Recommendations:

I do want to clarify that “devotional” I feel is a very broad term and some books are specifically designed with a daily theme or scripture layout. When I say devotional I mean that as I read this list of books what they stirred in me was a greater level of devotion for the Lord, for prayer, for the scriptures, and caused me to repent or think differently about certain areas of life. I make that distinction for a few reasons. First, because it could very well be that while these books “stirred” something in me they may not have the same effect on you or impact you in the same way and perhaps they would belong in a different category in your reading list. Second, I don’t want you to be disappointed when you pick one of the books up and it doesn’t break down the reading plan on a daily basis as most devotional reading plans do. Third, I’m not sure the authors were writing these to be necessarily devotional. With that said, I still couldn’t recommend them enough, and believe they will be very helpful.
Cards on the table, I picked up one of John’s books this year- loved it so much that I ordered all his books that I could find and they all made this recommendation list- I’m not even apologizing for it 😉.

1 God Has a Name by John Mark Comer

The format of “God Has a Name” breaks down the passage (Exodus. 34:4-7) where God personally reveals Himself to Moses, and each chapter of the book breaks down the highlighted attributes that God shares with Moses.
Who should read this book? If you are in a place where you are trying to better understand the Lord and what He desires for your life, I would suggest picking up the book and learning first about His nature and what He is like. Knowing God’s nature leads to understanding His desires which leads to understanding His heart for you and for me. Comer’s book helped me in this way.

2) My name is Hope by John Mark Comer
I told you, no apology for my love for JMC.
In light of 2020 and all the incredible challenges and pains we have experienced in our nation and the world. A book entitled “My Name is Hope” felt like the book I needed to read. While this book was written years ago outside of any “COVID context”, the need for biblical hope has always been here regardless of the time we live in or your own personal experience- we all need hope-ALWAYS

Who should read this book? If you are struggling with anxiety, depression, anger due to your set of circumstances- give this a read. It will not sweep your pains and frustrations under the rug, and just say “you know, you should really get over this”. Instead it will acknowledge those pains, help bring clarity to where those feelings are coming from, and share how the bible says we should handle them when they arise in our life. I found this book as a helpful reminder that I plan to remind myself again in 2021.

Spiritual Formation Recommendations:

My quick distinction between Devotional and Spiritual Formation categories. For me, devotional reads are far more about the Lord revealing who He is and who He has made me to BE- reading feels far more like I am “receiving” something- not a call to work but to receive the gift of rest.

Spiritual Formation, I would say, is a commissioning to DO. To grow in the things of God and to find clarity in the work He has called me to accomplish and to change my thinking (repent) when necessary.

1) Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth by Richard J. Foster
Depending if you are an “early bird” or “night owl” this is a great book to start or end your day with. Plan to take your time through it and really consider or meditate on each chapter for the best result. Each chapter is an invitation to take up a spiritual practice (prayer, meditation, fasting, service, study, solitude etc) and explains why these practices are important to bring into our rhythm and routine of life.

Who should read this book?
Have you said during the Covid season something to the effect of “I just need a reset” or “I feel like this is an incredibly dry season” or “this year has seemed pointless”. This is the book for you. It is a call to do, but I have found that reading and practicing these disciplines has helped to “re-center” me in several areas and helped me to grow in my relationship with the Lord. If your reading goal is to read a few books with a slow “quality” of focus vs. a quantity of books this is one to pick up.

2) Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family by Paul Tripp
Parents, read.this.book! I enjoyed reading this book every morning not just for the sake of growing in parenting “skills” and better understanding my role as a father, but it also acted as a great devotional for me and helped grow my understanding of a son in relationship with the Father. I have read almost 40 books this year and this one is in my top 5. Again, highly recommend you take the time to read it.

Who should read this book?
Certainly this book has an emphasis on parenting so the obvious answer is parents (duh). But what I would like to add (that I think separates this book from other parenting content) is that the focus isn’t only on the parents who are still in the child-rearing years. It’s far less speaking to the “how to” of parenting, and far more to the biblical role, call, and design God has for all parents in every season of life- which then leads to “how” or ”what” we should do as parents.

3) Garden City by John Mark Comer
This book was easy, encouraging, and helpful to read. John’s focus for this book is to lay out God’s intentions for believers living today and His original design for humanity since the beginning of time. Highlighting God’s original plan for man in the Garden of Eden, despite the fall of man in Genesis 3, and through the power of the cross of Christ we are still made to be fruitful and colabor with the Holy Spirit to see the dreams of God realized in our world.

Who should read this book?
If you have asked questions like “Why am I here?” or “What should I do with my life?” This is a great book to get you started on answering those questions.

4) Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering by Timothy Keller
Live long enough (and if you are a believer) you will at some point ask the questions, why does God allow pain and suffering? Or, where is God in my suffering? No one assumes their life will be painless or problem free, but when we experience tragedy and heartache we are always taken back by it. We need time to process, especially as Christians, we want to know where is God in the midst of the pain? What I appreciated about this book is that it didn’t give the usual blanket statement that most conversations around suffering provides “Well, God is sovereign so we can pray for help but if He doesn’t answer your prayer His will is for you to experience pain so you can learn a valuable lesson.” #selah. Instead, Keller writes not just for the person who is currently in pain but he also focuses on us having an understanding and “plan” for what we are to do when we enter a season of hardship.

Who should read this book?
You may assume that this book’s focus is to help those currently experiencing a “storm of life” or healing from the after effects of a tragic loss from their recent past. But Keller initially writes to the general reader about how to prepare and think rightly about this subject, so that you are well prepared for future storms to come. All that to say, no matter if you are in a good season or a hard season I would recommend you taking the time to read this book. It will strengthen and prepare you to partner with God in the hardships of life.

5) The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry by John Mark Comer
I know, I know- another John Mark Comer book, but this is my favorite out of all his books and it was so helpful to me personally (to the point that one of the quotes may have to be tattooed on my arm- not exaggerating). It’s not a new, deep revelation that we are living in a culture that celebrates the fast and busy life. The call to do more and do it now is the continual message we are constantly bombarded by. The problem with the message? Instead of the promised “successful life” we are longing for we instead experience the emotionally, physically, mentally exhausted life. But don’t worry the people following you on Instagram still think you have it all together… JMC cuts through all that noise and brings us back to the timeless truth that happiness and contentment is not found by doing more but embracing the lifestyle of Sabbath rest.

Who should read this book?
If this Covid season has left you feeling emotionally drained- this is the next book you should read hands down.

Personal Development Recommendations:
I love a good new year’s resolution (one of my resolutions was to read more in 2020) but before we set goals we want to accomplish and declare the dreams we have for the upcoming year, we should first clarify who we are trying to become. My goal to read more books in 2020 came from a place that I wanted to be identified as an “avid reader”and reap the benefits that come from reading. The list in this category are books that will help you clarify who you want to be and help empower you to do what you value most.

1) Atomic Habits by James Clear

Loved this book! One of my first reads of the year from the recommendation of a podcast/interview with James Clear. The overall concept of the book is embracing the philosophy that habits are not tools to help you achieve goals, they are the system that builds the lifestyle you want to live in. Quote from the book- “Habits are not a finish line to be crossed,they are the lifestyle to be lived.” This concept led to a lot of my decision making for the books I chose to read for the year- I would recommend adding this to the front of your reading list for personal growth.

Who should read this book?

If you are going to bed exhausted or depleted and still feel like you did not accomplish any of the important things you were hoping to do that day. Pick up this book. It will help create healthy rhythms and make you feel like you have gained more margin in your day.

2) The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy

This book focuses on the power of choices and how even the smallest things we commit to can have substantial returns and lasting effects in our lives. After you read Atomic Habits, pick this book up. It will not only help you make healthier decisions but will help you clarify the process of how you make decisions which is equally important.

Who should read this book?

I think this book is for anyone who has a desire to be a better version of themselves (don’t we all?). The layout for this book is very simple and easy to comprehend, so I would not just recommend it for you but also for older kids in your household so they can start to put these principles into practice early on.

Leadership Development Recommendations:

The world needs and deserves better leaders. Leadership is the gateway gift for all other gifts to thrive. Any team operating in such a way that every member feels empowered and is flourishing in their role can attribute that environment to a healthy leader/leadership culture. So if you are currently leading or have been recognized with the gift of leadership, you owe it to your team, yourself, and the Lord (who gave you leadership) to commit to a lifestyle of growing and honing this gift. Here are recommendations that I think will help you.

1) And David Perceived He was King by Dale L. Mast

Much like personal development should begin with who you want to become before what goals you should pursue, Dale writes that stepping into leadership starts with embracing your identity and God’s call as a leader, before doing the work as a leader. “Defeating Goliath required faith (do), but taking the throne required identity (be).” (*italics not in original quote).

Who should read this book?
Perhaps you are a leader that has been hit hard with the significant weight that this season has brought in addition to the usual strain that leading brings. This book is a good reminder of why we do what we do, and will restore your confidence in the One who promised and called you to the leadership role.

*Bonus* Recommendations for Pastors/Church Leaders:

1) Beyond Leadership by Greg Haswell

Maybe I’m a little biased towards the author but I love this book! As leaders in the local church, we have a responsibility and mandate to equip the saints for works of ministry. This book is a map for us to do just that. If pastors are called to equip the church, then the obvious question is ‘what are we called to equip the saints with and how do we equip them?’ This book provides clear biblical outlines for the role of church leaders while also bringing clarity of the kind of culture we should have in our churches- one that is filled with every member operating in their God given gifts and filled with His grace and power.

Who should read this book?
Certainly if you are a leader at Northlands you need to read this book! I would go as far as saying if you are a member or attending read this book because it will bring a clarity of the type of culture and community we are building here at Northlands. However, there is so much in this book that is just straight from the scriptures that this is worthy of any church leaders time.

2) Simple Church by Thom S. Rainer + Eric Geiger

Any leader in any company or industry knows that the bigger an organization grows, the more complex and fuzzy the vision and mission becomes. True to its name, this book helps us keep leading in the church simple, prioritizing what is most important and empowering your team to release the things that are not. Here is why this book is so important and why you should read it. Clarity translates into speed and accuracy. When the mission and vision is simple, everyone knows what to do and where they fit in the body. This means speed and accomplishing what God has called us to. More importantly it clarifies what He has called us to- getting to the finish line only to realize you are at the wrong destination is both frustrating and a waste of time. This book has been a practical tool I have utilized regularly to help communicate clearly the vision at Northlands and to stay focused on the mission.

Who should read this book?

Anyone in the organization tasked with leading a team/department or communicating mission and vision needs to read this book.


Lord, thank you for all of the ways you reveal truth and wisdom to me. Lead me to the books and resources in the next few weeks and months that you want to speak to me through. Thank you for loving me and leading me all the days of my life.

© 2022 Northlands Church and Tyler Hannel. Permission to share so long as credit is given.