Rusty’s Corner: 5 Books to Add to Your Reading List

When this idea for an article came up, I had no idea how hard it would be to name the 5 most influential books I’ve ever read. There are so many more books that should make this list, yet making a list beyond 5 books just means less people will read through the list.

Although media has changed dramatically over the past few decades, one thing we know will never change is the value of a great book. Literally, for the price of a cheap dinner, you can get a book that may literally change your life.

Each one of these books has shifted the trajectory of my life. I hope one, or a few of them, can do the same for you.

#5 - The Legend of the Monk and the Merchant - Terry Felber
Although it is a fiction book, it teaches twelve of the most timeless and fundamental life principles to successful living. Not only is it an easy and quick read, the story keeps you reeled in as you wait for the next lesson Antonio has in store for his grandson.

The greatest takeaway I had from this book was recognizing the deception of dividing secular business from personal ministry. Seeing my business as a ministry in the marketplace - serving my team, clients, and vendors - completely flipped my view of business upside down.

Ministry isn't just what I do on Sunday, or at the local non-profit. Ministry is how we do everything we invest our time in, and that especially includes business.

#4 - 5 Love Languages - Gary Chapman
This book has really helped my marriage - but ironically it has also helped me be a better father, employer, and friend as well. The book explains that there a 5 fundamental love "languages," or ways that people receive (hear and feel) love. How did this help outside of my marriage? Because the language that you best receive love is typically a similar way that you also receive appreciation and value from work, or grow a bond with a friend.

One of my biggest takeaways from this book was that interestingly, the way we best receive love, is also commonly the way we try to express it, too. For me, words of affirmation are my primary language - which is why I naturally give words of affirmation away as well.

This, however, may not communicate much appreciation or love to someone that receives love through tangible gifts or acts of service. I have to be intentional about recognizing someone else's language and speak to them through that - otherwise it's as ill-communicated as someone speaking another language to me.

It is a great book for relationships, but can be applied universally with a little extra intention.

#3 EntreLeadership / Total Money Makeover - Dave Ramsey
Dave Ramsey has had a profound impact on my life in business and personal finance, so much that I simply could not choose between 2 of his bestsellers. Reading one of his books, EntreLeadership, is like getting an MBA in running a small business. It covers the fundamentals of hiring, sales, marketing, systems, and accounting in an applicable way with handles. It's the polar opposite of a textbook read. One of it’s biggest focuses is on being a leader worth following - not just a boss - which still resonates deeply with me.

His other book, The Total Money Makeover, gives a step-by-step way to change the way you look at and manage money. It changed my view of money from one of personal ownership (picture the seagulls from Finding Nemo: ‘mine!’) to stewardship of what I’ve been entrusted with.

#2 - 7 Habits of Highly Effective People - Stephen Covey
If you've read this newsletter for any amount of time, you've probably come across me referencing the habits in this book. Rarely can you find a book with so much insight and a detailed plan for improving your life as a whole with a proven step-by-step process.

The 7 Habits implemented consistently will create some form of success for any person, because the guided and practical application the book lays out is a recipe for long-term success. I read this book first in 2010, have read it almost annually since then, and now it is a must read for our up-and-coming managers at TMLC.

The great thing about this book is you can implement the habits in any area of your life. The habits will make you better in every role you play - spouse, parent, business leader, teacher, manager, or salesperson.

The biggest takeaway I would share is the weekly planning by role, which I have written about previously. It expands planning to a broader viewpoint, but focuses on your individual roles (father, husband, manager, salesperson, son, youth group leader, pilot...) to help ensure you take a step forward every week in each role you assume.

#1 - The Bible - Various authors
Although it is actually a collection of books, the Bible has had a profound impact on my life personally and professionally. Although many people focus singularly on its spiritual teachings (of which I subscribe to as a Jesus-follower), they may miss out on the practical wisdom and life lessons it holds outside of those. 

Specifically, the New Testament contains rich guidelines for relationships, both in how to forgive and how we should treat each other. Ideals, such as directly confronting people over disagreements, working without expecting recognition, and recognizing our limited ability to change others, are all emphasized in Jesus’ teaching. If you follow the guidance in it, I believe that, while your worldly success is not guaranteed, your chance of success will be higher. The entire book of Proverbs alone is sentence after sentence of wisdom from King Solomon, frequently given the title of ‘Wisest man on Earth.”

Interestingly, the fundamental teachings from the 5 books prior on this list were based on principles from the Bible. I realize that not everyone shares my views of these books, and I would love to hear your book recommendations or thoughts about mine. Please email them to me at

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