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Written by Jason Montoya. Posted in Personal Development.
Last Updated Nov 30 2023

These Are The Books That Have Shaped Me Over The Years

FYI: For many of the books below, I include affiliate links, which means I earn a commission if you buy them.

Growing up, I read many books. I remember in elementary school reading like crazy to get my stars and a free Pizza Hut pizza. During the years that follow, my dad encouraged reading and writing by paying my sisters and me five dollars to read and write a book report each week. It was our way of earning extra spending money.

But during my time in Arizona (Which lasted for the first twenty years of my life) I mostly read fiction, with the major exception being the Bible. We didn't have television much of the time and reading fiction was a way to dive into exciting creative stories.

When I moved to Atlanta in 2005, my book reading declined dramatically and I shifted to reading online blogs and shorter form content (which ends up being several books worth of content a year).

My desire to experience fiction manifested through television and movies, which continues to this day.

Rebooting Book Reading

From 2005 to 2019, I read books sporadically here and there, but for the most part, I didn't read them often (or on my own accord). But towards the end of 2019, that changed.

I began blogging in 2014 and as 2019 came to a close, I decided to take a 2020 break from blog post writing and shift towards book reading. During the years prior to this break, I collected a list of books I wanted to read (which started as an Amazon wish list and has moved to GoodReads). As I got closer to 2020, I decided to kick start the reading journey at the end of 2019 and get the process moving.

My interest in reading for 2020 and beyond was to learn, so a vast majority of my books were and continue to be nonfiction.

Recommended Books

The intention of this page is to act as a catalog for sharing my top books with others and to keep track of them as the new years pass by.

  • What are the books that shaped me over the years?
  • What are the books that influence me now that I'm diving into them consistently?

Below, I start by sharing the books that had a monumental influence on me, my journey, and my personal development.

After the first section, I've organized each year in sections, which I'll update as I come across additional top and noteworthy books (So, if you want to stay updated, keep this page bookmarked). You can see the last time I updated it above the page title (in orange).

Perhaps some of these books will be relevant and insightful for you as they were for me!

The Books That Dramatically Shaped Me

The following set of books have impacted my life, how I understand the world, and how I effectively operate in it. Their impact is a combination of the content and the timing of which they intersected my life.

The Bible

Hebrew & Christian Scriptures | 40 Authors, 66 books Combined Into What We Now Call The Bible

Book Summary

The Bible is the story of our creation, how humans broke relationships with our creator and each other (over and over again), how a loving God intervened, and the future we have as we participate in that redemption made possible by the life given and lived by and through Jesus.

The Christian Bible as we now know it is a collection of the biographies of Jesus, letters from many of his earliest followers, and the backstory of this Jewish man(the Tanakh — Hebrew Scriptures — known by Christians as the old testament).

My Commentary

A critical read for... anyone who wants to know their loving heavenly creator, the story of everything, a portrait of humankind, a framework for institution building, and our practical path forward in this life.

I've been soaking in these scriptures since I was born into a genuine Jesus loving family and community, reading various translations, different aspects, and from different circumstantial eyes throughout my life.

While the scriptures have been highly valuable to me (especially in times of great difficulty), it's the loving heavenly father who inspires and teaches through them that matters most. These pages provide a window into our creator and those who experienced a relationship with him over the course of human history.

My Content Related To This Book

The Win Without Pitching Manifesto

by Blair Enns

Book Summary

This unique book provides a mental framework, a leadership roadmap, and communication clarity on how to succeed as a creative entrepreneur (selling ideas and advice). These effective and grounded insights run contrary to how business development is often done within the marketing industry, making this book a powerful collection of wisdom, but also requiring courage of its readers to leverage. 

My Commentary

A critical read for... business leaders who want to understand how to effectively persuade and facilitate important purchasing decisions.

After hearing of this book from a seemingly providential encounter, I was deep into the problem it solved, pitching and proposing my way to failure (as I hoped for success). This book was like finding water after a long journey through the desert where I was desperate to find a better way. After reading it, I made everyone in my company do the same, and we began rebuilding our business structure from the ground up. It transformed me, my company, and the way we marketed, sold, and operated. It'll do the same for you too.

My Content Related To This Book

My Utmost for His Highest

A Daily Christian Devotional

by Oswald Chambers & Edited by James Reiman

Book Summary

In this daily devotional (prompts to reflect), you'll find a concise, sharp, and deep spiritual insight from the spoken words of Oswald Chamber, inspired by the scriptures and transcribed onto paper by his wife. These pages will move you to deeply reflect on your relationship with Jesus.

My Commentary

A critical read for... someone who wants concise, sharp, and guided direction as they explore and pursue their relationship with God. Not for the faint of heart.

Have you ever experienced reading something that was speaking right to you on the day you needed to hear it about a situation you were facing right then? That's what this powerful little devotional was like during the hardest year of my life. 

While my mom's uncle had told me about it and even given me a few copies of the classic version, it wasn't until a significant time of need when I began reading it and experiencing the profound, nourishing, and reassuring truth soaked in every page of this book. God used it to communicate with and change me. I read it regularly.

Stumbling on Wins

Two Economists Expose the Pitfalls on the Road to Victory in Professional Sports

by David J. Berri, Martin B. Schmidt

Book Summary

This insightful book dives into the intelligence and stupidity commonly found across sports decision making. Why are some teams winning consistently, others seemingly randomly, and most not at all?

This book explores why sports leaders are not learning the lessons repeated in front of them and how they can shift how they operate towards a better more successful way. The authors also explore what statistics give sports leaders clarity while helping them understand and steer away from the type of statistical distractions that cause confusion.

My Commentary

A critical read for... someone who wants to understand the type of thinking required to see the REAL reasons for success in sports.

Since my favorite sport to watch is NBA Basketball (Go Phoenix Suns!), this alternative book to Moneyball gave me a pathway into the advanced sports analytics world. It opened up my eyes from a former simpler way of looking at sports statistics to now expecting a deeper level of insight when it comes to understanding and predicting wins.

In sports, there is a great deal of activity, but only certain types of activity, done consistently over time, and across a team, deliver a win at the end of a game.

This type of analytical thinking also overflowed into my business efforts as I sought ways to shed the data distractions and focus on information that matters most.

My Content Related To This Book

The Crucifixion

Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ

by Fleming Rutledge

Book Summary

What does it mean that Jesus died for our sins? How does that work and what happened? In this book, Fleming dives into the historical context, the horror of the type of punishment endured, and the lengths of which God went to rescue humanity that had abandoned Him and brutalized each other. In light of tragedy and darkness in this world, we can know God is good by his work on this cross. The book expands on what was that work, now working out it in us today.

My Commentary

A critical read for... a Christian who wants to go deep into their faith, their own depravity, and the lengths to which God went to demonstrate and apply his grace.

This was one of my books to read as part of writing my third book on the Passion of Christ. The book contextualized the horror of the crucifixion, the depths of Hell Christ went through physically and spiritually while also wrestling with the horror of life on earth.

It opened my eyes and introduced me to all types of wonderful insights, authors, and stories to go much deeper in my faith and understanding of God's love and my brokenness.

While the book was longer than I expected, it's a highly accessible read for lay Christians. At some point in every Christian's journey, they should read this book.

First Read: 2021

After Virtue

A Study in Moral Theory

by Alasdair Macintyre

Book Summary

In this book, Alasdair explores the concept of virtue, the impoverished state our societies now occupy, and how we can recover morality going forward (if it's even possible). It is through the path of tradition that gives us a way to make sense of the world while retaining meaning in our lives.

My Commentary

An important read for... those who care about society, worldview coherence, and the application of beliefs in society.

This book, along with Alasdair's follow-up books, aligned with how I operated and saw the world in an informal sense through the Island Story framework. His philosophical thesis provides a grounding for purpose, vision, and values and the role of tradition in those attributes.

His books have influenced my approach to politics and association with political tribes. American Democrats and Republicans are simply two sides of the liberal worldview, a prior story, that shapes the vision and values of which we strive. For society to flourish requires we adopt an entirely different paradigm, one rooted in virtue and tradition and the source from which they come.

First Read: 2021

Two Other Books That Dramatically Shaped Me, Before They Were Books

I've included the following two books in the list of primary books that shaped me, but in reality, the content of the book-shaped me before they were formalized into a book. With The Map, I was submerged into the content working with the Leaders Lyceum (founded by Keith Eigel). The message from Irresistible came from listening to Andy Stanley for years before he codified the message in the book.

The Map

Your Path to Effectiveness in Leadership, Life, and Legacy

by Keith M. Eigel PhD & Karl W. Kuhnert PhD

Book Summary

This wonderful book introduces its reader to Constructive Development Theory, which was first formalized by Robert Kegan based on decades of research. The theory illuminates the five lateral development stages humans go through on their journey from outside-in (Magical mind, self-sovereign, and socialized) to inside-out (self-authored and self-transforming) living. With this foundation, the book provides an evidence-based approach to understanding the stages, how to move forward through them, and the unique challenges found within and between each of the stages of growth.

My Commentary

A critical read for... people who wants to grow themself and others based on how growth is actually done.

I'm grateful that I stumbled into the Leaders Lyceum as a result of a providential encounter with a friend. That connection led to Keith and his company hiring Noodlehead Marketing to develop some creative videos to communicate the Constructive Development Theory and how their company helps organizations accelerate the development process of their team.

The theory and its backed research were novel to me, but learning about and applying it became a critical junction in my journey after moving from Arizona to Atlanta. Years after this encounter, Keith and Karl published the content into a book called the Map.

My Content Related To This Book


Reclaiming the New that Jesus Unleashed for the World

by Andy Stanley

Book Summary

In this book, Andy Stanley aims to discover why American churches sit empty while Christians in other countries walk miles to attend church on Sunday. Why did people become Christians during pandemic Rome when now many Christians are culturally despised not for what they believe, but for how they treat others?

Once upon a time, when it began, Christianity was an irresistible force that transformed the Roman empire and the world, from the inside out. This book dives back into Christianity's origins to recapture a monumental movement that began over two thousand years ago.

My Commentary

A critical read for... people who want to understand the strong foundation and inspirational story of early Christianity.

This book captured and communicated what I've understood and sought from a young age, but failed to concisely understand and communicate. Christianity's foundation is not the Bible, but the resurrection of Jesus. The Bible was a collection of content compiled because of the life, death, and arisen Jesus. It was this unexpected miracle moment that led his followers who abandoned Jesus to proclaim this good news at the cost of their own lives. 

The focus of Christianity is found in the Law of Christ, to love others as Jesus has loved us. For this way of life, we will be known as Jesus' disciples continuing Jesus' great commission to share the good news across the globe. The new testament explores ways we can do this, and the old testament contextualizes the human problem that requires the solution we all need. 

My Content Related To This Book

Book Recommendations by Year Read

* Books in orange indicate books I'll have my children read before they graduate high school.

2021 Books

My Top 2021 Books

Other Noteworthy 2021 Books