As former head of the White House’s Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, Joshua DuBois was hailed by Time as “pastor-in-chief,” sending President Obama an e-mail every morning with a snippet of Scripture. CT asked DuBois—who recently compiled The President’s Devotional (HarperOne) and who now heads the Values Partnerships consulting firm—to choose the five books every political leader should read.

Bearing the Cross, by David J. Garrow

This biography of Martin Luther King Jr. is a must-read for anyone seeking to build, join, or marshal the forces of a movement. It shows King at his soaring heights and tragic depths, and reminds us that heroes are also flawed human beings. Garrow beautifully recounts King’s dialogue with God—stretching from quasi-agnosticism to genuine relationship with Christ. Bearing the Cross reads like a novel in its retelling of some of the most important decades in American history, and leaders should be able to apply its lessons over and over.

Tally’s Corner, by Elliot Liebow

We often see the poor as “other”—people who deserve help but are not really like us. Tally’s Corner, Liebow’s classic sociological study of men on a particular corner in Washington, D.C., brings us face to face with the working poor. Liebow provides a window into their world, showing that their values are well developed, albeit lived out in situations very different from our own. A great book for anyone interested in serving the poor.

The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien

More than any other book, O’Brien’s short stories—told from the rivers and deltas of Vietnam—ground readers in the sacrifices that our soldiers endure every day. I couldn’t put this book down. And I don’t think anyone can read this without thinking twice about when and how we commit our soldiers to war, and how those of us back home should support them.

The New Jim Crow, by Michelle Alexander

If we had lived in the antebellum South, or Jim Crow Mississippi, how would we have responded? What if we’re living in a new Jim Crow era today? Alexander explores this possibility in her treatise on the American criminal justice system. I’ve seen both Republican and Democratic politicians carry this book, and it is motivating criminal justice reforms across the country. I highly recommend it for anyone interested in justice.

Knowing God, by J. I. Packer

If I can’t put the Bible on this list, I’ll choose a Packer book instead. Every national and world leader must seek to know the nations and world in which they serve. And in order to know this world and its people, we must first know the God who shaped and molded us all. Packer simply and powerfully re-introduces us to God: his attributes, actions, and, most important, his grace.

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