Be careful, for writing books is endless, and much study wears you out. Ecc. 12: 11-12
A great book is very helpful. But how many helpful books can one possibly find or read? Every year scads of books get published. Some are good. Some are incredibly helpful. But we can get lost in a sea of books.
Someone recently encouraged me to put together a list of Christian non-fiction books that every Christian should read. What an impossible task. Think about all the languages that would need translations. So the person refined the challenge. Could I form a list that could be read by every English reading adult Christian in the western world? Still too broad, but I began to think about it.
My first thought was, I don’t want to minimize Bible reading.
Reading books must not replace our Bible reading! The Bible is so much more than any book. But only reading the Bible without listening to other Christian perspectives about the Bible, leads to misinterpreting the Bible. We can’t help it; we are trapped by our biases. We need the help of others in doing theology. Authors provide some of that help.
Then, I began to form some criteria to help me put together a book list. Here is what I came up with:
- A book I have personally read. I can’t recommend it otherwise. I still have a significant pool to pick from. Over my ministry years I have read well over 1500 books.
- The book would need to be easy to read. So, sadly, no classics with antiquated language. It should have few large and hard-to-define words. Likely aimed at a high school reading level.
- The theological concepts need to be accessible to all. Although there are deep theological treasure troves which some people enjoy, those kinds of books are beyond this list.
- It must contain applicable topics for all Christians. It would need to have a universal appeal.
- It should cover basics or subjects close to or leading to them.
- It needs to be a short list. Not all are avid readers and avoiding the sea of books is crucial.
- Written from a gracious Neo-fundamentalism need not apply.
I looked back over the lists of books that I have read. Yes, I kept track of every Christian book I have read since I started ministry. I know I’m weird! Forgive me.
Here’s Neil’s Reading List for Any Christian (with qualifiers understood) that I came up with based on the above listed criteria:
- With: Reimagining the Way You Relate to God – Skye Jethani
This could be reread several times over. It’s that important! Skye explores 4 ways of relating to God that are essentially attempts to control Him. He then shifts to focus on what Life With God really is and how we can cultivate it.
- Seven Things I Wish Christians Knew About the Bible – Michael Bird
This little volume has more tools for good solid Biblical interpretation than several Bible College texts books I have seen. Michael’s simple yet profound work helps readers get a handle on what the Bible is and how to handle it well.
We could probably end the list right there if we wanted. They are the top tier. But that’s too short a list. So, I added a few more, in no particular order:
- Inexpressible: Hesed and the Mystery of God’s Lovingkindness – Michael Card
This is a beautifully written book on the Hebrew word Hesed and what it reveals to us about the character of God.
- Who is This Man?: The Unpredictable Impact of the Inescapable Jesus – John Ortberg
A wonderful look at who Jesus is and the impact he has had on our world.
- Accidental Pharisees: Avoiding Pride, Exclusivity, and the Other Dangers of Overzealous Faith – Larry Osborne
This volume is a prophetic corrective. It too is one of those books that could be reread several times as a healthy reminder of the need to not become overzealous about other’s lives.
- Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense – N.T. Wright
I almost didn’t include this book because it is a slightly more difficult read than the rest of the list. But a book like this, or C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity, probably needs to be on this list and this reads slightly easier than Lewis.
- The Listening Life: Embracing Attentiveness in a World of Distraction – Adam McHugh
This volume is much needed in our current cultural climate. The art of listening needs to be recultivated, as a discipleship and hospitality practice. Adam has all kinds of good advice on how that can happen.
That’s it! That’s the whole list. There were many great books that I wish I could have included. But of the writing of books there is no end. So based on all my criteria, it ultimately boiled down to these 7 books.
What is your list? I suspect that you would have different books on your list, based on your reading history. I would love to hear your list.
EFCC National Mission Director & Interim Prayer Catalyst