I love reading and choosing a favorite book is impossible. But these are some of the most influential books that I have read thus far in my life. They are absolutely worth your time.
The Brothers Karamazov, By Fyodor Dostoevsky
Dostoevsky is the master of illuminating the human psyche within his pages of prose. While I am a fan of most of his books (most notably Crime and Punishment and the lesser known, The Idiot), The Brothers Karamazov is most worth its length. I don’t think another writer has lived who has painted the depravity and desperation of the human soul more pointedly than Dostoevsky.
Les Miserables, By Victor Hugo
Hugo, much like Dostoevsky, reveals the grotesque nature of the human heart, but he also weaves hope throughout a story that is full of darkness. He illustrates the beauty and transformative nature of unconditional love and mercy. Even if I have a hard time accepting the wimpy love story between Marius and Cossette, the forgiving love of the Priest and the self-sacrificing love of Jean ValJean cannot be ignored; nor the destructive nature of vengeance and self-righteousness as seen in Javert.
Paradise Lost, By John Milton
Worth reading and re-reading, his portrait of Satan is one often criticized as being too desirable, which probably gives us a greater glimpse of the depravity of the human heart.
Mere Christianity, By C.S. Lewis
Every Christian should read Mere Christianity. And everyone considering Christianity should take a look at it too. Lewis summarizes crucial Christian beliefs with his usual wit, humility and candor, distilling his topics down to what he considers to be the essentials of Christianity.
The Cost of Discipleship, By Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Jesus tells us to “count the cost” of following him, Bonhoeffer explores what this means practically with a heartfelt call to cast off “cheap grace” and embrace the fullness of Jesus and the costly but worthy price of following him.
Don’t Waste your Life, By John Piper
Piper calls Christians to pursue Christ and his work in the world with the fullness of our lives, to leave behind the notion of having our best lives now and instead work ceaselessly to tell the world who Jesus is and what he’s done for us.
Telling the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy, and Fairy Tale, By Frederick Buechner
If you have been a Christian for a while, this fictional retelling of familiar stories of the Gospel narrative is a wonderful way to refresh hearts that have perhaps forgotten the magnanimity of Christ.
The Pilgrim’s Regress, By C.S. Lewis
The Pilgrim’s Progress is a wonderful read, but for those who enjoy philosophy Regress is fantastic. Witty and poignant, and full of clever literary allusions, Regress illustrates the Christian life in the same allegorical fashion as Progress but takes it to a philosophical height meeting aesthetics and nihilists. Considering Lewis wrote this in a mere six weeks is further testament to his insight and talent.
Suffering and the Sovereignty of God, Compiled and Edited by Justin Taylor and John Piper
Suffering is as central to humanity as breathing. All of us have experienced suffering, whether personally or through someone we love. The way we experience and help people through suffering is indicative of our theology, and if we know what God says about suffering then we will be in a position to glorify him through our own experiences as well as practically and helpfully come alongside those who suffer. This book, compiled of essays by those who have experienced deep suffering, is helpful in developing a right view of God through the lense of suffering and pain. Whether your are experiencing suffering, or are looking for resources to learn how to meet people in their pain and shoulder it with them, this book is full of philosophical and biblical wisdom that can help us weep with those who are weeping (or learn to embrace our need to weep in our own pain) with a perspective that is centered on the hope that is in Christ who suffers with us and who suffered the worst for us.
The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert By Rosaria Butterfield
Butterfield beautifully tells of her conversion (or more life-changing clash with Christ) to Christianity. A former post-modernist and member of the LGBQT community, Butterfield gives keen insight in how to build bridges to those with whom we wish to share the freedom of Christ, and illuminates the power of the Holy Spirit in softening even the most hostile of hearts. Her personal experience, depth of wisdom, and theological expertise are woven beautifully in words that are both convicting and refreshing.
Glittering Vices: A New Look at the Seven Deadly Sins and Their Remedies By Rebecca Konyndyk DeYoung
A careful look at the infamous, but often misunderstood “Seven Deadly Sins”. DeYoung gives us a biblical, historical, and convicting account of the common vices, and masterfully argues their root in pride and lack of faith. But she bookends with the hope we have in Christ, reminding us that we can have freedom from these vices that often enslave us. I’ve never taken such a hard look at my own life and motives as I have in reading this book, and found myself confessing and repenting of a number of sins that I often excuse.
Ethics, By Dietrich Bonhoeffer
The best book regarding the ethos behind Christian Ethics. Ethics is a compilation of Bonhoeffer’s lectures, incomplete in areas he didn’t have the opportunity to finish, but his mastery of the philosophy of ethics and the difference of Christian ethics to other ethical models is worth the relative difficulty of the writing.
What’s Wrong with the World, By G.K. Chesterton
Snarky, clever, and thought provoking. Chesterton challenges the cultural shift of Progressivism with expertise and logical precision. Dismantling faulty philosophy and poor assumptions he gets to the root of the ethos of Progressivism and reveals its inconsistencies.
Slavery: A Poem, By Hannah More
Powerful. Plain and simple. More wrote powerful poetry and pamphlets that changed the social perspective on a number of social ills, most notably slavery. Her writing, coupled with her friend William Wilberforce’s political action helped to abolish slavery in England.
Bloodlines By John Piper
A biblical, compassionate call to racial reconciliation within the church. Piper argues (from the stance of a once racist, now repentant follower of Christ seeking reconciliation within the church) that the Gospel not only enables but requires that Christians seek a diverse union of believers. He pleads for a concentrated effort on the part of believers to seek to unify every ethnicity under the blood of Christ, to pursue racial harmony, though he admits it is a costly endeavor, complex and often road-blocked by disappointment and discouragement, he pointedly illuminates that Christ both enables and demands that we embark on these challenges if we follow him.
Let Me Be a Woman, By Elisabeth Elliot
Letters written from Elliot to her daughter as she approached marriage. Some of the best writing regarding biblical womanhood much from her own experience as a twice widowed woman who spent most of her life single.
Jesus and the Feminists By Margaret Elizabeth Kostenberger
An in-depth biblical survey of the claims made by Radical, Reforming and Evangelical Feminists regarding Jesus and his treatment of women. Kostenberger may be one of the most intelligent voices I have read in a long time and her commitment to accurate hermeneutics makes this book invaluable in the Christian debate regarding Feminism, Egalitarianism and Complimentarianism.
What Does the Bible Really Teach About Homosexuality By Kevin DeYoung
A thoughtful, simple and biblical guide to the current debate regarding homosexuality. DeYoung is pastoral, relevant and faithful to scripture as he addresses common questions in this “culture war” with truth, clarity, and compassion.
A Wedding Sermon From Prison, By Deitrich Bonhoeffer (Found in Letters and Papers from Prison)
The most influential writing for my own marriage. Bonhoeffer writes to his sister and soon-to-be-brother-in-law, a beautiful sermon that illustrates the purpose of marriage and the beauty inherent in the roles therein.
This Momentary Marriage, By John Piper
I haven’t read manymarriage books, but we did read this one. It’s short and illustrates the purpose of marriage according to scripture in a way that can practically be applied throughout life as a one flesh.
Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family By Paul David Tripp
The most encouraging, convicting, and powerful book about parenting I’ve ever read. Tripp hones in on how every facet of parenting is meant to be saturated with the gospel, and he reminds us that parenting is yet another way that God refines us as parents. This is a book I’m committing to re-read every year.
Give Them Grace, By Elyse M. Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson
Another beautifully written book on parenting. This book reminds us that our children are sinners, and we are sinners, no matter how “good” or “bad” our outward works, we need Christ to change our hearts and the hearts of our children. Fitzpatrick and Thompson, a mother-daughter team, challenge us to go past surface behavior modification in order to address the heart of our children, and to do so with the grace that we receive in abundance from Christ.
Shepherding a Child’s Heart, By Tedd Tripp
This book takes on the more practical how-tos of getting to our children’s hearts, but it doesn’t turn discipline into yet another list of to-dos. Tripp keeps the focus on heart change, not making our kids respond to what we want.
Fool Moon Rising, By T. Lively Fluharty
A funny, rhyming, story that excellently explains how our greatest joy is in reflecting Christ back, not in boasting in ourselves. This is also one of my son’s favorites. The illustrations are pretty fantastic as well.
The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup and a Spool of Thread By Kate DiCamillo
We often read chapter books during meals and this one is everyone’s favorite. Cleverly narrated to engage and inspire young readers, DiCamillo expertly weaves redemptive principles into a whimsical fairytale. Readers are challenged by the ideas of standing for truth, even when standing alone, and the destructive nature of bitterness. The reader adventures through the story of an unlikely hero who’s quest begins with love but gains momentum through forgiveness.