During my (very scant) downtime this summer, I did quite a bit of reading. It seems like I’m either reading 4 books a week or none at all. My summer favorite was Stephen King’s memoir, called On Writing: 10th Anniversary Edition: A Memoir of the Craft. I haven’t read even one of his fiction books (I’m a huge scared-y cat!) but his memoir is most excellent. It got me thinking that despite the fact that I start things I can’t finish (like a classical book club), I am a book worm in the highest order. I thought I’d make my top 10 list of books every christian should read and then in the comments, you can share ones you think should have made the list!
1. Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
Surely you knew this would be number 1! This is perhaps my favorite book of all time, although that’s a little hard to narrow down. The book is partially responsible for bringing Stevie and I back to the faith after some long, hard years in medical training. Lewis gently leads the reader from his posture of unbelief to his unapologetic embrace of Christianity. In Lewis’ own words, “A young athiest can never be too careful what he reads.”
2. Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton
This book is for Chesterton what Mere Christianity is for Lewis. I’ve read it five times and (finally understand a lot of it!) enjoy so much every time I read it. Philip Weingart said about Orthodoxy,
“Since Chesterton was both a genius and the son of a saner era than our own, the ideas which coursed through his head may astonish modern readers. He seems to turn the world on its head; the book is a continuous feast of the delightfully unexpected. To Chesterton, faith is reason, orthodoxy is liberty, the order of our universe is as unexpected as the wildest fairy tale, and heeding tradition is as natural as allowing all citizens to vote. Modern readers at first will think him just a little bit crazy, but as they warm up to his approach, they will begin to feel that perhaps his point of view is healthier than theirs, and in the best of cases, they will begin to right themselves.”
3. Confessions (Oxford World’s Classics) by Augustine
This is Augustine’s autobiography of his journey to God. He was converted as an adult and went on to heavily influence medieval Christianity.
“You called and shouted and burst my deafness. You flashed, shone, and scattered my blindness. You breathed odors, and I drew in breath and panted for You. I tasted, and I hunger and thirst. You touched me, and I burned for Your peace.”
4. The Divine Comedy by Dante
I’m reading this book now, but it makes every MUST READ list and I can see why, so I added it to mine.
5. Paradise Lost by John Milton
A retelling of the fall in poetic form.
6. The Brothers Karamazov (Dover Thrift Editions) by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
“Above all, don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love.”
7. Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Faith in Community by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
This little book is so chocked full of good stuff, you’ll have to read and reread.
“Christian community is like the Christian’s sanctification. It is a gift of God which we cannot claim. Only God knows the real state of our fellowship, of our sanctification. What may appear weak and trifling to us may be great and glorious to God. Just as the Christian should not be constantly feeling his spiritual pulse, so, too, the Christian community has not been given to us by God for us to be constantly taking its temperature. The more thankfully we daily receive what is given to us, the more surely and steadily will fellowship increase and grow from day to day as God pleases.”
8. Spirituality of the Cross Revised Edition by Gene Edward Veith
If you start with one book on this list, this should be it. It explores the basic tenets of Christianity from the perspective of the historic faith. Veith is Lutheran (like me) but this book is invaluable for any believer. It’s refreshingly Christ-centered in every aspect.
9. The Pilgrim’s Progress (Oxford World’s Classics) by John Bunyan
Most lists include this book and I have to agree. I read it aloud with my girls when they were in 3rd grade (I think?) and it took almost a year. Go slow. It’s one to steep in and cherish.
10. The Poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins: The Major Works (Oxford World’s Classics)
And for all this, nature is never spent;
Here are my first five alternates:
- The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis
- The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis
- The Odyssey by Homer
- Evangelical is Not Enough by Thomas Howard
- The Cost of Discipleship by Bonhoeffer
So, now, you tell me what you would add to the list. It’s hard to make a list of just ten!
And have a glorious week!
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Zoe Hansen says
This is a good list. I’d add (the now late) Dallas Willard’s The Divine Conspiracy which I rank with the one’s listed.
My Amazon cart is loaded! Thanks, Edie, for this list. I’m challenging myself to read these.
The Cross in the Closet by Timothy Kurek
Great post, Edie! I’d add Martin Luther’s Small Catechism, a concise yet powerful distillation of the Christian faith as found in the Scriptures. Simple enough for teaching children, but worth memorizing and taking to the grave.
Can’t wait to add all of these to my reading list!
How to write a sentence and how to read one by Stanly Fish
Westminster Larger Catechism a Commentary by J G Vos
Abolition of Man by CS Lewis
The Institutes of John Calvin – very readable
kimberly oyler says
wowsa! you are a smart lady. i’ve read bits and pieces of a few of these books and have attempted mere christianity twice. all of them are waaaaaaaaay over my head. maybe i should give it another go?
Bonnie WW says
Kimberly, I would encourage you to re-read them! I remember reading Mere Christianity almost 35 years ago. I thought it was great then. I plan to re-read it now because my understanding of life and faith and just about everything else has been so greatly enhanced by living those 35 years. Plus, I always get more from reading a book a second time than I did from the first; so much is missed in the initial reading. Not every book is worth the time of a re-read, but this certainly is.
Sheleah Fletcher says
What an awesome list. Can’t wait to read the ones I have not, which is actually most of them. One I would add to the list is the Bible. It seems like a given, but it is amazing how few christians read their Bible daily. It was, I am sure, the source of the great depth of knowledge and relationship for those who wrote these amazing books.
I agree Sheleah. 🙂 Couldn’t live without spending time in The Word each day. 🙂
Agreed! Seems like a daunting task but nothing feeds the Holy Spirit within us quite like The Bible. In fact, a lot of who we are, our nature, and why we are that way is explained right there. Including the nature of our Maker=)
Linda Stouffer says
So right, when I miss a day without the Word, I feel I’ve missed out, and I feel that lacking ingredient!
elizabeth highsmith says
if it wasn’t for your boots and drawl and apron I swear we’d all be scared to death of you. one question, why is the purpose driven life not on the list? i’m mean as a snake. i’m loving edie, home alone
Because it’s good but forgettable.
Marie at the Lazy W says
All excellent! Most of the titles you’ve offered are either on my “done” list or my very very long “to be read” list, but some are new. so thanks!
I would add… The Shack by William Young. It is not classical literature, neither is it exactly fun to read, in fact pretty painful, but it asks lots of great questions about faith and doctrine, etc. Also just the entire Chronicles of Narnia series, especially for youngsters. So good, in my opinion. And also Same Kind of Different as Me, b Ron Hall.
LOL ahhhh!! so many books, so few quiet afternoons.
King’s memoir has been on my mind for a while, may have to take that leap.
Thank you Edie!
Richella @ Imparting Grace says
A wonderful list. I’d add just a few late twentieth century books to a must-read pile:
Celebration of Discipline by Richard J. Foster (PRAYER: Finding the Heart’s True Home and Streams of Living Water by Foster are wonderful as well)
The Spirit of the Disciplines and The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard
Blessings to you, Bookworm!
A great list Edie. Paradise Lost was one of my late Father’s favorites. I am currently reading Mere Christianity. One I would add is “The Shack” by Young. It’s an easy read and so uplifting.
Melanie@ Peculiar Treasures says
Thank you for the wonderful list!
It’s really just a poem, but I have a little hardcover copy of “The Hound of Heaven” and something new strikes me every time I read it; “…for, though I knew His love Who followed/Yet was I sore adread/Lest, having Him, I must have naught beside…” Old words, modern problem!
And if I were to make a list of must-read books for WOMEN, I’d start with “Lies Women Believe (and the Truth that Sets Them Free)” by Nancy Leigh DeMoss. What an impacting book! We teach through it to the ladies in our in-house recovery program; chock full of eye-opening stuff (seems like I”m always going, “Owwww” ’cause it’s hitting so close to home) for every woman from new believers to more “seasoned” ones.
Looking forward to getting some inspiring fall reading done!
Kathryn C says
Love this post – now adding heaps of books to my reading list for this year. I have read CS Lewis due to your previous recommendations and Mere Christianity is a game changer – I plan to re-read it every year.
Please (please, please) reconsider continuing your book club – it was so awesome…I miss it 🙁
Good News for Anxious Christians by Phillip Cary is a liberating read that will challenge the modern day evangelical community…in a good way.
Tricia @ The Domestic Fringe says
I’m sad to say I’ve only read three books on that list. The rest are going on my MUST read list!
Pamela K. says
“The Ragamuffin Gospel” by Brennan Manning.
Abide in Christ
both by Andrew Murray, both had a profound impact on my walk with Christ.
I’m a long time reader and love you and your sweet fam and your blog! Can I put in a request? I miss being able to read your content through my reader and when I do click the link to finish reading your posts (which I do on my phone 99% of the time) there are so many ads zipping about I can barely read the content. Any chance you might consider making things a bit more reader friendly? I don’t mean to be complaining…I know ads generate revenue, which is a blessing! I just miss getting to read without all the extra steps and frustration. 🙂 Thanks for even considering. I appreciate you!
I would add “The Reason For God” By Tim Keller!!
I really enjoyed Bonhoffer. Not a classic, but a truly amazing story of a truly thoughtful man living during a terrible and scary time.
I currently am reading The Hole in Our Gospel by Richard Stearns and it is amazing!!!
“Best Question Ever” by Andy Stanley. Seriously, a must read.
Linda Stouffer says
I would add any book by Charles Stanley…..I have learned so much more from him than any other author! I guess the list should be more like the best 100 books! LOL
Southern Gal says
I have read three on your list. My mama would say you need to have “The Spiritual Man” by Watchman Nee on that list.
Andrea B. says
Everything by Dr. Neil Anderson!
I saw a reference to this post on IG. I was acheing to read it, so I clicked over on my phone. Such a GREAT list! I have read some, and am intrigued to read many others! On a side note… I really love to read your blog, but haven’t in a long time because every time I click over to your site, my computer freezes up. I wanted to mention just in case there may be other readers that are having the same problem.
You are a such an encouragement to me. I wish we could sit on my front porch and visit over a nice cup of coffee.
Wow girl- this is a heavy list! Have you read Prodigal God or Counterfeit gods by Tim Keller? Both of those changed my life.
I second the Prodigal God recommendation! It has affected my walk with God for good and made me more aware of my need for grace, both to receive it and give it to others.
I recommend The Infinite Atonement by Tad R. Callister. It blew my mind and really captures and explains the effects and the Infinite power of The Atonement.
The Hiding Place by Coorie Ten Boom
An incredible story of faith during WW2. Corrie and her sister Betsy left an indelible mark on my heart!
Kristin Lavransdatter – gorgeous conversion story set in medieval Norway.
Although a devotion I would recommend My Utmost for His Highest…and really anything by Oswald Chambers. Love your List. Thank You.
Basic Christianity by John Stott, any book by Sinclair B. Ferguson
The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri Nouwen – or, anything by Nouwen.
Really? Really, really, really…..you’d ask for my/our input on books??!? I don’t know if you remember seeing a picture of my office library, but to use the cliche that that was “the tip of the iceberg” is a vast understatement. So many books. So little time. My book cup runneth over……and even with myriad built-in and freestanding shelves I still LOOK LIKE A HOARDER 😉
All of that to say–that might be one of the most difficult questions EVER for me to answer….which books I’d add to that top 10 list….
I’ll give ya a holler soon with an answer.
I do love your list and concur with most of it, though 😉
As usual Edie, you’ve given us a list of nearly impeccable caliber- thank you! Us bibliophiles are drooling all over our screens. Well, maybe that’s just me.
I would consider including Big Truths for Young Hearts: Teaching and Learning the Greatness of God by Bruce Ware. Essentially it’s a catechism, but written in easy to understand prose/essay format, and it’s a beautifully done synthesis of systematic theology and fundamental doctrines (‘cuz you don’t have one without the other, right?) that’s not “too much”. I confidently read it with my children knowing they’ll understand, offer it to friends b/c it’s not a hard read (definitely written for a younger audience), and get so involved every time I come to it that my heart is stirred again with the Truth that changes everything.
(oh yes, must include this…I have been stunned over and over by the simple, powerful, accurate delight of The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones. Yup-definitely still have youngsters in our home. What a privilege to love and disciple them with good books! Sure, it molds their hearts and minds, but I suspect I am changed even more.)
Amy Corley says
what a feast of a list! such a funny coincidence, I read Stephen King’s On Writing this summer too, and like you, have not read his fiction. I found the memoir part of the book fascinating and as helpful in terms of thinking about writing as the more nuts and bolts parts of the book. For me, it reinforced the idea that we write out of the lives we live. I also loved his voice, it felt like sitting down with him personally. A very enjoyable read. From your list, I think Orthodoxy is next up for me!
Rhonda N. says
I love a good book list. For 9+ years, I have been working my way through the Well-Educated Mind list, and I really need to read each one 2 more times, with Cliff’s Notes next to me! (Just to toot my own horn, I read Saul Bellow’s Seize the Day in under 15 hours yesterday! You have no idea what a slow reader I am or you would be seriously impressed!)
So, nothing to add to this list, but I thank you for adding to my need-to-reads!
I would have to add Grace Upon Grace by John Kleinig. Love that book.
Book lists always inspire me to read more. Thanks! I would add Knowing God by J.I. Packer, Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul, and The Attributes of God by A.W. Towzer…and any book by an author with two initials before his last name. ;P
Incidentally, if you haven’t seen a performance of The Screwtape Letters (http://www.screwtapeonstage.com), you should. It’s so amazing that they’re coming out with The Great Divorce on stage too!
Edie Wadsworth says
Me too, Lorine! THanks for the additions!!
Dear Lorine…you are singing to my Reformed Soul….I can’t believe you incorporated R. C. Sproul…..fantastic…..my husband is going to a Reformed seminary right now, so this concept (advocated by Sproul, etc.) is something that is so incredibly beautiful, and concurrently challenging, to me. Will you be my friend?? 😉 You ROCK!!! And The Great Divorce ON STAGE??? Be still my beating heart!!! DOUBLE AWESOME!!!
Love Edie’s list, and Lorine’s additions are EXACTLY the ones I would have added. I’ve read Knowing God 4 times and getting ready for another round next year. My favorite chapter: The Pleasure of God in Bruising the Son. Unfathomable, astounding truth.
Two books on the alternate list I put on my high school church history class’s reading list.
The Cost of Discipleship by Bonhoeffer and The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis.
For me I would also add The Prodigal Son by Henri Nouwen, Two Covenants and Humility by Andrew Murray.
Love this list. I’ve read most of these titles but have been intimidated by Brothers K, Paridise Lost and The Divine Comedy. Maybe I’ll give one of them a try this year, thanks to your nudge. BTW, I followed someone’s link to your blog and really like it. I’ll be stopping by again.
The Story of a Soul by St Therese of Lisieux – her simple theology will permeate your every day.
I would add the Word of God!
The Prudent Homemaker says
I would definitely say The Bronze Bow.
Also, C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters and The Great Divorce are both quite wonderful and two of my favorites.
jay strickland says
WE ARE MAKING LIST AT MY CHURCH RIGHT NOW TO GUIDE PEOPLE INTO GOOD READING. PLEASE ADD CLASSIC CHRISTIANITY BY BOB GEORGE.
Amazing list!!! I have read some C.S. Lewis, but the others are going on the list for sure… I would add, one of my personal favorites, “The Ragamuffin Gospel” by Manning. It was recommended to me by a dear friend, and I found it to be comforting and inspiring. Thanks again!
Laure Covert says
I would add in The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. I am awed by the depth of his insight!
Jamie Rohrbaugh says
I would add “The Knowledge of the Holy” by A.W. Tozer. I read it on the beach in the Bahamas and tears were running down my face. You know it’s good if it can make you cry in the Bahamas. 🙂
Definitely the Screwtape Letters. I also like Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. It’s a daily devotional and has an app you can get to go with, or instead of, the hard copy. My whole family reads it.
I loved the “Hiding Place” by Corrie ten Boom. And am currently reading her book “In My Fathers House”. Also, for any mamas out there needing encouragement, here are a few of my faves: Am I Messing Up My Kids, When A Mom Inspires Her Daughter, Raising A Daughter After Gods Own Heart (also love A Women After Gods Own Heart), Blessing Your Children, and Every Child Needs A Praying Mom- this is a must read, I promise!! Our children need us to pray for them faithfully each and everyday and to pray scripture over them. The biggest gift and legacy my parents will leave to me and my children is the gift of prayer and teaching me that prayer is always the answer regardless of the circumstance. Prayer changes everything. One of my favorite quotes is this: “Until you are convinced prayer is the best use of your time, you will never find time for prayer.” Fr. Hillary Ottensmeyer. Edie, I always love your words and recommendations. Thank you!!
Edie Wadsworth says
Lots of great recommendations, Vicki! Thank you so much for such sweet encouragement.
A good, literate list you’ve selected. I’d add one that shaped and expanded my view of God – “The Attributes of God” by Arthur W. Pink. A small volume, but one for study. I’ll get to those on your list that I haven’t already read…soon. Thank you!
About to finish “In Pursuit of Holiness” by Jerry Bridges. Excellent, excellent, excellent. There is also a study guide intended as a personal/intimate bible study for self or 2-3 people. Will be starting “The Practice of Godliness” in January and if it is as good will be reading the “The Discipline of Grace” also by Jerry Bridges. Older books but well worth the read/study.
“A Shepherd Talks About Psalm 23” by Keller
I love your list. My list would include Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller. This book changed my life. I also agree with other comments & would include The Purpose Driven Life on my list. I relate to your style of reading it’s feast or famine for me as well.. Keep up the great work you have a fabulous blog.
Beth Teynor says
Great choice of books. I’d like to suggest No man Is An Island, by Thomas Merton. Hope you enjoy.
What’s So Amazing About Grace?, by Philip Yancey. All of Philip Yancey’s books are excellent!
Kerrie Ward says
Thanks for the list – I was challenged by it and am looking forward to reading the ones I haven’t yet read. I would definitely have to add ‘Practising the Presence of God’ by Brother Lawrence. A tiny book packed with grace, love and truth. ‘The Singer’ by Calvin Miller. This is portions of the New Testament in poetry form. This is the first in a trilogy. Powerful!
Thanks – I look forward to seeing more on your page.
W Wyandt says
“One Heartbeat Away” and “One Thing You Can’t Do in Heaven” both by Mark Cahill. LIFE CHANGING!
I read “The Hiding Place” by Corrie Ten Boom when I was 13, and a brand new Christian. It was so inspiring and humbling. I still consider the things from the book when I am faced with a spiritual challenges; I learned so much from it. A must read for me!
James Sundquist says
Having and recommending such a list of the ten best Christian books in history, is a great idea. I submit comparing that list to the bestselling books in history (Christian and non-Christian):
One list is subjective, the other objective. And the very best Christian books are not necessarily the bestselling Christian books…in fact, sometime they are the worst!
Edie Wadsworth says
OH, so very true!
Thanks for the link!
I am so excited to see this list. Newer to your site, so I am very eager to dig in. Thank you for this list. I am enjoying reading books to add list. Great list ladies! Yes, Screwtape Letters is amazing. Another author I thoroughly enjoy is Ravi Zacharias. Jesus Among other Gods: The Absolute Claims of the Christian Message. If you ever stumbled over how to answer tough questions from atheists, Muslims, Hindus, or Buddhists, then this is an amazing book. Ravi Zacharias is a great thinker of our time and a great writer….brilliant. All of his books are incredible with a fascinating look at the current world views.
a good list but also the bible and probaly the chronicles of narnia and even though it really hasnothing to do with christianity the lord of the rings
Bestselling Books says
Spot on with this write-up, I actually think this amazing site needs a great deal more attention. I’ll probably be back again to read through more, thanks for the information!
I saw that #7 was a book by Bonhoeffer. I recently read his Biography. It was such an amazing read. It took a bit to get going but once but once it got going it was hard to put down. It so strongly paints a picture of what it was like for a Christian to live in Hitler’s Germany. I would recommend it to anyone!!
A Tale of Two Sons, by John MacArthur shows love and grace from a unique perspective. You’ll never read the parable of the Prodigal Son in the same way again.
Also, A Tale of Three Kings, by Gene Edwards examines Saul, David, and Absalom. Pain, loss, healing, and hope are all here; a beautiful book on the value of brokenness and the presence of God.
Emma Brattain says
Found this on Pinterest and you have no idea how excited I was to see that Orthodoxy and Brothers Karamazov made the list! I am beginning my junior year of college and during my Senior year of high school I was required to read those two books. Life changers, they are!
Not to mention I wrote my senior thesis that year on Gerard Manley Hopkins! This list made me smile so much. Thank you for your depth 🙂
Love the list, but I’d say Love Does by Bob Goff is a definite necessity for not only Christians but people in general to get back to living according to an innate human need in a world full of turmoil
It’s not surprising they are not on it, as Orthodoxy is from the East, but on my top 10 list I would include the great Russian classic, “The Spiritual Life; and how to be attuned to it” by Theophan the Recluse. Also “Gifts of the Desert” by Kyriacos Markides, “The Cloud of Unknowing”, Julian of Norwichs “Revelations of Divine Love”; “Ascending the Heights of the Ladder” by Fr John Mack, and St Teresa’s “The Interior Castle”.
I might have to read that Tozer book. Any book that can give you the gift of tears must be good. I cried when I read “Ascending the Heights”.
Edie, I just recently found you online and love this list. You are spot on with 8 of the books I am familiar with. I agree these are books to reread…they will speak differently to you at different times in your life. Love the nod to the poetry of Hopkins. I would add ” Abandonment to Divine Providence” and a relatively new book I believe will be a keeper.. ” Searching for and Maintaining Peace: A Small Treatise on Peace of Heart” …a gem.
The Normal Christian Life by Watchman Nee is a MUST READ!
Need to add Screwtape Letters, by CS Lewis. One I’m just starting to read now is a very old volume – Overcoming Sin and Temptation by John Owen. Not an easy-breasy read, but I suspect it’s going to be very intriguing! In His Steps, by Charles Sheldon. Knowledge of the Holy by A. W. Tozer are some others.
I’m embarking on a journey of increasing my reading of good, intellectually challenging books, and have added these suggestions to my list!
Stephanie Volkmer says
I would have to add Believing God (Beth Moore), radical (David Platt) and crazy love (Francis Chan) to the list. But all in all, great reads.
I would like to add a lovely short book “As a Tree Grows” by W. Phillip Keller, and “The Spiritual Counsels of Father John of Kronstadt” tranlated by W. Jardine Grisbrooke.
I have been VERY blessed and challenged by this book/workbook “The Overcoming Life”
I read it along side my Bible ( I try not to substitute it because my Bible is definitely number 1)
and it has been so challenging, encouraging, and just a blessing in general.
It’s rich, so I only read a little at a time but it’s a great read.
A.C. Boyd says
Here’s a new recommendation for 2017. “The Father’s Recipe for Personal Finance: A Believer’s Guide” is a biblical-based personal finance book that can assist individuals from late teens to older adults. Unlike the long drawn out novels with too much technical jargon, it’s a novelette using everyday finance terms and relating them to the Word of God.
The story is told of a godly father giving advice to his two adolescent children while they are preparing a family meal. The father answers several questions the teenagers have regarding money management, workplace retirement plans, debt, and a few other things that are relevant to the subject. He explains it in a very basic way using the Heavenly Father’s blueprint. His prayer is that these principles can be passed down from generation to generation in order for his family to always be well positioned economically.
Owen Camp says
did Charles Wesley make a long list of books every Christian should read? If so, do you have the list?
Don Davies says
I really agree! These books are awesome and I already have read most of them and bought them for my collection! These certainly are the best Christian books around that I’ve seen so far. I’m really a book enthusiast and I have collections of books from great authors like Keion Henderson, https://www.keionhenderson.com/books/ and other famous writers. I hope this list will get to more people out there so these books will get more recognition !