September 20, 2017

Books Worth Reading in 2007

book_stacks.jpgUPDATE: What if the TR watchbloggers fisked this post for orthodoxy? It might look like this.

I am frequently challenged in comments around here to come up with some kind of a book list. I’ve published a list of authors before, but never a list of books that I would recommend. The reasons became evident as I worked on this post: I’m clearly out of control. Still, it was fun to make the effort.

So here’s what you’re going to read in this post. All these books are better than Warren or Jabez or Joyce Meyer or Beth Moore. Most of these won’t be in your local Lifeway or Family Bookstore, but if you drive to Arkansas Frank Turk will probably have more than a few. These are the books I would put on a booktable or book list if I were pastoring somewhere with moderately educated people. They are the books I would be recommending from the pulpit and giving away to those I was leading and discipling. (This isn’t a seminary booklist or a scholars list.)

The most common characteristic of these choices is the potential of these books to have a significant impact on the Christian understanding, growth and life of the average, non-theologian reader. If read in community with other Christians, these are books that would have a significant impact on all of us. In almost every case, they are proven to be useful books from faithful and gifted writers.

These are in no order whatsoever, other than the order they wound up in my Moleskine. I will annotate a few. After reading the list, you probably need to look at this flowchart on “Do I Need That New Book?”

(If you haven’t discovered the fact that used books can be had for very little money, please make that discovery. For example, this month I bought a brand new, published in 2005, $35 Shakespeare biography for $3.50. This kind of deal is very common if you will search for the book you want in the used sections. Stay away from new booksellers except if absolutely necessary….which it rarely should be.)

The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis. This is the CSL book that has the most insight into the experience of the ordinary Christian. It’s rich, insightful and very helpful. If this were the book about the devil evangelicals were reading, we’d have a lot less nonsense to wade through. Of course, Lewis has many good books written for non-theologians.

Ordering Your Private World, Gordon Macdonald. A book written before Macdonald messed up, and then revised after he made it back into ministry and marriage. A book very blessed and wise.

The Jesus I Never Knew, Phillip Yancey

The Call; The Long Journey Home, Os Guinness. Simply an incredibly helpful couple of books. The Call deserved all the readers that PDL wound up having. An unsurpassed treatment of the subject of vocation and living for Christ in the world.

Living The Cross-Centered Life, C.J. Mahaney

Desiring God; What Jesus Demands From the World; When I Don’t Desire God; Let the Nations Be Glad; Don’t Waste Your Life, John Piper. I have significant differences with Piper, and more recently as he’s thrown in with the TRs on a number of issues, but when he is expounding Christian hedonism and the resulting view of the Christian experience, he can be the finest pastoral theologian of our generation. One warning: Piper does have a tendency to be blind to the encouragement of fanaticism, and there is still some work to be done on the relationship of faith and works in his version of “enjoying God,” but these are surmountable obstacles, worth the effort.

Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, Donald Whitney

Inside Out, Larry Crabb. I’m not fresh in my reading of Larry Crabb, but his other books are excellent as well. This is a wonderful description of the Christian experience.

Mark for Everyone, N.T. Wright. All of these books are worthwhile, but the Gospels are especially readable and helpful. I have a lot of affection for William Barclay’s commentaries as a guide to the New Testament for laypersons, but there are some occasional theological quirks with Barclay, i.e. his rejection of the virgin birth, that have to be negotiated.

The Fingerprints of God, Robert Capon. Capon really is a bit above the audience I have in mind on this list, but there’s no calculating what his books have done for me. He is obtuse at times, almost a universalist, and very unusual in the way he sees theology, but Capon gets the Gospel right. After that, it’s simply an adventure that can be entertaining, scary and rich. Read the man.

The Ragamuffin Gospel, Brennan Manning. Flawed, but another one who is in the grip of the Gospel. He’s a strange writer who has written too many books, but this one is a treasure.

Mercy Ministries, Tim Keller

The Heart of Evangelism, Jerram Barrs. The best book ever written on a very difficult topic.

Nine Marks of the Church; Promises Made; Promises Kept, Mark Dever. One of the very best pastoral teachers and Biblical preachers you will ever hear. His two introductions to the Bible are a treasure trove for the average Christian reader. Nine Marks is the book that deserved to have PDC’s audience.

The Jesus Creed, Scot Mcknight

Bold Love, Dan Allender. Another magnificent writer on the Christian life, specializing in issues of extreme shame, pain and hurt.

The Bible Speaks Today Series. Volumes by Michael Wilcock and John Stott especially. These small commentaries are very good. Wilcock’s book on Revelation is the best layman’s read in print.

Romans, John Stott

The Present Future, Reggie Macneal. If you are happy with the way your church is going, don’t read this book. This is the most direct call to a missional transformation of the church I’ve read. I would want all my church leaders to digest this short book.

The Universe Next Door; Praying the Psalms, James Sire

Catholic Christianity; Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Heaven But Were Afraid To Ask; Christianity for Modern Pagans,, Peter Kreeft. Kreeft’s book on Roman Catholic teaching in the catechism is something every Protestant who actually cares about what the other half of the church believes should read. He’s a wonderful writer, and this will save you from all kinds of ignorance. The book on Heaven is one of several by Kreeft, and it’s outstanding. The third book is an edition of Pascal’s Pensees with lots of explanatory notes. I haven’t ever read a Kreeft book that wasn’t a joy to read.

Transforming Grace; The Gospel for Real Life, Jerry Bridges. There are two kinds of reformed writers, and Jerry Bridges is the other kind. There are few Bible teachers as gifted in communicating simple, essential concepts than Bridges. These are two out of a selection of excellent books.

New Testament History: A Narrative Account, Ben Witherington III. Basic New Testament history written by one of the finest scholars of our time. Easily appreciated by non-theologians.

The Spirit of the Disciplines; The Divine Conspiracy, Dallas Willard.

The Ryken Bible Handbook. The best short intro to the Bible in print. Superb and well beyond all competitors.

The God I Love, Joni Erikson Tada. An autobiography every Christian should read.

Freedom of the Christian; Commentary on Galatians, Martin Luther. No one gets the Gospel like Luther.

Here I Stand, Roland Bainton. There are better scholarly biographies and certainly shorter biographies. I don’t know if there is a more enjoyable, complete portrait of Luther available.

Surprised By Jesus, Tim Stafford. N.T. Wright’s insights into Jesus presented by a very gifted, but non-scholarly, writer. Highly recommended.

Disciplines for the Inner Life, Bob Benson.

1928 Book of Common Prayer.

The Celtic Book of Prayer. This is the book I use for a lot of soli deo worship material. Not all of it is equally good, but it’s a fine collection of prayers, readings and services.

The Book of Family Prayer, Robert Webber. As far as evangelical prayer books go, this is the best family prayer book I’ve ever seen. Lots of teaching in this book, and written so children and adults can use it together.

Comments

  1. I’ve not read any of the “[Your Evangelist Here] For Everyone” series by NT Wright, but our pastor is a big fan of them, and he reckons that “John For Everyone” is the pick of the crop.

    *1928* BCP? What’s wrong with 1662? 🙂

  2. I’ve been using the two volumes of John during an adult Bible study of that Gospel I’ve led since 2005. They are excellent.

    I would say, however, that if I had to choose between the “little commentaries” of Wright or the Daily Bible Study series by Barclay, I’d have to choose Barclay. Even with his occasional theological quirk, he was an unsurpassed writer and expounder of the New Testament.

  3. Justin Buzzard says:

    Thanks for this

  4. Great recommendations!

    My first destination when looking for ANY book, new or used, is http://www.addall.com which is a network of MANY book sellers (Amazon, Ebay, CBD, B&N, etc).

    Dan

  5. That is a pretty good list. What you said about used books is key. I pretty frequently get 8-10 books for $30 or so (including shipping!). I think Gordon MacDonald’s Restoring Joy is one of the best deals on the web. It includes the book you mentioned above along with 2 other of his best sellers and can be bought online used for a couple dollars.