November 24, 2017

My Five Favorite Non-Fiction Titles

You can put down your Sunday Times Book Review section now. I have your reading list for the next several months right here. Like my list of my five favorite fiction titles, I am going to start off with some honorable mentions. And there is one book in the top five you are going to want to argue with me as to whether it belongs in this list or the fiction list.

And as you did with the list of novels, please add to my list as you see fit. I am not saying these are the only non-fiction titles worth reading, or the only ones you should have in your library. These are my five favorites, and they are my favorites for various reasons. Your reasons will, of course, be different, so read accordingly.

So many books to read, so little time to read them.

Honorable Mention:

Education of a Wandering Man, Louis L’Amour.  Yes, you have read his westerns. Yes, you know that he can describe scenery as well or better than most anyone, but you also know that he gets really sloppy with his characters. (There is one book where he changes a person’s name in the middle of a paragraph.) Read this book and you will see just what a brilliant man L’Amour was. He had an innate curiosity about life, and set out to satisfy that curiosity through exploration and reading. Check out the lists of books he read each year in the back of this book. Pretty impressive.

Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage, Alfred Lansing.  You will read this and swear it is fiction, but it isn’t. Simply the greatest adventure story ever. Everyone I have given this to has had the same reaction: Is this really a true story? Short answer: Yes. Longer answer: You’ll have to read it for yourself. Cool fact: The three men who went over the glacier on South Georgia island (it had never been done before, simply because it was impossible) swore to the end of their days that there was a fourth man who was with them. Who was that fourth man?

The Quality of Courage: Heroes in and out of Baseball, Mickey Mantle and Robert Creamer.  Creamer was one of the best sportswriters in the 60s, and a marvelous ghostwriter. He helped Mickey Mantle, the Hall of Fame Yankee, craft a book that shines a light on those who display courage in various ways. This could have been a vanity book, quickly pulled together to take advantage of the Mick’s star quality. But this book really stands out in that it profiles people displaying courage in ways that you and I can relate to. And it starts off with a quote from Shakespeare: “Cowards die many times before their deaths; the valiant never taste of death but once.”

A Man on the Moon: The Voyages of the Apollo Astronauts, Andrew Chaikin.  Simply the best book about man’s greatest achievement.

Ok, now let the arguing commence. Starting with the least and moving up to the greatest.

5.  Desert Solitaire, Edward Abbey.  “I’d rather kill a man than a snake.” That pretty well sums up Abbey’s contempt toward modern man and what he has done to the desert. Abbey spent several summers working as a ranger at Arches National Park near Moab, Utah. This is his remembrance of those days, as well as his adventures in trying to find and rope a wild horse who does not want to be found or roped; his adventures on the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon; and the horrifying story of a con man in the earlier part of the 20th century. Abbey is not a believer, but he will make you thank the Lord for the beautiful deserts he has made.

4.  Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool’s Guide to Surviving with Grace, Gordon Mackenzie.  Mackenzie was in the creative department for Hallmark Cards for thirty years to the day. In that time he came to realize that 1) corporations are like hairballs, and they will suck the life out of artists, and 2) artists cannot just drift along in space–they need to learn to orbit the hairball. This is a book that should be read often by artists who want to remain free of the hairball, and leaders who will want to keep their organization (or church) from becoming a hairball. Just look at the pages printed on yellow legal paper in the middle of the book. That is how a corporation (or church) should look and operate. Of course most don’t because it just makes too much sense. The final story in the book is worth the price of admission alone. This book could easily be my number three, or even number two, title on this list.

3.  The Great Divorce, C.S. Lewis. Yes, I know. Fiction, right? But it has such great teaching on every page, I read this as non-fiction. Don’t like this? Make up your own list. But just read this book, ok? It gives such great reasons for why we reject Christ and hold on to self-righteousness. The problem is, I see bits of myself in just about every ghost character. If you read this as fiction and try to find the plot and deal with character development, you will be greatly disappointed. If you will read this as some of the greatest teaching of apologetics ever written, you will come away amazed—and convicted.

2.  Between Noon and Three: Romance, Law, and the Outrage of Grace, Robert Capon.  No book save the Bible has changed my life more than this one. Having said that, heed this warning: Don’t read this book. Please, do not read it. You will just then spend your time writing about how evil I am to recommend a book that portrays an affair between a college professor and one of his adults students as a way to show God’s scandalous grace. It is scandalous—both this book and God’s grace. And this book, if you do ignore my warning and read it, will strip every vestige of religion from you. (If it doesn’t, you either didn’t read it well, or you need some serious help.) It is a book of grace that will not allow you to think that your goodness means anything to God. This is not an easy read—you will find you need to stop, pray, argue with the author, curse me out for recommending it in the  first place. (Yes, we are still planning a writers’ roundtable discussion of this book, but unless some writers get on the ball, we won’t need a roundtable—just a couple of TV trays…)

1.  Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis. Capon’s book changed my life, but Lewis laid the foundation for my life. Other than Scripture, Mere Christianity has shaped the way I believe more than anything I have ever read. Still , it amazes me how many people will say, “I started to read it, but I just didn’t understand it.” Really? Did you get a version written in English? You did? Then what is the problem? These were originally written as radio speeches Lewis delivered in England—to the common man, not intellectuals. Have we really gotten so stupid we can’t understand philosophy presented in a straightforward manner? This book is a great way to be sure you are building your spirituality on a sure foundation. Read it often—you will never plumb the depths of Lewis’s teaching.

Well, I look forward to your thoughts, and to hearing what books you would include on your list. As before, if you are interested in buying any of these books, please click on their links above and buy them from Amazon. It will help to support the iMonk community.

Whatever you like to read, just read.

“There never yet have been, nor are there now, too many good books.”
— Martin Luther

Comments

  1. I have Mere Christianity on my next to read list. I am currently reading the Grand Miracle which are a series of essays written by Lewis. I am loving it! I assume I will really love Mere Christianity as well.

    Something to note; I have been looking on the number of comments from each post and it seems that few of us care to comment about good books, ancient-future worship, or those liturgical ganstas, but man oh man talk about “the reformed” and all kinds of people come out of the wood work. It is really interesting! Does someone post some where on the internet “hey come quick there talking about Calvinism on the internetmonk!” You should start talking about all different theologies and see if we all come back to post and attack/bemoan/mock/defend/deny or whatever we do when it comes to this. I am new to this blogging thing but wow what an interesting group of people!

  2. Cedric Klein says:

    I’m going to name five non-fiction books that changed my life- not ones that are necessarily my favorites… and I totally realize that the “non-fiction” label can be HIGHLY contested for some of them.

    Erich Von Daniken’s (TOLD YA!) Chariots of the Gods- Got me REALLY interested in the Bible & ancient religions. I read it when I was about 10.

    Brad Steiger’s (I’m on a roll!) Revelation: The Divine Fire- Made me aware of the possibility of Divine communication today (including the Gifts of the Holy Spirit). Read it around age 11-12. Took me till age 16 to go Charismatic.

    Hal Lindsey’s (Whoa boy!) The Late Great Planet Earth- I was 13 years old, had been raised to be a believing Christian, but God used this book to really activate my faith in Christ. Alas, also became a fervent Rapturist. Oh well!

    John Stormer’s None Dare Call It Treason- A Bircher expose’ of the CFR & the New World Order. I was about 16 & became dedicated to the U.S. Constitution, Free Enterprise & the Judeo-Christian cultural heritage. But in a Birchy way…. again, oh well!

    Fritz Ridenour’s Who Says… God Created?- Finally, a fully legit book! Easy-to-read Christian Apologetics primer! Should be updated & reprinted. AND it introduced me to C.S. Lewis!

    • Buford Hollis says:

      We must be the same age! I read all but the last (my father had Daniken and Lindsey on his bookshelf), and these got me reading other woo-woo stuff like Zecharia Sitchen (the guy who named, sorta, the 12th planet Nibiru) and UFO stuff (which is how I found Steiger). A high school classmate’s brother passed down a stray copy of the Hare Krishna magazine “Back to Godhead” (which I quoted as an authority on other planets, namely Krishnaloka) and recommended Richard Bach’s “Illusions” and some mysterious thing called the Nag Hammadi.

      And thanks to Hal Lindsey, I developed an early interest in the European Common Market, along with a confidence in its future expansion. One professor was nonplussed (this was 1988) by my prediction that the EEC and CMEA (aka COMECON) would soon merge…ha, sure showed him! If memory serves, Lindsey also complained about the Trilateral Commission, another Bircher theme. (This was before Davos and the Bilderbergers.)

      • Cedric Klein says:

        I never got into Sitchin. By the time he came out, the ancient astronaut theory had been debunked enough that I lost most interest in it. Tho I will admit if I was in Switzerland, I’d be visiting Von Daniken’s theme park (yep! he’s got one!) I will admit that I am still enamored with 1950s contactee literature- especially the king… George Adamski.

        I have a decent collection of Hare Krishna booklets…. Check!
        Have read Bach’s Illusions…. Check!
        Read the Nag Hammadi materials way after I was out of college- just to see what those crazy Gnostics wrote- L. Ron Hubbard, your sources are way too obvious! *L*

        Lindsey did take the Trilats & the CFR on in “The 1980s: Countdown to Armageddon”. He may have mentioned the Bilderbergers- that’s been around since the 1950’s but had only been getting media attention & protesters in the last decade.

        For the record, I’m 48. If you were in college in ’88, I’m guessing you may be around 5 years younger?

        Wanna take a stab as to what my favorite late night radio talk show is? *L*
        Man, if my lot in life had been different, I could host the darn thing!

        • Buford Hollis says:

          Hari Bol, and bingo on the age thing.

          I read “The 1980’s” (picked it up in K-Mart, as I recall) from cover to cover a number of times in junior high school, half-believing it. (Who knew it would be delayed until 2012?)

          Lots of New Age stuff coming out then. I was also into Edgar Cayce (a Disciples of Christ member) and Kahlil Gibran Gibran (a Maronite Christian). I even read “Holy Blood, Holy Grail” when it first came out (the book which inspired Dan Brown to connect Jesus and MAry Magdalene with the Merovingians.)

          I read about Adamski in some “unsolved mysteries” book. In those innocent days, space aliens were assumed to be friendly (like Close Encounters)–the rectal probes only started with John Mack and Whitley Strieber.

          I’ve heard of Art Bell, but never heard his show. He first caught my attention because of John Titor, the time traveler.

          (Waiting for some wit to point out the saying–was it C.S> Lewis?–that if you believe nothing, you’ll believe everything.)

          • Hari Bol?

            Yeah, I read some Cayce back in the day, and a lot of Charles Berlitz. Holy Blood, Holy Grail came out when I was in college & an established Evangelical. The alien probes, tho not rectal, actually seem to go back to Barney & Betty Hill in the early 60s.

            Art Bell rarely does the show any more, Mostly George Noory does it & it’s called Coast to Coast AM. And yep, it’s my show! (I work nights so when I’m off I’m still usually up then.)

            I think it was G.K. Chesterton who said that.

    • Chariots of the Gods had the same impact on me at about the same age. Amazing what God will use to awaken us to him!

      • With me it was the movie (not the book) “Ben Hur.” I kid you not.

        After watching it on TV as a teenager 35 years ago, I kept thinking, “Why are people still talking about this Jesus Christ?” Eventually, I thought a Bible might help me figure it out, so I started reading a children’s version with excellent illustrations. I wasn’t a bad student, but I thought a regular Bible would be impenetrably dense. When I came across the 10 commandments for the very first time, they scared me to death. Not long after that, I somehow found myself in a Baptist church, where I became a pretty annoying fundamentalist, and, for some time now, a Catholic. But it began with Hollywood.

        • Buford Hollis says:

          I remember thinking it would have been a decent movie if it had stopped after the chariot race, and not gone on and on with all the smarmy Jesus stuff. (Deus ex machina, anyone?)

    • I read and was impressed by “Chariots of the Gods”, then read Clifford Wilson’s “Crash Go the Chariots”, which had a bigger impact on me. I wouldn’t have thought of it as a big influence, but it probably was–I am skeptic to this day.

      • Buford Hollis says:

        I recall a book like that (against Daeniken), but it might have been a different book. Oh well, the skeptics would have said the same things, more or less.

        Carl Sagan and a bunch of his colleagues did a book against Imannuel Velikovsky (sp?) who had some inpenetrable theory about the planets of the solar system switching places, and the gravitational effects caused biblical miracles like the parting of the Red Sea.

  3. Oh, ya, that Capon’s book! I read, I scream by joy for portraying no condemnation the way he does, then I put the book down and I start thinking “no way, it’s to good to be true and I’m not going to find a pastor who would believe it, so I will have to stay in the wilderness for the rest of my life”.:(

    I am still waiting for the round table or at least a couple of TV trays…

    • I’ve had the same reaction – could grace really have already forgiven me? Something inside me will not let me believe it really is that way…

      • Same here – I just read it a few weeks ago, on IM’s recommendation – but I’m willing to be convinced …

        • I guess I feel my conflict comes from having read years ago some of the same theology (implicit, but much less…radically…presented, I think, in Lewis’s Great Divorce) and having just accepted and internalized it without question back then, I find in Capon that I actually don’t agree with it as naturally as I did years ago.

          I guess I feel like I need to see more from the bible on the issue. What he says makes sense to me, but so do a lot of other things, not all of which I embrace. So I’m having to go back to Romans and try to see what Capon sees.

  4. Buford Hollis says:

    I like “Education of a Wandering Man” very much, though I wouldn’t put it in my top ten. I found him mentioned in a technical book about Xinjiang (“Oasis Identities: Uygur Nationalism Along China’s Silk Road,” by Justin Jon Rudelson) which says that (p. 2) “the mentor who guided my research was the writer Louis L’Amour, who had traveled through Xinjiang in the 1930’s and whose first novel, about the area, was never completed.” (As I recall he did set several novels in Siberia, though.)

  5. Buford Hollis says:

    I’ll throw out a few titles.

    G.I. Gurdjieff, “Meetings With Remarkable Men.” None-too-reliable autobiography of a man who, in the late 19th century, wandered Central Asia searching for the Truth. (Peter Brooke directed a pretty good movie version in 1979, which you can watch on You-Tube.)

    Daniel Quinn, “The Story of B.” This is a novel, but the end matter contains the text of lectures given by the main character, which are indistinguishable from nonfiction essays. The main themes are human overpopulation (and its relation to food supply), and the role of religion and culture in reinforcing (or subverting) our destructive, doomed lifestyle.

    Various works by Baha’u’llah, the 19th century Iranian founder of the Baha’i religion who taught the unity of humanity, and the equality of men and women . (Read them online at http://www.bahai-library.org )

    In terms of Christian stuff (not counting Gurdjieff), I never get tired of the Apopthegmata Patrum (Sayings of the Fathers) or the discourses of St. Simeon the New Theologian.

  6. 1) The Francis Schaeffer Trilogy (I will cheat and lump these as one-which includes The God Who is There, Escape from Reason, He is There and He is Not Silent) – probably wouldn’t be a Christian today if I had not read them.

    2) Crazy For God (kept me from me believing that I wasn’t the crazy one)

    3) Scandal of the Evangelical Mind (kept me from believing that we aren’t all crazy)

    4) Three Cups of Tea (personal experiences in the same areas of Pakistan made this one very real)

    5) A Grief Observed-Lewis (helped me know that I could stop lying about how I really feel, and still be a Christian)

    • Amen with regard to “Three Cups of Tea”. Greg Mortenson’s story is one we all ought to be aware of …from Christian missionary beginnings to total self-sacrifice in the name of humanity. The book should be required reading for all government and military folks engaged in Afghanistan. Great choice!

    • Isaac (the poster formerly known as Obed) says:

      A few months ago I heard an interview with Lewis’ stepson, whose mother’s death was the inspiration of A Grief Observed. He was relating how Lewis didn’t initially intend to publish the book, but a close friend talked him into it. Lewis originally published it under a pseudonym. Well, some of his friends unwittingly bought him his own book, ‘cuz they thought it would help him in the grieving process!

  7. Great. I’m going the Capon book right away. Also, I loved the L’Amour book, too. I’ve never read his westerns, but his “Education” is a fascinating window on his times.

  8. Shelby Foote’s history of the Civil War.
    Gibbon’s Decline and fall of the Roman Empire.
    Josephus’ Jewish Wars.
    Eusebius’ church history.
    Schaff’s Creeds of Christendom
    Smith’s A New Age Now Begins (Revolutionary War history)
    Churchill’s History of English speaking peoples
    The Story of English
    Tocqueville’s Democracy in America
    Ben Franklin’s autobiography

    a bit dated because of advances in science but very impactful to me as a kid
    Sagan’s Cosmos and Broca’s Brain
    Silk’s The Big Bang
    Genesis One and Origin of the Earth Newman/Ecklemann

  9. Great suggestions! I will find the Louis L’Amour book, although I may make a brown paper cover for it . . .

    I would also offer anything by John McPhee, especially “The Control of Nature” and “Coming into the Country.” The first recounts man’s attempts to engineer an Iceland volcano, the Mississippi, and Los Angeles mudslides; the second is about the gold miners, hippies, and just plain people in Alaska in the 70s. I don’t have to be interested in a subject to read McPhee — he’ll make me interested.

    Evan S. Connell has written lots of things, but his collection of essays called “The White Lantern,” about man’s quest for understanding in all different times and places, is beautifully written, informative, and inspiring; also funny.

    Virginia Woolf’s “A Room of One’s Own” — I can’t read her fiction, but this is one of my all-time favorites.

    “Logbook for Grace,” by Robert Cushman Murphy — a love story intertwined with the last of the New England whalers and ornithology of the South Atlantic.

    And everything by Lewis and Chesterton.

  10. Nina Rogers says:

    Capon’s book is on my bedside table, waiting to be read. Endurance is one of my all-time favorites–a great suggestion! Those who like Endurance might also like Nathaniel Philbrick’s In the Heart of the Sea.

    • Nina Rogers says:

      Whoops! Messed up on the italics in my previous post ….

    • By the way, have any of you who like Shackleton seen the excellent dramatization of his adventures? Kenneth Branagh does a great job as Shackleton, and all the details are so accurate that you can match most of the film frame by frame with photographs taken by Shackleton’s photographer. I think it’s by A&E.

      • The Branaugh A&E show is great. They filmed it on ice floes in Greenland. It was amazing and seemed quite realistic.

        So after watching it, my wife and then I popped in the DVD of The Endurance, the Liam Neeson-narrated (originally) PBS Nova special. This one was actually filmed in the Antarctic, where Shackleton actually was.

        Our.Jaws.Dropped. There was NO WAY that Shackleton and his men could have done what they did in that part of the globe. But they did. INCREDIBLE. You won’t believe it even after you see it. It’s like watching the scourging and crucifixion in The Passion of the Christ after you’ve seen (and gotten used to) the relatively bland versions in The Gospel of John or all the other movies about Jesus.

  11. My first three played a great role in my spiritual development…

    1) Ragamuffin Gospel (Brennan Manning).
    2) Cost of Discipleship (Bonhoeffer).
    3) Irresistible Revolution (Shane Claiborne)
    3) A Wake for the Living (Thomas Nelson Page)
    4) Deep South (Erskine Caldwell)

  12. I’ve read both of the C.S. Lewis books and love them. The others sound very intriguing and are definitely being put on my list of eventual reads. Thanks for sharing them.

  13. I’m reading but have not finished Between Noon and Three by Capon, so it may make it on my list when I get done with it. As it stands, my short list of books I think all Christians should read is:

    1. Fear and Trembling by Soren Kierkegaard – This book defined the concept of faith for me.

    2. The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer – This book defined discipleship for me and continually reminds me of the radical nature and cost of what Christians have been called to.

    3. The Normal Christian Life by Watchman Nee – This book has been a source of balance for me in not trying to work myself to heaven while at the same time not getting lazy from grace.

    4. Mere Churchianity by Michael Spencer – I found it to be a great introduction to the concerns of any possible future post-evangelicalism.

    5. “Four Perspectives on Moral Judgement: The Rational Principles of Jesus and Kant”, The Heythrop Journal 32:2 (April 1991), pp.216-232. by Stephen Palmquist – Not too many people probably found something spiritually edifying in scholarly journals, but this article by Palmquist formed in me early in my undergrad days what is asked of one who claims to love.

    Honorable Mentions:
    @ The Spiritual Man by Watchman Nee – Far more in depth than The Normal Christian Life, sometimes it felt like Nee knew me and my struggles personally when he described the struggles Christians can find themselves facing.
    @ The Cry of the Soul: How Our Emotions Reveal our Deepest Questions about God by Dr. Dan B. Allender and Dr. Tremper Longman III – It’s in the title. This book helped me through the hardest and darkest time in my life.
    @ My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers – Easily the best devotional I’ve ever read.

  14. I snagged Endurance from my Grandfather’s bookshelf, although I haven’t read it yet. I have so many books to read already…

    My Favorite Non-Fiction:

    Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties, and Roots
    by J.C. Ryles

    Singing through the Night: Courageous Stories of Faith from Women in the Persecuted Church
    by Anneke Companjen

    Banker to the Poor: Micro-Lending and the Battle Against World Poverty
    by Muhammad Yunus

    The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite
    by David Kessler

    Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth
    by Richard J. Foster

    Night
    by Eli Wiesel

    Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes: Cultural Studies in the Gospel
    by Kenneth Bailey

    Now You’re Speaking My Language: Honest Communication and Deeper Intimacy for a Stronger Marriage
    by Gary Chapman

    The Undercover Economist: Exposing Why the Rich Are Rich, the Poor Are Poor–and Why You Can Never Buy a Decent Used Car!
    by Tim Harford

    John Adams
    by David McCullough

    American Shaolin: Flying Kicks, Buddhist Monks, and the Legend of Iron Crotch: An Odyssey in the New China
    by Matthew Polly

    Dark Night of the Soul
    by Saint John of the Cross

    Sacred Romance
    by John Eldridge and Brent Curtis

    The Pursuit of God
    by A.W. Tozer

    The Three Battlegrounds
    by Franice Frangipane

    Compassion: A Reflection on the Christian Life
    by Henri Nouwen, Donald P. Mcneill, Douglas A. Morrison

    That’s all I can think of now. I’m sure if I were home, staring at my shelves, I could recommend more, lol. ~ L

  15. OK. I can narrow it down to six books that greatly influenced my thinking as a Christian.

    Meeting Jesus Again For The First Time by Marcus Borg – It wasn’t about agreeing with Borg, but this book and some of his others were such an eye-opener for me! For the first time I began to see Christian thought in much broader terms.

    Miracles by C S Lewis – It is hard to select just one C S Lewis nonfiction work. But just as I gained a broader perspective from Borg, Miracles brought the pendulum back, profoundly.

    Kingdom, Grace, Judgment: Paradox, Outrage and Vindication in the Parables of Jesus by Robert Farrar Capon – I also loved ‘Noon To Three’, but had already read his book on parables, which is also about the outrage of grace. Love his work!

    The Mind of the Maker by Dorothy L. Sayers – Another book that profoundly influenced my thinking. This time about The Trinity and creativity.

    My Utmost For His Highest by Oswald Chambers – I read the book straight through in a couple of weeks. It came to my attention right when I needed it most and really helped me through a difficult time.

    The Everlasting Man by G. K Chesterton – My interdiction to G K Chesterton.

  16. Chris Moellering says:

    Hmm top five non-fiction, in no particular order…

    Kingbird Highway, Kenn Kaufman. One of the very few books I’ve re-read repeatedly. Just a great story about a teenager out to see birds in North America.

    Waking the Dead, John Eldredge. I’ve read a lot of his stuff, but I think this one is his best. Caused me to examine some things in my own life. Walking with God also had an impact.

    James Cook, Allister McGrath. Easy read about one of the more remarkable men in history. Arguably the last great explorer. I’d love to have a copy of this one.

    We’re all taking the Bible for granted here, I assume, so I won’t play that spiritual “one up” card but I will mention the Book of Common Prayer. As an anabaptist, this was far from a “given” that I would ever touch one of these. It has had a huge impact on me over the years in both pragmatic and spiritual matters.

    The Message of Faith, Jerry Flora. (Good luck finding this one!) It’s an exposition fo the first half of the “Centennial Statement” which is the Brethren Church’s statement of faith as of 1983–but it’s not a creed. (Whatever.) Anyway, very thoughtfully written. Even though I don’t agree with all of the doctrine in it, it’s still a good model for humble theology. Having studied under Dr. Flora in seminary may have biased me a bit.

    That’s my five…today.

    • Chris Moellering says:

      Oh…celebration of Discipline, yeah….and Strams of Living Water, both great Foster books…

      And I forgot about Gary Thomas’ stuff…Sacred Marriage is awesome. Indeed, never too many good books!

      • as in Hank STRAM , Super Bowl winning coach of the KC CHIEFS !!!!!! GO CHIEFS !!

        had to do that, Chiefs play the Packers tonight for those with NFL ticket…..
        Greg R

    • Isaac (the poster formerly known as Obed) says:

      +1 on the BCP. I’d say that is probably Anglicanism’s greatest contribution to Christianity: Monastic spirituality of prayer in a form that the layman can use and relate to.

  17. I loved Louis L’Amor’s auto biography myself. First of his books I ever read. I haven’t read many others…
    But that is an overlooked classic.

  18. As I recall, Between Noon and Three was one of iMonk’s favorites as well.

  19. 1. Brennan Manning – The Ragamuffin Gospel.
    — still the definitive book on grace for me, even above Capon.

    2. Philip Yancey – Soul Survivor: How My Faith Survived The Church.
    — the title really says it all; surprised no one else has mentioned it yet.

    3. Donald Miller – Searching For God Knows What.
    — even more than Blue Like Jazz; absolutely nails the relationship-with-God issue.

    4. G.K. Chesterton – Orthodoxy.
    — no explanation necessary, I suspect.

    5. Bill Veeck – Veeck As In Wreck.
    — funniest book ever on baseball, and at least 80% true; also, the section on his conversion to Catholicism is wonderful.

    Boy, was it tough to cut it down to five! 😀

    Honorable mentions: Thus Saith the Lord? (John Bevere), Pagan Christianity? (Viola/Barna), Reimagining Church (Frank Viola), A World Lit Only By Fire (William Manchester), Blink (Malcolm Gladwell), Loving God (Charles Colson), God’s Smuggler (Brother Andrew), The Hiding Place (Corrie ten Boom), Pistol (Mark Kriegel), Ball Four (Jim Bouton), Team of Rivals (Doris Kearns Goodwin), The Book of Basketball (Bill Simmons) and anything by Bill James. Plus about six others I’ll kick myself later for having forgotten …

    • One of the six (my lovely wife reminded me): Leaving the Saints, Martha Beck’s autiobiography/expose of Mormonism. Kick!

      • And another: The Periodic Table by Primo Levi. An Italian Jew’s autobiography of his life as a chemist, a Holocaust survivor and a writer, done using different elements for each chapter. Kick!

    • I especially second Philip Yancey and “The Hiding Place!”

  20. Kenny Johnson says:

    I couldn’t make it through the Capon book. I tried. It was recommended here and I hot about 1/3rd of the way through, but it was so tedious and boring I couldn’t muster the strength to pick it up anymore. I’m someone who can read a reference book for pleasure, but the Capon book killed me.

    But I’m very particular about fiction writing. I have a short attention span and if nothing has happened of interest in the first 60-70 pages (as it didn’t in this case), then I lose interest. I’m also sensitive to writing styles — and I found Capon (at least in this case) to be almost unbearable. I’m fairly well-read, yet he still used a bunch of big words that I would have to look up if I cared enough.

    I’ll just have to take your word for the scandalous grace presented. I’m sure it’s awesome. 🙂

    • Kenny, give Capon a second chance. Skip over the bedroom scenes to the mafia rub-out. Find something outrageous about grace and say, “What??? How can he say that???” And don’t worry about the big words. He uses too much Latin, too.

      It’s going to be an interesting discussion when we get to it.

    • Kenny, it took me quite a while to get through Capon’s Between Noon And Three. I preferred his book about the Kingdom parables.

  21. I would add a couple recent reads of mine:

    1) The Making of the Atomic Bomb, by Richard Rhodes — sounds dry, but is anything but, provided you enjoy history, science, philosophy and politics …or any of the above. It exposes the evolutionary threads from religion to philosophy to science to government by technocracy. Even includes a vivid picture of what hell must be like in eyewitness accounts from Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Amazon.com has it.

    2) Miracle at Philadelphia, by Catherine Drinker Bowen — the inside story of the Constitutional Convention in 1787. There were great minds and great men present, but God did it. Couldn’t have happened any other way. Wonderful cultural context included, no extra charge.

    …anyone notice a predilection for history here? :>)

  22. @Jeff: the way things are going, there might be a great memoir of the REDS 2010 season in the works….. wouldn’t that be a great read ?? LOVE these lists, by the way, though my sola sister friends probably think there’s way too much syncretism going on over here…… 🙂 I esp. like the references to great fiction, that helps me (I have a huge fiction deficit in my reading list)

    GregR

  23. “Too Good to be True,” a terrific book by Michael Horton on suffering and the theology of the Cross. I took his book into the waiting room of our hospital as I waited for results from my wife’s cancer surgery.
    In fact, almost ANYTHING by Horton is excellent.
    “God in the Wasteland,” by David Wells.
    “Amusing Ourselves to Death,” by Neal Postman. Excellent critique of our culture.
    “The Humiliation of the Word,” by Jaques Ellul. SUperb!

    • Postman’s book is amazing; maybe the best book I read in college…..well, ONE of the colleges at least… :-/

  24. Not sure if these are my favorites or not, but they’re what came to mind and they’re books I’ve re-read several times.

    Cry of the Kalahari by Mark and Delia Owens – Strangely intriguing first-person(s?) account of time spent in Africa by two American biologists. Picked this up on chance at a used-book store and have read it again and again. I know they have a few other books and I need to check those out.

    All The Fun’s in How You Say A Thing by Timothy Steele – An introduction to prosody. I read this when I first became interested in the mechanics of verse, and it’s well-written and interesting enough to have warranted a few re-reads through the years.

    An Experiment in Criticism by C. S. Lewis – One of Lewis’s last books. The main argument is that we should judge literature based on good/bad readers rather than starting with the idea of good/bad books.

    Six Against the Rock by Clark Howard – Technically fiction, I guess, but closely based on the Alcatraz escape attempt of 1946 that resulted in the “Battle of Alcatraz.” Something I picked up on a whim at the library when I was a teenager, but it’s enjoyable and intriguing and made my visit to Alcatraz a few years back all the more enjoyable.

    Planet Narnia by Michael Ward – Ward argues that each of Lewis’s Narnian chronicles is bathed in the “influence” of one of the seven planets of medieval cosmology. There was a lot of disgust and derision directed against this book when it came out a few years ago, but mostly I think from those who either weren’t/aren’t widely read in Lewis (only read the Chronicles and Mere Christianity, perhaps) or didn’t/don’t understand how deeply medieval Lewis’s imagination was. You’d have thought Ward had published blasphemy, but of course none of the critics ever seemed to have *read* Ward’s book. . .

    • >”Cry of the Kalahari” Mark and Delia Owens

      I loved this one too!

      Its sequel, “The Eye of the Elephant,” is also good.

  25. I read 3 cups of tea, Lewis’s books and Between Noon and Three. The one that bothered me most was the last. Could it really be true? Our we so blessed? Yes,yes. so I try to be like Jesus even though I fail daily. It’s like the parable of the Good Father, all the prodical son had to do was go home, Dad did the rest.

  26. I’m almost finished with the Capon book. It’s been a mind bender for me. I find that I can only read a few pages at a time. Then I have to stop and process a bit. I definately feel like he’s playing with my head and there have been several times where I’ve thought he’s lost me for sure. But, I keep coming back for more. I’m really looking forward to the discussion here.

    • I had the same problem with Capon’s book. I was brought up in a church with alot of don’ts and ways to go to hell, so I would read a few pages and put it down, this can’t be true! But it is.

  27. Anyhting at all by Jon Krakauer. What I’ve read is Into the Wild and Under the Banner of Heaven. Both are great examples of excellently written, well-researched nonfiction.

    • +1
      This man could write about anything and make it intriguing. His book about the 1996 Everest expedition got me hooked about 10 years ago (“Into Thin Air”), and his more recent book, “Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman” was another winner.

  28. Isaac (the poster formerly known as Obed) says:

    I typically do not read nonfiction for fun, but for my graduate studies, I’ve read a lot of religious nonfiction, some of which has been very influential for me. Here’s a list of the most important ones:

    Spirituality for Everyday Living by Brian Taylor. It’s an explanation/adaptation of St. Benedict’s Rule for non-monastic folk.
    Anything by Robert Webber, especially Worship is a Verb and Evangelicals on the Canterbury Trail
    The Story of Christian Theology by Roger Olson
    The Story of Christianity (both volumes) by Justo Gonzalez
    (as mentioned above) The Book of Common Prayer . I’m partial to the 1979 edition, though I also have the 1928 edition and a Western Rite Orthodox edition published by Lancelot Andrewes Press.

  29. Charles Fines says:

    I am greatly heartened by the inclusion of some of my formative books including those of Von Daniken, Lindsey, Gurdjieff, Sitchen, and the Birchers. I would at least add Immanuel Velikovsky,s Worlds in Collision and Edgar Cayce’s writings to that group, From today’s perspective I would not particularly recommend any of them now, but they helped get me here. With some of them I came to realize that any writing which appeared to be true but which contained a spirit of fear was not good for me. At the same time I believe that God is able to use anything to pique our curiosity about spiritual matters and that He meets us wherever he finds us. An open mind is hard to find.

    My choices today all stem from the pen of one man, Jakob Lorber, an all but unknown Austrian who lived in the first 64 years of the nineteenth century and died in obscurity and poverty. His work would probably be considered fiction by most of those reading this, but perhaps not all. It claims to be given directly, word for word, by Jesus, much as if He had dictated them to a secretary. That in itself is enough to turn most Christians’ hair white. While the work contains much that contradicts various teachings of the various churches, I have not found anything that directly contradicts my reading of the Bible, and in fact the Bible makes a great deal more sense now as a result of multiple readings of everything that has been translated into English so far.

    I realize that the knee jerk reaction is to toss this unread into the dumpster. All I can say is that anyone who claims to follow Jesus will either recognize His voice or not, but just reading about this material will not convey what it contains. In my experience most Christians dismiss the books out of hand without having read a word. In my experience, most Christians have not read the complete Bible, not even once. The books are not easy to come by but not impossible either. I have about three feet of bookshelf dedicated to the English translations. There is more in the original German. Here in order is what I would grab if my house caught on fire:

    1) The Great Gospel of John. This is an expansion of the roughly three and a half years of Jesus’ ministry as told in the Gospels of John and Matthew. There are six volumes to this title in English, ten in German, so this is an abridged version. It mostly follows the timeline of John and fills in all the spaces where John only gives hints and outlines. For example the rest of the story is told about the woman caught in adultery. It is told in the first person by Jesus which in itself poses the main question to be answered. My thirty-six years of intensive Bible study and fellowship with God lead me to believe it is exactly what it purports to be. Your mileage could vary.

    2) The Household of God. This is a retelling of the history of the first true humans from Adam to Noah. Unfortunately the third of three volumes in English has not been released. If I were younger I would be studying German but I don’t think there is enough time to go around for that. Wish I had a German friend or neighbor. Of most interest to me is the interaction between God and the Patriarchs, and the proclamation of the Gospel to them in essence as opposed to the muddying of the waters in church doctrine(s). God interacted with women then just as intimately as he did later in Jesus.

    3) The Childhood of Jesus. This purports to be the account of the birth and childhood of Jesus as originally written by James, the youngest of Joseph’s son’s by a deceased wife and the eventual head of the Jerusalem Church until he was murdered by the Temple authorities. There are distorted bits and pieces of this which survived and which are generally considered apocryphal. This is the whole story. Fascinating material about Mary, the birth, the time in Egypt, and growing up in Nazareth, which incidentally is not located where we think it is today. There is a separate book about the three days of Jesus in the Temple when he was twelve.

    4) Fundamental Principles of Life. By Walter Lutz in three volumes. This is a compendium of Lorber material by someone with a good academic mind. The first volume starts by asking Is There a God? and goes on to ask What is the Goal of Our Life? I recommend these as the best summary of the teachings of Jesus as He related them to Jakob Lorber.

    5) The Lord’s Sermons. This is a collection of fifty-three sermons geared to the church calendar and given in standard form of scripture reading and exposition. These purportedly were given to Gottfried Mayerhofer by Jesus Himself after the death of Jakob Lorber, which is generally accepted by those who acknowledge Lorber. They might be more palatable for those who are comfortable with a church setting. What would Jesus say if he took the pulpit weekly in your church for a year?

    Am I a permanent resident of La La Land? Possibly. I interrupted the writing of this when the mail lady brought me four more study Bibles or New Testaments including a Greek interlinear. Not a lot of company on this particular path.

    • Charles, I have given up trying to figure God out. Just when I think he cannot possibly speak to me through so-and-so, he does. This week it was a prosperity-Gospel teacher who brought a word that the Lord took deep into my heart. This is a preacher whom I wouldn’t normally walk across the street to heckle, let alone sit and listen to. So if God is speaking to you thru Lorber, well, that is just one more aspect of our mysterious God.

      Now I will be labeled your fellow citizen in la-la-land, I’m sure…

    • Buford Hollis says:

      Funny, I just got through mentioning Cayce and Velikovsky above.

      I read a lot of New Age Jesus stuff, and am ashamed to admit that I never heard of any of these. I was more influenced by Nicholas Notovitch’s Issa mss (the origin of the Jesus-went-to-India meme) and the Aquarian Gospel. Both are online, as I recall.

      Skeptical treatments include Per Beskow’s “Strange New Gospels” and…I can’t recall name or author, but a skeptical treatment of Notovitch came out a couple of years ago. Published in Ladakh, as I recall!

      Oh yeah–“The Life and Teachings of the Masters of the Far East,” by Baird Spalding, who apparently met Jesus and Buddha in person–together–while on an expedition to Lhasa. He also built a camera which could photograph the past. (He took pictures of the Sermon on the Mount and Washington’s inaugural address.)

  30. -N.T. Wright, “Christian Origins” series (ok, three books, but one Big Idea: who is god?)
    -Dallas Willard, “Divine Conspiracy”
    -Christos Yannaras, “The Freedom of Morality”
    -St Athanasius, “On the Incarnation” and Various, A. Louth, ed., “Early Christian Writings – The Apostolic Fathers”, Penguin Classics (ok, two, but they belong together, along with St Iranaeus, “Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching – so again a “trilogy”)
    -Thomas Cahill, “How the Irish Saved Civilization”

    I’ve read and enjoyed others, esp Lewis, and, earlier, F. Schaeffer, but over the last ten years or so I keep going back to these, for sundry reasons.

    Dana

    • I could have included Willard and Cahill in the honorable mentions, and probably should have. Thanks for bringing them up! Both are favorites of mine as well…

  31. I have so many favorite non-fiction books that I have a hard time thinking of a top 5. So instead I’ll pick my favorite few on American fundamentalism and evangelicalism in the twentieth century:

    “Fundamentalism and American Culture” by George Marsden — Marsden’s book was and still is the most important single book defining fundamentalism and chronicling its emergence. (In honor of this weeks discussions: All your Reformed friends will like his recent biography on Jonathan Edwards.) For those who want to follow the story George started into the 1930s and beyond, Joel Carpenters “Revive Us Again” does just that.

    “The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind” by Mark Noll — An incisive evaluation of the forces that have shaped the mind of evangelicalism. Noll bemoans the fact that “The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind.” (Sidenote: all Noll’s historical works are also excellent.)

    “The Creationists” by Ron Numbers : Everything you ever wanted to know about the history of creationism, from a former Seventh Day Adventist and brilliant historian.

    “The Book of Jerry Falwell” — A rhetorician attempts to understand the discourse Falwell creates. She carefully breaks down and analyzes his speeches and his development as a public figure.

    “Fundamentalism and Gender” by Margaret Bendroth. A short book outlining the interlinkages between fundamentalism’s ideas, history, rhetoric, and gender.

    Also, its not a book, but the documentary “The Eyes of Tammie Faye Baker” is fascinating, both for its sympathetic portrayal of Baker and the insights it provides into milieu from which she emerged.

  32. 1) Pagan Christianity (mentioned above)
    2) The Years of Lyndon Johnson (all 3) by Robert Caro. What a sleazebag.
    3) Crime and Human Nature: The Definitive Study of the Causes of Crime by James Wilson and Richard Herrnstein, which confirms what used to be common sense
    4) Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue by John McWhorter. Finally, a coherent explanation of how English differs from Dutch and German.
    5) Ukraine: A History by Orest Subtelny. OK, that one’s a little parochial. 🙂

  33. With Lewis, go to the source — George MacDonald: Unspoken Sermons. There’s a reason that MacDonald is the teaching character in Great Divorce.

  34. Not my Top Five or Most Influential or anything like that, but just pulled out of memory (and my Amazon order history):

    In no particular order than “Oh, yeah, how about – ?”

    (1) Chaucer by G. K. Chesterton. You’ll probably find much more scholarly and accurate biographies and studies, but for a sense of the man and his times, you won’t find better.

    (2) The Satyr: An Account of the Life and Work, Death and Salvation of John Wilmot, Second Earl of Rochester by Cephas Goldsworthy. Interesting account of a complicated man who was a star of the Restoration court and infamous for bawdry/obscenity, who had a death-bed conversion to Christianity (which Goldsworthy takes a rather dim view of, inclining to the view that a sick and mentally muddled Rocherster was coerced by his pious wife into assenting to a conventional Christianity; opinions on this will vary). A fascinating, not to say jaw-dropping look at the 17th century (for instance, there were no laws about public indecency, so when two bright young sprigs of the nobility got drunk in an inn – and it sounds as if it were also a brothel, though Goldsworthy doesn’t say so – and proceded to simulate gay sex in broad daylight on a balcony in front of a jeering crowd of assembled townsfolk, the judge could only fine them even though he fulminated that he wished he could put them to death for such behaviour.)

    (3) The Life of Thomas More by Peter Ackroyd. Indeed, any of Ackroyd’s biographies or histories, which I find more engaging than his fiction.

    (4) A series of art books too numerous to mention from the likes of Taschen Books, Phaidon Colour Library, and the Guide to Imagery series.

    (5) The “Horrible Histories” by Terry Deary. Fun romp through history for kids and has many informative little nuggets that you never learned in school; as it says, “History with the nasty bits left in!”

    (6) Two for the price of one here; The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England 1400-1580 and Marking the Hours: English People and their Prayers 1240-1570 by Eamon Duffy. Yeah, my Catholicism is showing here 🙂

    (7) On a very much less serious note – The Bad Catholic’s Guide to Good Living by John Zmirak and Denise Matychowiak. If you’re looking for scholarship or reasoned apologetics, bad choice. If you want a humorous look at nuts and bolts ordinary Catholicism in all its weird and wonky splendour, here you go!

  35. Without looking at others’ choices first, here’s what I scrounged out of my bookshelves:

    –Abraham Joshua Heschel, God in Search of Man: A Philosophy of Judaism This was crucial to my OT courses at Gordon College (any Marv Wilson students out there?).
    –M. Scott Peck, People of the Lie –case-studies of evil, far beyond the sins of mortal man…
    –Tracy Kidder, Mountains Beyond Mountains –about Dr. Paul Farmer in Haiti, working with AIDS and TB
    –Julia Alvarez, In the Time of the Butterflies –historical fiction of the murder of the Mirabal sisters during the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo in the Dominican Republic, 1960s
    –Lesslie Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society –an under-rated Christian thinker

    Others of honorable mention or of equal caliber, some inspired by previous comments:
    –Phillip Yancey, Disappointment with God
    –J.I. Packer, Knowing God
    –John Stott, Basic Christianity
    –C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
    –Michael Spencer, Mere Churchianity
    –Robert McCrum, Wm. Cran, and Robt MacNeil, The Story of English –Cool–
    –Elie Wiesel, Night –a fictionalized account of his time in a Nazi concentration camp
    –Robert Capon, Between Noon and Three. –The jury is still out on this one…
    –Samuel Elliot Morrison, Christopher Columbus

    • +1 on “Mountains Beyond Mountains”. Who cannot be changed by Dr. Paul Farmer’s “H of G” (“hermaneutic of generosity”)? Christians would do well to adopt it.

  36. I wish I had a broader spectrum of books to recommend, but since most of my education and career has involved reading theological works, I’ll list six (sorry, I cheat) more recent works that have truly affected my life.

    1. Knowing God, J.I. Packer
    2. The Pursuit of God, A.W. Tozer
    3. The Pentateuch as Narrative, John Sailhamer
    4. The Bible and the Future, Anthony Hoekema
    5. Through Gates of Splendor, Elisabeth Elliot
    6. The Tapestry, Edith Schaeffer (or its more condensed version, “L’Abri”)

    Jeff, let’s do this on Biblical commentaries sometime, OK?

  37. 1. Mystery Train – Greil Marcus
    2. How to Read the Bible: A Guide to Scripture Then and Now – James Kugel
    3. Traffic – Tom Vanderbilt
    4. The Right Stuff – Tom Wolfe
    5. People of the Lie – M Scott Peck
    6. Death and Life of Great American Cities – Jane Jacobs
    7. The Art of War in the Western World – Archer Jones
    8. Anatomy of Criticism – Northrop Frye
    9. Elements of Style – Strunk & White
    10. Trust – Francis Fukuyama

  38. textjunkie says:

    Geez, non-fiction. I only read a few pieces a year, so let me list the best ones from my past few years’ reading lists:

    Claude Levi Strauss, Triste Tropiques. Surprisingly readable and eye-opening about life in Amazon as the western world began to impinge upon it.

    A.J. Jacobs, The Year of Living Biblically. This is the story of a non-practicing, non-believing Jew deciding to take all the OT injunctions literally, one week at a time. It does make the reader think about what’s really behind all the rules and what it would mean to live that way.

    Huston Smith, The Soul of Christianity. I didn’t care for his denigration of the scientific mindset, but the way he expresses his heart is the way I would like to be able to express it. Gave me a very new look at Mary.

    Minna Proctor, Do you hear what I hear? An unreligious writer looks at religious calling. Apparently I really like to read the outsider’s look at Christianity, but I found this fascinating–she was dealing with her father’s unexpected decision and process of becoming a Christian priest later in life. Very sensitively and intelligently done, and like the other books we all list, it opens up new points of view and trains of thought…

    William Johnston, The Still Point: Reflections on Zen and Christian Mysticism. This is a pre-Vatican II book by a Jesuit priest, comparing Christian and Zen mysticism. But for all he explores the similarities, he’s very strong on the theological differences that underlay a very similar look on the surface.

  39. The single most influential book for me is “Roman Catholics and Evangelicals, Agreements and Disagreements” by Norman Geisler and Ralph MacKenzie. This book was given to me by my boss, after I had started my exploration of Catholic beliefs and theology. Helped me fit what I already believed and what I had to accept.

    “Gender and Grace” by Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen. One of the books that helped me with my struggle on being a woman and a Christian. (For another look on the subject, “Are Women Human” by Dorothy Sayers.)

    “The Cloister Walk” by Kathleen Norris

    “The Melody of Theology” by Jaroslav Pelikan (I also recommend his book on the Bible as well.”

    Anything by Deborah Tannen, Very helpful for communication problems.

    Anything by Phillip Yancey

  40. Anna, I just finished The Cloister Walk by Kathleen Norris and loved it too.

  41. I’m not a big non-fiction reader, but if I made a list it would have to include James McBride’s memoir The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother .

  42. Another vote for Desert Solitaire. My favorite book by Abbey.

    Also:
    When Jesus Became God by Richard Rubenstein – I’m intensely interested and curious about the Arian heresey and this was the jumping off point for me. Also got me reading about St. Athanasius, who wrote a fairly good biography of St. Anthony.
    History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides – the first real history ever written. Herodotus is full of stories of people riding on dolphins and ants carrying gold. Thucydides actually looks at politics and negotiation.
    Darkness Visible by William Styron – a very short memoir of his dealing with depression. One of the most powerful I’ve read and something that I’ve given to others to help them understand.
    Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond – yes it’s been hyped and over mentioned, etc. It’s still a very good book and well worth reading.
    The Theory and Practice of Hell by Eugene Kogon – a difficult book to read, but it hit me harder than any other memoir of the holocaust I’ve encountered. As a political prisoner in Nazi Germany he lays out the inner workings of Buchenwald.

    Honorable mention (the previous book made me think of it): Maus by Art Spiegelman – there’s a reason this book, as a comic, won a Pulitzer.

  43. Thomas Merton’s Seven Story Mountain – to me is the greatest autobiography you will find.
    The guy went from bohemian Parents to being a Frenchmen Atheist to an English gentleman to a communist to a Christian to a Catholic to a monk. & there were still other transformations that I have left out! Awesome read, though he can be pretty mean to Protestants in this book so be warned.
    also any book by:
    George MacDonald
    CS lewis
    Richard Foster (there is a treasure trove of great Quaker writers out there)
    Bede Griffiths – the Marriage of East & West – an amazing book that compares Hindu & Christianity
    Thomas Merton – Seeds of Contemplation

  44. How did I forget ‘Life Together” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer – now I will Flog myself!

  45. Andrew Zook says:

    I read mostly non-fiction so it’s extremely hard to pick only a few… but here are five that are all important. ie the first on isn’t my top pick – they and all the ones unlisted are #1’s in my mind.

    1. Blinded by the Right.
    (David Brock: Washed my past religious right hatred of the Clintons right out of me and opened me up to reconsidering the culture war and it’s holier-than-thou crusaders.)

    2. Afluenza: The All Consuming Epidemic.
    ( Graaf, Wann, Naylor: Had me rethinking amerian dream and why many american christians seem so hell-bent on justifying and defending it in clear contradiction to Christ’s teachings)

    3. The Myth of a Christian Nation: (Greg Boyd: Helped me ground my allegiance only to Kingdom of God)

    4. House of War (James Carroll’s detailed history and perspective jolted me into thinkng about america’s military and military history in a wholly different light. Shook me and everything I had been taught in school and had assumed – to the core.)

    5. Beyond the Cosmos: (Hugh Ross. First book that got me thinking about God, the earth and us in terms other than ‘christianeze or churchianity’ … again – shook me to the core.)

    Honorable mention authors – David Bercot, Howard Zinn, N.T. Wright, Dr. Kreeft, Noam Chomsky, Frank Schaeffer

  46. From reading the comments, I gather that a number of people found “Between Noon And Three” too extreme.

    I have a theory, although I could be totally off base. I wonder if perhaps those of us who appreciate fantasy, authors such as Lewis, Tolkien, MacDonald, find it easier to read something that is deliberately “out there”. Capon does force the reader to think more expansively, whether one agrees with his views or not. Personally, I think that Grace is an extreme concept. I’m not sure you can grasp it, if examined rationally. To be freely offered a gift that is in no way deserved, something that cannot be earned? That is extreme. That is something that the rational mind must question.

  47. I’ve just finished Uncorking The Past, by Patrick E. McGovern – a history of mankind and alcohol in ancient and neolitihic times. Very good! On that topic, I also enjoyed A Short History of Wine by Roderick Phillips.

    Also historical is the well written, persuasive and entertaining How the Irish Saved Civilization, by Thomas Cahill.

    Of course, in the personal reminisences department, few ever touch James Herriot.

  48. Christopher Lake says:

    C.S. Lewis– Mere Christianity (Lewis is a genius — just read it, if you haven’t)
    Peter Kreeft– Fundamentals of the Faith (next to Lewis, Kreeft is my favorite Christian apologist)
    David Currie– Born Fundamentalist, Born Again Catholic (one of the most helpful books in my journey back to the Catholic Church)
    Flannery O’Connor– The Complete Stories (my favorite short-story writer– “Revelation” is amazing!)
    Walker Percy– The Moviegoer (my favorite novelist– I love everything by Percy)