The books that have most influenced me
Here are my “top 10” books that have had an impact on my life. Some of them have impacted millions of other people; a few may not be on the “top 10” list of anyone else on the planet.
I would put the Bible as the #1 book, but it needs to be on its own list. None of the following books would even be in the same category in terms of their influence in my life.
- Knowing God, by J.I. Packer — This was the first major Christian book I read, back when I was twenty years old. It laid an excellent foundation for my life and doctrine. A lot Christian books are fluffy or ephemeral; this one will still be read centuries from now (if the Lord’s return is delayed that long).
- Mere Christianity, by C.S. Lewis — Another 20th century author whose works will still be read a few hundred years from now. Lewis’s work helped to solidify my faith as a college student.
- Operation World, by Patrick Johnstone (new edition is by Jason Mandryk) — This is subtitled “The Definitive Prayer Guide to Every Nation.” This book helped to establish a lifelong desire to pray and work for the day when people “from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Rev 5:9 NIV) would stand before the throne of Christ.
- The Pursuit of God, by A.W. Tozer — “The man who has God for his treasure has all things in One.” I received this as a graduation present from Grace Bible Church in Bozeman, Montana.
- The Cost of Discipleship, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer — Bonhoeffer, martyred by the Nazis, offers the most Christ-centered theology of life and discipleship I have read.
- Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, by Ronald Sider — The title is a good description of the book. Not all would agree with Sider’s policy solutions (some would say too liberal or even socialist), but the heart of the book—an overview of poverty in today’s world and in the Bible —is solid. This book opened my eyes and heart to the deep poverty that much of the world lives in.
- In Six Days, by Charles McGowen — I read this short presentation of young-Earth creationism when I was in tenth grade in high school, and was thoroughly convinced. Now I can see that just about everything in the book was utterly, totally, completely wrong, but it did get me started down the path that led to me majoring in geology and writing this blog.
- Earth, by Frank Press and Raymond Siever — A university textbook on my “most influential textbooks” list? When I was a college Freshman, a friend was majoring in geology, and he had this book. I paged through it in his room, and changed my major to geology (though not right away like I should have).
- Evolution: Nature and Scripture in Conflict? by Pattle Pun — I was still a young-Earth creationist when I started studying geology as an undergraduate. This book, from an old-Earth Christian perspective, may have helped prevent me from having a crisis of faith when I saw that most of what I had read in YEC literature quite simply did not work as an explanation for the geological record.
- Pollution and the Death of Man, by Francis Schaeffer — To care about the Earth is not something we should do in addition to Christian discipleship; it is part of Christian discipleship. Schaeffer is still very popular among conservative Evangelicals, but most of them, unfortunately, have not read or taken to heart this work.
I would like to add a few honorable mentions:
- Perspectives on the World Christian Movement, by Ralph Winter (ed.) — Why do we do missions? How do we do missions? Etc.
- Evidence that Demands a Verdict, by Josh McDowell — Some parts of it are better than others, but it certainly had a strong influence on me in my college days. Today I would recommend The Reason for God by Timothy Keller instead.
- A Survey of Bible Doctrine, by Charles Ryrie — Not quite my theology on some points any more, but still a good introduction. Today I would recommend Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology.
- For the Beauty of the Earth, by Stephen Prediger-Bouma — Much more comprehensive than Schaeffer’s Pollution and the Death of Man.
- Life Together, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer — The best book on having fellowship in Christian community.
- The Silence of Adam, by Larry Crabb — Christ-centered perspective on being a man. Realism rather than triumphalism.
Pick one and read it!
Grace and Peace
For the opposite end of the spectrum, here are a few dishonorable mentions. These are books that were highly recommended to me, and I just couldn’t force myself to complete them:
- Revival Lectures, by Charles Finney — Sin, sin, and more sin. Repent of everything before you can come to Christ. Sin no more if you want to stay in Christ. Spiritual perfectionism. About a third of the way into the book I started to ask myself, “Once I do everything Finney wants me to do, what do I need Jesus for?” This is Christ-less Christianity. To Finney, Christ is an example, but not a sin-bearer.
- The Bondage Breaker, by Neil Anderson — A demon behind every problem. Extraordinarily speculative. But the solution is Jesus, not finding and casting out demons.
On the same note, a life goal of mine is to never read any of the Left Behind series or The Prayer of Jabez.