Reading is a powerful gift from God, both to those who are Christians and those who aren’t.
I think most of the people who read this site are avid readers, but sometimes being an avid reader is not enough. When I became a Christian I read like crazy, but most of the books I read had a lot of fluff and not much meat. We need to know the books we read are worth reading.
Ever since I started reading better books, I’ve appreciated other Christians recommending books for my attention. This is what I plan to do here, with my 10 Books You Should Read in 2009.
1. The Bible: Holy Spirit
Obvious but an essential number one spot. If you’re a Christian, you need to make sure that you plan what sections of scripture you are going to read and actually study them. (If you struggle with Bible study, give me a shout in the comments and I’ll post how I go about it for your benefit, as well as some helpful resources). If you’re not a Christian, this is where all Christian ideas come from so it’s the best place to start. Start with a Gospel (Matthew, Mark, Luke or John) so you can find out about Jesus and maybe discuss it with a Christian friend. (Remember you don’t have to fork out for a Bible, you can always read it online. The most common reliable translations are the NIV and the ESV. Avoid paraphrases like the Message. Whilst they have some value, you won’t be reading the actually words of Scripture).
2. The Reason for God: Tim Keller
It’s often a bad idea to recommend books you haven’t read, but I’ve heard a lot of the content for this book online. This book is aimed at non-Christians (but Christians may find it rewarding too). I’ve found few books for non-Christians have been heartfelt, convincing and not shirking the difficult questions. I’m told this book is the answer to those problems. If you’re going to read a book looking into Christianity, you can’t really go wrong with Tim Killer.
3. Institutes of the Christian Religion: John Calvin
It’s his 500th birthday, come one give him a break! John Calvin was one of the most cross-centred theologians and despite being demonised by half of the Christian world is an amazingly influential and Godly man. Just read it. (For a reading schedule and an online translation)
4. Shadow of the Almighty: Elisabeth Elliot
The value of a biography for a Christian is immense. It is important not only to find out truths but see them lived out. This book is the diary of murdered missionary John Elliot, tracing his life all the way through University right onto the mission field. It is an inspiration, especially if you’re still at Uni. (My review)
5. Pilgrim’s Progress: John Bunyan
Christian missionaries first translate the Bible and then translate Pilgrim’s Progress, it’s that good. It’s a novel, so is much easier to read than some of the doctrinal books, and it is a really challenging allegory of the Christian life. You will see yourself in Christian and Christiana and be challenged to live in a way that is glorifying to God. You can access it online here.
6. Knowing God: J.I. Packer
This is one of the best introductions to theology I’ve ever read. It will really warm your heart to the character of God, in many areas where you wouldn’t necessary expect to. The jealousy of God is something that was shown to be a real blessing to me through this book. If you haven’t read it I’d advise you do. However don’t bother with the study guide, it doesn’t add any value.
7. Death by Love: Mark Driscoll & Gerry Breashears
The slot for “cross book” has changed 3 times in my draft of this post. After having just read through Death by Love I can confirm that this is my favourite pastoral book on the cross at the moment. Mark Driscoll takes real people (non-Christian and Christian) that he’s had counselling sessions with and uses various doctrines of the cross to write a letter to their specific need. It is brilliant. I was worried that with the structure of this book it might undermine the centrality of substitution and justification; but none of the letters (as far as I remember) don’t go back to these core truths. Moreover at the end of each section Breshears answers some theological questions that arise. This is an easy read, very through and very practical. Christian or non-Christian, familiar with these doctrines or not, I think this is definitely a book you should read. A review will be forthcoming.
8. Bruised Reed: Richard Sibbes
This book had an incredible effect on my life. It is a warm pious book aimed particularly at those who are lacking assurance. Though it is an old book, the Puritan Paperback version has updated the language making this an easy book to read. Short and oh so sweet I would heartily advise you to read it. (My review)
9. God’s Big Picture: Vaughan Roberts
The entire Bible points us to Christ. If that idea is new to you, read this book.With helpful activies, it gives a good overall scope to the Bible and shows how it is fulfilled in Christ. I’ve heard of friends giving this to non-Christians, and if you are a non-Christian wanting to go further into scripture than the Gospels this will be an immense help in seemingly weird books (like Leviticus).
10. Christ-centered Preaching: Bryan Chapell
This is really one for preachers. Again one I haven’t read, but I have listened to the incredible lectures on Biblical Training. If you are going to preach this year make sure that you have either read this book or listened to the lectures. It features good practical approaches to preaching, as well as explaining how to make Christ the centre of all your sermons.
If you are looking for a commentary for a book on the Bible, buy Tremper Longman’s Old Testament Commentary Survey and D.A. Carson’s New Testament Commentary Survey so you know exactly what your getting. The lists at Denver, Westminster, Desiring God and BestCommentaries are helpful too, but not as thorough as the books.
Over to You
So what about you? What books do you think I must read in 2009? (Even if you’re not a Christian I’d be interested to hear your suggestions)